My Happy Place

A few 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” in order that we may not get buried by the day-to-day hassles of our toil.  It is THAT place we can retreat to — even if only in our minds — to bask in some happy memory or thought or even just a snapshot, that brings us that feeling of bliss.  Brief, though, it may be.

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 have no formula for happiness.  I envy those people who can authoritatively declare that their personal default setting is “happy”.   Is that at all possible?  Or are these people just deluding themselves about how happy they are.  Are they really 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.

So how can you find that happy place?

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.

The point is to have something filled with positive thoughts that you can go back to over and over again, more so during those times when you need a major pick me 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 probably 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.

Carry a small memento of a happy moment with you.  Some people have keychains, a matchbook, a bookmark, a table napkin — tucked in your purse or wallet – or a note from a favorite relative, a word of encouragement.  Nondescript items that symbolize a happy moment in our lives, whenever that may have been, wherever they may be.  It might be a business card, a rewards card, or some other plastic with someone’s name which brings you happy thoughts.  Have it within reach so that each time you feel you need a boost, you can fish for it wherever it may be.

Do not feel guilty about reaching out for a favorite snack or comfort food that might give you a much-needed sugar boost!  It might not be so bad to actually give in to a craving for something that absolutely bring you a piece of heaven, even if it is spelled in calories.  For me, it’s that chocolate treat, or a pint of my favorite butter pecan ice cream.  The thing is, it shouldn’t become an excuse to overindulge or overeat.  It should be enough that you satisfy the craving, smile and move on from there.  A taste is different from gorging on something you absolutely love.  Just enough to make it to “happy” and nudge you awake to do something about your state of mind.

Or it can be a reward for something you need a pat on the back for.  I know most people will disagree with this but life is too short for us to continually deprive ourselves of those things that put a smile on our face just because the rest of the world dictates that we have to be a certain dress size.

These things have helped me to stand up when I was at my lowest and even on an everyday basis.  Perhaps the shorter answer to my friend’s question about how I stay happy is that I keep my happy thoughts and happy items near.  Even on an ordinary day, I go to that happy place tucked in the corners of my mind and I visit and breathe in my bit of happy.

 I choose “happy”.  That’s how I manage to get past the pain and the chaos and the obstacles that life has made a habit of throwing my way.  

Flowers at the Grounds of Alexandria

While on the bus..

…I decided I would attempt to write a post after I unsuccessfully tried all week long.

It’s been a busy and heavy week.  I have had a pretty good start of the year overall, but it had to hit a low point at some time. It’s not the worst of the worst or the lowest of lows, but it’s one of those weeks where I am happy to say it’s over.

Well, almost.
Yes, #weStillHaveSnow! #OnMyWayToWork this #Friday.. #happyWeekend! #nyc #ny #mynewyork #winter2016
Yes, we stil have snow around us, and walking through the snow laden pavement back home actually feels like walking through a frozen hallway.  I have actually stopped wishing it away and just decided it is best to wait for Mother Nature to melt it down.  Then I heard we might actually get more snow and of course, the reality of it is that winter is hardly over.

I have been trying to strike a balance between staying cool and letting my emotions go.  Holding my anger in has always been a struggle, probably because I am a true child of Aries.  But I try.  For the most part, I know I have had better success the last year or so, probably because the lessons I have learned have helped to train me to not so easily give in to letting the anger get the better of me.  But we all have our breaking point, and much like we find ourselves cheating on a diet, we sometimes end up forgetting our resolve not to give in to our weaknesses.

I am human.  I am passionate and given to letting my emotions get the better of me.  And I know that doesn’t make it any easier– but I think I’ve mellowed down quite a lot.

I no longer pounce — I usually hold my thoughts and feelings in and I process through it before opening my mouth.  I have tried to get past the pain and the anger that had long been simmering inside me.  I try to remind myself how far I’ve come..  That I am in a better place.. That I am better off without those people who chose to walk out of my life or who had decided to keep their distance.  I have respected their choice, and I pray they respect mine.

