Reflections from my recent Philippine travel

By:  LPJ

In retrospect, the heart of my wonderful Philippine vacation from late January to early March this year was the bonding with family, relatives and friends. The parties, meet-ups over exquisite food, touristy activities and even the restful moments in between frenzied schedules were triggers of fun and sources of entertainment and enjoyment. Yet, they pale against the catching up, lively chats, pleasurable conversations and precious times spent with dear ones.  In a capsule —  the special bonding.

The truth is, my hectic travels were motivated by the intent to visit as many kinsfolk as possible. And of course, they live in different cities and provinces.  During my vacation travels, I was blessed by one very close to me, my Mama’s younger sister, Auntie Rosie Manuel Cruz (widow of Eng. Ben Cruz).  She is a most gracious and efficient host.  Her home in Naga is a favorite go-to place for visits by relatives from the Philippines and abroad.  During my stay in her home (along with my brother Tzetzu, his wife Rorie, nieces and nephews), never was there a dull moment.  In the middle of lively conversations, she would tell Amazon’s Alexa to turn on music.  Auntie Rosie loves music, and her choices are perfect.  My type!  Auntie Rosie is our Manuel matriarch in the Philippines, a model of vibrancy, pleasant outlook and wise disposition, and especially, of genuine caring.

Something else claimed special sidelights of my trip.

My Auntie Rosie and I in front of a vista point in Legazpi (Photo by Melodee Isaguirre)

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Anything to bring out the smiles

By:  LPJ

I love to smile. I must have been taught that as a little girl.  And growing up, oddly, finding just about anything as excuse for smiles stuck as a habit.  Nice, don’t you think? A senior now, a Lola (Grandma) still growing up, often I see myself reaching for reasons to smile.  Besides the good feeling, the stretch of up to 43 facial muscles is healthy exercise without the strain. A habit pleasant and attractive on the outside;  healthy and soothing on the inside.

I’ll share here some excuses for my smiles, hoping to inspire  observations or thoughts that might bring out the sunshine in your face – enough to blow out the blues.

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The seemingly impossible that stymies creativity is really not impossible

By:  LPJ

My grandson Eliott told me he and his parents were going to see Man of La Mancha at an outdoor theater in the East Bay, California.  Immediately, I started to sing “To Dream the  impossible dream”.  Then, I said, that’s Don Quixote’s theme song of hopeful determination, in a saga of chivalrous pursuit of decency, imagined royalty and love.

And then I said, watch for Sancho, his faithful squire or assistant, the necessary catalyst to the precarious journey between reality and illusion on the fringes of insanity. And then, I hummed to myself the Don’s poignant tribute to his lady  “Dulcinea”.

I love the Don Quixote quixotic epic of heroism, honor and faith, a celebrated Renaissance masterpiece by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.  I wished I had gone to see the musical, too.  Though I’ve read the book and heard so many times the music with its moving and emotion-ridden lyrics, it would be nice to watch the drama unfold on stage.

To dream the impossible dream has been on my mind lately.  Not exactly in the same context and scenario as Don Quixote’s.  But mainly, as an instinctive grab for inspiration in a venture I’m presently engaged in.

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Learning patience when we wait

By:  LPJ

Immediacy. A word that grabbed my attention when I attended a recorded worship service of First Presbyterian Church on Berkeley campus last Sunday. It was an interview of Dog Hewitt, a missions director of a non-profit group involved in efforts at refugee resettlement, helping them feel welcome, start a new life in the area, find employment, train for jobs, and acclimate to society and economy. In the sermon series entitled “Conversations with the Divine/Serving Others”, Pastor Tom and Pastor Charlene posed questions that led Doug to explain how God prepared him for a life of service, serving others as ambassador of Christ and partner with God.   An insightful question posed by Pastor Charlene touched on the expectations for immediate results from his work.  He emphasized the virtue of patience, realizing that God prepared him through all the years when he dreamed of living in the Colorado mountains. Instead, God has taken him to the city where he serves refugees trying to survive.  Trusting the hand of of God in his service keeps him from expecting immediate results.  After all, God is always working.

The virtue of staying patient and waiting for the voice of God – that struck a cord in my heart.  Honestly, a gentle rebuke for me.

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Facing 2022 with hope — the new dawn

By:  LPJ

The new year didn’t come with bravado. Absent were the usual fireworks extravaganzas that most look forward to, whether at public displays or on TV.  Absent, too, were the parties and assemblies; most, if not all, cancelled due to restrictions stemming from the rising pandemic cases everywhere. Family celebrations had to be curtailed to a few or less representations.  But 2022 came anyway. It came with a promise.  It came with hope. It sneaked up on us like a new dawn.

2021 was a challenge in many ways primarily due to the onset of COVID variants.  But that does not deter us from realizing the fact that we have reached 2022, and we have been favored with God’s protection.  Thus, we leave 2021 with full gratitude for our benevolent Father’s loving care, for He is ever faithful and gracious.

I see 2022 with promise and hope.  Don’t you?

2022, the birth of a new dawn (Photo by Mary France Kim Pandes)

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Part 2: Pulses from the heart, a trilogy for Christmas

It’s almost Christmas! Just a day away. I cannot help but marvel at how it was over 2,000 years ago, when baby Jesus was about to be born.  I especially think of Mary, His earthly mother.  Her belly so big; the baby perhaps kicking, raring to come out into the world, while she and Joseph are busy looking for a place where she can deliver.  Do you wonder how Mary felt then? I do, especially because, as scripture tells us, she knew who she was carrying in her womb. The angel Gabriel announced to her that God chose her to be the mother of the most awaited one, the Messiah.

In Luke 1, verse 30-33, the angel Gabriel appeared to an astonished girl of 14 and said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. You have found favor [a] with God. You will become pregnant, give birth to a son, and name him Jesus. He will be a great man and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. Your son will be king of Jacob’s people forever, and his kingdom will never end.”

A mysterious and mystifying message, though a sacred one.Read More »

Part 1: Pulses from the heart, a trilogy for Christmas

A dear friend, Dr. Elna Nidea Chia, posted on our high school batch online chat network, an intimately erudite exchange I call, “Conversation with God”. This thought-provoking piece carries no author’s name, she said.  She shared it because it struck a special chord in her heart, as it struck mine.  In reading it – humbly, I hear God’s strong, compassionate and loving voice, speaking to a broken world cradled in all the beauty and splendor He created it with.  He speaks to a broken heart, not really broken, but just “breaking through and becoming.”

It is my hope that this precocious piece, spiritually captivating and stirring, can inspire contemplation, soul searching and help prepare hearts as we anticipate the celebration of the glorious birth of Jesus, son of God, during this 4th week of Advent.

A conversation with God:

Me: Hey God.

GOD: Hello…..

Me: I’m falling apart. Can you put me back together?

GOD: I would rather not.

Me: Why?

GOD: Because you aren’t a puzzle.

Me: What about all of the pieces of my life that are falling down onto the ground?

GOD: Let them stay there for a while. They fell off for a reason. Take some time and decide if you need any of those pieces back.

Me: You don’t understand! I’m breaking down!

GOD: No – you don’t understand. You are breaking through. What you are feeling are just growing pains. You are shedding the things and the people in your life that are holding you back. You aren’t falling apart. You are falling into place. Relax. Take some deep breaths and allow those things you don’t need anymore to fall off of you. Quit holding onto the pieces that don’t fit you anymore. Let them fall off. Let them go.

Me: Once I start doing that, what will be left of me?

GOD: Only the very best pieces of you.

Me: I’m scared of changing.


Me: Becoming who?

GOD: Becoming who I created you to be! A person of light and love and charity and hope and courage and joy and mercy and grace and compassion. I made you for more than the shallow pieces you have decided to adorn yourself with that you cling to with such greed and fear. Let those things fall off of you. I love you! Don’t change! Become! Become! Become! Become who I made you to be. I’m going to keep telling you this until you remember it.

Me: There goes another piece…

GOD: Yep. Let it be.

Me: So…I’m not broken?

GOD: No – but you are breaking like the dawn. It’s a new day. Become!!

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This autumn day sparks poetry — or at best, a grateful heart

Funny, I wanted to write a poem about this autumn day.  In the midst of a bad sciatic nerve attack that has restricted my movements for days – I fancied writing poetry.  Strange, don’t you think?

