At ground level

A column about LIFE

Happy Spring!

Yes, I know. It has been months since I have written in this blog. “Too busy,” I shrug off an answer when my friends ask me why. The truth is, sometimes, life slaps you down so hard it takes some time to get up. It’s happened before, and always, I managed to get up, though barely. This time, it took a toll on me, and even writing was no longer a safe harbor.

The tragic news came on Thanksgiving Day, right after we had enjoyed a great meal, a wonderful Thanksgiving with family. I look back now and realize God was still kind. When I received the news, He made sure I was surrounded and comforted by family. If a big storm had to hit me, I was in good company.

It’s taken months to get back on my feet. Some days I would even wonder how long I could keep it all together. Since then, Christmas has passed, we greeted a new year, and now, it is spring. Friends have visited, I’ve attended celebrations, loved ones have passed on and I have managed to continue to bury myself in my work and dote on my loved ones. I am grateful for the friends who know and who are brave enough to ask me how I am. Sometimes I can talk about it; other times, I just can’t. But they ask anyway, and it’s nice to know they care.

I know that no family in this world goes through life unscathed. Rich or poor, we have all had our share of problems. For years I have wondered, can anyone have a problem as unbearable as mine? For it’s a problem that won’t go away for many years, if at all.

The past months I’ve come to fully accept and also realize that things could be worse. I have friends who have close relatives who have “disappeared” and have found no closure; then there are those with a son or daughter in the military, stationed in the Middle East, and each day, they worry whether they will ever see their child again. Then there’s the tragedy in Japan, watching your family being swept away by the tsunami. There are those caring for relatives with debilitating sicknesses. Yes, no one goes through life unscathed.

In the past months I’ve also learned to compartmentalize my worries and try to dismiss the needless anxieties – to accept the things I cannot change and not dwell on them so much that it brings me (and the ones I love) down. And not to worry too much about the future. As my dad used to say, “God will provide.”

Just the other day I came across one of the columns my parents wrote in a weekly Philippine magazine. They related the story of some blind beggars in an Italian town. A man observed that one blind man seemed to be receiving more money than the others. Curious, the man approached the blind man and saw a small sign hanging across his chest. On it were written the words: “It is April, and I am blind!”

With April here, I think about this story and open my eyes to everything I didn’t see because I was dwelling on my sorrows. That radiant sun, the beautiful sky and stars aglow, the glorious sunset, the flowers that are now starting to bloom. I think of my very favorite Bible verses  in Matthew 6:26-34. These words calm me:

26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,

29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

His message is clear, isn’t it? May God protect me from needless anxiety. Keep me strong and let me continue to have faith. If God takes care of the trees, the flowers and birds, what more you and I, right?

It is April. The storm has passed for now and the sun is shining. Happy Spring!

April 1, 2011 Posted by | Children, Family, Friendship, Life, Philippines, Religion, Writing | , , | Leave a comment

Marveling at the fast-paced world of instant communication

I continuously marvel at this fast-paced technology. I still remember when, in the late 1980s, VHS tapes were the big thing. My eldest daughter was around four years old then. We had to go somewhere and lamented we would have to miss our favorite TV show.

“Just tape it, Mom,” she hollered as-a-matter-of-factly while doing a cartwheel on the living room floor.

Her dad and I looked at each other and chuckled. This little girl didn’t know when we were first married, we had to make do with an old black and white TV with rabbit ears and no cable!

At that time computers were slow, big and bulky. Soon they, too, became speedy, compact and more advanced. Now, it is no longer enough to have a desktop; we need a laptop, or even an iPad. Now, computers and their software are advancing even faster than cars. For Macs it is no longer enough to have Tiger. There is Leopard and Snow Leopard. Windows is at number 7. My gosh, I still have to update my Microsoft Word so it reads docx!

Then there’s the marvelous e-mail. What a delight it was to receive that first e-mail from my sister in the Philippines!

“What’s your ulam (in Tagalog, the Philippine language, it means viand, a main dish that goes with rice) tonight?” she e-mailed me.

Adobo (a Filipino dish),” I e-mailed her back.

