Looking to the heavens

Lovely Saturday in Times Square: everyone takes pictures from a horizontal view.. Try looking up some time -- straight up!  #lookingup #timessquare #ny #mynewyork #mynyc #skyscrapers #vertical #frontcam #anotherview #beautifulday #sunnyspringdayinnewyorkI was saying goodbye to BFF Fe last night after our regular chat when a message from Facebook jolted me with the news of an old friend’s passing.  There was a request not to use social media to comment or publicize it, so out of respect for the family, I cannot dwell or mention who it was or who she was to me.  But I was deeply touched because I was one of half her list of friends who got the invite to her wake and her funeral in Manila.  There will be a time to write about that when the family allows me to.

For now, I bow my head down in prayer knowing she’s at peace and no longer in pain.

I wanted to post this status update publicly on my own FB page, but I was afraid that I would get too many queries and bring attention to someone’s passing.  So instead I sent this to my dearest friends in private, and I’m sharing it here.

“Today is a day for me to reflect on the friendships and the people who have come into and gone out of my life as I learn of others moving on and others coming back and bouncing back. All I can say is thank you to those who have blessed my life with their friendship through the years. To those back home, I miss you all and wish you were but a phone call away and we could meet up in Makati or The Fort or some such place. I thank God for bringing each and every one of you into my life — no matter how brief, or how long, or far back. Please stay in touch… I will try to do the same.”

And to my friend from waaaaay back — no matter how brief our elementary years were, and how we were brought back together in recent years because you stumbled into my little space here, you will always be remembered and tucked away in a special place in my heart.  I will always remember how I visited you in yours as you chronicled your battle and separately, as you wrote about your family adventures.  More importantly, I will never forget your infectious laughter and unbroken spirit even in the face of all that you bravely fought.  Rest in peace, my friend.

 

 


A Happy Place Apart

Sunset over Manhattan - Can't ever grow tired of this view.  The Empire State Building as the setting sun illuminates it in the colors of fall. #sunset #nyc #Manhattan #mynyc #autumninnewyork #theempirestatebuilding #sunsetovermanhattanI am finally back on Instagram and back to snapping shots of my home city, although I wasn’t upgraded to the coveted iPhone 6 just yet — there’s a company freeze on the upgrades — I suppose, at least until the big bosses get theirs.  I’m not complaining.  I’m just glad to have my main cell phone number back on line, although arranging the apps and icons on my various screens is still in progress and keeping me on the verge of a vertigo attack.

Sometimes, I get lucky.  The shot above was actually just one of those I took after walking to the other side of my floor, and I discovered a new trick to prevent the reflection of the interior lights from bouncing off of the glass window.  I simply stuck the phone to the glass, as in on top of it, as if it were a filter in front of the actual phone camera.  Voila!

Posted on my Instagram feed 2 weeks ago before the other iPhone changed hands, this picture was reposted by the official @empirestatebldg Instagram account and was liked more than 2400+ times on that page and garnered me at least a dozen additional “followers”.  Of course, I was honored.  Again, sometimes, I get lucky.

Yet another reason to smile.  Another little note to tuck into that bucket of “happy”.

My sister wrote me a rather pointed inquiry on my state of heart with a single sentence e-mail.  (“Are you okay, sis?,” she wrote.)  She has a knack for emphasis by decluttering her message and going straight to the point.  I’d usually just call her back but it was late last night and I thought I’d give her something to read.

Yes, I’m okay.  I’ve just been very busy of late, but I am doing okay and trying to concentrate on “happy” thoughts and bits and pieces that bring me to that happy place.  I’ve come to discover that there are actually a lot of things to tuck into my little virtual scrapbook in my heart — the one I go to when I feel the need to try and lift my spirits up.  It’s where all the reminders of “good” and “okay” are — in simple thoughts, lines, memories and snapshots.

You know how you would often remember bits and pieces of a conversation, or scenes framed by a certain event or moment in your mind.  It could be words you read somewhere — perhaps a magazine, an e-mail or a written message handed to you.  It might be taste of something you had, a movie you keep wanting to watch over and over again, or the line in a song.  And even in this place of “happy” thoughts there are buckets for the different things that bring you there, from the ordinary to those special ones that bring you to a happy place apart.

Four words that have stuck with me through most of the past week and a half — “A Happy Place Apart”.   You want to keep going there but then you want to save it for when you need it most so that you can savor the smile, the warmth of that thought, of remembering things, or laughing over something you laughed about not too long ago.  And it actually works.  It brings me to that happy place apart from all the other happy places I have tucked in my heart.