No, not really. This autumn day in Palo Alto, CA, as I woke up and gazed out my glass patio door, I spotted droplets of early morning rain on my balcony rail, and a gentle sprinkle from above.  Slivers of sunbeams pierced through spaces between billows of dark clouds in the sky and danced in the transparencies of the dew drops.  I saw the breeze flirting with tree branches for a light shake that caused a dash of colors to slither to the ground.  I saw yellows burst out between the bold reds and the earthly browns.  Yet, to the left of that brightly spruced tree is a deciduous with leaves that stubbornly stay freshly green, and I wondered why it hasn’t kept pace with its neighbors. And then, I heard the eerily rapturous whisper of the wind pass my balcony glass door.

The truth is, I determined to find reasons to distract me from focusing on the clutch of sciatica. I found them. For one, today shows traces of rain from the night before, and more promise of rain by the looks of the sky.  In California, good, temperate rain is manna – the nemesis of fires, the quencher to drought in the land, the much welcomed fresh spray to the air.  On a miniscule scale, the plants outside my front door have perked up.  The leaves of the jade plant have turned succulently plump, and the slender tendrils of the spider plant convalesced from their sluggish crouch for an aggressive and longer reach.  A lot to be thankful for this autumn day.

So, you see why I was inspired to dabble in poetry this autumn day.

A stunning picture of autumn in the Colorado mountain (Photo by Cai Zhang)

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What does really matter?

[This is a reprint from my second book, “Something Curious, Book 2: Simply Awed (expressions in poems, vignettes and dreams)” published in late 2016.  It’s a contemplative piece that aims to remind how one’s perspective defines the significance of the moment or of the day.  Trivial mundane things pale against what’s important, or what really matters.  In my article, I share that it took a young little boy (my grandson) to remind his Lola (Grandma, and that’s me) that her propensity for trivia veils the proper curiosity for matters more important.  The upshot is, it was “fun” to ask. In concurrence with the general theme of the book, my article is clinched with a reflection.]

Our grandson is a bundle of delight. When he started kindergarten two years ago, we, his Lolo and Lola (Grandpa and Grandma) were all curiosity to know how he felt about school and the activities he experienced. With little control and all interest, I bombarded this little kid with questions which he either answered forthrightly, or refused to answer. The latter happened when my questions tended to be trivial and perhaps unnecessary. I’m the grandma who clings to every word my grandson utters. His words are music to my eager ears. But I admit, my questions then bordered between silly and obvious. To such inquiries, my perceptive grandson responded, “Does it matter? It doesn’t really matter.” A very adult-like comment from a 5-year old.

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What is faith?

Faith.  The very jewel in the heart of our existence.  Its presence or lack of – that defines our existence, the path we choose to tread and the goals we reach for.

In very simple terms, we understand faith as belief in the unseen. For me personally, faith is my belief in the one sovereign, almighty God who sent His only begotten son, Jesus, to earth to sacrifice and die on the cross for our redemption.  And that Jesus rose again and defeated death.  The power and love of God!

Faith — the conviction that love triumphs over hate and indifference, light over darkness, good over evil.

Faith – belief in things unseen.  Yet, I see God in the myriad of manifestations in the world/universe that He created.  Simply put, I see Him in the beauty of the flowers in the garden outside my window, in the strength of the trees with their overarching branches outside my porch.  I see Him and hear Him in the laughter of children riding their bikes on the street, in the hummingbirds circling the buds on the camelia plant outside my patio. I see Him in the glow of a moonlit night as I gaze through my sky roof. I see Him in the faces of my loved ones. He really is everywhere.  So how can I not have faith?

The whole wide world is rich in faith, if only we recognize and receive it.  It’s there, and it’s freely given.

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Thought for the day — and for all times

Humanity doesn’t fail.  It teeters and wavers … maybe many times than desired.  But it gets back up on its feet, with a heart strengthened through despair, or pain, or chaos, or uncertainties – through challenges and victories — the heart of humanity nurtured by a wise, just and loving God,  We cling to hope; it will not fail, for as long as we keep alive the decency of humanity’s soul, with a steadfast, empathetic, compassionate heart – for all.      —–    lpj

Reaching for the hope and joy …

This time encourages us to contemplate where we fit in the conundrum of world events, understanding the work of the hand of God in human affairs, aligning our priorities with the very purpose given each of us on this earth — a purpose wedged in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, His death and, ultimately, the triumph of His resurrection.  May the Spirit of God fill each of our hearts.    —  lpj

Easter joy after the somber Lent

My Auntie Rosie posted spectacular pictures of her garden on Facebook.  Staggering beauty – flowers in full bloom, some bushes profusely crowding her garden fence, others just primmed on pots strategically placed to draw imminent admiration.  With her permission, I show a few of her pictures on this blog mainly because they make me think of Easter joy.  Gazing at them brings back memories of past glorious Easter celebrations. A few, I share here.  I cling to those memories because they give such warm joyous feelings, unmistakably reeking with sweet nostalgia.

But this week is still Lent. Sobered by the thought that the son of God, both human and divine, sacrificed and died on the cross to redeem us back for God’s kingdom.  To commemorate Lent, we enter into self-examination, a spiritual discipline aimed at humbly coming before the Lord, preparing our hearts as we meditate on the Father’s unconditional love, sending his only son, Jesus, to come down to earth and bear the burden of our sins for our redemption.  A time to bow before God, confessing our iniquities and shortcomings while trusting in His unfathomable forgiveness and compassion.  A time to take stock of our priorities and align them with the purpose given us by the almighty Father, cognizant of where our treasures lie, treasures that truly matter and count for eternity.

We dwell in all humility of spirit and contemplate the boundless mercy of God.  Before jumping to Easter joy – we need to remember what transpired before Jesus’ resurrection, the depth of His excruciating pain and agony, and ultimately his most humiliating death on a tree — in the culture of that time, the most despicable way of making a man die – and all that, because He loves us so much.

But the dawn of a new day is near, and we look eagerly to celebrating the fact that the King is alive!

Lovely pictures trigger memories of glorious Easter celebrations (Photos by Rose Manuel Cruz)

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Love defies tradition — or does love soften tradition?

A PBS documentary on the making of “Fiddler on the Roof” which I watched days ago revived  my fascination for the movie.  I hadn’t seen the stage version of the musical, but had viewed the film six times over the years.  Definitely, I can watch it again another six times.  The story, based on the book by Joseph Stein, weaves around nuances of Jewish culture vortexed on religion and tradition.  Quite skillfully, it renders a sensitive narrative about lives intertwined in the Jewish village of Anatevka, a settlement of Imperial Russia in the early 1900’s.  Never lacking in artistry, the movie is especially gifted with exceptional music by Jerry Book, song lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and choreography by Jerome Robbins.

Gripping and moving, the story portrays an amicable Jewish community hinged on social customs primed on religion, culture and loyalties.  For this blog, I focus on what I believe is the bull’s eye of the story – conflict between love and tradition.

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Advent ticks the social and spiritual compass with hope

Advent.  A truly exciting season that anticipates a “coming” or “arrival”.  First, it ushers in a season of preparation for the commemoration of the birth of Jesus, an event so central in the lives of believers.  Second, it underscores waiting for the second coming of Jesus, a paramount event prophesied in Scripture and which many look forward to with great longing — Jesus, the Messiah, coming back to earth in full glory to rule a thousand years along with the chosen faithful.

Significantly, Advent is a compelling reminder that there is hope —  hope that many are so needy of and ardent for.  In today’s world, challenges to faith and reason lurk in dire circumstances.  The blight of the pandemic to the economy and specifically, to people’s livelihood, is outmatched by the fear of losing loved ones to the mysterious virus that has drastically changed lives and the norms of living.  In the broil is the clamor for social reform accented by the cries of the hurting poor, disadvantaged and marginalized.  Anxiety and fear of the uncertain become the norm, and as to be expected, discontent and unhappiness creep in. This is not what the Lord wants for us, this I believe.  Light shines at the end of the spiral.  So then, comes Advent.  Yes, Advent is here — hope overpowering the strain and weariness of dark circumstances.  Hope abundant in the mercy of a very loving and compassionate God.

