Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Every new year, I used to think of my life as a blank page, no history all potentials. So, whatever I draw or write on it becomes what I am. Too often I’m a hurried kid, eager to leave my mark on it. Instead of a clean sheet, I saw graffiti all over and soon enough I’ll just smudged it with frustrations.

The most challenging lesson I have ever encountered was detachment. I remembered holding on to the last cent of memory and I was all so scared to be uprooted from my own clinging. Yes, I was looking for the truth but when it comes to me (unexpectedly) I wasn’t so prepared at all. I can’t even articulate that exact moment of my journey. It all happened so quick and I’m not quiet sure I’d be understood…so, I’ll just leave it that way (wink).

Anyway, there’s a fine line between looking back and living with the past. I can look back now with peace in my heart. I’m so grateful that the best gift of self-knowledge and serenity has been granted to me. I never thought it could make such a great impact in my life. An experience of spiritual power is simply a joyful one. However, spiritual power is not basically just awareness; it is the ability to keep one’s ability to still make decisions with greater and greater awareness. The more we know, the more complicated decisions become. The downside though is that the person who has evolved to the highest level of awareness, of spiritual power, will likely have no one in his/her friends with whom to share such depth of understanding. It is where a gift can sometimes be a burden.

That’s where I got my blog’s name: A Grateful Heart with the URL: . My husband was asking me about it and for him it meant – NOTHING. Yes, that’s what it exactly meant. I am nothing and I always hunger for my cup to be filled. You’re right, you can’t really fill a cup that’s already full or half-full. In my life, I always empty my cup and when sometimes I am all so driven by my false pride, God reminds me to stay humble. Emptying one’s cup is such a painful experience specially when you’re struggling against your false conceit.

So, another year has gone and we’ll be welcoming the New 2009 in few hours. To some people it maybe just another year but to some it’s a clean sheet of paper. Cheers to all of us and for all our New Year’s Resolution!
“Seek for greater understanding but don’t expect greater details” – Scott Peck

Monday, December 29, 2008

Conscience, Freedom and Prayer

To consider persons, events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell. Selfishness is doomed to frustration, centered as it is upon a lie. To live exclusively for myself, I must make all things bend themselves to my will as if I were a god. But this is impossible. Is there any more cogent indication of my creaturehood than the insufficiency of my own will? For I cannot make the universe obey me. I cannot make other people conform to my own whims and fancies. I cannot make even my own body obey me. When I give it pleasure, it deceives my expectation and makes me suffer pain. When I give myself what I conceive to be freedom, I deceive myself and find that I am the prisoner of my own blindness and selfishness and insufficiency.

It is true, the freedom of my will is a great thing. But this freedom is not absolute self-sufficiency. If the essence of freedom were merely the act of choice, then the mere fact of making choices would perfect our freedom. But there are two difficulties here. First of all, our choices must really be free- that is to say they must perfect us in our own being. They must perfect us in our relation to other free beings. We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves. From this flows the second difficulty: we too easily assume that we are our real selves, and that our choices are really the ones we want to make when, in fact, our acts of free choice are (though morally imputable, no doubt) largely dictated by psychological compulsions, flowing from our inordinate ideas of our own importance. Our choices are too often dictated by our false selves.

Hence I do not find in myself the power to be happy merely by doing what I like. On the contrary, if I do nothing except what pleases my own fancy I will be miserable almost all the time. This would never be so if my will had not been created to use its own freedom in the love of others.

My free will consolidates and perfects its own autonomy by freely co-ordinating its action with the will of another. There is something in the very nature of my freedom that inclines me to love, to do good, to dedicate myself to others. I have an instinct that tells me that I am less free when I am living for myself alone. The reason for this is that I cannot be completely independent. Since I am not self-sufficient I depend on someone else for my fulfillment. My freedom is not fully free when left to itself. It becomes so when it is brought into the right relation with the freedom of another.
---Thomas Merton "No Man Is an Island"

A Short Vacation

I was enjoying the Christmas vacation. We planned on going to Big Bear for some snowy experience but found out that we don’t have enough time left. Time flies so quickly! For a change, I enrolled myself in a gym and my goal is to have a good abs by summer. Hmmm, I will do it, lol! I think I liked going to the gym now although I was all sore from the first session with the personal trainer.

