Gift of the Future: One Thing I Desire for 2014

One thing. My top of the head (and very spiritual answer) would be God but since that’s already given, what is it that I really want to happen this 2014? I want a lot of things to happen. So how could I wrap it all up into “one thing”?

Enter “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin.

I bought the book on a whim when I saw it on the counter while I was waiting in line to pay for two little notebooks in a bookstore. I vaguely recalled Adrian mentioning it in a Skype conversation. Impulse then struck, making my purchase total to RM 37.50 instead of the initial RM 6.00.

A good thing for impulse, though. Now I know what I want for next year. Now I know what I will be spending a huge deal of my days on.

I want to be happier. I want to start my own happiness project, too.

“So if you’re pretty happy, why do a happiness project?” “I am happy — but not as happy as I should be. I have such a good life, I want to appreciate it more — and live up to it better.” I had a hard time explaining it. “I complain too much, I get annoyed more often than I should. I should be more grateful. I think if I felt happier, I’d behave better.” (The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, page 13)

Contemporary research shows that happy people are more altruistic, more productive, more helpful, more likable, more creative, more resilient, more interested in others, friendlier, and healthier. Happy people make better friends, colleagues, and citizens. I want to be one of those people. (The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, page 14)

A better friend, a better colleague, a better citizen. Why not, tsoknot? Wouldn’t I want to be one of those people, too?

Here’s to 2014. It’s the year to be happy.

Happy new year, everyone!


happiness proj

Gift of Turnaround: Two Turning Points

So I almost started typing the lyrics of Bonnie Tyler’s hit tune, because, you know, that’s how my brain processes and all. But this is supposed to be a serious entry! We’re talking about turnarounds and all! (Every now and then I get a little bit lonely and you’re never coming round… ugh, okay, hit pause now.)

Fine. Time to get serious. What two things turned my life around this 2013? Was it saying yes to a boy I love who, as fate would have it, lives more or less 1555 nautical miles away? Was it finding out that my body is not as young and healthy as I thought it was? Close, but I would say that these two are very important runner-ups. But if I were to identify the two top turning points for 2013, it would have to be the following (‘sides, I already expounded on the two in my previous entry):

Turnaround 1: Typhoon Haiyan. This November, a super typhoon wrecked havoc in the central region of my motherland. For days, we tuned into the news, feeling a mix of helplessness, indignation, sadness, anger… Many of us wanted to do something about the situation but couldn’t or didn’t know how. The news reached my office. And guess what? My faith in humanity was restored. Donations came in both in cash and in kind. People surprised me with their heart to give, to be a part of something that could somehow help out people whose lives were shattered in an instant. Really, there’s more goodness in people that we actually give them credit for.

Turnaround 2: The Big Move. As some of my works of flash fiction suggested, yes, people, we have moved. After two years of staying in the previous condo, it was time to face those boxes again, do those negotiations with agents again, tow around all those belongings again. You know how in Despicable Me, there’s this shrink ray that’s supposed to shrink the moon to aid in the pilfering process? I wish that shrink ray was real. Then moving wouldn’t be so laborious. Anyway, now we’re in a new place and it’s time to leave the old memories behind. Sigh. Nothing’s really permanent, you know? Oh melancholia.

Well, this is the last entry for this year, the last entry for looking back. Tomorrow we begin to look forward.

Here’s to the last day of 2013!


New walls to decorate.
New walls to decorate.

Gift of Lessons: Three Lessons Learned

Three lessons for 2013. Wow. How hard is it to list down three lessons that you learn in a year?

Pretty hard, it seems.

It’s been quite an eventful year and three lessons might not be enough to sum up what I learned from each event. But here goes something — (because I really don’t want to say here goes “nothing”):

Lesson 1: It is important to learn to take care of ourselves holistically. By the first quarter of the year, I made a shocking discovery — my BMI showed that I was overweight, my fat to muscle ratio was very unhealthy, my visceral fat was ugh, and my body age was higher than I expected (my body was apparently forty-plus years old). That was not good. I had to do something about it if I wanted to live a long, healthy life (hey, I have dreams and a future to look forward to). I started exercising. I started eating well. Now, if my March 13, 2013 entry is accurate, it means I have lost a total of 10 kg as of today. Yey!

Lesson 2: Long Distance Relationships are not for the fainthearted. I believe I am blessed to have been able to see my SO three times in person this year, considering that I am in Malaysia and he is back home in the Philippines. But it’s not a walk in the park, you know? You have to be creative, you have to be understanding, you have to have a deep level of trust and commitment, you have to learn how to communicate well — and Skype and the Internet are at times a both a curse and a blessing. If you’re getting into this kind of relationship, be warned that it’s sweet but, realistically speaking, at times hard and bitter. Much like tiramisu. But hey. Anything worth having, anything worth keeping is worth waiting for and worth fighting for.

