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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Survived my first week

I have lasted one week at my new job (actually 7 working days now) and I’m still alive to blog about it. It’s been a pretty stressful last few days. Correction, it’s been EXTREMELY stressful the last few days. For one thing there is the usual “new” job stress of having to learn new things, meet new people, and adjust to new surroundings. And then there’s the stress that’s specific to this job – totally new industry for me, totally new culture, very high expectations and deadlines that are looming over my head. On some days it can get pretty overwhelming and I’ve found myself a couple of times wishing I were back at the old job – where life was less stressful and less complicated. But those moments are few and far between since I really weighed my options before taking this new job, and by almost all counts this one is better than the last. I guess it will just take some time for things to sink in and for me to get adjusted.

My mom gave me great advice. She said “Just take it one day at a time”. Sounds simple – but really it’s quite profound. I get overwhelmed thinking about the big deadlines I have to meet and the amount of work that needs to be done. But if I compartmentalize them to mini, day-to-day stuff, it’s not so bad. I get such satisfaction creating daily to-do lists and crossing out items one by one – IN RED PEN. Totally helps brighten my day. :)

There is not much else going on with me other than work. My “work life balance” is not too balanced these days. Most days I spend 10-12 hours at work (yes, you read that right!) and then get home and hit the books to study work-related materials. Weekends (this and last) have been mostly sitting in front of a computer doing on-line training courses to catch up with still work-related issues. It’s pretty sad, I know. But I’m assuring myself and my ever-patient hubby that this is only temporary. Only the first few weeks and I’ll cut back, I promise.

To relax, I’ve started reading David Sedaris’ book “Me Talk Pretty One Day” and I am really enjoying it. And since it’s a collection of essays, it’s not hard to read a chapter or two, put the book down and forget about it until you have time to pick it up again – say two days later. And I really like Sedaris’ dry-wit style, although personally, I think he missed the mark with his book “Dress Your Family in Corduroy”.

Other than that, I’ve started drinking lots of lemon water. Two reasons. First, we have a lemon tree in our backyard that just won’t quit. There are about a hundred beautiful, huge, ripe lemons at any given time and it’s such a waste to see them fall to the ground when no one picks them. We’ve given bags of lemons to family, friends and neighbors and have adapted more citrus in our culinary fare – lemons in our food, in our marinades, and in our sauces. But the problem is most dishes call for a tablespoon of lemon juice or a dash of lemon zest – I’ve yet to come across one that needs 84 cups of lemon juice. So this is a good way to use up the fruit. Second, I was reading a magazine at the bank the other day and saw an article where glamorous actresses were interviewed about their beauty secrets. Some claimed soaking in mud baths, getting regular sea salt scrubs, having plenty of sleep, and remaining stress free. And capped off with the usual jetting off to St. Tropez for a holiday too. Well, I don’t think I’d enjoy lounging in mud nor getting rubbed all over with salt. I can only wish about getting the right amount of sleep and there’s no way I can remain stress-free. Plus I don’t think we could afford to spend a week in St. Tropez right now. So I decided to take the simplest of all the advice. Eva Mendes claimed her beauty secret was drinking tons of lemon-flavored water. She claimed it cleared up her skin, got rid of the dark circles under her eyes, and was a great way to restore energy. Well, that seemed easy enough – so lemon flavored water it is!

You know how boring things are when my blog is about the kind of water I’m drinking …

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Birthday Tribute to My Dad

Today is my dad's 59th birthday. Last Sunday, my mom threw him a huge and wonderful 60th birthday party. (60 is his Chinese age). At that party, my sisters and brother presented dad with a video presentation featuring a slideshow of his life. As an accompaniment to the pictures, Joy read this essay that I had written for him. My dad was very moved by the presentation and so I thought it would make a wonderful tribute to him to post it here on my blog.

