Wednesday, January 22, 2014

hello, january

(Also posted in my other blog,

The past several weeks have been full of stuff  for me, and since I've never considered blogging to be anywhere at the top of my list of priorities, all my blogs have been fairly silent through last December.  I hadn't made any heartwarming Christmassy posts, or thought-provoking New Year-related ones, tsk tsk.  It's still January though, and I reckon I can still blog about my thoughts on the start of the year.

I'm not a New Year's Resolution sort of person.  Never believed in resolutions.  I'm more into setting goals for myself, with specified target dates and target numbers. Having goals instead of resolutions, i.m.h.o., is more conducive to productivity and affords a sense of accomplishment when reached.  But ha ha, here I am this year with some resolutions instead of goals this time.

I've mostly set and reached similar goals every year (it's usually along the lines of Get x ministry rolling by y quarter of year, Read z number of books by December 31, Lose n pounds by m month), and though they are all good, life-enriching goals, I've gotten quite tired of them.  I usually have them written out  at the start of each year, but I haven't gotten to doing that just yet.  I probably will in the next few days, knowing that  my obsessive self will never forgive the lapse.  But in the meantime, I find myself having a of list things that seem more like silly resolutions.  Whaddyaknow.

 Those resolution thingies were sparked some wekends ago while I was having a late lunch/ early dinner with an old friend from high school.  As we were bound to do, we mused about our early teenage years and laughed about how old and ricketty we've become and yadda.  It was just a few days after Christmas, so we naturally went into our thoughts on how to make 2014 a better year.  One of the things we brought up was the fact that we're both just a few years to forty, and it's about time we invest in better quality stuff.  i.e., it's fine to wear a ratty top or tote a cheap bag when you're in your twenties, but when you still do it past thirty, it has a vibe of being irresponsible.  And it's just plain ugly.  Besides, why go for cheap, low-quality stuff when you can afford something better now? Go for well-made stuff, high-quality, the real deal.  It isn't just about comfort or excess; it has more to do with being respectable and responsible.

So anyway, we spewed out some good ideas that day so we decided to write things down (she in her smartphone, and I in my handy dandy, low-tech notepad).  This isn't the kind of thing I can easily write in goal form, so I settled with sticking to a resoltion-type to-do list. It kinda started out with getting better stuff (i.e., buy a smartphone), but things eventually rolled toward being a better person.  Such as, learning new skills, seeing new places, and basically leveling up as a human being - but that's just basic yearly stuff.  One of the more "special" things we agreed on is that we ought to become more visible to our godchilren, because yes, that's what respectable, responsible people do.

Margaret is my first-ever goddaughter.  I think she's graduating.
Her mom had her when she was quite young, now she makes us feel real old

I had my list pretty much down pat when I wnet home that evening, and I re-wrote it on a clean sheet of paper that I taped to my desk.  I thought my list ended at "Be a better godmother", but I added the most important thing a few days later.

At the bottom of my list, I had added Be A Blessing.  I'd like to try my best at purposely being a living, breathing, walking, talking, blessing. I know, Iknow, it's something that the Christianity Clause sort of implies.  But I've been following Christ for some time now, and I can't really say I consistently provide a positive experience for everyone I encounter.  Since I'm doing resolutions this year, I might as well have it in there.  Be someone who makes people feel blessed, loved, or just plain happy.  Because that's what respectable, responsible Christians do.

Oh dear, that's a lot of work.  I feel like scratching it out already.

The decisive moment came one afternoon, after an encounter with a particularly unpleasant cab driver.  I had reacted to his cantankerousness by going on b*tch-mode, pretty much ruining his day.  Other people would likely affirm  me by saying that the guy had it coming, but I'm pretty sure Jesus would tell me to turn the other cheek.  Tsk tsk.  Besides, they guy was a cab driver.  He's apparently less fortunate than I am; shame on me for not being more sympathetic toward a guy who's trying to make an honest living but is probably just on the 22nd straight hour of a bad day.

As I sat at home alone, I went into full-on remorse for being such a pathetic excuse for a social being. It's more or less socially acceptable these days to get all aggressive when someone offers you bad service (and it's even applauded in some circles), but being demanding is one thing, being b*tchy is a whole other. B*tchy doesn't really help anyone involved. It certainly didn't help the possibly-tired cab driver, and it didn't make me a better person.

Not immediately anyway.  But I hope to make something out of the remorse and the realizations that came after the experience.  Like what they say about life giving you lemons ...

