Monday, January 31, 2011

Sunday Indulgence

After a close and personal encounter with a rattle snake, putting out a small kitchen fire and finding an entire bag of marshmallow down my toilet, I decided to celebrate survival this morning with a healing meal of pure junk.

The cafe is already buzzing with people when S, a neighbor and I walk in, yet no one seems to be eating anything.  Not the pair of teenagers who got up early to neck in the corner; nor the young mother watching her toddlers hanging upside down from the booth; or the thirty something clean shaven guy in full business attires pecking on his computer; and certainly not the older yet distinguished looking gentleman in neat polo shirt and gray slacks reading the morning news.  Though the warm sunshine made everyone look soft and radiant, happy and glowing, they also looked a bit hungry, maybe even emaciated.  

I order my usual chocolate croissant plus a caramel mocha.  Then my eyes caught an unfamiliar shape in the display case, a miniature chocolate cake, named chocolate banana surprise.  I order it without asking what the surprise was.  It turns out to be a dollop of banana cream in the center but the best part was the chocolate layer outside.  Smooth, rich and thick, it was bittersweet and perfect in between sips of my mocha and bites of the croissant.  S stares at me in disbelief, but she dives into a danish and a latte with an equal abandon.  We let crumbs drop and coffee mustaches form, enjoying the sensation of waking up every cell to that first shot of caffeine and sugar.

But of course the morning wasn't complete without the chance meeting of another friend H who implored us to stay longer and, have another "snack".  We oblige and I order an old fashioned chocolate covered donut because I love its slightly crunch texture, and S getting a muffin.  We each get a refill on our drinks as well.  It is becoming like a little party with all the food spreading out in front of us and extra chatter flying away from us like a little cloud of roasting marshmallows fumes or the smoke rising from a little kitchen fire, carrying away anxieties and an occasional giggle or two with it.

As we head out the door to go about our errands or sugar comas for the rest of the day, we get another refill and a snack for the road.  Everything is starting to seem pretty hilarious at this point and while goodbyes were said dozens of times, we struggled to find ways to actually stop talking, as the conversations had a tendency to speed up rather than slow down whenever an urgency to wrap up the parting process increased.

 It is a sweet sorrow indeed, sometimes.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Award Season...

It is the awards season and high time I followed up on all the generous awards I've been receiving.  Apologies in the delay, I had a few posts in the works (and I  keep them in my head during those times) so it was a bit of a juggling act for a while.

Thanks to Barbra L from Notes From The Second Half who passed on these awards to me.  If you ever wonder what the title means, you should check out her profile and her blog, it's a neat story.  I hope you like it as much as I did.

Also as I've been posting on the header section of my posts,  these bloggers passed me the stylish award.

Most of them have been blogging for a while, but I think Starlight started around the same time I did, so we have a special "new blogger" connection sometimes I think.  She is better at it though, so you'd find more fun stuff and more visitors on her blog usually.

Simple Thoughts is just that, he is a straight shooter, but his thoughts are not always so simple.  I find myself nodding while reading his writing a lot, reflecting on pretty deep stuff.

Caterpillar is a friend from UK, she has a fun blog that ranges from new puppy adopting her to all sorts of other musings.  In fact that is part of the the name of her blog, "Musings  and confessions of...", if you want to find out more, please click on the link above.

So here are the awards I got:

1. Life is good
2. The Irresistibly Sweet
3. Stylish Blogger

I have to say I love both of these concepts. I mean being a chocoholic, sweetsaholic and loving all sorts of other good things, how can life not be good?  (OK, don't answer that, work with me here)

I also love answering questions about myself.  My friends all know they have to shut me up in time or I could sit there and talk about myself all day long and they'd get stuck with no way out.  This is another reason I was so late in accepting this, it's called self ministered delayed gratification.  It's a fancy way of saying "save the best for last".

So ten questions about myself, here we go:

1.      If you blog anonymously, are you happy doing this?  If you aren't anonymous, do you wish you started out anonymously, so that you could be anonymous now?

I am only semi-anonymous, you know like "semi-automatic"?  Anyway, I started being somewhat anonymous as I am very insecure about my writing and that the anonymity made me less self conscious about it.  

I just really like the name "shopgirl" also, as I used to be somewhat of a shopaholic.  People who know me well are always asking, "so, when are you going to start that fashion blog of yours?"   I'd say: "what do you mean, I sent you a bunch of emails asking for comments last week! (I didn't.)"   They'd change topic real quick after that.  