Throughout life, we are blessed through our encounters with special and significant people. It is thru these people that our lives are enriched and inspired. While many of us never get the opportunity to thank these special people or to let them know how wonderful they are, tonight, we are fortunate to have the chance to do that to one very special person. To someone known as “husband”, “son”, “brother”, “boss” and “friend”. To someone we are honored to call “dad”.

My father was born to a family that struggled to keep financially afloat. The son of Chinese immigrants, my father was the eldest of 5 children. He was a talkative, active child. One who enjoyed listening to the radio and reading books. He received his grade school and high school education from San Beda College. There he excelled in academics and extra curricular activities. But aside from honors, he was notoriously known as the “Babbling Brook” and the “Son of Thunder”, the young man who because of his talkativeness was responsible for angering the librarian, not once but twice, causing the school library to shut down for the day.

Early on, my father displayed a very strong work ethic. While many kids played games and watched movies after classes, my dad sold cigarettes in front of a movie theatre, helping his family make ends meet. In his college years at De la Salle University, he worked in the insurance company my angkong had started and while taking the bus to school, would read the assigned chapters for his classes. But, through it all, my father had a pleasant childhood and fond memories. Unlike many others who had to live in those circumstances, my father made the best of things and worked at keeping his dream of a better future.

In 1968, my father graduated magna cum laude. He garnered the highest honors while working full time and against the odds of being with wealthier cohorts who had everything money could buy. Deciding to further pursue a master's degree was another of my father's accomplishments. He was a man who believed in the value of education and who was not afraid of hard work.

In truth, my father was not a perfect man. He had a great fear of speaking in front of a crowd. Some might say that with all that he has accomplished, this was an insignificant fear. Something to overlook. But not to my father. He set about conquering that fear by becoming an economics professor at a well known university for women. Not only did he have to face speaking with groups of students, but women at that. This shows my father having the inherent ability to stand up to his fears in times of adversity and uncertainty.

In 1972, my father accomplished his greatest feat and the one act he should be most proud of, he married my mother. This was the result of my dad’s perseverance and dedication. While my mom was in Ohio getting her Masters Degree, my father persistently wrote her a love letter every day for two years. That’s a lot of letters especially when you think about the fact that this was before emails and text messaging! Their wedding was a small and intimate affair. But it has lasted and has become a strong and beautiful marriage. 33 years and counting. But what’s even more amazing is I have never seen the two of them fight or exchange harsh words towards each other. It is a marriage of respect and love and commitment. My mother has been extremely supportive and has cared for my father in the most amazing way. She is the one that grounds him and is his symbolic beacon to which he finds his way home.

In 1973, my parents were blessed with a beautiful daughter, Jenny. Who despite her handicap has become a strong, beautiful and intelligent young woman. In 1975, I came along, and despite the many headaches I caused my parents, I’d like to think I’ve redeemed myself a little bit especially with this wonderful essay. In 1978, Jules was born. Finally, a son to carry out the family name. It was indeed a blessing. It was icing on the cake that my brother turned out hard working, kind hearted and a good son. Our family was complete. Or so we thought. Six years later, my parents were blessed again … and again … Along came Jim and Joy, our youngest, the twins who could not be more different in physical appearance and temperament. Jim, strong, brilliant, silent and blessed with a big heart. And Joy, sweet, charming, playful and a fashionista too! Their arrival rounded out the 7 J’s.

While raising a family, my dad was slowly building a company. He worked hard and grew the business to what it is today. My dad is a brilliant man, astute in business and sharp with investments, but more than that, my dad is a good businessman and a generous boss. His employees’ loyalty is testament to that fact. In the insurance and finance world, my father is respected and looked up to by many. It’s not surprising that several people have called him a up and coming “taipan”.

My father has been a supportive father for as long as I can remember. Although he has probably never changed a diaper or got up in the middle of the night to burp us. I do recall bedtime stories, carnival trips, swimming in Alabang, watching movies, and bookstore shopping sprees. We were never spoiled with all the things money could buy but we grew up never lacking in encouragement, understanding, and love.