So I resolved to Be A Blessing.  I'm not just talking about "doing random good deeds"; I mean more like "be less of a b8tch" and "be more intentionally refreshing". Ayown. It's not natural for me; it's the sort of thing I have to remind myself about.  It's always been easier for me to be a bitchessa than a blessing.  MUCH easier.  Believe me, I've tried my best, but at some point in the past several years, I decided to give up altogether because I'm just not good at being likable.  But being a blessing has less to do with being likable and more to do with what's doing right and proper.  I just want to be it because it's life-affirming, inspiring, nurturing; not just for myself but for the lives around me.

So this year, on top of acquiring better things for myself, I'm acquiring a better "blessing persona" - well-made stuff, high-quality, the real deal.  Because that's what respectable, responsible Christians do.   Why go for low-quality when you can afford better, right?

Friday, January 10, 2014

2013 bookwormery

At the beginning of 2013, I made it a goal to read at least 50 books before the end of the year, and whoopee! I made it. I don't think I'll be doing it again this year; I'll probably just revert to my usual goal of 40.   Like usual, I wanted to make a more-or-less even amount of fiction and non-fiction.

So anyway, here are my 2013 friends (and the possibly the reason why nothing seemed to have happened in 2013).  I've already read some of them previously, but I enjoyed them enough to read them again.

My ratings:
-- ***** Awesome; a fave for the year;
-- ****- Great fun.
-- *** -- OK.  Cool.
-- ** --- Meh.
-- * -----Rubbish.

I. Nonfiction

1 Boy: Tales From Childhood [ROALD DAHL] *****
2 Going Solo [ROALD DAHL] *****
3 Eat Pray Love [ELIZABETH GILBERT] ** (Oh, why oh why is this a bestseller?) 
4 Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil [JOHN BERENDT] ****
5 Summer At Tiffany [MARJORIE HART] ****

Christian Inspirational
6 Blue Like Jazz [DON MILLER] (Re-read it for the second time) *****
7 The Heart of a God-Chaser [TOMMY TENNEY] ***
8 In the Grip of Grace [MAX LUCADO] ***
9 Re-Church [STEPHEN MANSFIELD] ****
10 Searching For God Knows What [DON MILLER] ****
11 The Spirit of Loveliness [EMILIE BARNES] *** (Re-read; somehow it seemed much nicer the first time I read it)

12 Coffee With Michelangelo [JAMES HALL] **** (Re-read)
13 Michelangelo and Raphael In the Vatican ***** (Featured awesome full-color fold-outs of the paintings)
14 Seeing Salvation:  Images of Christ In Art **
15 The Story of Art [E.H. GOMBRICH] ***** (Re-read)
17 The World of Delacroix [TOM PRIDEUX] *****

18 An Inconvenient Truth [AL GORE] *****
19 Epicenter:  Why Current Rumblings In the Middle East Will Change Your Future [JOEL C. ROSENBERG] *****
20 Purple Cow [SETH GODIN] *****
21 Speeches That Changed The World *****

II.  Fiction-Nonfiction Hybrids

22 The Bell Jar [SYLVIA PLATH] *****
23 The Te of Piglet [BENJAMIN HOFF] **
24 Roald Dahl's Incredible Chocolate Box ****
25 The Villain's Guide to Better Living [NEIL ZAWACKI] ****

III. Fiction

Science Fiction and Fantasy
26 The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure [WILLIAM GOLDMAN] *****
27 Dune [FRANK HERBERT] ****
28 Foundation [ISAAC ASIMOV] ****
29 Foundation and Empire [ISAAC ASIMOV] ****
30 Second Foundation [ISAAC ASIMOV] ****

Chick Lit
31 How To Make an American Quilt [WHITNEY OTTO] ****
32 The Kitchen God's Wife [AMY TAN] *****
33 Paint It Black [JANET FITCH] **
34 Morrigan's Cross [NORA ROBERTS] *
35 Dance of the Gods [NORA ROBERTS] *
36 Valley of Silence [NORA ROBERTS] *

Thrillers / Mysteries
37 Children of the Furor [ROGER ELWOOD] *
38 The Girl Who Played With Fire [STIEG LARSSON] **** (Would have given it *****if it wasn't so dragging.  Imho, not as enjoyable as "Dragon Tattoo", but still a good read).

39 Interview With the Vampire [ANNE RICE] *****
40 John Dies At the End [DAVID WONG] ****
41 Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children [RANSOM RIGGS] ** (Almost rubbish.  What can you expect from a story driven by found vintage photographs? Paradoxically, it was those photos that saved the book for me.  Without them, this would be just another crap story).

