I’ve been remiss in sending out the cards and letters I’ve been meaning to all these weeks. (Including half a dozen Christmas cards. LOL) But I am trying to get rolling again, and of course, first off is a handmade card for P. I had done this magazine collage with zentangling even before, then had tucked it away somewhere — losing it in the process. I just found it a few days ago as I searched high and low for a very important picture I’m looking for and it’s about time I got it going on its way to its intended recipient.

I’m trying to keep the ailing post office services of the world busy! There’s something about the written word that still beats the speed of the internet and other wireless means of communication. Personally, I like that cards and letters are something you can actually physically hold and go back to whenever you wanted to relive a thought or a feeling that came with that piece of paper. And when the card, the sender or the message being sent is special, it helps one to “reconnect” in a different way.

I am sending my thoughts, prayers and love home to P — a dear friend from grade school. I am smiling at the thought that this is one person I’ve known practically all my life. (I think we met in second grade when I was 7 years old.) One of the few people on my “people I must see” list every time I go home. And while we did get to see each other, I missed out on having a pic taken. (Must do next time: Pic with P only!) Our classmates and teachers used to get us mixed up despite her lovely, lovely curls and eye glasses. I’m flattered. =) We even made a joke of being related for a while..  (Remember that?)

She still has the same infectious laugh that rings true with joy. Her voice is still as malambing as it has always been.

I miss writing and talking to you, P.  I’m back, though! =)  I am hoping to see you the next 20 homecomings to Manila  AT THE VERY LEAST — and who knows?  You might see me very soon again — more food tripping?  Promise I won’t surprise you this time so we can plan something.

We’ve gotten this far — we can’t give up now.  You continue to be a source of inspiration and strength — and my card says “Hope” not because I’m trying to remind you not to give up — but rather to say you are “hope” personified.  You continue to remind me every day that it springs eternal.

See you soon, my friend.  In the meantime, sending love and cheer down to you the old-fashioned way…

Catching up on the reading: My Bookshelf, My Kindle

I have actually vowed NOT to buy any books until I can jumpstart my reading again, and while I have been cradling my Apple iPad and my Kindle  and keeping them handy in my tote, I haven’t really done much reading in the last couple of months.  Not good, I know.

Right now I have around 5 hard bound books waiting to be read, and I’ve gotten nowhere with Betty White’s “If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won’t)(Note to self: Hoping to finish THIS weekend!) and I’ve practically given up on Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods: A Novel(One more try?).  What I’m raring to start reading (which is going against what I just said I had vowed) is George R. R. Martin’s third installment of  “A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 3) which I just downloaded.

So maybe — just maybe — I’ll finish American Gods.. and get on with reading Agassi’s “Open (which was actually Ofie, my sister’s pick), and get on with catching up with the Grisham books I have yet to read.  (Soooo way behind with that one, too!)  I know I want to read more than I actually manage to.  I can certainly do better.  With theKindle just a touch away, I really have no excuse.  And there are the other books I downloaded which I hope to eventually get to.. if I can get a 48-hour day.  LOL

My books have always been a source of solace and pride for me.  Solace because they have provided me with a place where I can enrich myself without actually going anywhere and spending for more than what the book would’ve cost.  Pride because I count them as a personal accomplishment when I think about the books I HAVE managed to read.  It makes me feel as though I am actually doing something proactive to keep my brain cells alive and kicking. =) Let’s see how many books I will manage to finish reading this 2012. 12? That’s a modest and reasonable goal. Let’s hope I meet it.

Back to Art Journal Every Day

As if my days were not packed tight enough with work, motherhood, house chores and squeezing in what’s left to do “something for me”, here I go again (after vacillating over the first few weeks of January,) signing up for Art Journal Every Day as inspired by the great Julie Fei-Fan Balzer.  I used to stop by her blog at least once a day but I’ve been too busy of late.  (Plus I needed to make a determination as to whether or not I would attempt another try at art journaling.)  Well today she started sign ups again, and of course, I couldn’t resist.  Plus, her post “Art Journal Every Day: Letting Go of Expectations” seemed to push me towards giving it another try.

With my not necessarily every day attempt at doing an entry for my own Art Journal, I’m trying to see how much more profilic I can be this time around.  (Spoken without fear and with the knowledge that I am not even anywhere near starting a new piece!)  My art journal for 2011 is barely halfway done, so I think I’ll pick up from there.

