Saturday, January 12, 2008

Life is beautiful

Year 2007 was a year of changes. New people, new events came into play in shaping our family's life. Here's a recap:

- Patrick and I spent our first full year with our cat, Shadow. Indeed, Shadow is not a human baby, but she is loved all the same if not more. In May, she turned 6 years old, for which we threw a birthday party among our nearest and dearest. We got for her a special china with 18-karat gold lettering and some irresistable kitty caviar. For all her charm, sweetness and wits, she deserves all the spoiling she gets.

- In February, I started a new career in an independent book publisher near Chicago. Many of you sent warm congratulations and encouragement--thank YOU. This new job has been an enriching experience, as you had probably guessed when I first announced it. I read and sell books for a living. For a seven-year-old, that's like going to Disneyland everyday.

In this job, I am surrounded by talented and motivated people. I found a mentor in my manager, a friend in my colleagues, and an inspiration in our books. I often hear that the life of salesman is lonely, but I find that on the contrary. I travel, I read, I talk. Because of these, my job has become a journey in and with myself. And this journey is splendid from every angle.

- In June, I visited my friend Diane in NY, thanks to a free business trip. It had been so long since I last saw a friend from Manila. When I saw her, I felt somehow that I had a glimpse of home. I also finally met her Christian, after all those years of hearing about him. Thanks to those two for making time.

- In August, Patrick and I went on a much-needed vacation to Washington state. While we were there, we visited his relatives who live in the countryside. There we experienced the Emerald State at its finest: an uphill walk lined by fresh grass, rows and rows of pine trees, trees thick as cotton everywhere you look. The wind was so fresh and uninhibited, Uncle Bob and Aunt Julie had their windows open all day--and this was in the summer! They have six kids from ages 2-18, and three pets. You can only imagine the ruckus in their household, but there was laughter every minute. I am visiting Seattle this month for business and I am definitely paying that bunch a visit.

- September was a defining month for our family. Patrick was offered two lucrative out-of-state jobs: one in Seattle and another in Dallas. He had long been looking for a satisfying job where he can finally use his experience. He opted for Dallas. I thought it was a well-deserved promotion and indeed the new job has done him well. He finally smiles everytime I ask him, "How's work today honey?"

- I was barely home here in Chicago in the latter parts of the year. In November, we went on a short vacation to drive down to Dallas. Along the way, we made some pit stops including an overnight stay in Memphis. Photos from this trip are posted in here and some more are in here.

It was also during this time that Patrick and I built a new home in Dallas. By built, I mean make a living space out of a two-bedroom townhouse. In a matter of days, we had furniture, appliances and even Direct TV! Now, we won't have to miss a football game ever again. Indeed, nesting is a great bonding tool for couples.

- Any salesman will tell you that the last quarter of the year is the ultimate crunchtime. I flew out several times to see some clients. Somehow, I managed to convince them that our books are worth buying and they should give us their money. By some grace of God, I suppose, I made my annual numbers. Now, if only that achievement is worth a two-week all-expenses-paid vacation to the Dominican Republic, then life would be perfect, wouldn't it?

We spent two weeks of family time here in Chicago for the holidays. Shadow obviously missed being with both Patrick and myself, she was always begging for attention. We visited family and friends, one of whom even got engaged! At the end of those two weeks, it was hard to believe it is already 2008. So in the spirit of the new year, here are my new promises.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Things are changing

Come November, Patrick and I will become one of the 3.6 million married couples in America who live together--apart. Commuter couples, as we are more popularly known, are husbands and wives who choose to live in different states or distant cities, often to further our careers. Patrick, for example, has taken a hefty promotion in another company who required him to relocate near Dallas, Texas temporarily. I chose to stay in Chicago. Lucky me, my company allowed me to work from home in Dallas one week a month, while Patrick's company agreed to fly him back and forth their headquarters in Chicago.

