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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Where Is Your Brain?

Bath times in my household are always something to look forward to. The kids get to play for a half hour or so with their favorite action figures while washing dried up peanut butter off their faces and getting their marker stained hands ready for tomorrow's "artventures". It is also during these times when I can just sit down on the bathroom floor with a good book or magazine. Kids get their play time, and mommy gets her down time.

One night, while my three year old was in the tub, he gleefully looked down and pointed to his "cheerful wiener" and exclaimed, "Look mommy! This is my brain!" Stifling a laugh, I asked "Why is your brain down there?" I then pointed to his temple to correct him and said, "Your brain is up here." "Up here? not down here?" he innocently asked. "Yes" I repeated and he left it at that. Now, each time I ask my three year old "Where's your brain?" He smiles, points to his temple and says, "It's in here!"

Children say the darndest things but we have to admit that their innocence and curiosity brighten up our day. So, to further add sunshine to your day, here's a list that I think will tickle your funny bones...

A Sunday school teacher asked her class, "What was Jesus' mother's name?"
One child answered, "Mary."
The teacher then asked, "Who knows what Jesus' father's name was?"
A little kid said, "Verge."
Confused, the teacher asked, "Where did you get that?"
The kid said, "Well, you know, they are always talking about Verge n' Mary.''

3-year-old Reese:
"Our Father, Who does art in
heaven, Harold is His name.

A little boy was overheard praying:
"Lord, if you can't make me a better boy, don't worry about it.
I'm having a real good time like I am."


After the christening of his baby brother in church,
Jason sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car.
His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied,
"That preacher said he wanted us brought up in a
Christian home, and I wanted to stay with you guys."

I had been teaching my three-year old daughter, Caitlin, the Lord's Prayer
for several evenings at bedtime.
She would repeat after me the lines from the prayer.
Finally, she decided to go solo.
I listened with pride as she carefully enunciated
each word, right up to the end of the prayer:
"Lead us not into temptation," she prayed,
"but deliver us from E-mail.


One particular four-year-old prayed,
"And forgive us our trash baskets
as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets."

A Sunday school teacher asked her children as they were on the way to church service,
"And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?"
One ! bright little girl replied,
"Because people are


Six-year-old Angie and her four-year-old brother, Joel, were sitting together in church.
Joel giggled, sang, and talked out loud.
Finally, his big sister had had enough.
"You're not supposed to talk out loud in church."
"Why? Who's going to stop me?" Joel asked.
Angie pointed to the back of the church and said,
"See those two men standing by the door?
They're hushers."


A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin 5, and Ryan 3.
The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake.
Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson.
"If Jesus were sitting here, He would say,
'Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.'
Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, "Ryan, you be Jesus!"

A father was at the beach with his children
when the four-year-old son ran up to him,
grabbed his hand, and led him to the shore
where a seagull lay dead in the sand.
"Daddy, what happened to him?" the son asked.
"He died and went to Heaven," the Dad replied.
The boy thought a moment and then said,
"Did God throw him back down?"


A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, "Would you like to say the blessing?"
"I wouldn't know what to say," the girl replied.
"Just say what you hear Mommy say," the wife answered.
The daughter bowed her head and said, "Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?"

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This reminds me of a scripture in the bible that says "Unless you become like little children you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 18:10). This scripture challenges us to see things the way God sees them; to value service rather than fame and glory, humility rather than power. It enables us to be, by choice, a child.

Monday, August 6, 2007

It's The Little Things That Make A Difference

In my post, Count Your Blessings I talked about being thankful for all the things that we take for granted. I was so inspired by the movie Arthur and the Invisibles that I thought in this post, I'd make a list of the little things that make a difference in life, things that we would usually dismiss without giving it a second thought. See if you can come up with your own. This is actually not a bad idea for a game of tag.

It's these little things that make a difference (at least in my life)

1. Insects (they do play an important role in evolution)
2. Teeth (false and natural)
3. Saliva (for its digestive functions)
4. All the nifty built-in systems that make our bodies function
5. Kids' curiosity (even adults' ~ otherwise our quest for the meaning of life would have ended before we were even born)
6. tiny (as seen from earth) stars that light up the evening sky
7. when you stay up late with your kids to watch out for shooting stars
8. saying sorry
9. accepting people's apology
10. opening doors for strangers
11. saying hi or good morning
12. smiling
13. silence
14. returning phone calls, emails, text messages, or comments
15. your personal dress code (it says a lot or little about you)
16. praising your child's work (even if it's just a scribble or can't make out the picture they drew...who knows? they can be the next Picasso)
17. answering children's questions (no matter how silly they are)
18. pets
19. giving someone your complete attention (it works with my 5 yr old. he actually remembered to remind me to give a family member my attention, which caught MY attention and was left speechless that a simple solution could have prevented a huge misunderstanding and to have been reminded by a 5 yr old made me an emotional wreck!)
20. simply listening
21. a pat on the shoulder
22. a hug
23. even just a nod
24. thank yous
25. a heartbeat (priceless!)
26. pennies (especially 1943 copper pennies)

For your enjoyment, here's Jewel's MTV. This soundtrack can be heard during Arthur's closing credits.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Right Turn Only

Yes, my inspiration for this short blurb was a street sign that hung on St. Joseph’s automatic gate. I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve driven through that gate but I never paid attention to the sign. Right Turn Only.

I think God purposely focused my eyes on that sign that day as an answer to my inquisitiveness. Indeed, all of us converse with God and He answers each of us in a unique way. He builds a relationship with each of His children and communicates with each one of us the way we would communicate to our own children. He tailors His communication style that works with our individual character and personality. So what makes sense to me may not make sense to others. I’ve always known that everything happens for a reason, but there are times when I question why bad things happen to good people.

Reading that sign: Right Turn Only made me realize that every turn we make in our lives are all right turns. All the decisions we made in the past and the decisions we'll make in the future have all been destined even before our existence so every success, every glory, every mistakes were made to happen ~ with a purpose. When we do encounter these, we must be on the right track. No questions about it.

That day was God’s assurance that every decisions I made in my life were all right, according to His plans. I just had to be open and accept things when they happen and remain in my faith that these were all God’s plans. Everything happens in perfect timing and I trust that whatever it is I’m going through right now will turn out for the best.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I'm IT!

I love being on Technorati mostly because each time I log on, I see new posts from my favorite bloggers, and partly to see who faved me recently. (By the way, thank you to those who did! Those of you who haven't YET, I know who you are so make sure to fave me, even if it's just for humanitarian reasons. Please? Pretty Please? hehe Do I sound like I'm begging? Okay, maybe I am!)

Going down the list, I came across Weng's new post, stating that she's been tagged and in turn, to tag 8 other people and I was one of the lucky "its". Being unsure and still fairly new to this, I checked out her blog to see what being tagged is all about and what it entailed. I left her a comment after reading her post and I don't think I've given her enough time to send me a comment to let me know I've been tagged ~ Please let me know if I'm breaking any rules by jumping the gun. Should I have waited for her notice? Anyway, I'm game and quite anxious to get started, eventhough I'm not sure if I can list 8 random facts about me without putting anyone to sleep.

Tagged by Weng in one of her posts on WengOnline.

The rules of engagement:

1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.

2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight
things and post these rules.

4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get
tagged and list their names.

5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged,
and to read your blog.

8 RANDOM FACTS ABOUT ME: (fingers drumming, hmm... this is harder than I thought!)

FACT 1: I'm the youngest and only girl. I have three brothers and I'm glad my parents didn't decide to stop having children until they had a girl > yup! that's ME!

FACT 2: I have two boys: a Five and a Three yr old. My eldest graduated (promoted is what they call it here) from preschool today! Each child's name was written on a handprint and below their name was what they wanted to be when they grow up. My son wants to be a doctor! I better start looking for a second job just in case he decides to pursue this career!

FACT 3: When I graduated from Preparatory in the Philippines, we were asked to step up to the mic, say our names and what we wanted to be when we grow up. Of course, this took much practice on our part. Teachers asked the children beforehand what they wanted to be. When the teacher came up to me, I proudly said "I want to be a doctor" and I guess by that time, she was already tired of hearing kids say the same thing so she told me to think of something else. Being a five (going on six) year old, my list of careers was limited so I half-heartedly said "dancer", which I'm not with my two left feet. So on my graduation day, I did as I was told. I stepped up to the mic and after saying my name, I was so tempted to say "I want to be a doctor" (I thought to myself, what would my teacher do if I did say that? Climb the stage and make me say what we've practiced?) but I chose not to defy my teacher and the nuns watching nearby. So yes, I wanted to be a doctor. But instead, I'm now a training analyst at one of The State Agencies in California. So, I'm glad my son wants to be a doctor. I just hope he becomes determined enough to become one!

