Thoughts before midnight

So it’s Friday evening and the tv clock says 11:42.  I just came from freshening up before bed and had this miserable thought hit me.  April is almost gone and my last post here was end March.  Epic fail.

Instead of dwelling on that and planning the dozen or so posts I had thought of or attempted to draft in the last four weeks, I have decided to grab my phone, click on the app, and just write a post I will publish before the clock strikes 12.  Where did the month go?  How could I have let one of the most important months of the year pass without a post?

For starters, the Pinay New Yorker is now 51.  My golden year has ended and ushered in the next one with quite a parade of small celebrations, notably the distribution of the so-called #GiftOf50.  I think I made a lot of people smile, accomplishing the goal I had in mind at the start, which is to spread some positive vibes.  People asked me why, and I simply said it felt good knowing people smiled with those little gestures.  Whether or not they were friends or acquaintances, they smiled when they thought of me — offsetting the negative thoughts of those who harbored ill will towards me in some shape or form.  Happiness is contagious and it’s one contagion I don’t mind spreading around.  I’m one VERY happy 51-year-old.  L

But my life is still in a state of semi suspended animation.  I am frozen that I am not.  I feel as thought I am moving in micro millimeters, but I know I am moving.  I continue to remind myself that the world will not stop turning if I cannot keep up, but no one said that I should get ahead of it.  I am catching up slowly but surely.  I just have to accept the fact that I am still in a bit of a struggle to keep pace. 

The important thing is that I know I am in a good place.  Yes, even if there are days when I have to stop a while, gather my thoughts and recalibrate. The point is to be able to pick myself up, catch my breath, and then move along.  Practice helped.  It is true that once you get the hang of it and keep doing something, it becomes an automatic reaction or a reflex.  We fall, and then we get back up on our feet again.

One of the remarkable discoveries I have made this month is that my life had stopped  when the rug was pulled from under me, and I chose to forget large chunks of my life I am only now going back to.  I recently participated in a church bazaar in my parish and pulled out my craft pop up store gear from the attic.  I had made pieces for the last bazaar or “tiangge” I had joined and had packed those away for the next one or to post in the shop.  Then I forgot about them.  Seeing them and remembering the pieces I had created not too long ago has revived my shop and my desire to keep the shop going.  And there were two sales in two weeks.. I took that as a sign.

I am good.  I have just been overwhelmed by life in general, but I am here.. happy at 51.. happy to be 51.

My Happy Place

A couple of weekends ago, I visited with a girlfriend I hardly get to see because of the distance.  I haven’t seen her in ages and it’s really because (1) I don’t drive, and (2), getting her to the city or getting me to Long Island can be quite the journey.

She asked me a question which was simple yet a tad complicated to answer:  How do I manage to stay happy?

Happiness, for me, is a continuing journey.  I think that as we get older, we have to seek or find that “happy place” we can retreat to when we feel ourselves being buried by the day-to-day hassles of our toil.  I have not always been as positive or happy as I am now. Even now, I still find myself succumbing to moments of sadness or those blah times when  life overtakes me.  But I know better now to stand up or wiggle free of the weight of negativity, and not let myself slide deeper into that abyss of sadness.  I deal with it in a way that works for me.

One thing I’ve learned is that you have to consciously seek to be happy, or you will find yourself sinking or wallowing in the opposite.  Happiness is not automatic.  How many times have you heard it said, “Happiness is a choice.”  I’m still not quite comfortable with that whole concept because I think what people label as “happiness” is relative to what they consider it to be.  As we get older, the word takes on a bigger meaning but we start defining it in simpler terms.

Each person defines happiness a different way, and I think much of the frustration or sadness about life in general is brought about by how difficult or unreachable that definition of “happy” is.  When people ask me for advice, I come back with a simple question: What is it that will make you happy?  Without worrying about everyone else around you, the other people depending on you for their own happiness, just thinking about YOU and YOU alone — what would make you happy?