It is that happy place apart that makes me say, yes, I’m okay.  Because in the midst of it all, I have a lot to be thankful for.  I have a lot to smile about.  I have a lot to remain hopeful for.  I’d be hard pressed to justify sulking or moping, or even asking “Why me?”.

It might be knowing I got featured by THE @empirestatebldg account, and I got congratulated by people I don’t even know from Adam.  Or the thought of indulging in a piece of my chocolate treat from Lilac at Grand Central Market, the uber sinful milk chocolate caramel nut bar.  (Seriously thinking of stopping by this morning despite the fact it will mean a major detour in the commute into the city, and a major dent on the diet, at that!)  It might be about happily anticipating some books I ordered in connection with an online History course I enrolled in recently.  (That’s another blog post altogether.)  It might be simply writing or pinging one of my three siblings across the oceans for a conversation.

And sometimes you hear something random like the latest news and it reminds you of something connected.  Even that can bring you to that happy place.

Another weekend for all of us — another weekend for more happy thoughts — and in case there’s a shortage of that, there will be that happy place apart tucked somewhere in my heart.


In Memory of John Kavanagh, 2003-2014

In memory of John Kavanagh, a dear friend to many, best friend to Angelo.  Rest in peace... #rip #johnkavanagh #restinpeace #richardbach #friends #friendship #sayinggoodbye


Monday Musings (Random thoughts on another day I woke up before 5am)

It’s still pitch black outside even if it’s already 10 minutes to 6:00.  I finally gave up trying to go back to sleep after waking up at past 4am and crawled out of bed to brew my morning cup.  My brain is still trying to wake up all it’s circuits so I thought I’d just write up a list of disparate thoughts which, I hope, I can or might develop into a full blown post somewhere along the way.

Monday usually finds me feeling like I’m floating from the weekend to the rush of the new week.  I do look forward to the start of the week and the thought of Monday as a reboot to the weekend just ended helps get me on my way.  I wish there was a third day to the weekend, but then at the same time, I often find myself wishing the work week itself was 6 instead of just 5 days. (I know I’m blabbering, but I make no apologies because it’s a Monday — an EARLY Monday morning.)

Facebook  (and my BFFs mom) yet saves my day (and pulls me out of the hole) from a missed Cindy Lauper concert promised to BFF Fe some moons ago..  We all make promises.  I try not to.  More so when I know there is a good chance I won’t be able to keep it, because I not only hate to disappoint the person I’m making a promise to, but worse, I disappoint myself.

I had an unplanned trip home in March 2012 (right after the Christmas visit of December 2011 and before the last trip this December 2013) and it so happened that Cindy Lauper was playing in Manila.  I promised Fe we would go, but we didn’t.  And I know she’s felt bad about that since .  But over the weekend she posted something that sort of saved my neck (although not entirely).  I’m sorry, Peps… even if you say I need not apologize.. I am.  I knew you were looking forward to that concert and a promise is a promise.  For whatever it’s worth, I have never enjoyed attending and dancing at a concert like I have with you — remembering that Side A concert we saw courtesy of you-know-who way back when I saw a lot of concerts and fashion shows.

Moving to New York in 2000 — (and I’m suddenly hit with “Wow — it HAS been THAT long!”) — I have always been content with the lifestyle choice I made when I started working here — until now.  Knowing what I am and what I had accomplished before I moved here, and then taking that giant step back to adjust to my new life in New York, I wonder if I had not short-changed myself in embracing the “family is the reason I came here in the first place” bit in choosing the career path I took.

In many ways, I realize now that that choice was noble and pure and is still true in my heart (and all I have to do is look at the boy who unabashedly proclaims his love for me at every turn) — but I wonder if that choice had boxed me into a role and persona that was much, much smaller than the real person I am.  (That’s a thought for me to ponder, and not meant to be answered here.  Monday.. musings.. get it?)

I have come to realize that while ACCEPTANCE does not exactly equate to FORGIVENESS, it does help to push one forward to go past what one has no control over.  I’ve always been an “I will fix this” kind of person.  I don’t know if it’s arrogance or simply my bull-headedness about being able to control things  and not letting things control me.  For the past year, I’ve been grappling with a festering wound within that I have somehow managed to tuck deeper in my heart in a vain attempt to simulate healing.  People ask me how I’m doing — I say I’m okay.  Not exactly better, but I’m okay.  That, in itself, is already “acceptance” in a sense — knowing where I am and where I’ve landed after the rollercoaster ride of the last year.

