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Monggo-Bean-Inspired Ruminations

24 Jun

Big things come in small packages, so the adage goes.

I’m no stranger to the truth of this. One of my best friends of many decades is barely five feet tall but she has the biggest heart and the most amazing ability to paint in watercolors. A little closer to home: I have five boys decades younger than me (and some small enough to still sit on my lap, although that’s rapidly changing…<sob>!) and they mean the entire world to me.

Then there are the many little things that happen each day that, sifted and sorted and blended together, make up that great marvelous thing called Life. And sometimes, when the stars align and the universe smiles, one of those little things can even be hugely profound in and of itself.

Even something as tiny and minute and seemingly inconsequential as a mung bean. (Or more accurately, five of them.) But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the very beginning.

Mung beans, which are more commonly called monggo in my part of the world, are tiny. In fact, the first word that Wikipedia uses to describe them is “small.” They make their appearance on the dinner table in many different forms: most often as a vegetable soup (stewed with onions and garlic and topped with bits of chicharon, or crunchy pork rind), or cooked and rolled in a thin rice wrapper as lumpia, or tucked into a Chinese bun known as hopia.

They also frequently make an appearance in grade school classrooms, thanks to Science teachers who know the value of the quick-sprouting seeds in teaching lessons that focus on plant parts and plant growth.

Well, that was exactly the kind of appearance demanded of the humble mung bean today in my little grader’s Science class. Except I didn’t know it beforehand. So there I was, bringing him to the door of his classroom, when we walked in on four or five little boys scrambling on the floor, laughing and chasing after tiny things that I couldn’t quite make out. They, of course, turned out to be mung beans, escapees from the plastic container that held about a thousand more of their kind.

And that’s when my son turns to me with a quiet gasp and says:

“Oh no, Mom. We were supposed to bring five pieces of monggo beans to school today for Science.”

Oh no, indeed. We live quite a distance from the school, and that would mean increasing the usual four-drives-to-and-from-school into six, if I were to deliver monggo beans in time for my son to use them for his class.

But a quick glance at the situation unfolding turns on the lightbulb in my head, and I smile and  calmly say to my boy, “Oh dear. You should have told me about that yesterday. But don’t worry. It looks like your classmate has quite a lot of them… why don’t you go to him and ask if he can share five of his beans with you?”

So he does as I suggest, with a sweet smile on his face. I turn my head to look away for about 30 seconds, and when I turn back, I find my son standing in front of me, trying his best not to look sad. He opens his mouth and tells me, “He said No.”

Momentarily stunned, I ask him, “What?”

Patiently, he repeats what he just said, word for word: “He said No.”

I promise, I’m usually quite quick at grasping things, but this morning I think I may have been experiencing a slow connection error, because I say, “What do you mean, he said No?”

“He said No, Mama.”

I can’t believe that he heard right. Five beans? Versus hundreds, heck perhaps even a thousand, in a plastic container? I bend to whisper to him, “You might have heard wrong. Or perhaps he heard you wrong.” You know, it’s possible, right? So I gently nudge him in the direction of the little boy who’s still in the process of scooping up the hundred wayward fallen mung beans and pouring them back into his container, and say to my son, “Ask him again, sweetie.”

My little boy goes to his classmate, whispers to him, comes back to me, and delivers the verdict: “I asked him again if he would share five monggo beans with me, and he said ‘No. This is all mine.’ ” He pauses to smile a little hopeful smile, and then says, “So can you just bring me monggo beans later, Mama? Please?”

I didn’t think it was possible to be stunned twice in the span of five minutes, but there we go. I was flabbergasted.

You see, these things are tiny. Have you ever seen a mung bean? They’re so tiny that you could scoop a handful in your palm and you’d easily have, what, a hundred beans right there? Perhaps more?

Seriously. Check them out:

Ruminating on Mung Beans

And so, there I was, wondering how anyone could have an entire plastic container filled with at least a thousand beans, definitely more than five times the number of beans the entire class needed, and turn down one asking for a measly five beans. In my mind, I could see Mark Lester as Oliver Twist, holding his bowl and asking, “Please, Sir, may I have some more?”

Except my boy wasn’t asking for more. He was asking for five. mung. beans.

Granted, my son should have been responsible enough to bring his homework of five monggo beans. In his nine-year-old wisdom, I’m pretty sure the minute I reminded him that he should have prepared it the day before, he understood where he failed, and for me that was enough of a greater life-lesson learning experience for him.

Mind, I’m not excusing my son for his lapse in responsibility. But somehow I can’t help thinking: There also happens to be a classmate who has more than enough monggo beans to go around the entire class and still have hundreds more left over. Am I wrong in wanting to break out singing  “Oh, lucky day!” and encouraging my son to ask for a few? Isn’t it a great lesson in humility to beg for a few beans and to admit that one is asking because one happened to forget his?

My sons have often told me stories about their classmates or even they themselves forgetting a pencil or a sheet of pad paper or a sheet of Oslo paper and it’s so natural for them to say, “it wasn’t a big deal because we shared, because we had some left over.” The same spirit of sharing and give-and-take permeates their daily life at school, not just for materials or tools like pencil sharpeners but even food that a classmate wishes to have a taste of. Perhaps that’s why I am stunned: because I am so used to the great brotherhood that exists among the boys in my son’s school (or most of them, at least) that this is a first-time thing for me to actually witness.

When I arrive home about half an hour later, I tell my 20-year-old son this story over breakfast. He says to me, “Mom, why are you surprised? As sad as it is, there are people like that everywhere.”

