Monday, December 31, 2012

gratitude [grat-i-tood]

the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful
Synonyms include: appreciation, acknowledgment, praise, thankfulness

It could be worse.

I’ve said that a lot this year…to myself, to other people, to the universe. I use it as a personal reminder to be constantly grateful – for the wonderful things that happen to me, as well the awful moments that make me cry.

Some moments are more difficult to pull any gratefulness from; like losing loved ones. I lost a lot of people, this year, who I loved. And whether they passed suddenly or from a longtime illness, the hurt remained painfully the same, and the reality of mortality sunk in each time. If there’s anything that comes from witnessing death, though, it’s realizing the gift of life – my life, the lives of those who surround me each day, and the lives of Tito Ruben, Tito Boy, Tito Greg and Mamang – my uncles and grandmother whose lives I remember with great fondness especially when I look back on the past year.

Like them, we each get ONE LIFE – unless we are of the feline persuasion, we get one crack at it, and know not how much time we have to live it. On this New Year’s Eve, I’m thankful for the 366 days I was given since this time last year to: turn 34 years old, develop new friendships, challenge myself to take chances, be frustrated with learning something new, be a Disneyland Annual Passholder, watch my grandparents defy age, have nonsensical conversations that end up in uncontrollable laughter, sing along to One Direction in the car like a teenager, take a random trip to Portland, teach my parents how to use an iPad, organize a huge family reunion, see my friends get married then have children, spend car rides listening to my sister talk about school and work and grow up to be someone I’m really proud of, revel in another awesome Olympics, rise and fall on the condition of the Lakers, celebrate birthday parties for godkids, nieces and nephews, gain more godkids, nieces and nephews, have dinner with friends that last for hours, own an iPhone and lastly – I’m just really thankful for the 366 days I’ve been given to BE THANKFUL.

“Thank you,” are my two most favorite words. It’s my favorite thing to hear, and even moreso, my favorite thing to say. Gratitude is a waning sentiment these days. People walk around like the universe owes them a favor. They curse at the hardships they encounter and are never satisfied with the blessings that rain on them. Many keep tabs on how often life hands them an unfair hand, and when good fortune lands on their laps, it’s either too late or not enough. This past year I learned that everything I receive is always enough (despite a few momentary lapses in judgment on my part), and sometimes it’s more than I feel I deserve. That is what comes from just being grateful for everything – you’re never left wanting.

Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with another year, and for filling it with people and experiences that bless my life each second.

And thank you, family, friends and acquaintances for being such blessings.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

inspire [in-spahyuhr]

to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence; to fill or affect with a specified feeling, thought Synonyms include: affect, animate, arouse, cause, elate, embolden, enkindle, enliven

Never underestimate the power of a well-written letter. Or, really, a heartfelt one.

I just finished replying to an email from my wonderful friend, Tam. She’s one of the kindest, most genuine souls in my life, and she never passes up a chance to let someone know how special she thinks they are. On a day when I’ve felt nothing but doubt in myself, doubt in my ability to carry out a dream, or doubt in allowing myself to even have one, she wrote and I read, “I truly want to thank you for being an inspiration.”

An inspiration to her, who I admire for being so full of faith rather than fear…unlike me. For someone who clings to her faith for protection and peace, I sure don’t give God enough opportunities to guide me through anything challenging. Aaah, the irony.

As much as I try to rely on only myself to maintain any sort of balance in the confidence department, some choice words from someone I trust never hurt. In fact, it always helps, especially when I’m not deliberately searching for it.

I’ve been berating myself all week for a lifetime of dilemmas that never reached a side; for not hoping hard or doing enough for daydreams to become reality sooner; for being an eternally late bloomer…in every aspect of my life. This was the week of self-loathing and today, things were reaching their paramount…until Tam’s email.

In a short electronic note thanking me for inspiring her, she inspired me. In just a few sentences, she kept me from stepping into a gloomy place that I promised months ago I would never visit again. It’s full of hopelessness and guilt, and no place for someone aspiring to experience good things – like me. Sometimes we need reminders, and the perfectly-timed letter always does the trick.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

immobile [ih-moh-buhl]

incapable of moving or being moved.
Synonyms include: motionless, fixed, anchored, immovable

It felt like huge needles were implanted in my right foot, and every time I tried to stand on it, it stabbed me from the inside, making a 10-foot walk to the bathroom sink an excruciatingly painful task. It made everything, an excruciatingly painful task. I could barely sleep the last few days. The pain was throbbing even while I lay there in bed, unable to toss and turn because any movement hurt. Uuugghhh, I’m such a baby, right? I hate when I can’t do the simplest of things, like walk downstairs to get a glass of water.

