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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Tidbits

Last Friday night, my in-laws, hubby and I headed for Las Vegas. We were planning a weekend of Sin City fun. Amidst all our planning and excitement, we had failed to consider just how hot it is in Vegas during the summer. Actually “hot” does not begin to describe the way the sun scorched our skin, the way the dry air cracked our lips, the way the sweltering blasts of warm air made our eyes water, and the way the leather car seats seared our butts. It was a scorching 122 degrees during the day and an oppressive 104 degrees at night.

Quite literally we were trapped in our hotel since it was torturous to walk out into the open parking lots and get into cars that had been baking in the desert sun. Evenings were not much better. We had the false hope that the temperature would drop once the sun had set. But, even then, we were greeted with a gust of hot air as we stepped thru the hotel doors. Similar sensation to the blast of hot air that hits you in the face when you open your oven door. A few minutes out on the Strip, where you could actually feel the heat rising from the pavement, and we would head back to the comforts of air conditioning.

Despite that, we managed to have a good time. At least, I did. Highlights of the trip included spending time with the family, playing with the kids, the hotel management upgrading our standard rooms to suites, shopping at the Primm outlets, and just getting away from life in L.A. for a few days. Have I mentioned the room upgrade? Well, for someone like me who detests the heat and loves staying in hotels, having a suite for the weekend was a vacation in itself! :)

In other heat-related news, the July 4th holiday is coming up. We’re not going out of town since Jojo has to work on the 3rd, and as it turns out, I may have to work as well (I’m taking Friday off instead). I guess we’ll have a barbecue at home and maybe watch the fireworks at a local park. Two years ago we went to the Rose Bowl and the fireworks were impressive. But it was not worth the traffic to and from the place, the super crowded stadium, loooong restroom lines and paying $5.00 for a bottle of water. Plus, I don’t think I’m up for being out in the sun too long and then getting attacked by bugs at night. (I just re-read my post so far and I’m beginning to sound like a Summer Scrooge).

In other more positive news, my brother, Jules, has a job! He graduated from his MBA program a few weeks ago and has been actively looking for one since then. Last Friday, he received a pretty good offer and yesterday he accepted. I am so happy for him since I just know he’ll do a great job there. I’m so proud of him too knowing he has worked hard for this and now he’s beginning to reap some of his rewards. But mostly, I’m thrilled since the company is located in Pasadena, which means my brother will be staying in LA. Yay! I was a bit worried he’d have to move across the country and since he’s my only “real” family here, I would have hated for that to happen. We were supposed to take him out to dinner at Havana Mania last night to celebrate, but since Jojo had to work overtime, we’re celebrating this weekend instead. At any rate, CONGRATS, Jules!!!

On my job searching end, there are two new opportunities on the horizon. Both look promising for now, but, as I’ve said before I’m adopting a “no details till everything’s final” policy. Hopefully things work out well and I’ll have a new and better job soon.

Also, my family is planning a major celebration for my dad’s 60th birthday. Well, technically, he is turning 59 on July 25th. But in Chinese years (it’s plus one), he’s turning the big 6-0! Such a milestone and such a major event. I am utterly disappointed that I will not be able to make it home for his birthday. I was hoping I could work it out, but the way things are going it is unlikely. I will have to make it up to him when he comes here next year. I’ll definitely plan something to make his real 6oth birthday special.

Speaking of birthdays, Jojo’s is coming up on the 17th. I’m racking my brains trying to come up with a great way to celebrate. Last year, I threw him a very successful surprise party. It was “very successful” since a lot of friends and family came AND I managed to keep it all a secret. Believe me, that was TOUGH. This year, he has specifically asked for no surprises and no parties. Instead he wants to spend it quietly and without much fanfare. Hmmm … what to do? what to do? Suggestions anyone? Keep in mind, my hubby's idea of a pleasant afternoon generally involves:
a.) Spending time in Fry's/Circuit City/Best Buy sifting thru electronics;
b.) Sitting in front of his computer working on programs / playing games; or
c.) Reading DC, Marvel and anime comics.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A trip down memory lane

Thanks to my good friend, Monse, who sent me this photo. (Thanks M, for visiting my blog too!).