It is obviously not the ideal, or dare I say traditional scenario, for a married couple. But without sounding defensive, Patrick and I are quite comfortable and confident with our forthcoming situation. When he was making his decision on which career step to take next, we sat down face-to-face and weighed the pros and cons. Are we going to own or rent in another city? How often should we fly out to see each other and how much will that cost us? How long are we going to do this? We laid down our choices and we listed our priorities. We both looked at the big picture and I was thankful that we were on the same page.

I am very thrilled for my husband and I am immensely proud of his achievements. I am thankful that I married a gentleman and an achiever

I am also equally excited about the opportunities we both have on our plate. And most of all, I am beyond grateful that we took time to understand what our choices mean to each other and that we took time to look in the same direction.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ten good things that happened in the past 10 days

Let me give you a rundown while I can still count them with my fingers! Here they are in no particular order:

1) Patrick and I went on a vacation for the first time in more than a year. Ah, our schedules finally met where we can be in one state in one weekend! It was a much needed time alone.

2) Patrick has been receiving recognition for his hardwork and professionalism. Well-deserved, my dear.

3) Our baby kitty Shadow survived four days without Mommy nor Daddy. Aunt Leslie took very good care of her while we were gone. Too good that she gained almost one pound. It's probable time to give Dr. McLaren a call.

4) A good, old friend of mine called from Viriginia. The last time we talked was about two years ago. I'm so thankful he's having a ball in his new home.

5) I met Uncle Bob's big, happy family.

6) Everything was in its right place when I went back to work.

7) My friend Misyeli will find out this weekend if her baby will be a boy or a girl. And she promised she'll let me know!

8) Liz brought me a Polar Bear toy from her trip to San Diego. I named her Sandy.

9) Justine Henin has advanced to the semifinals. Novak Djokovic keeps on advancing. This year has one of the most heartstopping U.S. Open in years ... eventhough we all know Roger Federer is going to win!

10) Our plans are slowly--and ever so elegantly--becoming a reality.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A letter to my Manila

In all my life, I've never known anyone or anything meaner, colder and more bitter than Chicago's weather. Alright, I may be exaggerating, but you must understand where I am coming from.

Last weekend, I feasted on a few spring clothes and indulgences. Long, flirty skirts that swirled just below my knees when the wind blew gently; a walk downtown at close to midnight while actually holding Patrick's hand and not his gloves. See, the simple pleasures of spring unanimously belittle the pristine color of winter ... so why did it go away? More importantly, where did my springtime go?

Since yesterday, winter has been teasing us with its deviousness. A temperature drop of at least 40 degrees in 24 hours will tell you Chicago weather is not the friendliest among its brood of 50 states.

But, like Lizzie always says, c'est la vie. I still think of you, Manila, my Manila (to quote the late Nick Joaquin, one of your beloved sons). You will never leave my heart, because despite your heat and noise, I loved you like a sister. A child. A parent. A friend. Remember last Easter when all of the city left you for the beach? I stayed with you; we drove around together at 100 mph, and we reveled in the quietude of your usually rambled life. I knew it was our last Easter together, and since then, you had been the one that got away.

And I guess I must love Chicago now. It is the air I breathe, the language I speak, and the home I build. I must love Chicago now, because when I roll down my window, I start to feel a warm sensation rising from my bones despite its bitter chill. Chicago is my adult self, and I admire what it is becoming.

Still, inside me, there remains a hope that you and I will meet again, and you will embrace me as though I still belong to you and you had missed me. Because I miss you terribly Manila, my Manila.

Photo notes:
Above: Manila Bay Sunset
Taken from the window of the hotel where I spent my last New Year's Eve in Manila:

University of Santo Tomas, the Royal and Pontifical. Also where Patrick and I first met. This walk was where we knew:

And finally, Eastwood City. A place that means something to all of us. Tell me about our Eastwood memories, please. Remind me, eventhough I don't forget.

Friday, February 09, 2007

A season of changes

Nothing says "Time is gold" more than time itself. In less than four months, since my last blog entry, so many changes had taken place. Back then, I was just talking about the forthcoming fall, but now as I write, winter is already at its shrewdest.