Children's Fiction and Easy Reading
42 Giant Treasury of Beatrix Potter *****
43 The Phantom Tollbooth [NORTON JUSTER] *****
44 The Roald Dahl Treasury *****
45 Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing [JUDY BLUME] ***

46 The Count of Monte Cristo [ALEXANDRE DUMAS, Pere] *** (Re-read. It was immensely enjoyable the first time I read it years ago.  This time, it wasn't so.  The one I read this year is an abridged edition without some of the delicious nitty-gritties; i.e., a different, duller translation).
47 The Kite Runner [KHALED HOSSEINI]  *****
48 The Namesake [JHUMPA LAHIRI] ****
49 The Orange Girl [JOSTEIN GAARDER] *****
50 Skipping Christmas [JOHN GRISHAM] *****
51 Veronika Decides To Die [PAOLO COELHO] ***

Monday, January 6, 2014

my 2013 in a nutshell

The Year in a Word: Blah
My 2013 was rather drab compared to all the color of the past few years.  I thought 2012 was steady, but it's got a lot of drama and excitement compared to 2013.  I wouldn't say the year was entirely uneventful, but when I reviewed my year through my Facebook posts, I didn't find much to review. :p  I actually thought of nixing this yearly practice of summing up the year in a blog post, because I feel like I won't have anything interesting to say about 2013.  But yeah.  For the sake of personal tradition, and for the sake of keeping this blog alive, voici.

My Hugest Joy
Hmmm.  This is a hard one.  I'll come back to it later on. Not that the year was an unhappy one.  In fact, I was rarely sad or depressed.  It's just that nothing stands out.

I suppose that's the biggest joy of the year - not having any deep or prolonged depressive episodes.  

My Biggest Blessing 
Gaining regular, decent-paying clients for my ghostwriting stint.  

My Largest Frustration
The results of the 2013 elections.  Most of the people I voted for didn't make it, and some of those candidates I hoped wouldn't win did. I'm pretty sure it was an immense frustration for a lot of Filipinos too.

Spiritual Principle for the Year
Abraham moments:
1 -  Allowing a promised dream to die and continuing to trust in the Lord, whether He chooses to resurrect it or not.
2 - Trusting in what God has previously said, despite not having constant affirmation.  

Nicest Place Visited
Las Vegas, Nevada

Best Personal Project
Repainting and rearranging our room.  It's so nice and clean now, and we were able to make it look like a studio flat. =D  I love it.  That alone alleviates a lot of stress and frustration.

Best Personal Accomplishment
Learning to cook various kinds of sinigang from scratch, using different natural souring agents and absolutely no flavor mixes.

And reaching my goal of reading 50 books.

I told you it was a boring year.

Worthwhile Contribution to Society 
Repacking relief goods and volunteering as a stress debriefing counselor for survivors of Typhoon Yolanda / Haiyan.

Best Decision Made
To go for better-quality stuff.

Best Find
A small, nameless church of sorts with lots of potential.  Thinking of it makes me real happy.  ^_^

Warmest Fuzzy
Reconnecting with old friends from high school and college.  And meeting some new ones.  That was really nice.

Prettiest Thing I Made
A painting requested by Mama.  It now hangs on her wall. 20 x 23.  Acrylics on canvas.

Greatest Encouragement
Painting again.  It made me want to keep making pretty things, but for other people, not for myself.

My Best Reads for 2013
Epicenter: Why Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future by Joel C. Rosenberg
Boy and Going Solo by Roald Dahl

The Kite Runner by Kaled Hosseini

My Fave Movies for 2013
Les Miserables.  It's really a 2012 movie, and I watched it in Vegas in 2012.  But it was released in Manila in January 2013, and I watched it again then.
Man Of Steel.  Best Superman movie ever. 
Star Trek: Into Darkness
Now You See Me

Fave TV Shows
Downton Abbey
Doctor Who

Fave Gifts Received
- A bunch of amazing make-up, from ate Wing. 
- A cool souvenir coin from the Louvre, from Tita G.  A personal reminder that I will visit there someday.  Soon, I hope.
- A good-quality leather bag and a special Starbucks tumbler that I bought for myself.

Fave Food for the Year
Odd.  Monggo soup.  0_o  I haven't eaten monggo in a long while, but I started cooking it when I realized how cheap it was for something so filling, nutritious, and easy to prepare. And I've come to love it so much that I make some every other week.  But it's not the traditional monggo guisado.  Rather, it's a flavorful, chunky vegetable soup with lots of tomato, sometimes celery or carrots, then an abundance of rosemary, cumin, and a hint of cayenne.  No pork or fish or anything.  Just the veggies.  And instead of kangkong or ampalaya leaves, I use fresh basil.

Worst Month:  Can't say there was one.

Best Month:   December. That's when we repainted our room, joined a non-stuffy life group, and we got to see some cousins over the holidays.