And I reply, “But at that young age? Refusing to share when you have more than enough? That’s terribly sad.”

My husband looks up from his newspaper and says, “But isn’t it normal for very young kids to be selfish?”

I say, “For very young children, perhaps. Studies have shown that until two years of age, a child in a play group will focus on just his toy because his awareness of his surroundings is limited to himself and his toys. But children older than 2 begin to learn that there are others who exist in the world besides himself, so that same child when he gets older will focus on interacting with other children and their toys as well. And I don’t think that’s selfishness. It’s simply a matter of awareness-of-self expanding to include awareness-of-others as the child grows and develops after 2.”

My 20-year-old son looks at me and says, “Yeah. Well. It happens. In the real world, there are adults who are like that too.”

To which I reply, “And that’s exactly what makes me sad. If it’s difficult for a child to dole out five puny pieces of monggo seeds when he has hundreds to spare and only needs five himself… I don’t even want to imagine what the adult version of that child would be like.”

Okay, so there’s justice and fairness. The child was responsible enough to remember his homework; my child wasn’t. It’s perfectly logical to say, “Well, tough luck, kiddo, but you should have been more responsible. You should have remembered. I did, so I get to keep my mung beans. You didn’t, so you can’t come to me and ask me to bail you out just because I have more than I need.”

In the same way, an adult can perfectly say, “I work hard, day in and day out, no matter how tired I get, no matter how much I look forward to retirement, no matter how many times I wish I could have a day to rest and get my energy back… and so I deserve to reap the benefits of my hard work. Even if I have more than I need left over, why should I share what I have with the poor? Why don’t they work hard and reap the benefits of their hard work?”

Makes sense, right? Logical.  Fair. And just. And let me qualify: I’m all about justice. I am a big believer in fairness. But I am a bigger believer in mercy. You know? The kind that hopes that my sons will one day grow up to be men that give generously of what much or little they have, just because it’s good to do so. Just because we’re all in this life together, and we’re all part of the bigger picture, the Big Family of the world, and that’s what brothers do with each other. And if the roles this morning were reversed, I’d like to think that my kid would be the kind that says, “You should have been more responsible. Write it down on a post-it next time and stick it to your forehead if you need to, just so you remember. But for today, sure, here are five beans. I have more than enough, anyway, and you’re welcome to take what you need.”

And so, I pack a plastic container with about a hundred beans to bring to my son later. Just in case there are any other little boys who, like my son, might have forgotten to bring their own five seeds. (I happen to know that two of his friends forgot too, so definitely there would be at least a couple who will benefit from his plastic container of seeds).

And you know what? I didn’t bother to tuck in a note that says, “Share, honey, with those who don’t have.” Because I’m hoping and betting that my son’s experience today will further impress upon him the lessons that my husband and I try to impart to him and his brothers daily. Lessons that  include not only the importance of not forgetting one’s homework but much more, extending into Life Lessons that will make him a much better person and a much better man.

So thank you, Science teacher who required mung beans for today’s class. And thank you, mung beans, for not being in my son’s bag when you should have been. Because the ruminations you inspired today are far-reaching and of much greater value than simply identifying plant parts and plant growth. I dare to think today’s real lessons have more to do with growth of the heart. And that’s always a great lesson to learn.

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Stop. Right. Now.

18 Feb

How does your usual day go?

Do you hop out of bed when the alarm clock shrieks? Do you run to the sink and splash water on your face while brushing your teeth and slipping your feet into your shoes, or do you amble toward the bathroom door with a quick glance at the clock, mentally calculating how many minutes you have before it’s time to rush out the door?

Do you walk, run, drive to your office, park your car or jump off the bus, walk briskly to the door with a brief nod at the doorman and a “Good morning” that fades just a beat behind the echo of your footsteps as you make your way to the elevator, sliding your shoulder in between its rapidly closing doors and nudging your way through the rest of the suited and coated crowd?

Or do you bundle your children in their school clothes, hastily dump the dishes and flatware in the sink as you quickly buss the kiddos before dropping them off at the bus stop or the school grounds, then whip out your To-Do list (with items pending from yesterday) and get yourself to the nearest grocery store to pick up necessities that can’t necessarily be delayed any longer before you drop off the week’s clothes at the dry-cleaners and rush off to that Parent-Teacher meeting that you’re already running two minutes behind?

(Phew! Are you panting yet?)

At the end of the day, do you drop dead on your bed feeling like a totally squeezed lemon, reaching for sleep the way a starving man reaches for a grain of rice after a month-long fast?

Or do you have the gift of time?

Are you freakin’ kidding me?, you might ask incredulously. And I would understand; I would get you completely. I often feel like I’m riding on a speeding train too, one that won’t stop long enough for me to catch a breath of fresh air or to insert a skip and a hop between the brisk steps I have to take to get from Point A to Point B, double-time. Yup, I know what it’s like, my friend.

But I hope there are for you, as there thankfully are for me, routines throughout the day that force us to stop a while, to take stock and be silent and pray (and I kid you not, I have to make an effort to make sure those routines are kept in place because, tempting as it is to throw them aside in favor of what seem to be more pressing matters, I have discovered that the moments of silence are precisely what ensure that the rest of my day goes as best as it can, rush-hour and trips galore notwithstanding).

Thankfully, I have five children, three of whom are under the age of 10, who are courageous enough to ignore the daily rush and speeding time in order to stick their face in front of mine and say, Mom guess what happened at school today? or to lay a hand on my arm and quietly whisper, I love you, Mama.