At least this isn’t the first time this has happened. That’s a previously injured anterior tibial tendon for ya’. Once a bad tendon, always a bad tendon, I suppose. After my last post-surgery therapy session two years ago, Dr. Blaine told me, “If your foot starts to hurt again, you know the drill – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, ibufrofen, TENS unit and if hurts for more than a week, come see me.”

Well, it lasted a week and then some, so I went to go see a podiatrist who works with Dr. Blaine. Dr. Randhawa, who is two years younger than me, took a look at my foot, had me turn my foot every which way, and recommended an MRI. She wrapped my foot up into a tight right angle that actually really helped….until I had to take it off to take a shower. Then the pain, you know, shot straight back into my poor, no-arch-support feet.

I’ve been reading up on this injury, which is really common, especially in people who have tiny, flat feet and wear tiny, unsupportive shoes. Sue me, I love flats.

So yesterday I had an MRI for the very first time. It was an interesting experience; not at all what I expected, based solely on what I’ve seen on House or ER, of course. On TV, MRI machines don’t make all this noise that require the patient to wear earplugs. There were sounds that resembled metal banging against each other, or laser-shooting guns from Star Wars. As I lay there on the sliding table, I thought Han Solo and Luke Skywalker would come crashing through the door and carry me back to the Millennium Falcon. And when the technician said it would take 30-40 minutes, I thought he was kidding, but nope, I lay there, trying desperately not to move, for 30-40 minutes. I kept nodding off, wishing I’d brought a book or something to keep me occupied, which probably isn’t allowed since I’m not supposed to move.

I’ve been working from home the last three days, literally icing the area of concern every half hour, and trying not to want to pop another pair of Advils in my mouth. My podiatrist thinks I may need another cortisone shot, but she won’t know for sure until she sees my MRI results.

Until then, I’ll have to brave the discomfort a little longer. I’m starting to feel some soreness on my left foot, probably because I’ve been hopping on it the last few days. I hope it doesn’t result in tendonitis. If it does, just call me a tendon-killer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

service [sur-vis]

an act of helpful activity; help; aid 
Synonyms include: assistance, favor, utility, courtesy 

You need a water pump…and a new alternator. 

Yes, sure, whatever – just do it. I’ve decided, for my own sanity, to wave the white flag when it comes to car repairs. I’ve spent many years huffing and puffing about how expensive it is to own a car, how my long commute is the root of all this vehicular evil and how every time I have enough money saved to buy something major that I’ve been wanting, I need to have some service done. 

There are always things that soften the blow, though. I may spend a lot of time and money at Glendale Toyota, but hey, they know us there. There are service agents who greet me by name when I drive into the lot. One valet (shout-out to my homie, Ramon) has seen me so many times that when it’s time to pick up my car, he doesn’t even ask to check the receipt to know what car to look for. He sees me, I wave hello, and then he gives me a signal that says, “I’ll go get your car.” He drives up, shakes my hand, holds the door open and then, as I’m putting on my seatbelt, he closes my door and gives me a wave good-bye. Just like that, my car service experience is bookended with nothing but kindness and familiarity. 

Today I had to go with Dad to pick up my car. Before we left, Paul (the service agent who took care of my car this week), opened up the hood to show us exactly what they did. My car was making a rattling noise and it was, as Dad had suspected, my water pump; the same water pump I’ve had since I bought the car 192,000 miles ago. When they replaced the water pump, they heard another rattling sound that was masked by the old water pump’s noise. They basically had to undo what they had done to install the new alternator. “I hate having to add on more service,” Paul told me, so apologetically. “I know how you feel,” he said. So because we’ve been such loyal customers, they didn’t even charge us for the labor required to uninstall the water pump, install the alternator and then re-install the pump again. All that labor would’ve cost more than the parts, and though the price I paid for the service was a little heartbreaking, I couldn’t help but feel more blessed than frustrated. 

Blessed that even though he doesn’t drive my car, Dad knows when something’s wrong with it. Blessed that I have the means to pay for the basic necessities in life, like car maintenance. Blessed that the people at Toyota are always so kind to me, and that loyalty means something to them. 

My little Rav4 that could is comprised of thousands of parts and I can’t expect any of it to stay preserved. It’s not made of fruitcake. And as long as she needs me to take care of her, I will. She’s serviced my needs. How could I not service hers? [Yes, my car is a she.]

Monday, April 02, 2012

productive [pruh-duhk-tiv]

having the power of producing; generative
Synonyms include: creative, constructive, effective, prolific, fruitful

I swore, absolutely swore, that I would fold those four baskets of clothes this week after last weekend’s laundry extravaganza. But on Monday after work I was just too tired, on Tuesday there was a game, on Wednesday I went to see Mamma Mia and then on Thursday there was a game. So, see? I really did have my reasons for keeping those four baskets of laundry sitting in the living room for a week =)

It was an unbelievably long week. The weeks are starting to get longer and the weekends have been so eventful that, as much as I prefer otherwise, simple chores like folding laundry (or DOING laundry to begin with) fall by the wayside. I thought I’d be too lazy to do anything when I got home on Friday night, but I decided that very morning that I wouldn’t spend the weekend lying around the house.