FACT 4: Still waiting for the greatest love of my life. Time will not change the way I feel for you.

FACT 5: I once caught a humming bird with my bare hands! I was in my late aunt's garden when I saw a humming bird flitting among the roses. Childhood memories of catching dragonflies flashed before me so I thought I'd try it on a bird. Why not? I strategically positioned myself, aimed and with one swift sweep, the humming bird was in my hand! I held on to the tiny bird long enough to study it up close. Once my curiosity was satisfied, I set it free. I must have not done any damage to its wings because it was gone in a flash as soon as I opened my hand. I consider that as a "once in a lifetime" conquest!

FACT 6: I've lost 21 lbs since February of this year. It's not easy to lose weight, but discipline makes it possible!

FACT 7: I like to people watch. My bestfriend Arvin and I used to (during our younger, carefree days) just hang out at Starbucks and talked about people who walked by. We made up stories about them and laughed at our creativity (we could have made money selling our stories to film makers!) We used to also drive 2 hours to the airport to see fresh immigrants (easily spotted by their big brown x-ray envelopes ha ha!) We made fun of those waiting to meet their relatives and sometimes we pretended that one of us was leaving and get in line with the rest of the travelers at the airline counters or the line that takes you inside the terminals (we left the line when we got closer to the inspector) ahhh yes! those were the days!

FACT 8: The beach is one of my favorite places. Arvin and I frequented the beaches on the coast of San Francisco and we would take a big cooler packed with cream cheese and strawberry croissandwiches, juice, water, chocolates, fruits. I also made my hot artichoke dip. As if that wasn't enough for just the two of us, we'd also fill up a whole paper bag with cookies, chips and just about any junk food we felt like bingeing on. Our friendship was solidified by gluttony and immortalized by our friendly (most of the time harmless)banter of how much weight we've gained and what to do to burn the calories we shamelessly consumed. True friendship knows no boundaries ~ literally, through thick and thin! Although, I learned that using the latrine at those beaches was another adventure in itself. I was always afraid of falling into the gaping hole! After that, we limited ourselves to fastfood and water.

Wow that was fun! It sure brought back a lot of fun memories! Okay, what was I supposed to do next? Ah yes! I need to tag 8 people. I apologize in advance if you've already done your 8 random facts (I made sure to check first, but if you have already been tagged by someone and I missed your post, please let me know so I can read it!) The rules do not say it's imperative that you do your 8 random facts or lightning will strike you. You're under no obligation to comply, but I still think it's a fun way for people to get to know you a little more. So without further ado, I'm tagging the following:

** Kelvene
** Angel
** Janice
** Motherwise
** Michael/PsalmsofHope
** Michelle
** Felmar
** Bien
*************************TAG! YOU'RE IT!************************

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Shame On Me!

Shame on me for doubting! Thank you Papa God and Mother of Perpetual Help for a prayer answered!

Once again, God proved to me that He is listening!

Please forgive me.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

You Are Beautiful!

I stumbled upon this video and I'd like to share it with all the women across the globe. Okay, I'm sharing it with all the men out there, too, whose perception of beauty can be distorted sometimes =)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Master Your Ability To Breathe Underwater

It was a beautiful tropical day, filled with activities; packs of teens buzzed in and out of the resort lobby, staff scurried to fulfill guest requests, toddlers laughed and screamed with delight as they splashed in the kiddie pool, while the mothers kept a vigilant watch of not just their own, but other kids as well, as if there was an unspoken agreement among the mothers: “I’ll watch your kids and you watch mine. Two, or fifty pairs of eyes are better than one.” The kids didn’t throw a single tantrum. Everybody had a good day. After a long day of fun and play, fatigue had taken its toll on the children so there was no protest when they were tucked in bed. With the kids now settled in the room, I decided to go for a walk and enjoy some quiet time to myself. The sun had already begun its descent so by the time I reached the west end of the grounds, the temperature had cooled to several degrees. With all the guests sequestered inside the resort and recharging for the next day’s scheduled events, the premises now became a retreat for someone like me, who sought the kind of solitude where my thoughts were my only companions. The pool’s sparkling water broke my reverie, reminding me that I have not submerged in it longer than the time it took me to fish the kids out earlier that afternoon. Now I had the pool to myself and it enticed me to plunge into its calm, refreshing water. In an instant, I found myself swimming my way to the bottom of the pool, every stroke and kick took me deeper and deeper, relaxing my muscles, clearing my mind, and I felt as though nothing existed on the surface! I felt so free that I wanted to stay underwater and swim to eternity. At least until I needed to breathe. My lungs constricted, no oxygen flowed to my brain and my eyes widened in panic, desperate to see a hand that will pull me out of this watery grave! I treaded water as fast as I could but I know I won’t make it. I needed air now! Wait a minute! I realized this was all a dream so I could do anything I want! Cautiously, I took one shallow breath, expecting to drown as soon as water fills my nostrils but to my surprise, air filled my lungs and found that I could breathe underwater! The feeling of being invincible came with the discovery of my new but perplexing superpower yet I made a conscious effort to only take slow, shallow breaths. If I could do the unimaginable task of breathing underwater, what things can I not do or challenges can I not face? What a gift from above! The alarm woke me up with a renewed sense of self-confidence.

The first breathing underwater dream led to many more and with each succeeding time, I became more and more proficient with my skill. I also became more courageous in exploring my new world that my dreams eventually became adventures. In the beginning, I only thought of this ability as a special talent that many would envy (at least even only in my dreams). How I wish I was able to do this in real life!

It is known that lucid dreaming is a learned skill (exactly how I acquired this skill, I don’t know). It is in this kind of dream when you realize you are dreaming and you are then able to control what happens in your dream - all while you're still asleep. It is estimated that fewer than one hundred thousand people in the U.S. have the ability to have lucid dreams.

Although Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung agreed that dreams were of psychological origin, they differed in their theories. And while I somewhat agree with Freud’s dream theories that were based on the ideas of repressed longing (the desires that we aren't able to express in a social setting), my belief are more in line with Jung, who felt that dreams allowed us to reflect on our waking selves and solve our problems or think through issues.

Searching through the numerous dream interpretation websites, I found out that being able to breathe underwater in your dreams is a way to regain control, a way of surviving although you are overwhelmed by everything around you. It’s true that there are challenges in my life right now and I also hold it to be true that I am in fact surviving every test – all because of the faith I have in God. I may not bring the superpower of being able to breathe underwater to my real, waking life, but my survival relies largely on my God-given ability to work through crisis and carry my cross. My unwavering faith gives me the freedom and confidence to face every challenge and the power to rise above any given circumstance.

From experience alone, I have come to know that my dreams allow me to see things from a different perspective, and they stimulate an untapped area of my brain which helps me solve whatever issue I am faced with. Because I know that dreams provide me with clues and messages, I pay special attention to recurring dreams. Dreaming of the same thing over and over is difficult to ignore so instead of shrugging it off, I dig deeper and think about what is going on in my life and I usually come up with an interpretation that makes sense to me. This is similar to seeing “signs” or seemingly innocent occurrences that happen in our lives that we cannot explain, but once put together, we are always able to unlock the code to a nagging question. Link to “Just Follow The Signs” to read more about this topic.

So before you dismiss a dream, analyze your current situation, or issues that you need to deal with and ask yourself if your dream is sending you messages and any significance it may bring to your life. If many have mastered lucid dreaming ~ taking control of your dreams ~ so can you! It will not only strengthen your confidence, but it will also enhance your problem solving skills. Link to “Dream Views” to learn how to control your dreams so you, too can master your ability to breathe underwater!

Sweet Dreams!

Remembering Dad

Hello everyone! I can't find a better way to introduce this special video that my brother put together, and instead of posting it on my blog, I'm directing you to The Greatest World Hero's page

Thank you bro, for this beautiful video! I'm sure dad is watching over us. He will forever remain in our hearts.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wake Up Call

I found this video very compelling that I had to share it with my readers. I commend Dr. Wafa Sultan for bravely voicing her opinion on Islam and Terrorism. When asked why she agreed to do the interview, she said she's trying to change the mentality of her people, that by changing their way of thinking, she's changing their behavior which will eventually change their future.

While we cannot force our own belief and ideals on others, peace can still be achieved between two individuals or among countries once we learn to respect each other for the human beings that we are. Religion plays a significant role in our lives, it's the source of our morality that influences our behavior. We are divided by the way we worship and who we worship, yet there stands one commonality between us when we both say our own religion is the true religion, when we say our religion dictates only what is moral and teaches mankind to love and respect life. When we learn to accept and show kindness towards others, regardless of religion, then peace is not far behind.

It only takes one person to start a ripple, but we can produce a wave of change if we all work together.