As I was reflecting on Advent last Sunday (the first of four Sundays of Advent), my attention was caught by pictures posted on Facebook by my son-in-law Matt and my daughter Joy –  lovely and captivating scenes evocative of God’s power in the beauty of His creation.  All for our enjoyment.  All for our pleasure.  These pictures are shared below.

Westward beach in Los Angeles (photos by Matt Rosenburg)

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Good hearts can spin a better world

A good heart.  What is it really?  That was the bull’s eye of a conversation I recently had concerning intriguing current events and conditions in the world these days. Confusion, chaos, natural disasters, pandemic threats, social turmoil and inequalities, political upheavals.  The list can go on and on.  There is no intent of sounding dismal here, but just relaying an exchange not rare at all – but rather, common anywhere and any place these days.  The  casual discussion peaked to a perplexity accented by the question – what is happening?  Are these the signs of the time?  Some may wonder what that question alludes to.  Almost like a cliché used when baffled about widespread dire occurrences.  And usually, the question is asked with some alarm.

Without advancing theories or ideas that may stir fear or anxiety, I bring this up because of the way my conversation ended up.  In a nutshell, my take was this —  there are circumstances beyond our control, and we watch with some helplessness because we desire solutions, rectification, a fix.  The truth is, we can do something.  We all can contribute to making life more purposeful in a better world.  How? Keeping a good heart.  Sounds too simplistic for a  complicated and ambivalent world whose proclivity is success without a soul, you might say.

So what really is a good heart?

When churning ideas to characterize a good heart, I thought of my Mama, Leoncia Manuel Pandes, who passed on Nov.7, 2017, a month shy of her 101st birthday — a beautiful woman with a good heart (sketch by Marie Recine – used in my book, Something Curious, Book 2: Simply Awed).

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Reach for the simple pleasures – blessings everywhere

The new norm teaches new habits and preferences.  Some welcomed and some not.  Some good, and some less good (a softer term than bad).  I speak here about the welcomed and good.  Sheltering in during these pandemic times diminishes or veils the attractions and distractions outside the home. For some, the confinement is difficult, since the limit of outdoor activities has stretched for months.  While we understand the wisdom of following health guidelines, we adjust our basic instinct for freedom of movement, and for some, this curtailment can be painful.  Yet, we have a choice.  The choice between playing it safe, or the impulse to ignore advice.  I choose to  follow good advice as best I can.

A few times, I’ve been asked if I get bored staying mostly at home.  The question never baffles me.  Quite normal.  Being “holed in” is a challenge. Even squirrels and gofers need to get out of their holes at least once in a while.  But my answer has always been – no.  And thank God for that.  What do I do, they ask.  I just try to find simple pleasures some of which I shall share with you here.

I sit in  front of my laptop and surf for interesting Facebook postings of friends.  I  especially search for upbeat messages, and most especially for beautiful pictures with stories behind them.  While some people decry the disadvantages and cons of this social medium, it definitely owns some benefits.  I focus on the benefits.

Today, a lush picture of an orchid plant grabbed my attention. 

Simple pleasure — free to behold (photo by Debbie Dillon)

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Enjoying a delightful Sunday at home – the normal of a new norm

A most relaxing Sunday for me today.  The usual of the new norm.  Late Sunday mornings are generally spent attending the livestream worship service followed by a sermon discussion session on zoom. Today’s was special, just like on other Sundays. The whole conglomeration of praise songs, community prayers and teaching inspired by Scripture created a sacred aura almost magical in a high spiritual sense, and soothing to the heart that seeks calm and peace in the midst of worldly clamor.  Pastor Dan’s message, based on verses from First Peter in the Bible, touched on the steadfastness of faith and what church is to the people of God.  

After the service and discussion online was a light lunch for me, slow and totally unhurried, while digesting a bit of weekend news capsules from the TV broadcast,  I then shifted to sit in front of my laptop and pored over Facebook messages and postings.  One particularly caught my attention – a stunning scenic picture shared by my nephew’s daughter. The photo triggered happy memories.

 “Backyard” of the La Union beach home (photo by Kim Pandes)

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Laugh more – or at least, smile more

“Lola,” my 11-year-old grandson asked me one day recently, “why did you say I don’t laugh enough?”  A very astute question from a young boy. My surprise was, he remembered and mulled over my comment that was casually expressed in a conversation.  It was during one of his piano practice sessions when he heard me blurt out a short laugh upon hearing a movement in the music that evoked a vision of dancing bears – to be exact, fluffy bears stumbling and rolling over each other in awkward dance moves.

“What was so funny,” he quizzed me after his lesson.  “I just imagined dancing bears,” I think that was my retort.  “Wouldn’t that be funny?” I pressed.  “Not funny,” he shot back. I knew he was working hard at perfecting those music intervals (when he heard my stifled laugh).  All of this exchange on facetime, with a computer screen in between was even funnier to me.  It seemed I was on the hot seat just because I laughed.  So I laughed even more.  In my impulse to hug my grandson, I blew him a kiss.

“You don’t laugh enough,” I fondly teased.  Well, he remembered that comment weeks after.  This was my explanation to my darling grandson.

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‘Transform’ more than ‘transact’

Taking a break from working in front of my laptop, I sat listening to a television interview of a retired Lt. General of the US Military Service, Mark Hertling.  I shall not delve into politics, because that is not the thrust nor direction of my blogs.  But I shall write about my sociological and psychological interpretation of what I thought was very interesting and relevant in today’s anxious and confusing world (as it was for previous generations).  The General spoke about “transactional” versus “transformational” behavior or reaction.

What’s the difference, I pondered as I sat at the edge of my seat, waiting for his explanation.  And what does it matter?

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Enjoying the perks of social media

What prompts this extraordinary trend? I notice a rise in social media group sites majority of which celebrate memories of years long ago. This year, I responded to three that I was invited to join. One I joined the year before. The participants are definitely of varying ages. The common thread runs along streams of nostalgia traversing memory lanes. Bits and pieces of history accompanied with vintage pictures are among the favorites. No one can deny curiosity about the past. Often, memories revolve around the old alma mater, the city of one’s youth, the old neighborhood, old friends and former classmates, former teachers, notable events in the community’s life, and of course, what has become of everything and everyone from our past.

One group site posts old photos of Naga City and the Bicol region (Philippines) before commerce took over the development of the area. Interesting pictures show how the universities or schools looked many decades ago, old class pictures, popular professors now gone, the downtown district not crowded with vehicles then, sidewalks not filled with a milieu of pedestrians the way they often are in modern times, and even photos of movie stars and other celebrities, pride of Bicol. All these stir a chain of comments and mini stories of life long ago — morphing into a kaleidoscope of colorful and sentimental memorabilia. A tinge of nostalgia surfaces, not without gratitude for the past, not without appreciation for how the past has birthed what now is the present. But definitely, awe for all that changed.

The perks of social media – and I’m thoroughly enjoying them.

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Find your blessings—and count them one by one

Got good news lately? Against a backdrop of anxiety over the corona virus and intrigue over brewing social issues, there is hunger for good news to ride high on whirlpools of uncertainties. Anything to brighten our days. Life goes on as we forge through challenges. But no dimmer switch for hope that comes with the realization that blessings abound for us and around us. One of the blessings is getting good news.

So, have you gotten your dose of good news lately? I have.

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Seniors, the gems of wisdom and yodas of generations

AGEUK, based in London, is the umbrella for a massive network of organizations and charities supporting in various capacities the senior population of the United Kingdom. AGEUK‘s overarching mission pivots around efforts to educate, inform, instruct, advice, assist seniors for the purpose of bettering or uplifting their wellbeing, and raising the quality and comfort of their aging process. An admirable and noble stretch of the human heart.

I was asked to contribute to an article on AGEUK suggesting activities for seniors in their homes. I am posting here what was published in AGEUK Mobility online magazine (November 2018). My text in quotes is part of a lengthy, comprehensive piece (the magazine’s comments are in italics). AGEUK‘s entire thoughtful piece on toolkits for seniors is a nudge to remind us of the importance and value of the senior population to humanity. Being a baby boomer myself (and a stubborn romantic idealist at heart), I’d like to think that we are the gems of wisdom, the “Yodas” of this world’s generations.

