Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving Day may be my Christmas

This is our 2nd Thanksgiving Day celebration as immigrants and I must say I'm beginning to appreciate this day of reflecting on the blessings of life, without the fatigue and confusion of gift-giving and long Christmas lists.

My list of thanks has transformed this year: We rent a wonderful and clean house, with a big backyard. The kids have settled down in school. My eldest is working part-time while putting himself through community college. With the excellent grades he is getting, he is working on transferring to UC (Berkeley, Davis?) next year. With the way things are going, my son's one foot is out of the door--ready to spread his wings. He may have to come home for future holidays. But in the meantime, I relish the thought that we are all together.

My husband has settled down in his job despite the commute. The kids have not been sick (knock on wood!) and the best, best thing is that together, we face our life's challenges in good spirits, with the help of Yaya Syrel. And that essentially, we are all safe and sound.

My brothers are on the other coast and they are happy and thriving. My mom's second lease on life has been blessed. What she chooses to do with it may still unfold. My dad and my lola take care of each other. I have to be thankful that, though that family is not together, we all think of each other fondly.

I am thankful for my job, that allows me to work from home and yet, meet so many good people who continue to show me the way towards more evolving. I am thankful that I have not sold out to the rat race of work, work and work. I have time to tend to the kids and I have time to shoot pictures of the beautiful lake in the park. I am thankful for time to breathe.

I am thankful that, though financially tight sometimes, nakakaraos rin. In fact, being financially tight make us more appreciative, more grateful, and nearer to God--because we have to depend on His Hand to carry us through. Living simply continues to teach my children not to be complacent brats and it has taught me creative ways to endure.

I look forward to the next Thanksgiving dinner--a very laid back celebration without the pressure and frenzy of Christmas. And since some scholars debate on the actual date of Christ's birth to be October or November, this may have been very well Christmas to me. And though my mom made a beautiful 23-lb turkey, and my son played some tunes on his violin, while my daughter read the story of the first Thanksgiving, I am most thankful for the space Thanskgiving offered--a personal and private reflection of Christ's birth and presence in my life.

The day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday--the biggest sale event of the year. Stores open at 5 a.m. and laptops are sold for $199, everthing else is half-off. People line up at the entrance the night before, shivering in the cold, determined to get good deals for Christmas gifts. PS3 launched the week before to people who have pitched tents days before, eager to get their hands on the limited US supply. The actual event and was short of chaos and stampedes. Some stores and customers were held-up at gunpoint.

And though I am not a big fan of the Christmas frenzy, the casualness of Thanksgiving proves to be more endearing as we create new and fond family traditions that will anchor us through many years.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Attention Writers

Hello, writers of stories, fiction or non, poets, children's story-tellers and illustrators! Check out some sites I have come across:

There is a writing contest, entries are sent by email, with $750 USD worth of prizes to the winners. Not bad for the 500 words you can whip up--about anything. Click Whim's Place for details.

For my idol photographer friends, check out the photo contest at for details.

And for those of you still tweaking your manuscript somewhere out there, get ready to take your work a step up. Whenever you are ready to take the leap towards getting published and don't know what to do, explore publishing your book yourself with Author House. They promise to help you choose the best book publishing options and the most effective marketing tools towards your goal.

From simple poetry to
children's fiction
, to shamanic healing, test your mettle and compare-- you may find confidence that you have what it takes to get published.

Plant a tree, raise a child, write a book. . .

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Still another amazing way to use the internet, as it connects the world:

Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you've sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back. (I think with some interest). And you decide if you wish to sponsor another small business again.

Tunyany Jesca is a married woman, 28 years old with four children. She started this business in 2004 with 2 bags of charcoal, and as of now, she is going running with 4 bags.

Jesca got married early due to school fees, a poor standard of living, and eventually, the loss of her parents.

Since she resorted to an early marriage, her husband is not a working class individual and daily living is not so good. She had to open up this business of buying and selling charcoal in order to earn a living.

So now she is requesting a loan of $600 to enable her to increase her profit and achieve a better living. Jesca is a capable lady in her work and associates with her fellow business ladies well. When this loan is granted, it will help her to expand her business.

Check them out at Kiva for details. Browse through the small entrepreneurs and their lenders of the organization to get our creativity going.