A year ago, I decided I wanted a new life without having to live knowing my existence was an inconvenience being tolerated..  I can only imagine the insults and hours of laughter and amusement others enjoyed at my expense.  A friend tells me I should stop being considerate and think of that — because why should I care about taking a step back instead of throwing a punch when they have been kicking me black and blue behind my back for the longest time.  As I find myself digesting that I am torn between anger and sadness.  I haven’t quite made up my mind about whether I will throw the punch or just sit it out just yet, but it has given me pause when I think about what to do next.

I dread moments when thoughts like that envelop my heart.

My usual escape is to run a list that make that all seem small in the grand scheme of things.  I have pictures I go back to which bring a smile to my face.  I have snippets of things that happened or happy moments etched in my mind.  And while I am not in the happiest place on earth, I am in a pretty darned happy place.  I have surrounded myself with people who know and understand me and who don’t require an explanation from me when I do something silly or create something just beyond fabulous.  I laugh harder and I see my son laughing harder as well.  We look at each other with a sense of partnership that speaks in a language he and I understand.  I have learned to look to the happy memories instead of wallowing in the pain of the heartaches that may still linger in my heart.

It’s a glass half full.

Getting off and jumping into the last day of the work week.  Happy Friday!NYC this Friday!

The Lessons of 2014

Before we look ahead, we must look back.  And like I look at previous posts written in the 11 year life of this blog, I think it’s but fitting that I take stock of the year just ended and bring those lessons forward to the year that’s beginning.  I find myself reflecting on a lot of things as this year ends, and sometimes I am taken aback by how so much has happened.  (Did I really live through all THAT?)

The moon up above New York tonight... Thinking about all the moons that have come and gone and dreaming of the next time the moon shines majestically above me again... #moon #moonandstars #dusk #night #newyork #reflectionsI have been blessed.  I am grateful.  I am humbled.  I am encouraged.

I am still standing on my feet and I am actually looking forward to the new beginning that 2015 offers.

I am where I am because I took the lessons of life that came my way in 2014 and leaned on them to keep me going through the year.  I did not let the challenges of the year that just ended sweep me away and drown me.  Instead, I made them my stepping stone to get to the end of the year.

And here I am.

This year, I learned..

… that I am stronger than I thought I was.  I learned to believe in myself again and trust my instincts.  I learned to listen to the silence in my heart instead of listening to the thousand and one voices all around me.  As one of my dearest friends told me, I am my best counsel.. I am my own best bestfriend.

… that even the message from above can change through time.  Nothing is cast in stone except the fact that He always hears and will let you know His will.. Nothing is absolute except His being there, and it may happen that He gives you a different message through time from the one you heard previously.  The thing is to never stop listening, and to never stop asking Him what His will is.

… that acceptance begins with the little things.  Like most things that are hard to do, acceptance takes a while to learn, and takes practice to actually do well.  It took me long enough.  But I think I’ve gotten better at it.  You learn to go with the flow, you learn to be more forgiving of your own shortcomings.  You accept yourself for who you are.

… that it is important to remember YOU are important, too.  For the longest time, I had put everyone else’s happiness and welfare ahead of mine.  Now I realize that I can put myself in front and still be important like everyone else I considered a priority without relegating my own welfare to the background.  I no longer say “my happiness comes last” because I realize it doesn’t have to be.  Putting someone else as priority, like my son in my case, doesn’t mean sacrificing my own happiness.

Happiness is not tied to a ranking of priorities.  Happiness is just that — being happy.

… that you must never forget WHO you are.  I had forgotten certain facets of myself to conform and be a certain way to be accepted.  And it was a long journey to pull out the old “me” that got buried deep inside, but I think I’m almost there if I haven’t gotten there already.

And I missed “me”.  Now I walk with the old confidence and spunk I used to be armed with, and smile with a self-assurance that even I believe in again.  I’m back…

… that surrender is not always synonymous to defeat.  There are battles that can be won even if you decide it’s time to lay down your arms and raise the white flag.  Sometimes surrender is a form of self-preservation.  You try to stave off further loss.  You try to stem the bleeding and keep what resources you have left healthy.  You try to keep the peace by letting the world go by without a whimper.

… that forgiveness is as much, if not more for YOUR benefit as the one giving it than the one you are giving it to.  I have written about this and how I have uttered the words “I forgive you” more for my own sake than the peace of mind of the one who has caused me harm or pain.  Saying it has helped me move forward and go from the point of “being the victim” to “just being” again.  It has helped me on my journey of recovery.