Lesson 3: It takes time and patience to get a book out. Yes I am still working on my project. I had underestimated the rewriting process. And the proofreading process, too. So… Hang in there, hang in there. We’ll get there soon enough. In the meantime, there are a lot more projects brewing up in my percolator. Maygash. I really have to set aside time to really focus and do these things. Well, 2014 is starting to look exciting!

So how about you guys? What did you learn this 2013?


Cheers from a healthier, happier me. ;)
Oh, that’s a healthier, happier me. ;)

Gift of Pictures: Four Important Photographs

I’m so sorry. This entry is a bit late. I was supposed to post it yesterday but I was too caught up… watching Disney cartoons. Hehehe. Twas an awesome Christmas Hibernation Day. And then I went for Christmas dinner with some friends. So… better late than never. ;)

These are four important 2013 photographs. They marked certain milestones, certain heartwarming events, points of growth, and, you know, those meaningful, defining moments in life.

Photo 1: Lunch at Ipoh. Taken at a stopover when I drove my family over to Penang.


Photo 2: Worth Having. See how happy he is? Hehehe.


Photo 3: Tanah Lot. I learned so many things in Bali.


Photo 4: Thanksgiving 2013. I can’t believe we pulled it off. Well, with God, everything is possible. Yey!


As I look at these photos, I realize I’ve been incredibly blessed this 2013, despite the many downs I fell onto along the way. But God is just so good.

A belated Merry Christmas to you all. Happy Holidays, spread the love and cheer. ;)


Gift of Stories: Five Memorable Books

I thank God for the gift of stories. Books have been my constant companion this 2013, offering me entertainment, comfort, and solace through the dullest of days and the emptiest of nights. And this 2013, I’ve been able to read thirty-plus books, according to my Goodreads “read” list. Hurray! So which were the five most memorable? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The List:

  1. 1984 by George Orwell. Big Brother is watching you. I’m so happy to have finally read the father of dystopian novels. Winston and Julia are very memorable characters. And all the talk about Newspeak, Ingsoc, and thoughtcrimes — I tell you, even though the book’s a bit highfalutin, you must read it.  After reading the book, I knew I had to watch the film filmed in 1984, too. But when I got to the third part where things got depressing — I realized I just couldn’t finish it anymore. The movie, not the book. The book I finished. And the picture it painted of the possible future (and what may also be happening in the present) is very chilling. An officemate was telling stories about his hometown in Iraq the other day. Somehow, I realized parts of the world are actually, in a way, living the nightmare that is 1984.
  2. After Dark by Haruki Murakami. Simple yet surreal. Murakami tells a tale of what goes on after dark — from midnight to dawn — in Tokyo, Japan. It juxtaposes scenes of Mari and Eri, two sisters in which the former shuns sleep and the latter embraces an eternal one. A couple of other characters are thrown in as well, and their stories also gets told as the night unfolds. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more Murakami after this.
  3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. So now I finally get why so many women have swooned over Mr. Darcy! It took me a while to plow through this book, but once I got to the middle, I knew it was worth it. Read my more detailed review here, wonderful people. ;)
  4. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol. I liked Through the Looking Glass more than Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland because it had more elements of surprise in it. Probably because I’ve seen far too many adaptations of the first Alice book already. But TTLG had Humpty Dumpty in it and The Red Queen who kept offering Alice biscuits even though the poor girl was practically dying of thirst. So… yeah. TTLG, FTW!
  5. Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley. No, I haven’t been spending the whole year reading “just” fiction. And no, please never ever reduce fiction to “just” fiction, because you get as much from them (and sometimes even more) as you do when you read business or inspirational books. Anyway, enough literary ranting. Deep and Wide. This thought-provoking book by Andy Stanley about the way churches “do things” made me want to rethink a lot of things. Sometimes we spend too much time being church-y that we forget about being relevant, you know? But then there’s the danger of trying to be too relevant and then losing the spirit of it all.

Thus ends the list. More books await this 2014. :)

Camera 360


Gift of Song: Six Songs for 2013

If I were to choose six songs that made up my 2013 soundtrack, these would be it. I’ve either let them run a million times in my playlist; sang them out in the car, in my living room, or in my shower; or just loved them to bits. Again, you will see how diverse my taste is when it comes to music (though I do lean towards those with folk-y, acoustic-y feels). But I do hope you enjoy these tunes as well.

1. Today (Steve Moakler). Because today is a revival. So send your fear away, let it slip away and listen to this really positive, feel-good song.

2. Blood and My Bones (Elenowen). I told you I lean towards folk music.

3. Love Like This (The Likes of Us). If I could be born into another era, I’d want to be born into the age of flappers and cool, jazz sounds. But since I’m living in 2013, I’m just going to listen to The Likes of Us’ self-titled album. And I’d listen to this song. Because a love like this comes only once in a lifetime, once every thousand years.

