Oh, Hello

Perhaps you are wondering if this blog is still alive. It is. It has fallen asleep these past few months. But stick around and maybe you’ll see it coming back to life.

It will soon be eight months since my homecoming. Just eight months, but I already feel like I have been here since forever. Still, like cross talk, what was in Malaysia crisscrosses into what is in Metro Manila now.

We go through the tunnel near Ayala in EDSA and I feel like the Petronas Twin Towers will emerge anytime. I walk through Greenbelt 5 and I think I’m just lost in a new wing of IOI City Mall.

I have an ex-colleague from Malaysia working here. I’ve also been connected to a Filipina who has been attending Malaysia’s Midnight LG but has now come back home. I’ve started wearing my black office work dresses again.

I’m teaching now. I do distance education. In other words, I have a long distance relationship with my students and we do most of our interactions in cyberspace.

Adrian and I have, thankfully, graduated from that. As of blog writing time, I’m sitting with a view of the sun setting over HV Dela Costa Street, waiting for him to pick me up for our dinner date. I think back to our 1am once-a-week Skype dates. I don’t ever want to go back to that.

I’ve gained weight again. I think it’s because I eat so much when I’m with Adrian, when I’m with my friends, when I’m with my colleagues, when I’m with my family. It’s fine. I’ll go jogging tomorrow, or, like Elizabeth Gilbert said, I’ll just “buy bigger pants.”

I’ve been writing poetry sporadically. You’ll see some of them in this space here. But life here is more rushed, busier, I think. The week has flown by, I haven’t even realized it will already be Friday tomorrow.

I’ll do my best to keep this blog updated. Besides, it feels good to be back here writing again.

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That old school webcam selfie.

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Post a Week: Eden (Delight)

Write a review of your life — or the life of someone close to you — as if it were a movie or a book.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us LIFE.

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And so I turned to art. Eden. Life. Delight.

via http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/daily-prompt-four-stars/

I Want to Shake Things Up

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A photo taken from an activity at a drop off centre late 2011.

I miss this.

I miss asking kids to draw out their dreams. I miss singing nursery rhymes in awkward Tagalog and in even more awkward Bahasa Melayu. I miss seeing how few small acts of kindness can make big, big differences children’s lives.

I  miss talking to little ones without any other agenda than to show them love and be loved in return.

I have to do something to shake things up.

Thoughts on 13 Years in America

13 Years in America
Author: 
Melanie Steele
Genre: Memoir, Autobiography
Purchase: Smashwords (free)

Summary:  After moving to the United States from Canada in 1998, a free-spirited young woman rejects the status quo and embarks on a journey to discover what it means to be truly happy and fulfilled in the Land of Opportunity.

Her 13-year search spans half a dozen states, a bunch of fearless adventures, and ever-increasing crises, divisions, turmoil, and discontent. Through it all, she holds on to her fearless pursuit of happiness and fulfilment against ever-decreasing odds.

13 Years in America is a moving personal journey and a sharp, hard look at the American Dream.

– via www.smashwords.com

* * *

13 Years in America. I wonder. Would I be able to write something like this, too, like 4 Years (plus) in Malaysia? Or perhaps 2 Years in Australia? Or 25- 6 Years in La Islas Filipinas?

I didn’t expect this book to be so thought-provoking. Reading through the first few chapters simply gave me a glimpse of a life of a girl who fell in love, got married, left the country she grew up in, came face to face with the realities struggling young couples face, and so on and so forth. It wasn’t until I got to the latter chapters that questions about happiness, fulfilment, and conforming to the system that we live in as a whole started nagging me.

What is happiness? Is it found in the end point or in the journey itself? Where do we find our fulfilment? Do we find it in reaching our goals or in loving and making a difference in the lives of others? And are we content in living in the prevalent system in this world? Working our butts off, making some decent money, getting stressed, getting tired, saying hello to our loved ones every now and then, repeating this cycle over and over again? Is this the way life is supposed to be?

