Monday Musings: Unexpected Hellos, the Glass Half Full, Cheesecake Babka and I Pray..

Untitled Is it Monday already? Last night, I was transfixed watching these men on skates fight for their lives. And when they won, I felt triumphant and proud even if I am just beginning to understand this game. (And yes, I now know what a power play is.). I don’t know if it was all that excitement which caused me to stay awake for most of the evening, drifting off to sleep in the wee hours of the morning. There were just too many thoughts racing through my head preventing me from drifting off to dreamland. I think I even said my evening prayers thrice hoping the angels would listen and lull me to blissful rest. It was almost exhausting trying..

Sleep eventually found me. Then I just found myself being roused by my alarm screaming yes, Monday IS here. I don’t know if it’s age, but I managed to go through the day without skipping a beat. I know — or at least, I’m hoping — that tonight will be simpler when I lay my head down to sleep.

An unexpected hello greeted me from out of the blue just as I was getting ready for bed before midnight last night. It was one of those friends who pops in and out in the most unexpected times and just sends well wishes to let you know they are thinking of you. I figured he was up watching the game knowing he was a fan and I congratulated him on the win. A simple message, a warm hug to the heart. As if the universe paused a moment to remind me I have a sea of friends out there, who continue to bless my life with their presence and friendship. (I wanted to congratulate another diehard fan of the winning team, but was unable to. So I stopped myself before I could text. All the same, I’m sure he was ecstatic with the win.). This friend said we should chat soon. I don’t know that I want to unburden my heart, but reconnecting is always a good thing, be it over drinks or coffee and donuts.

Glass half full, it is. Part of what kept me up was the dilemma of a plan about to fall flat on its face. I was so looking forward to something this Tuesday which, unfortunately, just isn’t going to happen anymore. I used to have such a hard time dealing with disappointment, more so when it was something I’ve been planning on for days. When it became obvious that things just weren’t coming together to make it happen, I myself declared the postponement to next week. Disappointed, though I was— I thought to myself how fortunate it was that I have something to look forward to. There is the following week.. and we can plan again. There is some comfort in not being the only one who is disappointed with the turn of events, but what can we do— life happens. I try to appreciate the small things— like the effort and the thought. So lunch of cheese, Marcona almonds, quince paste or jam and grapes with a bottle of cab or Pinot noir will have to wait .. it wasn’t cancelled— just postponed.

Struggling to create again. Over the weekend, my illustrator-Fashion-creative inspiration/friend, Elaine, told me I should start creating pieces again. She wanted me to make productive use of my energy and time. I did get the stones and a necklace I wanted to alter out of storage and on to the table, but I got stuck with positioning the stone but not really getting to work on it at all. I think I will try to create earrings through the week to start with, and hopefully get the creative juices flowing.

Cheesecake BabkaThat elusive Cheesecake Babka from Breads Bakery— Finally snagged one. I am “partially Jewish” thanks to some friendly influence — more by way of practice and cuisine. My first Chief something boss and the next Chief of something who both observed the holidays introduced me to the important dates. Friends have since exposed me to actual observances and food. I wear a red string bracelet on my left wrist as a token of luck, a present from the so called Wailing wall. So one of my favorite Jewish oriented bakeries is Breads Bakery which I first got introduced to via their kiosk in Bryant Park. My niece, Julia, is a chocolate babka fanatic, so much so that I handcarry the babka home to Manila every time I head that way. When I heard May would see a cheesecake babka on their shelves, I was stoked. The only problem is that they always sold out by the time I came upon their store— until Sunday. Finally!

I grabbed my loaf and couldn’t believe my luck. Definitely well worth the wait! It’s their usual babka with swirls of light cheesecake that are hardly noticeable except for the flavor. This one’s a limited offering so try and get it while you can.

These days, I’ve been praying more. While I start my day by stopping by St. Agnes Church on 43rd when I can and end it with a simple prayer before I turn in, I’ve been stopping to whisper a few words more often these days. I’m not your cookie cutter Catholic who goes to Church religiously, but I do take my faith to heart. To me, it’s an ongoing conversation between me and my God.

So I pray for my ever changing list of friends and family battling health issues, special intentions for those grieving the loss of a loved one.. that He keep my son happy, safe, healthy and whole.. and that He keep a friend who runs into danger more often than most, safe, even if he’s no longer around. I call on Jesus to keep a Jewish friend in his care, even if he believes Jesus is just one of them.