Thanks to The Greatest World Hero for sharing this video with me.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Where the Grass is Greener

According to the March 2007 Annual Flow Report submitted by The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Immigration Statistics, in the year 2006, a total of 449,065 individuals were granted immigrant visas, wherein 9,539 were eligible for special immigrant status, and another 5,836,718 were granted non immigrant visas, allowing these lucky individuals to enter the United States. The report also showed that 1,266,264 became Legal Permanent Residents of the U.S., in which 65% already lived in the United States. Mexico ranks number 1 as having the most immigrants with 173,753; China comes 2nd with 87,345 and Philippines ranked 3rd with 74,607 legal permanent residents. Non-Immigrant admissions for 2005 account for 175.4 million. Since non-immigrants may enter the US multiple times a year, this figure is based on the number of arrivals rather than individuals. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), currently known as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), estimates that in January of 2000 there were 7 million illegal aliens living in the United States, a number that is growing by half a million a year.

So why do more and more people migrate internationally? You don’t have to come from a third world country to understand the burning desire to cross borders. The National Geographic and Travel Channels (preferably in HDTV ) open the doorway to these impoverished countries in the comfort of your own home, with the occasional plug that a dollar goes a long way to help feed and educate a child from one of these countries. All of sudden, you become more appreciative of the coca~cola you have in hand and feel a tinge of guilt for leaving the water running while you brush your teeth. While documentaries of child labor can stir your compassion, you need to have a first hand experience to truly internalize and comprehend the mindset of these individuals and why the longing to escape their brutal environment grows as their hope for a brighter future dwindles. Unlike birds migrating south to escape the bitter climate of winter, people do a mass exodus for a number of reasons, whether to flee from social or political turmoil or the prospect of an increased economic opportunity is too great to ignore. In any case, people decide to leave when conditions in their homeland are no longer satisfactory and when conditions in another are more attractive. For these people, they’d rather fight the loneliness they’ll feel while in a foreign land and take their chance to make a better living for themselves and their family, than die in a futile attempt in their own territory.

People will do just about anything to have the chance to try their luck and roam where the grass is greener, like girls on the internet, searching for their “prince charming” who will sweep them off their feet and bring them to the promised land. The US embassy is bombarded everyday with hopeful tourists, immigrants, skilled and unskilled worker applicants and only a small portion are granted a visa that will open the doors to the realization of their much awaited dreams. Some of those who are not fortunate enough, go home with sad, defeated look on their faces, not sure how to tell their loved ones that they have just been denied, while others walk out with a stronger conviction that next time lady luck will be on their side.

Others may oppose the growing number of immigrants, with claims of migrant workers taking over jobs that should otherwise be filled by local residents, increase in welfare claims and cost of immigration which the tax payers are burdened with, etc. But if our ancestors were given the opportunity to start anew on U.S. soil, why can’t others be afforded the same chance? On this note, I’d like to share a link that hopeful applicants may find useful. Although the website targets immigrants from India, the website contains general information on applying for a visa (i.e. visitor, business, H1, fiancĂ©, spouse, student) as well as applying for a green card and U.S. Citizenship. The interview preparation tips are a must read for someone applying for a visitor visa and read about other people’s consulate experiences through the discussion forum.

Here are some tips when applying for a visa and when going for an interview:

--Get information on the visa process
--Prepare your documents neatly and completely
--Prepare for the most commonly asked questions
--Arrive early for your interview
--Ask for an interpreter if you are not fluent in English. (or don’t be afraid
to ask to repeat the question if it’s unclear)
--Be physically prepared (dress nicely)
--Provide concise answers. Be confident with your answers (don’t give more
details than necessary. It may only lead to more questions)
--Communicate politely and in a comprehensive way.
--The primary goal for the interview is to verify all information presented in the application and to make sure that you have enough ties back in your home country and will come back after your visit to the United States.Documents and interview questions are a few ways through which the consulate officer tries to determine the eligibility for the visa grant.

As I always say, things happen in perfect timing. If you get denied a visa, it’s probably not the right time for you to migrate. Have faith that God (whoever you believe to be your God is) has only good plans for you and being denied a visa could only mean that something better may come your way. If you are one of the few lucky ones, remember to give thanks for your good fortune and share your blessings with others! Good luck and Godspeed!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Memento Mori

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
-- Mark Twain

Mark Twain’s quote encourages us to reach and live our dreams, to let go of our fears and plunge into a chasm of the unknown, to bravely discover our full potential while we have the opportunity. How many times have you said or heard someone say: "If I could only turn back time..." This phrase is often followed by "I would have done things differently" or "I would have started saving for retirement" or "I would have bought more shares of that stock" or "I would have had these lifted, my lips plumped, this or that tucked" or whatever it is that you didn't do, you wish you could have done 1, 7 or 15 years ago. More often than not, we end up wondering what could have been had we chosen the other option. Even if we knew what would make us happy, we still managed to veer towards what would eventually bring less satisfaction and sometimes even resentment. If only you followed your instincts and went with the decision you initially felt would be the best choice, you wouldn’t have wasted your time, emotions and energy living the consequences of your miscalculations. If only we didn't allow ourselves to be held captive by our own indecisiveness, then maybe we would have made the right decision from the beginning without having to blame ourselves by saying: “If only we could turn back time.”

While Mark Twain contributed to the initial inspiration for writing this article, my previous attempts to compose have all been unsuccessful. Each time I moved forward, I’d stumble and become lost for words. I couldn't quite express the picture I'm envisioning in my mind. There was something missing. After my third attempt of writing and re-writing, I almost gave up and considered to withdraw the article altogether. It’s been several days since I started it, but I could not (for the life of me!) find a central theme for my article that would create that unique personality which would distinguish it from the other articles I’ve written. I wanted a theme that would tie in more closely with its title: Memento Mori. This is why it took me awhile to publish this post. Contrary to the accusations of being lazy, I was faced with a real dilemma! I was simply not making the connection.

The desire to publish my next post made me turn to the one I always turn to in times of need. God. I prayed for God to stir my compassion and lead me in my mission to help through my posts, those who cry out for what we take for granted. I asked that barriers be removed so words will come out spontaneously. I waited.

I was in the shower when an idea came to me! It’s funny (as in funny ha-ha, not funny in a weird way), what you can come up with while in the shower, as if the act of massaging shampoo in your hair stimulates your brain that results in the formation of ideas, or the water pouring on your head are actual words that penetrate through your follicles and into your brain. An idea pops up in your head the instant the hot (mild or cold) water (words) hits your head. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. I wonder how many inventions came about from this ritual? Jokingly, I made a mental note not to think of anything heavy while in the shower from now on. (God really has a sense of humor) I was so excited that I could not wait to get started.

After taking my son to school, I went to St. Joseph’s. I gathered my purse, my phone (in case I get a phone call from school), and my laptop and headed inside. There was only one other person knelt in front of the altar. Despite of walking in quietly, I must have made a loud enough ruckus during my entrance because the man turned around, took a quick glance at me and proceeded praying. I don’t know if my entrance created a disturbance or if he was just naturally curious to see who entered the church. (I wondered if the man thought the closer he situated himself to the altar, the louder God can hear him.) Feeling guilty, I quickly dismissed the thought and I took a seat in the last pew behind him, away from the man’s peripheral vision. I set my things down more quietly this time as I didn’t want to create another diversion. I whispered an apology as soon as I knelt. I said my usual thanksgiving prayer and my usual cry for help (does God ever get tired of hearing the same prayer over and over). I ended by asking God to impart some of His words of wisdom and help me finish my article. After praying, I was on a mission to find an inconspicuous place where I can plug my laptop. After a minute of walking around, I settled in a remote end of a vestibule, where extra chairs, lecterns and various seasonal decors were stored. A chair was set facing the window, as if waiting for my arrival. I decided it was a good place where no one can see me with my laptop. (If someone did approach me, I’ll just say that that’s where God had beckoned me to take His dictations. I don’t think anyone would challenge that!) There was only one caveat: no outlet to plug in my laptop. Racing against my battery’s short life, I proceeded to type, saving every other sentence. Ideas came slowly at first. I was not prepared for what soon followed.

