Friday, December 22, 2017

What Do I Want To Do - 2018

The Question.  The first day of winter was a clear sunny day.  It was cold but the sun was warm.  Tim just got back from one of his trips to Asia.  It is good to have him back, we could walk and talk.  His question this time was unexpected:  "What do you want to do next year?"  Coincidentally,  I was ready with one answer.  That made our discussion very lively.   Then I asked him the same question.  He was not prepared for an answer.  It is unbelievable because he is the one who is always forward-looking.  Could it be that my answer derailed his intended answer?  So I said, we can answer the question according to the different areas of life because there we definitely have many ideas which are not sufficient to sum up what each of us want to do for the whole year.  And yet if I think about it, all those little goals that we want to do and accomplish, if we want to make it count, better lead to the big goal of our being.

My Thought.  Next year I will be sixty.  A year older and hopefully better than myself in 2017.  That does not mean super performance,  instead it is a means of motivating myself to strive forward.  At some point one must try to thwart the effect of age while we can.  What that means in detail will not be mentioned now so that it won't get jinxed.  This should be easy to measure because I have last year as basis for my progress.  But not really.  I need to use some time to really reflect on how I lived last year; how my resources were allocated - my time, my thoughts, my energy, my money, my words, my artistic abilities, my internet access, my food, etc.  How much was dedicated to express love to myself and how much was dedicated to express love for God and others.  What did I do to make myself look good and how much was intended to glorify God.  These are easy to answer if I do not consider the motives in my heart.  How much did I do mainly to look good in the eyes of people?  Only I can answer the question.   It requires honesty and sincerity.  I can't keep fooling myself.  Time is running against me and I do not have a good measure of how much is left for me.  But I have control over how I will use that time - one day at a time.  One day I will see my Lord face to face and when that time comes will I have the face to look at him?   Will I be able to say that I have spent my days on earth building a good relationship with him, pleasing him?  Or will I be so ashamed that I didn't know him well because have spent my time here on earth making trying to preserve my life and manage my image subconsciously reflecting the sinfulness of my heart?  Lord help me.  

What do I want to do next year?  Let me think again.

Unadulterated Life.  I looked at the trees around where we were walking and I envied them for they know exactly what they do next year.  Plants have only one inherent purpose in life - to multiply themselves.  All the things a tree undergoes every year, growing, flowering, fruiting, and even going dormant, etc., all lead to the big purpose of the plant.  What's more interesting is that in the process the tree also provides shelter and food for other created things around it.  I envy the trees for they are not plagued with the need to impress that interferes with their purpose. 

Man is also vested with an inherent purpose during his time on earth - to match the nature of his creator and to love his fellowmen.

 "Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise."
~ Horace ~

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Never a Still Life

Painting flowers can be frustrating sometimes.  One night I started a project on very fresh flowers and the next day they were all facing downward. We often hear the phrase 'still life' to refer to certain works of art.  Still life, according to my uneducated interpretation, has one characteristic - staged and unchanging.  The image is maintained.   

Still life is meant to be still.  However, in the case of making art using things that are organic (living matter) there is no such thing as still life.  My art is currently focused on botanical subjects, in other words- perishables.  Assuming that lighting is a controlled factor, my reference fruits and flowers are never still. They change, the flowers droop and loose petals, the fruits get spots and they shrivel a little more everyday, the leaves dry out and curl, seedpods crack open and burst, etc.  Not that these are all negative occurrences - no in fact they display very interesting, uncommon and sometimes even more beautiful form. All these observations happen on my drawing/painting table on a daily basis.  Therefore, it is fair to say then that there is no such thing as still lifeStill life is an anachronism.  Life can't be still.  Only lifeless things can be still.   This is not a new revelation or discovery because it has always been that way.   Rather it is a matter subversion.  :)

Well then, let me take this opportunity to digress.  Life is never still.  Life is timed.  Time dictates the movement of life and man cannot do anything about that.  King Solomon in his God-given wisdom understood this dance between life and time when he wrote the third chapter of Ecclesiastes.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away, 
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.  
~~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

"He has made everything beautiful in its time." (v. 11)  But we, in our natural mind, desire to preserve specific moments of this life.  When we're having fun, when we're experiencing glory, when we have a lot of money, when the people around us are accepting, when we're healthy, when they are healthy, when we're skinny or when our skin is tight and elastic :) we want to freeze it.  We strive to keep it that way - like a still life where the only change is the accumulation of dust.  But alas, we do not control life.  Life is timed.  There is a time for everything and therefore laughter cannot take the time allotted for weeping.  God obviously designed life so that we get the total package of experience.  It is a test we all have to take.  What then can we do?  "There is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot..." (v. 22)  We are left to deal with our attitude towards everything under the sun.   

