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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Manila, Manila!

I’ve been in a Manila a little over a week and it’s been a whirlwind of activity. Of course my main priority at this time is taking care of my dad who is slowly recovering from very invasive surgery. Luckily we have been blessed with wonderful news and the surgery was successful. Another miracle that we must be thankful for and that reminds us how good God truly is to us. My dad’s recovery though is slow and there are a few minor bumps along the way. The last few days we have been encamped at the hospital trying to make sure we can help him through this difficult time. It is a bittersweet time for me. On the one hand I am so happy to be home and to have this chance to take care of my dad. But on the other, it is very hard for me to see my dad in pain and so very anxious about his recovery. The one blessing is my mom who has remained unbelievably calm and clear-headed even at our lowest points. This has been a true test to our family and I am so proud to say that we have all held on and stayed together through the good and bad.


Being home has also been a wonderful experience. Things are so familiar but also so different. It’s been almost 8 years since I last was in Manila and I am amazed at the things that have remained the same yet fascinated by everything that has changed. It’s so great to be home. It is hard to describe how I felt when I first saw my family, friends and household helper (especially those I have not seen in 8 years!). I am so happy to handout pasalubong for everyone since I’ve been planning this homecoming for ages and have been anticipating this for so long! It was surreal to walk through the house I grew up in and to visit places I used to frequent when I lived here. It is quite strange to see so many new places to visit, eat, shop and hang out. In the beginning it was hard for me to even fathom being here after waiting to come home for so long. But I got used to it pretty quickly!


There are many good and not so good things about Manila (the same as in Torrance, or L.A., or Berkeley, or anywhere else I have lived before). But it’s all a matter of perspective and of acclimating yourself to your surroundings. It’s true Manila weather is pretty hard to tolerate at first – I can’t recall it being this humid when I lived here! And the traffic is just an endless parking lot where cars crawl at a very slow pace – not to mention the crazy driving people get away with here! I am so worried that we will sideswiped one of those jeepneys or motorcycles that seem to appear almost at every turn or that one of those lumbering smoke-belching buses will ram into our car! But despite all these, it is so good to be home. It is wonderful having our helpers take care of our every little need, it is great seeing my grandmothers (both ama and guama) and a few of my aunts and uncles, it is fun hanging out with my best friend, Les, and some of my high school friends, it is awesome shopping at the Xmas bazaar, and the best part is hanging out with Jim and Joy (both of whom are going out of their way to make this a special homecoming). It just reminds me that even in all the time I’ve been away, Manila will always be home in my heart.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Today, we (Jojo, Jules, Atsi, Mark and I) went to the Mission in San Juan Capistrano. This special trip was so we could say a prayer for my dad and ask for the intercession of St. Peregrine (who has a chapel at the mission). We were supposed to be joined by my in-laws but because of the horrible air quality in Southern California (as a result of the wildfires), they had to pass and keep my nieces and nephews indoors.


Our first stop was the Mission Basilica where we heard mass.


The Church was very beautiful from the outside and moreso inside. I also loved the choir who sang exceptionally well.


There was a statue of St. Peregrine and we knelt to pay our respects. We also took some holy water to bring back home for dad.


After a quick lunch, we walked over to the mission grounds. Here are Atsi and Mark in front of the mission.


Jules and Jojo taking the audio tour and learning more about the mission.


Mark, Atsi, Jojo and I taking a breather in the courtyard.


Stopping at St. Peregrine's Chapel.


It was very quiet and dark inside. We each took time to say a prayer for dad, our family friend, Uncle Bobby, and Mark's mom, Marcia. We also purchased the novena cards so we could recite the novena.


Before leaving we wrote our petition in the prayer book.


And purchased three candles to ask for intercession.

Afterwards I felt a sense of peace leaving the place and am hopeful that our prayers were heard and will be answered.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

All in Good Time

There are many things that happen in life that we are unable to explain. Life is one big picture and most times we are only privy to one little part of it at a time. It’s true that the universe balances itself out and that wrongs are righted and questions are answered. But all that takes time. The things that don’t make sense now will make itself clear later. The things that we question at present, find a way to get answered later on. Unfortunately, as humans we find that frustrating and annoying. We are a culture where instant gratification is so ingrained that having to wait for things to be explained is hard. We are a culture where having to sit idly by and be patient makes little sense.

But the truth of the matter is we have no choice. No matter how much we think about things, no matter how we over-rationalize, no matter who we ask, and no matter how hard we seek for answers, there are some things that are beyond us. It is at this time where our faith guides us into believing that all things come in good time. It is our faith that teaches us to be patient and to be prepared for when answers are revealed. It is our faith that gives us the strength to see us through when things don’t make sense and when we feel we are unable. It is our faith that helps us move on.

There are times I’ve faced sleepless nights wondering why things happen and why they had to happen to me (us). When Jojo was laid off from his last job, I questioned why he all of all people was let go and what would happen to us. When I left my last job, I constantly weighed the pros and cons trying to understand why it had gotten so bad that I wanted to resign – and later second-guessing myself by thinking that maybe it wasn’t that bad. I worried about not having a career and because I thought my life revolved around my job. But in time it became clear. Jojo lost his job so he could find a better one. A new place where he is challenged and appreciated more. A company where his supervisor is both a friend and a colleague. In my case, I left my job so I could spend time with my sister before her wedding. I had time for my family when they visited. And now I have time to be with my dad and mom when they need me. Questions not only were answered but everything has seemed to fall into place.

Right now, we are faced with another situation where we are desperately trying to seek answers. It is a frustrating and worrisome time. And even though we know that things will work out and become clear in time, it does little to ease our concerns and our questions. Life is full of surprises. That does not change. But the one thing that has become clearer to me now is that instead of asking “why”, I pray for the faith to be patient and strong until the why is revealed.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Good-Byes Suck

These are the times I hate the most. My parents left for Manila last Thursday, while the twins left last night. Atsi and Mark have gone home to Redlands while Jules is settling in his new place in Woodland Hills. A few days ago our house was bustling with activity. Today, it is so quiet with just Jojo and me living in it. Everything seems so still and the rooms so empty. I keep finding stuff everyone has left behind - my dad's bathrobe, my mom's slippers, a couple of stray clothes that have been left in the dryer. Jim's flaming hot Cheetos, Atsi's handbags, and Joy's scarves in the drawer. I am both happy to see these and sad to find them too.