The day after Christmas, we really don’t have any choice but to zoom to the mall since Rosa was cleaning the house. I ended up spending my gift card and buying a lot of stuff from AX since they had 70% off. Wow! Well, it was a scary thing to see in the mall. It would be sad to see the mall quiet empty right after the holidays. There’s one painting shop we went into that’s closing due to the bad economy.

On the other hand, I had my first experience at the shooting range last week. Andy had bought a new gun and so we joined him together with his buddy. I never really liked the experience especially when I tried firing my husband’s heavy revolver.

It scared me to death but I think it’s worth a try. I still had a different orientation about guns. Yes, blame it to the culture.

Okay, enough of that. I was at the gym this afternoon and thought I’d visit the office. This is what I got:

A desk full of posted notes, whole lot of mails, bunch of orders in the fax, 20 or so emails to reply, voice messages on the phone and it’s the end of the month- have to do the payrolls too. Ouch, I thought I had a vacation! I just did a few, urgent orders though. It can wait, anyway. Well, I can't complain. A had been working and shipping a lot of stuff for BBB. But for now, I’ll just enjoy the rest of my vacation, lol! I had to do some preparations for the New Year’s Eve party. Ah, unending things to do :)


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thank You!

The boxes (Balikbayan) that I sent to the Philippines arrived a month before Christmas. It’s a little disappointing though coz some of the contents were gone. The other box had a big hole on it and the clothes for my godchildren, niece and nephew were gone (sigh).

Anyway, I’m just glad that a lot of people were happy. Most of the contents were canned goods (spam, corned beef, tuna, and meat loaf). It has become a Christmas tradition that some people from the highlands will come down to the main town and ask for used clothes, rice or money. Due to the economic crisis (well, it’s always crisis in the Philippines although it’s getting worse), some people just eat rice once a year.

I would like to thank my readers and some followers, the advertisers and my blogging friends. I have earned decent money from writing reviews. The money doesn’t go to my pocket; I saved it and buy something to send to the Philippines together with my husband’s money. Although it takes a little of my time but I love blogging. It’s definitely a great way to learn and I don’t call it work… it’s a hobby. Again, thank you for the continued support :)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wake Up & Smell the Flowers

It’s been a week that I have been telling my husband that the bonus room smells so good. He just told me that he sprayed the ants that have been coming unto the bathroom. We don’t stay that much in the room lately- so lazy and have been eating out, lol! Every time I sit on the sofa, I smelled the same scent like a flower- reminds me of an Ilang-Ilang. The whole room really smelled good. One night, I kept sniffing around and finally found this beautiful flower at the back of the Dracena plant! It’s facing the window so we didn’t see it.
Jim was so amazed; he never thought the plant can have flowers! He even wrote a book about it and some other plants (it sold million copies too). My Mom told me it is good luck, hmmm…

However, the bad news though is that his Elm Bonsai experienced the winter season too. This time, it gets really bad. This was given to him by a Japanese business associate (supplier) 15 years ago.
He got really panicked about it but we’ve seen some signs of new leaves though. Hopefully, it will be better by spring time. If not, it could be a bad omen- he said.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Don't Drop the Baby!

It was pouring right after the midnight mass :) I love rain! I had a crispy pata, biko, buko pie from Goldilocks, cake on the table (from our neighbor) & pizza for Jim and some other left over from the party for our Noche Buena (a dinner after the midnight mass). We had a toast of good cheers and I had opened lots of gifts, hehehe. Santa has been so good to me, I probably had opened 10 or so gifts and they are all what I basically wanted and even more- a Coach purse&wallet, A/X dress, VS pajamas, bath robe&scents, Gucci perfume, Clinique stuff, a 500-gift certificate and my dream- aquarium! I have been wishing to have an aquarium full of fish. Thanks Santa for all the presents, I felt so spoiled, lol! He liked my gifts too. Well, he’s very easy- jeans, shirts and that’s all... but he specially loved the card though. He doesn’t need that much for any of those things anyway:)