How can we change our world today?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Laughter Lifeline

After a bout with gloom, my oldest friends came to the rescue via conference chat. How funny that the 3 of us had no microphones for voice chat. MLV in the office, teasing us with a probable webcam invite--that didn't work anyway. MASI was home about to run her errands. So we typed away as fast as our midlife fingers would allow us to. I laughed my heart out as we waited for MLV to get hi-tech and figure out the proper chat room, oggling at her IM pic, showing off her (infamous) cleavage and bleached hair.

"Wala pa si rufa mae," said MASI, coining our code name for MLV.
"Low-tech kasi," I said.

Amidst MLV's boss hovering, we exchanged stories--about old and "young" dudes, as MASI put it, only because MLV's dude interest's first name is actually, "Young," plus a furious exchange of recent and funny old pics. ("Noong fresh pa kami," they said). My husband and kids circled in around me, ("What's happening?")as they never saw me giggling like this in a LOOOOng time.

And I must tell you, this is the kind of laughter that can cure anything. Even my soul was laughing. I was laughing even in the bathroom as I took a shower. I went to bed with a smile on my face. . .

"Naka-depress talaga diyan sa States, kasi wala kang makausap," said MLV, zeroing on the state of my social life here. It doesn't help that the average American has only 2 friends, not counting the spouse or home partner. In Manila, we would have picked each other up and hang out for coffee for an average of 5 hours. But here, hanging out is rare and almost not possible, unless you schedule it a month before.

I am lucky to have friends like MLV and MASI. I have nothing to hide from them and I definitely don't have to pretend to be brave and strong when I am not. They are the ones I can call late at night and show up at their place unannounced. MLV knows that I "keep blogging because wala kang makausap diyan, no?"

Friends since grade school, we share a solid bond like sisters. We have had our dangerous misunderstandings that lasted for years with no speaking to each other. But when we get back together, we pick up right where we left. Nothing to explain, nothing to apologize for.

I realize that deep friendship focuses on the deep things. We can talk shallow and make fun of MLV and we talk about others sometimes--but we don't judge each other on what we think or say at the moment of gossip. I like that we remember our maiden names more than our married surnames (maybe even our class number!). I like that we were friends before we became wives and mothers.

There are some things we don't bother about with each other. I didn't even know MLV had a day job! (Neither did MASI). But I know every inch of MLV's personality. I can predict that she will piss MASI off at any second. Nevertheless, we are still friends.

The conference chat has assured me that time and distance will not fade our friendship. The laughter we shared on purely nonsense will carry me through for a while. I take solace in knowing that they know all my kids and will love them, just as I am godmother to theirs. One day, they will give my eulogy (if MLV will articulate better. . .) because I trust that they will miss me the most--just as I miss them terribly as I continue to adjust in this land of plenty--with an average of 2 friends.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Symptoms of a Blogging Addict

Are you or are you not?

Since I seem to be binge-blogging, I thought I'd share with you the 10 Mock Symptoms of Blog Addiction, according to Bloggers Anonymous:

10. You check your blog stats a LOT. You occasionally get up in the middle of the night and sneak a peak.

9. Your significant other suspects you are having an affair with your blog. Even when you’re alone with your special person, you do find yourself thinking what your blog might be doing right then…

8. You “mental blog” while driving or on the train, and sometimes even when you are alone in the shower.

7. You filter everything through your post-writing. You can’t watch a movie, see a play, read an article, or share a sweet moment with your child without thinking of whether it’s blog-worthy.

6. You suffer from “blog envy” when another blogger posts something juicy before you do. You suffer “comment envy” when said post gets 40-something comments – the jerk!

5. You “binge blog” 3 or 4 posts at once—only to feel guilty and empty afterward.

4. You ditched all your real friends for blog friends, because, well, “they understand.” You bypass Bowling Alone at the bookstore (who really cares?) while you reach for Naked Conversations.

3. You think, “I can stop at any time.”

2. Your lunch hour has become your “blog hour.” You keep a few posts tucked in your desk in case you need them during the day.

1. After 5 minutes of meeting someone really interesting you ask, “So - do you blog?”

Blogging has become sort of a connection and an outlet for me--a voice sent out in cyberspace, hoping to find its way to someone. Because my story is yours and your story is mine. And though I'd like to see comments, I know some people read this and we have somehow connected.