There are things that I cannot pray for, so instead I ask that I be given the discernment and the wisdom of acceptance. To let go, and to accept the cards I’m dealt. When the words escape me, I have my prayer playlist to help me be quiet in my own space and I listen. I have always lifted up my troubles and while I do not ask for a specific outcome, I ask for guidance, and as much as I can, I pay heed when I am not otherwise distracted.

Sometimes it can be a struggle, but I try. There are times I pray to my Dad who passed some 10 years ago, and to my Aunt who was a second mom to me. I ask them to hold me in their embrace and help bring my prayers up to the heavens. I offer them these people I pray for and I know they hear. And so I pray… In Church, I lift the prayers of the smattering of the faithful dotting the almost empty pews. I say, I lift to You whatever it is they are praying for.

There are times when a realization hits me and I look up and grudgingly say “I heard You,” even when I am not too happy with the message I received. And so the conversation continues. Sometimes I am the hard headed child whining against a clear message to go a certain direction, and at times I am the meek one, quietly embracing His bidding in surrender. Amen.

It’s a balance of busy and calm this week— I just go with the flow. Maybe I’ll hear that familiar text tone assigned to someone who got me into emoticons and tea. Or perhaps not. I’m still trying to make up my mind about whether or not getting those texts is a good thing or a bad thing.. I’m waiting for what the universe says. There’s next week’s do over — fingers crossed it doesn’t get postponed again.

These days I’m always bracing for life to surprise me like it did in recent weeks. Just as quickly as I was swept away, I landed back on the ground. Still, I smile when I close my eyes in anticipation of life’s next surprise.


Pinay New Yorker says: If this is your first time reading “Monday Musings,” this is a collection of blurbs running through my mind on any given Monday, hoping to give vent to a full blogpost at some other future time. Or perhaps it’ll just be my own personal list of short anecdotes that marked recent days. Thanks for stopping by.

Keeping the conversation going

Friday Sunset illuminating my favorite Chrysler Building.  I can stare at this elegant building all day.  #Friday #sunset #midtown #midtowneast #midtowncityscape #mynyc #mynewyork #chryslerbuildingI started writing this post Saturday morning when I was a little off, having stayed up the previous night talking to the folks on the other side of the world back home — catching up.  That’s one thing I like about Fridays — I need not worry about the following day being another work day — although there are week nights when the tolling of midnight doesn’t really matter and I find myself sleeping later than I should.  Going on 15 years now living on the other side of the world, I’ve gotten good at finding ways and means to keep the conversation going despite the distance.  The time difference can be a problem but it just means adjusting to the fact that the sun being up here means it’s evening or morning back home.  So it’s late night for me or for them — the point is, you stop thinking of timezones.

Still, I marvel at how communicating in our every day lives has gotten much easier with all the many forms of pinging someone even halfway around the world.  And yet there are many instances in our every day lives when we fail to keep the lines open, and something drops.  When things trail off and then there’s silence.

Sometimes it’s easy to reopen the lines.  There are people in our lives who can come and go without us feeling their absence.  You know, those friends who can be “absent” for months on end and yet when they return, it’s as if you just spoke with them yesterday.  And there are those who just fade away.  It’s strange that I used to think that was sad.  These days, it’s just life, that’s all.  I’ve had former friends who went that route.  Just one or two.  One, I didn’t really care about.  (Crazy Korean woman married to a friend of the hubby.)  The other I had known much longer, and from whom I had expected more — but then again, not everyone can live up to our expectations, just as not everything turns out the way we want them to.

I’ve come to realize that those who keep the conversation going are the ones worth keeping.  Friendship, or any relationship for that matter, requires work.  You cannot just stay quiet or just say there’s always next time or I’ll say hello, eventually.  Maybe I’m also at fault for thinking that way about some friends.  Wake up call, it is.  Or not.  Some people we care about, others we don’t.

Some conversations we can keep going, others we don’t really care about.  In either case, it’s a deliberate effort — it doesn’t just happen.  As Randy Crawford used to sing.. “One hello… is how it starts..”

Hello from New York.

How are you?

(I had drafted this post yesterday morning and had erased and rewritten the post after midnight earlier but the time stamp and order here got messed up… So I’m reposting.)

