Saturday, December 20, 2008

As good as it gets

About two weeks ago, I received a call from a headhunting firm asking if I was interested to become a Recruiter for a company in Seskatchewan, Canada. While I was elated, I was also puzzled. Although I eagerly waited for an offer like this, I stepped back. It was just too good to be true. What was the headhunter's basis for considering me when I didn't even apply to their company?

During my phone conversation with the HR Manager, I was informed that she made a research in the Canadian HR industry, and my name cropped up on the list. The explanation was as simple as that. Canadian HR industry? The only Canadian HR experience I can boast of is my membership with the Human Resource Management Association of Manitoba which is nothing special really because anybody can become a member of this organization.

Of course, I politely declined the offer as it involved relocation which I wasn't prepared to undertake at this point.

Then another offer from another consulting company came. This time, I will be designing a sales training and performance management system for a marketing company. By that time, I was already in my 3rd week as HR Clerk for the government in a temporary role. I gave my word to the employer that I am going to finish my contract until March next year so again, I had to decline the offer.

Me receiving HR job offers and actually declining them? How could life change so suddenly? And to think that a few months ago, I was so despondent and hopeless because no company seemed to take notice of my HR resume. I shed buckets and buckets of tears then, seeing no light dawning upon my heart's desire. But determined to make it, I enrolled in HR courses. It was then that I was advised by the educational institution that the shortest way is for me to take the National Kowledge Test which I did last October 4. I dropped the HR courses and concentrated on reviewing for about 2 months.

Last December 10 (3 days after my birthday), the pieces of the puzzle finally fit together. It was a confirmation of the faith that I had within me all along. I made it to NKE with a score of 87% (passing grade is 70%). My score is the 7th highest in Manitoba and 12th in the entire Canada. Whoa - what a great bonus! what a wonderful birthday gift!

Having hurdled the exam, I can now use the title CHRP Candidate after my name. There is still another exam that I need to write after a minimum of three years experiece in the HR profession to become a full-pledged Certified Human Resource Practitioner.

My friends think it is not very smart for me to hold on to my temporary job given the opportunities that are coming my way. Truth to tell, I still feel inadequate about my ability to mesh in in the corporate set-up here. There is a lot to learn about the Canadian workplace culture and work ethic. The current job that I have, although temporary, gives me that perfect opportunity to learn something I could not find in textbooks. Thus, despite having made it to the NKE, I admit I am still very much a learner. There is wisdom in staying in my job so I can acquire the necessary experience which would hem up my confidence to work side-by-side with the Canadians.

More importantly, I don' want to leave my employer in mid-stream. They took me in when I was a nobody and they have treated me so well from day 1, giving me meaningful assignments and showing a great capacity for tolerance during my adjustment stage. It is only fitting that I return the favor. What comes around goes around.

But in the midst of it all, I acknowledge, with deepest gratitude in my heart, that this blessing is from God. I may have been very focused and determined in my goal but if His hands were not upon me, I would not have made it. This may sound cliche but for me, it rings true on all things and for all times.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Things That Matter

I just turned 41 last December 7. I woke up to hugs and kisses from my hubby, a serenade of my favorite songs from my daughters and love letters and a bouquet of roses waiting at the breakfast table. Later in the night, I had a quiet dinner with my family.

What more could a woman ask for? I was asked by friends about my birthday wish. I told them I have everything I wished for, and so my birthday prayer was actually a prayer of gratitude.

At 41, I find it interesting that I have taken one step closer to 50. But the feeling is no different when I was 21 or 31, which seems to lend credence to the saying that “age is only in the mind” I still have the passions and excitement and inclinations of a twenty- or thirty-something year-old. I feel life radiantly bursting in, through and around me. I feel that there is still so much to do but at the same time, time is slipping away.

As I think about the fact that I am now into the middle age, this also brings me to reflect upon the things that truly matter in this stage of my life. My values and my priorities in life have changed tremendously over the years. What seemed important before is not nearly as important to me today.

• I used to define success as being able to make it based on the standards of this world – a name, a position, a bank account. Success for me is now being happy in whatever I do – whether as a simple housewife or mother or a corporate employee. Rank, position and money maybe important, but they no longer define my worth as a human being.

• I must and continue to take responsibility for my own life. I consciously live my life with a purpose and meaning. I now seek to be more joyful than to be happy, because happiness is a function of circumstances while joy is a function of inner peace inspite of the circumstances.

• Family and real friends are most important than anything else in the world. In their deathbeds, people usually died wishing NOT that they have spent more time working, BUT that they have spent more time with their families and loved ones.

• My relationship with God is of chief importance to me. I make Him as a part of my daily life, even with mundane things. He walks with me and I walk with Him everyday, even if my walk is not always straight. I realize that I am utterly dependent upon him. My life is in the palm of His hands. Just one click of his fingers and I am gone. Everything I am and I have I owe to Him. In fact, I am nothing without Him.

Everyone has a journey - and a story of what their life is, and what it isn’t. I have danced around inevitable changes all my life, taking and missing some of the precious opportunities that have come my way. But I have no regrets. I have accepted my place and have revolved my life on truths and values that are fundamental to my sense of being.

As I continue to write my story, I want to seek a life that truly matters. I want to continue to ponder on life’s great surprises, to feed on my natural sense of awe and wonder for ordinary things with extra-ordinary meanings, to affirm who I am as a person and to live the fundamental truths that have given my life meaning.

For every birthday marker that I go through, I see the “grains of sand” running out of my hourglass. And I’m rushing to ensure that I won’t run out of time to accomplish what I believe are the things that truly matter.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Girl

My girl turns 12 today, and I couldn’t help but feel a little bit mushy.

Time flies, and how fast indeed! Twelve years ago, she was just a tiny fragile infant that I carefully held in the palm of my hands. The first time I held her – I was overwhelmed by a deep sense of joy I almost wept.

She was such a well-behaved baby. She didn’t make much fuss even with wet diapers or hunger bouts. She knew how to entertain herself, cooing and laughing when no one was around, as if talking to invisible angels. She’d only given me very few sleepless nights which are nothing really compared to the joy when she smiled sheepishly at me, snuggled close to my breast to take her milk, and cooed and squeaked no end in the middle of the night.

At two, she had an immense vocabulary, she spoke straight tagalog and English, she recognized the letters of the alphabet and mimicked the sounds of animals. More than anything else in the world, she was fascinated by books with colorful drawings and illustrations. She was also such a fan of “The Land Before Time” video series to the point of memorizing practically all the songs in the collection.

Coming home from the office one day, I was greeted by an awesome sight - a three-year- old walking around the house in an oversized- high-heeled shoes that belonged to her mom, with kitchen spoon in one hand and my office bag in another. At this young age, she was fast showing signs of fierce independence, allowing no one to spoonfeed her, or to bathe her or to dress her up. She wanted to do all things by herself. I kidded myself – she is indeed her mother’s girl!

When her little sister came into the scene, the bouts of jealousy or selfishness that we predicted never surfaced. Instead, she surprised us with the kind of genuine concern and caring that she showed her sister. When the little baby was crying, she would race with her dad to find out what the fuss is. At night, she would send her sister to sleep with a wonderful rendition of the songs from the “Land Before Time”, culminating in the infamous “If we hold on” that had become the family’s unofficial theme song to this day. I didn’t have to teach her to take care of her sister. It came naturally to her. Even today, she is her sister’s best friend.

I could go on and on recalling the wonderful surprises, the endless joys and the precious bonding moments that she had delighted us with. Today, as I look at her and marvel at how she has perpendicularly grown up over the years, I am awed at the realization that my baby has now become my girl. In a few years, I know that my girl will soon transform into her own person. Already, I could spot the signs of its coming.

As a pre-teener, she had been pretty consistent in her ways: non-fussy, self-initiated, caring and responsible. But I have also seen that although I have raised her in a certain “mold”, she is slowly escaping that mold. She is starting to assert her independence in everything she does. It is fascinating to see her unspoken determination to be her own person – free from the dictates and pressures of others, even from her mom who used to be the center of her world. It’s not her style to wear the fad just because it’s the “in” thing or everybody else is doing it if she thinks it looks silly. She has very different interests compared to girls of her age. While others talk about Hannah Montana and acne and crushes, she would rather read books about astronomy and science.

But she still continues to sing. And how she loves to sing. She’s also into a lot of musical instruments – piano, clarinet, guitar, violin. On her birthday, she requested for an electric guitar to replace her acoustic guitar. She’s currently saving her weekly allowance so she can buy drums this summer. She’s a member of her school band and music choir and is the guitarist in our local church. Music is her greatest passion, if not her life. Why – she wants to become a music director or music teacher as an adult.