For those who live to blog, check the site out and soul-search. For an additional photo fancy effect, check out to see what you can do with your pics.

Happy blogging!!

Rainy Days and Mondays

Rainy days have always gotten me down--Mondays or otherwise. When some see it as a perfect opportunity to curl up with a book, or catch up with sleep, my heart sinks into the grayness of the clouds and my spirit is quietly crying along with the raindrops.

I can't explain it and I can't will myself to feel better, specially when PMS hovers like a vulture and I am anxious to ward off the threat of depression, waiting to push me over the brink. (Translation: I just want to cry and pity myself). I count my blessings and realize that life is good, but gloom abounds.

So when I took the BART yesterday, I endured a long, dark, damp, and cold ride. I was, in fact, scared and sad at the same time--which is really not my personality. I thought, "If I go to hell, it will be raining. And my ultimate nightmare will star PMS, SAD, and panic attacks. . ."

I take solace in the fact that I am not alone. Yahoo conducted research about rainy days and mood and many found a gloomy day to be, well, gloomy and that sunny days are well, sunnier and brighter. I therefore conclude that all this gray will kill me.

I envy my husband who revels in the rain like a child, almost holding out his tongue for raindrops. When it rains, his first instinct is to take a drive and splash around the puddles. (!!???!!)

I also hope that I don't have SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or winter blues--a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus due to the shortening of daylight hours and the lack of sunlight in winter. (Is it my hypothalamus I feel when the back and sides of my neck seem swollen?)

In my heaven, there will be an infinity of sunny days, skipping, smiling children, bright colored flowers, funny movies, and books!

Meanwhile, nothing to do but frown and pray. I must run out to rent a comedy video, and I will try the thick, Spanish hot cocoa I bought in the Pinoy store. . .

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Pinoy Store

Eto po ang aming munting sari-sari store.

This is Pacific Oriental, my go-to store for Pinoy needs. Dito, meron rin kaming comfort food like Choc-Nut, Curly Tops, V-Cut, Chippy, Clover Chips, Boy Bawang, Cornix, garlic chips and peanuts, butong-pakwan, polvoron, Pichi-pichi, palitaw, (what's the diff na nga ba?), sapin-sapin, leche flan, bibingka, and maja blanca. If you look close, there is turon and carioca (?), halo-halo and frozen manggang hilaw today.

When I have no time to cook, there is food-to-go: sinigang, adobo, bistek (like lola's) pinakbet, pansit (all kinds),afritada with hotdog, tinola, pritong tilapia, BBQ, lumpiang shanghai, and my favorite pag suwerte, binagoongang baboy. (I also want to know why Pinoy food is better tasting here??) The manang is just about to complete her lunch menu. I think today, it's sinigang, sayote guisado, pancit, and caldereta.

In the freezer, I go crazy for the smoked tawilis, Martin Purefoods longganisa, tocino, and corned beef. Saranggani Bay bangus belly is a delicious steal, and fresh tilapia is cheap at $1.75/lb. There's lots of Rufina Patis, Silver Swan Suka and Toyo, although fresh calamansi is rare. And what would we do without Knorr cubes, Sinigang Mix, and Kamayan bottled bagoong? (Pronounced "ba-gong" by Fil-Ams). And for the Chinoys, there's hopia, tikoy, and moon cake, too.

There's also ube and manggo Magnolia Ice Cream (made stateside), and lately Selecta Ice Cream--both more expensive than Haagen Daazs or even Breyers. And the Royal and Sarsi, mahal at $2.29 per 1.5 litro. Mas mura pa ang Fanta and every other rootbeer. We also like the calamansi and dalandan juice.

Pacific Oriental also has a money remitting center, a balik-bayan box forwarding, and Pinoy movies for rent (Kutob, Dubai, Saan Ka Man Naroon) for $3.99 each. A mortal sin for those who buy in Arlegui!

Here we get to say "Salamat, manong/manang." Everyone is friendly and the store music blares Willy Revillame's songs.

Available too are Nagaraya Adobo Flavor Nuts, Nature's Way Tawas Deo, Gugo shampoo and Bench Bubble Gum Cologne, kulang nalang yung mga sabit na shampoo sachet , not applicable due to wholesale-quantity lifestyle.