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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.