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Thursday, March 30, 2006

I’ve been tagged!

5 Restaurants you never get tired of:
Judy’s Kitchen
Il Ponticello
The Cheesecake Factory
Lawry’s
Chipotle

5 Places You’ve Lived:
Manila – Greenhills Northeast (first 3 years of my life)
Manila – Greenhills West (23 years)
Berkeley – (a year)
Los Angeles – (two years)
Torrance – (almost 2 years and counting)

5 Movies you could watch over and over again:
Memoirs of a Geisha
Chronicles of Narnia
The Joy Luck Club
Sleepless in Seattle
Little Women

5 Books on your Nightstand:
The Bookseller of Kabul
Same Sweet Girls
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
PHR Review Guide
Guy Larson’s The Far Side

5 Websites you visit daily:
www.yahoo.com
www.junarakasa.blogspot.com
www.google.com
www.wikipedia.com
www.craigslist.com

5 Places you like to shop:
Barnes & Noble
Crate and Barrel
Discount stores (TJ Maxx, Tuesday Morning, Ross, Marshalls)
Trader Joe’s
Target

5 People you would have over for dinner:
David Sedaris
Jon Stewart
Ellen De Generes
Maya Angelou
Rachael Ray (someone has to cook the food!)

5 Jobs you’ve had:
Pre-School Teacher
Research Associate
Marketing Assistant
Sales / Personnel Manager
HR Consultant / Trainer

5 Things you would do with a million dollars:
Pay off our home mortgage
Spend a month traveling with my hubby and family
Invest
Quit my job for a year and enroll in all the classes I’ve been wanting to take
Start a business

5 Things you would rather be doing than what you’re suppose to be doing right now:
Obviously, fill up “questionnaires” like this one
Go home, get into my pajamas, cuddle under our fluffy comforter, and read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Meet my hubby for margaritas and soft tacos at Chipotle
Take a nap
Get a massage, a facial, a hot oil treatment, and a manicure/pedicure

I tag (these are the 5 people who I know will get into this) Ence, Mel, Mina, Joy and Weng.

And for those with blogs, the 5 people I tag are Sareet, ElliotPreciousPants, Jencc, Vina, and Kaye.

Monday, March 27, 2006

First Meeting of the South Bay Book Club

The book club I organized finally met last Friday evening. I was really excited about this meeting and was looking forward to it all week. There were 9 ladies who expressed an interest and 8 of them, plus myself met at a local Starbucks to discuss some “guidelines”. I was really thrilled with the turnout. All the ladies seemed very nice, friendly, well-read, and open to new ideas. We met for about an hour over coffee and did the usual round of introductions (we’re mostly in our late 20s-mid-30s, all working professionals, and have pretty similar tastes in books). We also discussed some guidelines about where, when, and how often our book club would meet. Lastly, since I had asked each member to bring a list of books, we each talked about our favorites as well as books we would like to read if we had the time. Then we voted on the 3 books, we would be reading for the next 3 months. By some coincidence, two of the books I “nominated” ended up being chosen for month # 1 (The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom) and month #2 (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See). We will be reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell for month # 3.

I have actually read The Five People You Meet in Heaven and I absolutely loved the book and the idea behind it. It is sort of an existential book that deals with a man dying and meeting 5 people in heaven that explain to him the meaning of his life. I thought it was a light and easy read but would give way to a very fruitful discussion, which would be great to kick-off the book club. I also thought it would be a great way to “get to know” the members and would start things off for many more interesting meetings.

The second book Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a book I have been wanting to read (after reading several excellent reviews), but have not had the chance. It is a story about a secret code invented by two women in 19th century China. The secret language, which was then passed on from generation to generation, was a way for women to escape the rigid codes of conduct that the men had set upon them. Again, apart from it being a good story, I thought it would be a great read for a book club that was composed only of women.

The third book, Blink, which was suggested by another member, is another one of my favorites. It is a non-fiction book that discusses the power of thinking without thinking or rather relying on our intuition or what the author likes to call our “adaptive unconscious”. I read this book about a year ago and was so intrigued by the ideas and theories presented that I talked my hubby into reading it just so I would have someone to discuss it with. And while Jojo and I did have several meaningful discussions, I am looking forward to having one with the book club ladies as well.