… that forgiveness means looking forward and not looking back at what had happened or what you lost.  It is never a guarantee that things will be better, or that what has been taken from you will be returned.  It does help you to go beyond whatever it is that has caused you pain, and moving on is better than staying in a state of hurt and anger, any way you look at it.

… that people come and go into our lives for a reason.  And when they are here, we must cherish each lesson, each laughter, each memory that we are given a chance to make with the people around us — no matter how inconsequential their presence may seem at first glance.  And when they leave we must learn to let go, and be thankful for whatever it is they shared with us while they were present in our lives.

Even those who hurt us have a lesson to teach us or a gift to leave us with.  It may not be apparent on the surface, but in time, and if we look and not make ourselves blind with anger or tears, we will find it.

Even those who break our hearts will teach us a lesson and pave the way for us to be happy again in some form or other, through other people or events that follow their misstep.

… that the music never ends — we just choose to stop listening to it when the tune playing is not the one we requested.  I lost my optimism for a part of the year and then found it again.  And when I did, I clung to it for dear life.  Sadness and heartache are all part and parcel of living — it is whether or not we cling to it or let it go, whether or not we learn to live with it or deny it that will decide whether we overcome or let it get the better of us.

… that just as you will keep falling, you just have to pick yourself up and keep going.  I never gave up.

I didn’t really have a choice because I had my son to think of.  During my lowest of lows, I had no time to sink into depression.  I had to pull my wits about me and get back up each time.  And I know I will have to keep doing that as I push forward.  The fact that I’m still on my feet is not a guarantee I will not fall again.  In fact, I feel like I fall each time I think I’ve regained my footing, but that will never stop me from getting up again and continuing the journey.

… that there will always be another day.  So no matter how difficult a day has been, no matter how heavy the burden I have been given may be — I know there will be tomorrow and it might get better.  And if doesn’t, there will be the day after to look  forward to, and the day after that.  Hope springs eternal.  Indeed.

That the year is over is a done deal.  There’s no bringing back time lost that has passed us all by.  Time is not one to give us do-overs, but 2015 is here with a new promise of hope — the certainty of yet another beginning.

Here’s to 2015.

 

 

 

Five things to be thankful for

1.  A warm and cozy home to go into when the temps outside dip down to 27 degrees.  (Thankfully, we didn’t get a ton load of snow again.  Just another regular winter snowfall sometime this afternoon.)

2.  Instagram.  18 followers.. my most popular posts are a series of photos I’m tagging #jeepneystories.  Come and take a look and let me know what you think of my photos.

3.  A nice dinner of tuna sashimi and shrimp tempura with rose wine.  I’m trying to be good with the diet… tuna shashimi at 1 pt each and 2 shrimp tempura.. plus a glass of wine.  Life is good..

4.  Getting on with my altered book and Art Journal Every Day project.  Finally drawing and writing again.  (Writing more about it at Gotham Chick.)

5.  Watching “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” with my boys.  Makes me miss Tom Clancy.  I’m sure he left a ton of story ideas that will see more of his genuis on the big screen.  I love Chris Pine as Jack Ryan and I’m keeping my fingers crossed he will come back for the next installment.  I would love to see him do the succeeding ones eventually.  But the even more intriguing thought for me is if they will ever do John Clark who is my favorite Tom Clancy character of all.  I totally enjoyed  seeing Kenneth Branagh who, it turns out, was also the director of the movie.  I have long been in love with this Knighted Englishman from the moment I first saw him in one of my forever favorites, “Much Ado About Nothing” some twenty years ago.  (Which he, again, directed and starred in.)

I have around two hours more to go before I hit the sack and I have a corner I want to attack and weed out stuff that needs to be disposed of.  I’m on my second cup of tea and hoping to write another post before I hit the sack in a bit.  I hope everyone is having a good weekend, too… despite the cold for us here on the east coast…

We should all count our blessings.

Regrets and Dying

I haven’t completely sworn off Facebook, but I usually go in and out. I take a cursory look at updates from the people on my list and then close the window. I don’t linger. Again it must be me getting older which makes me think that if people were indeed interested to keep in touch, I’d get a message via email. I hate snooping around, so if it’s not in my current feed, I’m not updated.

