November to remember

It’s two days ’til December… Less than a month ’til Christmas. This morning, I woke up to this: 

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Saddest Christmas tree ever 😦

And I couldn’t help but feel bad. 

I have always loved the Christmas season. I love the festive atmosphere. I love looking at the Christmas decors, watching the lights, and listening to Christmas carols. And yes, I love going Christmas shopping. I normally finalize my list sometime late October because I like doing my Christmas shopping early. By mid-November, I’m done setting up the Christmas tree and lights.

I am a gift giver. I relish the whole process — from making the list, to buying and wrapping gifts… I even like putting them under the Christmas tree (that I lovingly set up and decorated). This entire practice gives me a certain high.  

At nights before I sleep, I spend some time getting lost in the Christmas lights. Simply watching them relaxes me. I may go to bed exhausted from the day’s activities, but there’s always a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.  I call this my Christmas feeling.

Things have been quite different this year, though. It’s almost December and our tree isn’t up yet. No Christmas decors… no Christmas lights outside. In fact, there are even several busted regular bulbs inside the house that I have yet to change.

Yup, I have been neglecting quite a number of things around the house lately. I don’t know if this has something to do with our ’empty nesting.’ Since we no longer have a little child in the house  who will appreciate the decors and the lights (as much as I do), well, it suddenly doesn’t anymore feel as exciting to decorate. Somehow it is different when you have someone — other than yourself — who admires, appreciates, and gawks at that Christmas tree you have painstakingly set up for more than half a day.

So, right now, all we have is a bare tree. No lights. No gifts. No warm, fuzzy Christmas feeling.  Bah-humbug.

So what kept me busy this whole month of November? Let me backtrack a bit.

Okay, last week I was in Singapore. Again (Yey, Singapore!). You see, our Baseball Club sent two teams to play in a Thanksgiving Tournament. My husband was the head of delegation, and we pretty much spent a big part of November preparing for the trip. But unlike those other tournaments where I was on top of the travel coordination, this time we had parent leads who took care of most of the travel details. I only assisted where I was needed, giving them tips and suggestions on certain matters. And since I had no son playing in the said tournament, basically, I was just a tag along.

For a split-second I asked myself if I should still go with the team, knowing full well that I will be paying for my own expenses. Besides, weren’t we in Singapore just a month ago for the Parents’ Weekend? (Remember the previous blog?) And didn’t we extend that last time because of my son’s injury? (Remember the blog before the previous one?)

So I asked myself, is it still practical? Should I go or should I just stay home, fix my house, prepare for December, shop for Christmas?

I believe that home is where the heart is. And the heart is where the family is. My husband will be in Singapore. My son IS in Singapore. They are my home. Of course, I had to go to Singapore, as well. 

And yes, there’s also Sephora in Singapore. But that’s beside the point. 🙂

Snapshots from the Week that Was…

You’d think that since we were in Singapore, my husband and I will be able to spend a lot of time with our unico, right? Uhm, wrong! He’s in college… and the term’s about to end… he had a lot of school work to finish, papers to submit. So after seeing him and having dinner with him on the night that we arrived, well, we basically did not see even his shadow for the next several days.

Since the main reason for the trip was the baseball tournament, our days were filled with baseball games… and moments.

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The weather was not always good… 😦

We brought two teams composed of boys mostly aged 9-10 and a couple of 11 and 12 year olds. One team played in the 10u age group, while the other played up and joined the 12u group.

Unfortunately for the 10u team, all of their games started at 8am. Since they needed to be on the field an hour before for warm-up, it meant waking up and getting ready really early and being in the bus by 6am. 

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Daybreak 

On the morning that I rode the bus with the two teams at 6am, I asked myself — Why do I still do this? I don’t have a son playing in this tournament… Why wake up early? Why even spend the day on the field?

And then I see the boys.

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Habagat represent!

I see the smiles on their faces. I see their excitement. 

I see their determination and grit.

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I see their courage in the face of bigger, stronger boys. I also see their eagerness and willingness to learn, to get better.

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Hi, Callum! Habagat 2015 

I get to experience baseball moments, however small or grand, in and out of the field. I  also get to see relationships — friendships– being formed.

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Two teams, One Habagat.

Plus, I get to meet new people, form new friendships of my own.