I’ve learned a lot about art journaling this past year, but more importantly, I think I discovered more about myself in doing the limited number of entries I came up with in 2011.  For example, I never thought I’d enjoy doing watercolors so much.  I tried “gessoing” but it didn’t quite work for me.  I am continuing to develop my zentangling skills, and I have a project or two on standby.  There is just so much one can do and not do, or say and not say in an art journal entry.  I am so excited by the millions of possibilities.

Inspiration, I don’t lack.  There is much to write about, draw about and just create for.

So here goes another try at Art Journal(ing) Every Day.  Thanks, Julie, for the inspiration as always.

Pretty little heart

What do you know…  We just finished with the Christmas and New Year holidays and here comes Valentine’s Day.  Hard not to be reminded when my favorite meeting caterer, Mangia, brought me these scrumptuous heart shaped chocolate sugar cookies in their dessert tray.  They are so pretty I don’t even want to eat them!

In the midst of the crazy rush of the day which saw me calling for catering two hours before I needed it (and thank God Mangia always delivers), I see something so sweet and beautiful that makes my heart smile.

It’s all about taking the time to stop and smell the flowers or take note of the nicer things in life and pay attention.

Often, we fail to pay heed and take things like this into account.  We don’t take the time to quietly admire the beauty around us.  We gloss over the artistry in this sugar cookie which was meticulously put together by some pastry chef behind the scenes.  It’s so much easier to take things as is and just take it as something that’s strictly run-of-the-mill.

One thing I’ve realized recently is that things become routine or “run-of-the-mill” because we let them.  We stop seeing the colors in the landscape.  All we see is a carpet of green instead of the interplay of the colors of nature.  We go about our day to get it over and done with instead of savoring yet another day we get to live..  We live thinking about tomorrow instead of thinking in the ‘now’.  We see just another cookie or a work of art put together by someone particularly good at it.  And it’s just too pretty to eat. =)

I’ve been rather shallow of late.. little things make me smile and seemingly inconsequential things make me think.  And pretty little cookie hearts make me stop and look — and I actually enjoy these little things.

Personal Treat

I like weekends because breakfast is not a hurried production.  It’s also the only time of the week when I can whip something special up for myself after preparing breakfast for everyone else.  Today I decided I wanted pancakes.  Slathered with butter and topped with my favorite Harry and David Caramel Sauce — yum!  I would’ve loved to pour on some heavy cream but I’m all out.  Still, that was quite a treat.

I sat by the breakfast counter and had a leisurely breakfast while listening to music via YouTube.  It’s the start of a long weekend here on our side of the world, what with Martin Luther King Day being observed this Monday.  A much needed break, indeed.

It’s been a busy week at work and I am still adjusting back to being back from Manila — not so much jetlag-wise — I think I’ve pretty much recovered from that.  But more like adjusting back to trying to wean myself from pining for those three weeks of rest and relaxation with family and friends.

Work has been very hectic and will get even more hectic.  I can use as much of the weekend as I can get.

So after the espresso and the pancakes, I got another giant mug of coffee.  I sat, browsed the net, uploaded these pictures I took for this blogpost and just enjoyed the morning.

We often end up taking such simple pleasures like sitting down to take it easy forgranted, when it is probably the best remedy to a quick recharge more so after a busy week.  All week long, I’m the first to wake up and I start puttering around the kitchen getting my morning off to a start while it is still dark outside.  I get everyone’s breakfast ready and then I get down to getting myself off to work.  Everything is at a hurried pace that usually leaves me breathless by the time I walk out of the house.

Weekends afford me a chance to slow down, enjoy every bit of the exercise of getting breakfast ready, and actually fixing up a personal treat for myself like today.  At least during weekends — that’s good enough.  I can sip my coffee at leisure instead of doing it at my desk when I get to work.  I can stop and decide how the day will be instead of letting it roll out in rote fashion.

When you miss your bestfriend so…

It’s been 11 years since I left Manila, and while I have settled nicely into my home here in New York, I would have thought the friends I had left behind in Manila would’ve adjusted by now as well.  Apparently not.

My family has done a better job only because I think they know that I may be in Alaska and stuck there and unable to do my almost every year and a half interval between homecomings and we are still family, but my friends have not been as lucky coping.