I highlighted some of my favourite passages from the book, but it appears as if my e-reader lost all but one. Still, I can share this passage here as a penny for our thoughts:

After a few minutes, we rise and keep going. This time I fall behind, and I start thinking about how the beauty and wonder of this mountain aren’t just at the top; they’re here, right now, around me. Have an open mind on the way up. That’s where the experience is. My whole focus for years and years now has been on a goal, on reaching and achieving. And that goal, no matter how hard I work or how far I go, is always further on. It’s almost like the goal is a mirage, always on the horizon, just out of reach.

Have an open mind on the way up. That’s where the experience is.

13 Years in America ended, of course, with Melanie Steele’s 13th year there. But for me it didn’t really “end”. It’s not that there wasn’t any closure — there was — but it wasn’t the closure I was expecting.

But I guess that’s just the way life is. It’s continuous, it goes on and on, and — a lot of times — the chapters don’t end in the way that we want them to.

So let’s just make the most of the ride. Let’s enjoy life and drink in the beauty, savour every word and phrase before the pages of our books are through. :)

Thoughts on The Secret of Counting Gifts

the secret of counting giftsThe Secret of Counting Gifts
Author: Heidi Kreider
Genre: Inspirational
Purchase: Smashwords*

Summary: For 28 years, Kris and Liz have been roommates, best friends and later next door neighbors. They have lived life and supported one another through marriage, babies, miscarriage, depression, death, and infidelity. 28 years will be all they have as Liz loses her battle with breast cancer. On her last night, they look back and count the gifts of gratitude that has made up their story. (via www.smashwords.com)

* * *

Every now and then, you’ll find a book that would touch a very deep place in your heart. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter did that a few years ago for me. The Secret of Counting Gifts did it again just recently.

It’s a short read. The book is composed of 29 chapters (plus an epilogue) with a narration that slips back and forth between the present (Liz’ last night with her friends and family) and the past (the 28 years that comprised Liz’ and Kris’ friendship). I say it’s a short read because the individual chapters are actually pretty short and the language Kreider uses is actually pretty simple. Simple, but touching nonetheless.

I almost cried while reading the last chapter. My emotions have been pretty placid the past days — perhaps I’d have cried more during one of my more emotional seasons — but that chapter definitely left a mark.

Some highlights:

She held my hand when I buried my father and I stood with her when her husband walked out. It was I who encouraged Liz to pursue her dream of song writing when she lacked purpose, and it was I who found her agent. When my son was deployed, it was Liz who framed his army portrait and put it in her mantle. (Chapter 1)

She knew peace could only come from surrendering that bitterness. She knew that freedom comes from forgiveness. She knew. (Chapter 9)

“Kris, I’ve found Jesus.” Liz announced. “Was he lost?” I asked, confused. (Chapter 11)

Isn’t this how it is? Even while we wait for death, we live. We , who are alive, keep living. We go on, day after day, saying things like, “I’d die if I had to do that” or “that scares me to death.” We speak so glibly of dying and death. We know nothing of that which we speak. (Chapter 12)

“More than anything,” she said, gently brushing tears from my face, “continue counting. Count with me to the end and keep counting after I’ve gone.” (Chapter 28)

This book shows how life becomes more meaningful when we begin to count the gifts it has given us. When we live lives filled with gratitude, you can look back at anything — depression, failed marriages, miscarriages, cancer — and say that it’s still all worth it.

There are portions that some people might find preachy, though. But again, the book is a gem. Read it. It might just change your life.

*Smashwords is an ukay-ukay for books like Noistrade is one for music. You have to scour through piles of mostly independently published books (some with “just okay” writing) to get that find that you’ll treasure forever. Drop by if you’re a fan of e-books. Your next good read might there waiting for you today.

Post a Week: This is Your Life

If you could read a book containing all that has happened and will ever happen in your life, would you? If you choose to read it, you must read it cover to cover.

Thanks for the great idea, Tom!

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The cover looks more girly than I imagined. Quite dainty. Quite… Pink. Quite flowery, too. But it looks like it’s made of strong, solid material. I could use it as a chopping board, if I wanted to. I could use it to hit an unsuspecting fellow on the head or — to be less brutal and to be more practical — to hit an assaulter of human or animal form as an act of self-defence.