She also excels academically. She is on top of her class and is a very strong candidate for the dean’s honour by the end of the term, as her teachers told me during our parent-teacher session last week.

What all these means to me is that I am raising a girl with extra-ordinary potential and passions. A girl who at a young age already knows what she wants in life.

I have read somewhere that raising a kid is like flying a kite. At the initial stage of flying, the kite owner must maintain a tight grip as the kite struggles up high. Upon establishing the momentum, the owner must help the kite maintain its balance. And as soon as the kite becomes stable, the owner must learn to let go, albeit gradually, and be contented to watch the kite in its full flying splendor from afar, but vigilant to come to the rescue in case of brewing storm.

At this stage of my girl’s life, I know that I have to correspondingly evolve from the overprotective and imposing mother that I used to be into a supportive, nurturing, and empowering mom that is exactly what she needs as she spreads up her wings. This, to me, is the greatest gift I could ever give her.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Winter Paranoid

Since the day we came to Winnipeg, I have developed a winter paranoia. I got this from listening to endless tales of well-meaning friends who warned me that winter in Winnipeg can really be harsh. They said that there are days when the temperature can go as low as minus forty that could literally freeze anyone to death.

So for weeks on end, I have been so busy accumulating winter attires. What better way than to be prepared as there is no escaping the winter. Snow is very much a part of life here in Winnipeg and so I saw no point in complaining and grumbling. By the end of October, our cabinet was heaping with every imaginable winter stuffs I have set my eyes into – mittens, gloves, scarves, torques, ear mops, turbans, hats, parkas, sweaters, jackets, thermal pants, thermal socks, ski pants, winter boots, et. etc. Most were purchased from clearance so I didn't have to drain my pocket.

When news came out that snow was to fall in Winnipeg soon, I braced myself. While the kids were rejoicing, I was silently dreading. But I also knew I had to face it.

The snow probably dropped when everybody was still fast asleep because when I woke up in the morning, our porch was already covered with white cotton-like crystals about three inches deep. Outside, the sky was all foggy and overcast as snow continued to drop in torrents. The temperature was minus 18 with a minus 6 windchill.

I dressed up my kids into bundles and bundles of clothing to ensure their protection. As I did, I kept blabbering about safety precautions, thanks to the literatures I downloaded from the internet. I felt crazy as the icy rains continued to pour. I dreaded going out but since I was so worried about the safety of my children, I had to walk with them to the bus station. By the time we were ready to go out, the snow was 4-inch thick.

As I stepped out from the warmth of our home, I expected a bone-freezing chill to hit me. Surprisingly, it didn’t come. It was cold alright but it was tolerable. Then I realized the secret - appropriate covering from head to toe.

On our way, we met children walking all by themselves to school. They looked perfectly alright. I glanced at my children - they looked fine too, enjoying the snow that I hated. Used to hate, I should say.

After sending my children off to the bus, I went back to our apartment feeling a little bit cold but not chilled. In fact, I felt relieved. The long dreadful wait is finished. I smiled at myself – my winter paranoia is over.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Spiritual Quest (First of a Series)

I was raised as a Christian by my parents. I remember attending a regular catechism class every Saturday and going to Sunday mass with my family. I also remember participating in many rituals and ceremonies that I hardly understood. I nonetheless went through them as a matter of compliance.

I must admit though that Christianity never took its roots in me. I became a Christian because that was the religion I grew up with but I never really understood my faith. I went to church regularly, got married under traditional church rites and even had my children baptized as Christians. Not once however had I opened the bible to find guidance on how I was supposed to live my life.

I had many legitimate questions about Christianity and sincere misgivings about some aspects of my belief. But I was too guilty and embarrassed to raise them. I also began to be scared and unsure whether it was permissible to express uncertainty about God, Jesus Christ and the Bible.

For a while, I kept the questions to myself – unanswered, unexplored, hidden beneath my heart. I tried to suppress them and pushed them deeper and deeper until they were forgotten. Or so I thought.

When my father died, the questions began to resurface, grow, fester and loom. This time the questions weren’t just about religion anymore. I was confronted by my own mortality and there was a quaint uneasiness in my heart. What is the meaning of life? Why do I exist? Is there really a God?

I remember looking intently at my father’s grave, and telling him – “now you’re gone. Soon I will be gone. Three generations from me, no one will remember you anymore. You are now a dust in the wind, as I am. Is this everything to it?”

From that point on, I knew that I was entering a new passage. I felt like something within me was unlocked. There was no stopping the massive outpouring from the floodgates of my heart. I knew that I couldn’t go on until I pursue the answers that will satisfy my soul.

Thus began my spiritual journey

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

America's New President

It’s official: Barrack Obama is the new US President.

I know that the election meant so much to the millions of Americans who went out to cast their votes. A historical milestone is almost a tame word to describe this giant event that catapulted the first black man into the presidency of the world’s super power.

A lot of people has hailed Obama as the Messiah, a God-sent man to save America and the rest of the world from destruction. The infamous “Obama Worship” and “Manifest Obama” is an indication of how some people have lost their grip and put Obama at almost the same level as God’s.

Once the dust starts to settle, that’s when Obama’s real work begins. For sure, it’s not going to be easy, given the tumultuous political and economic upheavals America is going through right now.

Meanwhile, in my little corner of this world, I and my family will continue to watch in amazement and wonder how this black guy from Colorado will turn out to be as he begins to shape America’s and the world’s destiny.

Will he deliver the goods? Will he remain true to his ideals?

I wish him all the best.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Our Generation

Got this yesterday from a forwarded e-mail. The text had me traveling back down memory lane when life was a little less complicated. Some of the texts tugged at my heart and I couldn't help but nod my head in agreement.

TO ALL THE KIDS WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1950's, 60's and 70's !!

First, some of us survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us.. ( sioktong ang inumin)

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, fish from a can ( brand : ligo ) , and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints , pati na yung laruang kabayu-kabayuhan.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, no kneepads , sometimes wala ngang preno yung bisikleta.

As children, we would ride in car with no seat belts or air bags – hanggang ngayon naman, di ba ? ( jeep )

Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat. ( maykaya kayo pare ! )

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle ( minsan straight from the faucet)

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this. Or contacted hepatitis.

We ate rice with tinunaw na purico ( dahil ubos na ang star margarine) , nutribuns na galing kay macoy and drank sopdrinks with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight kasi nga ..... .

WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. Sarap mag patintero, tumbang preso , habulan taguan….

No one was able to reach us all day ( di uso ang celfon , walang beepers ). And we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our trolleys or slides out of scraps and then ride down the street, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem .

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms....... ....WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. The only rubbing we get is from our friends with the words…..masakit ba ? pero pag galit yung kalaro mo,,,,ang sasabihin sa iyo…..beh buti nga !

We played in the dirt , washed our hands a little and ate with our barehands…we were not afraid of getting worms in our stomachs.

We had to live with homemade guns – gawa sa kahoy, tinali ng rubberband , sumpit , tirador at kung ano ano pa na puedeng makasakit…..pero walang nagrereklamo.

Made up games with sticks ( syatong )and cans ( tumbang preso )and although we were told it would happen, wala naman tayong binulag o napatay….paminsan minsan may nabubukulan.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Mini basketball teams had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Walang sumasama ang loob.

Ang magulang ay nandoon lang para tignan kung ayos lang ang bata….hindi para makialam.

This generation of ours has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and managers ever!

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned
HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!

And YOU are one of them!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Man

The first time I met him, I was instantly drawn to him and I didn't know why.

He was far from the man of my dreams. In fact he was just the exact opposite. He was also everything that I was not. I was extrovert, he was shy and quiet. I was opinionated, he had tempered judgment. I was assertive, he was laid back. I was transparent, he was cool and under composure.

Do opposites really attract? Psychologists explain this as arising from one’s innermost desires (probably rooted in the unconscious) to find traits and characteristics lacking in him in another person so he would feel complete.

After having been married to him for about fifteen years now, would I say that I am a complete person because of him?

He does complement my weaknesses. The opposite traits that I saw in him turned out to be that natural strengths that I depended on when times were hard. He was very much like the rudder that kept the boat afloat. When I was filled with doubts and fears and was on the edge, he was the steady hand that guided me through.

But such realization did not happen overnight. Over time, his natural strengths became sources of friction or even feelings of alienation. How I wished he would be more open with his feelings. How I wished he would feel the same way I do. How I wished he would be more sensitive and more caring. How I wished… How I wished…

So I tried to change his personality to suit mine. And that started my misery. It was like digging a hole for myself. The more I wanted him to be just like me, the more that his natural traits were being magnified.