I always have such a tough time adjusting to having my family leave. I know everyone is sad when their family leaves but in my case, this is compounded by the fact that we have such an awesome time together. It makes good-byes just an extra bit harder. I wish things could be so much simpler where all of us could be living under the same roof - or at the very least in the same city! I know it's wishful thinking and a conscious choice we all made. But it sure is tough getting used to it and being away for almost 8 years has not made it any easier.

Yet, despite my feeling of sadness, there are so many things I am thankful for. Of course at the top of my list every time is being blessed with a wonderful family. Yes, we do have our differences and our occassional moments of discord. But in truth, we are all so lucky to have each other. And so while I am a bit sad today, I am cheered up by the happy memories and the thought that I can look forward to the many other family get-togethers we will soon share.

Thanks Dad, Mom, Atsi, Jim, Joy, Jules, Mark, Jojo and our honorary member - Marc, for making the last few days so much fun. Looking forward to our next family reunion =)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Prayers for My Dad

I would like to ask any one reading my blog to say a few prayers for my dad. He has recently been going thru some health issues and is not in the best of health. This is a trying time for my dad and we are all doing our best to rally around him and help him through this. Your prayers and best wishes will come a long way.

My dad is an incredible person and has weathered many storms and surpassed many challenges. I know in my heart that this is another hurdle that he will overcome. Dad, I know I speak for Atsi, Jules, Jim, and Joy, when I say we love you very much and hope you know how much you mean to us. We are so proud of you. You have always been a loving, supportive, understanding and good father to us, please allow us to love, support, understand and be good to you. You have always been there to see us through our difficult times, please allow us in turn to be there and help you through yours.

Our family has been through so many wonderful times together … and I know we can equally be strong and intact when the going gets tough. Keep the faith, dad! Nothing is impossible with the right attitude, lots of faith and prayers, and the love of family and friends. Remember, dad, all things happen for a reason and no matter how difficult the situation, this too shall come to pass. We are all in this together.


Dad and Jules


Dad with mom, Joy and Marc


Dad and me


Dad and Mom


Dad, Mom and Mark and Atsi


Dad and Jim


The whole family at Legoland in Carlsbad.


The whole family at the San Diego Wild Animal Park in Escondido.
(Jim is behind the plant)

Celebrating Atsi's birthday with a dimsum lunch at the PV Palace.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Lim-Ivy Wedding

It all started with the rehearsal at the church ... St. Margaret Mary in Lomita ...

Then dinner at the Portofino Room at the San Pedro, Double Tree. Here are some pics of the dinner:

Mark's sister, Mollie, and her hubby, Steve. Steve and Jojo have admitted that they both hyave a mutual love for all things made of chocolate!




Mark's mom, Marcia, and their family friend, Shauna.



Dad and Mom.





Mark's sister, Maggie, and her charming husband, Bill.



Joy and I - sharing a laugh at the table!


The happy couple at their rehearsal dinner. We called it a night pretty early to get ready for the "BIG DAY".


The next day we were at the Church ready for the main event. Here are some pics:

Mark walking his mom, Marcia, down the aisle.



Dad just about to walk Atsi down the aisle. It was truly touching and I am so glad my dad was able to make it to do this. I know it meant the world to my sister.



Mark vowing to love, honor and cherish my sister. Deacon David Rose looks on ...



The deed is done ... it's official ... Mr. and Mrs. Mark and Jenny Ivy! (October 18, 2008)


Atsi with Mark's family ... all of whom are super incredibly nice. Atsi's lucky to have them ... but they are even luckier to have her!



The 8 "J's" and the 1 "M". Our family is growing!



Dad giving his toast. He had the audience in the palm of his hand as he delivered a powerful and touching speech. It was really good and totally "stole the next speaker's thunder"!



Right before they cut the cake and the much anticipated chocolate fountain was wheeled out ...
(Don't you just love their wedding cake? It was gorgeous and yummy too!).

It was a wonderful wedding with a solemn ceremony and a lovely reception. Truly a day worth remembering. My sister, Jenny, was the epitome of a beautiful and radiant bride. While my new brother-in-law, Mark, was proud and handsome. I am so happy for them and truly wish them a lifetime of happiness and their much deserved "happy ever after". To both of them a heartfelt "Congratulations" and "Best Wishes".

Sunday, October 12, 2008

San Fo (Oct. 2008)

We just got back from a 4-day trip to San Francisco. We spent those 4 days visiting with family friends (the Tang's and the Bondoc's), eating out (old favorites and some new ones), shopping (of course!) and sightseeing too.

We stayed at the Grosvenor Suites (right on Nob Hill). Mom and dad loved the place since it was so spacious and close to everything (two blocks to Union Square, 2 blocks to Chinatown, and the cable car stop right at the corner).

Here are mom and dad welcoming us into our 2-bedroom suite.

As soon as you enter, there is a little foyer where we would drop our coats, bags, and shoes. If you turned to the doorway on the left that would be the living area, the doorway on the right (behind dad) would be the sleeping area while the door next to the glass table was a closet.


Here is the living area. Dad staked out the dining table for his notebook and business papers while I could usually be found on the couch watching tv!


Here is the mini kitchen (and by mini I mean really teeny tiny!) but it served us well and mom still managed to do some cooking. I think my mom could probably still whip up gourmet meals even if she only had a pan over a campfire.


Here is the first room - king sized bed for my mom and dad. They had their own full-sized bath too.


Here's the room Atsi and I shared (my bed was next to the window). We had our own bathroom too.


This was the view from my window. You could see the rest of Nob Hill. It was pretty awesome.