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The simple and grand pleasures of technology

Technology still fazes me at times. I’m not embarrassed to admit. As I’ve often said, this baby boomer Lola keeps on learning. I love to learn. Learning is a spice of life that should never fade. So, you might ask – what’s the latest from technology for me. Well, I’ve never been really interested in zoom. Facetiming and skyping have been favorite activities with family members and friends – but group zooming I wasn’t really into – until shelter-in-place started. Since virtual meetings have become part of the new norm, and by virtue of its pragmatic functionality, zoom has become a buzzword. I have definitely learned to appreciate it.

Catching up with the rapid pace of technology is a challenge. I’m a baby boomer, and I’m convinced technology is on a fast track – nonetheless, I enjoy the challenge (I think).

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Pentecost – the breath of God

Today is Pentecost Sunday. It shouldn’t be, but it is a sad day. So much confusion. One trouble after another. Many questions, and not enough answers. Great rumblings; the voices are loud and mixed; hard to find clarity. Passion stirs activity, emotions and hysteria. There is need for understanding of what’s going on.

Before this week, we tried to stretch our comprehension of what’s happening in the world with the vengeful threat of coronavirus. But today, the stifling fear of the mysterious virus has been dominated with grief and anger riding the streets of big cities in the US.

Today is Pentecost Sunday. A time to celebrate the sending of the Spirit of God to the apostles, disciples, and then the multitudes, 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus sent His Spirit to both Jews and Gentiles. The Spirit is for all, old and young, believer or non-believer. It is up to every heart to accept through faith in Jesus.

Yet, it is a sad day.
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Entertaining meanderings while gazing out my window

Gazing out my window is still my favored pastime during the shelter-in-place. It’s amazing that what I see outdoors never fails to entertain me. A lot of times, it beats watching TV. Because what I see provokes meanderings of the mind, some amusing, some puzzling or intriguing and even some, nostalgic.

I notice more bikers pass by than before the shelter-in. After all, the street in front of my house is perfect for biking, especially this time when few cars drive by. Besides, the tree-lined street offers a scenic view that makes it more enjoyable for cyclists and pedestrians.

Strange to see is that the bikers, compared to pedestrians that walk by, show greater enjoyment of their freedom and activity as they whoosh by – almost like an infectious lighthearted abandon. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not judging – just observing and sharing impression, maybe a crazy one at that.

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Peaks of joy during the shelter-in times

I am taking stock of what I have done during this shelter-in-place period. Overall, and this surprises me, I’ve been busy! While many have expressed, very understandably, restlessness and boredom to a certain extent due to confinement, it’s been absolute relief that confinement has not really been rough for me. I don’t think nor claim to be alone in thinking this. So, what have you been doing? I will gladly share with you peaks of what has kept me busy.

For one, I continue on performing office tasks that I brought home for telecommuting. As a part-time worker, my schedule doesn’t seem to have changed much, devoting the same number of days to my job. True, working from home can be limited after factoring in that certain duties are “office-based” due to accessibility to personnel, equipment, files, etc., yet, much of the work can actually be accomplished remotely from home, thanks to technology.

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Good Friday and the message of hope

Sunday’s a coming, but today is Friday. Meaningful words uttered at the Good Friday live-stream worship service held jointly by three churches in Palo Alto: Vineyard Church, First Christian Church and Peninsula Bible church.

Readings from the bible recalled events that led to Jesus’ crucifixion and death on the cross. A pastor from each church presented expository of the sorrowful moments that showed how humanity’s sin and transgression were borne by an innocent man, Jesus, the Son of God. All the anguish and pain of the world’s iniquities snowballed into a humiliating death on the cross. And at His last agonizing breath, He gave up His spirit to the Father who, at that very instance, was separated from the Son for mankind’s redemption. The Son bore the sins of the world, and the separation from the Father was the most pain, more searing than His physical wounds.

The greatest sacrifice of all. The biggest love of all. But the most victory of all — the victory of the cross over death. “This is Friday – but Sunday’s a coming,” proclaimed a male voice at a dramatic presentation during the online service. Yes, we look forward to Sunday and the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.

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Finding beauty in the midst of chaos

I just came back into the house after dragging my garbage can back into the garage. Strange. It felt good! Some years back I used to rib my husband (now deceased) that I would never throw the garbage. He and my son would take turns. But today – why did throwing the garbage seem like a pleasant chore? Actually, the day’s so lovely outside. Very blue skies with nary a cloud but the beams of a glaring sunshine, and a mild breeze blowing the branches ripe for spring. But there’s something out of place in this glorious picture – the awful anxiety over an invisible enemy called COVID-19 gripping communities. A battle is raging, and there is chaos in the world.

Yet, it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, using the words of a legendary TV host, Mr. Rogers, long gone but still much beloved and celebrated. Maybe, if he were alive today, he would still be singing that catchy song. Because in these anxious times, we look forward to hearing something cheery and good.

My point is, there is beauty in the midst of chaos. We take every effort to find beauty, and in finding it, we find hope, we find God.

The splendor of God’s beauty in nature, even in the clutch of chaos — blue haze on the mountain adds mystery to this breath-taking view from Jeanne’s Spanish hamlet (photo courtesy of Jeanne J. Ashkenazi).

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Taking blessings where we can in these troubled times

Pastor Dan delivered a powerfully moving message during Sunday’s live-stream worship service online. The genuineness and vulnerability carried the words of God straight to the heart. He bared his soul. And in these times when people seek answers and relief to a confusing and horrifying phenomenon plaguing the world, a personal story about how God works is comforting and hopeful. His was a story of faith, hope and trust.

Just like last Sunday’s online worship, yesterday’s was very special in a sacredly intimate way – like God was speaking directly to me through Pastor Dan’s preaching. Obviously, it was with great pain that he shared a trial culled from his wife’s very difficult ectopic pregnancy, supposedly with their first baby. It was heart-rending, especially when the doctor urged the couple to make a life or death decision. Horrific for this couple who always strived to be steadfast in their faith and convictions. Alone in my room while watching this man on the screen agonizing over his testimony with such raw emotion, I sat at the edge of my seat, in uncomfortable suspense for the resolution of the couple’s dilemma, and in empathy, strangely I  prayed to hear something good.

A stark reminder, there still is beauty in this world even in the midst of chaos — from Jeanne’s garden in Spain (photo courtesy of Jeanne J. Ashkenazi)

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Thankful for my first live-stream worship service experience

Today is Sunday. I watched a live-stream worship service, the first I ever attended online. Like many other churches, worship services have been cancelled in attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Part of the preventive over-arching norm called social distancing. Initially, I intended to read scriptures for my Sunday prayer time at home this morning. Instead, I tuned in to my Palo Alto church’s service online. I am so thankful that I did.

Never did I expect that experience to affect me strongly, like the pastor was speaking to me directly. It felt like I was receiving the words of teaching and counsel from the Father Himself, through the preacher’s mouth. I was being spoken to, with no one else about me. Just me and my laptop – and that powerfully moved me to tears. Amazing and awedly strange.

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Prayer, the antidote to fear

The world is ridden with fear over the uncertainty of the duration and effects of a phenomenon, the outbreak of the corona virus. Society is shaken. Lifestyles are changing almost to the beat of an eerie drumroll that vibrates over oceans and continents. Social norms are switching from close and friendly neighborliness to keeping distance between persons conversing – no hugs, no kisses, no handshakes, no high fives, no touching, no congregating, and on and on. Isolation. Be like an island, at least while the drumroll lasts.

But the drumroll will end. The island will welcome visits again. There will be handshaking again, and people can give hugs, or pecks on the cheek, or high fives, and hold hands again. Maybe not in this present reality – but a turn in the road will come. Just trust.

So, you ask, how?

We are extremely grateful for the efforts of medical first responders that risk their own health and well-being by braving the front lines where they take every initiative to combat the dreadful invader as they treat and care for those affected. We take special notice of governments, officials, institutions and groups who spearhead policies, provisions and send substantial aid and resources where they’re necessary. With thankfulness, we send our encouraging thoughts to those laboring and burning the night lamp to find cure or preventive measures through intensive study and research. And of course, our hearts go out to the affected families and individuals while we ourselves take every precaution in this battle.

But with all the concerted influx of human effort – there is one most needed especially in these times of trouble. Prayer.