I decided that, for my own peace, I better accepted him for what he is. After all, if I couldn’t change my personality to suit his either, isn’t that unfair to him? Funny how we want to change another person and yet we wouldn't take the first step to change ourselves.

Accepting him for what he is - strengths and weaknesses and all - was the most liberating decision I have ever made for myself.

Today, our marriage is stronger than ever. We have learned to live side by side with our imperfections, always highlighting our positives and downplaying our negatives. We have found that underneath our personality differences lie common and enduring values that we both believe in: love, responsibility, integrity and faith. Come to think of it, when you have lots of these, no marriage will ever crumble even with personality differences.

Happy birthday, ‘theart. I am glad I married you. I couldn’t imagine myself living with any other man.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Four Seasons

Would you like to experience the four seasons – spring, summer, fall and winter – within one day?

Yes, you’ve read it right. Within ONE day. Right here in Winnipeg where we live. We just had one last Saturday.

We woke up to a fine sunny morning that day. Except for a slightly breezy wind, everything was summery perfect. Since the weather was good, the children geared up for some impromptu outdoor activities. While waiting for their breakfast, they hastily ran off to the playground nearby to enjoy the morning sun with only light sweaters on. SUMMER.

About two hours later while I was doing the laundry at the wash room, I was pleasantly surprised by the soft rhythmic sounds of raindrops hitting the roof, or so I thought. I was surprised because it was the first time since the day we arrived here that I am hearing raindrops fall. I went out to see only to find out that the sun was gone and the sky was dark with clouds. The soft rhythm that I heard earlier was actually the sound of flurries (snow) hitting the roof. I spent the next minute dusting off the tiny snow crystals scattered all over our porch. WINTER

The flurries were then followed by non-stop heavy rains. Outside, the trees were swaying and dancing as the strong winds hit them. The wind was howling like crazy. Yellow-green and purple leaves fell to the ground in torrents. Our pavement was slushy with mud and rain water. FALL and SPRING.

Whoa!

Welcome to Winnipeg, Melinda.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gratitude

I thank God that He has given me a limited intellect. For if I were so intelligent, I would not have to search for answers to my questions elsewhere and this would have made me self-righteous.

I thank God that He has given me a limited self-confidence. For if I were so confident of myself, I would have overshadowed others with my bloated self-image and this would have made me highly arrogant.

I thank God that He has endowed with less than desirable physical attributes. For if I were so beautiful outside, I would have failed to realize that what is inside of me is much more enduring and this would have made me highly vain and worldly.

I thank God that He has created me with weaknesses and fragilities. For if I were super strong and resilient, there would have been no room for me to overcome my defects and I would not have prospered from glory to glory.

I thank God that He has created me as an imperfect human being. For if I were perfect, I would have relied on my own capabilities and declared that I didn’t need God. In fact, I would have even attempted to equal or surpass God for then I would have been as perfect as He is.

I thank God that I am who I am because of Him. I thank God that because of His goodness, mercy and abiding grace, I will be who He has designed me to be.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Reaping

In the workplace where I am training, I find a lot of fellow Filipinos - young and old, new immigrants, old timers - everywhere and around me. Not that I don’t like to associate with other nationalities but it is such a relief to be able to work with somebody who shares your language, your sentiments, your culture.

But alas, character flaw recognizes no race.

Sadly, there is one Filipino Assistant Manager there who is giving her fellow Filipinos a hard time than they already deserve. She barks instructions arrogantly, embarrasses her direct reports in front of others, and tends to look down on others. (Thank God she is not my trainer!)

One time that I talked to her, I could feel the wall that so distinctly divides us. She obviously doesn’t like me as she would not even acknowledge me even when it’s only the two of us present in one room. She is the subject of complaints and tirades from her co-workers, branding her as “mayabang, akala mo kung sino, parang langaw na nakatuntong sa kalabaw”.

Curiously though, she is the exact opposite when talking to the big bosses and fellow managers. She is very polite and respectful, as if “di makabasag pinggan”.

(I have read somewhere that the true test of character is not so much on how we deal with the people above us, but how we deal with the people below us, those who are helpless, defenseless and are not in a position to repay us for our kindness.)

It happened that a very unhappy Filipino customer came to the store with a complaint one day and was attended to by this Assistant Manager. To cut the story short, their conversations did not end well, with the former feeling unhappier than he first came to the store.

“Can I have your complete name?”, said the angry customer just when he was leaving.

“My name is ____________ _____________ and I am the MANAGER here!” she responded, emphasizing the word manager.

“You know what? I am surprised that you are a Manager. You certainly don’t act like one!” he quipped.

Then he turned to the associates and said - "You unlucky guys, I can just imagine what you're going through with her as your boss".

When the customer left, the Assistant Manager predictably went into a rampage, swearing and cursing “ang yabang-yabang, porke duktor siya, akala mo kung sino. Parang langaw na nakatuntong sa kalabaw

Within my viewing distance, I saw a lot of her direct reports smiling triumphantly. And within earshot, I heard somebody muttering “nakahanap ng katapat”.

Life does have a way of evening things out. What you reap is what you sow.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Teaching Obedience

My husband and I consider it extremely important that our children obey us or those in authority.  One technique that we use to exact obedience is setting out negative consequences when they intentionally violate the rules of discipline that we have all set together. 

So as not to foster resentment (which would eventually lead to rebellion) we have taken pains to explain that we discipline them for their own sake and not for our own convenience.  That we want them to grow into mature and responsible adults and that  as Christians, they ought to obey their parents as the bible says. We have always been careful to differentiate consequence from punishment, to condemn the offense but never the offender.

For three days in a row last week, my two girls have failed to do their share of household chores as per our agreement.  They have been procrastinating and have been a little negligent of their responsibilities at home and in school. So I decided it was time for consequence. They could not watch television and use the computer for one week.

It was amazing how the word “consequence” sent them scampering to their feet. But it was too late.  The die was cast.  No amount of sweet-talking or apologies can undo my decision. As a parent, I have long since learned that it pays to be firm to command obedience from the children.

Last Saturday was the 7th day of their consequence. I needed to do a lot of errands so I left them under the care of my close friend.  I had no idea that I would be up for a most pleasant surprise later that day.

When I left, my friend sent my children down the basement to join her kids (who are also close friends of my kids) to do some kids’ stuffs. She checked them out an hour later and was a bit worried to see my own kids staying by themselves at the living room while her own kids were inside the computer room browsing the internet, playing Wii and watching television.

Feeling sorry for my kids, she asked them to join her kids at the computer room but my children politely declined.  Here is how their conversation went on:

Friend:     Hey, guys, why don’t you join your friends at the computer room?

Kids: We're grounded. Can't watch tv or play with the computer.

Friend: Oh-I'm giving you permission. I'll just explain to your mom later.

Kids: But we haven't completed the seven days yet.

Friend: That's why I'm giving you permission.

Other Kids: Come on guys. Nobody's telling anybody!

Kids:       Sorry, Tita. We can’t do that to our mom.  It just isn’t right.


It just isn’t right.  These words kept ringing in my ears. My children know how to behave even when I’m not around, ESPECIALLY when I’m not around.

What a wonderful joy to realize that my children obey not out of compliance, nor out of duty.  They do because they feel it’s the right thing to do.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Waiting

With office ID and the thick and heavy management-in-training folder in my hands, it’s official – I have started my first day of training yesterday as an employee of a company that owns a chain of fast-food restaurants in Canada and across the globe.

I am back to retail operations or customer service, my "cup of tea”, as I am wont to describe it. I will be on training on theoretical and practical aspects for the next four weeks or so to expose me to all areas of retail operations. After that, I would be pretty much on my own, running a retail outlet in Winnipeg the “company” way.

So what happened to my passion for human resources management work? It’s still very much alive and burning within me, but for now, it has to take a backseat. At least until December 4 when the results of the National Knowledge test would be out, and I would be able to find out if I am really cut for HR work in Canada.

Life indeed is a series of choices and decisions we make everyday. When I made the decision to pursue HR three months ago, that was just the first step. When I enrolled in an on-line crash course to prepare me for the exams, I was taking a step further in my original decision. When I finally wrote the exams last October 4, that closed the deal. Whether I fail or pass would be another story.

Waiting for the exam results between now and December 4 is like walking in eternity. I have high hopes that I will make it. But if I don’t, I will not allow it to rob me of my joy. Life goes on, anyway.

For the meantime, I have decided that I will have to enjoy my cup of tea.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Blessed Fool

Three months ago today, I have made up my mind that I will pursue a career in Human Resources. I knew what I was up to when I made that decision but I was determined to make it anyhow. The shortest way, I was informed, was to write the National Knowledge Exam for HR practitioners, which would give me the “license” to practice the profession in this country.