If I start another blog or this one over again, I'd probably stay fully anonymous.

2.      Describe an incident that shows your inner stubborn side.

The only thing I am pretty stubborn about these days is that I am stubborn about nothing.
3.      What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror?

Someone who badly needs hair products, a make over and is smiling for no reason.

4.      What is your favorite summer cold drink?

I don't usually like anything cold, but champaign on ice (or Kir Royale if I was in Paris) will do nicely for a really hot summer day, but short of those white wine works too.
5.      When you take time for yourself, what do you do?

Funny you should ask, I wrote a blog about it and it was well received. So rather than repeating things, please give this a visit and let me know what you think.   Though if time is unlimited here, I'd definitely travel.
6.      Is there something that you still want to accomplish in your life?

There are just too many of those things.  Learn more languages, travel more around the world, make a difference (original I know).  I am one of those people that if I won the lottery, I'd become a career student in some place fun and exotic.  But I'd always wanted to learn new things, have new experiences, try breaking the mold, so to speak. 

7.      When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the shy person or always ditching?

I was all of the above.  I get bored of ditching for the first two years of school so I became the overachiever from 3rd grade on.  Then I got bored with that and became the clown for about a year and a half.  I was both ditching quite a bit and somewhat of an achiever through middle school.  Right now I am playing the role of a loser and truth be told, I may have just found my calling in life.
8.      If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment in your life, what would you see?

I am not sure this answers it but it is something that has already happened.  It was the moment when I realized I needed to stop blaming my circumstances and look at changes needed in myself instead.  It was a turning point.
9.      Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog, or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people and events?

No talking about myself is a hobby, which is why I started a blog.  I am less comfortable talking about those around me as I tend to feel very protective about them, their privacy and identities.  I always ask permission before I post something and I usually change names with just a few exceptions (those who gave me permissions in a more general sense).  So I tend to write about myself more, and I am not that great at making stuff up so it is my true self or I'd be writing fictions.  Connecting with the community I found on blogsphere had helped me opened up more, I would say.

10. If you had the choice to sit down and read a book or talk on the phone, which would you do and why?

Talk on the phone. Though I hate the phone as a medium to communicate, I always prefer human interactions over well, something that is not.  But I love books and I do read a lot. I am a bit of a dreamer and a good read can inject a lot of colors and fantasies into my dreams.  I also can't always get a hold of my friends, as they, just like me, are a busy bunch.  Sadly though, I did the majority of my readings of the classics when I was very young and couldn't really appreciate them fully.

This is becoming my longest blog, but I'd like to pass the awards to a few others.  I think they are very neat, so please do visit their blogs and give them your encouragements. I know they'd appreciate it.

1. The Triplet Crown
2. Endless Eats
3. Rachels' Kitchen to Kitchen
4. A Journal Of Days

Sorry I don't know a lot more bloggers who haven't already received the awards. I won't be upset if they don't accept them as I know writing blogs could sometimes use up that last bit of time in your day.  I'd happily pass on to those who already received, if they'd like it again.  I feel privileged to receive them multiple times. Again apologies for the late responses.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Black and White

I don't normally write movie reviews, but I suppose this is in a way, a bit more than that.  Also since a good movie is in a way a blessing, I want to share my thoughts on the movie "Black Swan".

It was a story about a ballerina being asked to perform the role of the swan queen.  It is a dual role of being both the pure, sweet but meek white swan at one point, then at another stage, the dark, powerful, seductress black swan.  The story has the black swan stole the heart of the prince before he fell in love with the white swan to unlock her spell, who kills herself in heartbreak.  In her nature, the ballerina character is the perfect white swan, so she fails at seduction and remains "white" in her portrayal of the "black". That is, until the end.

Natalie Portman plays this snow queen, and she has you believe a frightened and frigid version of her right from the beginning.  I even connected her role with all her off screen images and thought of her a meek actress perfect for this role.  But upon completion of the movie, you saw the darkness that was always there, rising throughout the ripple and twists of the plot, climaxing at the end with her emerging as a larger than life symbol of power, huge black wings flapping over the entire stage, even more so than the sultry beauty that eventually came through.