We slept late and it was still pouring- which is very good! We had dinner on Christmas day at Lu&Blaine’s new house together with his parents & sister and had the traditional turkey. It was really good and the company is great! Just hang around at the family room and talked a lot:)

Most importantly, the Spirit of Christmas is all about families sharing time together and spreading hope, love & peace! The message of Christmas is "don't drop the baby"...the baby who told us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us and to love one another just as we love ourselves... may we always worship and adore the baby who lives within our hearts and nurture him forever not just on Christmas.
Merry Christmas and a Joyful New 2009 to all of us! Life is great! :)

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wordless Wednesday "Merry Christmas!"

Christmas is the time of partaking joys, sharing good cheers and hope. A time to give thanks for the One whom this whole season is all about. It unlocks the fullness of life and turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity… turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing and mistakes into important events. Have a blessed Christmas!


Movie Dates

Last night, we watched this movie: Slumdog Millionaire, an Indian production which is such an excellent movie. The plot of the story is very unique and interesting. Wished Filipinos can produce such kind. It felt as though Philippines have been behind any other Asian countries for the last 20 years. First, it was Japan, then Taiwan, now it's China...soon Vietnam, India & Thailand. Everybody's been talking about developing Vietnam and more businesses from the US go to their country due to cheaper labor but where's Philippines? My country seemed all stuck in the same spot; it can't even get the whole percentage of the call center business of which many have been bragging that they're way better English-speaking than Indians, hmmmmppp...

Anyway, the movie is really great and it’s pretty amazing how the two brothers been able to survive with all their resourcefulness despite the absence of parents at a very young age. I love exploring some other cultures and the movie had explained a lot about how hard it is- living in a third world country.

I have never seen a good movie for a long time. It seemed as though some movies are a total rip off but anyway there are some good movies showing on 25th. Hmmm, there’s one that we thought might be good too.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fun Christmas Party

Christmas Day in our island is the time for the kids to go to their godparents’ houses and ask for a gift. Usually, they will give cash. The more godparents you have, the more money you got. Unfortunately, I only got 3 godparents and there’s only one that lived in the island. So, every Christmas I was the only poor kid in our neighborhood, lol! My Mom will just give 5pesos coz she felt bad for me, hahaha!

Last Christmas party, I felt so bad coz I was all so clueless on what to do for the party. I remembered seeing my husband so busy preparing the table and making some salad. I just cooked the main dish which was the “Beef Stroganoff”- a recipe I’ve never heard before. This year though, I put some effort on buying things, decorating the house and trying to make it work great.

Anyway, last night the party turned out to be excellent and fun! My husband was so grateful that I did a great job and for being such a great host:) The best part though was the game. He prepared gifts for everybody which sort of test each other’s personality. I was # 4 and I got a bottle full of quarters of which nobody wants coz they were thinking it was all rocks inside. B (who is #5) stole mine and so I ended up with a big, light-weight box.

Yeeyyy, I got three, stupid-looking stuff toys but they’re caroling though, (lol) and a dollar taped on it. Okay, that’s fine.

C felt so bad coz she got a box full of rocks and pennies, haha! Lu got dimes and A got the nickels. I felt so bad for C coz she has been talking about it all year long. I think she got funny stuff last year and some nickels while M got the brick of gold. Anyway, it was all so fun especially when I opened the bottom part of the box of my stupid-looking toys and found 3 Hundred- dollar bills! Yeyyyy! I was the winner, hahaha!

So, I was not sweating on counting the coins but they did…

Merry Christmas to all of us!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Magical Christmas

Opening gifts on Christmas is not a common Filipino tradition. I remembered crying one time in school because we did have an exchanging gifts and I received a box full of hard, cheap candies and a melted homemade cocoa, hahaha! I was really pissed because the gift was very insulting, lol! The teacher told us that it’s because every family had a budget and so we had a minimum amount of P10 worth of gift and that includes the box and the Christmas wrapper, imagine that? Well, it just makes me smile thinking how silly I was then.

