Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Red, Blue and Green Pose Posted by Hello

Tiny Wineglasses Posted by Hello

Dessert Wine Toast for Papa! Posted by Hello

Monday, November 29, 2004

Papa's 69th Birthday Posted by Hello

Steak from Australia, Smiles from Manila Posted by Hello

Friday, November 26, 2004

Shameless Plugs Two

I really have just one shameless plug.

  • WAVE unlimited dialup internet access for only P440/month! P500 initial setup fee. For details, please call Digital Resource at (02) 410-7226 or (02) 411-5971 or SMS 0917-5264546.
Tawag na! :)

Surprise Birthday Greetings

This is assuming he doesn't read my blog, which is a safe assumption considering he might not have the time for it.

It’s Fr. Steve Tynan’s 39th birthday on December 2, 2004. He’s spending it in the Philippines for the first time in years. If he has touched your life in any way, please tell him about it.

You may send your greetings and honorings by emailing frsteve_tynan@yahoo.com. We will give him the username and password, plus printout the greetings, by December 1, that’s next Wednesday. At least through our e-mails, he may celebrate his birthday Lingkod/Pinoy-style. Please feel free to inform the other communities he’s involved in (Elim, Light of Jesus, He Cares, St. Peter’s Parish, Don Antonio/Don Enrique sub-parishes, etc.) about his birthday and the email address to send greetings to. We would post his cellphone number too but he might kill us for it…

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Ella McBeal

I miss her, the first few seasons' version of her! I used to call myself EllaMcBeal when I was a law student. :)) That's no longer who I am. I don't know, maybe ever since Billy died, I lost interest in the show.

Sometimes I wonder if Billy really died. I don't think Ally ever let him. She should have. Since I didn't watch the last season, I don't know what actually went on and if there was closure there for her.

This blog is soo serious sometimes. I'm not like this in real life. :) Posted by Hello

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Falling in Love

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.

What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.

-- Attributed to Pedro Arrupe, S.J. (1907-1991)
Superior General of the Society of Jesus 1961-1984

Headaches and Coffee

I'm a coffee addict and when I fail to take in caffein in the morning, I get a headache. I am prone to migraine and guess what one of my migraine triggers is - you've got it: coffee! So whether I drink coffee or not, I get a headache. Might as well enjoy the taste, the aroma, and the lifestyle that goes with a cup, right?

Unfortunately, I also discovered late in life that I have vertigo. Guess what triggers vertigo for me? My doctors said I should avoid cheese, chocolates, stress, sleeplessness, and, woe to me, coffee! There was a change of lifestyle required there that I wasn't so prepared to embrace.

I obeyed my doctors for a whole three months. One afternoon, however, I could neither make heads nor tails in the transcript I was reading in the office because my insomnia attacked that week, meaning I was surviving on two to three hours of sleep and suffering for it. I went to the pantry and saw Taster's Choice beckoning to me. I gave in and made myself a dark cup of instant coffee.

No sooner had I downed the mugful of caffein when I palpitated. I checked, it wasn't my heart beating strongly for someone, it was a physical reaction to drinking what was forbidden! My hands started shaking and I could feel dizziness kicking in. When my officemates saw me, they swore never to let me touch coffee again. When vertigo strikes, I cannot move even my head without feeling like the whole world is spinning. I can't even send text messages because the letters on my phone keypad don't make sense to me. I learned my lesson the hard way.

I found a compromise. I can drink one cup of coffee in the morning without palpitating. If I get enough sleep at night, I should be ok. Now I just look at Starbucks, Gloria Jeans, Mocha Blends, Figaro, Seattle's Best and San Francisco Coffee House with longing. I still frequent these places but settle for second best - their decaffeinated varieties.

There are a hundred other causes for my headaches these days, but I try to be a good girl. I now take coffee breaks without coffee.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

My Kind of Beauty Experts

If you're single and unattached at 30, I'm sure you've experienced being scrutinized at some point by well-meaning friends who want to increase your marketability (read: sex appeal). I was the subject of such a conversation earlier in the office. When the boss is away...

My officemates have always been befuddled at my uncanny ability to intimidate men and/or to shun their unwanted attention, or so they say. Some of my friends have shot down my list of essentials and preferences, with comments ranging from "Superman is already taken" to "Only a saint could match your expectations" and to "Better prepare for single life; NO ONE can match your standards". I have prayed about my list of essentials and preferences after months of discernment so I am not about to budge, unless God tells me so in clear and unequivocal language.