And I then realize that Natalie Portman had played many a powerful roles as well.  I had just as conveniently remembered that now as I had forgotten them earlier, as she would have me do.  I recalled childhood acting instructions about digging into the depth of oneself and find the part of your makings that relates to the character, and bring it out in full, if not magnified.  I thought to myself then, how could anyone have so much to relate? What if the character is nothing like the actor, a complete opposite?

I suppose that is what makes one a skilled actor, or an artist of other sorts, even writers perhaps.  It is in that ability to dig deep down into an emotional bank and empathize so much with another character that you almost become one, at least for a time.  This parallels the challenge her character - the ballerina faced, in finding that bit of darkness that is inside everyone including her and the actor.  They both magnified it to such an extent that audiences on the other side of the movie lenses can feel for a moment the pain and power from the dark pull of those secrete desires.

There is perhaps a bit more to it than that also.  I for one, though educated thoroughly otherwise, tend to believe that people are either good or bad.  No matter how many times the real world had shown me differently.  It never fails to shock me when someone I had classified as "good" in my mind fails to deliver according to the expectations I held mentally to that standard.  Whenever I allow my disappointments to come through, which is nearly always,  it sadly never fails to put a short brake or a long damper or both, on whatever relationship I might have held with them.  

Recently my friend Nina had been comforting me through some tough times, listening to me through spells of despair and help me vent what had been troubling me.  This is not at all unusual for her, to the extent I took it much for granted and hardly ever thanked her.  However in the last week or so I had been having trouble finding her, even for lunch which is how we've been catching up for nearly ten years.  Then on Saturday, fighting off a cold in hopes of some light heart fun, I ran into her at a mutual friend's party.  Her eyes went down cast in avoiding me and we danced around the edges of frigidity and awkwardness in conversation. But it was unavoidable or perhaps she got tired of the charades, she turned to me and announced:

"Hey T, I am getting a new job."

It turned out to be the job I had coveted a month ago. The perfect setup with great bosses all the way up the chains and nice team mates all around, like I had broken down in details with her.  Then I had asked for her help by "putting a good word" in the manager's ears, since she had been sitting next to them for years while I lived in another building across roads and blocks. 

A most bizarre and let's face it, ugly twist must have crawled all over my face as I stood listening yet hardly believing, because soon she turned and walked away, joining the others in cheering and toasting the perfection in this job's setup, leaving me in the fume and mists of confusion.

Before she left the party halfway through the night, she walked back to me, with me being still half stunned, and half something else, she said the final words to me that weekend:

"I never realized I was going to be asked.  But I was asked to take that job."

Then she walked out, head held high, heels clicking, back straight as a ballerina in her professional and powerful looking ensemble of head to toe blacks.  Is that swan lake I hear playing on the sound system?

I still don't understand what happened.  I just kept telling myself that I had always thought of her as the most angelic friend I ever had.  She never spoke ill of anyone, in fact she rarely spoke, and certainly no one ever speaks ill of her.  Nor do I plan to start that trend.  Least of all because I don't think that I've truly known her, not in the way that no one ever really truly knows anyone, but in the way friends know little useless and annoying details about each other and still hang on to each other, not despite of them, but because of them.

Or..., Perhaps this is the beginning of my knowledge?

I can't blame what happened to her, though I really wanted to. In the end I find myself happy that she landed on something good for the next few years, something that will advance her career to the next level.  I mean if I were to lose the job to anyone, there is no one more capable, experienced, a better person, a better friend that I'd pick myself.  Though I can't help feeling proud and weak at the same time.  In the end, while in search of support and the right shade of reactions, I just hope my boisterous transparency hadn't cost me yet another friendship.  More than anything, whether what happened was black or white, I want to believe that friendship itself is more white or at least gray than black, something that goes well with my own blend of colors.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

An Eternal Smile

The room is not crowded, though it is narrow and so the short queue snakes around a shelf or two.  I inhale the familiar aroma of roasted beans, morning papers and freshly baked muffins.  The sun is nearly kept out by the overhung roof but not completely, marking a bright spot here and there on the otherwise dark walls the color of melting coco.  The soft sizzles and clicking of the Barista's cups and steamers bring you back into reality and remind you that this isn't the depth of a warm forest, where coffee, vanilla and coco plants grew around you and reach your nostrils with their tantalizing flavor tentacles.