My dad worked hard to meet our needs and to give in to our requests. I know this for fact because my dad worked hard to give me my one and only request for my graduation. Despite his greatest fear – his 30+ year fear of flying – he overcame his trauma and his inhibitions and got up the nerve to fly to the States. He not only came for my graduation but was present to give me away at my wedding last Dec. 2004. That is a testament to my father’s deep love for all of us. And because he has conquered that fear, we have enjoyed several grand reunions in the last 2 years and are looking to many, many more.

My father is an exceptional person, a brilliant business man, a loving husband, a wonderful dad, a good son and brother, a dependable friend. Thank you for joining us here tonight to celebrate his 60th birthday and hopefully we’ll see you all as we gather to celebrate many more birthdays of his to come. Happy Birthday, dad, we love you very, very much.

P.S. Sorry we couldn't be there, dad. Maybe next year? :)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Happy Birthday, Junarakasa's Story!

MY BLOG TURNS ONE TODAY! Yes, my dear, loyal readers (all 3 of you), I started my blog 365 days ago. My post then was not really anything earth-shattering – I was simply doing a dry-run to see if my post would work. My only comment then was from Sareet – who I owe a debt of gratitude to, since she was one of the catalysts who prompted me to blog in the first place. By the way, that first post did work. And for a year, it’s been working just fine. Let me take this time to thank everyone who has stopped by, read, commented on, and appreciated my posts. THANKS A LOT EVERYONE!

Incidentally, today was also my first day at work. It was a very typical first day. Started with an hour long orientation, LOTS of paperwork and forms to fill out, got my grand tour, met a lot of people, read the employee handbook, skimmed manuals, got my email/voice mail set up, got my parking pass, and my employee badge. Pretty standard stuff.

The people at work all seem very nice and I am pretty excited to be working in a more “corporate” set up again. Was assigned a pretty central work space, plus I got brand new office supplies (which I love). Have a pretty big “assignment” coming up and I have yet to really figure it out. To top it off, I’m still reeling from all the information I received today and have to learn a bunch of stuff too. It’s certainly been an exciting day, to say the least.

But the real highlights are:

- Leaving home at 8:05 and getting to work at 8:15 am.

- Lunch provided by the company (not just today, but every day - and not just one choice a day, but three!).

- Leaving work at 5:40 and getting home before 6 pm.

Once again, it’s really the little things that make me happy :)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Happy Birthday, Joj

It’s been two days since my hubby’s birthday. Two days since the love of my life turned 38. (Although every one who knows him will attest to the fact that he does not look a day over 35)! I would have posted sooner but there has been so many things going on lately so I’ve had to postpone my post. BELATED HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOJ! Best birthday wishes for the best guy in the world. Also, BELATED HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Jay too (Jojo’s youngest brother). Both of them were born on the 17th, exactly 12 years apart.

Here’s a quick run down of what’s been happening the last few days. My last day at work was last Friday. I was really sad leaving the office and packing up my stuff made me quite nostalgic about the last 3 years. Jojo took me to dinner to “celebrate”.

Saturday was my niece (and now goddaughter), MJ’s baptism and after that lunch in Chinatown with family and friends. On our way home, Jojo and I were on the 110 Freeway when one of Silver’s (Our Honda CRV) tires blew up. Yes, blew up, literally just popped! So we were stuck on the shoulder of the carpool lane for half an hour under the scorching sun waiting for Triple A to get there. We could not change the tire on our own since, did I mention we were on the freeway? L.A. motorists do not slow down enough to let you get out and change your tire. We had to be escorted by the Highway Patrol to the opposite shoulder (yes, that was us who held up traffic while making the perilous trek to the other side). Jojo was wonderfully calm and level-headed, while I, with my mechanically-challenged abilities, was pretty content to sit in the shade and fan myself with an old magazine.

