Thursday, December 31, 2009

May You Be Blessed!

It is traditional for us to have New Year's resolutions every time the year ends. Mine for 2010 is just one - I WILL TRY TO BE A BLESSING TO EVERYONE.

As Eric Harvey ( said in his introductory email about Kate Nowak's book, May You Be Blessed, it is not about religious beliefs but about JOY, APPRECIATION, KINDNESS and LOVE.

Everyday, we meet people who seem to have lost their light. It may be because they have lost a loved one, suffered an illness, experienced a failure or simply just lost sight of their purpose in life. I believe these people crossed our paths for one reason - to help them rekindle their inner light. In the process of doing this, we rekindle our own inner light because being a blessing naturally makes that happen. Goodness begets goodness. Ever heard of that famous line, "Smile and the world smiles with you"? It is true. Try entering a room and greeting everyone happily with a big bright smile on your face and you will see how a simple gesture of joy change and touch lives. Try throwing a word of appreciation to someone who did great. Try getting more emphathetic about someone who's being criticized and tell him what positive you see in what he's doing. Try telling someone who feels alone and unloved that there is someone who loves him.

I think being a blessing is aptly described in the prayer of St Francis. This is my most favourite song and prayer of inspiration:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lives Change, Paths Cross

People come into our lives because they are used by God as instruments of change. It is the challenge that change brings into our lives that tests the fortitude of our character - our faith (in God, in ourselves and in other people), core values (honesty, integrity, courage, generosity, compassion), our spiritual grip towards Godliness.

In the light of uncertainty, we always find ourselves wondering if some people are worth expressing our emotions to. At home, kids would most often test our patience by deliberately doing the "DO NOTs". During the old days (here I go again hahaha), my parents would simply widen their eyes and if it got really bad, ask us to lay on our stomach for the proverbial butt battering (that is, after lecturing you while your naked butt awaits in suspense). My parents disciplined all of us, 8 kids, the old fashioned way but until this day, I believe it is still the most effective. I think that physical punishment, as long as its far and few in between (and as long as it is limited to just spanking, NOT beating up) is a very effective way of showing kids that wrongdoings = pain. And yes, later as they live their own lives they would look back with gratitude that they just got spanks in the butt rather than get into bigger and deeper troubles that could cost them their whole lives because they were not properly raised. Teaching kids the strong sense of right and wrong is very critical. Growing up disciplined teaches you to love yourself (and other people) the right way. And as kids grow, the manner of disciplining them has to change too. A parent who does not recognize the constant change he/she has to cope with while raising children will end up frustrated and hated by his/her kids. Children raise us as much as we raise them. They stretch our understanding, broaden our capability to accept, teach us to be creative in influencing them towards the learnings we want to impart and repeatedly strengthen our faith in the courage and love they bring out from us.

In the same way, there are people who suddenly appear in our lives and somehow leave a strong mark in us. I remember a manager I worked with who strongly influenced me about sincerity. She was one person who seemed not to run out of good things to think of, whether about people or situations. But what's different about her is that she made it a point to keep her good acts secret. She always quoted that biblical verse about not letting the right hand know what the left hand is doing. She said genuine acts of goodness are those that nobody else knows; otherwise, you are doing it for self-gratification. She was my best example of the attitude of being happy about making others happy. Another person I couldn't forget is an office mate who taught me how to pray by heart. Born and raised Catholic, praying never touched my soul the way it did after this lady sat down with me one time and "walked through" the rosary with me. She said, some people criticize us for repeating prayers like the rosary but then if every time you recite the prayers, you feel it in your heart, then it stops becoming a mechanical act. It is like saying "I Love You" everyday to a loved one. Does it mean that when you repeatedly say it, you don't mean it? "Pray like you mean it or else, don't pray at all."

At the end of each day, do we look back and recall the people whom we crossed paths with and who somehow changed our lives? Do we change lives ourselves and how?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Friends are Everything

I couldn't help but post a blog on this topic when I got my email from Inspired Living care of my favourite self help website -

Cindy Lew: “Remember, the greatest gift is not found in a store or under a tree, but in the hearts of true friends.”

I am happy to say that I have been able to maintain the friendships from my past failed love relationships. I guessed its because all of them started with friendship and throughout the relationship, those friendships were continuously nurtured. So even when the passion and intimacy were gone, the respect and goodwill borne out of friendship remained.

This, I believe, is what wives and mothers always lose focus from - building and maintaining and nurturing honest-to-goodness friendship with their husbands and kids (some even have the misconception that only people outside their family can be the good friends).