The family of three is sitting around a small table by the window.  The father's face obscured by the paper he is reading, while mom is holding up a best selling chick lit with the tell tale pink and purple palette splashed on the cover.  Your eyes however, are drawn to the little girl, with her back to us, facing the window sitting in between her parents.  She is wearing a blue satin dress with a white sash.  The kind Julie Andrews sang about in the Sound of Music, the kind that makes you happy when you are feeling sad

Christina-Taylor Green
Though it isn't immediately apparent she is either one of those things, sad or happy, as her attention is focused entirely on the paper drawing in front of her.  She is making a picture of tribute for another little girl, the youngest victim in the recent Arizona Shooting, as so titled on the top of her page.  She is outlining a most strikingly beautiful young face, full of hope, with the kind of smile that transcends borders, boundaries, and politics.  It bears no mark of ever having seen hatred or anger, the sort that took her from her family, her community and her future.  A future not perfect or even rosy, yet less horrific because of people like her who cared, even when they were so young, and the world was still trying to "teach" them how to navigate the grittier aspects of life. 

I disliked the word "victim" that has been associated with her and the others who lost lives in the incident.  It is a tragedy, yet I can't help wanting to find victory in their stories and their lives which are not defined by the sudden loss. Or perhaps that is the only way someone like me could cope with something like this, a peer at a different angle at a brighter side of the past.

In reading about her, I learned of her passion and reasons for her being at the scene.  I am ashamed to admit that it would be hard to imagine myself caring enough at age nine (or even now) to attend a political rally, as I couldn't even be bothered to vote for years.  Serving my citizenry responsibility in a jury or something equally important had seemed like a nuisance, too busy I was with work, family, and more work.  I didn't stop to look around the walls of my office, let alone through the windows to the world beyond.  I read news only when they are passed to me through viral media, trusting the wisdom of the crowd to select out only those that are worthy of my precious time.

Perhaps I am not a political animal, but in a democratic society, I own the privilege and the responsibility to shape the system in a way so that I cared. In my reliance on the crowd, I had lost that child like curiosity once made me so dreamily creative, as nothing was impossible and the world was mine to discover, shape and invent.  I had gradually reduced to connect myself with the planet through familiar routines, people I knew and comfort zones. That zone has shrunk considerably over the years, into a virtual bubble of a few square miles and a few dozen people.  While I ventured outside occasionally,  I vested little interest, effort or time away from home.  So perhaps that is at least one sensible distinction between tragedy and triumph in our lives, not how big a pot of gold you've collected, or how high you rested on the ladder of success, as the higher you are, the worst your likely fall would surely be, but in how deep and wide your care can spread, outside of the immediacy of self or even the little bubble of familiarity we all create for ourselves. 

A few college students sit nearby working on their labtop and brick like text books, pink iPOD wires growing out of their ears, heads bobbing, oblivious to the scene besides them.  I see no familiarity in them, yet I recognize that zeal to complete the task set before them, to move one step closer towards that forever dangling prize hanging just above my nose.  I remember seeing the prize moving as soon as I got close. So I'd try harder to catch up, never realizing that the faster I went, the faster it moved, a dog snapping at the shadow of its own tail, a hamster traveling furtively on the wheels towards nowhere.  Somehow it feels like stepping out when I found myself here, staring at a group of strangers who reminds me so much of myself.  

I look again at the drawing,  a childish but talented depiction of an unblemished smile.  It is no Mona Lisa, but eternal just the same.  A smile that is unfamiliar to me.  I was apparently grumpy at that age for never having enough to eat, to play with, or what have you.  Not that there were greater wealth around with which to compare and compete, but it didn't stop the bratty fits to kick in during those young years.  I prided on my ability to complain and "win my case" by then, my parents threatened to send me to law school so I could put the "talent" of finding faults and win arguments into profitable use.  But perhaps they saw through me in the end, that I didn't have the nerves and the persistence required for law after all, giving up as soon as the opponents grew beyond the loving indulgent circles of my family.

I don't know why neither the artist nor her parents ever turned to look at me, and drive me away in shame.  They must know that I was staring.  In my prying eyes, the artist who is doing her subject so much justice is around the same age, and just as docile, sweet, innocent, vulnerable, yet just as fearless in her looks to the past before pushing towards the future.  She checks in with her parents with quick upward glances, causing them to stop, smile and nod at her effort.  Yet they resisted injecting their own thoughts, which I know takes considerable more patience than wisdom though plenty of both are required.  They left it entirely to their talented daughter to imagine, to relate and to express, putting wings on her spirits, danced out before me in ink, blurs of shapes and colors.