The topic during our coffee break was my visual impact, apparently. My bombshell of an officemate suggested I wear deeper necklines and to accessorize, accessorize, accessorize! She is frustrated at my refusal to buy chunky earrings and audacious necklaces, but I told her that those accessories hardly match my personality and environment. Another officemate was bolder in his assessment of what I needed in order to improve my prospects of dating - he insists on me wearing micro-minis and to ditch my suits. He is much younger than me so I managed to think that he said that more for my benefit than his visual feast. He even had the gall to ask me why I loved to wear suits! My closest friend in the office came to the rescue and said, "She's a lawyer and she's required to wear suits, you moron!" Okay, she didn't quite use that exact language but I was this close to saying that. Thankfully I was able to stop myself as I'm giving a talk on Proper Speech to Lingkod this coming weekend. I had to practice what I preach.

I made a graceful exit from the conference room and returned to my cubicle to think. Why was I so stubborn? Why couldn't I listen to those love gurus whose avowed common project was to find me a boyfriend? I appreciated all their efforts but could not take their advice if I were to remain true to myself. Of course finding The One is a project I would love to undertake but I have come to realize that my standards are no longer of this world. My time frame is no longer bound by impatience. My body clock has finally been surrendered to the Lord.

Manang. Laon. Old maid. Bridget Jones. Ally McBeal. Clerk of Court (private office joke, but clue - ejusdem generis). I've heard all sorts of titles and I'm not so affected anymore. If being myself, growing in faith and confidence, and fixing my eyes on an eternal perspective have placed me in a league of my own, sui generis, then so be it. Maybe it's not yet time. Maybe the man who would appreciate me for who I am - toned-down jewelry, decent skirt length, matchless passion and wit (could NOT resist! hehe) and all - is still being pruned and formed by God. I am not anxious... anymore. :)

I was able to compare this indifferent feeling that I had towards my officemates' beauty tips with how I felt recently while talking to one of my elders in Lingkod. We were discussing formation courses that I had not yet taken and I immediately signed up for the Joy of Discovery (not Discovery Weekend... yet!) series that they would conduct next week. Everytime I speak to her, I would find myself striving to know more of how to grow in character and maturity. Same goes with my spiritual directress; whenever she would give me three-page assignments for my spiritual formation, I would get excited and spend at least an hour a day praying and working on them. Lalo na whenever I talk to my father confessor and to my other priest-friends, I take their advice to heart and munch on their words for days on end. When I talk to gifted speakers, musicians, writers, pastors and leaders who serve the Lord, I make mental term papers (and not just mental notes) in order to follow their example and channel my endowments expertly like they have.

I do not want to alienate my officemates and friends but really, I have metamorphosed. All the experts I want to listen to at this point are those who would lead me closer to being attractive, marketable and pleasing to One Man: Jesus Christ! Of course I still pay attention to my looks, and I have been labeled kikay and vain in the past, but what really motivates me now and consumes my waking moments is my process of yielding to God's will.

Langit lang ang destinasyon, my non-community friends warn me when they think I've gone to one too many retreats in one year. Yes, I want to reach heaven but it would not hurt; nay, it would glorify my Maker if I also fulfill my mission and my purpose here on earth. The process is painful, just like any period of pruning and morphing. In the expert hands of the Lord and in His loving gaze, however, I willingly and happily yield. Or would like to try to. ;)

What on earth am I here for? Rick Warren asked. Contemplating my Life Purpose, I found out that it does not involve adorning myself like a Christmas tree. In fact I have discovered that the less dazzling I appear on the outside, the more spectacular I feel on the inside.

When I was installed as Branch Women's Moderator in June 27, 2003, the following passage was read from 1 Tim 2 (RSV):

9 also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire 10 but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion. 11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness.

I am learning from my own set of beauty experts as well, from those who would prepare me for my call to let go of all earthly attachments and to "go on mission". I have quite a long way to go, but it starts now. In Iloilo, the Lord spoke:

You received without paying, give without pay. Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the laborer deserves his food. (Matt 10:9-10, RSV)

And thus this disciple was called. Now, as to how to explain this during coffee break in the conference room without sounding preachy, I ask for the inner grace and beauty to handle that. In His perfect time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Favoritism: My Struggle & Triumph

A few years ago, I had a boss who made me his favorite employee immediately after my job interview. He must have seen his passion and his idealism in me. No matter what it was that caused me to find favor in his eyes, however, I made it a point to work doubly hard to keep him pleased with me. I admit that I was thrilled to enter that company because the big boss liked me from Day One. It did not take long for my reputation to grow. I was given special assignments and special treatment. The boss always had a big smile whenever I walked into the room, as if seeing a little child he was looking forward to mentor. Whenever he was abroad, I would be the one he would text for his instructions for the office. His excuse was that he knew I never parted with my cell phone, even when I went to the ladies’ room, so his messages were sure to reach his intended recipients on time if he texted me. Everybody else at that office simply thought that he did that because I was his favorite.