There are days when I see something amusing or something that makes me pause and think.  I picked up this tidbit from one of my favorite batchmates from St. Paul Pasig (for elementary) and QC (for High School), Millet. (You can read a profile I wrote about her in our high school e-zine here.)  Her quips are always refreshing, and for the last couple of days, we have been feasting on some great photos of Japan where she just ended a much-deserved vacation.

Today she posted this “poster” which listed the “Top 5 Regrets of the Dying” from  The Guardian News .  For some reason, it struck a chord in me and moved me to start drafting a post here. Graphic borrowed from Millet Henson's Wall

I guess it must be because I was thinking of Dad again this morning on my way to work, in connection with last night’s episode of Criminal Minds entitled “Alchemy“.  Above and beyond the usual gore and diabolical minds of the criminals that are the focal point of each episode was a focus on Dr. Spencer Reed’s continued grieving over the loss of his love, Maeve.  (in Episode 8: Zugzwang)  They were star-crossed lovers who had never met until they were on opposite sides of a hostage negotiation where Spencer tried to get Maeve’s female stalker to release her while she was holding a gun to Maeve’s head.  The episode ended quite tragically when the stalker committed death by suicide, with the bullet that pierced the stalker’s head shooting right through Maeve’s temple.

Several episodes forward, Spencer is obviously still in limbo with his grief, and David Rossi was trying to help him deal with it.  But that’s another post.  Suffice it to say that that got me into thinking about love and loss.  Hence, Dad.

So I looked over the list and thought that they were worth pondering on.  At my age, I have stopped thinking that I will live forever and have come to accept my mortality.  It can be tomorrow, next year, in a decade, or who knows?  I used to look forward to growing old and having grandchildren, but reality gave me a major bop in the head last year which has changed my view about many things including aging.

These are the things we wish we would never find ourselves uttering when death’s face is in front of us.  It’s the opposite of what we would consider “a life well lived” or more of “it could’ve been, BUT…”

I was drawn to the list because I wanted to ask myself if I am at risk at uttering these same lines when I find myself at death’s door.  I’m reposting it here just to give other like-minded “Older” souls the chance to ask themselves if any of these apply.  It would do one a lot of good to reflect on these now that you still have the chance to change things and hopefully avoid any of these sad regrets from cropping up when the time comes. 

None of them are difficult to overcome, yet they are common human pitfalls.

Have a look:

1.  I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.  I think this is going to be on a lot of people’s lists.

I always tell those who ask for my two cents’ worth that we all have the gift and the ability to do and be what we want to be.  The reality of it is, that is easier said than done.  Often, we find ourselves conforming to what others expect of us at the expense of our individuality.

I think I’ve done fairly well in terms of having the courage to live a life true to myself, although I still find myself conforming to what is expected of me.  I think it’s part of the dynamic of society to impose certain standards upon all of us that find us falling short of being true to one’s self 100%.  There is always going to be that portion where we need to conform to what others want, or what others have imposed upon us.

We may choose to go one route, but life might say no, we can’t.  Then we don’t. 

We may choose another, but that other might choose yet another — so we are left hanging in mid-air, and the fall can break one’s spirit in two.  So we end up living up to other’s expectations, instead of living the choice we had wanted to take.  I beg to differ that it is not all about having the courage to live as you would want to, because sometimes, fate plays a cruel joke on us and just won’t let us live the life that would be true to what we are.

2.  I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.  This one, I have to say, is off my list.  While I do work hard, I have always tried my best to maintain a good balance between life and work, never letting the latter take the former over.  While I may have put career first earlier on, ever since I moved to New York 13 years ago, I’ve always been clear that I would prioritize quality of life over career or a paycheck.  When you have accomplished the plans you had set early on in life, you view work differently and treat life with more care.

I’ve attained the education I dreamt of, worked  at some of the best companies while in the Philippines, moved to New York in 2000 to start a family… had my precious son in 2004… and I’ve been lucky to continue to be employed by a company that pays me well and where I’m a little higher on the totem pole.  It can be better, I know, but I’ll settle for “good”.