My bestfriend, Fe, has avoided Makati for many reasons through the years, traffic being one of them. But per her admission, there are just things she cannot bear doing because she would end up doing them without me. She has purposely avoided going to the places we used to go to together because she says it just hurts to be there. We had made it a habit to sit and just people watch — be it from the food courts, from one of the restaurants, or even just lounging around at Starbucks. Going back without me there, according to her, is very painful.

Once she chatted up someone I had used to go out with and he gave her the same reason. That going around the places I used to frequent was just not the same. That one, I can understand perfectly. There is always a sting to returning to places once shared with someone you were involved intimately with after a parting — specially a painful one.

But between bestfriends — can it really be that painful after 11 years? Apparently. I guess I didn’t go through that because I was the one who moved away. Everything was new to me — so I didn’t have any memories to avoid about the places I visited. When I walk the streets of Manhattan as I have a conversation in my head with Fe, I dream of one day walking these streets with her. It helps that she’s been here once before I moved here, so we have shared favorite places and memories of the things I see and do. One day…

During this last homecoming, we walked around Greenbelt and while waiting for a cab back to the hotel, she tells me she hadn’t been around Makati as often as we had gotten used to. When I asked why, she said it was because I was gone.  I wanted her to go see Cyndi Lauper’s concert this March for us — or watch her forever idol Dolly Parton’s new movie Joyful Noise, and she simply said “No. x x x It’ll be too painful.”  I wish it were not, but I know that pain in a different sense.

I was just telling another friend this Sunday how difficult ir is when all your friends are back home.  Facebook, G-mail’s Google Talk, regular e-mail and text messaging have helped to bridge the distance somehow and makes it so much easier to stay connected, but it isn’t quite the same.  That’s why I’m grateful that I got to see the people who mattered the most to me during this previous visit home.  It gave me a lot of memories to take home here to New York.

Here’s hoping we get to see each other soon, my friend.  Hang in there..

Songs from a previous life

One of my first jobs when I really started working was as a newscaster for a radio station whose station was near H.V. De la Costa Street where the law school was.  It was early morning and an hourly newscast that ended when school started in the middle of the afternoon.  Close enough for me to walk to school or commute to, so it all worked out.

There were rare instances when I was allowed to pinch hit for the regular deejays who gave up the weekend slots, and this song by David Soul was one of my signature closing songs.  That the station was a retro station made it work out just fine, and with everything pre-programmed, the only say I had really were the OPM tracks and the last song.  It was always a toss up between this one and another old time 70s favorite, “You and I” by John Davidson (which I’m sure hardly anyone remembers).  It was so ancient that in the age of CDs, the second track was on cassette which made it a tad more difficult to cue.

Those were the days when I knew what “minimum wage” meant, and when I received my salary in cash in a brown envelope.  It was a different phase in my life where I learned a lot about humility, an honest day’s work and trusting people.

Now thanks to YouTube, I can access either song simply by entering the title or the artist in the search option.

Friday in NYC

(I started writing this post early in the morning and ended it as mThanks to technology, I’m able to write this blogpost while on the way to the city this nice Friday morning, saving me the trouble of having to sneak time during the workday.  Winter has started to temper its cold blast and we’re enjoying a relatively mild day (37 degrees!) and while I’m wishing it holds and gets even warmer, it makes me a tad bit nervous  because warming in the midst of a cold spell is usually a foreboding of snow.

I’m just glad it’s Friday.  My first week back at work has been reasonably busy and while I haven’t really been in full attack mode, I’ve managed to get a few things done.  “Few” doesn’t cut it, though, or I risk being “buried” in the coming days.  January is a pretty busy time of year for us despite the general slowdown everywhere else.  (Have you noticed everyone is having their yearly clearance sale?)

My weekend promises to be a busy one, more so since I really want to clear out everything I brought back from Manila (and there wasn’t much), maybe get a few pieces for my GothamChick Etsy store finally finished, and my stocks reinventoried so I can re-open.  (I’m still on “vacation” mode.)

I’d love to kick back and just sit over a pizza dinner tonight, but my public awaits.  (Dinna’s Diner reopens!)  It was a beautiful morning in Bryant Park and I would’ve just wanted to grab a seat and linger for an hour or two and enjoy the sunrise as it crept up behind the New York Public Library.  But work was waiting for me.

