Saturday, March 24, 2012

under the weather

Been on sick mode all day : migraine, nausea because of migraine, threatening fever, aching muscles, and an overall exhausted feeling. Been sleeping 5 hours or less for the past week. Been really hard at work. And my sister was right, we never really gave ourselves a pause since the beginning of the year when we were juggling work projects, practicing for the kendo exam, and also pursuing our creative projects.

So maybe it has all finally caught up and now I am being forced to take a full day off from all the "shoulds" and "musts".

The weather perfectly reflected how I have been feeling all day. Took these photos mid-afternoon- around 3:30pm.

After hovering this way for a good part of the afternoon, rain finally fell in torrents.

Monday, March 19, 2012

has it been a week??!

Yes, it has. In fact it has been more than a week. More than a week of no posts.

I could not gather myself enough for a full post these days because I have been working on two big projects and my attention is already spread thin enough as it is. So I will try to at least update with some snapshots and quick notes for the next few days.

Today I cooked a week's worth of food to be frozen or refrigerated so all I will have to do is reheat them. That way I won't have to worry about menus or even chunks of time spent preparing and cooking and washing all the pots and pans after.

Work will still be intense until the end of this month, then there's a Holy Week break, and then the work will pick up pace once more until I am free to go on a beach vacation in early May.

All my crafts and creative projects are on a pause as I get the work projects done. I miss them a lot. The most I could do now in between work breaks are read books and write in my journal.

Oh well. I gotta do what I gotta do while the other good stuff that I've been visualizing are still on their way to me. :)

Leaving you with one of my mom's cartoons:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

a universe of hope

I had a really bad case of insomnia last night. I was only able to fall asleep at almost 5AM. I suspect it was the sudden surge of creative energy. First it was the Ganesh drawing. Then my fingers were still itching so I made another collage. I started on a third but I was already too tired from the long day of work so I made myself go to bed. And had insomnia.

This morning the first thing I did after making myself a fresh cup of coffee was to continue the third collage. This time it's a combination of images and text.

The text came from a journal entry that I actually do not clearly remember writing. It was written while I was in Hong Kong and I'm guessing I must have written it while I was very very tired and I was just probably taking dictation from the writing muse inside me. When I read it, it feels like reading somebody else's writing. A bit weird, actually, hahaha. I picked this piece of text because it best reflected the sentiments coming from the images I have put together. Also, the fact that I could not exactly remember writing the text adds a bit of otherworldly feel to the whole piece.

The paper folds in from the sides like a window. So when it is opened, one is greeted by a forest of words and flowers.

The full text goes:

Today there was the touching of the hand. Naturally, like it has always been done. Today there were many tiny boundaries crossed. But much more remain un-breached. And still so many walls up.

Sometimes I am on the verge of being overwhelmed. Mostly by the yearning to be near.

I have ten thousand stories lined up in my head. Simple and complex variations on how it could be.

I dreaded these days. The long mornings, afternoons, and evenings of getting to know him. Of getting used to the rhythms of his presence just as I am used to my own breathing.

Sometimes I am suffused with the simple joy of his attention. And sometimes I am crushed by the little ways he does not see me.

Often I would question myself on the spot, at various moments, testing the waters of my own feelings. How do I feel at that exact point in time? There would be times when there is nothing, and I would feel relief. There would be times when there is yearning, and I would feel sadness. There would be times when there is a black void of possibility and I would feel fear. And sometimes there would be moments of very brief flashes of something akin to love and I would feel a warmth and a joy in my heart and a small part of my soul would reach out to him, an unseen hand touching his face in that tender way that lovers do.

Sometimes I get to convince myself that it is all nothing. That it was just the product of inconvenient circumstances and predefined conditions. Nothing fateful, just logic. There is no magic, no fairy tale. 

And then he does something, a little thing, the tiniest gesture. And all that nothing becomes a universe of hope.

And now I can feel a fourth piece simmering on my fingertips. Who turned on the inspiration faucet? Not that I'm complaining. :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

true north

This is a portion of a piece that I just finished tonight. I was supposed to be getting ready for bed because I was starting to feel a bit nauseous from having to stay in front of the computer for a whole day and sorting through lots of video and written data.

