Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas In My Heart

Christmas is right around the corner again. During this time being away from most of my love ones could be a lonely time. Christmas has always been a very special celebration for our family. We always looked forward to this season with so much anticipation because this is the time of the year when our big family really enjoys spending time together and exchanging presents. The highlight of the celebration would start from all of us going to Mass on Christmas Eve and the good times would continue until Christmas morning. After the celebration, we'd all be sleepy, tired and exhausted but happy. As for me and my daughter Rhea, we could only wish we were coming home this Christmas and be with family in the Philippines. This is one of those times when we feel really homesick.

Having said that, doesn’t mean that I won’t be enjoying the holidays. To me Christmas is special in so many ways. I live in the suburb of Washington DC Northern Virginia. At this time of the year everywhere I go, I hear Christmas songs. At night when I'm home I really enjoy watching Holiday movies on Hallmark channel. Everything just feels so cozy. Every year since I got here I am looking forward to this once a year change in the landscape right where I live. As you drive down the streets of our neighborhood after dark, you are constantly entertained by the panoramic vista of decorated homes all sparkling with myriads of colored lights with thousand tiny bulbs. Some houses have Christmas lights on their trees and shrubs or along the eves of their houses. A few of them have lighted figures of Santa, reindeer, snowmen or other Christmas characters on their front lawns. To me the most spectacular view and the best part is when the ground is covered with a blanket of pure white snow. The surrounding becomes a fantastic wonderland of lights and colors. It is an awesome view to behold. I will always love spending Christmas in the US this way. 

Even though I won't be celebrating this Christmas with my family, I will celebrate it with them in spirit. After all the real essence of this season is what's inside our Heart and what it means to us. And to me the message of this holiday is happiness and the joy of giving and not just receiving. Most of all, being grateful for all that we have. Sometimes because of the things that happened to us we tend to focus on the negative part of life. All we need is step forward a little bit far from our door steps so we could see how bad the sufferings of others are compared to ours. Then we will realized how blessed we are in so many ways. I have always feel so blessed in my life. I have the love of my family, I have real friendships that span half of my life; aside from occasional  common colds, and muscle/back pains that comes with age, my health has always been in good shape, I have a stable job that gives me the feeling of accomplishment every day. In the world’s perspective of wealth, I may not be rich in material things but I have everything I ever need. What more can I ask for? 

May the spirit of Christmas which is peace, joy and love be felt by each and every one of us no matter where we are in this world. May we always find reasons to be happy and enjoy the birthday of our Lord. From the bottom of my heart, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and all the best to come in 2012!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hello Winter!

Guest post written by buddy Orville Lynn

When I was relocated to Boston in the spring, I welcomed the change with open arms. I was not looking forward to another hot and dry Texas summer. I had heard that Boston summers are awesome! Boy oh boy are they ever! I was so pleased with the temperatures and regular rain showers, I couldn’t remember ever spending so much time outside during August. The move to the north had certainly been good for my soul and I was thrilled to know I was going to call Boston home for quite some time. I had spent the whole season reading and enjoying the outdoors when old man winter showed up unannounced and ready to take over. A cold snapped arrived early and the only place I was comfortable was in my home with the heat on high. That’s when I decided to contact Boston direct tv and get my satellite TV. I had forgotten how much I loved classic movies and great documentaries since it had been so long since I had even turned on a television. Come on winter, I ‘m ready for you with remote in hand.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


When was the last time you're lonely? What triggered you to feel that way?

I asked that question because someone told me today that she was lonely and feel bad about it. I didn't know what to tell her. I just want her to feel better. I assured her that she will be fine.

I had known loneliness as a negative feeling that creates a cavity of separation that most of us unknowingly step around. But I think that it is good to be lonely sometimes. From the depth of solitude which is certainly an aspect of loneliness, so many thoughts finally have a chance to bubble up. Thoughts that are not able to come to fruition amidst the clatter of conversation. The world that we have now is always warring and contentious and competitive and grasping and materialistic that sometimes we miss the chance to experience the nuances of our human existence. Sometimes my most profound ideas can rise out of silence and solitude. When I am lonely, I have the opportunity to have a thought that isn’t just in reaction to what I saw or someone else said or did. It stirs my creativity and innovations.

Still there are moments when I don’t recognize that alone, lonely, scared, bored or frustrated are not the same thing.  It is disconcerting to have that realization.Truly, I need to be introspective, at least to be just myself and to feel the ebb and the flow of life.

Loneliness is not a bad thing at all. And as long as I recognize that it is good to feel like that once in a while, as long as I can look at it as an opportunity to look deep inside myself and feel my emotions; then I can truly say that it is okay to be lonely.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Colonial Williamsburg

Because of very busy schedule I wasn't able to travel much this year. But I didn't take that as an excuse for me to not explore the many interesting, mostly historical places just right around my home state of Virginia. Just recently, my daughter and I went to Colonial Williamsburg and spent two days just experiencing 18th century American way of Life.