And thankfully, sometimes, someone gets the brilliant idea of performing some experiment that will test whether, when given a chance, really busy people will stop long enough to recognize beauty in the middle of mundane everyday routines. To focus on what really counts. To appreciate the glorious that hides behind what is so commonplace and easy to overlook.

Because in this crazy, hectic, busy world filled with an insanely huge amount of musts and to-do’s,  it is so, so, so important to do this. To take the time to simply

STOP. And pay attention. Seriously.

Beauty, miracles, amazing discoveries: they’re all around us. In sights, in sounds, in touches. The only thing we need to do is to halt long enough to uncover them. Then we are rewarded with gentle reminders of why it’s good to be alive, why there’s so much to be grateful for, why we are so lucky that we continue to be blessed by a loving Father who showers gifts on us abundantly, even if we are often remiss in stopping a while to appreciate and say a silent prayer of thanks.

I came upon this while surfing the web today, and it was/is one of those amazing stories that one could easily overlook… or that one could stop (perhaps, being fated to do so?) and pay attention to and be reminded once again to smell not just the coffee percolating, but the quiet fragrance of the grass outside the kitchen windows and the sweet morning scent of the kids just risen from bed and the freshly-shaved skin of the hubby who (thank goodness) takes the time to hug you warmly before he goes off to work.

This story certainly drives home that point in more than a couple of ways.

It’s a story of a regular Friday-rush-hour January morning at a DC metro, when a very regular nondescript white man takes up his violin and starts to play. In the 43 minutes that he plays 6 musical masterpieces, only a handful stop to listen, and the first one to do so, only after the man has played for six minutes. And despite the amazing gift of beautiful music that fills the station, it is just a few (you can count them on one hand) who are “awake” enough to take notice of the gift of music that they happened to pass by on that morning, among them a three-year-old toddler who had to be pulled away by his rushing mom, an Au Bon Pain waiter busing tables nearby, and a USPS supervisor who once dreamed of being a violinist but did not recognize, either, the man who was playing before him.

It was Joshua Bell, one-time child prodigy, internationally-acclaimed yet refreshingly humble violin virtuoso (who plays to standing-room $1000-ticket-paying audiencies in symphony halls, whose audience in those halls are so respectful of his talent that  they postpone their urge to cough till he’s done playing, and who has been described as one who “plays like a god.”). On that January day, he played not easily-recognizable classical music but those masterful, majestic, difficult-to-play pieces, Bach’s Chaconne and Schubert’s Ave Maria among them. And he played these on a $3.5 million Stradivarius violin.

It was an experiment done by Washington Post to investigate “context, perception and priorities,”  to see what would happen if a great musician played great music in a banal setting at a time when leisure is an unheard-of commodity; would beauty transcend? Would people actually stop to listen? To appreciate? To realize the beauty unfolding in the most unlikely place and time?

Here’s a clip of the actual event (thank you, Youtube ):

And here’s the full story, Pearls Before Breakfast, by Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post.

It is one definitely worth taking the time to read. One that possesses little nuggets of wisdom, hiding between the lines, not least of which is this strikingly astute observation that Weingarten makes:

If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that—then what else are we missing?

We might not ever find ourselves in a metro on a rush-hour morning, but certainly the basic ingredients will be there: modern life and its incessant demands; the rush, the hustle and bustle, the never-ending many-paged priority lists. But yes, we can and yes, we should stop and look, listen, smile. And be thankful that we remembered to simply be thankful. 🙂

May your day be full of glorious stops and discoveries, my dear friends! xox

* Shared with Just Write.

Oops, I did it again.

10 Feb

It’s that kind of day. The kind that makes you want to slap your palm on your forehead. The kind that makes you think, “How could I have fallen for that… again?”  The kind that magnifies the volume of that incessant chant in your ear that goes, “Silly, silly you. Silly, silly you. Silly, silly you.”

I keep saying Yes when I should say No. I keep giving in when I shouldn’t. I keep giving my all when I’ve had that gift handed back in my face without a backward glance.

It’s that kind of moment. When you know you shouldn’t have. When you tell yourself, “We’ve been down this alley before; what were you thinking?” When you know that you’ve been taken for a ride yet again, but have no one to blame but yourself for getting into that rocking boat with your own two feet.

I wonder why I bother. I wonder why, even with a history of the absence of gratitude, I set aside perfectly legitimate reasons for not helping out and yet again expend time, effort and sacrifice to do “just this one last favor, please?” I wonder where I can buy the courage to just put two letters together to form one word: N. O.

It’s that kind of sudden realization. The dawn of insight tearing its way through the hazy gloom. The emergence of sunlight pushing its rays through thinning grey clouds. The  relief of that first gulp of breath after having flailed under water for a minute more than you thought you would.

I realize it’s okay. That it’s never a mistake to keep giving, even when it seems your gift isn’t valued. That you may feel like a real schmuck and a total dodo for doing a perfect imitation of a doormat, but at the end of the day, you are better for having given than for not having given at all. And that what has been often said before is really true: what doesn’t break you will only make you stronger.

It’s that kind of freedom. The kind that makes you lift your chin up and break out the biggest smile you can muster. The kind that brings back the bounce in your step. The kind that brings you quiet comfort in the knowledge that you aren’t less for having given more.

Oh yes. No. You aren’t less for having given more.