We enjoyed many great meals out - this one is at the House of Prime Rib in Van Ness. The prime rib was really good (huge but good). Seated around the table are Auntie Cynthia, Atsi, me, Margriet, Auntie Carrie, Uncle Bobby, Dad, Mom and Uncle Ed.

Other memorable meals include hamachi tuna at Sushi Rikka, Vietnamese food at Out the Door, the succulent crabs and roast duck at R&G (along Kearny St. in Chinatown), and that great lunch we had at the cafeteria at the California Science center (it was definitely NOT typical musuem food).

Uncle Bobby, Auntie Carrie, mom, dad and Auntie Cynthia in "the rainforest" at the California Science Center.


Butterflies flying freely around guests in the rainforest exhibit. It was very cool - or rather should I say humid since they recreated the actual conditions of a rainforest.


Atsi and I posing by this huge fish (I can't recall what it is called) - but Auntie Cynthia insisted we pose beside it!

Here is our whole group at the California Science Center steps. This newly opened center (located in the Golden gate Park) is a MUST SEE for any one who visits San Francisco. There are so many cool displays and breathtaking exhibits. We spent the whole day there and enjoyed every minute of it!


Just the "young ones" exploring Union Square and shopping to our hearts content. We spent more than 4 hours - we literally shopped till we dropped! Luckily we had a good dinner waiting for us when we were done.

I wish I could have taken pictures of all the great food we had. But most times I either forgot or was too busy eating! Anyway, this was our last meal in SF. It was at the Pier Market on Fisherman's Wharf. Both dishes were really good.

Mussels in a curried broth.


Cioppino (a seafood stew).

Both were really good with the famous sourdough bread that SF is known for.

Our last shot before we left was a band from the US Navy.

It was a great 4 days - am so glad mom, dad, atsi and I got to spend it together!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stopping to Smell the Roses

So far I have had three weeks as a “bum” – meaning three weeks of not going in to work. Although “bum” would hardly be the word I would use to describe my schedule. These days I am still as busy as ever but the main difference is I am busy but not stressed. It’s a wonderful feeling and I am so truly blessed to have this time to relax, recuperate and rejuvenate myself.

I got a call the other day from a friend asking me if I missed work and how was I managing days where I have nothing planned. Obviously this is a friend who knows me well and understands my need to keep myself occupied. I thought about it carefully and can honestly say I miss my colleagues at work but none of the day-to-day deadlines and projects. As for keeping myself occupied, well …

How do I spend my days? For starters, Jojo and I start our day around 8:00. While my hubby showers and gets ready for work, I make breakfast. Yes, believe it or not, I actually make breakfast now. Gone are the days of grabbing a granola bar while heading out the door. Jojo leaves a little after 9:00, which is around the time when I am joined by my sister as I enjoy a second cup of green tea. I browse my mail, check out the blogs I frequent, watch some morning talkshows, and pitter-patter around the house. By 10:30, I leave for the gym (I meet with a trainer twice a week, the other days I work out on my own. I am home by noon and usually my sister and I have lunch together or once in a while I meet up with friends who can grab an hour off from work.

My afternoons alternate between trips to the grocery, shopping for pasalubong, gifts, and even prizes (I hosted the mooncake festival games this year), and running errands. Occasionally we spend the afternoon at Barnes and Noble or Borders where I browse management books (I am preparing to give a half-day seminar for the managers at my dad’s company in December). I schedule doctor, dentist and hairdresser appointments too. Sometimes I visit my nieces and nephews as they get off from school and I bring them ice cream. And of course there are some afternoons we have to meet with my sister’s wedding vendors as well. But whatever I have planned, I am usually home by 6:00 and my sister and I start making dinner. Jojo gets home by 7:30 and has commented that this set-up is great since he has nice home-cooked meals every night! After dinner, we watch tv (depending on what’s on), am on the phone, or I settle down to reading a good book. We watch the news at 11 and are in bed by 11:30. It is an awesome schedule!

I am so glad to have the time to catch up on my reading too. I’ve read a few good books so far. Thrity Umrigar’s “The Space Between Us” (which tells the tale of India’s caste system and how that affects women in that country); Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” (which is a hilarious and witty look at the restaurant industry and haute cuisine); Barry Schwartz’s “The Paradox of Choice” (which presents an interesting discussion on how the abundance of choice in society today actually robs us of actual fulfillment); “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch (life’s lessons by the Carnegie Mellon professor who recently passed away from cancer); and am now in the middle of reading “Kabul Beauty School” by Debbie Rodriguez (which chronicles her journey into Afghanistan to build a beauty school to empower oppressed women in that region). All these books have been really great and I am loving the fact that I can savor my reading instead of hurriedly flipping through a few chapters before bed every night.

It’s been great spending time with my sister, Jenny too. We have always been close and despite the 7 years we lived apart, we have naturally bonded once again and are enjoying our time together before her wedding in a couple of weeks. All we’re missing is my mom and Joy and we could have our own “all girl staycation”.

As I wrote earlier, this time I now have is truly a blessing. I am lucky to have a good hubby willing to support me as I do this and am glad I worked my butt off the last couple of years so my savings makes me feel as if I’m still contributing to our household income (although I am undoubtably now spending far more than my share!). Of course we are making some adjustments and tightening our belts somewhat since I am going to be off work for 4 months and Jojo is just starting a new job. But overall, this time off has taught me the value of taking time off for myself and my family and friends. Finding the time to relax and de-stress. We all live in such a high-pressure society and the corporate world can become draining (if we let it). It’s so important to sit back and once in a while just take some time to re-think our priorities and re-focus on what it is we value and want in life. I don’t mean anything existential or grandiose (like quitting your job and going to live in a remote village somewhere or taking a year-long vacation when there are bills to pay) – although that does sound appealing too. But to each his own. You need to find out what works for you and get to your happy place. Sometimes all we need is a little breather and a reminder to stop and smell the roses. We owe that to ourselves.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Faith and Family

This weekend we had quite a scare. While my sister, Atsi, and I were eagerly looking forward to my mom and dad’s arrival last Friday night, we got a call from my other sister, Joy, last Thursday telling us that my parents had postponed their flight. Apparently, over breakfast, Joy had noticed that my dad’s skin had turned a shade yellow. This had prompted my mom to have my dad tested just to make sure nothing was wrong. The good news was this happened right before my parents’ flight to L.A. The bad news was this happened right before my parents’ flight to L.A.