Going back to art now, 'still life' can still be achieved by faking the effect of time on a perishable subject.  A quick snap shot preserves the image.  In life, we can file those memories that we like to keep. And even though we cannot linger on one enjoyable segment, the memory of it might remind us that time keeps a tight schedule and that the next segment might be different but equally beautiful.

Life is never still.  Life is timed.   

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Photograph

I was going through old pictures in search of the ones I took of my niece Hazel on her first visit to  El Dorado Hills when a sealed photo envelop caught my attention.  The envelop looked as if it has not been opened ever.  It made me very curious and so I took a break from looking for Hazel's pictures and decided to investigate this mysterious envelop.  It turned out that it is the one that contained all the pictures taken during my mother's funeral.  I remember I had the film developed and printed at Costco right after coming back from the Philippines in May of 1998; but who took those pictures is now beyond my recollection. It must  have been my cousin Eddie because I appear in those pictures.  And yes, that envelop was sealed on purpose.  I did not really liked looking at the photographs - it was too painful.  At that time as if a time would never come when I would look at them again.  

That time came.  However, seeing the photographs again brought me back to that time with a different view.  There remains an empty space in my heart but no longer do I grieve.  Experiences with my mother were no longer renewed but memory of the short time we've shared is very much alive even after 20 years.   The thought of her still make me feel like a child being loved  by her but now I've also come to experience the life of a mother - which is among the happiest part of my life to this day.  In other words, I am no longer the same person.  Although the photographs remained the same, I have changed.

One picture in particular struck me.  It is a picture of my mother. She looks so beautiful.  Pearl earrings gave a sparkle on her face as if she's ready for something special.  A white veil that covered part of her face made her look like a bride.  A bride ready to meet the one she loves.  It makes me sad that her eyes are closed. And yet something inside me feels glad that she no longer is focused on this world.  In that picture, her eyes are already fully dedicated to the sight of her Lord. In fact all her senses, all of her is now with her God.  Oh my Lord God,  I hope you found her in her best when she came home to you.

The Elusive Wedding Gown
(A quick sketch)
During her living years, she never had the opportunity to wear a wedding gown.  At eighteen, she was pregnant with me.  And the usual prenuptial talk between parents of the future bride and the future groom were undertaken, but in the process, her father in his best judgement knew that it would be better for his daughter to remain unmarried in spite of the scandalous situation she was in.  He was convinced that it would be less painful to bear the shame than for his daughter to be stuck with the Laquindanum family.  To make the story short, he did not approve of the marriage.  I was born out of wedlock, my grandfather and grandmother would raise me and protect me from being seen or seeing him for as long as they have lived.  At age thirty, my mother got married to Rodolfo, my step-father who I never learned how to address, but the wedding was  a simple one that she did not wear a traditional wedding gown.

Once we die it's game over.  Whatever is done after that no longer have any effect on our eternal destination or position.  Hence the last outfit my mother wore had no consequence on her final journey.  But to me, who is yet to make choices and decisions on this side of my life, seeing her photograph impacts the way I see life.  Once my mother brought shame to her parents but in the end she was the one child who made the right choice to live a godly life.  Memories of that life nudges me to look at my own and see how I am preparing myself to meet my Lord.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017


Time flies.  My surprise baby is now seventeen.  She has become a delightful spunky girl.  She is in her senior year in high school and in her last effort  of putting herself into the next level of education with the hopes that she will land in a university of her liking.  It seems only only last year when we moved to El Dorado Hills.  I was heavily pregnant.  She was born when our house was fresh and new - the walls were stark white and our backyard was mainly dirt and rock and few tumble weeds.  It was shortly after she was born when we started having our backyard landscaped, that I remember holding her swaddled in my arm as I gave directions to the landscapers and carpenters.  Now she is a smart self-driven person who does things in her unique ways of achieving her goals.  This girl is good at aiming her goals in what I would say steep angles and she hits them most of the time.  At seventeen she's driving herself to her band activities and leading the snare-drum line being the center snare drummer. 

She is her own person - so different from her siblings in many ways.  Well, all my kids are unique. The only consistent thing  about all of them is the way we raised them.  But even so, we (the parents) who raised them got older over time and the way we did things with our children also changed.  The chemistry and composition of the family also changed as the children got older.  So therefore, there is no such thing as raising children in the same way.  And not to mention God's design that made each person to be different.  

It could be lonely being the last child at home because there are fewer people who would be cheering you on your birthday.  Such is the case with Miriam.  However, today Brahms surprised us all with a visit to come and celebrate with his sister.  That made Miriam very happy that she cried.  Then I had to whip up a nice meal - of grilled salmon, mango salsa and rice which they both like.  We even sang a happy birthday song before she opened her presents.  

Shannon, although she is far away, also planned a special activity with Miriam on this day.  They watched a movie remotely together.  Technology.  And because Brahms was also home, the three of them watched the movie together.  Even more special!