NOTE:

I must confess to vacillating quite a bit before hitting the Publish button on this post, because this is a far cry from usual posts that I make. I am (and take pride in being) a voraciously cheerful person, always ready to spread sunshine and hugs and feel-good vibes wherever I go. This post isn’t that kind of sunshine-y usual post. But it’s where I am right now, right where the Just Write challenge HERE has found me. And I figured, hey, real life doesn’t get more real than this: there are a kajillion ups in my life and I am grateful for all of them, but yes, I do have some downs too (thank heavens, not too many of those) – and I am just as grateful for them. Because, really, without the black, where can one get perspective for seeing the white? Right?

So here’s today’s version of Real Life, my friends. I hope it sits well with you, even if it isn’t the “usual serving” on my blog plate. 🙂

To find out more about Just Write, which is a fabulous way to get your thoughts written out in the right here and right now, go visit The Extraordinary Ordinary here

I need toothpicks

31 Jan

because they flutter and
they fall
halfway before they jerk back open again
these lids
that not even two cups of caffeine
black, no sugar, no creamer
can keep up

it would be a terrible waste
of daylight
an embarrassing insult
to the tick and tock of the clock
and a delicious but costly indulgence
one i can hardly afford
if i should rest my head a while

and allow these droopy lids some respite

when the boy is watching cartoon network
and might need me to check out how cool
that exploding banana is
when his brothers are about to arrive home
with the day’s load of homework
and oh there’s the appointment for the three of them
in a little bit
with the eye doctor

the eye doctor!

maybe i should ask him
for some magic tricks
or at the very least, a couple of toothpicks
to do the job
of keeping these eyelids

wide

o      p     e    n.

NOTE:

While gallivanting about the net’s highways and byways, I happened to stumble on this post on Muted Palette, which then led me to this post on The Extraordinary Ordinary (hello, i love that someone else puts those two words together!), both of  which called out to the sleepy writing-muse in me. I figured it was time she woke up. So here’s my first Just Write post. (Seriously. Like I needed more things on my plate, right? haha.)

Thanks for suffering through this indulgence of mine. Care to join me and Just Write? 😉 HERE is how it works. 

Resurfacing (aka: The Struggle for the 3 S’s)

30 Nov

Well hello… it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I hope you’ll forgive my sudden drop from the face of the earth, but I’ve been on an adventure (one whose departure date I learned of only 3 days in advance, hence my inability to leave word that I wouldn’t be around for a bit).

And what an adventure it was. Amazing. Awesome.

From the very first day, a few hours after take-off, I knew exactly what this adventure would be all about: The Struggle for Silence, Solitude, and Serenity.

And yes, though I had no previous inkling that I might have needed to engage in this particular battle, it became apparent to me soon enough that it was one fight I needed to wage and that now was the best time to do it. Too long I had been chasing speeding trains (and you know how noisy, crowded and stressful real trains can be; my proverbial ones were just as bad). Too long I had been wading through a cacophony of voices, deadlines, everyday duties and responsibilities. Too long I had allowed myself to get caught up in all the myriad little things that make up that bigger thing called “Real Life” (when in fact all those little things can be dealt with easily if you just have the 3 S’s. But somehow I lost sight of that secret, and so my life had been for far too long one insanely noisy circus).

No wonder then that it had been quite a struggle to stay serene and calm and peaceful (I admit it, I had been struggling in a major way. Have you ever woken up in the morning feeling like you have 30 seconds to hit the ground running? Like you’re panting with your tongue hanging out even if you’ve barely taken off? Like your train just sped past you and you’ll have to grab that sandwich and chomp on it as you run furiously trying to catch up? Yeah. That was kinda what my mornings were like not too long ago).

And you know, when you’re constantly running and there’s noise all around and your hair’s flying all over your face, it’s just a hop, a skip and a jump away from turning into a bunch of nerves, flustered, impatient, and easily agitated. I felt like I was getting to that place real quickly, and I knew that when I did get to that point, it would make others like me less, and it would make me like me less.

So I changed direction, with the ticket provided at short notice for me by my wonderful friend J, and arrived at Station STOP.

And I stopped. Got off. Changed directions and went a different way.

And embarked on a retreat. Literally. 🙂 A three-day spiritual journey in which the first order of the day was to find silence and solitude, and finding those (in prayer), perhaps discover serenity too.

And I’m oh so glad and oh so grateful to have been granted the grace to find all three with Him, who holds us in the palm of His hands and calls us to Him when He knows we need it most.

He says, “Hey, come to Me and rest a while. Just be with Me completely, totally, fully… and I’ll take care of everything else. You can count on Me always.” And if we hear His call and answer it, it’s just totally astounding how much He gives in return for the “little” that we offer to Him, as long as that “little” that we offer is our everything. 🙂

And so I am back, fresh and refreshed, and ready to take on the world’s trains. And even if they rush at the speed of light on some days, I know I’ll be okay, as long as I remember to keep moments of silence, solitude and serenity in my daily life. (And because we’re friends, you’ll remind me when I’m in danger of forgetting, right? 🙂 ).

Aaaaand it’s good to be back with you! What about you? How have you been these past days? Drop me a line because I’ve missed you so! And I promise I’ll be back on my blogporch regularly once more.

Big big (((hugs))) to you!

Stock photos by dolar, 13dede, and criswatk at sxc.hu: Many thanks!