I had forgotten how I had missed school and my plans of taking on a course in History until recently, and over the weekend, when I embarked on a new journey of learning.  Procrastination has been a close companion even in my younger years.  Once it clings to me, it is so hard to shake it off.  Not too long ago, I had enrolled in an online history course via podcast from YALE, and while I was sooooo excited at the start, I never went beyond the first lecture.  Over the weekend, I got a new recommended course, this time from ColumbiaX, and I am actually excited — VERY EXCITED — to hit the books again.  (You should see my eyes twinkling at the thought.)  For all the years I spent with the Sisters of Saint Paul de Chartres (nursery to high school), the giant minds that helped shaped my once-sheltered brain to think more broadly at the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of the Philippines, and the most challenging years at the Ateneo School of Law with the Jesuits — one thing I missed the most when I got here was studying and learning and the challenge of reading and pulling together my own thoughts and analysis from a textbook.

I had even seriously thought of auditing classes at NYU (which is why I get their course catalogue every year), but then, I never had the time.. or couldn’t make time.  Thanks to technology and everybody’s rush to be at everyone else’s fingertips, it’s a totally different classroom now, and I can be in it whenever I want to be in it.  So excited for this one!

Some things we lose cannot be replaced — like the 5,000 or so photos on my iPhone (which aren’t on my cloud) — but I can always keep taking photos and immortalize future memories in the next handheld I get.  It wasn’t so much the loss of the iPhone 5S which was part of the technology trove I get from work — but it was all those photos that I snapped away from blog graphics to pictures with my family and precious selfies of my funny guy and I.  The iPhone is being replaced this week — and I’m not complaining even if there’s a company freeze on upgrades to the iPhone 6.  But I cannot help but cringe at the thought of all the photos I lost, and the “notes” in the journal section where I had stored bits and pieces like my morning dose of the Serenity Prayer.  (Which, after a year of saying it every day in the morning, I have yet to memorize.)

It wasn’t such a total loss because a good batch of them made it to my Flickr account, and at least 300+ are on my Instagram feed.  Still.

There were a ton of photos of my altered book which was meant to document the “bare background pages” to the finished journaled layouts which are now in limbo.  Thankfully, my Thank You Postcard Project photos are actual scans of the postcards, so they were not on the iPhone.

I have somehow gotten over the initial disappointment, but it only serves to remind me that I should have backed up the files instead of relying on the fact that my iPhone and I were joined at the hip.  That is, until it fell out of my purse and into someone else’s hand.

6:55 and my day has to move on now.  I have indulged myself enough as I waited for the sun to start rising, and it’s slowly creeping up over New York City.  That doesn’t mean I can just linger here.. which I wish… but cannot.  It’s Monday, after all.  Hope you all have a good start of the week.. I know mine has gotten off to a very good one.


Friday Five – the Turnaround

The week has been long but nice.  One of those weeks when a lot happened but didn’t necessarily wreak havoc on my sanity and health.  There were a lot of moments that saw me smiling.  There were a lot of happy moments.  Plenty enough that the usual worries were but a hum in the background.

Here’s my progress report:

1.  Cut my flower embellishments for my Thank You Postcard Project.  Done!  I can’t stop making them, though, so there’s more to cut.

2.  Finish the polymerclay earrings I had put together three weeks ago.  Life was just too hectic, but will do this weekend.

3. Paint the multi-window page I had cut out o f my altered book.  Just have to keep going.

4.  Mail the letter to GINA!!!    Now have to write another..

5.  Start photographing my Starbucks mugs again.  This weekend?

My weekends come and go, mostly unplanned.  I’m very spontaneous in that regard.  I look at weekends as a flowing 48 hours that are rarely planned in advance.  For example, I’m thinking about breakfast but I’m not fixated on planning for it.

I just want my “Michael’s” fix, and I make a mental note of my shopping list.  I think of what treat I will indulge in, and then I keep my fingers crossed the sun will come out and I’ll have more things to smile about.

All I’m thinking about is maybe creating a piece for myself, but here’s next week’s Friday Five.