I get the chance to be a mom and be myself, do my crafts, write and enjoy the view 41 storeys above Midtown Manhattan.  This will be one regret I will not utter on my deathbed, because I know where life overtakes work and have kept my focus on never losing sight of that.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.  Again, another one off my list.  Those who know me well and who have read me here will attest to the fact that self-expression is a strength of mine.  It is one of my personal strengths which I take pride in, even if at times it had gotten me in trouble and left me steeped in disappointment and heartache. 

I have never run short on courage — I’ve always been very outspoken.  Even when I was younger, I had the courage to hand a young man who had caught my fancy a note to tell him I liked him but he was too “masungit”.  And even as I got older, I left everything in Manila to move here and start a new life and a family, taking a literal leap of faith — following my heart.

It has not always been positive in the end, because there were times when I was brave but I was rebuffed by fate.  That has somehow jaded me and made me more cautious, but I have always been a very transparent person.   Perhaps now I am not wont to be so brazen.  My feelings have been tempered by age and life in general.  But I know that I will never say I wish I had the courage, because I’ve always had that in abundance where my feelings were concerned.

4.  I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.  This one is a qualified “wish” for me.  It’s hard to say I am leaning towards this when the previous years have seen me getting pickier with the company I keep.  Friendships, like most things in life, take a lot of work.  And with all the other things happening in our lives and in the world today, we can only do so much.  I have never really lost touch with those dearest to my heart — it’s just that the list of the people who qualify as people I would regret not being in touch with keeps getting shorter and shorter.  At this point, I must say that I’ve been pretty successful in that respect — they may all be thousands of miles away, but they are always near in thought and in my heart.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.  I’m suddenly stumped.  Again, to “let one’s self” be happier, and to be happier are qualifying statements that don’t put me anywhere near a definite yes or no to this one.

Sometimes, it’s as easy as being more forgiving of one’s self, and I am not doing very well in that respect.  I don’t know if I will ever truly be able to forgive myself and let myself be happy again.  So instead I try to find the “happy” in the blessings that I have in my life — making up for not finding it within my heart. I am blessed many times over by love everywhere.  I know that most people will tell me not to be too hard on myself — something that’s easier said than done again.  I have reached this point in my life where I have come to terms with my personal failings.  Not even saying “I’m only human” gives me a reprieve.  I try but I feel like I’m in quicksand, sinking deeper unable to stay afloat.

Forgiveness has been easier to give to others than myself.  Perhaps it’s because we are our harshest critics, our most bitter judge.  It can also be because we are the only ones who truly know ourselves.

I am hoping that when my time comes, I will be able to chalk this off my list.  I hope it doesn’t come, though, for a long, long time yet — then maybe, I can say, I was able to let myself be happier.. in time.

The article ends with the question:  What’s your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?  Sometihing to ponder on.

So which ones are on your list?  It’s not yet too late to start trying to avoid too many regrets from piling up in our lives.  It will never be an empty bag, but we can certainly try to lighten it, until our time comes.

Gorgeous Day In New York City and Other Happy Thoughts

It was a little chilly and grey when I walked out the door, but I left without a coat or a jacket. 70 degrees by the end of the day with the sun up high, and 70 degrees is what I got when I walked out of the office late this afternoon. Just gorgeous! I like it just this cool because a sweater will keep you toasty and a light scarf will do the job nicely.

I’ve been working on some quotes for a journal swap I’m sending out over the weekend using freehand lettering over watercolor backgrounds. While I’m using the originals for the journal, I’m photocopying the finished work on cardstock and high-quality paper for other uses. (Cards, my “Font Love” folio, and maybe as embellishment for future journals.).

Watercolor and Ink: Quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne on Happiness

I enjoyed painting the backgrounds ahead and then writing freehand, then drawing the letters as I shaded in and defined the alpha individually.  It’s part of a “Happiness” ensemble I’m creating for the “Decorate a Journal” swap over at Swap-bot.com.

Yesterday was a rather interesting day, but I was too tired to write about it.  I’ve been fortunate to have had a nice past couple of days, and I have to start writing about it before the news gets old and I get lazy again.

The Ink PadWell, for starters, I went on a “craft-day-for-me” field trip last Saturday to Allentown, Pennsylvania.  (Typing that actually literally made me smile.)  Angelo and I had taken a trek to The Ink Pad over at 7th Ave and 13th Street on our birthday date last April 2, and not only did I finally lay eyes on stamping/papercrafting heaven this side of town, but I found out about the bus trip being organized by the store to join “Heirloom’s Allentown Rubber Stamp and Paper Arts Festival“.