I drove straight to Glendale Toyota after work to drop off my car for her regular service (major service this time, plus a few replacements, oy). When I got home, I had dinner then went straight to foldin’…and foldin’…and foldin’ some more. Goodness, how many people did I do laundry for?! By the time I put everything away, it was 9:40. I thought it was past 11. Too tired from the work week and all that folding, I was in bed by 10:30. Sad times, old lady, sad times.

The next day, I was up and at ‘em by 9 am. I ate breakfast, picked up my car from Toyota and, since they so kindly gave her an exterior car wash, I came home and cleaned the inside. And by “clean,” I mean vacuumed every inch under the seats and the trunk, tossed every valet parking stub, receipt and other random pieces of paper. I even sprayed a little GAP Heaven in there. Nothing’s too good for my 190,000+ mile Rav4.

After a quick shower and lunch (pizza with Mom at the kitchen counter), I watched Kobe Bryant go 3-21 against the New Orleans Hornets and STILL hit a game-winning shot; I wrote the post-game report, finished editing through a shoot and next thing I knew, it was 8 pm and Tin was home from her conference in San Diego, and I was listening to her recount her fun weekend.

I can’t remember the last time I checked off that many tasks in a span of 24 hours. I have to say I’m kinda proud of myself. I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, and I must sound like such a dork loser for appreciating a weekend filled with seemingly nothing but chores. I enjoy small victories, what can I say? =)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

hunger [huhng-ger]

a compelling need or desire for food; a strong or compelling desire or craving
Synonyms include: craving, demand, hankering
I watched Hunger Games twice in one day – don’t judge me. A week after pre-sale tickets were available, there were still no plans to see it with anyone so I figured I’d buy a couple of tickets and make my sister go with me.

“I haven’t even read the books,” Tin said.

“It doesn’t matter,” I told her. “And don’t worry – it’s not Twilight.” For some reason, that sealed the deal.

A week later, Iya organized a morning get-together to watch it and I almost forgot I bought tickets to Gold Class Cinemas to watch it with my sister. There are too many things going on on my calendar and I’m starting to forget things. I wanted to join the rest of the group to watch it, just as we promised a few months ago, but still enjoy the Gold Class experience (if you haven't tried it - it's a must!), so I said, screw it. I'm probably going to end up watching it more than once anyway. Why not in one day?

So on Saturday morning, I woke up at 8:30 and 11 of us saw the 10:30 am showing of The Hunger Games at the Arclight in Pasadena. Here’s my thing with movies I can’t wait to watch – I try to have as low of a level of expectation as I can so that I won’t be disappointed. It’s hard, though, when you’ve read the books a second time and watched the trailer a dozen times. But I just learned to accept that expectations aren’t just unavoidable – they’re part of the experience.

I’d seen Josh Hutcherson (Peeta) and Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) in a few movies and I’ve seen a slew of their interviews and I just couldn’t wait to see how they portrayed these characters that are so richly infused with all the best qualities and flaws that protagonists should have – ability to sacrifice for love, difficulty in dealing with that sacrifice, occasional moral abiguity – it’s all there in the Hunger Games series and I really wanted to see if these actors could not just PLAY the parts, but BE them, just like Daniel Radcliffe wasn’t some English actor in a movie – he WAS Harry Potter.

I wasn’t disappointed, in either the first or the second viewing. There were some parts in the book that I loved but, due to time constraints, I realize either had to be left out or cut short, but nonetheless, the movie told the same story and I enjoyed it just as much.

Even my sister liked the movie. Then again, those recliners for seats, the mozzarella sticks and sweet potato fries during the movie might’ve helped sway her, just a smidge =)

Monday, March 19, 2012

moment [moh-muhnt]

an indefinitely short period of time; instant; the present time or any other particular time; importance or consequence; a particular time or period of success, excellence, fame, etc.
Synonyms include: flash, instant, juncture, occasion

Two days ago, on St. Patrick’s Day, one of my very best friends married one of the very best men and I got to be there to see it. All week long, we were on weather-watch, hoping and praying that the rainy day forecast was wrong, or that we would at least avoid the bulk of the incoming storm.

“You know what?” Cile said, “if it rains…whatever. We’ll deal with it.”

And that attitude is exactly why this wedding was perfect from beginning to end.