1.  Send out two prototype Thank You Postcards for a test run.

2.  Finish the polymerclay earrings I had put together three week ago.

3. Continue to paint the multi-window page I had cut out of my altered book. 

4.  Write Donna a letter.    

5.  Start photographing my Starbucks mugs again. 

I’m exhausted but “happy” exhausted.  I feel like I had done a lot.. between the elevator rides, a department luncheon that was a big hit, and trying to keep the department happy, I’m totally bushed.  But again, I feel good.  I know the boss was happy (which was what mattered), and I feel I accomplished a lot.

Here’s hoping everyone has a good weekend wherever the weekend finds you.

 

 


As random as it gets

I was sitting here ready to write anything that comes to mind — yes, after waking up again at 4:30am — but then I got pinged on Facebook by an old, old, old friend from more than 20 years ago.  (Kristhel, it HAS been that long.)

Back then, she was interning at the advertising agency I was working at while I was in law school, and we had developed a special bond and I took her under my wing.  I am always blown away by how some people who have slipped out of our lives suddenly pop back up from out of the blue, thanks to all the technology and social media today.  For that, I am happy.

I try not to troll FB too much these days.  I’m usually online to upload something, respond to a message (rarely) or to send one.  The friend list needs to be trimmed, but how do you choose who to follow or unfollow?  So I miss most of the updates except when they come up on my feed just as I log on.  (Millet, did my pony get there yet? LOL)  There are only a number of people whose feeds I actually seek out apart from my siblings who usually tag me to alert me to what’s newly uploaded.  But when a message from friends like Kristhel pop up, I find myself grateful that there’s Facebook.  (Don’t forget to click on those “other” messages from people not on your friend list!)

Even on Instagram, Flickr and Pinterest, I rarely click the “Follow” button.  I’m not being a snob… my presence online, more so here, is for very selfish reasons.  I’m keeping an online journal for my own benefit. =)

Someone I met yesterday asked me what I blog about.. myself, I said. LOL.. some might term that as being “self-absorbed” but that’s the whole truth.  Some people write for an audience. I write for me, myself and I.  And maybe someone stumbling into my corner of the web might find something amusing or entertaining, or maybe once in a blue moon, even helpful.

For Kristhel, read up and get caught up on what’s been happening in my life.. but please, please drop the “Ma’am.”  Your son is older than mine!

We were both so excited to have found each other — and I am grateful to the universe for bringing her my way again.  These days, I’m grateful for every reason the world gives me to smile.  And I do smile — happy thoughts are supposed to be indulged in and savored and relived over and over again, given the heartbreak and the disenchantment around us.  It doesn’t have to be a giddy-happy smile — even an ever so slight curve of the lip will do.

So Kristhel is this morning’s happy thought.  I’m so glad I went online on FB to send BFF Fe a message.  (My iPhone is still on order so no viber, just yet.)  She goes into that bucket in my heart that has my happy thoughts about elevators, my red nails, my favorite pair of heels, my little tyke, and all those things that bring me to a happy place.

 

 


Pseudo Siblings (or those people who are almost but not quite the real thing)

Even after living in New York the last 14 years, I haven’t quite gotten used to being away from my siblings who are all in Manila. Despite all the technology that allows me to talk to them as if they were just minutes away and not a half day ahead, or being able to spend 2-3 weeks with them in person practically once a year, it’s just not quite the same. It doesn’t even help to know that the distance has continued to keep us closer than ever, and has not affected our bond as family — it actually makes it even worse. But I continue to try and cope my way…

I have always cherished the way my siblings and I have continued to build our relationships with each other. I feel so blessed to have been given each of them. And that includes my older brother who went to heaven after but a few hours on earth. He and I have an even more special relationship, because I know he watches over me and never fails to move me when he visits me in my dreams. I’ve only seen him as a baby, yet I know it’s him when he pops up in my nocturnal adventures.

The hardest part of being here in New York, is that I am 10,000 miles away from them. One of my coping mechanisms has been to take out their friends when they land in my part of the world for one reason or another.  Yes, even those I’ve never met before but whose connection to me is that they are “superfriends” or “buddies” of any of my siblings back home.

Most of them are surprised by the warm welcome — but it is always easy for me to be warm and friendly and cozy with those who I know share a special bond with the most special people to me.  Be it for a single dinner or a walk around the city or what have you, I cherish those moments when I find myself with them again, even if only vicariously.  I miss them that much even if we see each other every other year (or even every year like in most recent times) and even when they are but a touch of a button away on Viber or Facebook or a dial away on the cellphone.

So in the last couple of months, I’ve met up with two of my sister’s friends, and a pair of my brother’s.  Each one has been a different encounter but rich with a lot of laughter and reminiscing and just plain getting to know you.  I relish those moments shared because they translate to time spent with the sibling who is our common friend.