So for the last three months, I’ve been busy as a bee preparing and reviewing for the examination which is set this October 4. I have been very focused in my preparations, utterly convinced that this exam is my only passport to my goal. I have browsed all available HR books in the library and have enrolled myself to an on-line crash course on Human Resources Management Practices in Canada.

But alas, God seems to have a different plan for me. He’s calling me to places I did not even dream of.

A new career opportunity in customer service is opening up for me. (I did not apply for this job, the headhunter simply saw my resume in the monster website which I posted viewable by employers about three months ago). The one-on-one interviews with the Area Manager and the Operations Director were very fascinating. It was so affirming and refreshing to talk with people with the same work ethic and personal values that I have.

Yesterday, they just made the job offer which is so irresistible that I’m losing my focus. The financial package is not bad and so is the opportunity for me to maximize my skills in managing tasks and leading people. Truly, this is one opportunity that only fools would pass up.

But a fool I am indeed. For up to this point, I couldn’t bring myself to sign the acceptance letter. I am thinking - I have had three customer service jobs thus far, all of which I quit, because I was looking for something that just wasn't there. Could this job be any different?

On the other hand, I keep thinking also - I did not look for this job, it found me. I don't believe in luck or coincidence. So could it be that God is telling me about the path that's right for me?

The clock is ticking fast. I have only 8 hours left to make up my mind.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A life of Contradiction

I chanced upon the name of David Foster Wallace in one of the old issues of Time Magazine citing his novel “Infinite Jest” as one of the 100 best English novels. I got to read some of his nonfiction works and instantly, I developed a particular liking for his style and the depth of his works. He had become one of my most admired writers/novelists/essayists.

Just this morning, I read from a blogger’s post that he passed away last September 12. What a sad news, what a great loss, considering that the man was only in his late forties with a writing prowess that can only belong to a genius.

Here is a sample (which I copied from the same blog) on how beautifully and poignantly he can mesh his thoughts into words.

"Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth.

Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clich├ęs, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings.

They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation ... The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing."


Here is another that will knock the wind out of you.

“There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist says: "Look, it's not like I don't have actual reasons for not believing in God. It's not like I haven't ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn't see a thing, and it was fifty below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out 'Oh, God, if there is a God, I'm lost in this blizzard, and I'm gonna die if you don't help me.'" And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. "Well then you must believe now," he says, "After all, here you are, alive." The atheist just rolls his eyes. "No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp."

It's easy to run this story through kind of a standard liberal arts analysis: the exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people's two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience. Because we prize tolerance and diversity of belief, nowhere in our liberal arts analysis do we want to claim that one guy's interpretation is true and the other guy's is false or bad. Which is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. Meaning, where they come from INSIDE the two guys. As if a person's most basic orientation toward the world, and the meaning of his experience were somehow just hard-wired, like height or shoe-size; or automatically absorbed from the culture, like language. As if how we construct meaning were not actually a matter of personal, intentional choice. Plus, there's the whole matter of arrogance. The nonreligious guy is so totally certain in his dismissal of the possibility that the passing Eskimos had anything to do with his prayer for help. True, there are plenty of religious people who seem arrogant and certain of their own interpretations, too. They're probably even more repulsive than atheists, at least to most of us. But religious dogmatists' problem is exactly the same as the story's unbeliever: blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn't even know he's locked up.

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded".


No doubt Wallace was incredibly brilliant and capable of biting satire, profound depth, utmost sensitivity. He impressed me as a man firmly grounded in the unnatural. After all, most of his work is a reflection of an awesome, brave stab against materialism and a natural inclination towards compassion.

But alas, he lived a life of contradiction. His life is the ultimate jest. He died in a most unlikely, unimaginable way that I could think of. He hanged himself inside his own home, knowing that a few hours later, he would be found by his wife of four years.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Goosed!

One of the things we like about our new place is the absence of traffic jams. You don't have to adjust your clock for fear of missing your appointment due to heavy traffic. Having come from a country where “bumper-to-bumper” traffic is an ordinary part of life, this is such a relief to me.

Last Saturday morning however was a different story. As hubby and myself routinely negotiated the pathway of our jogging trail, we were surprised to find a long pile of cars stucked in the middle of the road with barely a hint of movement. Oddly, the traffic lights from a distance were working well but none of the cars were progressing. So we hurried off to find out what it was all about.

Right there, in the middle of the intersection, we saw more than a hundred wild ducks parading on the street, oblivious to the traffic jam they were causing. They were honking in unison, as if bragging about their power to render that corner of the road into a standstill. And much to the chagrin of the helpless drivers, they took their own sweet time, leisurely navigating the street, like they held the world at the palm of their feet. And how they did indeed! (Incidentally, Canada is a country known for caring for animals and respect for nature).

What happened next was even more fascinating. A small goose started to lag behind, with a distance of about 20 meters from the rest of the herd. As the traffic started to move already, the helpless goose couldn’t find a way to cross through. Realizing this, about a dozen drove at the other side of the road nestled to the ground and patiently waited for the single member that was still at the other side of the road. They left only when the wayward duck was in their fold. One goose is equally important as a hundred geese.

From the internet, I have read other fascinating facts about the goose – like how they usually fly in v-shape formation because the formation tends to add greater uplift for those flying behind, or how a leader naturally emerges, in rotating fashion, from the pack. If only for these, the geese have earned my respect and admiration, never mind the minor inconvenience they can cause us urban dwellers. Their minds may be primitive compared to humans, but they certainly provide us lessons about caring and relationships which, unfortunately for some of us, may take a lifetime to learn.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Loss

I received very sad news in a row this week – the death of the loved ones of two of my close friends.

Judel’s father who is in his sixties was rushed to the hospital on Saturday night due to chest pain. In less than an hour, he succumbed to death due to massive heart failure.

Cookie’s only sister who is in her mid thirties had just started a family. She had been in the pink of health all these years. A week ago, patches suddenly began to emerge in her skin. The doctors ruled out leukemia and suspected it might have been blood infection. She died a week later, leaving a husband and two very young kids behind.

Two people: one nearing dusk, and the other at the prime of her life. One having lived a full life and the other just about to taste life.

Their death only affirms the hard truth that I’ve long been wrestling with. That death does come like a thief in the night. No choosing of victims. No pattern to watch for. Sparing nobody when the timing is right. Sometimes gently. Sometimes harshly. Always painfully.

The deepest pain and the greatest burden are for those who are left behind. The pain of those who are in the process of mourning just cannot be captured by words. It feels like a hole has been torn in your soul that cannot be mended. I knew, because I lost my brother twenty-five years ago and my father five years ago.

From a positive perspective, the death of my loved ones has changed me in a most profound way. I was never the same person again after they were gone. My personal loss had forced me to come face to face with myself and inspired me to seek the answers to a lot of questions about life. It brought me to the feet of a God I never knew before.

I may not still have found all the answers (perhaps in my lifetime I never won’t) but one thing is certain though: This world is not our home. We are not meant to live here forever. We are simply passing through.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Precious Bonus

It took me a long time after I got married to conceive my first daughter. It was such an agonizing wait, with all the medical attempts I have tried proving to be futile one after the other. In my desperation, I bargained to God that all I needed was just ONE baby, and then I wouldn’t have to ask for anything anymore.

Then Bianca came, and what a bundle of joy she was and is to me and my husband. Truly an answered prayer.

Three years after, I gave birth to Danee. I didn't ask for her, she just came, unplanned but nonetheless wanted. Bianca is the gift, Danee is the bonus.

Today is Danee's 9th birthday and as I look at her, I am amazed at how she has turned out to be - a little lady with a big big heart.

We have given her the gifts she likes, taken from her long wish list prepared long before and plan to have a quiet family dinner later, which is what she wants. She hates parties. Not that she is anti-social, but her idea of a birthday celebration is a quiet time with the people she loves best. How charming for a nine-year old!

Opening the gifts one by one, she smiled so broadly at all of us, as a sign of appreciation. Little does she know that she herself is the greatest gift, touching my heart so gently yet profoundly, leaving a sweet aftertaste in my soul.

When I am ill, Danee is the first to come to my bedside, instantly dropping whatever it is that she's preoccupied with. We would inadvertently switch roles – she acting like a little nursing mommy and me acting like the big sick child. She would stroke me in the forehead, give me a massage, bring me my meds and why, even read me my favorite book.

When I am in such a lowly mood, Danee is the first person to notice and ask me what's wrong. When I cry, Danee would shed equal buckets of tears with me. At her young age, it is easy for her to feel my pain even if she cannot comprehend the cause. To own it even. Which makes me wonder: do we really need to have the breadth of experience to feel empathy for another person?