Forget thesaurus. I typed like I’ve never typed before. Words were forming in my mind faster than my fingers can type. Forget about spelling. I knew my article would require major editing but all I cared about was catching up with the ideas that were pouring like water on my head. I even had a nano second to invent a term for my newly discovered technique: Heartyping. Heart + typing = Heartyping. It’s my own writing technique, wherein you take dictations from your heart, even if words didn’t form complete sentences. Heartyping is feeling with your heart and typing those emotions/words onto your screen, as fast as you can, without worrying about grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Right then and there, I found what was missing in my prior attempts. I failed to see the real message behind “Memento Mori”. Until then. I found that I just needed to engage my heart! I was so caught up with the pressure to come up with a central idea, that I was thinking with my head, instead of feeling with my heart! My heart is what was missing! Although Mark Twain’s quote tells us that regrets can be avoided by banishing fears and taking a leap of faith, this is not what I hope to write about (actually, this is not a bad idea for future posts). It’s the idea that life is too short to waste on frivolous issues so we should seize every moment by doing the things that are most fulfilling to us and what brings us the most joy. (But this doesn't mean you can go on a shooting spree if this is what brings you fulfillment! There's still Karma! Please seek professional help!!) Engage your heart in anything and everything that you intend to do and you will more likely live a happy, fulfilled life provided all your intentions are good and will not inflict harm on anyone.

Sitting in that corner in sweet surrender to God’s wisdom, my heart was filled to bursting! (although my fingers did feel like bursting) I typed in complete sentences and hanging phrases, I typed everything I felt, remarks, anything that came to mind. I trusted that all the words my fingers were typing will make sense in the end. Several minutes of heartyping led me to the one, most important element of life: The human heart ~ the only part of our body capable of producing an overpowering emotion: Love.

“For God so love the world that He gave His only Son.” So why question God’s love when you’re behind on mortgage, or in between jobs, or when you didn’t get that BMW or a trip around the world for your birthday? Can we be more superficial than this? No sacrifice is greater than the sacrifice He made for us, because of His tremendous love for us. (amazing! My fingers typed this?)

Memento Mori. Remember you are mortal, therefore you should seize every moment that you are alive. Life is a gift from God and we should not waste a minute of it wallowing in self-pity or resentment over bad choices. Memento Mori. Remember you are mortal so make a commitment to enjoy even the simplest pleasures, to give thanks for all your blessings, to treasure life and surround yourself with love. Do you need to apologize to someone but pride is getting in the way? Do you have the urge to find a long lost friend? When was the last time you sat down with your kids, took them to the park or out for ice cream? Do you want to ask someone out on a date but afraid of being rejected? Want to try something new but afraid of failing? Are you holding back on letting someone know how you truly feel? What about those books you've been meaning to read or write? Have you even started? Well, what are you waiting for? (the cows to come home?) Let go of your insecurities and fears. Seize the moment! Not later, not tomorrow or the next day. The time is NOW. Whether you’re afraid of rejection or failure, or doubt your ability to make decisions, you will never go wrong when you follow your heart. Like I said, you will less likely regret your decision if this is what your heart dictates you to follow.

They say in heaven, love comes first. We have all the possibilities to make heaven a place on earth. Doesn’t it feel great to be in love all the time? Being in love doesn’t mean just being in love with the opposite sex. You can be in love with your kids, your pets, your passion for art, or in love with life, or whatever it is that brings inspiration into your life. You can even be in love with love itself! Does this sound crazy? Of course not! You feel good about yourself and your smile exudes confidence that radiates towards the people around you. Sometimes when I think about how much God loves us, my lips acquire a life of their own and they uncontrollably start to stretch across my face and I start giggling like there’s something wrong with me or something and I have to fight the urge to shout at the top of my lungs: “God loves you!!!” (but I knew if I did that, people will really look at me like there’s definitely something wrong with this woman!) Do you ever get that feeling? I tell you, it’s wonderful! (excuse me while I force myself to stop grinning). People at work think there’s a new man in my life because I seem to be happy and inspired all the time. So, I thought I’d play along and keep them wondering who the “mystery man” is. Little did they know, I’m in love with love itself! Seize the moment and feel the love around you.

Memento Mori. By accepting the truth about our own mortality, we will be compelled to take advantage of the present time ~ to "seize the moment" while we can and follow through on what we want to accomplish. You need not wait a few years or a decade from now to realize that happiness could have been achieved if you initially followed your heart.

Seeing that my battery was about to give up, I punched the save button. My laptop beeped and I was soon staring at a black screen. I quickly gathered my things, made the sign of the cross and said “Thank you, God!” and drove to Starbucks. Although Starbucks was just another minute away from my house, I wanted to capture my thoughts while they were still fresh (ok, that’s a lame excuse for wanting to enjoy a cup of java). I ordered a Grande Mocha Frappuccino, no whip cream. Seeing there was someone sitting in my favorite stuffed Pier 1 chair (too occupied with a textbook to even look up, clearly a student) and another student who took advantage of the corner table, I asked the girl where I could plug in my laptop. She showed me to a corner where she helpfully pulled a chair and a table for me to get my work done. When my document came to life on my screen, I was pleased to see that it was saved in its entirety. I went over what I had typed and I was astonished to see the tremendous progress I made in one church sitting than I had in the past several days. With a sip of my frappuccino, I began to edit my work. It was 3:20 by the time I decided to stop, barely enough time to get to my son’s school to pick him up from his pajama party.

Just as I had started the car, Des’ree’s voice on the radio crooned: “All I know, all I know, love will save the day!” Indeed it had!

Thank you, Papa God! Until our next collaboration.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Cup Should Never Be Half Empty

"Hi good morning. What can I get for you today?" said the voice in the drive thru intercom. "Good morning", I replied. "I'll have a tall soy, no foam, 2 raw sugar latte please." "Would you care for a pastry to go with that this morning?" "No, Thank you." "Ok, your total comes to $2.90 at the window. Thank you." I crawled forward to let the person in the car behind me place their order. When I got to the window, I paid for my latte. The voice in the intercom belonged to the same girl who takes my order everyday since they opened their new location near the freeway. She handed me my latte and I tested the weight of the cup. You can tell they put foam in your latte if the cup feels light, an indication that the cup is filled with foam that is about half an inch from the top. The weight of my cup felt like they prepared my latte according to my instructions. I was pleased that for the first time, I didn't have to give them back the cup to take the foam out and add more milk. I smiled and the girl proudly beamed right back. As a small reward, I handed the girl a dollar to add to their tips box outside the window. She thanked me and told me to have a great day. "You, too!" I said and drove away.

My latte was made extra hot this morning (even though I didn't order it that way) so it wasn't until I reached downtown was when I was able to take my first sip of my coffee. I frowned. They didn't use soy milk! I pulled the cup's sleeve down to see if the instructions were there and they were. I took another sip and I was sure my latte was not made with soy milk. Feeling frustrated that they still could not get my drink right, after, how long have they been open? I can't even remember now. I go there because it's conveniently near the freeway and I just love Starbucks that I could not go a day without it. Besides, Starbucks is known for its customer satisfaction. They always apologize profusely after messing up your order and they compensate you with a voucher for a free drink of your choice on your next visit. Besides, every time I complain about my drink, I feel like I'm giving them a gift. Read my Complaint As A Gift article to find out what I mean.

I looked at the time. It was 7:30 and I was almost at the Q Street exit that leads me to work. I contemplated on whether or not to go back to Starbucks, which was a good 25 minutes away. I quickly calculated the time. If I do go back, that would mean I'll be a half hour late for work, but I'd get what I paid for. If I don't go back, I'll be early for work but I'll scorn myself the entire day for not standing up for what was rightfully mine. I did, afterall, pay for it and added a dollar tip, for what? For messing up my order yet again? When will they ever get my drink right? It's not that complicated compared to the more complex custom-made drinks I hear other people order. It irks me to see other people get pushed or stepped on and they don't say anything about it. And this morning, I made up my mind to go back to Starbucks and demand, in a nice way of course, for them to get my drink straight. It's not just getting what I paid for, it's standing up for my right as a loyal patron of their establishment!

I called the office to let them know I was going to be late. It was 8 o'clock when I reached Starbucks. The drive thru had a mile long line so, being pressed for time, I went inside. Luckily, there were more people who chose to wait in their cars than to go inside, even if it would have taken them lesser time. The girl who was at the drive thru had switched stations with the guy who made my order. I got her attention and with a smile, I told her that my drink was not made with soy milk. I could tell she was disappointed because she was certain my drink was prepared as specified. I told her the drink was too hot that I didn't get a taste until I got downtown. She apologized profusely, took the lid off to see if there was any foam, and sure enough, the cup was filled with milk, just not soy. She felt embarrassed because in her mind, she was probably counting the times they messed up my order. She apologized again and I told her it was okay. She started to make my drink. She whispered something to the manager and the manager nodded. The girl promised it will take only a minute. I nodded. After a short while, I was given a fresh cup of latte, made my way. She also handed me a voucher for a free drink on my next visit. I sincerely said thank you. The manager apologized as well and bade me a good day. I waved and said, "You, too!"

Inside the car, I tested my coffee's temperature. Just right. Ahhh, soy! I looked at the voucher and the front cover had a cut-out coffee cup that was filled half-way. Inside, when opened, is a picture of a coffee cup filled to the top and in big letters it read: "A cup should never be half empty." It also said something to the effect that they were sorry my experience was less than wonderful and to enjoy a cup on them the next time I visit and they hoped my next visit will be a good one. Now that's customer service, I thought to myself and drove off to go to work.