Are you the first person your husband consults when he is about to make a major decision, even if its a personal one (something that doesnt really affect you or your kids)?

Can your husband deliver the most outrageous jokes with you laughing and appreciating the humor?

Can your husband show his weakest side to you and trust you to be the strong wall to lean on and the shoulder to cry on?

Can your husband appreciate something or someone without you taking it too personally (and yes, feel insecure or jealous)?

Can you tell your husband honestly that there are things you want to do alone though it doesnt mean that you dislike him being with you, you just need your personal space from time to time?

Do you and your husband share some fun-filled hobbies or activities? (it can be something as simple as a watching a favourite tv show or playing a computer or mobile phone game)

Can your children talk openly about everything that happened to them (even if they think you won't approve or agree with how they were involved)?

Can your kids tell you that they need some time alone without you hovering over like some overacting mother hen?

Do your kids like you to join their activities, even those that are "cool" because they love doing them with their peers?

Do your children kid you like you're one of them? Do they trade jokes with you trusting that you and they can take it?

Does your husband and kids hug you and tell you they love you just because? (this is my all time stress reliever, I tell you!)



Zig Ziglar wrote, “You never know when one kind act, or one word of encouragement, can change a life forever.”

When I was young, I always heard my aunt talking about "Killing with kindness". In my young mind, I couldn't figure out how you can do that. Then as I grew older, I witnessed awesome people who offered bread after being stoned - and my father was one of them. I began to understand the poignancy of acts of kindness. How selfless giving, the pure, sincere kind that doesn't expect anything in return, can melt even the hardest hearts. So "Killing with kindness" actually means that you kill the negative and turn it into positive... acts of kindness despite lack of appreciation or even aggressive behaviour can turn that person to the good... Kindness can resurrect a dead soul, can make a hopeless person see light, can encourage a person who failed to continue striving for success... Kindness is the true manifestation of God's presence in our hearts...

A few years ago, I attended a retreat that strongly impacted and changed my spiritual core value. Our retreat master posed one question that stuck with me until this very day - "If you cannot do what is good and right, how can you say that you love God?"

So everyday, before I start my day, I tell myself, "I am going to do at least one act of kindness today.".... and at the end of the day, I reflect on what I have done and asked myself if indeed I did at least one act of kindness that day... and then I pray and thank God for granting me the wisdom and the faithfulness to fulfill His will by allowing those acts of kindness to happen... and I can feel that this has become my soul's daily bread that if I missed it, I will feel hungry and empty until I have had my fill again...


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Let it snow....

Today, my kids got all excited when we got our first snowfall for this winter. As we watched the white, cotton like flakes falling from the sky, we couldn't help but be mesmerized and awed. Christmas is here!

Winter is met with varied reactions - kids look at it as the time for fun and play.... winter angels (i just learned that you do this by laying on thick snow and flapping your arms so that you will create wing forms like an angel, cool huh?).... snowmen (who would ever forget Frosty?)... snowball fights... ice skiing... but for the old folks, this is the time when they will feel their age really bad - depression due to the extreme coldness and inconvenience of being snowed in, attacks of cold weather illnesses...

Snow, like any other experiences in our lives, can make us happy or sad - it depends however we choose it to be. Snow is a time when we can enjoy indoor bonding activities with the family. Pull out your cookbooks and try that sumptuous pastries you've been wanting to bake. Get the kids together and play those indoor games that havent been touched for ages. Find DVDs of movies that you've been wanting to watch with the family or invite your buddies over. When was the last time you visited your social networks? Now you've got more time to post your comments or upload pictures in your Facebook account!

Hmmmm... before you know it, Christmas is here and winter has passed... and you have made the most out of it... your cooking skills improved... you spent quality and fun time with your family... you have done more relaxing indoor activities and well... you simply feel good!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Character for Christmas?

If you haven't spent all your budget during the Thanksgiving weekend and you are still looking for Christmas presents that would make both you and the person you're giving it to happy... why not give Character this Christmas?

Character, sad to say, has taken a backseat to Consumerism over the last years.

There used to be a time when family games were the best sellers for presents because they get the family together playing, teasing each other, pitting their mental skills against each other and basically just have so much fun. Books, too, have been overshadowed by techie toys. Imagine how kids will handle it if there's a massive power outage and they wont be able to play with their tech toys for a looong time.

This year, I am happy to see even young people posting deep insights and sharing self-help and values-uplifting links in their social networks. I think this is one benefit of the global recession - people are starting to realize that material things are just temporal, it is character and substance that makes a person happy.