Sunday was Jojo’s birthday lunch at Thai Tiffany. It’s a hole-in-the-wall place that serves authentic thai food in a really cozy atmosphere – that is if you can find the place. I apparently give the world’s worst directions because everyone we invited got lost on the way there. Thankfully it was not a surprise party since I was the only one who would be on time to surprise the birthday boy!

Monday was Jojo’s actual birthday. I had so many plans for Jojo’s special day. But all of them he had vetoed one way or the other. He specifically stated “no surprises”, “no parties”, and “no fuss”. Yup, that’s so typical of my hubby and so opposite of what I would have wanted for my birthday. I planned an out of town trip but he could not get another day off from his busy work schedule. I planned on surprising him with a massage at The Massage Company (thanks to Sareet for her “suggestion”) but Jojo said he wouldn’t be comfortable with one. I planned a picnic at the pier but it was too hot. So, after surprising him with his presents, I had to give in to my hubby and do what he wanted – we spent the day shopping (Jojo was fixated on getting leather sandals) and lunched at Chili’s where he gave in to his cravings - grilled steak, baby back ribs, and garlic mashed potatoes (he was in heaven!). Spent the afternoon napping and watching dvds, and then had dinner at my SIL’s place to celebrate with family too.

Tuesday and today, my two days off, I’ve been spending running errands and getting ready for my first day of work at the new job. Speaking of the new job, I start Thursday (and not Monday as I originally thought). Turns out there is a huge board meeting mid-next week and they would like me to be more prepared for this so I am getting a two-day head start. There is no doubt I am excited about my upcoming job but I have to admit I am also very apprehensive too. Hopefully things go well.

So, the last few days have been crazy busy, but fun. And that’s why my post for my hubby’s birthday is quite delayed, but nonetheless, still heartfelt and sincere. Hope you had a Happy Birthday, Joj. Remember that I love you very, very much.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bittersweet

Today is a bittersweet day. It is officially my last day here at this company that has been my home for the last 3 years. I’ve been so excited about finding a better job that I did not consider how sad I am to be leaving too. It’s always difficult to leave something that is familiar and comfortable, especially if it means leaving people who have been nothing but supportive and encouraging. Good-byes are always tough and I’ve never been particularly good at them.

At the same time, I’m excited too. New place to work, new people to meet, new challenges to face and so many things to look forward to. And yes, I’m a bit anxious too, as all of us are when faced with something new and different. I guess this is just a lot to take in for now.

Anyway, I’m done with packing up my stuff and closing down my office. I am done with turning over my responsibilities (although I may be in a few times next week to tie up a few loose ends). I am done with saying good-bye and promising to keep in touch. And so, I guess, it is time to go.

P.S. This is my last post from this computer. It saddens me to think that cause most of my last 100 posts were done here over lunch. Now I’ll have to start blogging from home more often since I am not sure what the policy is at my new place of work. :(

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

GH

I found out a few days ago that a former colleague of mine had passed away. Actually GH was more than just a co-worker, he was a friend, and someone who I respected and looked up to as well. The news came as such a shock because, well, because you are never really prepared to hear news like this. And also, because I remember GH as someone who always had so much life and spirit.

I met GH way back in 1997 when I started working at Jewelmer International. This was my first job out of college and I was young and inexperienced while he was the epitome of a classic French gentleman, suave, confident, and filled with old world charm. After all he was formerly a jewelry designer for Cartier in Paris and was now head of Jewelmer’s fine jewelry line. But despite our differences he was always polite and pleasant (well, as pleasant as temperamental designers can be!). Three years later, I was head of Retail Sales and Fabrication, and had to work a lot with him on jewelry lines, exhibits, shows, and it was always a pleasure to be with someone who had such impeccable taste - from his designs down to his fashion sense.

I have two fond memories of GH that I will treasure forever. The first was that one night he invited several of us to dinner at his beautiful home in Magallanes where he personally cooked up a wonderful pasta meal. It was a night where we were all relaxed and happy and I really got to see the more playful and warm side that he possessed.