I had asked myself that question many times — and I found my answer.  But the answer to my question is personal to me.  That question is answered a million different ways by the millions of other people out there.  You would answer that question your way.

I still ask myself that question when faced with a dilemma where I have to make a choice.  We have been wired to think of “what’s good for the majority”, or “whats good for all.”  But when that answer clashes with “what’s good for us” or “what’s good for me”, there arises a frustration that leads to sadness and discontent.  It leads to sacrifice — mostly on our part.  And sacrifice, no matter how noble, always hurts.

There’s nothing wrong with sacrificing or doing what’s best for others.  But it is more difficult to swallow when we ourselves, are, in general, not happy.  It all starts with ourselves.  So you need to find your happy place and go there when everything else seems to be crumbling down.

Memorialize “happy” in words.  I read somewhere not too long ago, that a gratitude journal is precisely for these times when we feel at our lowest.  We need to remind ourselves that there were things that made us feel grateful, and collectively, these are the things that contribute to our happiness.  That worked for me for a while and I just don’t know where my gratitude journal is right now, but that is a good idea that might work for those who do journaling or blogging or some form of record keeping.  I haven’t posted in ages, but I used to have a “Five Things to be happy about” list here– simple things that make me feel grateful at any given point in time.

When you have something tangible which may be anything from a scrap of paper with a list, or a tome with a lifetime’s entry worth of “Happy”, you might find that it’s more than just memories tucked in there.  There are feelings that will come rushing back that just might lift your spirits up.

Find that picture that will never fail to make you smile.  I have pictures that remind me of a million emotions that, wrapped together, bring a smile to my face.  I love taking selfies with my boy, and even before the age of smart phones and all, I trained myself to take photos with my point and shoot camera facing us, at arms’ length.  People used to wonder how I could do that and come up with perfect framing– I simply say, “Practice.”  Of all the thousands of selfies I’ve taken, I have a favorite one when he was probably 4 or 5.  I love that photograph because he was still small enough to sit on my lap, rest his head on my chest, and he smiled this happy smile that proclaims to everyone around “This is my girl.”  (He will probably cringe now at almost 13 if he reads I wrote that.). I have a copy of that picture in a frame on my desk, some place I can always see it.  And when I see that picture, I find myself in my happy place.

Create a happy space in your mind you can retreat to just by closing your eyes.  Remember how, as a kid, you would imagine a world where you were the princess or the super hero?  Or how you had such fun vacations with the family?  A special trip with friends perhaps?  Or a time and place where you get a tight embrace, where there was so much laughter you found yourself shaking uncontrollably until you had to take a deep breath before you started tearing up?  I have my favorite happy moments I loop in a repeating video in my mind, and I go there when I feel like things are going grey.

It might just be a snapshot of a particular moment when you saw someone break out in a smile, or the repeated loop of laughter in the air..  Think of it like your favorite TV show or your favorite movie.  Pick a scene or a few strung together in a clip in your mind and pull that out when you feel the moody blues pulling you down.

Label it consciously as a “Happy thought” and pull it from your deepest of memories when the mood hits you.

Acknowledge when the sad thoughts are creeping up behind you, wallow for a MINUTE, then let it go.  I used to think that people who say “Don’t sweat the small stuff” probably didn’t have any big stuff to worry about.  But it’s true.  We have to pick our battles — and learn to let go of the ones we are wont to lose, or the ones we have absolutely no control over.  I am not always successful in doing so but with so many things going on in my life — transitions and big decisions being made — I can either choose to let the collective sigh weigh me down, or take one big sigh and then let go.

I have learned to stop the tears before the swell in my heart becomes too big for me to hold back.  I know to take a deep breath, close my eyes for one moment — but not too long that the feelings overpower me and the tears start flowing.  Sadness can be exhausting.  It is a fact of life we must live with, but nobody said it was a weight we needed to carry on our shoulders 24/7.