When I am not my usual self, like I am having a bad day and a bad mood, Danee is sensitive enough to give me space and just let me be. Even when I do or say crazy things, Danee never judges me as a bad mom. I would hear her quip to her ate "you know mom, she's just like that. sometimes abnormal but the real she is not really like that".

When I am away from home for a long time, Danee makes it a point to call me everyday just to talk about nothing and everything. She would sleep with the cellphone beside her, so she can readily grab it when mommy calls up. She never fails to punctuate our conversations with “I love you, Mommy”.

One time, I asked Danee what she wants to be when she grows up. She mumbled something about being a car mechanic, or a jet pilot, an astronaut even but wasn’t sure about anything of those. Out of the blue, she blurted out: “Why, I want to be just like you – pretty, intelligent and loving. I want to take care of you when you grow old!” I was speechless.

As an adult, I have my own baggages. Sometimes, pride makes it hard for me to apologize to somebody I offended. It will not take a second for Danee to apologize when she knows she’s at fault. And when she does get hurt, Danee readily forgives and forgets, even without the word “sorry” from the person who has offended her.

She is not all that perfect though. I can recall a number of occasions when she would have her own “moments” too. She can be as selfish and as naughty and as rowdy as any child could be. She would have her own annoying antics that really get on my nerves. She would constantly be in a brawl with her ate, with her Dad and even with me.

But with Danee, I have never felt so loved and cared for in my life. For all her innocence, the family has learned a lot of lessons from this nine-year-old who seems to have the wisdom of a ninety-year-old:

Love is not love unless it is shown or given.
Loving a person means loving him not just when he's good but even when he's bad.
It's easy to get hurt. but it's equally easy to forgive.

Happy happy birthday, my dearest daughter. Life had never felt this good, what with the love that you constantly radiate to each of us. You are one precious soul that we will all treasure. My geatest bonus!

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Sad Soul

I have met my new friend Anette, a 77-year-old Caucasian widow during our church’s annual outreach project a few months ago. She doesn’t share my faith but she believes in the existence of God. She lives alone in a two-storey grandiose house with a big yard that needs regular mowing. With her limited pension, she can barely afford to hire a grass cutter. So we volunteered to do it, at least every other week till winter.

She has spent the prime of her life taking care of her ailing husband who eventually succumbed to diabetic complications while she was in her fifties. She has serious back problems (her tendons and ligaments have twisted due to heavy lifting of her husband while still alive) that run through her legs. She takes pain relievers daily which provided little comfort over time. The last hope is a back surgery which could cost her her life.

She is in such physical distress, but this is nothing compared to the pain that is searing through her heart. Anette is a very sad woman, with the burden of solitude weighing down her soul day by day. Her gaze reflects an inner ache, her voice a hollow vacuum.

Her children had long left her behind (2 daughters and a son are in Winnipeg while another son is in Toronto) to live their separate lives. Curiously, none of them bother to pay her a visit though they are only a distance away. They only meet on important family occasions like birthday or Christmas. Anette speaks fondly of her children and wishes in her heart that someday, all of them would have a happy reunion in that grand house of hers.

Something has gone wrong somewhere, and I am not about to pass judgment.

My family makes it a point to visit her every Sunday, just sitting for about two hours with her in the kitchen, talking about nothing over a cup of coffee. One time just as we were preparing to leave, Anette told me: “I hope I can fulfill whatever expectations you have from me”. I replied: “We don’t expect you to do anything for us, it is our pleasure to do something for you, and it had been a privilege that you allowed us intruders into your heart”. Her eyes were red with tears when we parted.

I am drawn to Anette, and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my way of appeasing my guilt of leaving my mother behind. In my lifetime, I am happy that I am given the chance to meet this wonderful woman, and hopefully to touch her soul in a positive way.

But I will have to admit this - everytime I see her, I feel a gnawing fear inside me. She reminds me of how fragile life can be, and what will become of us all by the end of the road. When all is said and done and we have loved and given everything we have, and then find ourselves alone when dusk time comes, from where do we draw courage to get out from the abyss of despair and loneliness?

In my bed of thorns, He is the fragrant rose;
In my wilderness, He's the stream that flows;
A shelter built with loving grace,
His refuge shall be my dwelling place.
—Krippayne
© 2002, New Spring Publishing, Inc./Chips and Salsa Songs

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Trapped

Trapped. The dictionary defines it as being in a situation from which it is difficult to escape and in which somebody feels confined, restricted, or in somebody else’s power.

My husband and I were cruising peacefully along Jefferson Street yesterday towards the east of Winnipeg. Ever a defensive driver, Ronny was alert and vigilant of the traffic signs and conscious of the rush of vehicles in our way.

We were about to turn a left curve in an intersection when the amber traffic light flashed repeatedly before us. Ronny then slowed down and stopped in the designated area to pave the way for the other vehicles.

After crossing the intersection about 500 meters away, we heard a vehicle honking from somewhere. We dismissed it as probably a machine defect or something in the car behind us. But the honking repeated, forcing me to look closely to the lone vehicle following us to ascertain what was wrong. I thought maybe our tires were flat, or our hood was left open. By this time, Ronny has started to reduce the speed and was preparing to pull over.

Another very loud honking followed and before we knew it, the vehicle behind us has already made a swift overtake. When it was almost adjacent to ours, the male Caucasian (probably in his thirties) seated next to the driver suddenly thrust his head out and made a “f--k you” sign with his finger and shouted something like “you stupid Asians, better clear the way!” Then they quickly sped off.

Such brazen display of arrogance and rudeness! What have we done wrong? We reviewed the events that recently transpired to see if we violated any traffic sign or had been discourteous to them in any manner. We couldn’t recall any and I ended up suggesting that may be we were in such a slow irritating speed. Ronny corrected that we were very well within the speed limit and reasoned out that assuming that my conclusion is true, the other vehicle could easily make a cut without the need to honk given that the road was very clear.

Having realized what was just done to us, I started to get angry. Furious is a better term. It was racial discrimination, plain and simple. What right do these people have to treat us that way? Just because they are whites and we are Asians doesn’t mean that they have a license to call us names. Do they think of us as second-class citizens or an inferior race that can easily be trampled upon?

I felt an injustice of some sort was done and a part of me wanted to get even. I even urged Ronny to drive faster so we can run after the vehicle and then take my sweet revenge. But thankfully, the vehicle was nowhere in sight (or I would have done something that I will certainly regret later). I was left nursing my wounded ego and to appease myself, I resorted to cursing them and calling them names as well.

And then I froze. I realized what I was doing. By calling them names, by cursing them, I was debasing myself. I was no different. I don’t even know them, they have been out of my life as quickly as they came in, and yet they continued to still affect me several minutes later. And that is because I allowed them to exert such powerful impact on me that they were actually dictating how I should feel.

That was when I released them and even bid them peace. And when I did, I felt sorry for them. Beyond that, I felt good that I liberated myself from the trap. Several minutes later, I have already forgotten about the incident. And the rest of the day went on smoothly.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Mayhem

I was greeted yesterday morning by a most horrific, bone-chilling news flashed all over Canadian television.

A 40-year-old man repeatedly stabbed a twenty-something man sleeping next to him as they rode in the back of a Greyhound bus together along the Trans-Canada Highway near Portage la Prairie, Winnipeg. Afterwards, he decapitated the man and waved the severed head in front of thirty-four passengers who watched in complete and total horror.

How I wished this was simply a gruesome scene from a horror movie, or photos in magazines from faraway places. But this was real, the grit and pain and horror of life, up close and personal.

Amid my disbelief and horror, I rationalized that there must have been a deep motive for the gruesome killing, like a personal vendetta of some sort. It was my mind’s way of tuning out a most shocking and unacceptable reality.

Subsequent reports about the incident had my defense mechanism crumbling to the ground. Alas, there was no motive that would account for the mayhem. The murderer and the victim didn’t know each other. The latter, a simple, unassuming boy who worked in a rolling carnival in Edmonton, was going home to his parents in Winnipeg. The killing was not planned nor pre-meditated. The murderer simply went on a rampage, attacking the first person closest to him who happened to be that sleeping boy.

The psychopath is now in jail, and during his brief court appearances, he never said a word, never had an eye contact with people. He provided little clues as to what was going on in his mind. Sketchy reports said that he worked as a newspaper delivery boy and his supervisor attested that he appeared like a "normal" person although with some marital problems.

I came from a country where crime happens everyday to the point that its vastness has numbed my senses. But this incomprehensible incident has personalized the horror once again and made me shudder anew in terrible disbelief. It is an intensely personal matter that has tied my emotions into knots and leaving me dazed, angry, scared, almost like a spiritual vertigo.

