Friday, December 29, 2006

Looking back

As 2006 comes to an end, I had a chance to look back at photos from last month. It was a good year for me, considering last year was severely tight. December 2006 was a month when I stabilized my writing with The Brentwood Press and realized how much I love my job with the small community paper. My bosses are kind and they are always willing to teach me things and make decisions. I also secured a part-time job with an author who is poised to launch her book for non-profit grant writing. Exposure to many non-profits and how they work has been quite exciting. And the extra money has certainly been welcome.

The fall of 2006 was a good time. I can now afford to go to McDo, although now that we can, we don't anymore because the kids are sawa. Time to move on to more distinguished fast-food chains. Nasa Outback level or quaint Japanese restos na kami ngayon. (We miss Zen!)Well, that's just an analogy--meaning, we have time to breathe unlike last year when we were barely above water. . .

My kids are clothed better now. Their coats are new, their shoes are new. We also got a bunch of gently used clothes from my cousins in Jersey that tided us over--and even more clothes for Xmas presents. We are in the process of taking out old and small clothes in our closets to make way for new ones. Wow, a feat indeed!

We are happy that, even if we are off the radar, our friends wanted to come over for a couple of get-togethers at our home. We have acquired more furniture--one was a new buffet/console table from mother-in-law. Off to side tables next year!

I am most of all happy that several people offered to pass out the hat and buy me a nice coat. My winter coat is 10 years old, bought in 1996 and has a bit of shoulder padding--I thought I could get away with it so I wore it to some Christmas parties and I felt hindi ako ginalang. One lesson of being poor is humility. I am dying to retire it!

My friend, J, gave me a birthday gift that I won't forget--cash for a coat. The second lesson of being poor is you learn to appreciate gifts, and you are always in tears from gratitude. My cousin, M, from NJ continues to give warm clothes for the winter.My mom offered to buy me a coat by herself, and Uncle Jack actually bought me a coat. (Pinasauli ni mom!) Ricky gave me a gift certificate to buy me a coat! Heck, even Ricky got a new coat from my mom. Wow, talagang ask and you shall receive! So I think I will buy a coat--and now maybe, a purse!

We got an abundance of gifts from my two brothers in NJ. My son saved all year to buy a PS3. My eldest son is so rich, he bought himself a ticket home to Manila (again!)

Things are looking up. . .

Here are some photos I took for last month, reflective of the year we have had. I keep saying I like to shoot photos more than writing now. Shooting is easier with more impact. . .a thousand words talaga:

Christmas product shoot--beauty and glitter of the season. (Article, photos, and styling by me!)

Our Thanksgiving table setting--solemn and bounty from the garden

Todos los Santos open market, Concord--abundance

Santa for Seniors--gift bags for neglected seniors: giving back

Our office Xmas party--Ilove my job!

Pretty Christmas dresses from NJ--love and family

I have only the Lord to thank for all these wonderful things happening. But thanks to everyone who helped us out get over last year. Thank you, thank you to everyone who reads me (even if you don't comment), I feel your presence and I hold a good intention for all of you.

Happy New Year to all! May 2007 be even kinder and more abundant for all of us!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bears for Bicol

It is amazing how one person can make a difference when she really wants to. I have witnessed my friend and once a colleague, Cathy Babao-Guballa, do this so many times. A mother of 2, prolific writer, grief counselor, and budding diplomat, she has built hospital play centers for children with long-term illnesses that require them to stay in the government hospitals for long periods of time. She has filled the centers with books, toys, VHS kiddie movies, solicited from people in Manila and abroad--all very willing to help out, with a box or two of toys. She has also spearheaded the renovation the Philippine General Hospital Pediatric Ward, bagging a sponsor to back her efforts. I was awed with how she woke up the desire to give in all of us, and how easy it was to make a difference.

She is once again at it, with her 1000 Bears for Bicol project. True to form, Cathy reflects the power of ONE person making a difference, exemplifying the best each one of us can be. She rallied one and all to donate teddy bears to donate to the children displaced by the typhoon. And bears poured in, in trickles at first, and then by the boxes--from local folks and again abroad. Pledges were made by Bears Without Borders and Teddy Bear Power--organizations that believe in the healing power of teddy bears. Donations were matched by the local food outlets, plane delivery of the bear boxes were taken care of Bicol government officials and Philippine Airlines.

"Those among you who will be truly happy are the ones who have sought and found how to serve." --Albert Schweitzer

In my favorite book, Stone Soup for the World by Marianne Larned, many stories of everyday heroes taking up their causes and calls were essayed. There was a young boy who convinced his city to donate leftover cafeteria food to the hungry instead of throwing it away. He had founded the USA Harvest based in Florida. There were people who volunteered adults how to read, others taught dance or music or math. There is Sidewalk Sam, who shares his art talent with his fantastic drawings in chalk on the sidewalks for everyone to partake of. There are corporations like Target that hire mentally challenged employees. Paul Newman's Newman Own, pledges 100% of his profits back to the community.

I would like to believe that slowly, the scales of consciousness are tipping. . .

What if you taught women in your community how to crochet, or how to sew? What if you taught them how to make bread? What if you organized a garage sale and donated the proceeds to fix up a classroom that needs new light or fans? What if your really went carless one day per week, not because you are coded, but because you would like to spare the air? What if, instead of the daily Starbucks latte, you sent a child to school?

I am compelled to piggy-back on Cathy's cause--because it is worthy and because it is so easy, how can I not exert such a small effort? Many people are slow to action because they think someone else will do it anyway, or maybe they deem their contribution to be so small. I will round up a few bears from here and send it to Manila. I have spied Santa Bears on close-out. (Puwede kaya yon?) And I am still collecting old children's books and toys to be sent to bare elementary school libraries in the Philippines. I can send some of those too.

Check out Cathy's blog at Midlife Mysteries and hope you can send her a bear or two.