Just as I had calculated, I got to work half hour later than my scheduled time. I gave up my lunch break to make up for the time I was late but that was okay. Before getting out of the car, I re-read the caption: A cup should never be half empty. Hence, the inspiration behind this article.

There is a lesson to be learned from this experience. The caption not only says that Starbucks is committed to providing stellar customer service and that they value their customers, but it also says a lot about how we should live our lives, how we should treat ourselves in order to get what we want in life. Think about it for a minute. Ponder the words and let them sink into your consciousness. Say the words slowly and savor what it truly means. A CUP SHOULD NEVER BE HALF EMPTY.

What it means to me: This tells me to be optimistic about life, to view the cup as being half full rather than pessimistically view it as half empty. It validates my belief to be grateful for all the blessings I currently have rather than dwell on the things I don't have. Having handed the voucher also signifies that I should stand up for my rights. If someone does you wrong, whether intentional or not, speak up! Although we may not have control over what life throws our way, we can control the direction we want to go. Treat yourself with respect because in the end, you will only have yourself to stand up for what you believe in. No one else will do this for you because no one knows you better than you know yourself. You know what you want and you know what you need to do to get whatever it is you desire. Your cup = your life = your cup of life, should be filled with things (i.e. beliefs, culture, religion or whatever is pleasing to you), events and people that contribute to your well-being and are helpful in achieving your maximum potential. Your cup of life should be overflowing with the best things life has to offer. Don't settle for anything less. When you see your cup starts to get low, work on filling it back up again. You have whatever it takes to keep your cup full. You have whatever it takes to live your life to the fullest. Trust in yourself. YOU ARE YOUR BEST ALLY! Be loyal to your friends and family, but be loyal to yourself first and foremost.

Lessons can be learned just about anywhere and just about everything has a lesson to teach. Be observant and before you dismiss an event, take a few minutes to analyze what life wants to teach you. You'd be surprised what lessons you can pick up just by watching the ants, or ducks flying south for the winter, or babies who are learning to walk for the first time, and so on.

Open your mind and heart to all the possibilities and you, too, will begin to see your cup as half full, if not overflowing.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Magic Is All Around Us

Indeed, magic is all around us. If you don't already know this by now, just look around you, better yet, look in the mirror. Is it any wonder that you are at this moment, living, breathing, thinking, reading this article? Do you ever wonder how our body and mind know to shut down for the evening and restart in the morning? And if you're used to waking up at a certain time everyday, your body eventually knows when to wake up at the exact same time even without setting your alarm clock. What happens when we sleep anyway? We close our eyes and it seems like we're instantly transported into the vastness of black space. Then as if on cue, our minds arouse from slumber and we're back to our present time. What about the memories that we start storing in our brains since childhood? I want to know how many gigabytes our brains can save. Does anyone else ask the same question? Anyway, if you know the answers, please do tell.

Going back on track, I was talking about magic being all around us. Just look at the trees, the birds in your backyard, the sky, your pets, the sunrise and the sunset, and of course, babies! It's amazing how a single cell can miraculously form into a baby, isn't it? Magic! Oh, by the way, those of you that are in the Northern part of the US are supposed to see periodical cicadas, also known as (drum roll please) Magicicada, emerge between now and June 1.

The bugs belong to the largest group, or brood, of periodical cicadas—insects that spend most of their lives as nymphs, burrowed underground and sucking sap from tree roots. They emerge once every 17 years, transform into adults, do the business of reproduction, and then die. Populations of the periodical cicada species are synchronized, so that almost all of them mature into adults in the same year. The fact that periodical cicadas remain locked together in time is made even more amazing by their extremely long life-cycles of 13 or 17 years. Don't ask me how these insects keep track of time and know when to emerge at their 13th or 17th year of being burrowed underground. I supposed that's how their life cycle was programmed (I wonder if their programming got affected by Y2K?). Instincts, hence their name MAGICicadas?

Life is full of mysteries and I think that's what makes it great to be alive in this universe. There's so much mystery to uncover and life is more exciting with each and every new discovery...such as a cure for a disease, a lipstick that plumps your lips, the discovery of SS Republic filled with gold and silver coins amounting to $500 Million, a cream that diminishes wrinkles and fades dark spots, or what about the coelacanths that should have gone extinct along with the dinosaurs but are miraculously still seen today in some parts of the world, or M Theory simply explained by a "Signtist". I'll let my brother explain the latter to you.

There's just so much magic around us that it's difficult to not see and feel it. It's like all the forces are working together to bring it to you. Last week my co-worker said that it made for a great week for me. Not only did I see the whales, but I also got to meet Magic Johnson at work the next day. How often do these things happen? Usually, you'd have to go the distance to see the whales and meet celebrities, but what do you call it when they come to you? Magic - #32 inspired me to write this article. I found him to be a really nice person. He took the time to sign autographs and take pictures. His humility instantly placed him on my A list.

This post comes with one wish: for everyone to realize that they are surrounded by beauty and goodness, no matter what circumstance they are in. So what if the person didn't say thank you after opening the door for him or her? Your good manners say alot about you and so does the other person's lack of. Why would anybody want to be affected by negativity and wallow in misery? It's true that misery loves company, but when your BFF is having a bad hair day or feel like playing connect the dots on her face, instead of spending the day in hiding, offer her a baseball cap that says "princess" on it, or let her borrow your new 2in1 zitzapper/concealer! Let her know that while you sympathize with her, you will not let her feel ugly about herself.

I know the above example is petty compared to what we realistically go through in life. The point is, life has so many good things to offer. I know it's difficult to think positively amidst a lot of stress or pain. Things happen for a reason. You need to learn to accept these events and learn the lessons they bring. Your faith will determine how you rise against the odds. When you come to a crossroad in your life and are faced with a difficult decision, search within your heart and go with what you strongly FEEL about. Notice I didn't say go with what you THINK is right, because I believe that the heart plays a major role in leading us to the right choice. You need to make a commitment to love yourself and those around you. Once you make that commitment,you will see that you will not allow anything to happen that could harm you in any way.

You have the choice to be happy or sad. I haven't met anybody who prefers to be sad or angry or poor. Sometimes things occur beyond our control but we can always control our reactions. Always remember that we are not left without a choice. We were created with the empowerment to take control of our destiny. It's important to believe in yourself and embrace your capability to shape your life the way you truly want to.

Magic happens every minute of every day whether you notice it or not. However, only when you choose to see the good in others, will you see and genuinely appreciate the magic everywhere.

When life throws you a curve ball, focus on the ball and hit it with all your might. You may just score a homerun! --lmg

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Savior(s) Among Us

By now, everyone knows about the Mother and calf whales that found their way to the Sacramento River, 70 miles from where they're supposed to be. It was Mother's Day, May 13, 2007 when the Coast Guard first received report of whale sightings just off the town of Rio Vista. By Tuesday, they have moved far upstream, several miles south of West Sacramento. The whales' dramatic turn north caused federal wildlife officials to intensify their rescue operations.

After chasing the whereabouts of the whales, my brother and I finally saw them today at the Port of Sacramento. Cops patroled the area and although wildlife experts are worried that the crowds could distress the animals, they would not stop anyone from coming for a look.

Even if we didn't exactly know the way, the number of cars and people gathered on the levees made it easy for us to find the location. Cops dutifully ushered cars that came in and out of the makeshift parking lot. My brother and I excitedly found a vacant "space" to park the van and trudged up the dirt road, leaving a cloud of dust behind us. After about a quarter mile hike, we claimed our spots.

We must have waited about five minutes before we got our first glimpse of the whale. We weren't sure if it was the mom or the calf, since my son's binoculars didn't allow a much closer look but thanks to our camera's zoom capability, we were able to get decent shots from where we stood.

The whales surfaced every few minutes much to the spectators' delight. Young and old, men and women, people of all race and nationality gathered to see the whales. It was afterall, a once (maybe twice) in a lifetime opportunity to see whales practically in your backyard. After watching the whales for about an hour, we decided to leave. On our way back, there were still a big number of people that were just arriving to watch the whales.

Now that we have seen the whales, our wish is for the rescue team to lead the whales safely back into the Pacific Ocean before the mother and calf gets too distressed and weak.

As I'm typing this story, I couldn't help but think why these whales have lost their way. It's not the first time that a whale has been stranded in the Sacramento River. In 1985, Humphry the humpback whale also visited Sacramento and it took the rescuers 27 days to lead him back to the ocean by use of whale sounds.

In my post "Just Follow The Signs" (to read, click this link)
I stated that seemingly innocent occurrences may actually be signs or messages from God. They happen to teach us a lesson. So what lesson can we learn from these whales?