He was my mentor at that time. He would ask for my opinions on big projects and even though I was fresh out of school, he made me speak out my thoughts in front of the other bosses. He would invite me to his office and share his plans for the company and for our clients. He would make me take down notes so I would not forget his pearls of wisdom. I did not mind working late hours, skipping meals, and ignoring my friends just so I could produce the outputs that he asked of me. He told me that the day that I submit written work which would merit no correction from him, he would promote me immediately. I lived for that day.

Something tragic happened to me that caused me to stop working for a while. I resigned from that company. The secretaries told me later that the big boss sulked in his room for one whole day and was in a foul mood because of what happened to me. He called me up to say that I was welcome to come back anytime and even asked if I wanted to join him and his family in their Holy Week vacation. I was touched by the gesture but was in no mood to socialize because I was going through my personal hell at that time.

After some time, I felt I owed it to him and wanted to bring back the glorious days when I was considered brilliant, valued and important. I returned to the office a year and a half after I left. Little did I know that my reputation had preceded me. Employees who came in after I left heard about Ella, the boss’s favorite. They heard stories about how I was treated to a bacalao dinner; how I was asked to sing and play the piano at gatherings; how I was able to ask the big boss to donate more prizes for the Christmas party; and other anecdotes. I did not know that there were expectations of me and was totally unprepared for what I had to face.

I was no longer the favorite employee, actually, when I joined the company the second time around. After all, I did disappoint the boss by leaving and he had to channel his mentoring spirit to another associate. I did not mind that at all. After what I had gone through, I was only too happy to rebuild my self-confidence in what I thought was my comfort zone. I was pitted against the new favorite, however. There was an ongoing bet among the other associates as to who would turn out to be the real favorite. The other bosses seemed to want me to prove myself once again, if I really deserved the boss’s favor.

I was not up to the challenge. I was no longer as willing to lose sleep over deadlines. My heart started to yearn to serve in the courts of the Lord. I knew there was nothing bad or immoral in that office, but I was no longer the same and they – the bosses and co-workers- did not find what they were looking for in me. Even the big boss himself seemed to be displeased with me all the time. I nearly had a nervous breakdown every time my work was returned to me, because almost always, the pages would be unrecognizable what with all the handwritten corrections. I dreaded to read emails from him and my body would literally shake when he would call me to his office. I no longer felt his favor. I thought that employees should be treated fairly anyway, and for the first time actually resented the practice of favoritism. I never felt that in my family for my parents made each of us five children feel special.

After almost a year of trying, and failing, to find fulfillment in my job, I decided to make a bid for happiness and to resign once again from that office. It was a tearful decision, and when asked for my reason, I said I felt that I was not qualified for the job. The HR manager told me that I was still the boss’s favorite, but that time I was being trained so I had to take in all the criticism from him. I wanted to talk to the boss but during my last 30 days, he did not talk about my leaving. He just acted as if he did not care, and so I thought he did not. C’est l’ avie, I said to myself, and tucked away that memory for future healing. Even after two years I still could not look at that office building without tears welling up in my eyes.

The fact that I’m writing/blogging about it now means that I’ve taken one step in my process of healing in this area. I will always love and respect him, but I’ve been called to a different path than the one I promised to take under his mentoring. Recently, I saw a former officemate and her husband. She introduced me to him and said, “This is Ella, the boss's favorite”. Several years after I left that company, I was still considered as the most favored one in the company's history. I felt a twinge in my heart that grew into a heavy feeling. A few weeks after, I dreamt of my boss. In my dream, I was talking to him and explaining that I had to leave because God had called me to a full-time mission. That scene might never play in real life, but it showed me that I still missed talking to him about those things.

With this experience, I have grown to develop anti-favoritism. It does not build up the body –whether the family, community, or workplace. It promotes jealousy, competitiveness, insecurity, and depression.

Sometimes with my God, I am afraid to acknowledge His affirmations because I’m afraid to be called His favorite. This may be ridiculous but I swear it’s true! I forget that He is Divine, not human. He could make us all His favorites because He could bless one with talents, riches, and skills without depriving everyone else as He is that powerful!

I have to think that God’s love for each of us is unique so that I would be able to count my blessings. I live a blessed life. I am the Favored One. God gave me friends, who support both my decisions and indecisions; who see to my moral, financial and practical needs. He gave me very talented and intelligent parents who passed on their genes to their five children and two grandsons. He gave me license to practice a profession that could help change even a small part of this world. He gave me a community where my imperfect faith has moved mountains and where I am continuously amazed by His little and gigantic miracles. I am loved. I am blessed. No one can take this away from me.