There are days when a simple question, heartfelt and not conversational — a genuine inquiry into how you are doing — can make a whole difference as you end what has been a challenging day. BFF Do wrote that simple query in a short e-mail from work.  She is 16 hours ahead of me.  We can hardly “catch” each other on regular weekends.

Mental telepathy, I told her.  But I was too tired to answer the question.  She understood.  It’s like a question that seeks to reassure.  I am truly blessed.

I really should be sleeping.  I have an early start tomorrow as the boy has a unit test.  We did our review tonight, but it doesn’t hurt to do more practice.  Plus, we will walk to school together.  I’m on solo duty again.  I cooked chicken for my mother-in-law, cooled it down and put it in individual containers and stashed them in my fridge.  I even managed to bake a polymer clay experiment which needs a whole lot of work but which was productive because I know now where I need to do a work around.

And tomorrow is another day. 

I hope I find the strength not to butt heads with those who are not worth the trouble at work.  It is, after all, just work.  I hope tomorrow will be sunnier.  I am not optimistic that will be the case, but hey, I might wish the sun back. 

A happy thought — sunshine.  =)

And more sunshine… just got a text from my sister.. “Love you, too, sis..”  I can never have too much love.  Today I am being showered by it.  And like I wrote this morning, I have constantly felt “His” presence — through it all, He was there with me.  Maybe that’s why I’m still up. 

Thank you, Lord, for another day.

Conversations with a fellow transplant to NY

Over the weekend, I got an e-mail from a fellow Filipina who moved here to NY two months ago.  She had bumped into me via my Gotham Chick blog and had written just to say hello and to talk about Etsy.  We have exchanged e-mails, the last of which I wrote this morning on the way to work on blackberry.  I just thought it was worth sharing here because I wanted to write about my perspective as a transplant to NY after 12 years.  Here’s the edited version:

Hello, E —

I, too, moved here to get married but my husband is Filipino, too, and it wasn’t quite 5 years but we made things happen the same way you did.

Your husband is right, you know, you should get out more.  Yes, it’s so different here and adjustment takes a while.  I wish I can tell you your sleep patterns will adjust soon but w/o the pressure of a vacation timetable or work, give it another month or two more.

Since you are looking to live here a long time, may I make a few suggestions?

When I moved to New York (in 2000), the second week I was here, I was exploring the city already.  (Does your husband work in Manhattan?). I used to go to the city with my husband 2-3x a week and we’d share breakfast at Starbuck’s or Timothy’s after grabbing a bagel or some other from a street cart then he went to the office and I walked around.  We sometimes met for lunch, sometimes not, then we went home together.  Sometimes we’d go to dinner in the city.  By the end of my third week, I was riding the subway alone.  He gave me an allowance and I had an extension credit card.  (Even before we got married.)

There is so much to see in Manhattan, and it will help you adjust to “living here” and “being here”.  At home, boredom will remind you what you have left behind and everything you are far away from.  When you are ready to hit Manhattan, tell me and I will write you  a walking route.

Bell and Northern is quite a ways away from Bay Terrace but I spent my days at home basically walking to Barnes & Noble.  (we got a one-bedroom on 23rd Ave which was just behind it), I’d copy recipes from the mags, walk over to Waldbaums (had my extension credit card) and discovered I could actually cook! I  surprised my husband with some culinary delight every night.

I can cook but don’t ask me how I make kare-kare because I can’t.  I’ll tell you which Filipino restaurant in Woodside, though, has the better one.

The Michael’s in Manhasset is nearest you.  I go to the one in Westbury because it’s near our favorite Target store.  (My husband needs a Target fix weekly, which, if you ask me is better than a Banana Republic habit. Haha!  He’s outgrown it..).

Explore the Mid-Manhattan library — and the New York Public Library (the place where Jake Gyllenghal – sp? – and company hid during that winter storm in Day After Tomorrow) which are bigger than your neighborhood library.  I’ve never had a library card in Queens but always had one in Manhattan.

You need to start talking to other people because they won’t understand your English good as it may be because they talk not just w/ a twang but the dynamics are different.  I’ve been here 12 years and my first year, I had to adjust to that quickly.

People will ask you “how are you?” and about how your day is going when they just need a report or print out — in Manila, diretso yon.  Sa atin, chika yon, pero dito, conversation yon.