Magtanim ay di biro

20 Apr

The English version of this Filipino song goes, “Planting rice is never fun…”

It’s a song that tells about the difficulties of the life of a farmer, how one has to bend over the entire day, with no time to sit and no time to stand. And then it goes on to summon the listener to join in, to keep the industrious spirit alive, to continue the hard work in the hopes of securing a brighter future. Wonderful how the song reflects the positive, hopeful mentality of the Filipino.

Somehow, though, the true heart and emotion of the statement, sadly, gets lost in translation (boy, did that movie get the whole concept right in that three-word phrase!)

So. I love taking shots of farmers at work in the fields. Because the Philippines is primarily an agricultural country (“despite plans to turn it into an industrialized economy by 2000” ), it’s pretty safe to say that farmers constitute a huge part of the images that come into my mind when I think nationalistic thoughts.  Plus there is something so humbling about seeing these men and women working hard to give us the most basic of our needs.

I remember in my first year at the state university, I had a teacher named Judy Ick for English 2. I will never forget her, not just because she gave me my very first grade of 1.0 (though yeah, that added to her unforgettable quotient), but mainly because she was totally cool. Back in the early 80s when teachers wore proper 2-inches-below-the-knee skirts and tailored tops, Judy came to our classes in the mini-est of mini skirts and razor-cut hair, shorter on one side than the other, chewing gum, smoking a cigarette, and holding a can of Coke. She was the epitome of cool to the young teenagers that we were. And when the EDSA Revolution broke out, she held our classes underneath the trees in the university’s fields across Palma Hall. And best of all, she was smart.

So how does all that relate to farmers?

See, a group of friends and I–there must have been 6 or 7 of us–heady with the youngsters’ typical bloated sense of freedom that comes from knowing you have certain advantages in college that you didn’t have in high school, decided to make use of that wonderful freedom to absent ourselves from class via the “free cut” route. We stayed in the one sorry cafeteria then, called CASAA (what it stands for, I cannot recall anymore, although I always got a kick out of pronouncing the double-A ending because it sounded so much like the then-famous weatherman’s way of saying PAG-ASA. And this, I do remember, stands for Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, & Astronomical Services Administration. Phew, what a mouthful!).

So there we were, with our arms splayed out on the caf tables, chattering away and playing Pusoy Dos (poker, Philippine-style), when we really should’ve been in our English class. Just our luck… twenty minutes into class time, who came into CASAA looking to buy  her regular can of Coke to go with the mint gum in her mouth?

I can still recall with 100% clarity how she looked standing there, staring at us, mouth agape. Wordlessly, she turned around, Coke can in hand, and marched off.

And we? We were as red-faced as overripe tomatoes, guilty beyond doubt. A flurry of debate followed:

– Should we tail her and attend class?

– No, what for? She already caught us cutting her class!

– But it’s worse to continue to sit here and play while we know that she knows we’re throwing her class away for a bunch of cards.

In the end we decided to follow her. In shame. And because we were a bunch of loonies, we bought brown paper bags for each of us, cut holes in them for our eyes, and wore them over our heads as we marched back to our classroom in a line. (And yes, the brown bags were meant to charm Judy Ick with a bit of humor. They worked. :D)

When we came in, she was giving a firm-sounding lecture to the entire class, and paused just a second before she said, “See? Here they are! These are the guilty ones I was telling you about!”

But because the brown paper bags worked their charm, she softened up and ended her reproach with these words of wisdom that I have carried with me throughout the years (and yes, I’ve told them to my sons over and over again).

She said:

You have to remember: when you study in this state university and you cut classes, you are not just wasting your parents’ money. You are wasting the money of Juan, Pedro, and Tomas, and all the other farmers who work long hours in the fields from morning till night, toiling under the heat of the sun, never stopping even when the rain pours down, just so that they can earn enough to send YOU to school while their own children sit in their homes, unable to attend school themselves.

(At that time, tuition in our university was largely subsidized by the government, and we had to pay a very very very small fee to add to it).

Oh yeah. It was the perfect guilt-trip laid on us. And it worked. I never cut another Judy Ick class again.

And I think I’ve loved farmers ever since.

dsc_0706-liveimages_magtanim

*photo taken on the road during our trip to the mountains last week* more photos coming soon 😀 *

Too Awesome for Words

23 Sep

There is no way to put into words what an immensely wonderful experience our recently-concluded Type+writer course has been. Funny how a writing course can leave one speechless… but that is exactly how I’ve been for a good part of the course. Speechless with awe and admiration and amazement at the incredible response from each one who took the Type+Writer ride with Jessica and me!

Every single Spragmate who took the course was incredibly terrific. Our class gallery is filled with precious layouts that tug at the heart, make you laugh, make you smile, make you weep. These are not just photos and words on pages, they’re hearts and souls laid bare on the pages. I am so honored to have been witness to this wonderful journey of heart and soul and photoshopping fingers!

I had the most awesome two weeks of my life working with my dear friend Jessica. Just when you think that she’s so awesome and that she can’t get any better than best, she just ups and surprises you by being even more awesome than the minute before! Gotta say, this lady is one of my most favorite people on earth! What a total gift it was to be able to work hand in hand with her on this course. This is certainly an experience that has carved itself on my heart forever.

To all my darling Spraggirls/Spragguys who’ve left love on the forum and in my inbox: Jessica and I love you guys. We really do. You are just incredibly awesome.

HUGE hugs and squeezes to each of you!