The second was when he designed a ring setting for me. I had been lamenting to him that I loved a particular Cartier setting but did not want to spend an arm and a leg to have them set an aquamarine gemstone I had bought from a friend. With his personal touch, he created a setting similar to the Cartier one that I wanted, but with his unique sense of style that I loved. He made my not-so-expensive gem look like a million bucks and to this day I still receive compliments on that ring.

I haven’t seen GH in more than 5 years and although we have not had any contact since then, at the back of my mind he was always someone I was planning to visit when I go home to Manila. Although he may no longer be there, I wish him well and I wish him peace wherever he may be.

Monday, July 10, 2006

100th Post

I was re-reading my posts and realized that this is my 100th entry. I am a bit amazed that I've actually posted 100 entries already. Pretty cool too since while looking at my first few entries I can sort of see myself evolving in terms of my writing style. Plus it's been fun going over some of my previous posts - several of them actually reminded me of events I've kinda forgotten about already. It's kinda nice to take time and be a bit reflective over my last hundred posts.

In honor of my 100th post, I'd like to share some good news. After months of job searching, dozens of interviews, and several close calls, I finally accepted a job offer. It's official today. Sorry about not sharing more details at this point. First, we are at the last stage of "negotiating" and so ANYTHING is still possible (see how cynical I've gotten?). And second, I am choosing to not share too much info about the company and the new job for fear of being "dooced" (fired from a job for blogging confidential information about it).

Suffice it to say it is several steps up in terms of position, much higher pay, better benefits, and to top it all off the company is located 10 minutes from where I live. Of course, on the flip side, it is also more work and the demands are greater. But after all this waiting, I think I am pretty much ready for anything. If all works out, I start in two and a half weeks. I'm crossing my fingers that all goes well at this last stage.

I thought this would be a fitting post for my 100th entry - and if all goes well, I'm sure my adventures at the new job will fill many of my next 100 posts :)

Weekend Dining

Over the weekend my hubby and I both gave in to our inner sloth. It was much too hot and too much trouble to bother with cooking and washing up. So, we had a good time trying new places to eat and getting take-out food. Enjoyed 5 whole meals and we didn’t have to wash a single pot, pan or dish! Bliss!

Friday night we tried a new (to us) Japanese restaurant called Raku-Raku. I love how Japanese food is so artfully arranged. I think it totally adds to how good the meal tastes. Jojo and I each had trays of the house special, tonkatsu, which is anything breaded with Panko breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Our dinners included the combo -- pork, shrimp and taro, a huge serving of shredded lettuce with a sweet-sour dressing (reminiscent of Thousand Island dressing but lighter), small dishes of pickled radish, jalapenos and beets, and a cup of hot miso soup. Jojo had a side order of cold soba noodles while I had four pieces of spicy salmon sushi. It was all very good and not too heavy on the wallet – dinner for two cost us $25.00 (plus tax and tip).

On Saturday, we had errands to run and found ourselves at the South Bay Pavilion mall. It’s not a very big place and therefore not a lot of choices, so we ended up at the Food Court. Jojo decided on a terriyaki chicken & broccoli rice bowl from an unknown but clean-looking fast food stall. Since I didn’t want to line up at the other food stalls, I had the same thing except my rice bowl was topped with spicy chicken and mixed vegetables. We weren’t really expecting anything great from the food court, but at least the food was okay, hot, quick and cheap ($4.95 a bowl).

Saturday night, we headed over to my new favorite take-out place, Famima!! It is an upscale Japanese delicatessen and premium food store where you can get anything from pre-packaged gourmet meals, to magazines, to coffee, to stationery, to DVDs, and many more. It’s sort of a high class and very clean 7-11 but with an eating/reading area too. Since it was well past 8 pm when we got there, Jojo and I were very hungry and everything looked so good. After going thru all the aisles, we decided to share a panini sandwich with pesto, chicken, sun-dried tomatoes and provolone cheese, a dish with 4 pieces of mu-shu pork and veggies with hoisin dipping sauce, and a plate with 8 pieces of spicy tuna sashimi and edemame. Plus mineral water our bill came to $15.72 – not bad for all that! After toasting our panini and heating our mu-shu we settled in to enjoy our meal and surprisingly it was really good. We were too full for dessert – too bad cause the green tea mousse and the tiramisu cups looked so tempting. I couldn’t stop raving over Famima!! the rest of the weekend to anyone who would listen.