But my fingers were itching and I couldn't stop seeing colors in my head. So I got the little sketchbook where I drew Ganesha and started drawing again. In my head were images of brick walls and water crashing through and maps. I saw air and water elements, and a compass. 

removal of obstacles

I've been working all day on multiple tasks for two projects. I had an early dinner at around 6pm then resumed working. Then as I was in between tasks I found myself starting to sketch. I got up and took my Ganesha from the shelf to help me along because it was turning out that I was trying to sketch him. I got the figurine when I was in India - when I met that astrologer who told me many things that I have yet to see.

Ganesha is popularly known as a Remover of Obstacles and I can certainly use that on a number of things in my life right now. However I have also heard it said that his favors can also be tricky in some way, like they will manifest in ways you never expect or in ways that will make you think like the opposite is happening.

In any case, he seemed to have helped remove some of my creative block tonight. So, thank you, Lord Ganesh. I appreciate the inspiration. :)

And dear Lord Ganesh, could you maybe help me out with #13 too? :)

creative roots : my mother's art

My mother comes from a family of seven children, supported by two working parents. She is the third daughter. Her family was basically lower middle class, which meant not everyone could be sent to college. Most of her sisters learned dressmaking, the youngest became a professional dancer. Her own mother, my grandmother, had a beauty salon and a gift shop where my mom helped out. Her father, my grandfather, was a painter who also worked as an illustrator in an advertising office.

My mom had a dream of being an artist. A painter, to be exact. She applied for a long-distance course at Famous Artists Schools in Connecticut.

She actually passed the screening exam and got a good grade.

Here are some pages from the Talent Test displaying her natural skills.

Unfortunately though, my grandparents could not afford the tuition fee. My mom went to a regular college taking up a regular course in accountancy (I think) but she never finished. She became instead as my grandma's right hand at home, in charge of most of the housekeeping and cooking, until she married when she was 24 years old.

I will be featuring the pieces she had done in those early years of her life and for starters here are some self-portraits she had made:

I'd love to be able to draw even half as well as these!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

13 Best Things About My Five Days in Hong Kong

I went to Hong Kong to take my first dan examination for kendo. I did not pass the exam. And while I took comfort in the protests and surprise of my friends and my kendo seniors, I also have a pretty good idea why I didn't make it, something that only really sunk into me when I was already there, trembling on my bare feet on the cold floor of the dojo.

I believe that trip was meant to teach me something else. The exam was a ruse of the Universe to get me where it wants me. Because maybe I was just way too stubborn. And also I needed the perspective by being far away from all my comfort zones. I also got reminded of many simple joys that I may be neglecting to appreciate in my daily life.

I learned that I needed to trust myself more. I cannot be the first person to limit myself ---- that just because I am female, only five feet tall, no longer in my twenties, no previous history and never been adept at all in any sports or martial arts, non-skinny --- that I can only do so much and that I will just always be average or mediocre in my kendo practice. I have to trust in my own inner power and strength, as well as my own strategic skills because kendo is not simply a physical contest. I need to trust myself to find the harmony of body and spirit that will make me worthy of being sent to the tournament in Hong Kong.

Matcha and Hokkaido Milk Ice Cream with Mochi can make up for all the shopping I could not afford to do. I was on a very strict cash only budget and the beautiful vintage-y items and craft materials in CitySuper almost destroyed my resolve not to use my credit card for anything. But with almost superhuman strength I resisted to purchase anything beyond my means. So when I spotted the ice cream stall I did not hesitate -- and the taste of the ice cream simply soothed all the material wanting away. No kidding.

If I am meant to have something I want, even if I let it go, it will find its way to me. Or, multiple obstacles and delays along the way do not necessarily mean never. This is the story of my Instax camera which I have wished for oh-so-much since before Christmas last year. I almost purchased it online but then the money had to be re-channeled to something more urgent. Then there was supposed to be a contact who can get it for me much cheaper and it didn't pan out. Then my sister was planning to give it to me for Christmas but then it ran out of stock. Then I started saving up for it but at the last minute before I left for Hong Kong, I had to re-channel the funds again for necessities. At that point I just thought : what the heck, forget it.

Second day into Hong Kong, I came across a shop selling a whole Instax package with 2 free boxes of films, a close-up lens, batteries, bag, and photo album for a highly discounted price. It was the perfect package.

My kendo is not that bad. I am not at the bottom of the food chain, so to speak. This is related to item #1 because given my self-limitations I really felt that there wasn't much point in going 100% because my chances of doing decently are really low, like too much effort for little gain, and I will never catch up with those who started playing younger. But when I went out there and even had a chance to face a younger, faster, opponent, I realized that the very things I thought were limiting to me actually became strengths - I played differently, I strategized differently. As my sister put it, we played unexpectedly because we could not match them in speed and stamina. As a result, I got a few good hits in. I wasn't too bad as I thought.