Over the next 3 days they ran a number of tests, met with several doctors, while we anxiously waited for the results. In those 72 hours, we went through a myriad of emotions as we tried to cope with the news and prepare ourselves for whatever the outcome would be. All while trying to maintain a positive and hopeful outlook. There were definitely moments of uncertainty (no one can fully understand all the medical terminology that test results show), some feelings of dread (reading medical information on the internet is not always a good thing), and some moments of nervousness (which we tried to keep at bay while reassuring my dad’s anxiety and apprehension).

Today we received some good news, the tests are pretty positive and my parents are coming over this week. My dad just needs rest and has to be more careful with his diet. So far, the worst is over and I am breathing one super huge sigh of relief. They say you can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle themselves during times of stress. I for one am a ginormous worrywart and can sometimes let paranoia get the best of me. I can’t help myself. Any negative news that affects one of my loved ones can turn me into a basketcase. My dad and I were commiserating that I take after him when it comes to worrying, being pessimistic and sometimes even blowing things a tad out of proportion. Luckily we have my mom, sibblings and hubby to counterbalance our nature!

I will say this about my excessive worrying, although it is my nature to fret, this time I really did try to put on a strong and positive demeanor. First, I wanted to be strong for my dad. Being weepy and pessimistic would hardly be of any help to him. Second, I wanted to be reassuring to the rest of my family (especially Atsi who is getting married in 3 weeks). Lastly, I had to think positive for my sake. It would have driven me to madness had I given in to thinking the worst. I consciously made an effort to look at the bright side and to remain hopeful. The philosopher, Albert Camus, once asked “should I kill myself or get a cup of coffee?” – his point was that in life there is always a choice. We may be wired to be worrywarts but we can choose to give in to that or instead to force ourselves not to lose ourselves to that thinking. In my case, it was just me choosing to be pragmatic about the whole thing and deciding that in the long run, worrying does nothing and is an insult to God.

Also, there was a silver lining to this incident. As with all things, even a scare like this did yield some good. For starters, it brought us closer to God. I think this may have been a wake up call for us. Oftentimes we take so many things for granted and we lose sight of the fact that everything we have we need to be thankful to Him for. The last few days we have been reminded of that and we have been given the chance to revisit the power of prayer. The last couple of nights we have (as a family) started praying the rosary together. Here’s something I am not proud of, despite my 17 years of catholic education, I had forgotten how to pray the rosary. Seriously, I forgot the mysteries of the rosary and some of the prayers. I literally had to look it up on the internet and we had to say our prayers infront of the computer so we could read the text. Pretty sad, huh?

Another positive thing is the reaffirmation of my family’s love and solidarity during times of crisis. We may all live pretty independent lives but when one of us is sick or in trouble, it was so comforting for me to see everyone rally together. I thought this was a great moment for us. Of course it would have been better had my dad not been sick but maybe that was the catalyst for us to start praying together again and for us to be reminded that family comes first.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where We Are Now

I thought I’d have more time since I stopped working but lately it still seems I’m as busy as ever. Proof of that is having neglected by blog for so long. I am going to start having to make a conscious effort to keep my blog going. I mean, I don’t want it to turn into an obligation or anything like that. But I certainly want to maintain it and find some time to update it, at least periodically.

Anyway, as I was saying earlier, I did end my career as a Training & Development Manager for company X last Friday. It was a bittersweet day for me. On the one hand, I was really itching to leave after months of stress, long hours, numerous deadlines, and impossible expectations. On the other hand, as the date drew closer I was reminded by how nice my colleagues were. I received numerous emails and cards from staff members near and far, was taken out to lunch every day by different departments, and even had a going away party thrown for me. I was really sad to leave and actually came very close to reconsidering my decision!

But in the end, I chose to move on. In the long run, this is the better path for me. The last few days have been great. I’ve had the chance to sleep in (and have not taken a sleeping pill in over 2 weeks!), have been eating healthier (am now cooking more and eating out less), have gone back to exercising (with a personal trainer), and am able to enjoy my days running errands and taking care of details around the house. I’ve seen my eye doctor and have appointments with my doctor and dentist (things I have neglected while working), have changed our insurance plans to get better rates, have shopped for pasalubong for my trip back home (and even started on some Xmas shopping). I’ve also been able to spend more quality time with my sister as we wrap up some last minute details for her upcoming wedding. I have to keep busy (it’s my nature) but at the same time I’m keeping my own pace and that is kind of nice too.

Jojo has also started a new job this week. So far it’s been going great. I’m so happy for him since this new company and his new boss seem to appreciate him more and challenge him (without sucking the life out of him – like that last place he was with). It’s also nice that he has more regular hours so we can sit down to dinner and enjoy the evening together rather than have him working till late. All this plus better pay and benefits. Isn’t life just great?

I have so much to be thankful for and am just so blessed that things seem to all fall into place. When Jojo’s former company downsized 4 weeks ago, it was unfortunate that Jojo was laid off (he was the last guy hired), I was worried about eventually leaving my job too. I had thought about reconsidering my resignation. But we talked about it and decided it was best to go and that somehow everything would work out. And our faith has seen us through. In less than 3 weeks of job searching, Jojo has had 3 good job offers. And when he finally accepted one, his first day on the job was exactly my first day out of work. And now it seems this new job is much better than before (of course he never would have found this one if he was still working at the last place). It’s also great though that I still get paid till the 15th of this month and that I have 23 unused vacation days that I will be paid for (so technically I’ll be paid till around mid-Oct – without having to step foot at the office). The timing is impeccable since property taxes are due in October too. It’s uncanny how God just took care of everything for us and didn’t even give us a chance or a reason to be worried or scared. I am still humbled by all this and extremely grateful too.