My day started at 5:30 am so I could pick up breakfast from Porto’s before heading to the Luxe Hotel to get ready with the rest of the bridesmaids. The drive was a quick, but careful one. It had rained the night before and the drizzle, when I left the house, had turned into droplets. The streets were slick and the 405 was a-flurry with mist shooting from every direction of every tire that spun, and it was as foggy, cold and damp as any rainy day would be. When I walked into the suite full of bridesmaids, hairdressers and make-up artists, however, there was nothing but warmth. Whether it was heat emanating from all the hair appliances or the two dozen bodies in the room, I had suddenly forgotten it was raining outside.

After Cecile was dressed and ready, we accompanied her to the hotel lobby. She and Lester decided to do a first-look, where the bride and the groom get to see each other before the wedding. It’s a popular thing to do nowadays, most times to have pictures taken in order to save time after the ceremony, but it’s also a good time for the soon-to-be-married couple to have semi-private moment.

Lester stood at the end of a short hallway lined with windows and rows and rows of sheer curtains. He had his eyes closed and head down, hands folded in front.

“Do I have to hold my bouquet when I do this?” Cile asked me. “I wanna just hug him.”

I told her she could do whatever she wanted. This was their moment after all.

She walked down that short hallway, probably faster than the photographers and videographers would have preferred, but I don’t blame her. She was excited to see her groom. She put her hands on Lester’s shoulders, and when he turned around, he had the biggest smile I’ve ever seen since I met him, and it looked like he didn’t know whether to kiss her or hug her or just stare at her. Cile is already so beautiful in her own right, but on her wedding day, it was just so unfair to the world because no one should look that gorgeous. Lester couldn’t look any handsomer either. He just has such an ease about himself, and even in that tuxedo and bowtie, he looked as comfortable as any groom could be, and why shouldn’t he, about to marry someone like Cile?

After a short bus ride to St. Monica’s, us bridesmaids had to wait with the bride up in the choir loft. In the 20-30 minutes that we waited before the start of the ceremony, a string quartet positioned by the altar played a medley of tunes. I sat next to Cile for a good part of the waiting, thinking to myself how I couldn’t believe that after all these years, she was finally getting married. I tried to hold it together as much as I could, keeping a to-do list in my head for the rest of the day’s activities, but after I put her veil on just outside the church, I welled up a tiny bit.

“Thank you, love you!” Cile said.

“Love you too!” I told her as I walked away.

The walk up the aisle is always so nervewracking – smile, hold the bouquet by your bellybutton, don’t trip, and if you do, don’t take your partner with you, don’t forget to bow when you get to the altar, etc. But it was an easy walk, and seeing everyone who was there to celebrate made the day even happier than it was already up to that point.

After Tito Andy hugged Cile and basically handed her over to Lester’s care, they both lit a candle in honor of Tita Beth. I thought of Tita Beth every time I was out with Cile on a wedding-related errand. I thought of her all morning while Cile was getting ready, and I thought of her even more as Cile walked up the aisle. I have no doubt Tita Beth was watching over all of us – how else could it have been such a wonderful day?

The ceremony was every bit as personal to Cile and Lester as it could be, and a surprise performance by Tito Andy on the violin and Ja on the piano made it even more so. They played a song called, “Tanging Yaman,” which, translated into English, means “special treasure.” It was, simply, touching and another opportunity to cue the waterworks.

After the ceremony ended, the day whizzed by even quicker. The wedding party was whisked off to Skirball in a big bus where we enjoyed some loud, laughter-filled alone time with the bride and groom. It really was a fun wedding party to be part of and I look forward to when Cile and Lester have kids, which will probably be the next time we all get to see each other again, haha!

The cocktail hour served yummy hors d'oeuvres with personally-named St. Patrick’s Day themed drinks, and the reception was complete with a special guest leprechaun. Cile and Lester didn’t miss a single detail.

I had the pleasure of giving a speech, along with the matron of honor and the two best men. As much as I enjoyed writing my toast, I enjoyed listening to Junior, Ate Didith and Derrick even more. Hearing old stories and shared sentiments are always some of the most heartwarming moments of the day, and this part of it was no exception.

After the toasts and dinner, it was party time. Cile and Lester are blessed with a lot of friends and family, so the evening was not short on exuberance on the dancefloor.

This was the sixth wedding I’ve been a part of in five years, and the third time I’ve had the honor of being a maid of honor. People have asked if I ever get sick of it, does it ever get old, and my answer is always no. Every wedding day I’ve been part of has been a different experience. The only thing that remains the same is how happy I am when I’m there.

I’ve known Cecile for over 17 years. We were college roommates for four years and we’ve literally seen each other through our best and worst moments. Spending the wedding day at her side and seeing her marry Lester will probably rank as one of the best of our best moments. I’m so very happy for them!

Happy Honeymooning in Jamaica, Mr. & Mrs. Broas!