Incidentally, in all my 7 years of being part of the Club, I do think that this is one of the coolest bunch of parents that I have spent tournament days with. 

These parents cheered like crazy and they supported each player, not just their own sons. And you know what, the players responded. The boys appreciated being cheered on.  The parents gave whatever support they can, the way they knew how. 

What’s commendable, too, was the fact that these parents knew their boundaries and did not overstep them. They let the coaches coach and the players play. Talk about respect.

Going back to my question on why I still do this… Perhaps I still get myself involved in the sport because as I watch the boys grow and learn, I also grow and learn with them.

So that was basically how the week went. Daily baseball games, a little shopping on the side (with a lot of walking)… 

Lots of stories, fun and laughter with fellow parents. Lots of selfies, too.

On our last day, well, we got to spend it with the most important person in Singapore (at least in my book)…

This is home.

So, all that kept me busy this November.

Maybe by the time I get to post this seemingly neverending blog, well, December will be just a day away.  I think I am now ready to get that warm, fuzzy feeling back.  

I will set up our Christmas tree tomorrow, lights and all.

😉 

*********

This blog was written 28th of Nov. 2017. Photos are mostly mine.

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Beautiful Minds

mother

We do have a number of things in common 

One Christmas season many, many years ago, my mom and I spent a morning sorting the Christmas gifts we bought, making sure we had all the gifts properly labeled and checking who else we missed buying a gift for.

We came across this big box, beautifully wrapped, yet unmarked. No name on the card, no secret marks, whatever. My mom wondered out loud whose it was supposed to be. I said I didn’t know… because truly, I didn’t recognize the box when I first saw it.

And so my mom fidgeted. She held on to the box, turned it around, surveyed it up and down, weighed how heavy it was, shook it over and over, hoping the sound that it makes will make her remember what was inside.

After a few minutes, I realized that it was supposed to be our Christmas gift for her. My sister was the one who bought and had it wrapped, that’s why I didn’t recognize the box right away. Casually I told my mom to just leave the gift alone. But before I could stop her, she tore off the gift wrapper and ripped the box open.

After taking a peek at what’s inside, she got more confused. In a daze, she muttered, “I don’t remember buying this…”

“Why don’t you just put it back?”  I said, trying to salvage whatever’s left of the surprise.

In a tone full of dread and with sheer panic in her eyes, my mom said, “My memory is failing me!!!”

At that point, I knew I had to confess. I told her that she wouldn’t remember nor recognize the gift because she did not buy it. I told her that the gift was supposed to be for her – but now she ruined the surprise.

I also told her that no, her memory was not failing her. Not yet, at least.  

She was probably, at that time, the same age as me now.

That line — My memory is failing me — became a running joke between us, though.

I have always prided myself with having a good memory.

I’m the type who can tell a story of something that happened ages ago and I can remember and relay the details like they just happened yesterday. Try doing something bad to me and most likely I will remember it for life (holding a grudge is another thing, though).

Lately, however, I seem to forget things quite easily. Small things, like passwords… or people’s names… or where I put things.

Like this afternoon, I realized I was losing an ID card. I knew I used it sometime in the not so distant past, but I just couldn’t recall when, where and why. I knew my husband had something to do with it… I insisted that I entrusted the ID to him. But I couldn’t remember why so I started doubting my memory.

Whenever this happens, me not remembering something, I can’t help but panic.

I’ll first try to rack my brains to remember the detail that I forgot… When racking my brains doesn’t work, I’ll freak out internally – all the more reason for my brains not to cooperate.  And then I will start feeling bad, and resignedly sigh, “My memory is failing me.”

But I am much too young to accept that. 😦

Just recently, I watched CNN’s Fareed Zakaria talk to neuroscientist Lisa Genova about Alzheimer’s disease — a progressive disease that destroys memory and other mental functions*– and how to prevent it.  It was a very informative segment.

According to Ms. Genova, one can have the disease for some time without it manifesting right away. She said we can actually help prevent the advancement of the disease. Having enough good sleep, exercising, having a heart healthy diet, are among the things that one can practice to stave off the disease. Basically, I believe she meant taking care of one’s body by having a good lifestyle.