Prayers to the God who made us all – to One whose love for us is never ending – to One who cares for and accepts us despite our foibles and inadequacies, and even in the depths of our own spiritual vertigo. Yes, let our hearts join in prayer that God will fight this mysterious conundrum that is shaking lives all over the world. Because He is powerful; He is mighty; He is kind; He is all-loving. He truly cares, as He has sacrificially shown through Jesus, His son.

Pray with trust, hope and humility — as life goes on, with a purpose entrusted to us on this earth.

Linda P. JacobRead More »

Resting from a hectic but fun vacation

Have you ever gone on a lengthy vacation, enjoyed it a lot but got so tired that you wished to go home? Well, I just have – but I’m not ungrateful for it. I loved it! Just had too much fun, too much food, too much partying, too much traveling on the road, too much packing and unpacking, too much restaurant hopping, too much talking and storytelling. Too much, too much, too much! But don’t get me wrong, I loved it all – just got too tired and wished to be home.

Now I’m back in Palo Alto, resting somewhat from that hectic vacation, so to speak. Let’s break down this “too much” agenda.

Fresh buko (young coconut) juice – naturally and mildly sweet, the perfect respite from a hectic schedule during my vacation (photo by Nikki). 

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The holidays push the thought of giving to the forefront. For one, requests for donations inundate the mail. Additionally, the media present varied opportunities to contribute to helping the disadvantaged and poor who, too, have the right to celebrate the holidays but have not the means to do so. Afloat is a remarkable effort, especially by non-profit organizations and church groups, to bring cheer to the needy who might find no cheer during the festive season or anytime of the year. Hard to ignore the pleas that attempt to stir compassion and action – give to help the poor.

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What to do — when there’s nothing to do

By:  LPJ

It’s parallel to asking, is there really something in a vacuum? I think there is. Science will argue that molecules abound in a vacuum. So, we can’t say that there is nothing in a vacuum. In similar sense – we cannot claim that in any span of time, there is “nothing to do”. Now, I’m really pinning myself down on a circular argument – but I ask it anyway – what do you do when there’s nothing to do?Read More »

Reflecting on humor – what is it?

By:  LPJ

In my congratulatory message to a dear young couple celebrating their wedding anniversary, I interjected – keep your humor, for love thrives in humor.

What exactly is humor? Among many of Merriam Webster’s definitions of humor are:

“That quality which appeals to a sense of the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous.”
“The mental faculty of discovering, expressing, or appreciating the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous: the ability to be funny or to be amused by things that are funny.”

From your own life experiences, how would you characterize humor?Read More »

Intellectual discussions that thrive on abstracts … until the specifics creep in

By:  LPJ

I take secret pleasure in personality studies and character analysis. My tool is conversation. I delight in intellectual discussions. Especially the kind that delves into deep thought about ideas and ideals. Generally, the talk revolves around abstracts. Not sure exactly if that’s a pattern chosen to stay on the safe side of deliberations. But when the shift turns to exploring one’s inner self and attitudes, revelatory of one’s inclinations and preferences, it sparks wonder and amazement at how much lies behind a face, a behavior and actions – whether of one’s self or someone else’s. At this stage of the casual discourse, the likelihood of jumping into specifics is hard to ignore, and a dynamic shift occurs in the intellectual exercise.

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A reflective Good Friday ushers in a joyful Easter

By:  LPJ

Good Friday. A time to contemplate the greatest love of all. We pause and yield to the thought of that dismal day so long ago, when one so perfect and innocent bore the sins of humanity, one who loves so much that He suffered and died on the cross in Calvary to redeem all of mankind. This is what Good Friday commemorates. It is a time for reflection and introspection. I write this blog in the evening of Good Friday, in stark awe mingled with humility and gratitude that one so mighty and sovereign should be humbled and crucified because He loves us all … because He loves you and me.

And soon, it will be Easter. Great joy! The message of Jesus’ resurrection is one of hope on the wings of faith – the belief in the victory of light over darkness, of love over despair, and in Jesus’ resurrection, of life over death, and that God’s kingdom is eternal. Happy Easter one and all!

I remember many happy Easters of past years. The memories are like gems. They shine and sparkle every time I take them out of my memory chest. Randomly, I take out a few to share with you.Read More »

Eclectic adventure triggered by a San Francisco trip

By:  LPJ

A puzzlingly fun adventure on a mixed weather day happened for me Wednesday last week. My first solo trip to San Francisco from Palo Alto (California) – that alone, made my criteria for adventure. It started at 7 in the morning, on a dark and blustery day. I wasn’t exactly solo … well, I ubered. What would have normally taken a little over one hour took two slow hours in the midst of persistent downpour and dense traffic on the 280 freeway, with a penitent driver who repeatedly apologized for the agonizing turtle-paced flow. I actually didn’t mind. The pitter-patter of rain was lulling me to doze on the back seat.

Uh, I almost forgot – yes, I did mind! I needed to make the 9 a.m. appointment. That anxiety actually perked me back to awareness every time my head nodded for a doze. The movement of cars on the road was painfully slow – and the clock on the dashboard was mercilessly ticking fast. Oh yes, I minded. But I kept my cool.

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Bouncing back with full appetite

By:  LPJ

I just came out of hiatus. Not a pleasant one. It was a tug-and-pull kind of a battle for a week and a half. The nasty flu strain and me, at war with each other. I pulled hard, and here I am, without the fever but fighting an annoying cough and congestion. Like they always say, flu shots are for certain strains, but not for all. Whatever I caught certainly avoided the shot’s target. I’m just grateful that I’m feeling so much better now … thank you for wondering.

Strangely, being sick carries a few positives. It forces one to slow down and rest, to get enough sleep, and drink a lot of water or juices. That’s just what I did. On the negative side, I could hardly eat. My appetite was gone. Bitter taste stayed in my mouth. And for me not to be able to eat when I love food is a huge downside. The fun for eating was gone for me, as I struggled through the fever. Weakness in my body settled like a most unwelcome visitor. But to compensate for lack of food, I almost binged on chocolate truffles. I needed the sugar – and I actually loved it. The sweet in my mouth dominated over the bitter.

A couple of days ago, my appetite came back, an indication that I’ve bounced back. Now, I’m all ready to pounce on my pot stickers, egg rolls, crab fried rice and wanton soup (that I ordered from DoorDash, the food delivery service). Yes, I’m back!

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Dance to lighten up and feel good – told friends who never danced before

We came back from the Asian Market this afternoon with happy faces, my Japanese and Chinese friends and I. Who wouldn’t be happy and satisfied, with loads of groceries and heaping boxes of cooked food. It’s like hitting the jackpot despite paying the price. The prize was more than the price – we came home with lots and lots of food! That’s the jackpot.

My bonus today was discovering that red cured Chinese ham (that’s how I call it) was superb with pickled kelp. The red colored meat carried a very distinct sharp barbecued flavor accented with sweet, most delicious with steamed rice. One of my best simple meals. I can have that combo over and over again.

As I was driving from the market with two Japanese and Chinese friends, I listened to the oldies radio station and half sang along with the music. Suddenly, I felt like yielding to subtle dance moves. I did, while focused on the road, of course.

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Working on holiday weeks – and trying again with resolutions for the new year

Working in the week between Christmas and New Year is like strolling downtown after stores close at 6 p.m. The only businesses open are the restaurants. I worked three days after Christmas. It was quiet, relaxed and quite pleasant. I actually had so much done, including some catching up that required focused attention. Who says that working while most are on vacation isn’t fun? It was earnestly fun in pragmatic fashion – because I got a lot done, and you know what satisfactory feeling that gives!

Well, the week after the New Year was different.

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2018 creeping out the door – where did time go?

Where has time gone?  A question often asked not just by older adults, but a question asked even by the young.  Catch time, if you can.  Hold it a while in the palm of your hand, every second, every minute, every moment. And use each second, each minute, each moment well.  Then let it go, with a thankful heart, as you graciously await the next second, the next minute, the next moment.