I was baby sitting my younger brother and visited my cousin’s house. I saw a sock on their wall. And so I told her that Santa gave me candies last night. I hanged it near the door just so Santa can see it and when we arrived from the midnight mass, it had some candies & coins in it. I argued really hard with her that Santa is real! She was all so laughing at me and thought I was so stupid. And that it was just my Mom who put all those candies and coins. I was even more pissed because she’s not that smart. How could she be right? She can’t even read and now she’s telling me- I was wrong?! Gezzz, I thought I was so clever, LOL! I went home and told my Mom what happened and she was just laughing at me too.

Well, I’m glad I’m done with my Christmas tree and decorations inside the house. My theme for this year is gold:) It's been a blessed year for us! We decided to just put the tree in the family room as the living room is so crowded now with some furnitures.

You know, it’s been so chilly this week and oh, I missed the rain too. I can see the snowy mountains from our terrace and the snowy memories keep coming back :) Happy Holidays!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Christmas Past

I always miss my Grandma at this time of the year. She was half-blind on her last years. She’s one of those who are called pious, who wakes up as early as 4AM to say her rosary and novenas. She goes to church an hour early and leaves the church an hour later after each Sunday masses. Literally, she prays a lot. I don’t quiet understand her devotion and as a kid, I always thought she’s a fanatic. Now, I felt like when you get older, you become more tolerant, more relaxed and maybe she just wanted a happy death. She died at the hospital and I’d say it was only my Mom who took care of her up to her last days.

You might be thinking as to why did I mention that I always miss her at these holidays? It’s because she always wake us up (grandkids) to go to church for the Misa de Gallo or the 4AM mass (I’ve mentioned from my previous post). She can’t see the streets in the dark and our roads had plenty of holes- some concrete, some not. In the Philippines, December is a rainy season, it’s muddy and chilly. We always have to remind her to wake us up for the mass but sometimes we’re so lazy to get up and she will just go to mass by herself. My parents can’t go because nobody takes care of my younger siblings. Oh, I feel bad everytime I remember that. I’m wishing sometimes that she’s still alive. She never had a good life like we had experienced now. But I’m pretty sure, she’s very happy for all of us:)

Well, I just want to share with you my favorite Christmas song by Jose Mari Chan.

The sound of bells at early dawn
Like music from afar
Soft gentle breeze, the world at peace
A solitary star

Those joyful hymns and warm hellos
The candy canes and colored bows
All these and love are memories of
My Christmas past

Those wondrous toys of girls and boys
The cheer that Santa brings
That glorious tale of sheperd boys
Of angels and of kings

A Christmas tree with lights aglow
Some cotton snow and mistletoe
All these and love are memories of
My Christmas past

Silver and gold, red and green
Colors of a wonderful scene
Memories they keep returning
And I'm like a child again

If there's a place in time and space
Where Christmas past has gone
I'll surely try if I could fly
To see that early dawn

And share again that Christmas past
With all those who have gone
But those memories will forever live within my heart.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Traditions

Wow! I woke up this morning from the gushing of the wind as the trees slapped the windows near our bedroom. It was raining so hard and it’s really chilly. I was all so warm with our electric blanket and I have yet to take a shower for work.

I had never driven such a weather condition before. It seemed so rare here in California to see some flooded areas. I can’t even see 3 cars ahead of me. I stopped at the bank and Post Office and my jacket was all so wet when I arrived at the office.

Well, it’s 16th in the Philippines already and the custom “Misa de Gallo” had just started. Traditionally, Christmas Day in the Philippines is ushered in by the nine-day dawn masses that start on December 16. Known as the Misa de Gallo (Rooster's Mass) in the traditional Spanish and in Filipino as Simbang Gabi, or "Night Mass", this novena of Masses is the most important Filipino Christmas tradition.
These nine dawn Masses are also considered as a Novena by the Catholic faithful. This refers to the Roman Catholic and Aglipayan practice of performing nine days of private or public devotion to obtain special graces.