I do not want to hurt anyone or to be misunderstood anymore. I know now what caused my heart to break in that office from ages ago and what made me break that boss's heart: I cannot serve two masters at the same time. I have found the pearl of great price. I am willing to sell and leave everything, to seek first His kingdom, to study His law in His courts. I am the Lord’s servant, be it done unto me according to His will.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Sink Deep My Roots

I started re-reading The Purpose-Driven Life today as part of a program.

I was pleasantly surprised to open my copy of the book and find familiar words that spoke to me directly, from Jeremiah 17:7-8. God is not done with teaching me that lesson yet and He wants it to sink deep into my heart. That passage was written in Day One all along, and I had forgotten about that because I first read the book a year and a half ago. I knew then that this Second Reading would have a deeper meaning for me. I was impatient during my First Reading and wanted to finish it in 40 days, on my own. Of course I got stuck in some of the chapters and actually finished the book a few days off my target. Come to think of it, I’ve always been that way when I get hold of a good book, and it takes utmost self-control to savor the words and ruminate on the messages. Hopefully patience is growing to be one of my virtues.

To get a holistic PDL feel, I purchased The PDL CD featuring Jamie Rivera. In true karaoke/videoke culture, I opened the accompanying lyric sheet and sang along during my prayer time. I was struck by song number 10, the title of which is “Sink Deep Our Roots”. The words were inspired by – guess what? – our theme for NLTC 2k4, Jeremiah 17:7-8! Grabe na ‘to. Parang sinasabi sa akin “Hello, Ella. Heller! Fear no heat, fear no drought, your leaves will stay green and you will bear much grain.”

I was reminded of one of my recent realizations. Last First Friday, we invited Father Geoffrey to Lingkod QC and he gave a very inspiring homily complete with his personal testimony. I came back from the NLTC on a spiritual high, but faced heat and drought the first week in different areas of my life. I was a bit disheartened that Friday so as I listened to Father Jeff, I was hungry for comfort and assurance. The Lord did not delay – for I heard him say that “to bear fruit takes time”. It was a reminder I needed to hear that day. I was disheartened because some of my perceived sacrifices did not seem to bear the intended fruit, so there Jesus immediately assured me that results may not come during my expected time frame but they shall come, if I just stay put and deepen my roots I Him. I prayed once more for the elusive fruit of patience.

This morning I was also reminded of that truth in the first words of Day One – “It’s not about you”. It’s not about me and that is a huge relief!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Today I Felt Loved

Today was a good day.

I spent the morning at the Cenacle Retreat House. Talking to Sister Susay always calms me and leads me to listen to God more intimately. Then I roamed the Cenacle Garden once more and felt so alive. I have come to know almost every nook and cranny of that little garden. All the times that I had communed there with God for the past two years came back to me, enriching my experience and making me love every blade of grass and fallen petal that I saw. I concluded my morning with silence in front of our Lord at the chapel. I shall come there every week now for my intensive discerment process. The thought excites me.

My parents are visiting my sister in Sydney so instead of my brother's family coming over to visit at our house, I decided to visit them. I played a little with my nephews but was feeling lethargic so I just listened to them play. Their giggles just made me more content and confirmed that I am indeed surrounded by love. It was a relaxing afternoon that I spent at their house and I enjoyed every minute of it.

I had dinner and went to Mass with a very good friend and sister with whom I share pieces of my journal. She and I are traversing different paths, having started from opposite ends of the spectrum, but everytime we talk we remember where we are rooted and are able to bring each other back to the absolutes of our faith.

Throughout the day I was also in touch with people who are very close to my heart.

I have been surrounded by God's love today. I shall mark this day so I could look back at it when I forget my eternal identity; when I search for what I already know; when I feel alone and unloved. Moments like the ones I had today should be put in my mental photo album for me to gaze at when expressions of love are scarce.

I felt love today.

The QT's after the Worship Concert Posted by Hello

Altar at the Trappist Monastery in Guimaras Island Posted by Hello

Guimaras, on NLTC Outing Day Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 04, 2004

I Saw a Rainbow Today

Yup I did! On my way home from work, I saw a huge rainbow adorning the sky. My friend who dropped me off pointed out to me that there's a second, fainter rainbow that's beside the big, bright one. I had to stop for a couple of minutes to gaze at its beauty and to thank God for His wonderful work. Dark rainclouds warned me of impending rain, however, so I started to resume walking.

There were two kinds of people I met on the road. There were those who looked up to the direction of the rainbow and controlled their smiles. I exchanged knowing looks with these people. There were those whose heads were either bent down in concentration or were too focused on their destination that they failed to notice the colorful arch standing tall and framing Ever Gotesco Commonwealth. I wanted to tap their shoulders or wave at them to point out God's promise written on the sky. I decided against it, though, and just prayed that when they need something to brighten up their day, they would also see a rainbow as beautiful as the one that brightened mine today.