And very soon, a new chapter in my life will begin. I just accepted an employment offer from a fast-growing independent book publisher here in Chicago. Ah how fast time flies! Months ago, I was a mere spectator of this company's bailiwick; next week, I will be an official employee.

As I ponder on these coming changes, let me go back a step and briefly revisit some events that took place during my hiatus from blogging:

1. Patrick and I adopted a five-year-old Maine Coon from ADOPT Pet Shelter where I work as a volunteer. Her name is Shadow (photo inset), and her charm unleashed a nurturing side Patrick and I never thought we had. She currently holds the position of the Queen of our household and the center of our universe.

2. I started working part-time at our neighborhood Barnes and Noble, where, to this day, I enjoy the daily perks of discounted books, coffee, CDs and DVDs. (Beat that!)

3. I worked full-time in a book manufacturing company forty minutes away from home. Books everywhere, it's like utopia! But in early January, I realized how different book manufacturing is from book publishing. I left the company sans any regret because if not for this company, I would never have taken a chance at my new employer.

4. The National Football League (NFL) season once again boasted an entertainment extravaganza. This year, we witnessed our very own Chicago Bears rally to the Super Bowl after more than two decades of absence from The Big Game. I finally understood why this game is watched by two out of three households in America every year: It represents a culture of fierce competition, and a culture where every member in a team has a well-defined function and a fair chance to succeed.

5. I now wear skinny pants. Not much to say about that, except I love how they hug all the right places.

6. I celebrated my first holiday season here in Chicago. Patrick, Shadow and I spent a quiet Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year with Patrick's family.

Fast forward to next week, and you will find me clueless and wide eyed behind my new desk. Some changes just rattle you with as much FEAR as excitement, and this new job belongs to that category. Oh, but what is life without a little living on the edge, right?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Looking past the hurdles

Some things are simply not meant to happen or to be owned. It could be a pair of shoes or a dress that has no more of your size. Or a trip to the beach that is way too indulgent. A job or a slot in a university that could clinch your way to a good, happy future. The love of your life, the person who plagued your high school years, or the one who got away. Whatever form it comes and whatever its name, there’s something we pine for every now and then, something or someone so valuable but is so elusive it breaks our hearts just thinking about it. These are the things that claim birthright to our disappointments in life. If we had a dime for every disappointment we encounter, then we would all be millionaires.

Lately, I have been contemplating about my own bout with disappointments. Last Thursday, after stepping out of a meeting, I decided to walk off the anxiety I had been feeling for days. This anxiety was born from anticipating something I had long been waiting, working, praying, asking for. I figured it was a perfect time to ruminate and calm my senses on my own because PJ was in Toronto for business. I knew that the answer for my questions would come that day, if not Friday, and I just had to prepare myself for it.

So the answer came, and it was in the form of a “no.” For a word so short, it hurt so much. Very quickly, it turned my anxiety into disappointment and then to pain. My wish was simple, my intentions were clear and generous, so why did I not get a “yes?"

After quelling the initial unrest, I asked myself more sensible questions. Why did it hurt so much when I had been through many other disappointments far worse than this? Why did I accept such bad news with the shock of a novice, as if I had learned nothing from life at all? In the greater scheme of things, my intentions were, in fact, self-righteous, impatient and almost intolerable.

I reckoned that disappointments are all the same. As grown ups, our wishes are no different from the Christmas gifts we couldn’t wait to open when we were children. One Barbie for someone is the same coloring book for another. They elicit the same experience, the same anticipation, the same need and hunger for satisfaction and fulfillment. Disappointments could be measured through different means like monetary value or recognition, but the most accurate measure is experience, because experience is the most palpable lesson we will remember.

It is fair that our disappointments should garner the same reflection as the blessings we receive. No matter the worth, we owe it to ourselves to just surrender and say “It hurts.” We also sometimes owe it to ourselves to tell someone—a spouse, a friend, or parent—that you need a hand to hold or someone who will listen, just as we would share a good piece of news.