In some parishes, the Simbang Gabi begins as early as four o'clock in the morning. Going to mass this early for nine consecutive days is meant to show the churchgoer's devotion and faith as well as to heighten anticipation for the Nativity of Jesus. In traditional Filipino belief, however, completing the novena is also supposed to mean that God would grant the devotee's special wish or favour.

After hearing Mass, Filipino families partake of traditional Philippine Christmastime delicacies, either during breakfast at home or immediately outside the church, where they are sold. Vendors offer a wealth of native delicacies, including bibingka (rice flour and egg based cake, cooked using coals on top of and under the pastry), puto bumbong (a purple sticky rice delicacy which is steamed in bamboo tubes, with brown sugar and shredded dried coconut meat served as condiments), salabat (hot ginger tea) and tsokolate (thick Spanish cocoa). In some Aglipayan churches, after the mass everybody is invited to partake the "painit" (after mass snacks of delicacies with hot coffee or tsokolate) at the house of the sponsor of the mass.

For Filipinos, Christmas Eve ("Bisperas ng Pasko") on December 24th has the much-anticipated Noche Buena – the traditional Christmas Eve feast after the midnight mass. Family members dine together around 12 midnight on traditional Noche Buena fare, which includes: queso de bola (Spanish: "ball of cheese"; this is actually edam cheese), "Tsokolate" (a hot chocolate drink) and jamon (Christmas ham), and some would open presents at this time. – Information from Wikipedia

By the way, I have been busy buying and putting some decorations at home last weekend. I finally finished the table with my centerpiece art, hahaha! We both loved it. The party will be this weekend and another one for the New Year’s Eve. Hopefully, the fresh Christmas tree will up by Friday just so Rosa can clean the mess. Oh, I’m just glad I’m done with my holiday shopping:) There's just a lot of sale everywhere, very nice!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Photo Hunters "Favorite"

Well, I have a lot of favorites but these are the few shots I can think of at this time.

These are my favorite best friends, I can't believe we've been celebrating our friendship for 13 years! We are miles away from each other now but the friendship still remains like we've known each forever:) B is in VA and I really hope to see her and her family next year. God, I just missed their laughs:)
My favorite memory- graduating from college. It's a bitter-sweet memory, a farewell to my good friends, struggles of getting good grades and hello to a whole new competitive world of being a professional.
My favorite toy- iPhone:) It's basically a necessity to me, helps me a lot when I get lost, lol! It keeps me connected all the time: emails, blog, friendster, eBay and text messages. Ah, amazing technology:)
Oh, my ever favorite dessert- the creme brulee, yum! I never tried making one by myself though...

Yap, that's my favorite place, Lake Tahoe. Oh, you might be tired of hearing that, lol! But well, I'll say it again anyway, hahaha! I really love the place:)
Finally, my favorite time of the year, Christmas! Yes, I know- I'm being silly in that picture but it's nice to be a kid sometimes, lol! Enjoy your holiday shopping everyone:)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Memory Lane

My sister-in-law sent this picture in the mail and some of the letters/journals of their Dad before he dies. He actually died twice. The first heart attack was a miracle he survived from it. He is definitely a good man who has integrity and very honest. I was so touched when my husband told me about how he struggles to make a living for the family. They were not born wealthy. Their parents worked so hard and fortunately his Dad’s business grew. When they were kids, Jim and so with his older sister worked for him during summer just to keep them away from trouble. They used to live near the LA airport as their Dad used to work there.

Both their parents were devoted Catholics and so all the kids went to Catholic School. One day, Jim was spanked by the mean nun with a harsh voice. He went home right after the incident as their house was just a walking distance. His Mom was so surprised and he just lied about what happened. He remembered the family goes to church every Sunday but never got so interested. I’m just glad he goes to church with me now and respects my faith. He views religion as something that is not proven but there’s nothing to lose if you believe there’s God. He views mass as some kind of ritual. He’s just a logical thinker but he’s a good-hearted and generous man.

Jim is the guy in the middle. He was so surprised I was able to recognize him, haha! Well, I can't even pick on him in that pose, lol! He's like the priest, kiddin':)