Other things that happened over the weekend: after my book club meeting, my hubby and I attended the birthday dinner of my sister-in-law (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Edel!). Saturday morning, I had people over for a study group for my HR Mgt. Class. After having breakfast, we spent about 4 hours working on our presentation for class. I am lucky cause the 5 other people in my group are all pretty easy-going and are not difficult to work with. We got about 85% of the work done in those 4 hours. Saturday afternoon, was the birthday party of my 3-year old niece (and godchild), Meredith. Her parents threw her a “Disney Princess” party at a local park, which is a really great idea since it’s less fuss for the adults and the kids have a really good time. Luckily the weather was pleasant and everyone had a nice afternoon.

Side note here: I used to hate it when my aunts and uncles would say “I can’t believe you’re all grown up” or comment on “how tall I’ve become” or “how smart I’ve gotten”. I used to think that we see each other all the time so it really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. But lately, I’ve been having those kinds of moments myself. Take Meredith’s last birthday. I found myself thinking I can’t believe she’s 3 years old! Since I don’t have any kids, nieces or nephews of my own, she is actually the first child whose life I have been a part of since Day 1. You can tell she is very special to me. And since we live very close by and I’ve done my share of babysitting her, I’ve been privy to seeing her grow up. It’s pretty amazing that in 3 short years, she has grown from being a baby, into a very intelligent, caring, precocious, and beautiful child. It’s really pretty remarkable. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for her. In the mean time, I’ll try not to be one of those annoying aunts that I’m sure we’ve all had at one time.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

I wore green today hoping it will bring me good luck! My hubby is wearing blue since the only green shirt he has shrunk in the wash and has sort of a “muscle-shirt look” that we thought was quite inappropriate for work! No wild pub parties for us tonight but we do have sushi dinner plans. (After all, it’s lent, folks!).

Side note: we were listening to KBIG 104.3 this morning on our way to work and found out that Cardinal Mahoney has issued a special dispensation for all Catholics – just for today. Even if Catholics are supposed to abstain from eating meat all Fridays of Lent, you can eat meat today IF you are having corned beef and cabbage. No word on whether beer is okay for those abstaining from alcohol though!

Hopefully the “luck of the Irish” will rub off on me soon. An update on my job searching: I turned down an offer from company X (the one who called me back after my quasi argument with the president). The job was almost purely administrative and really not what I want to be doing. Not to mention the opportunity for growth at that company was almost zero. So I decided it was not the one for me. Still waiting on the other two companies I met with last week. And I have a couple more interviews lined up in the next few days. (Fingers remained crossed).

I realize that job searching is a long process – as it should be. Making a decision that will affect my future and having to consider a job where I will be spending a huge amount of my time and energy is very important to me. I do have a high set of standards (as everyone should) but I’m also quite willing to compromise when necessary. So while I do not want it to take forever, it’s not something I think I should rush into either. Anyway, the bottomline is, I just hope something comes up soon.

There are two good things that I am looking forward to though:

First, my family (my whole family) will be here in a month. I am so excited!!! This will mark the second time in 5 years that we will all be together. I can’t wait. I’m planning up a bunch of things for us to do during their 3-week visit. (Please help me think of fun and out-of-the-ordinary things to do in or around LA – although all suggestions must take into consideration my family’s different interests, moods, and comfort zones).

Second, the bookclub I’m organizing already has 8 members (myself included). Yay! I am so psyched since all the responses I got are from ladies who all sound very well-read, upbeat, and excited. I’ve set our first meeting for next Friday. I hope everything goes super well. Updates on that soon.

On that note, Happy St. Patrick's Day and hope everyone enjoys their beers!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Pictures

I thought I'd introduce myself and some of the folks in my life by posting some photos. I've been wanting to do this - but am really quite technologically-challenged - so I had to find an opportune time to get my hubby to walk me thru "how to post pics on my blog". Here are some random pictures that happen to be on his computer hard drive (cause if I had to go thru the digital camera and upload stuff from there or import stuff from my computer ... well, I don't think my brain could handle it on a Sunday afternoon. That would be too much tech information for one day!).