So in a nutshell, this is where we are right now. Jojo with a new job that looks very promising and me as a certified housewife for now. Things are looking up and we can only keep hoping that everything continues to stay great.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Jon and Kate Plus Eight

The last few days I've been hooked on a reality show on TLC. The show is called "Jon and Kate Plus Eight" and is about the day-today life of Jon and Kate Gosselin and their 8 kids (6-year old twin girls: Maddie and Cara and 3-year old sextuplets: Colin, Aaden, Joel, Hannah, Leah and Alexis). Although the show has set storyline or script, it is fascinating to watch Jon and Kate go through life with multiple multiples. I am forever amazed by how Kate manages the household (after Jon leaves for work). She takes care of 8 kids, keeps the house relatively clean, does loads of laundry every day, prepares meals and even manages to shop for organic food and products. Even with a limited amount of time, patience and budget, Kate uses only the best products for her kids and will even take the time to use homemade but organic cleaning products.

Another interesting aspect is their totally different but complimentary parenting styles. Jon is the easy-going, fun-loving, and "friend" to his kids. While Kate is the super organized, high-structured, disciplinarian. Both of them obviously love their kids and make lots of sacrifices to keep everyone happy. Despite busy, busy lives and hectic days filled with potty training, breaking up fights, calming down crying babies and changing diapers left and right, the Gosselins manage to create many happy family traditions: like picking out Xmas presents for each other, having picnics on the beach, going on vacation, and visiting theme parks.

Despite all their challenges and family dramas, Jon and Kate are doing a pretty good job. All the kids are developing well and have their own personalities and interests. Everyone is encouraged to develop their talents (there's piano lessons, violin lessons, cooking classes and craft projects). Everyone is also encouraged to have a say and make decisions that affect the family. The dynamics of the kids are great too. Yes, of course they whine, fight and squabble. But you can see they all look out for each other and support each other too.

Jojo and I were talking about it the other night. While we don't have kids of our own (yet), we do babysit our nieces and nephews a lot and have had plenty of practice. And evidently we each have our own parenting styles too. Jojo is very laid back and easy going. I can see him playing with the kids (and their toys too), watching cartoons with them, and feeding them chocolate and ice cream. But he can be pretty firm with discipline too and can actually be even more strict that I am. He is the one who says "no" when they ask for more candy or when they want to fingerpaint on the dining table. He is the one who says "go to bed" when its past their bedtime and they are still watching cartoons. I think I'm the parent who would be more organized and who wants to expose my kids to new things and ideas. I'd like to get involved with their school projects, meet their teachers and friends, and encourage their interests. But I'd also be the one who likes story-telling, working on projects and playing make believe. I'd be the one who'd pla family vacation and even exciting staycations. Like Jon and Kate, I think Jojo and I would make a good parenting team and can't wait to get started!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Mom's All Girl Getaway

My mom and her girlfriends are going on an all girl getaway next week. This is something they have dreamed about, talked about and planned for a long time. As far back as I can remember, my mom has not taken a vacation on her own or with her friends. The only one she has ever taken was with Auntie Scarlet and Auntie Sally a few months after Atsi was born (that was over 35 years ago!). Since then mom’s vacations are usually with the rest of the family – and of course during these “vacations” she usually has to take care of most of the details plus make sure everyone is comfortable and having a good time. So in essence, they are not real vacations for her – just mom getting to do “mom stuff” in more picturesque locations with shopping and sightseeing as part of the agenda.

Anyway, this year mom turned 60, along with her very dear and long-time friends (Auntie Chito, Auntie Benjie and Auntie Cynthia). These ladies have been friends since their college years and have been through thick and thin together! They had talked about celebrating their birthdays (which fall within a few months of each other) together in Livermore (Northern CA) where Auntie Chito is based. I know they have been eagerly anticipating this trip for several months since my mom has mentioned it quite frequently. But as the date drew closer, each of them started having second thoughts. Let me interject here by saying that my mom and her friends are an exceptional group of women who throughout the years have always placed their families and others first. They are all outstanding wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends - which was the exact reason why their planned vacation was in danger of getting canceled.

Mom was busy taking care of my grandfather during his final days and didn’t have time to plan a trip. Now that she is here in L.A with us, she is worried about leaving Atsi on her own and is busy taking care of the last minute wedding details. Mom is also on a mission in making sure Jojo, Jules and I have home-cooked meals and a well-kept home. Similarly, Auntie Benjie, Auntie Chito and Auntie Cynthia have their own reasons as to why they were hemming and hawing – reasons like taking care of their husbands, children, grandchildren, parents, work obligations, etc, etc. They’ve been going back and forth with their plans with my mom resigned to the fact that it may be best to hold off till another time. Finally, I told my mom, she should go on this vacation and that everything was going to be fine. We would work double time this week to finish as much of the wedding preparation as we could. Then next week, I would take some time off to help Atsi too. But it was final, she was going on vacation and that was that.

Two nights ago, I looked at flight times and prices – and last night I booked mom on a roundtrip flight to San Jose. I had to do this quickly before she could change her mind! Thankfully Auntie Benjie’s daughter, Trina, managed to force her mom to fly in from New York too. Luckily Uncle Ed (Auntie Cynthia’s hubby) gave his ok for her to drive down from San Francisco. And it’s a good thing that Auntie Chito’s schedule has cleared up for everyone to come stay with her in Livermore. Their 5 day / 4 night vacation starts on Monday when these four ladies take the Bay Area by storm!

This morning, over breakfast, mom was telling me she felt bad about taking a few days off with so many things still left to be done. This just shows the kind of person my mom is. She always puts us before herself and is always ready to give up her own happiness to make sure we are happy. I assured her that everything would be fine and that all we want is for her to go have fun, not worry about us, just relax and enjoy. If there’s any one in this world that I know of who deserves some time off to herself to just have fun and unwind, it has got to be (hands down) my mom. I really sincerely hope that she has an awesome time and does not feel one iota of guilty over it … she absolutely deserves these 5 days (and much more, if you ask me!).