It's such an old picture, taken almost 25 years ago. (Can you tell by the hairstyles and the clothes!?). Surprisingly I can remember this day quite clearly. This was my kindergarten class (Easter Lily) and the lady in very colorful clothes was our teacher, Mrs. Lola. Here we are dressed in baro't saya (traditonal Filipino attire), lining up on our way to the covered courts to do our "castanets" dance to celebrate Filipinana week.

Seeing this picture has brought back so many fond memories that I thought I'd share it here.

For those who did not know me when I was at that age and are having trouble picking me out from the line up, let me give you a clue. I'm the little girl with her mouth open. As my hubby just said, the little girl in white and blue that's, no doubt, busy talking to the little girl next to her.

Friday, June 16, 2006

A Birthday Tribute for My Mom

Happy Birthday Mother-Bear! Look how far we’ve come together.

You started out as “my home”. You nurtured and carried me close to your heart for nine months. You made sure I felt secure and cherished even though we had yet to meet. You went thru labor pains to give me life – (although looking back, those 8-hours were probably easy compared to everything else I’ve put you thru, huh?). You were my protector.

And then one day you became “mama” who cared for me, and bathed me, and sang to me, and made sure my diapers were clean. You taught me how to speak and later on you had to shush me when I started talking too much. You encouraged me to take my first steps yet later on you were also the one who told me to sit still. You made sure I had everything I needed even if it meant giving it up for yourself. You were my provider.

And then you became “mommy” who insisted I be neat and well-dressed all the time. You made sure that my hair was pulled way from my face in a ponytail whenever I went to school (never mind that it was too tight and gave me “Chinese eyes”). You went to every open house, every parent-teacher conference, and every school play I was in (even the one where I played a grizzly bear and had to wear your old fur coat for my costume!). You made sure I had homemade chocolate chip cookies and chicken pies whenever I came home. Not only that – you made sure all my friends were well fed every time I brought them home with me. You were always there at the end of the day to listen to my problems and soothe my hurts away. You were my idol.

From there you became “mom” who chaperoned my first dance, who gave me my first piece of real jewelry, and who was there to cheer me at my graduation. You were there to ground me when I had bad grades and to instill a curfew when I started dating. Never mind that I was the only one in my class who had to be home by midnight on the night of my prom. I was too caught up in angst to see it was for my own good and so I argued and cried and threw tantrums the whole neighborhood could hear. You were tough when you had to be and I grew up better for it. You were my guardian.

You then became “mother” who sat back as I tested my newfound freedom in college and who encouraged me to do what I wanted to do when I got my first job. Never mind that I started with minimum wage and had to work long hours and travel most of the time. You were the silent wind beneath my wings even if I knew you spent many nights worrying and waiting up for me. You gave me my space when I was making important decisions and you held your tongue even if those decisions meant that I was moving away. You bought my plane ticket and saw me off at Berkeley, helping me settle in my first apartment that I was so proud of even though you thought it violated sanitation codes. You were happy and excited for me even if it was hard for you to see me go. You always encouraged me to do what made me happy and you supported my decisions although some were more questionable than others. You were my champion.

And today you are “mother-bear” who gives me the strength whenever I get homesick or discouraged by life. You laugh with me, cry with me, dream with me, pray with me, and humble me when I become too proud. Your cooking tips, entertaining suggestions, and decorating ideas are all invaluable. But most of all I cherish your advice (based on your personal experience) on how to be a great wife and (hopefully soon) a great mother. You are my inspiration.

M-Bear, to me you will always be my home, my protector, my provider, my idol, my guardian, my champion, and my inspiration. But more than all that, I am glad that now, you are also my friend.

I love you. Thank you for all that you are and all that you’ve done. And thank you for patiently waiting 31 years for me to realize all that.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Disappointment

There is some closure to the anxiety and frustration I’ve been having due to my job searching. In particular, I’ve been waiting to hear back from two companies regarding possibly joining their Training and Development teams. This week, I’ve waited with baited breath, and finally I have my answers. I wish it were great news. Unfortunately life is not a series of granted wishes.