My hubby and I on a trip to Las Vegas last year. I think this is at Mandalay Bay - but am not so sure anymore. Photos by giant slot machines are required for all tourists at the Strip. I think we have one every time we're there.



At Big Bear with some of my in-laws. It was funny how excited we all were to see snow. That was pretty much the highlight of our day :)




Two of my three best friends who have been with me literally thru it all. It's too bad I don't see them as often as I'd like (the one on the left lives in Vancouver, the one on the right lives in Manila, and the third one, who is taking this picture, lives in Singapore). It was great that all three of them were at our wedding though. This picture is taken right in front of our house.



My beautiful nieces, Meredith and Maddie, who have given me and my hubby the much needed practice in Parenting 101. Our future kids thank them :)




Here's my dad walking me down the aisle. If you look at this picture, you will notice my bangs - which was driving me and everyone else crazy at the wedding! It had a life of its own!




Our warm and cozy kitchen. My mom, sisters and I about to carve the Xmas ham. I'm the one in light blue on the left, Cubs is the one in the middle (holding the knife), Atsi's the one in red. And the "floating head" is mom, (a.k.a. Ms. Martha Stewart!).




One of my most favorite pictures of all time. My hubby and I on our honeymoon -- with my whole family! Yes, we honeymooned together! :) I did write about my family being super close, right??? My hubby is the handsome guy kneeling at my feet (in the picture!). From left to right: my brothers Boo and Jules, Atsi, me, mom, Cubs and my dashing dad.




Mom, dad, Jojo and I at The Getty Center. This was during their last visit here (Nov. 2005).

Okay, now that I am going thru the pics - they are in some crazy order and I just realized I can't just cut and paste them to the order that I'd like. Grrr. Oh well. This is what I'll call artistic freedom then. :)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Job Searching

I’ve been somewhat actively looking for a better opportunity the last few weeks. The good news is the last few days have seen an increase in my marketability in the job market. I’ve purposely decided not to write about all this since I’m weirdly superstitious that by doing so I’ll somehow jinx my chances. But I do want to share some tidbits about my job searching. As a compromise, I’ll omit company names and exact details.

As of today, I have turned down 1 offer and am in the running for 3 others. I think my chances are fairly good with these 3, but since they are in the middle of their selection process, I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Turning down the first job offer was a struggle – after all, the company was okay, the pay/benefits were slightly better than what I now get, and the daily commute would have been the same. Pros included working for a cause I believed in and having co-workers (and a boss) that seemed very easy to work with. Cons were that it was a project-based position (would be renewed mid-2007 if additional funding was available), which could affect my immigration status, and there was not much potential for professional growth (since it was a fairly small company).

The struggle came with thoughts like “what if I turned this job down and the other 3 companies I’m interviewing with don’t hire me?” and “what if this was actually the best job for me and I couldn’t see it since I was being too obtuse?” -- and many variations of such questions. But after much reflection, prayer, deliberation and consultation, I decided to pass on it and wait out the other three prospective positions.

The other 3 companies are all interesting in their own way and I’m not too partial to any particular one at this point. I guess it’s still very premature of me to assume which one I’ll be happier and more successful with – if I do indeed get selected by any of them. So at this point, I’m kinda waiting, hoping and playing it by ear.

I must admit though that I was very surprised that one of the three companies even called me back for a second interview, since during my first interview I got into an argument with the company president. In my defense, I did not know he was the president at that time. Well, come to think of it, maybe my knowing he was the president would not really have made a difference. I still would have let him know what I really thought. And actually, it wasn’t really an argument per say but rather more like a difference in opinion. Several opinions. Anyway after the interview (which ended very abruptly) I found out who he was, I figured I probably had a very slim to none chance of getting the job. So when I got the call to come in for a second interview, I was a bit floored, apparently my “argumentative” (albeit respectfully argumentative) nature didn’t totally eliminate me after all.