One more thing she mentioned was learning new things.  It is more than just restoring knowledge that’s already there. She pointed out that learning new things make you build and connect new neural connections, or synapses. This, I deduced will help keep your brains from degenerating.

The human brain is a beautiful, complicated organ. Like the muscles in your body, the brain can be trained to improve its function. And for it to stay healthy, it requires great care, exercise and yes, stimulation.

One is never too old to learn something new. In a way, the more we use our brains, the more we keep it from getting old fast. Interesting, huh?

After watching that segment, I made a resolve to care for my brains and keep it as healthy as possible. I promised to be more mindful of things, make an effort to remember names and details.  I will read more and learn new words. I will also write more… and use the new words that I learned.

I will learn new things.  

Besides, a beautiful mind complements a beautiful face, right? ❤

***

PS…

I found the ID I was looking for. I racked my brains, retraced my steps, and proved my memory did not fail me. It was with the file that I gave to my husband. He couldn’t remember having it at all! So I blame him. 😉

 

*****

Credits and sources:

*Alzheimer’s disease definition from Mayo Clinic.

Fareed Zakaria is a journalist and author. He is the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS. You may watch his segment on Alzheimer’s via CNN video.

The picture is mine 🙂

Dream a little dream

It was 12:30am and I couldn’t sleep.

I was tired of watching Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones reruns… so I thought of reading a bit ’til I fall asleep. I decided to reach out for the book nearest my bed side… 

Lo and behold, I got hold of MY book. 

20yrsBGO

my 12:30am companion

I didn’t start reading right away, though. Instead, I think I stared at the cover for a good ten minutes. I looked at the front, then the back… I took a couple of photos then posted them on Instagram.

I marveled at the thought that this book I had in my hands bore my name on it. I was the author. It was my creation. My thoughts, my ideas, my words, on paper. My childhood dream realized. 

So this was what my bestie-cousin meant when she said, “It is different when you have the actual book in your hand. Something you can reread and bring with you everywhere you go.” And to emphasize further, “Your work. In your hands.”

She told me that at the time I needed encouragement… at the time when I was full of self-doubt and a voice in my head kept asking, “Why am I doing this again?”

It has been a year since the book first came out — though it wasn’t until the latter part of last year when well-known local bookstores started carrying it. 

Looking back, it was quite an experience, really.  From the first rejection of my manuscript, to the time I met the special people who worked with me to improve the outcome of the book… And then there was the challenge of how to distribute the books once published  (thought balloon: I might run out of family members and friends to sell to)… And all throughout, I had to deal with internal struggles — basically self-doubt and fear of being unworthy and being criticized. 

The whole process was a journey with moments of highs, and not exactly devoid of lows.

I have had good reviews and I have had so-so ones. I have readers clamoring for a second book — and yes, I have had one reader telling me that the book’s “not for her.” Short of telling me that she found it so juvenile.

It was a form of rejection, but I have long learned to take everything in stride.  

No, I didn’t turn into an instant celebrity author. I’m quite far from it, really. But I consider myself blessed for having those people who read and appreciated my work.

You see, all I really wanted was to tell stories and to entertain the readers in the process. I wanted to make them feel something. I thought of all the novels I read that somehow stayed with me long after I have placed the book down. I wanted to share that same feeling with my readers. If I can make even just one reader smile and feel good while reading my work, I knew I’ll be happy enough.

Truly if we allow our fears to take control, we will never be able to do anything. If we allow one rejection to get the better of us, then our goals — our dreams — will forever be out of reach.  

The other day I received a sales report from one of the bookstore chains distributing the book. So far they have sold about half of their inventory (based on total sales from various branches). Not bad… At least this time I know people other than my relatives bought the book!  Not bad for a newbie nobody like me. 🙂  

I started feeling sleepy even before reaching Chapter Two… But I know I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

Leaving you with this excerpt…

excerpts20yrs

Together they waited for the night to end.

❤ ❤

Fellow writers, artists, dreamers, I read this article on ‘rejection‘ online and it really struck me to the core. If you have been rejected or are afraid of rejection, this article is for you!! Sharing it with hopes that it can enlighten you the way it enlightened me: Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year, by Kim Liao, Literary Hub.

Twenty Years in Between, available at select National Bookstore, Powerbooks and Fully Booked branches. Also available online at Bookbed.org.