I still miss Manila even if I’ve been home 5x the last 3 years due to family matters I had to attend to plus our usual every other year vacation.  (Advantages of having a Filipino husband who has high school classmates and relatives in Manila.).   Take advantage of this time to explore your new city.  Hindi ka na bakasyonista dito, taga-rito ka na.

Do you have family here?  Mine are all in Manila.  All my bestfriends, too.

Take the adjustment as a forever phase in your new life.  I was a lawyer in the Philippines but I was in Corporate Communications in my last 4 years there.  Never actively practiced.  I arrived here at age 34 and I had done practically everything I had hoped to achieve except rake in the millions (ha!) so I wanted a family.  I haven’t quite forgotten about the legal part of my brain, and maybe when my son is in his teens…I’ll give the NY bar a try.  But see, I wanted a baby, and my husband was firm that we both had to work (started 6 months after I got here), save enough to buy a co-op (which we did in 2 yrs) then we started trying.  My boy was born in 2004.

Sorry I got carried away and I’m almost at my stop.  (I take the express bus to and from the city when I don’t hitch a ride with the hubby.  He has a parking spot as a perk in his job  but he stays even later than my usual 6pm cut off at work.)

I’ll send you things to do in Manhattan if you’re interested.  Tell me the relative area where your husband works if he works here so I can have a reference point.  Maybe we can have coffee or even lunch if ever you hit the city.  August, I can even take you around the bead stores here on 6th.

Explore… I’m the perpetual tourist here myself — even after 12 years.

Hitting 42nd.. Later…

Have a great day, E..

Feedback on Feedback: Again, thanks…

I really appreciate those who take the time to drop by and leave a word or two.  I’d love to hear more from those who stop by here even if only accidentally, so I at least know who has been keeping my visitor counter moving.  (Not that it matters because I will keep blabbing on here come what may… or not.)

Marcia had stopped by to comment on the Feedback on Feedback post preceding this leaving such kind words:

“your art is really inspiring,especially for me. I do this same kind of art. I love pen and ink. Thanks for sharing your talents .. I hope its okay that I use you as a muse and for reference.. always giving you credit.”

And the Pinay New Yorker says: Marcia, thank you so much for the compliments — thank you, thank you, thank you.

Another comment from Shay:

“Thank you so much for the kind words..meant a lot. One day somewhere in New York or maybe back home, we get to meet, I will be able to say “Salamat” ha. :)

And the Pinay New Yorker says: Walang anuman, Shay. =)  And yes, I do hope to one day meet you — you never know when I”ll end up in the windy city, or maybe you’ll come and visit me here.. or maybe in Manila?

 And again from Shay, who is one of those who continue to egg me on to keep writing, who commented on Weekend Musings:

“an uneventful weekend is sometimes what we need from a hectic week having said this, is it weird that whenever a weekend comes and I don’t have anything to do I tend to get nervous? Good Morning Dinna! Sending you warm hugs and here’s to a fruitful week.”

And the Pinay New Yorker says:  No, Shay, not weird at all.  Happens to me all the time, too.. like this is too good to be true…!  But through the years, I’ve realized that we just have to take it as it comes and appreciate it for what it is.

So keep the comments coming.. and again, thanks for stopping by.


Feedback on Feedback

CattleyaOne thing that keeps me writing is the encouragement of readers who are here not because they know me personally (although now that they’ve read through my daily adventures I’m sure they know me more intimately), but who read because they find something worthy of a quick stop here every now and then..  They are the people who will visit because they like this blog and not because they want to find out what’s up with me, or like in the case of my bestfriend Fe, because she’s required to.  (By me, who else?)  And of course  we have the occasional stranger who just happened to find me somehow.

I don’t do it as often or as promptly as I used to, but your comments always inspire me to keep writing.  It keeps the conversation going.

Photo Cache, reacting to what I said in When the Unexpected Happens says:

“Very interesting.  It really pays to have your affairs in order.”