I, personally, tuck it in my heart, and try to count the happy times, or go and retreat to my happy place.  I hear laughter, I see smiles, I see funny faces.  I remember a touch, a hug or a kiss.  I always hear it in my mind, in a loop, when the boy just utters it from out of the blue – “I wuv you, mama.”  And he will give me the look if I fail to acknowledge it, or repeat it until I do.

Even now as I write, that thought brings me to my happy place.

We have to consciously find what it is that will make us happy.  It’s not automatic.  It’s not a default setting.  We have to place ourselves there, whether it’s via color, make up, clothes, a picture, a memory.

True, there are many things that make life dark and sad.  But there are just as many — if not more — reasons for us to be happy.  We just need to acknowledge it.  Holding the “happy” in our hearts and in our minds will help keep us afloat when the waves of life tower above us and threaten to drown us.

One last thing.  When I was younger and being driven from San Juan just before Greenhills to my gradeschool in Pasig, it meant traversing Ortigas Avenue all the way across EDSA.  For as along as I remember until I hit 13 and had to transfer to the high school in Quezon City, this was a daily morning ritual.  I don’t know when I consciously started it, but as the traffic light turned green and the car crossed to the other side of the highway, I made it a point to look southward towards Mandaluyong and Makati and smile..  I held that smile until I got off the car after another 10 minutes.  It was a frivolous exercise to try and thwart the wrinkles (vain me, I know), but I think that was the start of me physically willing myself to start the day with a bright thought.

I do that now as the bus emerges from the tunnel and I see the light again.  Time to smile, Dinna — it’s the start of a new day.

When the weeks roll by

A note from Pinay New Yorker:  Some links in the following post are connected to my Amazon account which might mean a commission for me if you choose to make a purchase based on the links..

One month to the last post here.

I have been coasting by and have been preoccupied by work (moved buildings, still the same job) and life in general..  I promised myself I would post here, come what may.  The spirit is raring to write but the hand is too slow.

The good news is, I’ve been making strides on other fronts.

I have also finished reading Benmosche’s Good for the Money, and now starting JPE’s memoir.  It’s literally a tome, and I discovered today, printed in small type, so this will be quite hefty reading for me.  This will make my third of my six book target for the year and I think I’m ahead of schedule.

Reading again has been a very relaxing task that I am trying to make a habit of, like before.  I am hoping to develop the discipline of actually setting aside time to read from day to day.  While there are the hard copy books I love leading through, I really should try to go back to using my Kindle account which still has at least 3 ebooks waiting for me to read.  The point is, I’m continuing to read.

I’ve also been actively organizing all my supplies — art and craft supplies, in particular, sorting the paper and the pen and the beads.  It’s still a long way from being all set, but I am making progress.

I just wish I could have more time to stop and breathe.

I usually take my morning quiet time as a time to regroup and look at the so-called bigger picture.  I sit at the breakfast nook, and I take the time to go through my magazines which sometimes lie untouched for weeks on end.. or I go through the news feed instead of typing away.  I’ve taken to looking at other Instagram feeds I follow which allow me to sort of get updated with what’s happening in other fronts.  I find that taking the time to sit and do things in a leisurely fashion helps me put my day in focus.

I try my best not to linger, though, and I always make sure I am conscious of the time.  That’s how my typical day starts.

From time to time, I will attempt to begin a post here,  but I have to get the hang of spontaneously writing without the temptation of editing and expanding my posts.  I should start something that I can just write in one sitting.  I wish..

And so I must send this off before I lose track of how long it’s been sitting in my draft folder like I am usually wont to do.  Here’s to a better week ahead — waiting for spring and all.

My One Sentence Journal

One sentence journalI’ve been busy drawing letters of the alphabet after joining the Instagram challenge from @handetteredABCs to write the entire alphabet a letter a day this February.  (You can learn more about it at their website here, and jump into my Instagram account and click on any letter you see..)