And for those who missed the Type+Writer beta course, stay tuned… I hear it might be coming back early next year! 😉

So now that the course is over (and happy me, I still have a couple of weeks to marvel at each and every layout in our gallery!), I am suffering from withdrawal symptoms… I’ve been getting too much sleep since last night! 😆

Triathlon Update

Just when I thought the Olympics had all but covered the momentum of our excitement, our triathlon photos finally came out in the newspapers last September 9th. Woohoo! Because of the limited space, we each got only one photo of ours published instead of the original bunch that we were told the newspaper originally planned to publish… but hey, who’s complainin’? 😀

Our triathlon photos, published! Woohoo!

Our triathlon photos, published! Woohoo!

And the first paragraph of the article was about us, too! Cool!

Triathlon Writeup

Triathlon Writeup

One of these days, I’ll probably resurrect my Flickr account and upload the triathlon photos I took… I think if I were a triathlete, I’d love to get my hands on any photographic evidence that my body is still a lean, mean machine, eh? 😆

(Can you tell I’ve got time on my hands? 😆 )

I Want

I’m a firm believer in the saying, When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. 😉 (Shopping also keeps me awake and on my toes and totally inspired, so don’t ask me how much digi schtuff I bought in the last couple of weeks… ‘course I’d use any excuse to buy those yummies, right? hehe)

Bad habits are hard to break, so since I’ve been awake with not much to do these past couple of days, I’ve been surfing… Tsk, tsk. This is dangerous stuff, surfing. You see things that you never thought you needed, and suddenly you find yourself chanting (softly at first, then increasing in volume in tempo): I want, I want, I want!

Here’s my latest “I want”:

I want you, Bind-it-all 2.0!

I want you, Bind-it-all 2.0!

I’ve been resisting this for the longest time (and good thing, too, because they just came out with the 2.0 new improved version!). I have my beloved Cropadile, and I’ve been convincing myself that I really don’t need another gadget, since I can punch holes easily through most of the material (and more) that the Bind-It-All can… Sure, those wires are so cool, but surely there must be substitutes for those wires?

However. During one of our chats, I asked my dear friend and guru (and shoe-shopping enabler) Jes what the difference was between the Cropadile and the Bind-It-All (and yes, I kinda figured that the Cropadile is a glorified puncher and eyelet setter, but what a glory it has! 😆 ) and she gave me the link to Zutter’s vid that shows the BIA at work. I must confess I was a bit distracted by the vid (hehehe) but I did feel the rumble of a “want, want, want” chant beginning inside… And of course, it didn’t help in the dissuasion department that Jes herself has a BIA and says it works in the most awesome way!

So. This is the latest gadget(object) of my affection. The only annoying thing is that, since I need to have it shipped it over so many miles, I need to predict what supplies I’ll be needing so that it all comes in one big bulk. (Yum, don’t you love FedEx?).

Sooooo I need some advice from you sweeties. Tell me, do you have a Bind-It-All? Do you love it? Do you find that you buy less scrapbook albums off the shelf and instead spend time indulging in your creative manual labor with this delish machine and the accompanying wires and chipboard covers? And the million-dollar question: what O-wire rings do you use most often? (I can’t decide which ones to get!)

End my misery (by telling me) or enable me (by telling me)… either way, I’d love to hear from you! (And when you do drop me a line, I’d be most grateful for your assistance in turning this I want, I want, I want into I have, I have, I have !

More later…

I’m off to work on some more freebs for you sweeties, so I’ll see you later with more news! Till then, have a happy, scrappy day! 😀

BACK HOME! Yay!

6 Jul

Less than 24 hours with my feet firmly planted on homeground (okay, so maybe they’re firmly planted behind my butt as I sit on my chair, legs up, in front of my compy), and 3 hours of sleep after, and I’m so glad to be back home. I love traveling, but I love coming home more. 🙂

Chicago was awesome. If you go bloghopping, beginning with the Main Girlie’s blog (Read: Jessica, that Super-Awesome MegaWoman friend of mine) and going down the trail of blogs of my friends Shell, Veevs, Joan, Jana, Tori, Kari, Deb, Laurie, Jeanne, Susan, Amy, Lisa, Tall Lisa, and Janet who joined us for dinner on Friday evening, you should be pretty up to date with the am-AAA-zing weekend we all had last 27-29 June. We blew away the Windy City with all our cameras (the guy on the River cruise we took said “Wowza! I’ve never before seen such a group of women with such awesome cameras!” hehe. You tell em, dude! 😛 ), our laughter, our craziness, and our overflowing love for each other.

Lots of photos coming soon. As of last upload count, I had 2000 photos, so I will have to work on sorting through all of them and narrowing the count (lest this become a photo blog, lol!). Gotta love 8GB camera cards, huh? 🙂 Okay, so maybe those photos included NYC as well, but Chicago alone accounted for about 1500 of the total photo count… (Chicago GFs, are you ready to download these? ROFL!)

While sitting in the plane flying home, thousands of feet above sea level in the middle of dawn and morning, I grabbed a pen and paper and wrote this by hand, fully wishing I had a laptop instead, and fully intending to post it on my blog as soon as I arrived home. So here it is; bear with me:

How Gremlins Can Be a Good Thing

It’s a 28-hour-flight, more or less (or at least it feels like it), and we’re crossing time zones and three cities with layovers and de-planing and re-planing (I’m inventing words and I’m claiming jetlag insanity to excuse it 😛 ). Aaaand it just so happens that my little 2-year-old boy decides that THIS, the longest leg of the flight, from Detroit, USA to Nagoya, Japan, is the perfect opportunity to grab a nightmare out of nowhere and have a major meltdown in a plane filled to the brim with tired passengers trying desperately to get some shut-eye between cities.