Colonial Williamsburg (CW) is a collection of approximately 40 original, restored and/or reconstructed buildings located in Williamsburg, Virginia. The 300+ acre area has been beautifully restored to allow visitors to experience what life was like in the 17th and 18th centuries. The streets are devoid of cars and the way the staffs dress, the way businesses/trades are done and even the way they talk bring you back to those times. Many famous Americans graced the streets and taverns of the city, including George Washington, Patrick Henry, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Virginia was the largest British colony from 1699 until 1780 and Williamsburg was then its political and social hub.

Here are some snapshots of that trip

the Governor's Palace

Colonial Homes:

an affluent home and its kitchen and laundry room below

a typical affluent home had a kitchen and laundry room separated from the main house

Businesses and Trades:

The Church:

The country's first Mental Hospital:

That was truly a very relaxing two days for me and Rhea. A good way of getting away from work and enjoying that gorgeous but chilly Virginia weather. It was learning history, savoring great foods from colonial times, talking to really nice people and most of all not worry about time; recharged us and refreshed our minds to get ready for the life waiting for us in the big city.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Changes And More Changes

The fall season is at its peak and the world where I am now is surrounded by vibrant autumn colors-- red, yellow and gold.  The weather has been gorgeous for a couple of days, sunny but very comfortable although sometimes it gets really chilly especially in the morning. But less than two months from now winter will be here and the trees will turn into gray, colorless and lifeless.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not being pessimistic. To me the confetti of the fall might be over and the coming winter might be cold and gloomy but not the beautiful and warm colors of life. I am just in my deep reflective mood and can't help but ponder about my life. I am happy that finally I found the balance that I have been looking for and excited about the changes that I am going through now. But I also think that time can get by me if I'm not careful and find ways to ensure that I am not only enjoying as much of it as I can, but is living the life I want to live.  Everyday I am conscious of the fact that time is precious, it is slipping away and won't wait for me.

And looking out the window watching the falling leaves dance with the wind before touching the ground, I seem to hear them whisper their message that somehow validates these thoughts.

When I first came here in the East Coast there was this little maple tree in front of the deck of our house. This tree was but a small sapling, so weak and hapless that it was almost blown about by the winter winds. Over the changing seasons it has grown taller, thicker. Its branches now reach up to the heavens; its roots have taken a firm grip in the earth. Though its leaves have fallen away throughout each of the seasons, its core has developed to a fuller and more mature stature, and now is the most beautiful tree in the yard. Every time I pass by that house and look at that deck, I can't help but look at the tree and with it, some thoughts make me smile. I feel the warmth in my heart.

Life from my point of view is constantly evolving and continually changing. I am enjoying every bit of it and I am grateful and blessed for all that I am NOW.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Monticello, A World Heritage Site

Come step into the past for a moment and let me take you to a different time. My recent trip to Monticello in Albemarle, Virginia was very informative and an amazing travel down history 300 years back. It is Thomas Jefferson's mountain-top home and designated as UNESCO Heritage Site in 1987 and is one of the finest examples of the early Classical Revival style in the United States.  He built it between 1768 and 1809. This National Historic Landmark attracts approximately half a million tourists every year. Thomas Jefferson is the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence, third President of the United States, founder and deisgner of the University of Virginia, also a UNESCO Heritage Site and just a couple of miles away. Let me share with you my experience of Monticello and its yard and gorgeous gardens through some of these photos that I managed to take. Taking pictures inside the museum was not allowed.
The drive to get there:

Foggy and chilly Virginia by-ways
Michie Tavern was built in 1784 and less than a mile away from Monticello. Foods serve here are from pre colonial United States and they are really good.

the Entrance
the east portico

beautiful architectural details
I can imagine sitting under this shade and pond while reading my favorite novel

Blooms in the garden/yard

Jefferson's home is surrounded by different plants/flowers

and trees

the west portico

My trip to Monticello made me learn more about this great man and thus admire him even more. It was really amazing to see the way that Thomas Jefferson designed his home. It was filled with his innovations, many of which he designed or adapted "with a greater eye to convenience." As in the rest of the house, the bedroom's furnishings illustrate many of his ideas about the efficient use of time, space, and light, including prominently placed clocks, space-saving alcove beds, and light-maximizing mirrors. At the end of the tour, I found myself wanting to know more about him, his life and his passion. He was a man of letters, an intellectual, an artist, a statesman and a lover of the finer things. There is so much to learn about him, and that tour gave me a glimpse of the world Jefferson and his family inhabited.. That was such a fulfilling day for me.