Tim and I are truly blessed.  As parents we consider our kids as blessings and gifts from God.  And to be given the opportunity to watch God continues to take care and bless these blessings is a multiplied blessing to the nth power.  God is good!

Birthdays are milestones where we can count our blessings
and reflect on God's goodness.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Learning is a Journey Not a Destination

In this life there comes a time when we reach a certain level of expertise in one area which then creates a confidence that flows in all areas of life.  This is usually good and often considered emotionally healthy.  This has been my observation on my own and other people around me.  But sometimes the confidence we derive from excelling at one thing goes beyond some boundaries and it becomes a license to feel superior at everything.  This is not a good thing.  It makes someone emotionally, unhealthy.  It hinders learning.

Beat your last record.  With my recent attempts to engage in a new form of art, in spite of my 59 years of life experience and a PhD,  I have to position myself as a student/beginner putting all other measurements of my own abilities in other areas of life.  As a student, in this new area of interest, one of the first things I've learned is that if I want to excel then I have to tread the long road towards excellence.  I am at the starting point of this road and if I want to get better then I have to look at this road as one without end but with every step taken a new terminal towards my goal. The question would then be:  Is this terminal moving me forward or is this taking me in a loop?  There are no short cuts to getting better but to walk the road.  To keep on is the only way to get ahead and the only measure of improvement  is based only on my improvement from my own starting point. This idea positions me in the right place. If my painting is better than the last one I made then I am moving forward. Sometimes, subconsciously, I compare my abilities with others - which I think is a stumbling block in my improvement as an artist.

Strive to Improve.  It is good to appreciate other's works and skills especially if they are taken as inspiration to get better.  I'm my case, I follow a number of artists on Instagram to learn from. As they say, every expert was once a beginner.  No one skips that.  However, there are times when I lack the motivation to push forward because my improvement seems nil and unmeasurable.  But as in any advancement, the change is not guaranteed a constant speed.  Learning does not happen at a constant speed.  And yet this is all part of a balanced life I'm talking about.  One must strive at some areas while being proficient in other areas.  We learn from others while others learn from us.  No one monopolizes one side of the equation.  We all have a fair share of both ends.  This is how social balance is maintained. This is what makes the journey more fun.  Even my former elementary school classmate who is now a surgeon in Chicago admits to striving to learn about new advances/technology in medicine just to keep his practice current.  For what kind of world would this be if everyone is exactly as good as each other in all subjects? Nothing less than boring, I would say.

Look Up and Learn.  Sometimes when we start on a journey, there is an anxious longing to get to the destination that we miss to appreciate journey.  There is the dream that when we get to the top, that we will be great.  However, time and time again we see that the end is often  a let down.  The end brings us closer not to the imagined glory but to another level of a challenge.  I find it both stimulating and humbling to be at the bottom of the learning process (in art).  I can learn something new from those who have traveled the road longer than than I did.  And sometimes I hear them say something very simple but I keep that in my head and apply it in my next project.  On the other hand being on the bottom of the ladder also helps me appreciate the struggles of those who may yet have to learn what I have already mastered.  Learning is not a destination, it is a journey. 

"Painting is damned difficult - you always think you've got it, but you haven't."   Paul Cezanne

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Preaching Like a Pro

Today my son preached at the University Covenant Church.  It is very exciting but as his mother, I was concerned in the last two days and even waking up at three o'clock this morning wondering how he was dealing with the pressure of writing and delivering an appropriate sermon to a relatively big church - three times. 

When we saw the video later today, my husband and I were not only relieved but delighted. He is engaging with a good amount of humor. He has the characteristics of a good teacher. 😊   

The unexpected effect of seeing my son preach is the reminder that my husband and I are growing old - really growing old.  And so we must now consciously take on this journey with grace...😉

Friday, July 14, 2017

Conversation on Worship

Miriam and I were home alone, Tim was on his regular business trips to Taipei.  Getting up at ten o'clock in the morning is normal as a summer-privilege for Miriam. One morning last week Miriam and I were talking during a late breakfast, enjoying the fact that we were inside sheltered from the scorching morning sun, and the conversation we were having was intermittently interrupted by the busy birds in the patio.  Then the topic on worship came about.  Miriam often surprises me with her wit and understanding of life.  She is young but she understands concepts and how it is displayed in peoples lives.

Although the juvenile mind still lacks the experience to see the parallel image of the physical in the spiritual sense of the world, there is the transparency in every child that seem to peel away the filters that older people have put on over the years.  And hence the importance of having a regular parent-child philosophical exchange.  That was the case of our conversation.  Needless to say, we had a very interesting, sweet and honest conversation.  

It all began with a quote by David Foster Wallace: 

"In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.   And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship ... is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive."  

1. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough.

2. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you.

3.  Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. 

4. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.

Think about it.  We worship that which drives us to the choices and actions we take.  It drives us to make sacrifices because we think that it is glorifying to that which/or whom we worship.  We suffer for which we worship.  We are fearful of what we worship.  We do not want to offend that which we worship. 

So this begs the question, who or what do I worship?  What consumes me?  Does it revitalizes me or does it drain the life out of me?  I was stunned at my own question.  

I've always assumed that I worship God.  I do the things a good Christian does, or so I think.  But if I truly worship God why then do I not have the peace that comes only from worshiping God?  Why then do I not think of God as often as I should?  Why then do I not choose based on what makes God look good.  Why then am I not afraid of the consequences of my lack of attention.  As I write these diagnostic questions, pictures of things that possibly could have won my worship flashed in my head.  "Do I really worship God?"  "Good question."  

To make a long story short, I admitted to my daughter that I seem to worship the welfare of my family.  It is what I think about in every passing day.  The thought of messing it makes me fearful. One might say it is typical for a wife/mother to have such concerns.  And yet it is obvious that I seemed to have placed my family on the pedestal that rightfully belongs to God.  (Lord, forgive me and help me adjust my life in the right way!) 

In like manner my daughter was able to easily recognize the thing that consumes her - high grades.  It is the trap that gets smart and over-achieving people.   

There is a very fine line between enjoyment and worship.  We enjoy the gift and worship the giver.  And from time to time we get mixed up.  When we take pride in the blessings that God has given us to enjoy and we begin to use it to define who we are; when we begin to value the blessing over the Giver;  when we begin to believe the blessing has power to give us peace and life - that's when we stopped worshiping God. 

Enjoy the gift and worship the Giver.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


After every storm always comes a period of calm.  Sometimes storms come one after the other but there is always a promise of rest and peace from any form of storm or stirring.  The storm I'm talking about here represents a change that comes from a move, a loss or even a gain.  In other words it can be initiated by either an upward, downward or even a horizontal change.

The change...
It has been two years since my daughter Shannon moved to Wisconsin to take on a lucrative job at Epic.  And because she finished her degree earlier than scheduled, we could say that she was under-age to be on the career ladder.  Add to that the fact that she has always been the youngest if not one of the youngest in her class.  Fresh from college and barely had enough time to go on the trip of her choice (which we promised if she finished her degree within four years) before she started her independent life.  Although the career opportunity presented to her was great, getting on it involved tremendous stirring in her young life.

For her - having a career job, buying her own car, having her own place and away from home is a dream-come-true.  It is something she has long dreamed even before going to college.  Things were happening in the right direction for her.  It was all very exciting.  But like any storm, everything was happening on hyper-speed against time that is moving on normal speed on a child who is maturing at normal rate.   And although her opportunities and events seemed good at the time, she was taking a beating...

Suddenly she was managing her own finances, paying her own bills, signing her own car loan and apartment lease.  She had to learn working in a huge corporate world - meeting deadlines, finishing projects beyond her control.  As a student her success depended solely on her performance.  But suddenly she had to figure out what to do when success depended on others doing their job.  This was a huge change for someone  who is goal and success- oriented person.

She may not admit it, but there was also a whiplash that came from living in a place that had real winters and rains to a person born and raised in California.  :)  She was alone.  She had to learn, alone.  She had to make new friends.  I too went to a different land in my earlier years but I was not as young as she was.

All these things will probably form one of the biggest change in her life at that age.

For the first 15 months or so, everyday was a day of adjustment or for a more current choice of word - recalculating.  We step into a situation sometimes that involves many unknowns. We have no control on everything and each step we take is not always the best.  No matter how thoroughly we plan our lives, there will always be factors that alter our desired outcome.  Therefore we recalculate.   That is fine - it happens everyday in every life and humans are designed to be experts in recalculating. Shannon is no exception.

There is a Jeep Compass Recalculating TV commercial on television this year which portrays man's life as planned but ever-changing and ever-recalculating journey.  "Whatever your destination there is a million beautiful ever-changing ways to get us there." 

And now...
After two years since she started life-after-college, she seems to have come out of the storm. Things are calm again - not a lot of stirring.  She has shifted her position from playing in the defensive to the offensive.  Thank God she made it through to get to this point in her life.  As long as she keep moving on, change will happen again.  However, having successfully recalculated to this point improves her position and her experience prepares her to be more composed to face the next storm.
God is good, indeed!

No one would have crossed the ocean if he could 
gotten off the ship in the storm.  
Charles Kettering

Sunday, May 21, 2017

207 Completes the Race

Shannon participated in the Capitol View Triathlon and Duathlon today and she completed it satisfactorily!  Since she's a beginner triathlete, she decided to do the Sprint which included a 400-meter swim; 10-mile bike and 3.1-mile run.

