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.