To God be the glory always. Photos are mine 🙂 

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Eph.2:10 NKJV

 

 

 

One Fine Day at Downton

I am not really a TV person. I choose the shows that I watch. I have a friend who is so into local teleseryes and Koreanovelas. Nope, I can’t stand those.

I will sound snobbish, but I truly can’t stand the crying-shouting-slapping-more shouting-then more crying scenes that local teleseryes seem to have a lot of.  I can’t take too much drama. I think life is challenging as it is, and watching depressing shows won’t do anything to uplift one’s morale. 

I am more of a Criminal Minds, CSI, How to Get Away with Murder and Game of Thrones person. Okay, also Grey’s Anatomy — when McDreamy was still with them.

Several years ago, however, I discovered this British historical period television series which piqued my interest. It was set in the 1920’s and it followed the lives of the fictional Crawley family and their servants. 

The show’s title: Downton Abbey.

After watching several episodes — I think the show was already on its third season then — uhm, I had no choice but to get hooked. Remember I said I don’t like drama shows? Well this one is every bit a drama series. Minus the shouting. And the hysterics. The characters can get angry without raising their voices — they can tell someone off while still looking classy and dignified.  I loved it! This kind of drama I was able to stand. 

It was still a soap opera… it just happened to be British. And, oh, do they make elegance look so easy.

I found myself searching for and watching online the episodes that I missed. I fell in love with the characters — my favorites being Lady Mary Crawley (played by Michelle Dockery) and the Dowager Countess of Grantham, Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith). Being the fan that I am, I hang onto their every word. Okay that sounded creepy, but Violet Crawley had really good one-liners that would make one laugh even while watching alone.

I remember a friend telling me that watching Downton Abbey was like watching paint dry. Oh well, to each his own. I enjoyed watching this paint dry. 😉

After my husband and I dropped off our unico in his residential college, we still had a couple of days to spare in Singapore.  And because I am greatly favored, guess what?! There was an ongoing Downton Abbey Exhibition at Marina Bay Sands while we were there!! 

Of course we had to go! I was sooo excited. I was like a little girl on Christmas morning. My husband was like, Downtown what?! (And yes, he only got the Downton right halfway through the exhibit…)

And so with much pleasure, I am sharing with you some photos that I took…

My Downton Abbey Experience (of a Lifetime!!)

DA tikets

Tickets to my other world…

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The Downton Abbey

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The patriarch, Lord Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham

Obviously my favorite character, Lady Mary Crawley, the eldest of the Crawley daughters

She’s beautiful, smart, confident and headstrong. What’s not to admire??

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 The three Crawley daughters, Edith, Mary and Sybil

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Adorable little George, Lady Mary’s son.

Some of Lady Mary’s to-die-for wardrobe; Lady Mary’s bedroom

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Believe it or not, I used to have one of these growing up… 

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Where the interesting Crawley dinner conversations take place…

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Servants’ dining area downstairs… where the conversations are even more interesting!

Lobby leading to the exhibition

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Dear Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), the Head Butler of Downton Abbey

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It’s Downton, dearie, not Downtown!!

Downton Abbey was created by Julian Fellowes and co-produced by Carnival Films and Masterpiece. It ran for six seasons, airing first in the United Kingdom in 2010. The final episode also served as the Christmas episode and was shown December 2015.*

I used to watch it on Diva TV — normally catching it Sunday mornings. After the series ended, I just waited for the reruns. Like so… 

… and because I am such a fan, I didn’t really mind.

Mary

One fine Downton Abbey Sunday morning in May 2014… as documented in my Instagram account. 🙂

“Vulgarity is no substitute for wit” – the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley

❤ ❤

 

*Downton Abbey information from Wikipedia

Downton Abbey The Exhibition, Marina Bay Sands, July 31, 2017; photos are all mine

In case you missed it…

college-graduation

Start of something new…

I wrote this piece for Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf’s online site brewyourbestyear.com just recently.  It’s something I wrote especially for this year’s graduating students. I thought of posting it here in my blog for the benefit of those who missed it. 

Read on and ponder… 

❤ ❤

Nuggets of Wisdom

Ahh, graduation.  It’s that time of year once again. A time to close another chapter of one’s life… a season ending.