I jumped in at H and am currently at O.  It’s been a fun journey but I’m in such great company!  I drool over the calligraphers who can create such beauties in literally a stroke of their pen.  I wish I could do that.  I can render lettering but I draw them.  Like most art, it takes practice to improve one’s craft and inspiration hit me last night to start this new journal.

 Just one sentence.  Any other blurbs or write up will have to be elsewhere like here.

Strictly in pen.  I have my art journal for the fancier stuff.

In a small enough size that I can lug it anywhere.  I want to be able to carry it with me easily without lugging a tome.  The page size is also key if I am to do a page without devoting a day to it.  My art journal is always a work in progress because I do the page layouts and then decided on embellishments and then do the actual journaling.  This one is much, much more abbreviated than that.

Should be a notebook I can tear pages off and later pull together into one journal.  I must’ve rendered one line over 20x last night, tearing off the mistakes out.  I will have to grab another one soon. I have these freebies I grabbed from a conference at work from a sponsor which was made of recycled paper.  Perfect.  No expense, and more importantly, the paper takes the ink from the pen with ease.

This is as much to practice my lettering as it is to memorialize words and thoughts that might mean something to me at any given point in time.  Self explanatory.

I have been journaling since I was young, and I still have my handwritten journals  which I began when I arrived in New York almost 18 years ago.  I’m almost done with my first art journal in an altered book, and I’m beginning a new one.  This is both simple and not simple, but it works the same way in giving me a channel of self expression.

In one sentence.

Walk with me

It’s rare that I get to take so many pictures chronicling what is an every day trip for me from my home to my place of work.  When I posted them on my Instagram account, I was struck by the way the pictures seemed to be telling a story.  While they are seen as individual photographs on my IG feed, seen together and in my own mind is a single narrative that begins with the first picture and ends just before I go up to my perch to start another day at work.

So come walk with me and see New York City through my eyes this snowy and cold Monday…

I start my day walking to my bus stop to take the ride that will bring me to Manhattan. I always make it a point to look up. I sometimes wonder why people keep looking down, but hardly, ever, look up.
UntitledThere is a ton to be seen if we took the time to just take a moment to train our sights upward for a change.

I ended up taking an alternative route which will be my usual route in a few weeks’ time as we move eastward to our other building.  I really don’t mind.  The two stops are separated by avenues which take me all of 7 minutes to walk if I don’t stop anywhere.  But whenever I can, I say hello to the boss upstairs.  I walk into the Church of St. Agnes on 43rd to pray.

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This church is very special to me because it has been a place of solitude for me during my weakest moments.  I have shed tears here.  I have given thanks.  I have simply sat and be.  I listened without saying a thing, not even in my heart.  This is like home to me.
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I have walked in and out of these doors many times before, but for the first time, I paid heed to the ornate grillwork that showed the world outside.  Again, we don’t stop enough to admire the beauty around us.

From there I take the scenic route through Grand Central.  Instead of entering through the main corridor, though, I always choose to walk through Grand Central Market for the visual and gastronomic treat.

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I notice there are new stores now like the two stores you see on the left.  (EAT gifts and that new SUSHI place.)  I like walking down this way because I get to see my usual favorites and whenever I can, I grab lunch.  This time it was a half pound of French Raclette from my favorite cheese place, Murray’s.  I love the sights and smells of this place, from the smell of bread to chocolates to the pungent cheeses and fish at the end of the row.
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It’s food and more food all around — plus a few extras like gifts and flowers.  If you were to throw a last minute party for two or more, or even one you planned ahead — this is a one stop shop for anything and everything you might want to serve.  (You’d just have to walk a few steps away for the vino, though.)  I’m on an almond croissant quest and I had already sampled Eli Zabar’s a few weeks back, but wanted to grab a delectable shot to use when I do write my post on which one wins my heart and tummy.
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I can stay here all day and watch the world go by.   I have never seen this place not  busy — less busy, yes, but always abuzz.  And yet it isn’t a noisy or dizzying kind of busy that leaves you with that urge to walk away or leave this place.  It’s that kind of busy hypnotizes you into just letting the world turn as you find yourself a quiet corner to watch spin around.