I learned that there are a number of reasons why whales get lost or stranded. Most cetaceans use their own form of sonar and are sensitive to the Earth’s magnetic field – they use both of these to navigate and find their food. Several things can affect these otherwise amazing skills:

Navigation error – whales and dolphins sometimes get lost as they use the Earth’s magnetic fields to navigate the seas. There are a number of things (that we don’t yet fully understand) that may cause the animals to become confused, causing them to mis-read these magnetic lines and become lost.

Noise pollution – anthropogenic (human-made) noise from drilling, dredging, shipping, offshore developments and seismic surveys can cause disorientation and distress.

Naval sonar – the effects of sound waves from submarines used by the military (for detecting other submarines, ships etc) can disorientate whales and dolphins.

Some species of cetaceans are very social animals and travel in family groups following a dominant leader. Tragically, if the group leader is sick and swims into shallow water, all the others may follow and become stranded together.

Since the whales' appearance on Sunday, rescuers have been watching their progress and now the rescue operations are intensified. What message can we learn from these whales? It's quite simple, actually. We are reminded that no matter how big or small a creature is, there comes a time when it needs to be rescued. In this case, even one of the biggest mammals need rescuing when they lose their way.

Similar to human beings, we often lose our way and in our desperate moments, we call out to be rescued from our problems, bad habits or addictions. We call to someone to pull us out of the quicksand that we let ourselves get trapped into. We call out for a savior. That savior maybe your mom, your dad, a spouse, a child, a sibling, a friend, a neighbor, a mentor, a spiritual advisor, or God (whoever you believe that to be, Jesus, Allah, Jehovah, or Yahweh).

There are times when we also assume the role of a savior especially with our loved ones and friends. Devoting a few minutes of our time to listen to a distressed family member or friend is all it takes sometimes. They just need to know that they are very much worth our time. You never know that even a few minutes can save a life. That is why there are a number of Crisis Prevention Helpline or Save A Life Helplines where people unselfishly volunteer their time. Why? Because they care and they know that they are able to make a difference and their contributions can save lives.

So the next time you are asked for a few minutes, don't hesitate to drop whatever you are doing and take a moment to sincerely listen! God gave us two ears so we'll listen twice as much as we speak. There are times when words are not necessary as long as our presence is felt.

To many, the whales are just another spectacle, but to me, they are a reminder of God's greatness and that sometimes His message can be delivered in the form of a sign or a dream or in this case, a mother and calf pair. If our hearts are open to His messages, our conversations with God will never cease.

To Delta and Dawn -- Godspeed!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Meeting God Halfway

I recently watched the movie "Conversations With God", based on the life story of the book's author, Neale Donald Walsch. The movie dramatizes his life's events, from being homeless, to receiving those mystical dictations that led to his becoming a best selling author.

In 1990, he experienced a car accident resulting in a broken neck, which propelled him into a downward spiral of job loss, poverty, and homelessness. Eventually, he began to ask existential questions that many people ask, "What is the meaning of life? Why am I here?"

In 1995, he heard a voice asking, "Have you had enough yet? Are you ready now?"

God had come calling to answer those questions. This question and answer format served as the basis for the Conversations with God.

Watching Conversations With God reminded me of the movie The Pursuit of Happyness (no, that's not a typo. That's really how it's spelled). Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith) "chose" to pursue his dream of becoming a stock broker, whereas Neale Donald Walsch's success came upon through dictations or conversations with God. Both characters went through poverty and homelessness before having realized what would truly make them happy.

I asked myself why do we need to get to the lowest point of our lives to realize or even have the courage to ask God what is it that He really wants from us? Why do we have to go through such pain and misery before we come to our senses and begin to open ourselves to His "healing powers"?

Okay. So we don't realize what we have until it's all gone. But do we really have to wait until we lose everything? Come to think of it, on the other hand, the most sincere prayer that we can utter are the ones where we are at God's mercy, when all hope fails and it's only Him we can turn to.

I gave my post the title Meeting God Halfway for two reasons: First is to know that we do not have to lose everything to begin surrendering to Him, accepting His ways and being open to ideas that can take us where He wants us to be. We can accept and surrender to Him BEFORE we become miserable and hopeless. That we need to summon the courage to ask Him for our purpose while we still have our jobs, our houses, and our loved ones. Second, meeting God halfway means DOING YOUR PART AND LETTING HIM DO HIS PART. Makes sense? What I'm saying is, God helps those who help themselves! Do your best and God will do the rest. This means sharing your talents and using the resources given to you to bring about meaningful change in people's lives. You will be rewarded in ways you have not imagined.

The movie "Conversations with God" also inspired me to spread the message of ONENESS of The Humanity's Team. It is truly enriching to learn the existence of this team because I myself, am an advocate of spreading goodwill. In my own little and humble way, I've been plugging my message to the world through my posts and articles. My heart is bursting with happiness with the knowledge that I am ONE with The Humanity's Team and that I share their mission and agree with their Core Beliefs and everything that the team stands for.

To learn more about their mission and purpose, visit their website:

You will also find ways to volunteer not only in your own Region, but you could also do volunteer work internationally!

Together as ONE, we can change the world! Each of us are messengers of God and everyone has something that they can share with everybody. We may have different religion, live in different countries, have different cultures, but we all share the same dream of living in unity and peace with one another.

For more inspiring, thought provoking and enlightening messages, also visit:

The Greatest World Hero:

In closing, I'd like to borrow my brother's message to the world:
E Pluribus Unum ~ In Difference We Are One

Monday, May 7, 2007

Just Follow The Signs

You have an appointment with your new dentist. You are unfamiliar with their location. You go online, type your starting address and your address of destination to get directions to your new dentist's office and you scribble this on a piece of napkin. You reset your mileage counter to zero, follow the directions exactly and you get to your appointment with your breath still feeling minty fresh from having brushed 15 minutes ago. Thanks to Yahoo! maps, you never have to drive around for hours and if you're directionally challenged like me, you'll never have to bother with a cumbersome map.

I love how our journey to unfamiliar territory is made easy with directions that are precisely laid out for us. What I'm also grateful for is when people take the time to post extra signs that point to their garage, yard and estate sales! One newspaper advertisement I particularly liked, boasted the lines: "You will not get lost. There will be lots of signs!" You can just drive around on the weekend and follow the luminous yellow, or green or hot pink signs and you'll eventually end up in front of somebody's yard with their merchandise sprawled out. Some people, however, only post a few stray signs and hope for the best. I wonder how much business these people drive towards their sale?

Anyway, a garage sale sign catches your attention and decide to pursue it. A couple of minutes later you find yourself wondering if you're going the right direction because the signs are too few and far in between. With your persistence, you follow your instinct and voila! You find your target and start rummaging and haggling for prices.

So you see, signs are very helpful in a way that they lead us to where we want to be. When in doubt, we rely on our instincts.

Getting to your appointments on time or finding neighborhood garage sales is not what my post is about. My post's real message is more than finding your way around traffic or a maze of houses. That was merely to give you an analogy of following directions, or signs ~ real life signs that we often take for granted, but are actually directions in disguise that lead us to our choices in life.

As I've mentioned in my previous post, seemingly innocent occurrences in our lives can be the key pieces to unveiling an even bigger picture.

Let me give you an example of how I interpret these heavenly signals.

After dropping off my son at school yesterday, I visited our local church. I enjoy going to church when I know I can be alone, or when there's only a few fellow weekday visitors on occasion. I like to close my eyes and imagine God sitting in front of me with His Fatherly concern gaze, intently listening to everything I had to share. After giving thanks for all my blessings, I proceeded to have my one-way conversation with God. I pleaded for answers and desperately needed to hear a bird's chirp, or rustling of the wind, or see an old man entering the church, or any sign that will tell me He's listening. After no sign was given, I again gave thanks for I know that sign or no sign He heard me, and I left for home.

Traffic was unusually heavy for an early afternoon weekday. Still consumed with my one-way conversation that I started in church, I slowed near a shopping entrance to let a van merge with traffic. The driver waved his hand and mouthed a "thank you". The light blue van got in front of me and to my surprise, the license plate read: 1MYTGOD!

Was it coincidence that I chose to slow down to give way to this van at that moment? I think not! I may not have gotten a sign when I asked for it in church, but right in front of me was a manifestation that clearly, undoubtedly told me that GOD WAS LISTENING! The sign came when I least expected it. Even after receiving numerous signs, I still can't help but be in awe after receiving each one. Sometimes I chuckle when I get signs that are funny and unexpected. It tells me that God has a sense of humor and that He does work in mysterious ways!

Some may call this occurrence a coincidence, but because I was asking for a sign, I knew that this was God's way of communicating with me. I was at the right place, at the right time to receive His message: that He heard everything I shared with Him.