Very briefly let me walk you thru the rollercoaster ride of emotions I have gone thru lately. Company A, a Fortune 500 company, called me yesterday (after almost 3 months, several rounds of interviews, an hour long presentation I staged for their management team, and beating out 75 other applicants). They offered me a job but had to later retract the offer because of some legal technicalities. It’s a long story but suffice it to say they did their best, I did my best, but a resolution could not be met. Company B, a large private institution in L.A., called me today (this after 8 weeks of interviews – phone, face-to-face, and panel – as well as a two-hour demo I had to present, and being one of the two final contenders). Their news was I had come in second. Meaning they had offered someone who had more years of experience the job BUT if he declined or did not make it thru their background and reference checks, they would offer it to me.

A small part of me is happy and proud that I had made it thru the whole “selection process circus” but a larger part of me is disconcerted and crestfallen that I did not get the job. For those who know me well, you would know that I am extremely competitive and confident, and as a result I do not take rejection and defeat well. It’s been hard for me the last few days to sit and wait for the news and even tougher the last few hours to come to grips with the results.

I guess it’s easy to wallow in self-pity and to feel a strong sense of dejection over not coming out on top. After all, second place, according to some, is first place among the losers. I could choose to rant about unfairness of circumstance and to bemoan how I was robbed of an opportunity that should have been mine. I can spend the next few days blaming others, myself, fate and even God. Or I could just curl up in a corner and give up.

Tempting? Yes, it is. But then again, what would be the point of this post if I had taken one of those easy ways out? How could I face my parents and the rest of my family after they had shown such an awesome amount of support and encouragement towards me? How could I face God knowing that my faith was so weak and shallow that after being tested I automatically give up? And most of all, how could I live with myself knowing that I couldn’t get up and brush myself off after a fall?

And so, it's back on the saddle again for me. Hopefully now better, wiser and more prepared.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A post about not posting ...

Pardon the fact that I have not posted anything lately. I have been going thru some issues, mainly pertaining to a change in career, that has not given me much time to update my blog. I have plenty to narrate but am choosing not to for several reasons. Mainly since I don’t want to presume anything nor do I want to jinx my chances. Suffice it to say, these days, I am quite anxious and my faith is truly being tested. Oh -- and that post I wrote a few days ago, the one where I aim to practice more positive thinking, well, that’s another test I’m having to face these days too. I’ll be posting soon – once things become a little less uncertain and when hopefully I’ll have more upbeat news to share. Till then.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

One of the many reasons I married this guy ...

Every night, after doing everything that needs to be done and before drifting off to sleep, Jojo and I spend our last few awake moments talking. We talk about what happened during the day, about what we have planned for tomorrow, about things to look forward to for the weekend, and any thing that comes to mind. Nothing existential – just every day conversation.

Last night was no different. Jojo was telling me about his lunch with some friends from work and I was telling him about a presentation I was working on. After a pause, Jojo starts talking in a silly robot-like voice. He was doing an imitation of someone he knew from somewhere. He was actually pretty good.

I know it sounds inane but I started laughing. Then he started laughing. I laughed harder, then he laughed harder. We’re both doubled over with laughter. Pretty soon the laughing has escalated to almost hysterical guffaws and we’re both literally gasping for air. It’s strange cause come to think of it, it wasn’t THAT funny. But you know how you get when you just can’t stop laughing? We were exactly like that – we couldn’t stop laughing. The more we tried to suppress the laughing, the worse it got. We’d look at each other and a giggle would break out, our shoulders would start to shake, we’d start with a chuckle and all hell would break lose again.

We both had to sit up to catch our breath, turn on the lights to find the tissue box and wipe our tears from all that laughing. Seriously, you’d think we just won the Mega Lotto grand prize. It wasn’t even about the silly robot-voice anymore. We were laughing at each other and at ourselves. Every time I’d stop, or he’d stop, the other’s laughter was too contagious and we’d be laughing all over again. This went on for maybe a good 15 minutes. Later on when we both finally got a grip and settled ourselves, we had to agree that was the best laugh we’ve had in a while. (Ever had that, a really, really good laugh?).