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I don’t know when exactly they put up what is now known as The Great Northern Food Hall, but I’ve visited here a couple of times to grab a sweet treat or a pastry for breakfast. One of these days, or when we finally move perhaps, I might take a quick bite here and write more.  This is the side that greets you when you emerge from the main hall of the terminal, and you will find clusters of their various outlets for you to choose from.  (Each station has it’s own check out counter which precludes any guessing games like bigger food spaces.)

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It occupies one half of the huge space that was all of Vanderbilt hall.  With the Food hall there, the event space has been reduced to the other half which isn’t really a bad trade off considering what is now on the other side.

Making my way out to 42nd Street, I walk westward and find myself at one of my favorite spots in the city, Bryant Park, where the New York Public Library is situated.

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In the spring and summer this place is awash with green, but even in the dreary months of winter, the tall trees stand majestic providing such a dramatic background as you walk its grounds.

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Mornings are my favorite time of the day in the park because it’s practically empty.  As the day wears on, the seats and tables all fill up with regulars from the offices around or the countless tourists both local and foreign who seek out the thrills of New York City.

The snow that was in the forecast started to fall.

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I like snow best when it is falling, no matter that it is pouring in torrents or drifting down aimlessly as if the air was cushioning it from crashing down.  I’ve seen these tables covered and buried in white.. then in grey.  I wondered how much snow was coming.

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I walked to my favorite bakery kiosk by the edge of the park closer to Avenue of the Americas, and taking shelter from the snow which had started falling heavier, I actually took a film clip panning the area (which, I am trying to upload but have not been successful doing.)  It is uncanny how no matter how many times I take a photograph from any angle or any corner, it never quite comes out the same.

And so I crossed, looking uptown, snapping away as I walked.
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Then I decided it was better doing this at a full stop, so I became one of those pedestrians who stands in the middle of the street, whips out a camera and shoots a pic.
UntitledFrom here I enter my building and go up to my perch, starting yet another work day.  This is My New York.

Monday musing: Creative frenzy

I started writing this at half past six and the sun hadn’t quite awakened just yet. I had tried to wake up my brain with my usual cup of Joe and my quarter of a cup of oat bran. And I started writing.

Creating for the #GiftOf50.  I’ve had a productive  weekend with my tools. I’ve been busy sorting my beads (Saturday) and creating (Sunday and most of the nights preceding it). I usually string the beads onto headpins before assembling the actual earring dangle then I finish this as a second step in a batch. I only put the ear wires when I’m sure I’m done, with no other finding or component or additional gemstone or bead to add. Last night, I did the last step.

Here’s the thing.. I had started creating basically with the idea of making a batch of earrings to give away as part of my #GiftOf50 push. After assembling the earrings, I am now torn about actually giving them away and posting them in the shop. Did I just create a problem for myself here?
I’ve also been busy with my Marian necklaces which deserves a post altogether.  Three (make that 4) pendants and necklaces in production.  I have the pendants done (finally), but I am in a design quandary.  (again, have to write about this separately.)

Giving in to the challah bread craving. I love bread but I’m trying so hard to stay away from it.  The week prior has been good in the area of trying to keep my weight in check, so I thought I’d give myself a break over the weekend with a “bread run”,  even if only for one loaf of challah bread from my challah bread source in my area, Le Pain Quotidien.  I meant to make some French toast, but congratulate me for resisting the urge.  I did eat it throughout the weekend..  grilled cheese dinner on Saturday, and this simple yet hearty breakfast of tomato scrambled eggs for Sunday breakfast.

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Sunday breakfast of tomato scrambled eggs and challah bread.. brings me back home to breakfasts in Manila with the “tasty” sliced bread or better yet, pandesal. .