So picture this: a large jet with every seat occupied by a tired, heavy-lidded passenger trying to find the most comfy sleeping position possible. Lights dimmed. Low hum of plane engines the perfect white noise to lull everyone to sleep. Perfect. And then…

NYEEEEAAAAAHHHHHHHHHAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!

A piercing cry, shrill, high-pitched, breaks through the sleepy lull, like a mad banshee in a forest. Heaven help me, the sound is emanating from this little 2-year-old boy beside me, the one who just a few minutes ago was like a sleeping angel in my arms. I hug him, I hold him, I shush him. But the kicking, screaming, and blind punching continue. This nightmare my little one has had is so real, he can’t even wake up enough to realize that it’s just a dream (and my ego suffers a dip as I realize my most soothing motherly voice does nothing in the comfort department, lol!) The binky I offer gets hurled by angry little fists at least 2 rows down, to be fished by some elderly gentleman from the plane’s carpeted floor (thank you, my eyes tell him with extreme gratitude and apology combined).

“J touched me!!! He touched me!!!” my little one screams, pointing to his arm, punching the air, totally annoyed that his older brother “touched” him while he was sleeping. Of course this little older brother was seated a row ahead of him and two seats to the left… and unless this boy had morphed into the PlasticMan while I was asleep, there was absolutely no way that he could’ve touched this other sweetie of mine.

But even if I whisper “It was just a dream, honey” and “J is fast asleep; he couldn’t have touched you, dear,” my little one is unconvinced and is just a total mess of tears and wailing.

After about 24 hours (okay, in reality, it was less than an hour, but it certainly felt like 24), my dear hubby comes to the rescue, hobbling over legs from his seat 2 rows ahead of us where he had our 4-year-old sleeping the flight away curled like a nice little baby lamb on the seat next to his (Why, oh, why could we not have shifted kiddo assignments for this particular flight, I ask myself wistfully).

Three minutes after hubby squats beside our seats, which is now a tangled mess of airline pillows and blankets, my little one decides to quiet down. Still refusing to be held by anyone, he tucks his little binky’ed chin into his chest and faces the backrest of the chair to whimper and sniffle himself back to sleep. I watch with bated breath, fearful that any movement might rouse the gremlin that got into my kid and make him do a screaming banshee act again.

And then. Like the first rays of dawn beaking through the dark clouds of a long-winded nightmare, the little one reaches for me, bleary-eyed, with outstretched arms, and softly whispers…

“Mama.”

And I take that little monster of mine into the curve of my circled arms, rock him back and forth a bit, and when I am sure his breathing is relaxed and back to its peaceful cadence, I let out a long sigh of relief and more than a couple of teardrops of exhaustion.

Now what could be good about this major meltdown? (I am thinking of my friend Jes and her equally horrifying experience with her kids’ meltdown recently at a friend’s place. And I’m thinking, heck, this one beat theirs).

Count your blessings they say. Behind every dark cloud is a silver lining.

Here’s the silver lining of this one: For one thing, I realize yet again that as parents you and I may want to control our children and their actions and reactions as much as we can (especially when that action causes an infinite reaction of shuffling and twisting and turning of disturbed passengers in their seats), and yet despite all our best efforts, we still aren’t able to do a single thing about it. Not because we lack anything, not because we did not foresee this, not because we are unprepared, but only because… sometimes, that’s just the way things are.

Acceptance.

This has taught me to accept with peace and calmness that certain things are just beyond one’s control.

And since we mentioned peace… this brings us to the second silver lining: This experience beats any eight-week class on Lamaze breathing exercises. This is the mother load of training in Inner Peace Maintenance. I’ve heard it said: Never try to put out a fire with a blaze. This meltdown certainly had enough heat of its own. So a couple of deep breaths and inner calming mechanisms later, I can now claim that I am a Master of the Zen of Deep Breathing.

Third silver lining: This drives home the truth in that old adage – This, too, shall pass. Good moments, freaky ones… they all pass. They’re all temporary, fleeting, here today gone tomorrow, popping like fragile bubbles of time. What a great reminder of how, truly, we are simply travelers in this world, passing through temporarily till we get to our final destination with peace, wits, and ability to appreciate all things intact.

Ah.

The profundity that lies behind Major Meltdowns. Where would we be without it?

Other Various Lessons I Learned from 10 Days Away from Home:

1. You can get *really* BIG hair in the Big Apple if you skip that crucial step of applying conditioner after you shampoo your hair at night. So make sure you either use conditioner at night or get up really early before the rest of your family does.

2. You can walk around and around in circles, map in hand, to get to Madame Tussaud’s in New York, and then lose the map at the 4-D show at M. Tussaud’s yet walk back to your hotel in four minutes flat, in a straight line. Nope, no circles, no map. Less time. Go figure.

3. You can meet, hug, stay up late, and walk the streets of Chicago with friends you’ve only actually held in your arms a matter of seconds ago in real life… and feel like you’ve known them all your life, and feel like you can talk and talk and talk forever, and miss them like crazy when the three days are over because these are people you love and who love you back… and know that this is phenomenal, that this is a gift, that this is something that doesn’t happen to many in even one lifetime. And you know in your heart. THIS is what connection is. Not as it is defined in any dictionary, but as it is etched forever in the grooves of your heart.