So if you are one of those who wish to give Character for presents, here are my suggestions:

When I discovered this site, it was just like finding a mine of gold. The materials they offer are a million times worth what you pay for. And it covers both the work and the personal aspects of life. I like sharing their daily inspiration quotes because the appreciation I get from my friends who read them are like spring water from the spiritual well - it quenched not just my thirst but theirs too.

Organic food books and subscriptions (oh yes, healthy body=healthy character!)
(just browse "organic foods" and you'll find a lot of links to organic stores)

I think the big wave towards the organic trend is a sign that we're finally respecting our bodies and nature. The big dream is that giant pharma companies would start investing in probiotics research and finance environmental projects that would benefit them in the future by supplying the natural ingredients that they would use to prepare their organic medicines. In the same way, food manufacturing companies might want to invest in more organic farms so that time will come when organic food will flood the market, you'll get them at really inexpensive prices. If you feel like convincing someone to get off the junk diet, this is a good choice for a Christmas gift.

Interactive Educational Subscriptions (Knowledge=Power=Character)
-for Math I suggest They charge a reasonable fee ($10/mo if you subscribe monthly, lower if for a longer period of time).

A few months ago, I was assigned to an out of town project and I was thinking of a way to follow through my son in his Math studies. I normally gave him short exercises to practice on to sharpen his math skills. I found the above Math exercise subscription that gave both him and me access. His access allowed him to work on the exercises and mine allowed me to check what he has done. It was quite neat and convenient for a working mom like me. So why not enroll a child to this very helpful subscription instead of buying them electronic toys which they will just rip apart in less than a week? There are loads of interactive educational websites that offer good practice materials.

So there! I hope after reading this you'll find presents of good value that would leave your legacy to the person you're giving them to.

Have a Meaningful Christmas!!!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Crossing the Line...

When I was about 20, fresh out of college, I held on strongly to my principles. I grew up in a typical Filipino family that revered marriage and everything that it stands for - fidelity, parental responsibility, loyalty, commitment, unconditional love.

Two decades, 2 marriages and 2 kids after, I realized that during the times when my strong family values were tested, the temptation to cross the line were so strong that even with a good moral support system around me, there were still many times that human weakness prevailed. Thankfully, even during weak moments, my great love for my children and respect towards my own parents blew unimaginable strength to my spirits and I was able to stand up and survive the challenges.

Have you ever found yourselves strongly tempted to cross the line?

When you found out that the man you married is not really the man he represented himself to be, was heading out the door, back to singlehood, the first option that came into your mind?

When you realized that being married means flexing out your individuality, sometimes, even in matters that you're perfectly and obsessively firm about, did you find yourself contemplating just doing things exactly how you want them done even if it means provoking your partner to lose it?

When you were faced with your mother in law who makes it clear that you're the princess of the house because, well, SHE IS THE QUEEN!!!; did you start imagining yourself pushing her off the road so she'll accidentally die? or better yet, annoy her to death by showing her how much her son lavish you with love and attention?

When your kids started the tantrum crusade just when its time for you to watch your favourite TV show or sink back to your peaceful quiet heaven for that much cherished "me" moment, did you just wish that you can just deposit them in a "kids counter" for claiming later (specifically when they have calmed down and returned back to the angels that they should be)?

When you get caught in a tight financial situation and you realize that you cant really help because you are a stay at home wife and your husband is the sole breadwinner of the family, did you find yourself thinking desperately that maybe, just maybe, if you chose to stay in that work pit that you were with before you got married, you wont have to cut down on even simple conveniences that made your housewife life more bearable?

If you are still married now, chances are - you didnt cross the line... or if you did, your husband loved you so much that he thought those times were just a few of those "one of those bad moments"...

But if you braved the above situations without losing your grace, then congratulations, you have the right level of maturity for marriage... *big wink*

If you got a lot of warnings before you tied the knot, you probably remember all of them now. Yes, they are all true. It is not "like" a boiling, delicious smelling soup that you sip and spit out later when you get burned. It IS a a boiling pot that you need to survive and cope with (cook yourself in it if need be). The trip to heaven is not always easy and torn free. So, yes, Marriage can be heaven too. Once you learn how to fill your cups with countless moments of joys with your husband and with your kids, any bad moments will just be that - moments. There is life in dying. If you let yourself die in some matters, you will find that the life you get in exchange for those personal deaths are really worth it.

So, is crossing the line really worth it?

No, toeing the line would be more rewarding....