I’m not worried about the scale tipping a tad higher because I know saying goodbye to my carbs beginning today will correct that.  For me personally, I have learned that weight loss is best managed by weight control– and at my age, I am not killing myself over a slight weight gain (nothing over a pound), more so when I’ve succeeded in keeping my weight down.  I am at my usual plateau and the only goal now is to break it and even go lower.  Soon!

My happy mailbox..I have never stopped collecting postcards even if I haven’t been actively trading them, and it always brings a smile to my face when I find a postcard in the daily mail when I sort them at the end of the day.. what more when I get 3!! Thanks to my friends from Postcrossing Philippines who continue to keep my collection growing with their postcards from home.  Keep them coming!

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#HappyMailbox: Thank you for the postcards, @mumwrites and @skyorange … for the mail smiles you brought my way with these cards from the Philippines. 🇵🇭 Such wonderful additions to my collection! Mail coming your way.. 💌

More lawyer wannabe questions.  I haven’t forgotten and I am not ignoring them.  Thanks for reaching out via email — I always appreciate hearing from the people who stumble into my corner of the web.  Again, I am getting to the questions soon.  Keep dreaming..

Gotham chick recommends.  Sometime in 2015, I thought I’d create a specific account for Gothamchickshopper for product and service recommendations.  I created an Instagram and twitter account, and yes, a blog.  I’ve always had the account on my smartphone but haven’t really been writing about it.  (I hardly get to keep up with this one!).

So I’ve started being more focused with the new hashtag #GothamChickRecommends and hope to keep the social media accounts more active as well.  I am even thinking of doing a weekly roundup here.  My restaurant posts have become short blurbs that can be an entire blogpost and I really should focus on some of that.  (That’s me talking to myself.)

I think I’m off to a good start and will hopefully get at least one of these blurbs into an actual post here during the week.. plus one or two or three.

Happy Monday!

Holiday workaround

Last Christmas, (No, I didn’t give anyone my heart as the song goes..), I had promised myself and my little guy that we would really celebrate and decorate for Christmas this year.  The past two christmases before that (in 2013 and 2014) were spent differently and not in our usual way, and I wanted to set things right eventually.  I had hoped it would be this year, but it wasn’t to be.

It was one of those things that you expected would come to pass but did not.  So here we are where we were last year, and I am making the same promise to my little guy for 2017.  Keeping my fingers crossed that next year will see it happening.

So my holiday card, I have decided, will be a new year greeting.  Last year, my boss received a holiday card from one of his fellow Board of Trustees member in one of the more popular children’s non profits he is involved with, and besides the usual greeting, there were a dozen or so blurbs giving an update on the sender and his family.  I thought that was a nice way to reach out to friends and family and sort of give them an update on what’s been happening in my and my little guy’s life.  I am working on that card already.

While I had planned on putting up an extra robustly decorated Christmas tree this year, my tree, as it happens, just went up this previous weekend.  Precious lesson learned was that yes, I could actually bring down the box it down from the attic and not fall and break my neck.  I found the lights and put them on the tree.  I had enough to make it look festive enough sans the Christmas balls so we decided to leave it at that.

I had hoped to create holiday lanterns in the Filipino tradition, but again, it didn’t happen.  Next year, yes!

I thought I had planned things out well enough that I had even created a craft calendar.  Again, life interfered with getting much done according to how I had planned it, but I’m just hoping for better luck keeping with it next year.

The Bryant Park Winter Village Christmas Tree 2016

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and I love the decorating and celebrating and just soaking up all that Yule spirit.  New York tends to be a more sedate Christmas experience (compared to over-the-top festive Manila)  because half the town celebrates Chanukkah (hence, the sea of blue and menorahs everywhere).   Still, there is the neutral and more pagan side of the holiday that sees our beautiful city getting into the spirit of things with all the trees around.  

While part of me is being held back from getting into the full swing of things this year, Christmas is Christmas to me for many reasons.. and it will always be my favorite time of the year, holiday workaround or not.

Merry Christmas to you all..