The morning was cold with a breeze when we got there - about an hour early just to be able to park somewhere within a reasonable distance from the starting line.  And the lake looked intimidating even for someone who was not going to get her feet wet,  As the sun slowly rose, the air warmed up a little but not enough to make a difference in the water temperature.  To some, this is just one of the events that they participate in on a regular basis.  This is their life.  And it is easy to recognize them by their confidence and the gear they wear.   Listening from the conversations of people standing by the shore, I can tell there were many beginners like Shannon.  There is an undisclosed fear of the daunting unfamiliarity and challenge that awaits them.

I must admit that I was nervous.  I am no athlete and thus have no accurate understanding of what this event entails. As soon as my daughter started each leg of the race, I waited and hoped that I would soon see her at the transition point and finally the finish line. When she walked - along with the rest of the participants - into the frigid Lake Mendota, I walked away from the crowd of spectators and looked up to the heavens for grace on my child.  God was listening.

For a parent sending out a child go out to conquer a certain goal, there is nothing sweeter than seeing that child appear at the last bend before the finish line.  It doesn't matter how deep the mud as long as you get close enough to see them reach the finish line. :)

"I think I'm just stubborn." ~  Shannon after completing the race.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Clarksville Day

Today is history day in this house because we visited Clarksville which opens only one day a year. Clarksville is an old settlement in on Lincoln Highway (now Hwy 50) which happens to be on the now El Dorado Hills.  The school building still remains along with some of the houses including the home of Samuel Kyburz (who, according to some controversial sources, first discovered gold, not James Marshall, in Coloma Valley).   When the gold rush subsided and people realized that there was not enough gold for everyone to live on, some began to venture in agriculture.    Although there is not a lot visible signs of agriculture that remain in the area, remnants of an agrarian past can be found if you look harder.  For example, my husband and I, on our hikes on the undeveloped hills around, found some old troughs which indicate that the area was once used as a pasture.

Miriam, Nick and Griffin had a display at the old school house of Clarksville.  
 Along Hwy 50 just east of El Dorado Hills Town Center,  Clarksville looks nothing more like an old barn but if you get close and learn about the place, it is quite interesting.  One thing I learned today is that the first concrete road in California was built in Clarksville.  In those days cement new concept and so Portland Cement build a section of the Lincoln Hwy to demonstrate the effectiveness of cement as a construction material for roads.  To this day, part of that historic road remains.

The most prominent remaining structure on Clarkville used to be a school house. 

In those days, they would be traveling on dirt road.  :)

Pony Express

Maybe these horses are of better breed than the what the folks had during the Gold Rush.

This would have been a real estate to write home about.

Explosive were probably a legal but not cheap form of entertainment :)

Even this UC Davis Mom was there (notice the hat) :)

And so with this UC Irvine Dad was there. 

 It seems to me that our community is raising awareness to the fact that our place was once upon a time a lively community in a time gone by.  There was a period of when not much was happening but it is again in an era of change and development.  The future generation will see footprints of what is being done now by us who are here and now.  Some of the things they'll will see will be appreciated while some will leave their minds questioning.

History links the present back to the past - maybe for a better tomorrow.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Familiarity is not Mastery

Pink Cymbidium: A Study

Cymbidiums are in bloom in my backyard right now.   They bloom every year - the earlier ones blooming in January and the late varieties are just starting to open now.  When they are in bloom I move them to the patio close to the kitchen window and door so that we can enjoy them throughout their showtime.  In addition to that, I also cut and bring in some of the flowers.  As a matter of fact, a vase sits at arms length from me as I type.  I'm saying this to make a point that I spend a lot of time being close to these flowers.  However when I tried to paint one of them, I found it so much more difficult to portray the features of this remarkable flower than I had imagined.  It bothers me that my paintbrush does not confirm what I think I know.

Because we are familiar with something does not mean we have the mastery to depict or characterize it with accuracy.  It takes a careful study and understanding of a certain subject for an accurate retelling of the way something actually is.  In my pursuit of art, my style tends to lean towards realism which makes it even more frustrating especially in this early stage of my learning. The more I pay attention to my reference the more authentic my painting looks.  The closer my painting looks like my reference, the happier I am and vice versa.  We all like good art like we all like good stories.  After all, art is a form of story-telling using a different language.

 I will digress and bring this truth into my social life.  My relatives, friends and acquaintances from my different social circles are all familiar to me.  I interact with them in varying depths and so I claim with all audacity to know them.  However, in the same way that I cannot easily paint the picture of cymbidium, in spite of basically living with them, I do not have the license to assume I can accurately retell someone's story without first investing effort and time in understanding them.  The older I get the more I believe in the saying - "Little knowledge is a dangerous thing."  Stories made out of meager bits of facts can lead to deception and false representation.