Val visited a few months back and had helped me to get a better insight into my sister’s current circle and world.  Although it is not the same as meeting up with my sister’s friends who I had known from their shared childhood or high school years, Val gave me a window into my sister’s world outside of the circle I normally see her in.  She was quick to laugh like my sister, and it touched me that she told me she had connected with my sister between the first and last time I got to sit down with her here in New York, and she had told Ofie, “Mahal na mahal ka ng Ate mo.”  (Your older sister loves you so much.)

Then came Edlyn who I had known from a visit a few years back and who, like Ofie and I, is a Paulinian.  (We all shared the fact that our formative years were spent with the Sisters of St. Paul.)  We were supposed to attend aparty in Freehold, NJ the same evening Edlyn was free, but it was more important for me to see her, so I sent father and son off without me and planned a special night.  I picked a restaurant that I had been wanting to go to for the longest time, Esca, and I went into the city on a Saturday evening not knowing it was the start of the (in)famous traffic-snarling UN Week here in New York.  (I would’ve loved to pique your palate with the sumptuous photos I had taken but I lost my iPhone two days ago.. along with the thousands of pictures I had stored in it.)

I have always loved Edlyn’s positivity and vivacious personality.  Even on Facebook, her page drips and oozes with optimism and words of encouragement without being soupy or overly religious.  (Although I don’t mind those, in general.)  She had an infectious laughter (tossing her head back in wild abandon, several times almost hitting a server sidling up behind her — caught unaware by her sudden jolt of joy).  I was there to just have a dose of that, but I got so much more.  A professional life coach, she was in town for a spiritual conference and to take on several other events from coast to coast.  We discussed so many things over that sumptuous meal that I would’ve stayed longer at her apartment, but I didn’t want to rob her of a chance to catch up with some Zs in preparation for the long day ahead.

She doesn’t see my sister as often as they used to see each other, but she is close enough to know the latest that’s been going on in her life.  Edlyn’s focus, though, was me — and she shared her heart so openly and with no reservation that I soon realized we were brought together for a reason beyond catching up about my sister.  Of the many things Edlyn told me and asked me, she told me “It all comes back to ‘YOU’.  Always remember that — you are the most important thing.”

Even now, that gives me pause to think and reflect.  And I see her tossing her head in wild laughter again. =)

Just a few days ago, one of my brother’s friends arrived with another friend/officemate in tow.  They were a nice pair of young travelers trying to take in the city — very pretty Anna and my stand-in Nikki superfriend, Romeo.  (Nikki is my youngest brother who is now a physical therapist in one of the bigger hospitals in Manila.)  Never met them, and I never even started communicating with Romeo until Nikki connected us just before he left.

First, I took them out to lunch which caused quite a stir with the boss for the length of time I was away.  (I was royally scolded!)  Then we met up again at night to take in the lights and sounds of Times Square, Fifth Avenue and Central Park.  I played photographer, tour guide and jokingly, “Pimp”.  We managed two sets of photos with New York’s finest which were the biggest hit in their photostream of photos taken here in NYC.

Sitting across the table from Romeo at dinner at Rosie O’Grady’s felt like sitting across the table from my dearest Nikki.  He came into our lives when I was 18, and had always treated him as my baby, even now when he’s a 30 year old professional.  I had always told myself that if I were never blessed with a child, he would be the one to fill that gap in my life.  But even now that I have my own son, I look to him as the baby I saw grow up before my eyes into the beautiful person that I am so proud of right now.

I wanted it to be Nikki in those pictures we shot — and I went all out in the hopes that seeing Romeo here would make him want to come here and join me — finally.

These people were brought into my life here in New York through my siblings, but they have touched my life in a more direct way and I feel that my life has been enriched by these encounters.  Beyond the care packages they brought, they brought me a piece of my siblings that I wouldn’t see otherwise, viewing it from the perspective of being one of the family.  And over and above that, they all brought something different to add to my life experiences.  For the special friendship they shared with the people who mean the most to me, I let them in with open arms and was able to find new friends of my own and for that I am a better person.

I opened my heart to them as if I had known them forever, and because they saw an older sister in me, they did the same.  We became instant friends because one of my siblings was a very dear friend of theirs — and now, they are my friends, too.  For that I am eternally grateful, and I can’t wait for the next pseudo-sibling to come along… hopefully soon.

 

 

 


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