Anyway, the point is, Jojo and I may have our differences and we don’t always see eye to eye. We may have varied interests and sometimes things are not always perfect between us. But one thing I know is for sure, he has been and will always be the one who makes me laugh.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Positive thinking

I had an unplanned haircut yesterday at a local salon on Larchmont Street. If you knew me at all, you would know that it isn’t like me to, spur of the moment, get my hair cut, especially at an unknown salon with a hairdresser who had too many body piercings for me to count. But since I had over an hour to kill, waiting for Jojo, I thought, “why not”. Luckily this did not turn out to be one of those “Oh-god-what-was-I-thinking” moments. I guess it’s hard to go wrong when you’ve had pretty much the same hair style since college (in my defense, the length of my hair does vary and I did go thru the highlights/colored hair phase!).

In other news, my job searching is going ok. I’ve completed a 4th interview with company A and am looking forward to a 4th interview with company B this Friday. Amazing how much time has passed since I first submitted my resume to both these companies and how much time they have taken to get me this far! I’m still keeping my options open and am still looking at other opportunities – but I’m getting a bit anxious too.

On a personal level, I am choosing to practice more positive thinking. Not that this is such a profound statement nor is it an innovative concept. But it is nonetheless a huge step for a pragmatic realist such as myself. (Notice how I used the politically-correct phrase “pragmatic realist” – other more apt terms to describe me have included “negative thinker”, “active worrier”, and “anxious pessimist”).

Here’s my rationale. Optimistic thinking will allow me to radiate a more positive aura (and of course good vibes beget good tides!). Plus, positive thinking is good for me mentally, emotionally and physically – this will certainly relieve the stress I’ve been placing on myself and inevitably on my hubby too. And since my negative thinking has not really done me any good, maybe I should try the flip side. Also my mom keeps telling me that “worrying is an insult to God” and I wouldn’t want to do that!

So, instead of focusing on the glass being half empty, I’m going to TRY and see every situation as glasses being half full (operative word is “TRY” – since you can’t change behaviors overnight!).

Here’s my first shot at being more positive. Yesterday, as a favor to our Office Manager, I had agreed that on my way to work this morning I would drive over to our printing vendor to pick up our company letterheads and stationery. No big deal. But this morning, my hubby and I were running very late, traffic was exceptionally horrible, and the printer’s was 3-4 miles out of the way. Not to mention the fact that I had to park almost three blocks away AND had no coins for the parking meter. I debated making a run for the printers, picking up the stuff and dashing back to my car. But having had a recent run-in with parking attendants and tow trucks, I decided that it was not worth it. This was the perfect time and opportunity for a “pragmatic realist” such as myself to think negatively, right?

As I was telling myself to think positively, I see another parking spot across a coffeeshop. I pull into that one, duck into the shop, order a cup of coffee and get change for the meter. Killing two birds with one stone. But what’s even better was I stumbled into a really wonderful coffeeshop that served REAL coffee. It’s a running joke with my friends and I that there is nowhere in California where one can get REAL coffee. You know the strong, full-flavored kind? Starbucks, CoffeeBean, and the refills you get at Denny’s and IHOP really don’t come close. Back when I was in Berkeley, my roommate brewed strong Turkish coffee every morning (from a local store) and it was awesome. Peet’s Coffee, for me, probably is the next best thing. But you can never find a Peet’s when you need one.