I look at the volume in my hands. Should I open it? Should I not? Oh, to open or not to open, that is the question.

The being (a burly and muscular angel, not a whispy Gandalf-like or Dumbledore-type person as one would expect) who gave it to me gave me a fair enough warning: “If you choose to read it, you must read it from cover to cover.”

Cover to cover, eh? The first few pages I could handle. I’d love to mull over the 24 chapters though I know there’ll be sections I won’t be particularly proud of. But I have mixed thoughts about reading the pages from chapter 25 onwards. What if I won’t like what I’ll read? What if I do? Would knowing my future in any way affect the way I live my now?

Don’t get me wrong. I would love to know about my future, too. But just snippets of it — not the full details. And not so much that I would feel like I’ve already lived through my whole life by reading a book in one sitting.

Oh but it looks so tempting. Oh but the pages seem so rich and inviting. Oh…

I take a deep breath and place my right palm on the back cover and my left on the front.

I raise the book up.

“Hey, angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom His love commits me here — thanks, but no thanks!”

The muscular fellow appears as I say the words aloud. He gives me a wink before he makes off with the pink flowery book.

Sure, the prospect of discovering what’s in store for me was enticing. But I shall live my life unwrapping each day as a present, one day at a time, one page at a time.

How about you? Will you?

via http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/daily-prompt-your-life/

A Short Break

Taking a short break from the writing challenge to give you this retelling of Ecclesiastes 12 (New Living Translation). Finding it fun doing this. Perhaps I should retell stories/verses more often? Hmmm. Enjoy. ^_^

Vanity of Vanities

Meaningless. Everything is meaningless. Vanity of vanities — everything is vanity!

I turn my eyes towards the sky, but the sun, the moon, and the stars have all been replaced by this thick blanket of darkness. Ominous clouds swirl about the heavens even though the rain has already long fallen.

This only means one thing. My eyes have grown dim.

My legs tremble. My shoulders stoop. My teeth — as my eyes — they are gone and are no more.

I have nothing more to live for. Every door to every opportunity has already slammed shut in front of my face. I have given up the daily nine-to-five a long time ago. But why do I wake up each morning still? Why, when I do, do the birds continue to sing? But why, though I know they are chirping, do I not hear even a single tune?

Meaningless. Everything is meaningless.

Heights and falling scare me now, as do danger in the streets. My hair is no longer golden — every strand is as white as snow. They compare me to a grasshopper and aphrodisiacs no longer turn me on.

I shall die later on.

My dust shall return to the earth. My spirit — will it indeed return to the God who made it?

Meaningless. Everything is meaningless.

I should have remembered Him while I was at the prime of my youth, before any of these happened.  I should have made my Maker my front row and centre. I should have sought Him more than knowledge and books, more than booze and empty fun.

But now all must come to an end. The silver chord has snapped. The golden cup is broken.

As am I.

Would things have been different if I feared God? Would things have found meaning if I kept and obeyed His commandments? After all, it should have been simple — to simply love God with all I am, and to simply love my neighbours as I love myself.

But everything is meaningless. Vanity of vanities — everything is vanity.

Yet I heard God will judge us for everything we do — the good, the bad, the seen, the unseen.

Meaningless. Everything is meaningless.

End

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When I get to the end of the road, would I want to be like that person crying out in disdain because everything is completely meaningless? Or would I want to be a person who would be crying out for joy having lived a life of abundance, a life of satisfying fullness (John 10:10b)?

It’s a choice. A simple one, really, that would boil down to this: Will I fear God and obey His very commandments? McManus says:

When we fear God, we fear nothing else. It is only in fear of God that we find ourselves free from the fear of death, of failure, and all the other fear that binds us. (from Uprising, page 242)

Misty Edwards also sums it up well in her song, Point of Life:

Knowing You is the answer to the riddle of the point of life. The point of life is You. It’s You. Loving You is the reason that I’m breathing. It’s the absolute — the point of life is You.

Meaningless? Everything is not meaningless. :)