4. Keep Hope Alive (Jason Yost Band). I listened to this song a lot when I was in Bali. You just gotta keep hope alive.

5. 10,000 Reasons (Matt Redman). Ahh, the ICPM Takeaway. Am I still singing like never before?

6. Oceans (by Hillsong United). Hillsong surprised me with their Zion album. Surprised me in a good way. I loved every song but this one has to be my favorite. It speaks so much about what I’m going through now. And so I will call upon His name. I will keep my eyes above the waves. Because I am His. And He is mine.

Those are my 2013 songs. I’m excited for the new songs I’ll be singing this 2014!


Gift of Memories: Seven 2013 Highlights

Today I choose to be grateful, thankful for what 2013 brought into my life. These include the memories (even though they weren’t so great, he tastes like you only sweeter – err, no). Kidding with the parenthetical remark. Yeah, sometimes my mind bursts into song, so forgive me for the Fall Out Boy reference there.

Truth be told, a lot of my memories this 2013 were great and it’s hard to pick only seven. But I can try.

Memory 1: Long Drive and Family Visit. Because I couldn’t go home for Christmas last year, guess who came over for a Post-Christmas + New Year visit? My family! Yey! How cool was it to have the four of us living together inside my apartment like it was some parallel universe where we all stayed under a roof on this side of Southeast Asia? And I got broken into my first super-mega-long-drive too. We went to Penang! It took us about six hours! And I drove a manually transmitted car! Yey!

Memory 2: Writing Revival. The first quarter of 2013 saw an abundance of blog posts both here and in my sorta-travel blog. I wrote in a somewhat feverish frenzy, churning out at least one entry per day. Things got a bit busy by the second quarter though. I started hitting the gym. I started focusing on other projects, too. But I kept writing. And I will keep writing still.

Memory 3: Bali Workation. I got to see Bali! And eat babi guling! Those two weeks in bali were definitely worth remembering. Maygash. I can still taste the babi guling.

Memory 4: Hearts All Over The World. We were churchmates in 2004. Awkwardly close friends in 2009. Ehrm, courter and courtee (okay fine — in the process) when the last quarter of 2011 rolled around. May 2013, I said yes to him. Not, “yes, I do”, but “yes, let’s be a pair” and “yes, I will subscribe to your magazine and all your issues”. Mushy, I know. But then again, I’ve always been full of cheese and mush.

Memory 5: Patico Nuptials + Tramian Adoption. Nanay Patty got hitched this year! Awesome, right? That was one sweet early morning wedding. May ushered in a new season for her and hubby Kuya Ico, but then May ushered in a new season for me, too. There were tears, there were singing (cue Mari’s shaky version of Christina Aguilera’s I turn to you) and some adoption-paper-signing (okay, not really) — 2013 truly marked a big transition in terms fathering in the spiritual sense. So… Group hug, everyone.

Memory 6: Online Learning. This year, I signed up for an online course. Though it won’t give me any credits or certification, it’s been giving me lots of fun information and inspiration. I’ll be sad when the course ends this December 20. Will we at least get some graduation rites? Huhu. (For those interested, my tumblr here keeps a record of things that I have been learning so far.)

Memory 7: Unstoppable Kingdom Moving. ICPM Bangkok. DM Anniv. The Big Move. So this is what it means to be an Unstoppable Kingdom Mover. I mean that both literally and figuratively. We’re staying in a new house now. How many muscles were flexed just to transport everything from the other house to here (we only used a push-able  trolley). Are we unstoppable or are we unstoppable? Yeah.

And another yeah there.

Writing all these down, I’m realizing that 2013 has been good. Very good. :)

Now who here believes that 2014 will be even better?



The magical sneakers!


Tis the season once again. Belt out those falalalalasbring out the keso de bolas, and spread some Christmas holiday cheer! Snow’s already been invading my blog these past few weeks, so that’s a start. But I thought I’d still do a little project, like the one I did last year with the Fire Potion thing.

I read a book entitled The Secret of Counting Gifts at the beginning of 2013. It was one of those gems which touched my heart profoundly. I think one of the biggest lessons I got from the novel is that it makes a big difference when we stop to appreciate the different “gifts” we encounter daily.

From now until January 1st, I’m going to list those gifts down. Will post on Wednesdays and Fridays, including one on a stray Monday. Care to join me on this journey?

These are the gifts that I will be counting:

  1. Gift of Memories: Seven 2013 highlights
  2. Gift of Song: Six Songs for 2013
  3. Gift of Stories: Five Memorable Books
  4. Gift of Pictures: Four Important Photographs
  5. Gift of Lessons: Three Lessons Learned
  6. Gift of Turnaround: Two Turning Points
  7. Gift of the Future: One Thing I Desire for 2014

Are you all ready? Let the counting begin!