A tragic triumph that warrants no tears but a smile, one that outlasts the trivial pursuits of my day, and maybe a bit longer.

Monday, January 17, 2011

If I Had the Morning Free

For a time, a time and a half and then some, my morning conference calls and email correspondences would begin at as early as 4am.  As I'd routinely wake up without the aid of an alarm at 3am, this wasn't a problem so much as a specialized schedule.  But some days, as I careen myself into the telephone, speaking about things I thought faintly warrant a debate about over lingo I struggled to understand, I said to myself, I wish I had a morning free, just once.
Be careful of what you wish for, a voice replied.
What would you do if you had the morning free?

Well..., Let's see.

I would have a proper lavender bath, slather on a cold ginseng mask straight out of the fridge, and put on the words of "Starting Your Day Right " until it sings a smile into my heart, instead of rushing through a lukewarm shower while meditating on the delicate balance of politics versus teamwork, P&L versus spirits and morals, strategy versus daydreaming.

I would properly drop the kid off at school by walking with him, greeting the crossing guard and classmates with smiles and appropriate words. I'd give him a hug, a homemade lunch and a wish for a great day, instead of practically tossing him out while the car is still considering sliding further into the curb, shouting "hurry, the second (final) bell just rang!"

I would linger in the warm embraces of the morning sun streaming through my window, lighting up my curtains and my soul, instead of saying goodbye too early with a longing and a grudging noise of regret when I rush into the dark damp dungeon that is my garage.

I would sit on my ten year old desk and open my brand new journal and pour out my thoughts, tell my stories and connect with the world of written words with a flick of my wrist, a peer into my past, a tug on my heart, and a deep desire to be heard, instead of sitting in perpetual traffic, road raging and contemplating joining the league of those cutting me off, whom I can not beat.

I would finally write that letter to Phillip, my fourteen year old orphan (who lost both parents to AIDS) in Africa, in my own words instead of the masks of strength and encouragements I put on, tinged with just a smudge of patronizing superiority in the rush of time commitments.  I'd tell him how much he has blessed me through his story of survival and perseverance, and how fortunate we all are to be able to connect in hope and faith regardless of where, how, who, when and why.  I may tell him a little story about being left behind by my own parents when I was young, of how it had changed me forever, though it may take up all the paper in the allotment and more, tear smudges not withstanding.

I would breathe easy, and shed the heavy coat of guilt, inadequacy, fear and shame, and walk out in whatever I feel like wearing, in body and in spirit, rather than what I know the world or the office, could tolerate to see me in. 

I would pray to a God of love instead of one of rules and regulations and of causes and effects, I would hum praises of compassion instead of thinking thoughts of judgments from human perceptions.  I would wear my roles on the stage of life like a bouquet of feathers in my hair, rather than as a suit of armors.

I would live those brief moments free, to do justice to that offer of reprieve, before returning to my regular old self of over-thinking and overdoing, and fail as I might, be comfortable in that skin too.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Toe Edge and Making Changes

[A Brief Recognition - I am very lucky to have met these wonderful blogging writers and friends who gave me an awesome award: The Stylish Blogger Award.  It has truly been a blessing to know them. Thank you: Caterpillar, Simple Thoughts, Barbra L,and ShinyStarlight. Please visit their blogs and get to know them, you'll be glad that you did. Please leave them a comment if you do and let them know I sent you. ]

Years ago when I first learned to ski, my friends who taught me also gave me extra lessons about  watching out for the snowboarders.

"They are rude.  They called me names."

"They try to hit you, even though skiers go in such a predictable pattern."


and so on.

It was believable enough. I saw how those young snowboarders were thrashing themselves about the mountain, always passing me a tad too close for comfort, running over my friends too often to be accidental. Sometimes they even turned back and give us a menacing grin, with that glint in their eyes that said: "aren't I a dare devil?" or "aren't we the coolest?"

Remove the dare and you got it right, we thought to ourselves.

Then I stopped skiing for a while.  When I returned with a new set of friends, a few years later, much has changed.  I was persuaded to try out the fine art of snowboarding.

"It is so much fun!"

"You will never have to carry those cumbersome skis around anymore, and the boots are really comfortable."