Attentive listening for the sake of understanding - not for the sake of concocting prescription - is like staring at a flower for the sake of accurate portrayal.  There is a true story that lies behind every assumption.  But why is it that as social beings we are content in knowing just one side of the story of people around us?

Familiarity maybe incidental, but mastery is intentional.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Another Milestone

Today, Miriam got the one thing that most junior-high kids desire to have - driver's licence.  It is the status-symbol of freedom, so they say.  Needless to say, she's very excited.   As a matter of fact, she drove her self alone to school tonight for the basketball game - normally, I would have given her a ride.  (Lord God, please keep her safe.)

From our point of view as parents, our youngest child is a driving person now - which means:

1.  We don't always have to be there to bring her to places.  She can go to her music lessons and band practices on her own now.

2.  We can send her to go to the grocery store now.

3.  We will have to share the use of one of the vehicles or Tim and I will have one vehicle now.  It is a good thing that he works from home.

4.  We can watch Doc Martin now without having to pause when it is time for us to pick her up. 😉

 5.  Etc.

Although I am convinced that parenting lasts a lifetime, this event in particular signals the imminent dawn of empty-nesting.  Somehow this thought frightens me a little.  Soon I will have to decide what to do with my life without children at home.  
So help me God.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Twenty Six Years

This year Tim and I reached the 26th year milestone in our marriage.  God has been good to us all these years.  Sure we had our share of trials and tribulations just like any normal couple would but the Lord has not turned his back on us.  And so we celebrated the day with gratitude and contentment. One might wonder how this kind of celebration looks like.  After doing all the trivial way of celebrating this special day, Tim and I sat down unhurried and leaning on each other - we reflected on our life together.  We brought to memory a summarized glimpse of every big chapter of the life we've lived so far.  (As a couple we seem to be good at this.  As matter of fact, during our first anniversary we both wrote to each other a letter - State of the Marriage Letter.)   Surprisingly, the story consistently remained on the theme of  two people in love learning life together.  The times when we acted as if we got it and had nothing to learn were the times when the story was rough.  Surprised?  :) God willing, in the next 26 years we will be the same learning and loving - but more experienced beings in a slower shriveled human form.  We are convinced that God still has to reveal His plans for us in the next chapter.  As we follow His lead, we expect great and exciting things are ahead of us.  So help us God to remain on track.

Twenty six years is a long time but not long enough to be with the person I vowed to spend my life with. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day

When I thought he was running out of ways to surprise me, Tim did it again.  Yesterday, I received a package that contained four dozen roses.  This is not the first time that he bought me 48 roses but because he does not celebrate Valentines day, this was a true surprise.

Valentine's Day might not be very special to him but it is a significant day on my calendar.  It was on this day, some 30 years ago,  when I was convinced that God would show me the man I was to marry.  To make this long and often-told-story short, I saw Tim.  I didn't think his appearance meant anything because I had someone else in mind, but eventually when the story began to unfold, it all made sense.  God showed me how something so improbable happen.  The full version of this story can be retold by any of my children in detail.  😀

Friday, January 27, 2017

Blog in a Book

For my birthday this year, my husband did something very unexpected.  He had the entire content of this blog printed into one book!  Almost ten years of stories of life!  And imagine how many pictures there are considering that one of the things I like to do is take pictures.

It is interesting to see that my pattern in writing blog entries was severely affected by my physical condition.  Meaning I only posted entries when I was up to doing it.  I did not force myself not because I did not have anything worth writing about but because blogging to me is part of my way of reflecting and appreciating life.  It appears now that I can only appreciated life when I was not tired.  It makes sense!  There were years when I worked on a job and it was the time when I had very few entries because I was always exhausted.  There was hardly any energy left to think let alone document what I was thinking.  Had I had the energy to write them then, they would have been interesting stories.  However, I can also say that while I was not blogging, I was busy with other art form which is spending time with people at work, family and friends.  It was not a losing proposition either!  It's all good.

On the title of the book, it says "Volume 1".  This means that my husband intended to have a Volume 2.  Which means that I have to keep on writing.  Which may mean that I have to write better - for what is Volume 2 if it is not better than Volume 1?  :)  If I think about the original intent of my blog - which is to document life as I experience it, then the manner of the way it is written will not have any direct bearing on the matter.  :)

Everyday presents a story worth documenting.  

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Today is the day...

"Pomegranate in November" (1/20/2017)

I submitted my first entry to an art exhibition called "Aspiring Artist" at the Sacramento Fine Art Center.  This is the place where people with no previous experience in juried art shows are given opportunity to exhibit their works.  And I thought that this is just the place for me to chance my art.

"Pomegranates in November" (11" x 14" in watercolor) depicts a time last year when our small pomegranate tree is decorated with clusters of huge bright red fruits. It certainly looked like a Christmas tree at Thanksgiving.