It is during this time when parents listlessly ask, Where have the days gone? How did my child grow up so fast? Is he ready for the real world? While the students probably think to themselves, What is in store for me? What will life offer? Am I ready?

Don’t we sometimes wish that life comes with a guide book where we can find solutions to our problems or directions to follow so we can avoid getting into trouble or sticky and hurtful situations? Unfortunately, there’s no “Manual for an Easy and Perfect Life” available.

We learn from our own experiences.  We also learn from our peers. More so, we learn from our elders. We gain wisdom from the ones who went before us, simply because they have “been there” and yes, they have “done that.”

To the graduating students who are just about to go out into the real world, allow me to share some insights on life.  These are learnings that I have gathered through my years of having been there and having done that.  

Hopefully, these nuggets of wisdom can help guide you in this journey called real life…

Girlfriends

#Girlfriendsgoals

On Friendship

Friendships do not happen overnight. We all know that. It took days, maybe even months and years, for you to form a bond with your childhood, high school and college friends. I believe the same thing goes with people you will meet in the work place – or in the great ‘out there.’  Remember: Trust is earned.

Hold on to your old friends. You will meet new people. You will have new and exciting relationships. You may even not see your old friends for years.  Yet neither time nor distance can erase real friendships. Value the ones who were there when you were young, pure and innocent. They will remind you of who you really are, no pretensions needed, and they will love you just the same.

True friends are those who stick by you through thick or thin.

Not everyone can be your friend. So, you are Mr. or Ms. Congeniality… and yet there is someone who rubs you the wrong way. Or maybe you rub them the wrong way. It’s okay. You don’t have to be friends with everybody. But be nice.

brokenheart

People can sometimes break your heart…

On Dealing with People

People are not always appreciative so don’t expect them to be. You don’t have to please everybody.

You cannot expect everybody to always agree with you or think the way you do.  You don’t always have to agree with someone else’s opinion, but you can learn from the differences.  Besides, life will be boring if we all think the same way.

There will always be people who have a lot to say. The “know-it-alls.” They have something to say about you, about the government, about other people, about the weather. If you think and feel that what they say doesn’t do you any good, then by all means, shut them out. Constructive criticism is different from just plain criticism. Don’t let the negativity get to you.

Stay away from toxic, negative people.  They will suck the energy out of you. And check yourself, too. 

You cannot please everybody, help everybody, make everybody happy.  But being one person’s hero is enough.  Be that hero.

Happytobeme

I am the best Me

On Being the Best You

A person’s true character is revealed during difficult or trying times… not when things are good. The same applies to yourself, too.

You cannot buy breedingNor can you buy character.

Keep evolving. Is there a skill you want to learn? A hobby you want to begin? Then go for it. One is never too old to learn something new. You’ll be surprised at what you can actually accomplish if you just put your heart and mind to it. Don’t be afraid to surprise yourself.

Respect. Yourself. People. Their Belongings. Don’t be rude and self-absorbed. The amount of respect you expect from others is commensurate to the respect that you give.

It’s all about perspective.  When you feel like the world is closing in on you, step back a little.  Find a better view.  Breathe.  You may not be able to change the situation, but you can change your outlook.

Learn to forgive yourself. We all make mistakes. Sometimes we make small slip-ups, sometimes we do major tumbles and fall hard. When you do, don’t wallow nor condemn yourself. Own up to your faults, dust yourself off, then move on.

Learn to apologize. Know when to say sorry and know when to forgive. Be the bigger person.

Stick to your non-negotiables.  They define who you are.

Be kind.  A little kindness, a heartfelt smile, a generous act, selfless actions go a long way. Some people need to see light shining on them. Be that light.

In everything, give thanks.

Lastly, share yourself, share your wisdom. Share what you know. Allow others to learn from you.

As you get older you will realize that one of the best compliments that you will ever receive is when people say how proud and fortunate they are that you are in their lives and that you are indeed a blessing to them.

So, go and be that blessing. ❤ 

***

 

All photos were grabbed — or borrowed — from google images. Thank you clipart, Sex and the City, and Sesame Street.

Write up originally published at CBTL’s brewyourbestyear.com. You may find the original link here. For more of my write-ups on this site, please click : Betsy Gacutan-Ochosa