Sunday lunch I cheated a bit on our “no-cooking-all-weekend-policy” since I defrosted some shrimp, sprinkled it with grill seasoning, baked it in the oven, and served it over pre-cooked egg noodles. But it was so hassle free and took all of 5 minutes for prep work that I am still considering it as “no-work-cooking”. Plus since I baked it in foil – it was also a “no-dishwashing” meal too.

Sunday dinner was a no-frills meal of “it’s-not-delivery- it’s-Di’Giorno” pizza. Between my hubby, brother and I, we had the medium sized, thin-crust four-cheese pizza and the regular-crust supreme pizza. Yummy, except I was reading Nicholas Spark’s “At First Sight” and was so into the book that I left the pizza in the oven a tad too long, resulting in slightly burnt pizza crust. But hey, pizza is pizza, and it was still good.

So, that was our weekend of no-cooking and no-cleaning. Although it was a lot of fun, it was far from healthy, so we probably can’t do this all too often. We’ll be eating more home-cooked and balanced meals in the next few days - at least until the next attack of laziness comes around!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Superman Returns

Over the weekend we caught the new Superman Returns movie. Since I’m a big fan of blockbuster films and am a sucker for “good-vs.-evil-where-good-triumphs-in-the-end” flicks – this one should have been a winner for me. It was not. I mean, it was ok, actually it was good, but in my book, it was nowhere near as great as I expected it to be.

There were several things that bothered me while watching the movie. First, there were too many allusions to Superman being THE savior of the world (Savior of the world a.k.a. Jesus Christ). This was implied several times throughout the film. First when Jor-El (Superman’s dad) says, “Even though you've been raised as a human being you're not one of them. They can be a great people, Kal-El, if they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you... my only son." And then the part when Superman confronts Lois Lane by saying “You wrote that the world doesn’t need a savior, but every day I hear people crying for one." And what about the time Superman is in space looking down at the earth while recharging his strength from the sun and he has his arms outstretched like Christ on the cross. Maybe I’m overanalyzing things but it was definitely unnerving in my opinion.

Second I am not so sure about Kate Bosworth playing the part of Lois Lane. I kept thinking she was too young for the part and was sadly lacking in portraying “maternal empathy” for her son. I kept seeing her as selfish and self-absorbed. Also, I really like James Marsden and think it’s unfair that he keeps getting cast in roles where he’s the great guy that the girl falls in love with but gets left in the end for another guy. We saw that happen in The Notebook where Rachel McAdams leaves him for Ryan Gosling. At least in that movie, he had a chance – but here, well, who can compete against Superman???

The movie did have its good points, of course. I thought the effects were great and really well done. As for the storyline, I think the writers, producers and directors deserve credit for continuing the tradition that is Superman. It really does pick up from where Superman 2 left off. But it held its own as it delved into the torment that Superman was feeling coming to grips with coming home only to discover the world has moved on without him. Brandon Routh did a great job as Clark Kent / Superman. For a relative newcomer, I thought he filled them role quite well considering Christopher Reeve was a tough act to follow. It definitely helped that he was so good looking (both as Kent and the man of Steel). The other supporting actors were good too. But my runaway favorite has to be Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of Lex Luthor. I am a big fan of Mr. Spacey and this movie really shows his prowess and his talent as a character actor.

I think that overall, inspite of some technicalties here and there, the movie, (all two hours and forty minutes of it) will continue to captivate its loyal fanbase as well as gain many new fans in the process. And I am certain that there will be several more sequels to this movie because, afterall, in these trying times, we all need someone like Superman.