Other than my artwork, there were other things that reflected amateurism such as: forgetting to take a picture of my painting before it was framed (The picture, as a result, is full of reflected light and hence it is not sharp); not knowing how to price my work; and not labeling my entry before submitting.  However, there are all things that I will learn after this first time.

I thank my husband who is always supportive in my endeavors. :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Facebook: A Part of Living In This Generation

Based on my nephew's cover photo

Facebook was good... More than seven years ago I opened an account on Facebook. Reluctantly.  I was very excited to find people I once knew and have lost contact with. It was even more encouraging to be able to revisit the past with them and get a glimpse of where they are now. Consider Facebook as your glorified Address Book.  No question about that. But it seems like it is beginning to loose its benefits in favor of the negative effects on our individual lives.  This technology somehow came into our world and we embraced it.  The sad truth is that we were not prepared for it. It is like having a pet rabbit live in the house without making the necessary adjustments.  The bunny may be very cute and cuddly but if left alone, soon the carpet will be ruined, the computer cables and electric will be chewed and the chair cushions will have holes everywhere. It is a good idea to bunny-proof the house before letting the bunny out, so it is to Facebook-proof our lives to prevent further ruin.

Currently this is how I see Facebook...

Snooping place - Humans are social beings.  We were created to be so.  It used to be that physical proximity was mostly the way to be social.  Nowadays, Facebook (and other social media platforms) creates a virtual proximity between us and the "friends".  So now people get up in the morning and log on Facebook see what's going on.  Not that we want to see world news  - because we would be watching the CNN or KCRA instead.  Seeing what others are posting became entertainment.   Snooping became a pastime that is so addictive.  One problem: While we may be able to glean some beneficial bits, a large proportion of the information we get there are not worth anything. Like physical snooping, Facebook gives one an excuse to stare at someone's picture in full screen - but do you think your conscience, parents, children or spouse feel comfortable seeing what's blown up on your screen?  As I said in an earlier post - a powerful screening system is apropos.

A Venue to Show off -  People need to show off and we need a platform to do it. That is the reason County Fairs are held- so that we can exhibit our prized produce and livestock annually.  But at the Facebook Fair, people can display their goods everyday or every hour.  Sometimes three post in an hour.  On Facebook people are selling or convincing others of something.  And we want people to buy them.  In my case if I post pictures of flowers and birds from my garden, it's because I think they are beautiful and that you should also think the same way.  If I share an article about the seed vault in Norway it's because I think you would appreciate it as much as I do. Sadly, that is not the case at all.  People post what they think are beautiful, helpful, informative and worthy cause - worth sharing to the world.  Of course, the criteria differ from person to person.  Unlike in the County Fair, there is no set standard in evaluating these posts for their significance or worthiness.  Our preferences and inclinations will be manifested on what we sell (as in our political views).  In my case, for example, plants and my family are what I post a lot of.  People who do not know me well will soon find out that I like plants and my life revolves around my family. I'm pretty sure some of my friends are annoyed at my predictable pattern. Sometimes we do some merchandising to manage the impression we get.  We all do that one time or another  some more than others.  There is one problem.  There is an addiction to the positive reaction from our audience. While I might get the admiration of some, I may also make others feel inadequate or feel annoyed. You can say it is their problem but we also can definitely help in this department.

Time Sucking Machine - Facebook is like a television.  It feeds us information, mostly unnecessary and trivial, and we react even without planning to do so.  We like and like and like - sometimes not what people post but the people posting.  Make sure that by spending time "liking" you are not forgetting to give attention or approval allowance to the people who are physically close to you - like the people at your house or at work. Every activity requires time but would it not be better if we decide on where our minds/time be spent?  I used to say to my kids that if they do not have a plan that I have a plan for them.. If we are not decided on how we spend our time then others will do that for us.  So what's wrong with that?   You might say that you scroll only when you are off work and during your free time.  But that free time might be the only time you could talk to your kids or hear about what your spouse is thinking. Or is your mind already filled up with the thoughts of someone from the people you so avidly follow?  Limit your time and set your priorities straight.  It's okay if you missed someone's post.  You'll live. Time is a precious resource. Once it is gone we cannot recover it anymore.

 Facebook can still be good.  There are more things in life where we can spend our 24-hour quota of the day.  Each moment I spend on Facebook - looking at what others are doing is a time not spent on doing something.   I will use that time to be creative.  Facebook is a platform to display one's self.   But there are many other canvases to display our gifts and talents.  Engage in more creative rather than consumptive activities. Spend more time reflecting on wisdom-building thoughts than scrolling for nothing.  Be original.  Mark a verse or quote that touches you from your own readings.  Read what you plan to read.  Add to the vast information to the world

 I wrote this to convince myself to limit my Facebook time.  I have been working on it but this time I will put a definite time limit and test my self control.  Therefore, if you will not see me reacting to your posts, it's probably because I missed its passing through my timeline because I was doing something else.  😊

It is very interesting to see  the other articles I've written about Facebook over the years (see below). They reflect my changing thoughts about the effects of this social media platform that has become part of life.  