The point about the boots got to me.   Contempt with snowboarders did not deter me (even years ago) from a secret longing for their boots, comfortable enough to walk in.  It also would be a nice change not to end the day with the boot's every nooks and cranny carved into my feet. 

Then there's the "epic" powder conditions we're encountering.  It amounts to simple physics that a snowboard just travels much better on loose powder than the thinner and longer skis.  I watched a dear friend tweak his knees badly on even extra wide skis when one side got stuck inside loose powder, the other side moving forward on inertia.  I resolved finally then to take a snowboarding lesson.

Of course it was strange to have two feet strapped together, at first.  Failing to get off the lifts cleanly was also embarrassing and uncomfortable but my Achilles's heels with snowboarding would definitely have to be the "toe edge".

Toe edge refers to a change.  It isn't something you sit on but rather something you change into.  As a snowboarder, you can technically spend your life sliding parallel to the mountain on the heel edge, sitting with your back leaning into the mountain, knees bent and bums reclined much like lounging in a chair.  But to make the S shape turns that is the epitome of snowboarding, you must get off that bum chair and make the transition into the toe edge.

To achieve this, you need a little speed.  To get speed, you need to point your board directly down hill.  If you have not fallen by then, you lift up one heel, press down the other, much like pressing down on the pedals of a bicycle.   The momentum and the direction of your gaze will do the rest of the work, and there in lies the challenge.

You must trust that the work will be done, while you are sliding uncontrollably down the mountain.

Sounds awful, doesn't it?

It wasn't bad when the instructor stays close and helps you fix your gaze by successfully distracting you from all thoughts of peril.

When he leaves at the end of the lesson, the toppling angle of the hills threatens to devour me with mental images of spectacular crashes.

Though I reckon, this isn't unlike that first time I rode the bicycle. I had sneaked out of the house with it on my own, thinking if dad came along I'd never get to ride it. He'd insist on holding onto me, and run behind me like a heavy trailer.  I'd remembered that heart thumping first pedal, that first moment of the bike picking up speed and gaining balance, that first feeling of gravity lifting, the suffocating strangle over my ankles releasing, the wind billowing into my hair, and the world blurring into techno color and shifting shapes.

It also isn't unlike that first time when I learned how to float.  I had to get into new and uncomfortable positions and let go of some familiar stances and muscle tensions that served me well on land.  Then the water carried me with surprising strength and stability, giving me a magical feeling of weightlessness, of the power of softness over hard control, of the rich gains of releasing all I held as safe.

I suppose quitting a well paid but loathing restaurant job to go back to school was a moment of letting go too, of putting a certain trust in that certain uncertainties will pay off, and that life will catch me somehow, when I forgo two years of hourly pay check and turn over my savings as tuition.  Suppose I had not stopped too long to think about all these when I got that first dream job offer post graduations, vanity of the youth and all.  I had just lost myself in the celebration, the elation and feelings of triumphs, forgetting the price I had to pay, the price of letting go and free falling into a chance for that moment.  A chance for a new height, not withstanding new challenges and failures. 

Something tells me 2011will be another one of those turning point of change.  Many constants have shifted away and left me in unrecognizable tracks of snow melts while I tried to hold on and fight in vain, only to spin further away from any axial of comfort and normality.  Trying to slow down had only made me fall hard against the speeding train of changes, and barely scratching nail marks into the surface of the loose snow that is the security blanket of an old life.

I caught my breathe and looked again, not down the hill but towards the direction where I am turning.  A new life awaits me there, unfamiliar, on the edge of darkened woods, just beyond protruding rocks and patches of ice; yet exciting and pregnant with possibilities of being the perfect spot for another turn, for a future of flying through soft snow and new explorations.

I set my mark, as I was told, on where I am headed, rather than the potential danger that kept me from the heart's desire.  I let the board slide, into that leap of faith that carries me speeding down the fluffy powdery run, a magic carpet through the clouds like experience.  I hardly want to stop it but I pedal, I gaze over my shoulders and I fly, into my first solo toe edge.  My hearts leaping in "I wasn't sure but I am so glad" flutters.

I no longer look on snowboarders with contempt, now that I am changed, for good.  I join them on trusting the simplicity of laws of gravity and momentum, on setting intentions and falling a bit into the unknown, on exploring new possibilities.  As life is not just about plateaus of comforts and conveniences, but also in experiencing moments of new heights through leaps of faith, at each and every turn.