We used to e-mail each other frequently; now e-mail seems to take more time. Texting is the key to instant communication, as well as IM, iChat, ICQ, Yahoo Messenger and, of course, there is Facebook, Twitter and all the other social media. Today, we have Webcams and can actually talk and see each other at the same time.

With the mobile phone we can communicate with anyone in virtually any part of the world – instantly. I made the mistake of buying my 15-year-old daughter a new cell phone a few months ago. I thought it was neat because it was a touch phone. I didn’t realize it was a true smartphone and allowed her not only to text and take photos, but to use the Internet, as well. Then I got my cell phone bill and saw it skyrocket due to the e-mails and Web surfing she did when I grounded her from the computer!

This fast-paced technology has changed my world. Thanks to the Internet, I can learn about what’s happening around the globe. Through Facebook and my cell phone, I am now in touch with many old friends and relatives.

I do lament over the lost art of letter writing. I even chastise my kids and tell them by texting too much, they are losing the art of conversation. Yet, there are times when, even I, don’t feel like conversing for a long time. There are times when I just want to say “hi” to a friend and ask how she or he is doing. Sharing just one sentence on my wall can connect me with my friends. Their comments give me that warm feeling. I hope my comments make them feel the same way.

We can still write letters and we can still converse over the telephone. But look at all the other tools we now have! There is no excuse NOT to communicate with all these options at our fingertips. We can connect any time, in so many ways. It’s a wonderful world, with so many new and exciting innovations.

So, now, we come to this blog. I still have to master it, but communicating is the first step. Is anybody out there? …

September 10, 2010 Posted by | Philippines, Writing | 2 Comments

Just starting …

I’m just starting this thing that’s called a “blog.” I like to write. In fact, writing has been my career for over 30 years, along with being an adjunct political science instructor.

I started out as a government researcher in the Philippines, my homeland. After pursuing graduate studies here in the U.S. and marriage soon after, I settled in rural Iowa. In a place so unfamiliar to me, I didn’t know what to do, where to start, what job to pursue. The closest town had a population of 278 people. I became number 279. I thought to myself, “Well, I can write.” So began a very exciting and fulfilling career.

I started submitting weekly columns on international affairs (for $10 an article) to a local newspaper, and was eventually hired as a freelance writer. A few months later, I was hired by the rival paper as a reporter, columnist and, after several years, became editor.

When we moved to the city, I picked up where I left off, and pursued the same career. I also taught political science courses at nearby colleges and universities at the same time. By the time I left Iowa after having lived there for 25 years, I was managing editor of five community newspapers in the Des Moines area. I so loved those communities and still miss them today.

Now, living in California, I work in public relations and write about the real estate market, which can be quite interesting, especially in this state! But I miss that other kind of writing, where I can express my opinion about anything …

So, in an attempt to fill that void and keep up with this fast-changing technology, with much encouragement from my eldest daughter and close friends, I have decided perhaps I can do that type of writing in this thing called a “blog.” So much has changed since the time I used to mail a typewritten column to the newspaper. At that time, I already thought the electric typewriter was an improvement from the manual machine! Now, if I could just master this blog!

The weekly column I wrote for the community newspapers was called, “At ground level.” I named it such because I wrote about my first-hand experiences living in the U.S. – in a farm in rural America, and then, as life progressed, my everyday experiences as a wife, a mother, and as a journalist traipsing around several rural Iowa towns, and eventually, the city and its suburbs. I was sure that there were people out there who could identify with my feelings and observations.

“At ground level” was last published six years ago, when I decided to move on to a new chapter in my life. I was sad when I quit the newspapers, but I felt it was time to head west, where I am now, essentially starting over.

Adjusting to a new place doesn’t get any easier with age. There are times when I’ve felt it’s as tough as the first time when I, a city girl from another country, settled down in an Iowa farm. That’s what makes life so interesting – all the new challenges and experiences! And it’s why I am keeping the original title of my column, so I can share these experiences and my thoughts with everyone  – at ground level.

September 3, 2010 Posted by | California, Iowa, Philippines, Writing | Leave a comment