I could live on pies and tarts for breakfast for days. Especially if they are from the Pie And Tart Specialist. Each for HK$10 or less. Ultimate favorite is the Cheesy Milk Tart.

Soaking your feet in a bathtub half filled with hot water while eating ready meals from 7-11 after a long day of walking is bliss. This is what my sister and I did. Feet hurt more when you walk around for a whole day without buying anything. Empty hands have their own weight.

So we got tuna onigiri and salmon rolls and spicy noodles and fizzy drinks. Arranged them for easy access around the tub while we figured out which side to sit on. Added bubbly gel to the hot water. And we slipped our very sore feet in. Happiness!

When the universe presents you with a perfect setting, you get on the stage instead of walking away. Our daily life is filled enough with routine and responsibilities that we often just plod on and rarely go off the well-beaten path. But once in a while there is a chance to play other roles, or to give other aspects of ourselves a few moments to stretch out in the sun.

In my case, it was a setting to be sweet and somewhat vulnerable. I have always been a self-sufficient, take-control kind of person. I have also often kept myself at a safe distance with an escape route when socializing. But once in a while, when you least expect it, someone gets through to you and then the universe conspires to keep on putting you in each other's path. Don't fight it. Just go with it. Enjoy the moments. Sit on that empty space beside him. Smile back. Accept offers of help. Say thank you. Immerse yourself in the conversation when you're together. Appreciate and savor the little sweet habits that begin to form and that make you smile to yourself when you remember them. Rediscover that delicious state of wonder and joy. Don't over-think. Live it. Enjoy it.

Days without internet access is so refreshing. I've known this for a while but you appreciate it more when the hours you spend online is actually replaced by other activities that you realize are equally, if not more, enjoyable. Such as sitting in a park leisurely eating pie. Or walking around discovering a city. Or having long conversations and getting to know people you never thought you had so much to bond with.

The good ol' spin-the-bottle game never loses its magic in bringing kindred spirits together. It may sound cheesy or corny for some but believe me, it works. It breaks down barriers, breaks through shyness, and opens up new ways of connecting with people. My sister was getting ready to get into her pajamas while I was considering making a trip to 7-11 to get some coffee when a knock on the door brought an invitation to hang out with the guys in their room. It was the first time we actually had a chance to hang out and get to know the other guys in the dojo and we are glad we did. For myself it was a good exercise of opening up and reaching out to meet the other person/s halfway. It was a practice in generosity as well as I shared my time and my presence and participation (I usually hate games except the video kind). The endless laughter gave us tummy aches and sore throats. Well worth it.

Being treated like a girl feels good. Like being helped with heavy things. And having doors opened for you. And having things taken care of for you. Being waited for. Being looked out for while crossing the street. Being looked out for while boarding the train. My instinct has often been to assert my capability to take care of myself. Sometimes it's good to just give in.

Getting out of the usual routine and following your heart can lead to wonderful experiences. I know this already, but the meaning sinks in much deeper when you actually experience it. Now I have a benchmark for how I should feel in my daily life as a kind of guide on whether I am compromising on my happiness and passion or getting trapped in the safety of routine. In those five days I slept for less than twelve hours put together. But in each waking minute I was very much alive. I followed my heart. I did what needed doing. I braved my way through the stuff that scared me. I actually let go of a lot of the things that generally hold me back.  I stepped out of my comfort zone in some cases.

I love cold weather. Even if the cold wind slices through my cheeks. I love how everyone looks nice and warm in their nice coats and jackets and scarves and boots and hats. My hair also behaves very well in cold weather instead of freaking out with humidity.

that's my sister in her really nice jacket loaded with pies and sweets
I fell in love. (Uh-oh)

Had any life-changing trips lately?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

a free friday and conversations about love

I made yesterday a free day. What with the Hong Kong trip and then the work that had to be done the very moment I got back, I was exhausted and drained towards the end of the week. In a twist of luck, Friday's fieldwork was postponed and rescheduled, so I decided I should give myself a break. In another serendipitous stroke, my best guy friend texted and wanted to meet up so at high noon I was outside his office building to meet up with him.