Now all I have to do is tell ma, about this big change that's been on my mind, and hope she doesn't push me over the hill with her bear hands.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bags and Diplomacy

I had put on a little mascara before this important meeting, so all day my lashes feel frosted and heavy.   

On the way home, I feel it’d finally caked all around my eyes.   Looking in the mirror is not an option so I ask my ten year old son:

“Has my mascara smudged?”

A puzzled look.  Then he decides to venture a question:

“What do you mean mom?”
“Oh. Um, is there any black circles around my eyes?”
“Oh. Those are just  the bags under your eyes, it’s like you are getting older. But you are not.”

My son the diplomat.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cafe M*

The Cafe is not my usual haunt.  I am too much in love with greasy hot food plates of unrecognizable origins to enjoy cold cuts served out of cold fridges on cold chairs, even if there are lovely scrolls all over them.

But Carla persisted. Nearly every time we discuss lunch, she'd say:

"How about going to Cafe M?"

I'd usually carefully redirect the conversation to somewhere I knew she liked.  But either she does a decent amnesia impression or she truly can't remember how recently the last suggestion for Cafe M was made, I kept hearing about it.  So finally I relented, and when I did I dragged along a few others to share the "new experience".

The interior does not surprise me on the first look. It isn't bright but a few windows do allow in a bit of soft light.  The pit like space where the counter stands however, looms in near total darkness.  A decent line forms before us with mostly office workers in crisp shirts and khakis from the nearby buildings.  I reconsider mocking when I see a menu full of old favorites and chic new ingredients (palm of hearts, avocado, arugula...).  The baked goods and coffee selection sealed the deal, I order a milky way and a chocolate chip peanut butter cookie with three giant chips right on top center, and round off the meal with the featured salad. 

Carla looks unimpressed:  "why am I sitting here eating just a salad when you are having all those cookies?"

I shrug it off.  That's what she does if I asked her something that didn't really require an answer.  She is like a big sister though I'm quite sure she looks younger and I'd never know why she eats so lightly, as she looks fabulous and a bit like a movie star if I ever saw one.

We sip our drinks and wait for the others.  As soon as we sit down,  Palla shows up in brand new hair and a glowing face. She proceeds to tell us about this new spa salon, and all the great deals she is finding online for hair care.  I like listening to her, watching her vivacious energy fill the room with a shake and a twist of that fabulous new cut, liquid chestnut pouring down her shoulders, even though I've heard the story before.  She starts to retell something funny, and a string of hearty laughs bounce around the room before she can covers her mouth.  Then there is a pause on the hum of conversations around us, as if an invisible remote has been pressed, and everyone looks over.  Palla just shrugs it off with another swish of her hair.

Nicole is the last to saunter in, and we give a small cheer on seeing her familiar face. She is a take charge kind of lady, and she projects this air of authority that simultaneously provokes a rebel instinct and releases certain anxieties in me not unlike when I'd found myself in the principal's office, which was pretty often back in the days.  Conversations with her can sometimes teeter on a delicate balance of give and take, short of which things could turn tense quick, as was the case in our first meeting.  Though we laugh about it now, and I really didn't think it was that awful, she tells quite a different story, often.  So that is the lesson on thinking before talking, and walking a mile in the shoes of others, I suppose. Though looking at us now, you'd never suspect a single wrinkle in the fabric we call friendship.

The sun has come up finally out of weeks worth of clouds, and it is now as bright and warm as ever so we put on shades to avoid having to squint so much.   Our food arrives, we dive in and only chime in about life, love, loss, and occasionally work when we come up for air between bites.

Everything tastes really good, I say to myself, I will have to bring Trish and Kel here next time.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunset In Del Mar

You were new,
I was shy,
then you said hi, and I knew we'd be alright.

You ran fast,
I think slow,
then you said "let's go for a walk", we knew we'd be alright.

You kayak and raft,
I was scared of a rock,
then we went whitewater rafting, and whoever lost that paddle had to stand and get singing.

You taught me courage,
I learned to venture,
then we went skiing, and beat those tough boys in pool, drinking and skiing.

You started me on scrapbook,
I urged you to write,
then we journal our hearts out in a circle of friends and light.

You threw me a shower,
I became a T. T.,
then we grew up and each got some marriages and kids.