It took me a while to make up my mind about going, and when I finally called to reserve my seat ($69 for a round trip ticket on the bus including fair tickets, raffle drawing both on the bus and at the event, and a goodie bag..!), I ended up grabbing the LAST ONE before the trip closed out.  It was on the 13th, Saturday, and my biggest problem was hauling myself downtown to meet the 8am bus departure.  It meant waking up at the crack of dawn and getting to the bus stop in time for the first weekend bus run at 6:30am.   To make sure I made it to the store on time, I hailed a cab right by the Empire State Building on 34th and Fifth Avenue.  I made it to the bus with enough time to spare.

It was a bus full of ladies and a man.  (Mickey, who goes by Scrapamale on Youtube was quite a breath of fresh air and humor — and now, inspiration.  Check out his Youtube Channel here.)  I sat next to Pam who was a retired housewife from whom I learned a lot about classes and offerings, including a craft retreat she is suggesting I attend.  We all went our separate ways when we finally got to Allentown — and we didn’t meet up again until we returned to the bus.

Allentown Rubber Stamp and Paper Arts Festival, April 13

There was much to see and learn about at the craft fair — and it was such an experience watching products and techniques being demonstrated live by the various vendors who were participating.  I ‘oohed’ and ‘aaahed’ over the art tools, many of which I had seen for the first time.  (I am still a craft novice at this point!)

I’m not a heavy stamper, really.  I’m just starting in that department.  I have always tried to get interesting clear stamps but I left much of them with my sister, Ofie, when I went home in December 2011.  I’m just beginning to see their use as far as paper crafts are concerned, and I’ve incorporated them into my artist trading cards and handmade postcards.  I am trying to use more of them in my journaling as well.

I browsed the stores from one end of the hall to another.  There weren’t that many, and the “experts” were saying it was a smaller venue and less vendors — but it took me close to an  hour to do my initial “ocular”.  Then I went into each store to see what was of interest.  Each store seemed to offer something different, so you had something to buy in each one.  Stores from as far as Ohio were participating.  (Little wonder there was a mini-RV section in the parking lot.)

There were samples galore showing what you could do with all the tools around.  I was too busy learning about the products to pay attention to many of the works of art displayed, and I had taken most of my photos really to document what I was putting on my mental wishlist.  It was crafting heaven!

The craft fair experience itself deserves a separate post with all the photos I took — hopefully posted here by the weekend.  Lunch was out in the parking lot where I had earlier seen a cheese steak, hotdogs and burgers concessioe.  I picked through the meat and the fries with a fork and had quite a meal.

Italian Cheese Steak and Cheese Fries in Allentown, PA

There was a Farmer’s Market across from the hall where the craft fair was, but I had to restrain myself from walking in, saving that for the end of the day just before I went back to the bus.  (Grabbed a whole gourmet pecan pie that was totally worth dragging my aching feet through the huge indoor market for… yum!)

I was exhausted by the time I settled down.  I drifted in and out of sleep and was pleasantly awakened in the middle of a snooze because I won a prize.  (I have a video I will post later of the goodies I won.)

I am actually seriously considering doing the next one near me which will be in West Springfield, MA on June 1 and 2.  I need to plan my logistics because it won’t be worth staying over, but there are buses that head to Boston.  Hmmm..  I am keeping my fingers crossed that The Ink Pad will organize another trip.  Maybe.. We’ll see.

The boys went around the city and picked me up in Midtown at the end of the day, saving me the longer commute home.  My feet were almost numb from all the walking.  (Craft shopaholic!)  But it was SO WORTH IT.  I’m glad I spent the money I did to get there.  The things I saw and learned are worth so much more.

I haven’t really had the chance to unpack the stuff I bought because I’ve been working earnestly on my journal.  I can’t wait to try the new materials I haven’t tried yet.  In time.

Down at work, things have been pretty light because the boss is on holiday.  Still, it only meant a lighter work load, but not the absence of workload.  I have been trying to catch up with the filing.  The meeting requests never end.  I’m already scheduling into June.