It seems just a few months ago when I was blogging about the exiting 2017 and welcoming the new year from the covered patio in my brother’s home in Las Pinas, Philippines. I was blogging while listening to passing street vendors just outside the bougainvillea-curtained window, and relishing the sing-song voices of women calling out their trade, like “Turon-turon” (deep fried bananas), or “Mais con yelo” (iced corn kernels in sweetened milk), or a man’s baritone loudly announcing “Isda-isda!” (fish), and relenting that I missed the turon because I was mesmerized by the wide-eyed fish carried on ice in a cart (see blog: Soaking in the raw ambience of a live stream market on the street ).

It seems months ago when I sat befuddled in my room in our Los Banos, Laguna home, trying to decide what to pack and what to leave behind as I readied my luggage for the flight back to California. I got tired not from packing, but from guessing the weight of one item, and another, and another. A dilemma that led to the decision to leave some clothes but carry all the gifts of native crafts, nuts and candies. (see blog: The dilemma of packing for a trip ).

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Sharing my curious Christmas wish list – do you have one?

When the leaves of trees in front of my home turned yellow, I started to think of Christmas, even before Thanksgiving! In fact, I got so inspired to put up the pre-lit Christmas tree in the living room and wreath on the front door. My nine-year-old grandson’s reaction when he stopped by during Thanksgiving likely echoed everyone else’s – why so early, Lola?

I don’t know … perhaps because I just felt like living up the joyful spirit of Christmas. Or maybe, the lavish autumnal scene outside urged celebration of the lively holidays. Why start celebrating early? I blame that on the magnificent and vibrant colors outside my door. There’s a holiday magic about them.

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Holiday cheer to all – let’s bring it to the elderly

If Santa Claus ran out of gifts, or had no money to buy presents, what would he do? I think he would still fly around in his carriage steered by frisky reindeer, slip through chimney tops, and this time, show himself, to visit families, and children, and especially, the elderly.

A dear family friend in her late 80’s fell twice in two months. Her son recently moved her to an assisted living facility close to his home. The son will drive her to my sister’s house in a few weeks, and we’re having lunch with her. For sure, there will be a plethora of happy memories, of times she and her late husband hosted us at grand parties in their Saratoga home. Her husband, a Stanford alumnus and a business professor, was a kind and humble man who served his guests in the most hospitable and domestically savvy ways, while his lovely wife entertained and chatted with guests. That wife was a wonderful cook. Her culinary skills and artfully presented dishes never failed to draw Oh’s and Ah’s from beneficiaries of her cooking. Well, we’re seeing that wife in a few weeks, and our conversations will certainly wax sentimental over a myriad of fond and fun memories.

A visit with her will be most delightful. I love old stories.

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An esoteric brainstorm on love and romance

Last night’s rousing discussion about love and romance carried through all evening till midnight. This Lola battled the wits of two female career singles in their near mid-30’s, in quite a stimulating intellectual bruhaha that ended on a plateau to agree to disagree over what a good relationship or marriage should be.

I engaged in a lively brainstorm with two highly professional women from two different countries, each, a medical doctor niched in solid careers. I do not know enough of the lovely ladies’ background or experiences in life, but I know enough to suspect that the impact of life’s circumstances wheeled them to the single-minded perception of the significance (or lack thereof) of love and romance.

Wouldn’t you have wished to be a fly on the wall to eavesdrop on our intellectual dissection of love and romance?

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Meaningful Sunday for me – stayed a little longer in church

Not the usual Sunday for me. Didn’t rush home after worship service and Sunday class. I stayed longer than usual in church today — parleyed with friends, ate a church-sponsored lunch offered in celebration of the church’s 70th anniversary, engaged in more social chats over lunch, greeted old friends I had not seen in a while, walked to the ladies’ powder room where I met twin sisters whom I’ve seen but never spoke with before, then drove home.

A very rewarding, meaningful Sunday for me, and I’ll tell you why.

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Sudden attack of homesickness

(Repost from blog of Aug 18, 2018 — with picture and video)

What is it about homesickness that it hits you like a frisbee unexpectedly thrown at your belly and you can’t help but double up and cringe. Homesickness happened 25 minutes ago when I read my niece’s email with photos and videos attached. I am hungry for any correspondence from my old home – from family, friends, relatives. Needless to say, I ravaged my niece’s email while eating my brunch. Just couldn’t wait. Teared up when I saw her message opener, “We miss you.” I choked up, couldn’t swallow morsels of bread left in my mouth, thus pushed my plate aside to focus on the email on my laptop.

Lo and behold! Attached is a picture of activity in the garden. I honestly wanted to be there.

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Meaningful Sunday for me – stayed a little longer in church

Not the usual Sunday for me.  Didn’t rush home after worship service and Sunday class.  I stayed longer than usual in church today.  I parleyed with friends, ate a church-sponsored lunch offered in celebration of the church’s 70th anniversary, engaged in more social chats over lunch, greeted old friends I had not seen in a while, walked to the ladies’ powder room where I met twin sisters whom I’ve seen but never spoke with before, then drove home.

A very productive, meaningful Sunday for me, and I’ll tell you why.

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Frazzled by a technological shift for Babyboomerlola

Embarrassed to admit, but I’ll say it anyway. Technology perplexes me. It frazzles me. For the past week, my web consultant and I battled the consequences of shifting to a newer version of the domain site, supposedly, to benefit from additional features. We were too excited with the prospect of enjoying the advantages over the old program, and either failed or refused to expect challenges and issues with the updated mechanism. The thrill of having something new was just too irresistible, for me at least. But stress crept in.

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A curious celebration of Father’s Day at Alta Mesa

There’s always a reason for deciding on a whim. From church on Sundays, I often turn right to go back home. Instead, today, I turned left and found myself driving to the Orchard store to pick up flowers for my husband’s grave site. I had planned to visit when my daughter comes next week, or next time my son and his family drive to Palo Alto. This morning, I acted on impulse. I took a left.

I stalked the urge to celebrate Father’s Day at Alta Mesa, my husband’s resting place in Palo Alto.

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Feeling frenzied yet rested while watching sports at home

A lot of great things can be said about watching sports. It serves as a panacea for stress or tiredness, even boredom. It makes one forget, at least for the moment, worries and anxieties. An escape, a cynic might say, but definitely, a respite from the doldrums or pressures of the day. Watching sports can stir the adrenalin to such highs. It builds excitement that fires the spirit of competition. And competition spurs more excitement – a merry vicious cycle. I’m fine with that.
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What is your idea of exercise — I tell you mine

Family and friends often ask if I engage in regular exercise. My impulse is to answer no. As you can expect, I get chastised, though kindly, that sometimes I’m inclined to crack an ambiguous yes just to soothe their concern (and nosy curiosity, kind though). Yes, if I consider walking in the office several times a day, from my desk to the cafeteria, the comfort room, the laboratories where researchers continually and devotedly pore over their experiments. Yes, if I include my boarding the elevator and sauntering to the purchasing department on the second floor each day of the three days that I work. Yes, if I include my trekking up and down the stairs at my home and the concrete steps outside to where my car is parked. Yes, if I add walking back and forth many times to the refrigerator and the kitchen when I’m home. So you see, without batting an eyelash, I can vouch to family and friends that I do my daily exercise.
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My offbeat adventure of eating solo in a restaurant

It was an adventure today. I broke my resolve not to eat by myself in a restaurant, since my husband passed. My exemption – some fast-food restaurants in grocery stores. The reason for my resolve — dining in a public place with no company would both be awkward and a bore. Besides, I don’t want to be perceived as trying to “pick up”. Very silly, isn’t it? Whenever I say this to friends, they laugh at me. It’s all in my head, and nothing wrong and extraordinary with eating solo, they argue. I am compelled to quibble some more when this bickering happens. But then, I console myself, they won’t understand; they’re not me. I leer at them and dramatically order: hey, just let me be.

Today was different. What happened to my resolve, I don’t know. I decided to pat myself on the back with food after a regular medical checkup that showed a good blood pressure result. Perhaps that was excuse to yield to a craving ignored for so long. It was 2:30 in the afternoon, and hunger had started to creep in. I practically flew out of the clinic, walked fast to a Chinese restaurant nearby. Only two lady customers were in the room, with a male waiter standing by. Great! Good time to eat by myself, I thought. If my friends could see me now, they would laugh, and they would tease.
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Blessing from random conviviality with an elderly stranger

I just got back from grocery shopping this afternoon, feeling blessed. Not because of the ample groceries heaped high in my cart. Not because of the few summer blouses I impulsively bought. Not because of the fat hamburger and fries snack I treated myself to. No, none of the shopper’s natural highs. I feel blessed because I spoke to a stranger – an elderly woman who asked if she could sit on the bench in front of me while she waited for her friend.