the street of the office where I used to work. everytime i visit i try to see if i miss that life. i miss my friends, and the lunches, and the coffee hours. i sometimes miss the dressing up. 
This best guy friend of mine is pretty cool. I'd recommend him to any girl looking for a serious decent guy. He's got his head and his heart in the right places. He's still got enough of the good old-fashioned values that make life have that extra depth and steadiness while at the same time he can rock it with the volatile younger set -- basically getting to savor the best of many worlds.  He's also a romantic - a rare breed.

my matcha green tea latte, delicious and bitter, like love sometimes
Over salmon and beef tongue, and afterwards over tea lattes, we caught up on each other's stories and as always happens, we consulted each other on the state of our love lives.  He always gives me sound advice, and that very valuable male perspective. He certainly gave me that much needed pull to keep my feet on the ground regarding my current dilemma. In return, I give him my thoughts and perspectives the state of modern relationships in general as he puzzled over what women really wanted. We both graduated from a university where every student has an automatic minor in philosophy so you can imagine how we have grown to love to dissect and analyze and theorize.

In our circle of friends there is a bunch of us who have not yet settled into marriage, much less into a long-term relationship. In the case of my friend and I, we always kept on finding ourselves back to square one, looking for The One. We say we are open and ready. Yet somehow nothing's leading anywhere. We both have people we are interested in but we can't somehow break through. The other single people all claim to be wanting to be in a relationship but no one is really making a move. And then there are those who just seem to not care at all whether they are in a relationship or not. We seem to have become dead ends and brick walls to each other. If the human species depended on us for survival... well, you get the picture.

I asked if it was because guys don't take risks anymore, or if girls have become too self-sufficient. We are all at that stage where we are stable and able and have enjoyed enough of life to move on to the next level. What are we waiting for? My friend asked, are we that tentative?

Are we perhaps too stuck in in our single comfort zones? That maybe it's too much effort to make that shift? I love my little studio. Have I actually thought about eventually sharing it with someone? Or even giving it up for a new home with another person?

And as self-sufficiency goes, it could be that our need for an Other has become less urgent. We can give ourselves what we want. We can make enough money. And sex? It has become available enough without the fuss of commitment. We give away our kisses and hugs so casually nowadays. Even the desire for children has become less urgent. Women who want to be mothers first seem to be slowly becoming exceptions than the rule. We all want to be something else first.

My friend said that maybe the shift required of getting into a relationship especially for those in their 30s is too much reworking of habits and priorities. I said, that is possible, the add-on to one's life has to be significant enough to push anyone, especially the jaded/bitten/burned ones, to make another shift in their life, to be willing to ride that roller coaster again.

I said we need something that will move us strongly enough. We need to bring back romance. Where is the love, so to speak. My friend said we need to get "smitten" back and I think he may have a point. I also realize that nowadays, we actually get embarrassed to be "smitten", or "in love", or "crazy" about someone. It's like it's a weakness or a vulnerability, something to be hidden or tamed. No one wants to be a fool over love anymore. It all only happens in the movies now.

I said we have also grown too fond of playing it safe. There are too many options and venues for a guy to test the waters with a girl without actually putting oneself out. We have lost many of the old traditions and values of courtship. Do guys even ask girls for formal dates anymore?  Or do we all just wait for things to "fall into place (conveniently) and see how it goes"?

So there. That was probably an unusual post from me but I just had to write it and share it. Maybe it's also because I am falling in love (early stages, very dizzying).

But true to the spirit of this blog, inspiration and optimism are the key. I have a friend who is getting married in May and she was once our ultimate single girl -- but she got found. And now I recall all the other fairy-tale-love-stories of people I actually know.

We will all be found.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

coming soon!

Just a quick note to let you know that I already have a few posts lined up and they are currently in progress. I had to deal with a lot of work when I got back from Hong Kong so I could not get back fully into the blogging groove yet.

For the past days I have been doing fieldwork that starts early in the morning and finishes in the afternoon. After that I have to do some post-work and some home chores and I haven't even caught up on any sleep yet. I am also behind on some banking errands --- yikes!

But here's what's been cooking so far in my blog draft folders:

-  the return of the Baker's Dozen : 13 Best Things About My Five Days In Hong Kong
-  the Liebster Awards! -- I am so happy to receive one from Chrystina and I am putting together my own to pass forward
-  introducing Sunny Side Up, the little shop that my sister and I have been "playing" with for the past few months
-  a little story about my mom's creative history and a gallery of her drawings made way back in the 1960's!

So there -- at least you'll know that I haven't been idle nor neglectful. Although I do occasionally find myself lost in thought, dreaming...