Signs or heavenly answers are meant for people seeking for these clues. One incident may mean something to me, when it can be utterly useless to someone else. In return, other's perceived answers to their prayers may mean nothing to me. I guess what I'm trying to say is, God answers us in ways that we sometimes take for granted. Seemingly innocent occurrences in our lives, no matter what point in our lives they occur, may give us clues to where God wants to lead us.

Is there a word that constantly pops up in your head, or a song that you can't seem to get out of your mind, or maybe an object that persistently catches your attention? Or what about a person's name that you're inexplicably attached to? What about your fears? Have you stopped for a minute and analyze why these have such vivid presence in your life? Maybe these are "signs" that you ought to look deeper into. When you realize what these things actually mean to you, you will begin to see that God has been trying to tell you something.

For instance:

I've been scared of spiders ever since I can remember. I get squeamish when I see one, especially big brown spiders that carry their egg sac under their belly. I scream and run away at the sight of these unsightly, hairy arachnids. I don't even have the courage to throw something at them let alone smash them with a broomstick. One night, as I recalled my indigestible incident with a cockroach, (to read that article, click here)There's A Roach In My Milk

I found myself wondering why I have such fear for spiders. Then I thought about their characters and their behaviors. Then I thought about their method of catching their preys with their web.Then it came to me! Web! I knew this was another one of God's message to me.

In my earlier post, I wanted to make a difference in other people's lives but didn't know how to spread my message of goodwill. (click here to read that article)
What Keeps You Grounded

That night, I got my answer. What better venue to reach millions of audience than on the Internet...known as the world wide WEB? You may think I'm delusional for construing this as a "sign" from up above. Again, what means something to me, can be utterly meaningless to another person.

I still rely on my instincts when I come face to face with what could possibly be a sign or an answered prayer. I can't even begin to explain the feeling when you realize God has just answered one of your questions. You feel giddy and excited, you are in awe of how the answer all came about, you get that EUREKA-kind of feeling, like you've just discovered gold, and you feel stupid for having ignored the signs and the answer has been staring at you all along. You just feel it in your heart that God is communing with you.

This is just one of the many signs, or clues, or coincidences if you must, that I've come across in my life. There are countless others and I will share more in my future posts. The next time you ask God for a sign, go with what your instincts tell you and don't be surprised if He answers you with a burnt out light, or a feather on your windshield, or a plate that reads 1MYTGOD.

Directions to how we should live our lives have been laid out for us, if we believe and just follow the signs.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

There's A Roach In My Milk

I woke up in the middle of the night. It was hot and humid. The oscillating fan in the room did not do a good job of cooling the air. I swept the hair that clung to my sweaty neck as I grouchily kicked off the thin covers that covered my feet. The purpose of the covers was not to protect me from the cold, but from the critters that went crawling in the night.

I was hot, grouchy and thirsty. I shuffled to the bed at the other side of my room and impatiently woke up our maid. "I want a glass of cold milk." I said, as I shook her. "I want a glass of cold milk!" I demanded the second time, shaking her even harder.

She groggily opened her eyes and frowned at the sight of me scowling at her. Finally! I thought to myself! I must have interrupted a romantic kiss in her dream or something because it was obvious that she did not like being woken in the middle of the night at all.

"I want a glass of cold milk. Make sure the water is cold. " I instructed. The irritation in my voice was now directed at her.

Grudgingly, she stood up and I walked back to my bed to lie down. As a kid, I was a brat and everybody knew I always got what I wanted. I had started to fall asleep again when she returned to the room with a glass of milk.

"Here" she said.

I took the glass without saying thank you. Sleepily, I took the glass and slowly drank the milk while she waited for me to hand her the empty glass so she can wash it. The milk was how I liked it...not too sweet, with just the right amount of powdered milk, and cold!

I had almost finished it when I opened my eyes to see how much of it was still left. To my disgust and disbelief, there's a cockroach floating in my milk, its long antenna barely touching my upper lip! Had I not opened my eyes, I would have had my second dinner that night! And mind you, it was not a minuscule roach. Its body must have been two inches long!

Thrusting the glass in her hand, I narrowed my eyes and signaled that my parents will surely hear of this incident. Although my parents reaction, when they heard of this, was way more diplomatic than mine, her stay with us didn't last long.

And needless to say, I learned a lesson. After that night, I no longer asked anybody for a glass of cold milk, no matter how parched I was. Not only did I not want another surprise in my milk, but I simply learned to respect our helpers.

It was just one of the many incidents in my life that I have dismissed, tucked away in my memory file. Now, twenty four years later, by some inexplicable force, the moment has come to sort through my "files". --- Come back for my next post and you will begin to see why seemingly innocent occurrences in our lives can be the key pieces to unveiling an even bigger picture.

God Bless!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What Keeps You Grounded?

"What makes you the best candidate for this job?" I was asked during my job interview. One of the tips that experts give you when going for interviews, is to put emphasis on your strengths, to be honest and sincere with your answers. Of course, it also helps to do some research on your future place of employment. Keeping this in mind, I answered with all humility and sincerity; "I believe that my more than ten years of customer service experience, along with my technical skills and accomplishments, will more than compensate for my lack of formal education. I take pride in the quality of my work; I believe in doing things right the first time; I am responsive to my internal and external customers, and I always project a positive, professional attitude in all circumstances, thus earning respect from the people I work with; I am receptive to new ideas and constructive criticism, as my previous job has taught me to treat complaints as a gift; I can work independently and in a team, equally well; and I take accountability for my actions. I accept both risks and rewards, trusting that good-faith risks will not be punished." That was my moment to sell myself, to convince my future managers that I am excited to be a part of the organization. The next day, I was offered the position. On my first day, my manager told me that they had interviewed two batches of hopeful applicants. Their search ended with the third batch of interviewees and after months of vacancy, they found what they were looking for in me. I knew that my education was not what landed me the job, but how I exuded confidence, sincerity and honesty in my answers.

So, this is what keeps me grounded. Years have passed, I look back and ask myself why I didn't pursue college. It's not like I was a dunce. I have always been an honor student from grade school to high school. I spent many late nights doing homework and studying for exams. All my projects were completed on schedule. After high school, I went to a medical assisting school but two months prior to graduating, I dropped out of the program, convinced that it was not my "thing". I wasn't grossed out by blood, didn't pass out when we practiced phlebotomy on each other. It just wasn't my cup of tea. But even though I dropped out, I continued to make payments on my student loan until it was paid in full. It was a waste of money, but a lesson I had to learn.

I took classes here and there, only so I can say "I'm a student", when asked what I did. So, why didn't I finish college? There are still days when I wish I finished school. I know it can still be done, but with kids, mortgage payment and bills to pay, maybe not now. I often used the excuse of earning money and having a good paying job when I was twenty ~ earning more than most college graduates I know of. I have always been lucky to find high paying jobs even with only a high school education. So why bother going to college when I was already earning so much? Now I think that not finishing school was my fate. I was destined to succeed in some things and fail in others. I came to realize that God had other plans for me. I was sure it was His way of keeping me grounded, a reason to always be humble.

Everyone has one or two things that keep them grounded. It could be an ailment, a handicap, or divorce, a dysfunctional family, or it could be lack of happiness despite of being rich, maybe the inability to have kids, or whatever skeleton is hiding in their closet. People in our lives can also keep us grounded, or the values we were raised with. There is always something that brings out the humility in us, that when the subject is brought up, you almost feel ashamed and wish you could do or say something in defense, and you're too quick to change the topic.

Most of my former classmates back home have attained their degrees. Some are accomplished nurses, dentists, journalists, doctors, successful business owners, some may even be lawyers. I was driving to work one morning and I couldn't help but be envious of their accomplishments. Immediately I neutralized that negative feeling of envy and I started to bless these people. So then I told God that I don't have any acquired skills like that of a doctor or a nurse that I can offer to the world which was obviously valuable to making a difference in people's lives. What can a mere 33 year old undergraduate offer to the world, significant enough to promote positive change in others?

In addition to always wanting to be the best mom to my children, I realize that much of my life's fulfillment comes from sharing my time with others. I prayed to God to guide me and use me as his instrument and show me what I can write about in my blog that could be of value to others.

One morning, I came to work early and since I still had quite some time before my shift started, I went to our Learning Center to check out some books. I came across The DNA of Success by Jack M. Zufelt. As I was reading the first few pages, I was thinking to myself that this book will be like any other motivational books I've read, but I proceeded to read it anyway. Much to my surprise, I actually found it to be a very interesting read. What's even more interesting is, about halfway into the book, I came to the page where the author stated that he is only a high school graduate! Here is a distinguished speaker, author, mentor, recipient of a Presidential Medal of Merit, and a high school graduate? I couldn't conceal my smile as excitement rushed through my body and I thought to myself "This is it!" God has answered my question through Mr. Zufelt's writing! God led me to this man's work to make me realize that I don't need to have a master's or a PhD to be able to make a difference in the world.