By the chilly manner of killing his victim, it is as if the psychopath was telling me “I am doing this and I can do it to anybody.” I cringe at the thought that that that anybody could be me, or someone I care for.

Why does it have to be a world where predators stalk prey and violence is an integral part of life? why do terrible things have to happen to innocent people?

I hope that the indifferent stars will give me the answers soon.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Knowing

Part of my morning routine is to walk Danee to her summer school located around three blocks away from where we live. Hubby and Bianca are still very much asleep by this time, unwilling to trade off their pillows and blankets to a brief walk under the early morning sun. That is just fine, as this is is my moment to bond with my youngest daughter and to have brief time for solitude as I walk my way back home, alone, undisturbed.

On my way back today, I took a different route for a change. Having negotiated the same familiar pavement for the 9th time, I looked forward to a new path this time. Once in a while, it feels good to stray away, knowing that you will always find your way back. This was one morning that I felt different, and the prospect of getting lost but finding my way back somewhat thrilled me.

No sooner than I started traversing the pavement to my right was I led to a beautiful scenic place that had me repeatedly muttering “ohh and ahh!” What with a quiet small lake surrounded by lush of green where ducks and wild geese congregate, a beautiful park where colorful flowers abound, and a quiet and well-landscaped community with neat bungalows lining up the pavement - enough to take my breath away. Before long, I started to dream living in that community and enjoying every moment of it.

After an idle time at the park, I lazily inched my way back home, running a mental note of the many chores waiting for me. I was nearing the intersection of a busy traffic and had in fact stopped to pave the way for the rush of incoming vehicles when my heart suddenly froze. There in front of me, at the other side of the road, was a toddler running so fast towards the traffic, with only about a ten-meter distance between him and the edge of the road. Trailing behind him - about fifty meters away - was his mother with another toddler in tow, screaming, yelling at her child to stop running. The child, oblivious to the impending danger, seemed to be enjoying the “chase” game and henceforth continued running with all his might.

I was closer to the boy than the mother was but the endless surge of traffic prevented me from crossing the intersection right away. Time seemed to stand still as the distressed mother's cry echoed so loud in my ears. With the “go” signal still on, I instinctively braved the traffic with the hope that I could outrun the boy. I didn’t know how I did it but in the next moment, I saw the little boy making a 180 - degree-turn towards his mother, scared at the sight of me, a stranger, looming before him. The poor mother could only mutter “oh my God, oh my God" in between sobs as she held her precious boy in her arms.

On reflection, I was amazed at yet another powerful realization. It wasn’t an accident that I took a different path that morning, sat idly for five minutes at the park, reached the intersection at that precise moment in time. It wasn't ordinary that I felt differently that morning and took the unexplored path hoping to find something new. I did find something - an affirmation of a higher truth, at a different realm, about how perfect strangers are connected to each other in the overall scheme of things. The timing is perfect, not one second advance nor delayed. Another person may not be able to see the connection in those series of events. Someone up there orchestrated them to be so.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

From whence comes my help

Back in the Philippines, I used to have house helps who did most of the house chores, usually minding my children in my absence. I was able to effectively juggle family and work matters because of them. They made life so much easier.

Where we live now, house help is mostly unheard of. Gone were the days when we can stay glued to bed all morning without worrying about our breakfast. Or watch tv or read book all day without minding about the accumulated dust and mites. Or simply spend the entire day at the mall oblivious about the pending laundry.

Nonetheless, hubby and me were able to fashion an arrangement that conveniently meshed well with our new lifestyle. The one who is available must do all stuffs in a row – from laundering to washing the dishes to cleaning the floors. Capping these of course would be a good meal served hot upon arrival of the queen or king of the house, as the case maybe.

Happily, I recently discovered a great and effective way to ease our household burdens. It was there right under my nose, waiting to be tapped and utilized. I am talking about none other than my two dutiful daughters.

It was amazingly easy to get them to act on their feet – simply by asserting my authority over them. Now I hope I don’t sound like the Wicked Witch of the West or Hitler the Dictator. But given our family atmosphere, I knew this is the only way for me to get quick results. Of course, this wasn't easy for them, having been accustomed to the presence of nannies helping them in many ways before.

I started by setting clear and concrete expectations ripe for their age (like fixing the bed, folding the clothes, cleaning up, washing the dishes, cooking rice, setting the table, etc.), giving allowances for mistakes as a way of learning, reinforcing positive outcomes, and implementing consequences as needed. Rewards came in the form of heaps and heaps of affirmations, praise notes and love letters, extra allowances, favorite toy, extended tv or computer time, or anything that is viewed valuable by them. Consequences came in the form of grounding, withheld allowance or use of computers, not being able to watch their favorite show or additional workloads or anything viewed unpleasant by them. I had to resist the urge to do the tasks myself. I also had to be firm and consistent all the time and to really put on a good act of seriousness (the kind that says, I mean business, baby, so don’t test me) between procrastination, whining, promises to do it later, or outright tantrums.

After training them for about three months, my perseverance was worth it. They do their house assignments even without nagging from me and with little or no supervision. It had become a habit for them.

What is more important is that the payoff is way beyond helping me in completing the chores at hand. It’s about teaching my children the value of caring, consideration, flexibility, hardwork, teamwork and excellence even in the lowliest of tasks. It’s all about teaching them life skills that will prove valuable in their adult life.

Truly, the best lessons are first learned at home.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Living

I was doing an inventory test in relation to life's purpose, and one of the questions that made me do some deep soul-searching is this - how do you approach life?

It's a very tough question. For one, I particularly don't approach every situation in the same manner. Different strokes for dfferent folks, as the wisdom of the old says so. But I liked the question, because it enabled me to look deep inside and get in touch, once again, with the things that really matter in my life.

So here goes...

When I embraced my newfound faith, my perspective about life has changed tremendously. I now consider myself as a "realist optimist", believing that everything that comes my way, no matter how unpleasant, carries with it valuable life lessons through which I can grow and mature.

I realized that when I didn't learn the lesson in a particular situation, it kept repeating itself. Not necessarily the same situation but through different circumtances and different persons, but always the same lesson. For instance, I had great difficulty before in controlling my emotions when I get really pissed off. What happened is that I continued to be exposed to many situations that really stretched my patience. And so by being exposed to these situations, I learned what patience is all about.

The lessons were there because they were what I needed at that moment. Once I learned the lesson, life would then open up new opportunities through which I can learn more advanced lessons. Sometimes I learned easily, at other times I learned painfully. Or I didn't learn at all. When it's the latter, I kept moving around in endless circles.

I used to define my life in terms of milestones and significant accomplishments complete with timetables. I felt then that happiness is contingent upon these accomplishments, so I was deeply frustrated when things didn't happen as planned and expected. Now this perspective has changed too. I still consider it magical and exciting for me to get from point a to point b. But I also know that I will definitely miss the point if I don't see the day-to-day life in the same light. I found out that the beauty of life is found in the joys of the present moment, although my goals will provide me the compass how to live my life.

What is amazing is that my positive approach to life had become somewhat contagious. I never knew that I could make a great difference in the life of another when I encouraged them or simply said a word that boosts their spirits. I realized that when I am able to comfort somebody, I become happier. There's a song in my childhood that resonates with how I approach happiness and it goes this way:

"The time to be happy is now,
The place to be happy is here
And the way to be happy is to make others happy
and to make a little heaven down here"

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Why I Blog

Time is such a slippery thing. I cannot seem to get enough of it.

Where I am concerned, life is taking such a rapid pace. I now live in a different world, across several continents. I have given up a lot of things I used to have, in pursuit of a different direction. I am no longer the same person I was yesterday.

Yesterday’s memories have all been consigned to imagination. Today’s memories will similarly be buried into obscurity very soon.

Should l allow the present moment melt into yesterdays and tomorrows without a trace? Should I let the treasures, wonders and joys of my journey pass by without me pausing a bit to acknowledge them?

These were the questions in my heart when I discovered blogging. Instantly, I liked the idea of being able to capture in words what I felt at the moment. And then, I couldn’t stop anymore. It felt wonderful – the idea that I can actually conquer time, albeit momentarily, and hold it in my palm. It was deliriously joyful that I have something to go back to when I am old and done. That I can actually collect and preserve today’s memories so I can remember who I was before I became who I am today.

And then there was an added bonus. As I blogged and hopped between blogs, I discovered as well the joy of being able to reach out to kindred spirits, including my newfound on-line friends and those from the olden times.

They were right in saying that blogging allows for rediscovery and reconnections. Blogging has made the world a much smaller place for all of us. Their blogs have touched me in a way I could never imagine. I sat in front of my laptop smiling and sharing with their little joys and life’s pleasant surprises. At other times, I can’t stop the tears rolling down my cheeks as I feel their pains and inner turmoils. Talk about a true and beautiful connection!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Crossroads

I am now into a crossroad in my personal journey. To find my footing, I only have two options – either to move to the left or to the right, or to move forward. Staying where I am is definitely not an option.