Her friend, she explained, was making the store rounds. In my mind, the friend was taking her sweet time inspecting items she most likely didn’t need but would buy, and this lady stranger had not the strength nor the interest to shop on the whim. Her wait turned to forty minutes of exchanging pleasantries with me. I even shared my big order of French fries which she hesitantly accepted and consumed.
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Tinkering with thoughts about robots

Recently, I blogged about meeting Siri up close for the first time, through my grandson’s new iPad. Unashamedly and embarrassingly, I admitted I was awed by this talking lady on the computer. I also wondered and opined on how much technology progress has changed our world. In my youth, personal computers were just a phantom of the imagination, some brilliant inventors’ imagination, or perhaps, some prophetic allusions in fiction novels and the comic books. And look now. Stretching this line of thinking – will the Marvel characters and their proficiencies be realities in the future?
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Met Siri for the first time – and I’m intrigued and fascinated

Don’t laugh. I’m excited over meeting Siri for the first time, on my grandson’s new iPad, while we were facetiming. Kind of behind, you think?

Two years of saving for his own iPad, my eight-year-old grandson finally came up with the dollars and recently purchased his own, the latest in the series. When I facetimed over a week ago, he was playing a game on it. Quite engrossed as usual, he wouldn’t take his eyes off the screen. As I admitted in an early blog, this Lola finds it a challenge to compete for attention whenever the boy is busy on the computer. His Dad, however, interrupted his game and suggested that he introduce me to Siri. I blanked out – Siri, who’s that? At first, I didn’t get it. Then I remembered — ah, the talking lady on the computer. She has no face, but projects a pleasant voice. I never spoke with her before, so she intrigued me.
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The mystery about humility — and the promise of its bounty

Humility. What is it really? A virtue of the noblest kind, that’s what I think it is. It is defined as a perception of one’s importance lower than others. It is the antithesis of pride by which one elevates self; in pride oneself is superior to others. It is meekness, modesty corollary to the desire to serve. Humility is not cowardice. On the contrary, it is courage and strength of spirit that stays above the fray of mundane cares and appearances.

The paradox about humility, however, is it doesn’t come easy. It can be elusive many times and in a lot of ways. When you catch it, hold it close, because it gets away, like sand that escapes through your fingers when you try to clench it in your hand. When you do have it, you feel an inner peace, and beautiful in the inside. That inner beauty is like light that cannot be quenched.
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Does love spawn stupidity? Hmmm …

A comment I heard yesterday intrigued me, about a realist’s cynical perception of love — that love can evoke stupidity: it can make one think, feel and act stupid. I went home amused by the idea and indulged in my own flashbacks. It is fun to ruminate in hindsight because the humor of it all surfaces in such a taunting way that accentuates the absurdities. I wondered – did I do stupid things when I fell in love? I believe I did … though I’m inclined to calling them silly moments. A few examples I share here and perhaps, they will sound familiar to you, even kindle memories … funny or embarrassing – or stupid?

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What makes you happy – I know what makes me happy (or joyful)

Some would argue that “happy” is short-termed bliss lacking in depth, tenacity and nuance. The better word, pundits say, is “joyful” or “joyous”. I do agree that “joy” carries a solid ring to it. It rests on a foundation of significance, purpose and transcendent supremacy. It is deep rooted and can be inexhaustible. Having joy is far superior to having happiness.

Lasting joy flows from Jesus’ resurrection, three days after his sacrificial death on the cross for the redemption of humanity – resulting from God’s ultimate gift of unconditional love. This we commemorate on Easter, a powerful reminder of the Father’s unfailing promise and our restoration to His glory.

Now back to being “happy”. Nothing wrong with that, if it makes good and sound sense. I am very thankful for happy moments, as well, because they emanate from God’s blessings. Blessings are like a cold breeze on a blistery day; or the trickle of ice-cold water on parched throat, or the fragrance of a rose bloom. I share with you here some insights or thoughts of what makes me happy – in the hopes that you, too, would find your happy or joyful moments. They are blessings to be grateful for.

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What makes you sad – I know what makes me sad

I daydreamed just now about being at the San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf, outside Alioto’s restaurant, inching through a persistent crowd to buy a foot-long shrimp sandwich from the sidewalk stall — taking that sandwich and a cold drink to the concrete  bench across the street, and watching a swarm of pigeons swirl around as I gobble up my favorite sandwich. Happy thought, isn’t it? But then, I felt sad, because that’s what my husband and I often did on many weekends when he was alive – ride the train to SF and jump on the bus just to have that big shrimp sandwich at the wharf, sometimes with fried calamari or zucchini. I never did that again since he passed two years ago, and that made me sad.

Yesterday, I listened to music shared by friends on FB, sentimental renditions of romantic Italian songs by Il Volo that my husband and I loved to listen to. Il Volo singers are superb. In the fashion of Neapolitan minstrels, their voices enthrall, woo and inspire. But sadness hovered when “O Solo Mio” was sung. That reminded me of my husband who used to charm me with love songs in his wonderful tenor voice. As I listened, I thought, “I’m solo”. And I became sad.

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A reflection from a place of vulnerability

Here’s a little of me, or a lot of me, as I delve into the realm of transcendental precepts and keynotes of faith. This is Lent. It inspires reflections and self-examination hinged on a relationship with God, the Father who, with unconditional love, gave His only son to suffer and die on the cross for the redemption of humanity. I share with you my reflections from a place of vulnerability pivotal to the knowledge of self and to a deeper connection with one who created all. It is prudent to pause from mundane cares and tasks to ruminate on a higher plane, and dive into spiritual depths to grasp what is profoundly significant in life.

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The mystic about retirement

This Lola still works, part-time, three days a week. I appreciate the chance to get up earlier than usual in the morning, pick an attire appropriate for the office, prim my hair and prep my face, fix a quick breakfast, take the vitamins and scheduled meds, wash the cup and plate I used, bag my baon (packed food) for lunch, check the stove, then out the door. That’s the routine for work days which, I admit, I’ve gotten the hang of and which I miss during prolonged vacations. This routine could all flow in a rush or in a slow, pleasurable progression. Either way, it’s rooted in my system.

What I’m saying here is, partial retirement seems best for this baby boomer. While having some days off is necessary for errands, appointments, personal chores and rest, maintaining a regular work schedule on other days provides variety and challenge, two ingredients to sustaining vigor, interest, positive outlook and the excitement of anticipation. Work can be a motivation to stay healthy, for what good is determination if the body is not able or lazy. But knowing there are urgent matters to complete or deadlines to meet can goad the body to move and overlook the pain or the tiredness, even the laziness. Work is good for the soul, mind, body — and yes, the pocket.

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Griping about a dry spell … or is it?

I’m sitting in front of my laptop, searching my brain for what I can write about this moment. So, I think about today. A lot of happenings, true, but so little to write about. There mustn’t have been anything that interesting to share. OK, what about what I ate for lunch. That came from my sister who now and then gives me samplings of her cooking. I can’t say much about the food, except that it was a delicious dish of bitter melon sautéed with eggs and tomatoes; I gobbled it all up. So, what about my dinner tonight? That was good, too. Oops, too bad, I didn’t cook that either. I bought it from an expensive high-end grocery store in the neighborhood. Can’t tell you how that was made either, except that it was one of the best stuffed cabbage I’ve eaten. Think, there must be something!

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The frivolity of youth

Ever wonder why boys and girls seem frivolous? They’re quick to giggle or laugh, quick to find something funny, quick to react, quick with their wits, quick to emote, and quick to forget. I know, because they’re young. A 26-year old, who’s not much older than the teens in the party, steered my attention to the three girls obviously enjoying themselves and finding amusement in reading each other’s cell phone messages and viewing each other’s pictures. The girls acted giddy, without the alcohol, but with just plain entertaining tete-a-tete and banter between them. Girls in their late teens, squirming and laughing as they exchanged cell phones and indulged in such hilarity enough to make everyone else around jealous.