Alas, none of the pictures turned out to be usable — blame it on my working with the “panorama” feature of the camera.  I’ll get the hang of it eventually, I’m sure.

Meanwhile, here’s to the first full weekend of 2012.. a much needed weekend for most of us, I’m sure.


The view from across my building: Bryant Park with the Empire State Building in the background

This is my first day after the three week vacation I took over the holidays, and it seemed appropriate that winter hit me head on with freezing temps.  So all bundled up in my fuschia pink long coat and leather gloves, I managed to cross the street without getting teary from the cold winds.  I took the picture above for my friend, Fe, for whom Bryant Park holds special memories.  (I look across the street and I actually “see” Fe.)

I take an express bus like the one in the picture although of a different line.  I get off at the corner to the left and then walk across to my building.  From there I take two elevators to the 41st floor, the topmost floor of this green glass building that has a commanding view of the park and the New York Public Library in the back.

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, I am reminded I’m supposed to be in (one of) the greatest cit(ies) on earth.  After three weeks in Manila, it feels like I’m walking in a movie set or in a TV series.  Then it hits me: I’m back.

I would’ve wanted to go around the park while the shops were still there, but the temperatures were too low for me to brave the cold.  Besides, I knew I had to go up and start with the catching up.

Somehow the difference between Manila and New York — not only in actual infrastructure but in the feeling as well — is more pronounced this time around.  It pops from out of the frame, almost.  I can’t help but think with everyone putting New York on their bucket list, here I am wishing I was in Manila instead, breathing in the polluted air of EDSA, jostling through the crowds of Greenbelt and Trinoma.

Welcoming the new year and still writing Christmas cards

Typical procrastinating me — or maybe it’s because a trip to Manila got in the way, my Christmas card is finally done but remains unsent.  (Well, save for two that made it to the post office in Manila — or are about to make it to the post office in Manila.)  I’m counting on our good old USPS to get the mail to the Philippines in record time — the post holiday backlog notwithstanding.

Better late than never, many say.  Indeed.

Here’s a true labor of love zentangled by yours truly, embellished by paper bought from good old National Bookstore.  =)  My cards are addressed, just have to write the dedication in.  I finally decided not to use any pre-printed message but to instead go blank.  There are different messages and much too long a thought to compress into a few lines, so I thought I’d just go freehand.

It’s the first day of 2012 and I’m so glad New York is resplendent with sunshine.  A perfect way to begin the year — no rain, no snow.. just sunshine.

2011 was sort of an “in transition,” “in between,” year for me.  It saw me grieving and coping with Dad’s death in July 2010, transitioning from one boss to another but keeping my job yet again, and a thousand other things that got me from here to there.  It seemed to be a neverending journey that in many respects is still ongoing.  At the very least, I’m well on my way.

Grief seems to have settled in quite nicely in my world — and although I have come to accept Dad’s passing, the pain remains.  The problems which we thought would be solved are not quite solved yet.  There are many questions that  remain unanswered.  But although the pain hasn’t lessened, it has gotten easier to cope with.  It has become a friend.

I did manage to visit Dad’s tomb at the North Cemetery during the trip home.  The trip was strangely personal and specific to him even if my dear Aunt Lydia’s remains lay in the same crypt.  That was for Dad and only Dad.  I continue to pray that he find eternal rest — that hopefully, our prayers have lifted him back to the arms of God.  Over the weekend, I’ve been listening to Anima Christi on YouTube, and the line where they sing “And when the call of death arrives, bid me come to thee so I may praise thee with they saints forever..” brings me back to Dad.  I pray he is finally at peace in Heaven, wherever that may be for him.

I am hopeful for 2012.  2011 was a step up and a step forward.  It can only move to good from better.

One thing I have realized is that some things take time, and some answers are not as apparent as others.  Realizations can take years.  Feelings from decades ago that have been long forgotten can be stirred anew.  Grudges that one thought had been swept under the rug suddenly come alive again.  Storylines left hanging suddenly find a continuation and direction after one had forgotten all about it.  People who had come into our lives and had quietly slipped away return back on tiptoe and move us anew.

Here’s to a better and more prosperous year ahead for all of us.