Meanwhile, I have a trip to plan in May for Cousin M’s wedding.  Do I really want to fly out and get dressed?  YES!  =)   I wish I could shave off the fat and lose the equivalent of my two thighs but that is not happening in the next couple of weeks.  LOL.   I fly out on the 17th, back on the 19th.  I haven’t even picked out my dress.  But — I have the dress shoes and bag and shawl to go with it, and I already have the pearls I will string into a necklace as my main accessory.  =)  I’m going solo so that’s another “me” trip.  Never been there… that should be interesting.  Oh, and I guess I should book the flight and the hotel this week.  (Panic time!)

In the midst of all this hustle and bustle, the universe asked a question, I answered, and I got an answer back.  Someone once told me that “everything will eventually fall into place.”  (My friend failed to tell me, though, that they won’t always fall where I want them to.  Ha!)   Sometimes, things work out in the strangest of ways.  Sometimes little acts of kindness can be so precious.

I have e-mails to write but I was given a new blackberry today, so I have to reconfigure my e-mail settings again tomorrow.  The e-mails will have to wait.  I can’t believe it’s only Wednesday.  It feels as if the weekend was already here.  Not quite, I know.  Maybe it’s the exhaustion talking.

Watch out for my craft fair post.  I have a couple of videos for editing so watch out for that, too.  I just need to figure out a way to shoot my tutorials from above my hands.  I finally found my video cam (tucked in one of the drawers of my credenza at work — forgotten for non-use.) — I’d need to be able to snap it onto something to do the tutorial, though, and it will need to be plugged into my laptop or PC.  Dilemma there — I can’t do the video at my desk.  I usually sneak away into an empty office or conference room to do my videos.  Plus, it’s quite a production to lug my laptop to work.  (I can, though, if I want to.)  Ipad?  Still have to figure out how to suspend it above me to take an overhead shot.

Midnight creeping up on me in 6 minutes.  Almost there yet my stomach is debating on whether or not to go for a slice of pie — and maybe a scoop of vanilla ice cream?  (Hungry tummy, simmer down!  LOL)  A yawn just slipped out and there goes my answer.  Time to tuck in.  The pie can wait until tomorrow.  Maybe for breakfast?  (Oops.. just remembered, I have to grind some coffee beans for tomorrow’s breakfast.  I guess I’ll just have to do it right before brewing.)

Watercolor and Ink: Quote from Fyodor on Happiness

Some "Happy" from Friends and Journaling

I have a “love-hate” relationship with Facebook these days.  I am hardly there, and when I do log in, I pop in and go out quicker than quick.  I browse the updates which isn’t much considering that I now have a few hundred friends (which isn’t so cool when you look at how the feeds go), so I am seriously considering trimming down that friend list.  I’m sure a lot of people also don’t appreciate getting nonsensical updates from me.  I wouldn’t be too surprised to find out that many of them have unsubscribed from my feeds, although there isn’t much going on on my own page.

From time to time, I do come across some gems, like today, I picked this quote up from a friend, co-paulinian and colleague of my sister at work,  Edlynn.  I had to go back and grab the line, post it here, and will be putting it in my happiness journal at a later time.

“The secret of happiness is: Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it.” — Dan Dennett

And I got a pleasant surprise when BFF Pia K popped out on the chat — which was quite serendipitous by itself.  (As you can see, I’m still hooked on “serendipity” as I am continuing to work on my Artist Trading Card Mega Swap.)

Pia and I have known each other since the second grade, which is 39 years worth of the Pinay New Yorker on this earth.  I’ve written about it here a while back that we used to be mistaken for sisters back in grade school.  We went to the same high school and landed together most of our four years with the nuns — I think we managed to do it for 3 of 4.  She went to the other branch of the same University I went to and we completely lost touch.  We sort of “got back together” the last 4-5 years which was literally thanks to the post offices on both sides of the world.  And for that, I am eternally grateful to every mailman I see.  Our friendship, you see, was rekindled and kept alive by snail mail.  And I am still trying.

Though I don’t write her quite as often, I continue to try.   Despite the technology all around us, I still believe that the written word on hard copy carries a different kind of magic all its own.