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Greeting 2018 – and a toast to exiting 2017

I’m looking forward to fireworks in the neighborhood tonight. Though I hear that a fireworks ban was declared this year, many predict it won’t be widely followed — in the Philippines? It’s where over the decades, ushering in the New Year has been celebrated in the loudest fashion and with the most spectacular fireworks displays in the sky. But we’ll see tonight. I still look forward to witnessing the traditional, garish way of celebration.

So how has 2017 been to you? For me, it went by so fast, regardless of what the sage says that time goes by more quickly when you’re older. I heard some young folks claim it went by like a breeze.

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Feeling daunted, but refusing to be miserable

Battling the cold and cough is far too much of a struggle, especially when they linger past the one- or two-week scourge. More than a struggle, it’s an embarrassment trying to suppress a sneeze or a cough because of the perceived threat of contamination to those adjacent to you. When you burst out sneezing or coughing, you can’t help but get the furtive looks, or imagine you’re getting them, like darts thrown your way. Worse, people start walking away from you – or you imagine them walking away when in fact, there could be a perfect excuse for that, like the need to get a glass of water, or go to the restroom, or the conversation’s just plain boring. Even sadder is when folks who swear they’re fond of you turn their stiff back on you and walk away. You feel abandoned, like no one cares about your battle. Then you’re inclined to indulge in a one-person self-pity party. And just sulk away.

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Rainy day blues bring out food cravings

This is the rainiest December that I know in all my vacationing in the Philippines. December 2017 is not at all like last year’s when it was warm and feeling almost like summer. The upside is the temperature is definitely a bit cooler, perhaps much too colder for regular residents. The breeze is extra delightful, especially because the grown bamboo, mango, guava and citrus trees in the garden fan the air with a balmy freshness. Nearby is a small mountain of thick vegetation that further fans the breeze.

It has started to rain again just now. I enjoy the lulling pitter-patter on the ground and the tiled balcony floor outside. It makes me want to take a nap – but not just yet, lunch is almost to be served. I think I would love the champorrado (chocolate flavored thick and lightly sweetened porridge) from yesterday’s breakfast. It was a hit; so there mustn’t be any more left. And with the champorrado, I would have chosen the tuyo (salted dried herring) – that, too, all gone, a definite favorite with the champorrado.

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Frazzled by a technological shift for Babyboomerlola

Embarrassed to admit, but I’ll say it anyway.  Technology perplexes me.  It frazzles me.  For the past week, my web consultant and I battled the consequences of shifting to a newer version of the domain site, supposedly, to benefit from additional features.  We were too excited with the prospect of enjoying the advantages over the old program, and either failed or refused to expect challenges and issues with the updated mechanism.  The thrill of having something new was just too irresistible, for me at least.

The result – definitely heartaches for me, and headaches for my web consultant.  For this Lola, heartaches sprang from not having the look I wanted for my website, the same look that I was content with on the previous site version.  For my web consultant, headaches built up from having to grapple with technical changes and adjustments required for the visual presentation, and weaving through a mysterious web of computer codes.  And, yes, having to deal with my frequent “nags”.

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People watching at the burger joint

I sat at MacDonald yesterday, gobbling up a quick lunch of nuggets and French fries to gulps of diet coke.  This is not the usual – just had to satisfy a sudden hunger while shopping for the best buys at Walmart.  Up to now, I tell some friends that store offers considerable discounts on certain items that are of quality.  Some of them look at me like I’m kooky.  I don’t want to push, but if they take up my suggestion, they’ll see that I wasn’t exaggerating.

Anyway, while sitting at MacDonald at the end of the wide store corridor, I delighted in watching people go by – a pastime that I sometimes indulge in, especially when there’s no one to converse with.  I noted grandparents with little kids in tow; mothers pushing baby carts while their husbands looked bored and chose to sit inside the burger joint; youths, probably students from the nearby community college, poring over sales before proceeding home; teen lovers holding hands as though strolling in the moonlight; men hurriedly unloading cartful of groceries perhaps trying to make it home before dinner preparation.  But my attention was particularly caught by a two-year old toddler yelling “Lola, Lola” beside me.  I looked up to look for the Lola (Grandma), only to see her parents and big brother who seemed too mature for his young age.  Where was the Lola?  Could that be the reason why the toddler kept calling for her.  Likely, the Lola opted to stay home to either ready the next meal or watch the house, or just rest for that day. Wouldn’t it be splendid for that toddler if her Lola was with the family, delighting on a juicy burger sandwich and salted fries, with the little one grabbing some of those slender slices?

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Act on our compassion and gratitude

Dire effects of disasters and calamities in various locations tug at our hearts. Thousands of families are suffering. When a sector of the population is hurting, we all are. A thread runs through humanity and connects us all. We cannot turn a deaf ear or look away. Stark photos and dismal news of misery confront us every day. It’s true, we never abandon the hope that circumstances will get better, that a brighter tomorrow will dawn. But for that tomorrow, now is the time to extend a helping hand. Several organizations in the communities facilitate donations. Google them for addresses, or watch for their announcements and reminders in the media.

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From fear to love

Bandit and Pebbles. I’ll never forget them. The first, a German shepherd, and the second, a golden retriever half breed, two lovable dogs my daughter and son-in-law raised some years back. Bandit and Pebbles are gone now, but I think of them with deep sentiment. They broke my fear of dogs, and they were the first dogs I learned to love.

I remember Bandit and his very regal stance, head held up high, ears always flexed upward, smooth silky black hair, and a mischievous grin from ear to ear. Looking very much like a handsome prince-dog, definitely of royalty. He was super rambunctious in his youth, constantly on the run and gallop, almost like a horse. Not only did he exude charm and grandeur, but distinct intelligence and smartness. It seemed like he could read minds. But what I remember most was his protective and loving nature. In his advanced years, cancer weakened him. His passing broke my daughter’s and son-in-law’s hearts. That was especially hard for my daughter. Bandit was her first pet.

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Admitting being a baby boomer didn’t come easy

Up until a few years back I shied away from admitting being of the baby boomer generation. I didn’t wish to be considered “old”. I remember my daughter, when she was a 21 year old working in an investment banking company, had told me of a smart 27-year old investment banker who was interested in her. She discouraged him from showering attention on her because he was “too old”. Too old! I thought, what does that make me, decades older – ancient? When my son’s wife became pregnant, I was elated, yet I planned to ask that I be called Mama by my grandchild. But when my grandson Eliott was born in July 2009, I couldn’t help celebrating the thought that now, here’s one who will call me Lola! It has been that way ever since. Without embarrassment, I can declare to the world, I am a baby boomer Lola, graciously and gracefully advancing in age and somewhat wiser — once a blooming teen of the 60’s, a lover and hater of tissed poofed hair, still a nostalgic for old romance and hootenannies, still a swooning fan of Beatles songs, and now a striving student of the modern tech world, an aspiring poet and songwriter, a dreamer, a doting Lola very much in love with the cantankerousness of youth. Also now, a very “young” blogger.

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Intimidated by technology

What is it about the invading tech world that many (generally speaking) of my generation fear, refuse to learn or grapple with, ignore, or not have anything to do with. I may be among the brave few who use and depend on computers for regular work. But don’t ask me to troubleshoot a technical glitch. I’d rather leave that to the much appreciated and revered IT department. I probably could resolve the bug if I put my mind to it; but no … I decide that the IT person can do a better job. I don’t tinker with the fledging gadget because I cling to the crazy notion that the machine might either blow up in my face or completely break down. Silly, but I don’t dare risk it.

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A mindless quirky way of enjoying food

What do you do when you fancy what you’re eating to the max, and feel like you’re in seventh heaven? Do you close your eyes with an ethereal smile? Do you roll up your eyes in disbelief of what you’re savoring in your palate? Do you grunt and exclaim “Wow” in between munches? Or do you look down at your food and pray over it in utter gratitude?

I swing my legs under the table as I chew with gusto. I was unaware of this quirk until my husband pointed it out to me. Some years ago, while I was contentedly eating at the table, my husband relaxed on the couch watching his favorite TV talk show. He finished his dinner ahead to catch a feature on 60 Minutes. That was fine with me because I appreciated some quiet time with my food, intending to catch up with the day’s chats after his program.

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