Have an awesome time, mom! And tell us all about your adventures when you get back.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Big News

This may come as a shocker to some ... but to those that really know me ... it is something that's long overdue. After 2 years of working in this company, I finally turned in my resignation. Yes! I finally did it. I had a long heart-to-heart with my boss on the 21st and told him I was leaving. He wouldn't accept my resignation. He asked me to reconsider and to think about what I really wanted so he could meet what I needed. To be honest, I really thought about it and weighed all my options, but in the end moving on was all I could think of doing. Nothing they offered really made a difference. So on the 24th, I talked to him again and told him I had made up my mind to leave.

The day I made that final decision I really felt as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I know this may sound a little exaggerated but (even if I am still going to the office to finish up a few things) I've felt that the last few nights I've been sleeping better, I've had a little more energy when waking up in the morning, and I have been less irritable (haha) towards my hubby. I can literally feel myself de-stressing! And the coup de grace, was having a colleague stop me at the elevators this morning and ask me if I was doing anything different since I looked more relax and refreshed lately. Isn't that awesome?

I don't mean to make light of the situation - after all my decision to leave this company came with a lot of soul-searching, long talks with loved ones and colleagues, prayer and a complete leap of faith. I am leaving this job with no other job waiting for me, no other company to transfer to, no other source of income other than my hubby and our savings. But even with all the uncertainty, I figured life is too short to be stuck doing something you are miserable at and doing it where you feel so unappreciated. It has gotten to a point where I hated going to work and would end us a frustrated, nervous, stressed out wreck at the end of the day. I was working more than 10 hours a day and even bringing work home on weekends. I had started neglecting myself - I gained so much weight, had really bad skin, awful sleeping habits and was sick all the time. I was irritable when I got home and sleepless most nights worrying about work. I had no time quality time for myself or with friends. It was just such a bad place to be in and all for a job where I found no satisfaction and no meaning other than a paycheck every 2 weeks.

Sure I'll miss the paycheck (which was great) and the benefits (also great) and of course the friends I've made here (which hopefully I'll still keep). But in the end, I don't think I could in good faith subject myself to any more of this and still come out a sane, happy, balanced and well-adjusted person. I don't want to get into too many details as to why working here was so bad (especially since I'm still here). That could just mean some legal drama down the line. But trust me when I say, this was not a place where I could see myself professionally and personally developing nor was it a place that encouraged commitment and dedication. Enough said.

Anyway, I'm here for a few more days or maybe weeks. I told my boss that I wanted to be fair and not dump all my work on some poor unsuspecting soul. In actuality, there is no one else at this point to even dump it on. So I said I'd hang around a few more days till they find someone and until I could properly turnover to that person. After all the drama I've been through, my dad and hubby were telling me I didn't have to do this ... after all, this is California, and we are an "at will" employment state - meaning I could quit and walk out the same minute and never have to come back. But I thought about it ... did I really want to do that? Did I really just want to leave without being accountable for my department and the work I already started? Did I want to be the person who bails without a care and leaves it all for someone else to figure out? Did I want to burn all my bridges and open myself up to the possibility of bad karma? My conscience said "no". I've been waiting for almost 2 years to leave ... what's a few days or weeks more if it makes it easier for everyone involved. After all it's not like I have another job that wants me to start work in two weeks!

Which brings me to what most people have been asking ... "so what are you going to do now?". Well ... at first I was worried about that ... we do have monthly expenses that can't be put on hold when I stop earning. But luckily I have a super loving hubby who is willing to support me while I take a few weeks off to really figure out what I want to do. Worse case is we'll have to dip into our savings. Something I am strongly opposed to doing but as Jojo said "what are we saving money for ... it's to see us through the tough times ... and while we may not even have to use our savings ... knowing we have it as a back-up will make this easier for you". So true! And of course, my folks have also offered to help out (which is awesome of them but honestly will be my very last resort). I was also worried about being bored out of my mind (which tends to happens when I'm left on my own too long). But we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

So I'm taking a few weeks (actually months) off to recuperate and de-stress. I have to work on eating healthier, exercising more, sleeping better, and finding time to relax. I have to be a better wife and make it up to Jojo with home-cooked meals and a better kept home. On a professional level, I am planning to get my Training Certification and maybe do some part-time consulting work if I can. There are a couple of volunteer programs I am also looking at joining. On a personal level, there are so many "happenings" coming up too. My mom and sister are here in August to work on Atsi's wedding. Mom is leaving by the end of August but Atsi and I will still have Sept to work on all the last minute details. Since unofficially I've been acting as her wedding coordinator, I can now do this full-time. My parents are coming the end of September and we are planning to do some traveling before the rest of the family arrives for the wedding (which is on Oct. 18th). The twins will still be staying on till mid November and I'll have to find ways to entertain them too. Then in two weeks (early Dec.) I leave for Manila where I am spending a month back home. By the time Jojo and I get back from Manila, it'll be January and the start of 2009 - time to look for a job. When I think about it, this is actually the best time for me to be out of work.

This is a big step for me. I'm happy and excited (rather than scared and apprehensive about losing a job), which makes me think I made the right decision. I am actually excited about living the next 4 months without a to-do list and without a rigid schedule (can I do it without going crazy or without driving everyone around me crazy?!). I am also looking forward to spending time with family and friends - and really enjoying that time with them without having deadlines and projects weighing in at the back of my mind. I'm also looking forward to maybe this being the time we can start a family. It could happen! But mostly I am excited to see what new things could come my way. This could be pretty awesome!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tidbits

Today is Jojo's 40th birthday. "Happy Birthday, NI". Wishing you the best cause you deserve it. Thanks for being my family, my best friend, my partner in crime, my no. 1 fan, my rock, and my inspiration. I love you very much. And P.S. - you don't look 40 ... not at all =)

There have been so many things going on that I haven't had time to blog about everything. The last few days have been a mix of good and not so good stuff. Here's a quick rundown of what's been going on with me:

Good Stuff:
- We've finally booked our trip to Manila. I will be flying home on Dec. 10 while Jules and Jojo will be flying home on Dec. 17. All of us will be taking the Jan. 4 flight back to L.A. I am so, so EXCITED to be going home. (Interestingly enough, my friend Jeff, has pointed out that even after living abroad for the last 7 and ½ years, I still refer to Manila as "home").
- My dad has super generously offered to pay for our tickets.
- Looking forward to my mom and sister arriving in 2 weeks time. It will be great having them here to plan Atsi's wedding. Then my entire family will be here in October for the wedding and a grand family reunion (our last one was back in May '06). I think we are going to the Grand Canyon this year.
- My hubby's 40th birthday is today and we've been planning his birthday events all week: Thursday night (dinner with immediate family), Friday night (dinner with co-workers and friends), Saturday night (dinner with the rest of the family and other friends). Plus we ordered his massage chair and can't wait to try it out soon!
- Also other birthday parties this month: Dad's (25th), Justin (15th), Jay (17th), Maddie (21st).
- Had a great girl's night our dinner with friends last Friday. It was nice getting the chance to dress up, have cocktails, enjoy tapas, walk along the boardwalk and just talk the night away. It's been ages since I've had a chance to unwind like that.
- We finally found a good housekeeper. Gigi is a godsend. Although on the slow side (she is extremely thorough!), she does an excellent job and has such a great personality.
- My sister-in-law, Tracy, is having a baby any day now.

Not So Good Stuff:
- My grandfather passed away last Tuesday. He has been ill for a long time and has been very weak his last few days. We are sad to lose such him but also glad to know he is now at peace and with God.
- Last week, I had to lay off my assistant. Putting it mildly, he was not very efficient and not very effective. We gave him so many chances but his performance and attitude simply did not change. Even if I was determined to let him go, it was not easy for me to do. I have never ever had to terminate anyone and it was extremely uncomfortable and difficult for me to do.
- Being incredibly BUSY with work (and not having an assistant to help me).
- Our garage renovation has been so delayed. Our plan was to get the flooring done on the July 4th weekend and the cabinets done on the July 12th weekend. Well, the company we ordered the flooring materials from informed us just a few days ago that the shipment was delayed to July 16. Which means we can only start work this weekend (the 19th). Worse we have a party at home on the 18th (one of Jojo's birthday dinners), so all the stuff from the garage we carried inside the house have to be brought back to the garage for the party. Then afterwards carried back in for the floor to be set. We are talking about a whole garage-full of stuff!
- Not yet losing weight for Atsi's wedding. But now I have a double-incentive (losing weight for Atsi's wedding and our homecoming!).

So the last two weeks have been BUSY and have gone by in a blur. Hopefully time speeds up some more so we can get to the things I am looking forward to the most!

Monday, June 30, 2008

An Indian Food Find

Yesterday while running across home improvement stores (Lowes and Home Depot), Jojo and I stumbled upon a small, unassuming Indian restaurant called Angara. We had both talked about having Indian food the day before but could not think of a suitable place to visit. In the past we often lunched at Gaylord (along the Restaurant Row in La Cienega). Other favorites include Bombay (in Torrance, along PCH) and Kabab House of Curry (by the Rolling Hills Estates). But since Gaylord is quite a drive, Bombay has closed down and Kabab has changed its menu, we have been looking around for a good Indian place. So it was serendipitous to have been driving along Torrance Blvd and coming across the small but colorfully decorated eatery.

Angara is a smallish looking establishment from the outside, but opens up to a quite spacious interior. The decor is muted and pretty nondescript. And although we sat at a table with linens and silverware, it would be a stretch to call this place fine dining especially with plastic plants and flowers on their walls, very colorful murals and textiles strewn around and loud Indian disco/techno music in the background. Angara serves a lunch buffet for $11.25 on weekends. The buffet included several dishes, soda and iced tea, as well as a small salad and dessert bar.

Our server was an Indian man who was very gracious, offering us drinks, discussing the buffet dishes, and making sure we were comfortable. Later on his wife hovered over us making sure our glasses and naan basket were constantly filled. And even later still, we saw their young child running around in her pigtails. Several of the other customers seemed like regulars and were greeted as such. It was nice. I actually enjoyed having that atmosphere since it seemed as if we were guests joining their Sunday family meal.

The food was reminiscent of a family meal too. Everything tasted more home-cooked than mass prepared. I particularly enjoyed the basmati rice (the long-grained, fluffy and quite aromatic), the lamb vindaloo (the meat was very tender, the gravy mildly hot and peppery but not so much as they assault your senses), the Vegetable Korma (a savory and sweet veggie stew with carrots, potatoes, green beans and onions), and the pakora (stir fried onion strings). Jojo enjoyed the chicken tandoori (marinated to perfection, grilled till fall-off-the-bone tender, and lathered with cool yogurt and spices), the chicken masala (chicken stew with a tomato paste base that is slightly sweet and slightly tangy) and the saag aloo (a pureed spinach with slices of potato and cheese - for some reason it reminded me of laing a local Filipino delicacy made with gabi leaves and coconut milk). Also, rather than the rice, Jojo was in heaven sopping up the sauces with the warm and crusty naan bread fresh from the oven. The meal ended with Kheer (rice pudding with almonds and raisins).

I truly enjoy Indian food. Whenever I am asked to name my favorite ethnic cuisine, indian food is always at the top of my list. And unlike other cuisine that I enjoy (like Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Thai, etc) indian food is pretty hard and complicated to prepare, which makes finding a good Indian restaurant even more special. This time with our visit to Angara, Jojo and I know that we have come across a winner.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What's in a Name?

When I got married I never got around to changing my last name to my hubby's last name. It wasn't really an act of feminism on my part. It was just a bunch of little things like I didn't want to go through the trouble of renewing all my identification cards and paperwork, I was pretty used to using my last name (which is much shorter and so much easier to spell), and everyone I knew already knew me by my last name (both personally and professionally). Again it was by no means a salute to the feminist movement but rather a giving in to the laziness movement.