Anyway, my fingers remain crossed and I’ll keep my blog posted of any interesting developments.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Book Club

I know I’ve talked about how I’ve always wanted to join a local book club. (Yes, in spite of my constant complaining about how I don’t have enough time, this is another thing I still want to do). I’ve looked at local library and community center websites and found a few. Unfortunately there were always conflicts with either schedule – one group met Tuesday mornings, another on Wednesday nights -- or conflicts because of orientation --there is the local Lesbian and Gay Book club. I personally have nothing against gays or lesbians but am not really an avid reader of homosexual literature.

Long story short, I decided start my own book club and so I posted an on-line “ad” on Reader’s Circle. (You should check out the site, it is pretty interesting – http://www.readerscircle.org/ -- click on the "Readers Circle's story" by Norman Hicks). Reader’s Circle is a non-profit organization that aims “to bring together a new, more inclusive community, one based on a shared passion for books and conversation”. And on their website they have an online directory for book clubs (aka Reader's Circles). You can post information about an existing club or invite members for a start-up club.

Here is the ad I posted for my “start-up” club:

Hello! I'd like to start a bookclub for 25-45 year old women in the South Bay Area (Torrance, Carson, Gardena, Long Beach, Redondo Beach, Palos Verdes, etc.). I was thinking about meeting once a month -- Friday evenings or Saturday afternoons. Maybe we could start off by meeting at a local Starbucks? It would be nice to get together over coffee and some light discussion. Nothing formal, just a time and place to share thoughts, form friendships, and learn a thing or two! I read a wide range of books (mysteries, women’s literature, romance, non-fiction, Asian authors, self-help, even reference books) and am definitely open to suggestions. Some of my favorite books include: Little Women, Memoirs of a Geisha, Blink, The Joy Luck Club, The Tipping Point, The Da Vinci Code, The Shopaholic Series, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Empress Orchid, and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood. P.S. I'm not very interested in science fiction, horror, and sports-related books. Please contact me if you are interested.

The way it’s set up is that anyone who is interested can contact me thru the Reader’s Circle website – so it’s quite safe (at least I hope so!). I wasn’t really expecting anyone to reply right away since I only posted 3 days ago and I’m not very sure how many people are actually searching for book clubs to be a part of or if this website gets a lot of traffic. So, it was a pleasant surprise to get an email last night from my first “book club-mate”. Her email was very upbeat and excited. She also listed several of her favorite books (which I happen to love too). Yay! And she’s also not into sci-fi, horror and sports books. Double Yay!

I spent a few minutes last night browsing pages on “How to Start a Book Club” and “Book Club Dos and Don’ts”. I’m quite excited about this! Hopefully we get a few more interested ladies soon. Otherwise it may be pretty weird to have a book club for two.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Happy Birthday Twins!

Happy Birthday to my baby sister and brother! Well, maybe “baby” isn’t the appropriate word to use since they are turning 22! But in my eyes, well, they’ll always be my baby sister and brother.

Happy Birthday Jim and Joy – I wish you both much happiness, success, love, peace of mind, good health and every blessing imaginable. You both deserve all this and more.

I can’t believe how time flies. It’s been a privilege to be a part of your lives. We’ve been thru quite a lot – Doodlepad days, summer classes at Polo Club, talking late into the night after dad turns off the lights, rice topping lunches at Le Ching, our first out-of-town trip to Hong Kong without the folks, shopping, garage sales, planning surprise parties, picnics at Greenhills West park, working on homework, Scrabble games, teaching you guys to play pusoy dos (and then you guys beating me at it!), making up silly songs, watching horror movies and then being too scared to go to the bathroom alone, making merienda on Sunday afternoons, there are so many wonderful memories.

Sometimes it saddens me to be so far away. One of the things I regret most about leaving home is being away from you two. Not being there in-person for your birthdays and graduations, not being there to share the happy times and to comfort you thru your heartaches, not being there to hear all the wonderful things you’ve done, but most of all, not being there to witness you two grow into such remarkable young adults.

But such is life and we need to do the best we can where we are and with what we have. Thru it all I hope you two know that I love you very much. I am so proud of you both. And I will always be here as your “Dets” any time you need me. Am really looking forward to having many more wonderful memories with you guys! See you soon!

Happy Birthday Boo and Cubs!