**Did you know?** Bill Gates dropped out of college to pursue his passion for computers; Bill Rosenberg, founder of Dunkin' Donuts was 14 years old when he quit school; Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza only had a high school diploma.

Now I'll just have to think of what I can contribute...

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against higher education nor am I encouraging students to drop out of college to pursue their passion. As a mother, I will preach to my kids about the importance of education until their ears bleed. I will make sure they finish college even if I have to barge into their dorms and drag them out of bed after a night of partying...okay maybe not. But I will not insist on a profession they have no passion for. As long as they follow what is fulfilling for them and achieve as much or as little success as they can handle. As long as they: do not become a burden to society; have fear and faith in God; show respect for others; believe that they have the power to attain and achieve anything their hearts desire. Success for me, as a mother, is to see my boys carry the values and faith as they become loving, devoted husbands and caring, responsible fathers. Success is seeing them happy with their career and family lives. As an individual, I'll have to decide what my heart truly desires so I can move forward to realizing my dreams.

Reading Jack Zufelt's book shed a new light for me. The lack of formal education still keeps me grounded, but I no longer cringe when people talk about their college days, and avoid the topic by pretending to busy myself with more "important" work. As Jack put it, "Formal education isn't the only way to learn."

I've learned to become comfortable with who I am and what I have become. I've learned to take pride of the wealth of knowledge I've accumulated through the years ~ personally, professionally, spiritually. Everyday is a learning experience and I seize every chance to further enrich the colors of my work of art ~ my life.

"What's the difference between school and life? In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson." -- Robert L. Carter

Monday, April 2, 2007

Let He Who Has No Fault, Cast The First Stone

Let he who has no fault, cast the first stone. This is a very powerful statement that compels us to look within ourselves before judging others. Besides, what guarantee do you have that judgment will not bounce back and hit you full force? We are humans bound to make mistakes. For most of us, ordinary citizens, those mistakes are scrutinized in the confine of close friends and family. Unfortunately to those who choose to be in the political or social limelight, the same mistakes are publicized and magnified for public entertainment.

Let's face it. None of us is perfect. Sometimes we are too quick to pose judgement on others whereas we, ourselves, are not blemish-free. How many times have we blurted out something mean and hurtful to someone because we were driven by anger and emotion? How did that make you feel as the "giver"? It probably felt good to spew out those scalding words knowing how much pain you've inflicted on that person. Now, think of a time when someone said something equally mean and hurtful and felt you didn't deserve it. How did that make you feel as the "receiver"? Your most likely reaction would be to retaliate. After all, to forgive is divine, but vengeance is sweeter! Or is it?

I noticed that I've become more and more reserved with my judgment partly due to wisdom that comes with age, but mostly because I'm afraid of what could come back to me. Haven't your mother told you: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all"?And of course, who can forget the Golden rule: "Don't do unto others what you don't want others to do unto you"?

When you come to understand the basic concept of The Law of Attraction, your perception of people (yes, even those you don't particularly like) and events in your life will be altered in ways you'll find liberating. Why liberating? Because you'll free yourself from insecurities, worries, fear and other factors that inhibit personal and spiritual well-being. When you feel good about yourself, this is the message you reflect to those around you, thereby attracting more good things into your life. How many times have you said "hi" to a stranger and they said "hi" or smiled back? How often do strangers open or hold the door for you and in return, you say "thank you"? These are just simple gestures that are often taken for granted but strongly depicts The Law of Attraction:

Whatever you give, that you will also receive! Every good you sow, that you will also reap. And vice versa! Indeed, what goes around, comes around.

As much as we'd like to think that we loyally abide by the Golden rule, let's set our hypocrisy aside and agree that sometimes circumstances make us act on impulse. We all have faults, whether we admit it or not. These faults were made (deliberately or not) to teach us lessons. Humility is born when we acknowledge our fault and accept the lessons which will later guide us in making wiser decisions. If you have been a recipient of unkind words, thoughts, gestures or actions, then perhaps compassion will be your first reaction when you hear about someone else's misfortune. When you conduct all your affairs in humility, you will only see the good in people. Respect for others comes easy knowing that's how you want to be treated with.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Complaint As A Gift

"Hi! What can we get for you?" asked the lady behind the counter. "I'll have an ------ salad, please." I ordered. "Anything else?" she asked. "No, that will be all. Thank you." I paid for my order and waited...and waited...and waited some more. What could be taking so long? I wondered. I was the only customer at the time. After about five minutes of waiting, I asked the lady about my order. She called out to someone in the kitchen, turned to me and said it will be another couple of minutes. After about ten minutes, I got up. Since their kitchen is visible from the dining area, I looked to see if somebody was fixing my salad. I saw a man who seemed to be washing dishes. He left the water running momentarily to take out the trash. He went inside, quickly ran his hands under the running water (to effectively kill germs, you'd have to wash your hands with antibacterial soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds. this man was convinced that his hands were germ-free after a nanosecond). With his bare hand, he proceeded to scrape the bottom of a tupperware. Surely I thought, somebody else has to be making my salad. I looked around and saw no one else. The man transferred the remnants of what looked like noodles (!) into a smaller container. To be thrown out, of course! Or so I thought! The man started walking towards the counter where the orders were made. To my horror, I realized that the man was going to make my salad out of the leftover he had laboriously collected! I caught his attention and he looked at me and smiled to assure me that my salad was coming! "No, no, no!" I said, waving my hands in protest. He spoke and understood little English. He couldn't understand what I was telling him. I immediately called the lady who took my order and told her what I saw. She asked the man to stop what he was doing because I no longer wanted my salad. The lady profusely apologized and gave me a refund. The manager was not available at that time so I was told to call and speak to the manager. I left the restaurant, still hungry but my appetite had dissipated after seeing that! I called when I got home but the manager was still not there. I wanted to tell the manager about my experience so I called again the following the day but still to no avail. I gave up trying to contact them. I also stopped patronizing not only the branch where I had my horrible experience, but ALL the branches of that particular restaurant! Since nobody took the time to hear my complaint, I felt that they didn't want my business, along with the business of my friends and family.

Having worked as a customer service representative at a wireless company, I've attended several workshops that enhanced my skills. One of the classes that I found of most value was entitled "Complaint As A Gift". This class focused on how to deal with complaints. Instead of looking at complaints negatively, we were told to shift our views on the positive side, and take these as gifts! Why gifts? Because gifts are accepted and welcomed. Because an irate customer may complain but when viewed differently, they're actually giving you a CHANCE to change a product or the way you do business. When customers complain, they're actually telling you that they can forget their bad experience if you do something about the problem. Complainants convey the message that they like to do business with your company and one bad experience will not make them take their business to the competition, provided that you listen and take their complaints seriously. When you fix the problem, it sends out a message to your customer that they are valued. Being open to complaints will build customer loyalty. I took this lesson with me after I left the company. After ten years of taking the class, I still believe in this principle and often use it in interviews. When you start looking at complaints or criticism as gifts, you'll acquire a range of knowledge. You'll see these as opportunities for growth.

Ever since going to the Complaint As A Gift workshop, I can't help but notice how customer representatives, customer support, sales associates or anybody who directly serves customers, interact with customers and handle complaints. When I experience bad customer service, I always wonder if these companies give their employees adequate customer service training. When a customer service representative gets impatient and sounds like they don't want to hear another complaint from another customer, I always get the urge to preach about complaint as a gift. I find myself saying to myself that I'll even facilitate the workshop for the company for free, just to get my message across. Maybe, if more companies know about this workshop, or any similar workshops, complaints will be viewed differently, thus retaining more customers. Happy customers lead to a network of new clients. Companies benefit from free marketing and promotion through satisfied customers' word of mouth. Just the same, unhappy customers have the same influence on others ~ a lot of times ten times more.

It doesn't have to be customers seeking service from a business. It can be employees seeking reprieve from unfair treatment or unsuitable work environment, or maybe a request for a chair that will soothe their aching back. What are you doing to make your employees happy? Are you listening? Are you fair to your employees? Are company values in line with your own and your employees? If you're a leader, or a major influence in the company, how great of a leader are you??? DO YOU LISTEN to your employees? Can or should employees trust the company? Do employees feel encouraged to voice their opinions or concerns? Or are they threatened and reprimanded for wanting to be treated justly? Does the company create a safe working environment for its employees? And companies wonder why they lose their best people. Maybe if they practice their listening skills and treat complaints as a chance to correct the mistake, they wouldn't lose so much in court.

Be fair. Be open. LISTEN!