And the Pinay New Yorker says:

“It’s a work in progress.  BFF Fe and I just agreed that I want Donna Summer’s LAST DANCE playing during my cremation.  I want it to be lighter, not as heavy.  We often say we don’t want to think about that eventuality, but we often forget how death paralyzes the ones left behind.  It wouldn’t hurt to help them move on by making the decisions that they would otherwise agonize over.  I want it to be a good exit.  I’ve had and continue to live a good life…”

As I continue to zentangle, one of my oldest blog friends here who has been visiting my corner of the blogsphere, Lou, stopped by and left a comment when I did my penultimate post on my first Chrysler Building zentangle in Pass Me the Bouquet Please:

“I love the details of your Chrysler zentangle. I wish I could have even just half of your talent.”

And as  I always say to those who rave about my zentangles:

“It’s not really drawing, Lou — it’s just organized doodling.  Perhaps it’s my desired state of mind — ordered and beautiful and everything in its place. =)   I’m getting there.. I think.

Talent?  I think I have more determination than talent to try to find my focus.  I do enjoy it immensely.  I cannot hold a brush and paint the Chrysler Building, but I can render it in a way I can manage — with black signpen in hand.  You should try it!”

(And just to give credit where credit is due, Lou is the reason I am even in Multiply, although I am hardly there.)

I was going to skip BFF Fe’s comments (she has three and it’s really part of an ongoing conversation we have), but this one deserves a reply, when she left a comment to The Chrysler Building, Zentangled where I thanked her for the encouragement to keep going:

” Your sweet sweet fault is that you give me too much credit. I had nothing to do with ‘that’, can’t even spell it. Hahahahaha

That is really really beautiful. :)”

(To those who are reading about BFF Fe for the first time in the last few posts, Fe and I   have known each other since we were 18, and innocently walking the halls of Rizal Hall in the University of the Philippines’ Manila campus back in the 80s.  Even then, she was an inspiration already, having gone on to law school ahead of me in a different university.  We have remained bound for life as bestfriends ever since.)

To which the Pinay New Yorker says:

I merely give credit where credit is due.  Your encouragement has kept me going, even when I felt like just giving up and putting my pen away.  It means so much to me to actually finish something instead of leaving it hanging.  You deserve credit and my thanks and so much more.. =)

But inspiration from those who read my words comes in many forms, and although Shay and I have corresponded privately as well, it is through this blog that we really “converse” in an uncanny way.

Shay left this comment to the post One of those days…:

“This entry has made me teary. It reminded me every heartaches I’ve caused my parents. especially now that I am getting married.”

And the Pinay New Yorker feels a special kind of happiness at this momentous occasion that my newfound friend Shay is getting on.

“Shay, I wish you only the best.  Both as children and as parents, we always give it our best.  We don’t always succeed, but it’s the special love between mother and child, or father and child as the case may be which makes us go past the hurt or the pain.  In the end, the more important thing is to cherish the good times and the lessons learned.

Though we don’t always think we do, we make our parents proud.  On your special day, as you walk down the aisle and say ‘I do’, your parents will feel a pinch in their hearts looking at their princess all grown up — but they will also feel that sense of accomplishment seeing the beautiful person they had helped to mold through the years.

Don’t fret about yesterday.  That’s done.  Look forward towards tomorrow. =)


Thank you all for the comments.  While I had set out writing this blog again for my personal benefit, the years have seen that purpose evolving.  I know see it as a conversation with the universe in general, and you in particular.

Keep the comments coming!

A Day of Prayer


Morning prayers —

wherever they may find you,

on my end, I pray

that you have a good day

and that you find enlightenment always.

That He keep you safe and happy.

I had been drafting this blogpost many times over in my head yesterday, but my Wednesday ended with jetlag catching up with me again around dinnertime when I had come back to San Juan finally.  I skipped the meal since I had an early dinner/merienda with my dear friend Ces at good old reliable Max’s Fried Chicken at Robinson’s and had dozed off, waking up closer to midnight when all the lights were out and I was the only one up.  I managed to log on and post although not here, in another blog, and work intervened as always.  (Took back yet another half day as I was still e-mailing work related matters up to 6am Manila time!)

I left the house with only two things on my schedule — dropping off some padala and going to Baclaran church to pray, I was going to play the rest of the day by ear.  I had gone with my sister, Offie, who was on her way to Makati anyway, and after getting off at Greenbelt I, we walked together to the Greenbelt chapel so she could request for a mass to be said.