So we had a good chat about how age makes you wake up at odd hours, and how, even if you crave sleep, you end up doing so little of it. (I told her it was age.)  We talked about our kids — which, we agreed, was one of the best accomplishments we can claim in our lifetime.  (Unfortunately, Pia beats me with 4 of her own against my unico hijo.)  And we traded light banter and then FB conked out on us and I had to go back to work.

Somewhere there, though, we talked about journaling.

I told her to just write whatever, whenever.  Journaling should be spontaneous.  The first thought, the first word, the feeling that comes to mind at that very moment.  That is the essence of capturing the moment in words just as you would want to do it with a picture.  I thought I’d come up with some journaling prompts for Pia as she starts this new journey.

1. There’s always a sticky, a tape receipt, a paper napkin handy where you can scribble the date, the time and place, and even a single word like “Thanks.”

2. Think of a happy memory.  Start with “Remember the time…”

3. Grab some words of wisdom.  They might not be your own, but the thought of wanting to share it with someone you love or care for makes it your gift.

4. Cut up a picture, or even a magazine ad or article that reminds you of something or someone and paste it onto the journal.

5. Even a simple “I love you” can fill a whole page with feelings.

Good luck on this new journey, P.  I have always believed you were a great writer — I have always worked hard to catch up with you but have never quite caught up.. =)   Take care, my dearest friend.

On my way to the bus stop this morning

Random: Walking to the bus stop: FULL MOON

I stepped out of the house just minutes after 7am hoping to catch the 7:30ish bus to Manhattan.  The sun was still on its way up and this caught my eye not 100 paces away from my doorstep.  Breathtaking.

I tried to do photo correction before uploading but the best version was the original one.  I rarely see the moon as detailed as this..

And finally, a shot of the trees as I walk closer to the bus stop.  See the flecks of yellow?

Random: On the Way to Walk.. Fall is hereI will try and photograph the same tree again tomorrow and monitor how it changes from day to day.  Now you see bits of yellow and before long, they will turn to a lovely fiery orange and bits of red and then it will be closer to winter and the branches will be bare.

I feel a whole lot better now and have been photographing my altered book and I’ve really made progress in that department.  I’m trying to experiment with doing designs directly on the page and I’m almost down to halfway up the book.  My word art is progressing rather nicely, and if time permits, I might write a new post on the section dedicated to my altered book here.  Why do I even bother, right?

I don’t know if its the calming effect of repetitive brush strokes or any brush stroke for that matter, or just the act of seeing something “growing” — but my happiness journal is helping me keep myself grounded on the “happy”.  In the mornings as I sit on the bus on the way to work, I distract myself from any negative thoughts by focusing on the positive.

It’s not always that easy.  There are those negative feelings of anger and pain that are sometimes difficult to shut out of our minds, more so, our hearts.  Sometimes we succeed but only momentarily, then we slip back.  There are days when it’s a constant tug-of-war of emotions and wits.  But I try to dwell on the happy instead of the sad or the angry.

I keep seeing that one line: “For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness..” ( – Ralph Waldo Emerson. )  I’ll take “happiness” anytime.

Two Artist trading Cards (ATCs) are heading to Texas for a swap.

ATCs for Trade

I’m still learning but getting there.  Read more about how I made the cards above here.   (The link will take you to my other blog, Gotham Chick.)  Anyone interested to trade or swap, please e-mail me at postcardmailbox@gmail.com

The things that make me smile

Happiness is simplest for children.  You give them a hug, a kiss, or a toy — or even just a piece of candy, and they break out into a big smile that spells “H-A-P-P-Y”.  Sometimes a random act of kindness like a kind thank you can mean a lot to a total stranger.  Me, I’ve learned to keep my “happy” moments in small buckets or pieces to make one “big HAPPY”.

So on a day like today where my zentangled Chrysler Building has progressed rather nicely (halfway done!) — and I hear from friends of old who pop in to say hello and ask how I’m doing.. or a friend passes on a tranquil picture of a forest with a blanket of fog — these things make me smile.  I remember a joke Fe and I literally laughed out loud on, or a funny expression on my son’s face — and again, I smile.

These things bring me to the end of my day with a lighter heart… they help me to get through those parts that aren’t exactly part of the happy equation (like work.. LOL).. and I know I made it through another day.