There are two paths to choose from - an instant career in retail (customer service) or a long struggle to make it in the human resource management field.

The first path is tested and easy, promising immediate reward and instant gratification. It welcomes me with open arms, and I revel in the warmth of the familiar routes, the quirky yet fun-filled zigzags, the all-familiar easy turns and overtakes. This path is my cup of tea, the language I speak, the game plan I have won many times over.

The second path is only half-open and a bit distant and unsure. None would take me in, and perhaps for good reasons. Canadians speak a different HR language which I can understand, but cannot fully relate with, having come from a country with HR challenges and issues culturally divergent to theirs. Bottomline – it’s all about meshing HR practices with western culture – something that I am not equipped to handle at this point.

But HR is my first love. Before I became a customer service professional, a retail banker, I was a trainer, a recruiter, a counselor, an employee champion, a change management specialist and how I really enjoyed the role. For sure, HR was a thankless job (a case of “damn if you do, damn if you don’t”) but I truly loved it! The love for HR work flowed through my veins and nerves, giving me a soft kick, a sweet tickle inside.

Which road to take? What do I do? Do I stay in my comfort zone and let life pass me by, or do I take the risks necessary to move forward in the direction of what I really want to do?

With my passion and desires awakened, I think I know what I want. The answer is within me all along, and the choice is mine to make. And so now, based on my internal compass, I am forging ahead to the next connecting path, the second path … that of exploration.

As I diverge from the other road of my comfort zone, I am also pulling off for a reality check – I’m weighing in everything, coming to terms with my greatest aspirations, deciding which to give up and to trade off, which cargo to unload and which equipment to pick up. I know I need to brush up my HR skills and competencies to make them compatible with western culture. And this means going back to school, obtaining a certificate and writing the national knowledge test. The message is clear - I need to prove myself first. I need to begin all over again.

Obviously, the second road is much harder to thread. My travel will not be easy. There will be humps and bumps, snagging me from time to time and even scratching at my newfound determination, tempting me not to let go of that last thether.

When that happens, I think I’ll know what to do. I just have to look inward and tap the resources within me as a worthy, inspired being. I’ll keep my inner eyes and ears open, ready to take action when I’m prompted to, as wisdom dictates. I just have to shore up my courage, and continue threading on. I'll take the necessary actions maybe right away, maybe one step at a time, until I see the big sign that says “welcome, to a life that is in synch with your soul”.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Turning Point

Three months ago today, I and my family decided to pack up our things to move to Canada, for good.

When we left, a number of my friends and relatives were flabbergasted. And for good reasons. Back in the Philippines, I was a woman who lived a comfortable and easy life. I had a good-paying and rewarding career that showcased the best in me both as an employee and leader. I had a bank acount that, by ordinary standards, is more than enough to send my children to good schools, build my dream house and sustain a comfortable life.

I wasn't rich, but I had almost everything a woman of my age could ask and wish for. Why trade them for a life of uncertainty and hardship? Why rock the boat?

Somehow, amidst the stable and secure life I was living then, there was a sense of longing in my heart that cannot be captured by words. No, it is not midlife crisis. I didn't have the negative emotions usually associated with those going through this stage. I think that for the rest of my life, I will continue to hold on to and live by the values and principles that have given my life meaning and direction. I think that I am and will continue to be on the right path.

I think it is more of identity affirmation as opposed to midlife crisis. It's the kind that has made me take stock of and appreciate what I have only to realize that I was ready for the next level of personal growth. It's the kind that has made me felt full and yet seeking for more, for something higher, something deeper. I'm not talking about material things here. I'm talking about things that are unseen by the eyes, but felt by the heart and spirit.

Such was the seed planted in my heart. And God has led me to this place by opening this door of opportunity for me and my family. There must be something out here for me. There's a spirit in me that says I will be able to survive the tough times and adversities here and become the best person I could ever be.

I am now on my third month in this new country and for sure, we're not yet fully settled nor adjusted. I have not yet found the right job for me. I am currently employed as department manager of a big retail store but I don't feel a sense of belonging in the job. I'm still figuring out a lot of things in this new culture. I get confused every now and then but somehow, I manage to find my way. I get frustrated even for just simple things. I miss the old familiar places back in the Philippines and terribly long for the presence of my dearest friends.

Adjusting to life in Canada is an unfolding and slow process for me. And I think that is ought to be.

My personal journey is just beginning.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Prodigal Father

I wasn’t particularly fond of my father, nor was he of me. He was there since I was born up to the time I was growing up. He was physically present but was so elusive, near yet so distant. I could only recall one or two bonding moments with him, obviously not enough to cement our relationship.

I grew up becoming cold and aloof towards him. Something has gone terribly amiss between us. And I knew exactly why and how it happened.

My father was an incurable womanizer. For sure, he did not abandon us. But his bad habit of leaving us alone in the house for three straight days and reappearing later without a word of explanation had rendered my little world unsteady. I would wake up in the middle of the night wishing that he would be home soon. But when he wasn’t around, I felt strangely settled and secure. And yet, I envied my friends who had fathers that obviously cared for them a lot. Their world was a lot complete than mine.

Slowly, I became painfully aware that my resentment was turning to anger, then hatred, then betrayal. I sincerely doubted in my heart if he truly truly cared for me or his family.

When I became financially independent enabling me to support my college education, I basked in the newfound freedom. At last, I was free from his control. I was determined not to have anything to do with him. I left home and cut whatever ties I had with him. I communicated with my mother and siblings throughout the years I wasn’t home but never with him. The truth is, I was consumed with so much anger and pain inside. Strangely, I also felt so empty and hollow.

For years that I was away from home however, my father’s shadow kept following me. I viewed every man that showed interest in me as a potential heart-breaker or home wrecker. I had all my defenses solid and intact around me. I tended to question my authorities, whether in school or at work, and always doubted their credibility as leaders. I greatly envied my friends every time they would talk about their dad being their best buddy, and dismissed that as sheer nonsense.

After several years of unbroken silence, my father and I were eventually thrust into a situation that we both didn't like, but had no choice. He was into an extensive medical treatment for his heart ailment and he needed me to care for him and to assist him financially. I had the choice to either give or withhold my support. I chose the first, albeit grudgingly.

When my father lay comatose in his hospital bed after a near-fatal heart surgery, I saw the image of a different man – helpless, weak and broken. I suddenly felt the need to touch him. As I touched him, all the feelings within me were miraculously unearthed -first there was confusion, then anger, then bitterness, then pain. And then there was something else underneath, a solid core that never left me. It was a deep kind of love, compassion and kindness that had been there all along, only these were masked by the negative feelings that I carried with me through the years. Sometimes, we wander to look for answers only to find out that the answers are within us all along.

After his heart surgery, my father lived on for five more years. It was one of the most meaningful events in both of our lives, as we tried to gather the broken pieces, deal with our own hurts, confront our own weaknesses, and forgive one another, over and over again. It was not an easy process, but both of us tried and gave our best, and in the end, both of us triumphed. He died with peace in his heart, knowing that he has reconciled with the one person he has hurt the most.

My father was far from perfect. But looking back now, he managed to give me something precious, a unique gift that has sent my soul soaring – the discovery of who he really is and who I really am. He is divinely-connected to my destiny, a God-sent companion that taught me, not by words or examples, but by presenting himself as the instrument through which I could understand, what real healing and forgiveness is all about.

Belated Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Rythm

The winter season is over and everything around me is literally “springing” back to life.

I hear the soft whistles of birds in their silvery voices, the heavy thumping of yard machines around the neighborhood, the shrill and excited laughter of children swimming in the pool nearby. I smell the delicious aroma of grilled barbecue interspersing with the warm smell of cut grasses and twigs and the fragrance of flowers that bloom everywhere.

The trees are standing proud teeming with life, displaying their grandeur to the onlookers, with their leaves in beautiful hues of green and yellow and purple. Tulips and daisies, carnations and dandelions continuously sprout here and there.

Only two months ago, all I saw around me were white, brown, grey and other shades in between. As if by magic, everything has been transformed to a world of different colors, almost like a paradise garden consisting of red, green, yellow, orange, pink and purple. Traces of snow have disappearedand winter has seemingly become an illusion. Until today, I still cannot believe my eyes.

Witnessing the changing seasons is truly an awesome experience for me. To most people who have grown used to it, they may see nothing special about it. But for me, it has touched the core of my being, leaving a powerful and lasting impression.