Anyway, back to my story, I got a cup of Organic Panama coffee from this small obscure coffeeshop (called Groundwork) and it was really, really good (strong, full-flavored). Now that's what I call serendipity! So instead of focusing on how I was late for work, had to drive 4 miles out of my way, had to park three blocks away from the printer, and had no coins for the meter – I am calling my morning “the one where I had really good coffee”.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

The SBRC (South Bay Readers Circle), or better known as my book club, met yesterday. Our book for that meeting was Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. Having read the book on my own a few days ago, I found the story fascinating and the style of writing quite captivating. I was intrigued with the characters’ lives and found myself imagining what it must have been like going thru their turmoil, their joy, their hopes, and their heartaches. Being part of this book club and having a chance to talk about the nuances of the book has allowed me to look at things from several different perspectives and has allowed me to even take a step back and consider things I would have never even thought of on my own. Yay! That’s the power of several minds thinking and exactly why I formed this club in the first place.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a story of women’s lives in early 19th century China. It is told thru the eyes of Lily, a poor farmer’s daughter born as a middle child, who because of tradition and circumstance was regarded as a useless member of the family. However Lily’s destiny, as manifested in her perfectly arched feet, was for greater things. In those days, a woman’s worth and beauty was primarily judged by her feet. This was at an era where foot binding, now considered a barbaric torture, was the norm. Lily’s story revolves around her relationship with Snow Flower, who was her lao-tong or old same (her friend for life), her struggle as a woman, her difficult relationship with her mother, her marriage into the powerful Lu clan, and her own trials and tribulations with her own children.

The story also allowed the voices of many women to be heard. It was a fascinating unraveling and interconnecting of lives. The women’s medium was their poetry, songs, letters, chants, and nu-shu (a style of women’s writing that was developed by women as a secret correspondence). Through these mediums it allowed the readers a peek into a private inner world.

Several things jumped out at me while reading this book.

First. I am intrigued by the allure of reading about a culture that sounds both so foreign and yet so familiar. The women in the story were second class citizens forced into subjugation by their bound feet. Their lives were controlled by the men (first their fathers, then their husbands, then their sons). They had no voice other than to each other and they lived their lives with the sole purpose of placating the men in their households. At first blush, tragic and horrifying! But on closer examination, the question really is, how far have we come from that type of society? Yes, we have come a long way and are no longer are bound by such unyielding norms as they were back then. But when we think about it, women today, no matter how far we’ve come, still have our roles to play, still have our bindings that hold us back, and we still have to fight harder to get the same benefits.

And yes, we are no longer obligated to bind our feet and mutilate ourselves to be considered beautiful. But our society has taken its own standard of beauty and has continually rammed this standard down our throats. And so there’s plastic surgery, and eating disorders, and fashion makeovers, and the constant lingering thoughts that “I’m not good enough”. The argument to that is now we have a choice. Now we can decide for ourselves whether we want to go thru whatever process we think we need. But think about it, do we all really have that choice? Do we really in our minds believe 100% that our decisions are not in some way determined by the people around us?

Second. It was easy to blame the men and to lump them into the unfeeling, uncaring, dominant group. And yes, maybe it was some men that created that kind of subjugated society. But looking at it closely, it also created roles for men. Roles that maybe they didn’t want thrust on them either. In the story, Snow Flower’s father could not handle being primary breadwinner and took to the opium pipe. While Snow Flower’s first born son was weak and frail and considered useless since he was not fit to one day oversee the family. Men also went thru dealing with pressure and having to live up to standards whether they wanted to or not.

Third. Foot binding was a painful and debilitating process that mothers did to their daughters in the hopes it would better their lives and find them suitable marriage matches. When asked if I found myself living in those times but knowing what I know now, would I subject my own daughter to that, my answer was a quick and resounding “no way”. But after careful thought, I had to consider that if I did not bind my daughter’s feet, she would never have a chance to marry and would be a servant all her life. Would hurting her now, spare her more hurt in her future? The question then is much harder to answer and was undoubtedly faced by the mothers during those times. Today, there are still countless ways mothers and daughters (or parents and children for that matter) clash over what parents think is right for the child and over what the child wants for him/herself.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a beautiful and powerful story that I think most women (and even men) can relate to. It is not merely a story of oppression nor is it of women’s liberation. In my opinion, it is simply an account of how life back then, in that part of the world. And thru it we can choose to see how far is it that we have come, and at the same time, how far we still have to go.