The purpose of disappointments is not to weaken or destroy us. Quite the contrary, they are there to build experience, wisdom and relationships. They exist so we will appreciate more what we have, and recognize the intrinsic bliss of the things we just ignore.

That night, my husband came back from his business trip. As I welcomed him home, I felt a sense of ease taking over my dissatisfaction. Because he and I are together day in and day out, I sometimes forget how priceless it is to have someone by my side. Life really does get lonely no matter how hard you try to be happy, but I am thankful that there are disappointments to teach me, strengthen me, and remind me that no victories or failures are tantamount to family and friendship.


Photo credits: at at

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Cooking for couples

Whether you are newlyweds or just reinventing your relationship, you may find cooking together an enriching experience. If you play your roles right, this can be a therapeutic exercise for your marriage because it opens an avenue for teamwork. By cooking as a couple, one learns how to give way while his or her partner leads, and the result is a harmonious interplay between two loving individuals.

This harmony, of course, takes quite some time to master. When my husband and I cooked together for the first time, I went close to hitting him in the head with the skillet he asked me to wipe. I thought to myself, WE are supposed to be cooking, not cleaning kitchenware! Why was I the one left to do menial things while he had all his creative juices running?

I wiped the skillet, beat the mixtures, and measured the ingredients albeit against my will. All afternoon that we were cooking, I was grumbling like the devil.

But one appetizer, two entrées and one dessert later, we were a couple again. He, the food scientist, created a sumptuous meal. Had I let my pride get the best of me, we would not have finished in the kitchen, and our guests would have starved to death.

I realized that it was not easy for him to see me struggling the way I did either. I was then an amateur in the kitchen, while he had been practically making a living working in it. In all fairness, he warned me before we cooked that the kitchen has room for only one chef, and one of us had to give way and be the sous-chef. When it was my turn to be the chef, he so politely did what I asked him to do—without any devilish grumblings in the background, mind you.


How to cook as a couple:

Start with simple meals. If it’s the first time for both of you to cook, start even simpler, like breakfast during weekends or a stir-fry meal for lunch. A pasta entrée makes for a good division of labor; one of you can take care of the pasta while the other cooks up the sauce.

About three cookbooks that have different menus for different occasions and seasons should be enough. (We have Italian, Asian, Simple Pasta, and Old-fashioned Holiday cookbooks at home). The Web is rife with recipes of sorts, but I suggest finding Web sites that would best suit your needs and lifestyle. They also have to be sites that were recommended by those who have tried and "tasted" them. Most of my recipes were lifted from Unilever Food Solutions and Unilever. These two sites have a multitude of recipes that range from special holiday meals to everyday dinners, and were contributed by an army of seasoned culinary experts. Plus, I never have a hard time looking for the ingredients in their recipes. That is a definite bonus especially if you and your partner have little time to run to the supermarket.

Here’s a simple entrée you and your partner can try together.

Shrimp Creole

2 tbsp. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
2 tsbp. all-purpose flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. green pepper, chopped
1 tbsp. red pepper, chopped
1 tbsp. celery, chopped
1 jar (16 oz.) Tostitos salsa (mild or medium, depending on your palate)
1 can (8-oz.) tomato sauce
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 ½ shrimp, cleaned, deveined

1. Heat butter and flour in a non-stick saucepan until brown, stirring constantly.
2. Add garlic, green pepper, red pepper and celery. Sauté for 2 minutes or until tender.
3. Stir in salsa and tomato sauce. Mix evenly. Simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Stir in shrimp. Cook for 7-10 minutes or until shrimp are pink and cooked through. Stir in soy sauce and simmer for one more minute. Serve warm over rice.

Note: The adjective "creole" refers to a type of food prepared with rice, tomatoes, peppers and sometimes, okra.


Photo credits:

Pot and veggies: at

Shrimp creole: at