There is indeed a rythm in nature, just as there is a rythm in everything. With the changing of seasons unfolding before my very eyes, I am finding a place in my heart pulsating with the same rythm of nature - vibrant, constantly changing and yet remaining the same.

Today, I go through life in a time of rapid change and new adjustments where seconds, minutes and days seem to be merging into a loud crescendo. As I dance with the rythm, I find an incredible peace that subtly weaves the melodies and tunes of my own life into something much bigger. I can't explain what it is. I just feel it pulsating within me. And as I listen to it, I become acutely aware that I am part of a bigger rythm, a beautiful orchestra, a super symphony that connects me to the very source of it all. I know I cannot outlive this rythm, but it renders my life beautiful, punctuating my hours with a quiet call to live life to the fullest.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

True Joy

As a child, I remember how fascinated I was by the sight of snow. I dreamed of touching and playing in the snow and donning those fabulous winter attires I’ve only seen in pictures. The grandeur and beauty of white-capped mountains, veiled by a cotton-like fog against a sunny day, was like a billowing enchanted wonderland that was waiting for me.

When we moved to Canada this March, I finally set afoot into the "enchanted kingdom" in my mind. There was however no king or queen or princesses to welcome me. There was instead the terrible, bone-chilling cold and windchill that felt like a long and sharp kick all over my body followed by numbness. I felt like Cinderella, crying out for help from her fairy godmother, or more like Snowhite wishing for her prince charming to rescue her. Alas, there was not a fairy godmother nor a prince charming in sight.

And then something very beautiful and powerful - beyond words to describe- happened in the midst of it all. I saw the fulfillment of a childhood dream. No, I didn't dance or run or roll over the snow. It would take a lot of cajoling for me to do that. I'm talking about my daughters' dream even before we even thought of migrating, coming true.

At first, I was adamant when they said they wanted to go outside in the snow. The ever-protective mother that I am, I worried about them getting sick due to sudden exposure to the cold. Or catching the virus that lurked beneath those dirty snow-covered grounds. Or getting the winter itch which usually attacks newcomers. I had a host of reasons not to let them go out. But children are children who wouldn't easily give up. And so I threw away all my defenses into the air. And as they played in the snow - building caves and castles and making up their own stories about pirates, dinosaurs and all those childhood stufffs - as if they are playing in summertime, I felt a surge of joy slowly swelling through me. At first it was a tiny bit of joy, until it became bigger and bigger, setting my soul aglow.

Who was it who said that the true joy of motherhood is found in the joy of one's children? Hmmmm, it would be interesting to join them in their snow games and make-believe stories next winter....

Saturday, May 31, 2008

True Joy

As a child, I remember how fascinated I was by the sight of snow. I dreamed of touching and playing in the snow and donning those fabulous winter attires I’ve only seen in pictures. The grandeur and beauty of white-capped mountains, veiled by a cotton-like fog against a sunny day, was like a billowing enchanted wonderland that was waiting for me.

When we moved to Canada this March, I finally set afoot into the "enchanted kingdom" in my mind. There was however no king or queen or princesses to welcome me. There was instead the terrible, bone-chilling cold and windchill that felt like a long and sharp kick all over my body followed by numbness. I felt like Cinderella, crying out for help from her fairy godmother, or more like Snowhite wishing for her prince charming to rescue her. Alas, there was not a fairy godmother nor a prince charming to comfort me! Having come from a tropical country where the only weather is "dry and not very dry", it was understandably not easy for me to breeze through the cold weather.

But something very beautiful - beyond words - came out of my winter experience. I saw the fulfillment of a childhood dream. No, I didn't dance or run or roll over the snow. It would take a lot of cajoling for me to do that. I'm talking about my daughters' dream even before we even thought of migrating, coming true. As they played in the snow - building caves and castles and making their own stories - as if they are playing in summertime, I felt a surge of joy slowly welling through me. At first it was a tiny bit of joy, until it became bigger and bigger, setting my soul aglow.

Who was it who said that allowing others to find joy actually leads to your own joy?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Quitting

As a newly-landed immigrant, I was cautioned that I will not get the job that I want right away. Canadian experience is necessary before I can penetrate the professional workforce. To get that experience, I might as well be ready to work on jobs that I don't like as a starting point, they say.

Stubborn as I am, I nonetheless insisted on applying for jobs aligned with my interest and matched with my skills. Having gone this far in my life with all its twists and turns, I have become convinced that only me can set a limit to what I can do. That my capabilities and potentials are those that I say I have. That while God ultimately defines my destiny, I define the opportunities that will come my way.

So I fired off my resume onto jobs where I think I will do best: customer service, retail banking, office management, administration, human resources. I was careful to tailorfit every resume with the requirements of the position.

The first opportunity that knocked at my door was as Service Coordinator of a global company specializing in self-service financial solutions such as kiosks, atms, scanners and portals. My job would involve dispatching the civilian engineers in the field and making sure that they have completed their jobs consistent with the service level agreements. The job would pay well and the benefits are impressive.

My first few days were spent on rigorous orientation and training. The job was fairly easy - all it would take is mastery of the keyboard and familiarity with Canada's geography. I figured that once I memorized the steps, I can do the job even with my eyes closed! Memorization however, is another thing (hehehe).

On my fourth day of training, I quit.

My friends and relatives had mixed reactions. Some agreed, others did not. The latter argued that so many newly-landed immigrants would gladly trade places with me. That I was such a fool for passing up on such great opportunity. That I would end of getting a worst job that pays the minimum wage.

But this is my life, and I know what is best for me. Of course, there wasn't anything wrong with the job, but there was everything wrong with me being there.

The job was very repetitive or mechanical. I cannot imagine myself being glued to my computer and telephone day in and day out, barking orders to the engineers with disembodied voices out there in the field. There's not much room to grow. Even if I stayed on, I knew that sooner or later, I would eventually quit.

More importantly, the job would take away my Saturdays and Sundays being a 24/7 operations. Henceforth, I wouldn' be joining my daughters as we devour our favorite books at the library, a stone's throw away from our apartment. I wouldn't be attending the regular fellowship with my newfound spiritual family every other Saturday night. I wouldn't be taking part in the Sunday church service with my family. I wouldn't be going out mall-and park- hopping with my family.

Bottomline: The job will rob me of the precious time when I do the stuffs that give me joy and make my life meaningful. It was simply not worth it.

I am glad I am into this stage of my life that I know when to quit and when to hold on. That I am no longer like the waves in the sea mercilessly tossed here and there by the wind. And only because I have the right anchors in place.

Three days after I quit my job, I was offered a new job - higher position, higher pay and with Saturdays and Sundays off - at Sears Canada, a retail business.

Coincidence or luck? Hardly. It's my faith at work.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Phone Interview

I was looking for a job, so day in and day out, I fired off my resume into the cyberspace, via the various job sites such as job.ca, workopolis, monster.com etc.

After two weeks, the phone rang with an unfamiliar number in the Caller ID. It was the Hiring Manager of one company that got hold of my resume. He was asking for an interview. I said - sure, where and what time. Over the phone, right now - was the answer.

I was baffled. Having played the waiting game for days on end, is this the way the canadian employers would hire people? But the voice at the other end of the phone sounded professional and credible and even before I could say yes, he started firing off a barrage of questions.

* Tell me something about yourself.
* How did you know about our company?
* What are you looking for in a job?
* How can you contribute best to our company?

Those were the usual introductory questions which I have long anticipated. And having anticipated them, I have sort of already rehearsed the answers in my mind. Common sense dictates that preparedness for such questions pays off if you want to create a good impression for the first 10 minutes.

What followed next was a set of behavioral questions, which I found more difficult yet challenging. The interviewer started discussing hypothetical workplace situations presumably to evaluate my behavioral tendencies.

* Supposing there's a conflict involving two people in the workplace over some pettty issues like somebody taking one's hanger and they exchange verbal tussles right in front of the customer - how are you going to handle it as a leader.
* Tell me a situation in the past where you had an argument with a colleague who is on the same level as you are and how you resolved it.

And he rattled off with other similar behavioral situations.

They say that phone interview is a common-place practice for all industry and at all levels. As for me, it will always be a boggling concept, even though I belong to what they call the tech-savvy generation. True, it spares me of the inconvenience of having to travel but it is not as affirming as a face-to-face interview. I don't get to see the facial expression of the interviewer that gives me an idea of how I am faring. Once the interview is over, I'm clueless how I came across. Promoting myself to a disembodied voice will always be discomforting.

The only thing that I appreciate about it is the knowledge that I have already made the first base in my job hunting. Even if it is an elimination round, I know I've already had the first cut, otherwise they wouldn't have called at all.

Next time the phone rings with an unknown caller ID, I better be ready.