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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.