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Looking Back on 2016

Today as I put away the Christmas ornaments to be stored, I was reading one of the Christmas letters we got from our friends.  There my friend Sue highlighted each persons most significant thing they did or happened to them during the year.  And I thought to myself - what is it that defined the year for each members of my own household?

Madrid 2016

Silver Wedding Anniversary.  Tim and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary just the two of us!  How we did that?  Brahms invited Miriam to stay with him for the weekend and the two of us stayed in our favorite hotel in Sacramento and did some wonderful romantic things in town.

Spring in Spain.  In the March the family took a quick trip to Spain.  There we rented a beautiful apartment in the heart of Madrid.  From there we visited Segovia and Toledo.  We went there because first of all it was my dream to have a glimpse of the culture that once influenced the Filipino culture.  Secondly, my daughters all took Spanish. Thirdly, Tim and Brahms are always in favor of going to any place of great history.  Spain foot the bill.

 New Church.  In July 2016, Tim and I decided to start attending Oak Hills Church in Folsom.  So far it has been a good decision.  Being in this church community has been stimulating and calming at the same time. 

Miriam - Started her Junior year in high school.  Still in the Oak Ridge Marching Band but now played snare drum which she really enjoyed.  The percussion group made history when they placed second in the overall competitions (32 schools).  She also played percussion in the Wind Ensemble.

She remains to be very motivated in being on top of her academics.  She has been thinking about colleges and universities but no specific favorites as of this time.

As soon as she qualified, she got her driving permit and has consistently drove with her father, of course.  She has been reluctant to have me as her passenger because she thinks I'm extremely reactive.  However, I heard her say yesterday that I am being a good passenger after she drove us to Barnes and Noble in Folsom.  Now, she is scheduled to have her driving test next month - February. 

Brahms -- He started his senior year at UC Davis!  Soon he will be done, God willing.  He took a new job as Lead Student Farmer at the UC Davis Student Farm.  This was a big shift from his job at the Dining Commons which he had since his first year in college.  He enjoys learning new things at the farm and takes pride in being called a Farmer.  One thing, though, is that he and I can now talk about agriculture like real people. :)

He continues to be involved in his college Christian group where he plays a significant role in leadership including speaking and planning social events.

In planning for his life after college, he filed his application to the Peace Corps to go to Senegal.  Very soon he will be finding out whether he will be accepted.  If not then he will consider his alternatives.

Shannon -- Shannon started working for the State Legislature of Wisconsin as a Software Developer.  Yes, part of the year she was still working for Epic (as a Business Intelligence Developer) but she could not handle the work pressure from a big company.  Now she enjoys having to work eight hours only and be home after office hours and not have to think about work.  She also enjoys the benefits of working for the government like having good insurance and three weeks of vacation immediately :)

She moved from Verona to Madison.  When we chose the former, we were only considering the proximity to her work.  Now her place is closer to the city and civilization.  Also she now can take the bus to work and not have to drive all the time - especially in the snow.

Tim -- Continues to work  as CTO for Insyde Software - traveling 6 times a year to the Taipei.  He was granted three patents for 2016.

During the band review season, being a band-parent, he is "shoe-shiner" or chaperone.  He also joined the Oak Hills Choir and a men's bible study group at Oak Hills.  He enjoys both of his new group a lot since it gives him a chance to be part of our new church community and at the same time learn how to live life through his interactions.

Helen (Me) -- I started the year not working - I quit my job at Green Acres.  The job itself was fine but the effects on our life was not that great.  Since Tim travels a lot, someone has to be a present parent for Miriam.

I started learning to draw and paint.  I enjoy doing it and it's becoming a hobby of mine.  This year, I made some of the Christmas cards we sent to people - but not to everyone because I started making them very close to Christmas day. :)

The things I have done or happened to me this year are not all things that can be seen or have names.  Instead they are things that occurred inside.  My faith was put to the test many times (as when my daughter quit her job and when Tim had a ER incident); my tendency to control was exposed before my eyes and my ability (or inability) to love others was provoked (during spiritual formation sessions) God.  God is at work in me.  Although I rebel continually as my natural response, my heart and my mind are instructed...and with God's grace my actions may also be.  Maybe my husband and my children may also have experienced the similar things but since I am the one writing this narrative, I can only speak for my self.  :)

Overall it was a year we are thankful to the Lord for.  His grace and mercy was visible in every aspect of our lives.  God help us to live according to his will.