So for the past 3 years and a half of married life, I've had the same IDs (passport, CA ID, driver's license, and social security card). And because all my IDs have not been changed, consequently all my other pre-marriage documents remained the same as well: bills (car, mortgage and credit card payments) and records (medical and dental and payroll).

The only time I encountered a problem was during a trip to New York last year. My assistant booked my flight using my married name (which I overlooked) and when I got to the airport - all my IDs had my maiden name. So it took me more than an hour of extra pre-flight security checks to convince the FSA that I was not a terrorist with two different aliases. But other than that one time, I haven't really had any concerns - and so switching over to Jojo's last name has not been a priority. Until now ...

A few weeks ago, we received Jojo's green card (I can't believe I had not blogged about that yet!). But YES, we finally got his green card! Anyway, since Jojo got his permanent residency, it automatically means that I (as his spouse) would be getting mine too. Well, assuming everything goes well and there are no unfortunate hitches, of course. It's now just a matter of time (people are saying between 2 weeks to 2 months). As I wait to hear from INS, our immigration attorney suggested that as a precaution, I should make sure that all my IDs have my married name (since the name on my green card will be my married name - after all I got the green card as a direct result of being married to Jojo). Having a green card with a last name different from all my other IDs would just be a cause for confusion and major headache later on.

So anyway, long story short (or maybe in this case long story still long since I did go through the entire long story) - I have to get all my paperwork straightened out. This means going to the Philippine consulate to get my passport changed, going to the social security office to get my SS card changed, and then to the DMV for my license and CA card. The rest can follow later on but these 4 are pretty imperative.

What joy to have to use a day off from work and to spend it lining up at these government agencies. I can hardly wait! Despite being able to make an appointment at the DMV, I just know I will have to spend a good amount of time filling out forms, lining in endless queues and waiting for the processing. What's worse the Social Security Administration and the Philippine consultate have no such things as setting appointments. Which means an even longer wait.

So that's basically what I'll be doing this Friday. I'm hoping I can take care of everything in one day ... but knowing how notorious government agencies are about taking forever to get things done and how the system works ... well, I'm not holding my breath!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Reading to My Heart's Content

Two of my greatest pleasures include the anticipation of starting a new book and savoring a good story that I’ve just read. Often when I have a new book, I don’t dive right in and read randomly. I have to set the mood. I usually wait till I know I’ll have enough time to really get into the story and time to enjoy reading. Most often I start a good book early Saturday morning just when the weekend starts. I like reading in bed with a mound of fluffy pillows behind me, a cold or warm drink (depending on the weather) by my side, my hubby in the next room tinkering with his computer (which means at least an hour or two of uninterrupted reading!), and a leisurely day ahead with no obligations whatsoever. I can literally spend the whole morning reading and probably the entire day too (if not for my hubby wanting to have lunch or something else needing my attention). But for those few hours, I can get completely lost in a book.

And then, when I am down to the last few pages of a good story, I deliberately slow down and relish what I’ve just read. I go back and read my favorite parts, look at any appendixes, epilogues, prologues, etc. – in a way sort of trying to prolong finishing the story. I often go online and only then do I read other readers’ reviews and editors’ comments. I also particularly enjoy going on the author’s website to try and see what he or she was thinking (feeling or going through) when the story was written.

I know what I am about to admit may make me sound geeky but I've been known to prefer browsing a bookstore than shopping for clothes and shoes. I've been known to spend my allowance and hard-earned money on pocketbooks and novels. I've spent vacations simply enjoying a good book and would think nothing of spending my coming time-off from work indulging in a good book and staying at home. Is that TMI (too much information!?) Here's one more, there have been several times I've actually picked reading a book over attending a party or going clubbing with friends. HUH! GASP! WHAT???!!! (I know, I know, this now means I no longer just sound geeky but have officially crossed over to the geek-side! =) Well, if it makes me one then I'm proud to be one =) Haha.

I’ve been lucky that the last few books I’ve read have all been pretty good (with the exception of a few). I’m not a particularly picky reader and I don’t really have very high standards. My only standards would include a good story, a well written novel, and an author that knows how to keep his/her audience wanting more. I think that a book that is not written well and that drags on forever would be a poor seller even if the story starts off as good. And that a mediocre story can be sold with good writing and the audience anticipating more. Therefore all 3 of my criteria would have to go hand-in-hand.

Just to share a few recent books I’ve read and what I thought of them:

FIVE STARS (Loved them! Definitely going on my all-time favorites list! - which means they would be read and re-read countless times.)

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson - *****

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini - *****

Between Two Worlds by Zainab Salbi - *****

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - *****

FOUR STARS (Really enjoyed them and would definitely read them again! )

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen - ****

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl - ****

Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood - ****

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer Lee - ****

THREE STARS (Pleasantly entertained but not blown away ... would probably read them again if I were bored and in-between books)

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger - ***

The Jane Austen Bookclub by Karen Joy Fowler - ***

The Difference a Day Makes by Karen Jones - ***

Wicked by Gregory Maguire - ***

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck - ***

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert - ***

It Must have Been Something I Ate by Jeffrey Steingarten - ***

TWO STARS (So-so. Will only read them again if I am ever stuck on a deserted island and have nothing else to read).

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd - **

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemerovsky - **

As Luck Would have it by Joshua Piven - **

The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell - **

Miranda Blue Calling by Michelle Wright - **

ONE STAR (Hours of my life I will never get back again!)

There are a couple 1-star books ... but they are really hardly worth mentioning!

And of course my list of all-time favorites list:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Little Women by Louisa Mae Alcott

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum

But more than just loving to read, one of my dreams is to one day have the time and luxury to write a book. I don’t think it would be an autobiography since I hardly think my life is all that interesting! But I’d like to give fiction writing a shot. Since I seem to have a knack for story-telling and can keep my nieces and nephews captivated with made-up fairytales, maybe I’ll start with a children’s book and work my way up!