You permeated busy and happy,
I steeped in melancholy and sassy,
but then you dangled in my worried heart, and that string pulled quite easy.

One day I heard your sorrow,
I felt your tears,
but then I've never known to feel sorry, for your brave fighting ways.

You are surrounded,
by a thousand and one hugs.
But then I know you'd much rather, just have back that one shining knight.

You've seen darkness,
you've been a light,
I hope you'd go see the sunset in Del mar, and know you'll be alight.

-- For Angie, in the wake of your devastating loss.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Year's Blanks

It's a new year, yet much remain the same.  If you are a student, you have the school terms reminding you where you are, you may be learning new lessons, but you are still in the same term.  If you are a worker, your office would not suddenly have grown a measure, just because the calendar have completed and started on a new cycle.  If you stay at home, you may even crave the sameness before the holidays -- some peace and quiet from the visiting family, the drunk uncle so and so's and the cousin smarty pants and the screaming children two too many. Chances are over the holidays your to do list has grown, bank account has shrank, and the state of your resolutions has remained the same year over year.

If you are me, dangling through the roller coaster of life, you may come back and stare at a blank "New Post" page for too long, racking your brain for things you can put down as "a blessing" for the day, thinking since it is a new year you ought to return to writing closer to the theme; but on second thought maybe you really hasn't fallen that far from it.  After another hour you wonder if you have tempted faith a bit too much with this silly title, your mind filled with blanks.

But then you found you've had a few new readers, a few new comments, and a few more new blogs to read.  Some are so good they light up your imaginations, and you make new connections with fired up comments.  You don't care if they are returned, as you appreciate the writing, enjoyed the story and admire their skills so and you like to let them know that.  You share a piece of you in the comment too.  As a part of the story has caught onto a part of you, uncovering a corner of your memory that was put away for too long or an old wound that was never properly bandaged but suddenly you found it was not as bad as you thought, as others had it too, and they got better by letting it air out rather than stuffing it into a mental attic. When you click "publish comment", you feel the window to the attic open, and you feel the breeze.

Then you think perhaps they would return a visit, or someone else will, or they have already, and it's all good.  You think perhaps a part of your story will touch a part of their hearts too, in some small way. You hope it'd light a fire in them, but you'd settle for cheering them on, even just for a moment, to see a little light at the end of the tunnel of the sameness, of drudge and dullness, new year's day or not.

So you begin, to just write about how you feel, and you've already forgotten about the blanks.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Farewell Kevin

I was shocked to hear that he had passed,  a news that came just after the dusts of the new years celebrations had settled, while our faint hope for his recovery still lingered on.  It seemed just yesterday we were hearing his larger than life laughs bouncing off the hallways, about another one of his fantasy style parties, or some triumphs of creations during the comic conventions.  Yet the illness that took him to the hospital a while ago, a seemingly benign cough, took him for good on that day after the new year. 

I cannot claim to be anything more than a friendly onlooker standing on the fringe of his life, occasionally peeking into the fantastic circle of energy and waves he created.  They were circles of celebrations, cheers, weddings, and adventures, of all he, a worthy rival of the Great Gatsby of the 1920s or the P. Diddy of our times, resided in the center. His parties were so legendary and popular, tickets were being sold to cover the cost of preparations.  Star of India, costumes, and the works.  That's Kevin, the works.

His age didn't matter.  With a child like excitement he embraced everything and everyone in life, yet with wisdom and compassion beyond his years he had touched the hearts and lives of so many in deeper ways than anyone could have ever hoped in a lifetime and over.  His adventure into the other world brought down tears to hundreds, yet we couldn't help but smile when we tried to picture the stir he must have already caused over there, when we think of what kind of a reception must have been put on for him.

So we cheer him on instead, we say farewell but we tell him:

"We wish we could have one more of those legendary bear hugs of yours, one more of your smile, that laugh, and we can't wait to see you on the other side.  But in the meantime, you will be remembered."

PS:  A friend who knew him far better and longer than I wrote this understated yet elegant post about him here, and I nearly withdrew mine as I thought I could never do him such justice.  But if nothing else, I would be glad to just offer a place for you to find this link:

Also please feel free to visit the page "Get Well Kevin" on Facebook where you can learn a lot about his life and how hundreds if not more feel about him.  I think you will be glad when you do.


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