Greenbelt Church

I haven’t been here in ages although I’ve always stopped in Makati every trip home, save for that two week stretch when I went home to take care of Dad in the hospital.  I sat at the back pew and just “listened”.  There were too many things I wanted to ask from heaven that I didn’t know quite where to begin.  So I purposely just sat, and prayed in silence.  Prayer, after all, isn’t always about us just doing the talking — prayer, I have been taught, is also us listening to what He has to say.  And in the midst of all the turmoil in our hearts, sometimes the most calming is when we just lift it all up in one big package and just “be”.

This Church has been a place of prayer for me the many years I spent around Makati — from being a law student to being one of its working denizens before I moved to the big apple.  I have prayed here with friends and family.  Memories of those times I prayed here still come even as I walk past the church — but now that I sat in it and was actually praying, not just looking, tears came to my eyes as I remembered.  It felt good to be back.. it felt like home.

Prayer moves me in different ways these days.. maybe it’s because of all the things going on in my mind and heart.  It helps anchor me to keep hope and optimism in my heart, no matter what.  No matter how dark my thoughts may get, I keep clinging to the smallest iota of the possibility that my prayer will be answered in the way I wish it to be.

I got on a cab and dropped off a bag.  I knew the person I needed to see wouldn’t be there, so I hied off and went to my next destination.  I headed for Baclaran Church.

My mother taught me about Baclaran early on when she asked me to tag along with her on Wednesdays when there was no school.  I learned the songs and recited the prayers in rote fashion per the novena booklet she always lent me.  I’d sit in the pew waiting for her to finish walking on her knees from the doorway to the altar, something I would find doing myself many years later for my own personal pain and intentions.  By the time that it was my turn to pray the novena for my own intentions, I would either have the driver bring me over, commute from work myself, or much later, go and meet up with Fe who is a devotee herself.

I went through the motions of actually writing petition letters, too, and I can actually say that most times, my prayers were granted even before my 9 Wednesdays were up, converting my novena request to a novena of Thanksgiving midway.  When I moved to the US, I had my novena booklet handy and continued to pray even if I no longer had a shrine to go to.  It’s just that I haven’t prayed the novena in a while.

This Wednesday, I started anew.  I got off the cab and walked into the church, finding many vacant pews because I caught the midday break between novena masses.  I took my seat and started to pray.  Even before the novena proper had started and I just sat there, I felt a knot forming in my stomach and the tears starting to well up.  It was a struggle to keep my composure through the prayers and the hymns, but I managed to pull through.  The multitude of people praying together and singing together was a miracle happening in the now that touches me in a very profound way each time.

I looked around and saw the different faces of faith and devotion.  There were young and old alike, couples, families with the mothers and fathers carrying their babies and toddlers, a father cradling a his son afflicted with hydrocephalus.  I suddenly felt like my petitions would probably get lost in this sea of pleas.  At the same time, I wondered what their hearts were praying for — and I had to remind myself everything had to be put into their proper perspective, as what might not be a problem to me might mean life or death for another.  My pains would probably pale in comparison to some of the burdens they carry.  Then I got reminded that He hears, and He listens — He answers in ways that are sometimes in a voice different from what we hear, but He answers our prayers.

It was emotionally heavy but I felt relieved after the novena — as if I had unburdened my soul.  Although the pain remained, I felt like I was carrying it with someone holding my hand.  I know He heard.  Whatever has happened and is happening, it has happened and is happening for a reason.  It’s not always easy to discern the reason behind all that we see or feel.  It’s a matter of trusting in him.




My day of prayer didn’t end there, though.  I had scheduled my dear friend, Ces, the one with that “direct line to heaven” for the afternoon into evening.  Ces has been a dear, dear friend since high school.  One of those older sister types who stay your forever “Ate” through the years.  I have always looked to her as a spiritual adviser and a friend.  Strangely, she denies the direct line because she says everyone has one to God.   That’s Ces, ever humble.

I have been blessed with such great people in my life, that I have felt only acceptance and love even during my weakest moments.  When others would condemn my thoughts or actions and think I have done wrong, Ces will listen and dish out advice without a shred of judgment.  I told her I know I’m given only as much as I can handle, she says she prays for the reverse, that she be not given what she cannot.  I want to imbibe her complete faith and trust that God will be there, because sometimes, I cannot help but wonder.  Friends like Ces, and Lou, Bernie and Shay remind me that He is and will always be.