To all my Spragsistahs that I hugged in real life in Chicago, and to my most awesome, amazing friend Jes… THANK YOU. This is an experience I will always treasure in my heart. And remember, there are no goodbyes… only Till Next Spraguefest, right? 😉

And now, on to the growing list of to-do’s that are calling my name…

Oh, WOW!!!

19 Feb

I’ve been waiting for February to roll around because I’ve been waiting for this particular magazine to come out…

PeopleAsia FebCover

If you’re wondering why, and if you’ll allow me to shamelessly toot just this once 😉 … here’s why: because it has the very first magazine article that I’ve written on it! 😀

Remember my friends Jun and Abby de Leon? Well, in all the decades that Jun has been top photographer in the country, this is the first time (to my knowledge) that he has ever agreed to come out in a feature article in a mag… and he had some requirements, hehe. One of those requirements, to my huge surprise, was that I write his article for him. 🙂 (He didn’t tell me… I only found out when the mag people called me to ask me to write the article… 😀 Have I said that I truly like this guy? :D)

So… here it is (another one on my “Things To Do in My Lifetime” List checked!):

PeopleAsia-FullArticle

Here are the pages, one by one, for my dear friend Noel who requested to be able to read it. 🙂

(PS. If you click on each image, you can get the enlarged view. If you have a mouse with a scroll wheel, hold down the control key as you scroll and you’ll get an even larger view 😉 …. oh, and I blocked out my last name… hope you don’t mind)

Love…Cameras page1

Love…Cameras page2

Love…Cameras page3

I joined Jun and Abby during their pictorial which was held early December (you can imagine how long I’ve been waiting for this to come out! :D). Seeing the lights and the perfect set-up just sitting there, waiting for the taking, I couldn’t resist and shamelessly snapped a few of my own photos while I was at the studio. Here’s one of the photos that I took, spruced up on a layout which I gave this lovely couple for Christmas:

Love in the Time of Cameras

CREDITS:

Michelle Coleman – WinterFrost Paper; Jason Gaylor – Japanese Foliage brushes; Fonts: BeoSans & Jane Austen / Photo by LivE

What Makes My Heart Smile

Speaking of layouts and artwork… I love love letters, don’t you? I especially love them when they’re accompanied by scribbles that are hardly legible… 😆

My 5-year-old son J is at that stage when he goes through paper with as much mercy as a shredding machine… but I don’t mind his using up all our paper when what he comes up with totally makes my heart burst with tender affection:

i luv papa, i luv mama

He’s into mixed media, haha! He received a bunch of Pooh stickers in his goody bag from Family Day which we celebrated at his school yesterday. He combined those stickers with his crayonwork and dotted all the pages (there were more than 6, but I didn’t add them all here, considering that just one of this would put a smile on my face that could reach all around the world and back). Each of the papers had “I luv mama” or “I luv papa” … awwww!!! Gotta love kids!

I scanned them for prosperity… and so that one day, when he’s a teenager, I can bring these out and tell him, “See? You loved us once!” 😆

Dilly-Dallying…

is what I’m doing…

Little Dreamer Designs has come up with an apprenticeship program, which is something that I’m sure has long been awaited by many who have wanted to get into the design world. A few of us from the Spraground ( you read that right: our playground has been christened Spraground (couldn’t resist the play with words!), with permission from Jes and Jared too! 😀 ) have decided to try our luck… I know I’m going to be up against a ton of great and seasoned designers, but no guts, no glory! (Hear me pushing myself? Trying to convince myself? 😆 ) Actually: it’s as simple as this–I promised myself at the start of the year that I would get into lots of adventures, so here I am, merely fulfilling my resolutions! hehehe.

So I’ve been doodling and drawing and brainstorming and imagining and doing everything else that it takes to come up with the required mini kit for application–everything but the actual doing. Uhmmm… so far, I’ve come up with nothing. Lots in my mind and nothing on my compy. 😆 Except for something for you, which I couldn’t help making…

Here’s the layout I made with it:

Perfect Moment

Here’s what I came up with while playing for the past week: 2 papers, some embellishments, and this plopper. Initially I planned on making a template for all you sweeties… that template developed into a plopper… and then, while I was making the plopper, I thought to myself… why not give all the individual elements that I used to come up with this plopper as well? 😉

So today you get the plopper, and tomorrow I’ll upload other parts of this mini kit…

I hope you like today’s freeb, and that you can find some use for it! Here’s the preview of the plopper (I used a stock photo on it). Credits for CU items I used can be found, as usual, in the TOU!

{Click on image for larger view}

LivEdesigns PerfectMoment Plopper Preview

This plopper comes as a .psd file… I’ve included a clipping mask to make it really easy to use. All you have to do is insert your photo layer between the plopper and the mask, hover your mouse on the line that divides your photo and the photo mask till you see the little snowman-like icon, and Alt-Click to clip the photo to the mask. You can add journaling or a title or you can leave it as it is… all up to you! 😉

Download the Perfect Moment plopper here. Thank you in advance for the love you leave on my blog! 😉

Well, I’ve got to get back to the other things that are swirling around in my mind (lots to think of and plan for)… so hope to see you around again tomorrow for the rest of the Perfect Moment mini kit!

May today be filled with perfect moments for you, my sweeties! (((hugs)))

How to Journal? 14 Tips

14 Feb

There was a thread I came upon on our playground yesterday which made me both incredibly happy and just a little bit nervous. 😆 Some of my darling girlfriends asked for tips for journaling… I love to be able to help out in any way I can, but the thread kind of made my heart pound (took me back to my schooldays when right before taking a final exam, you’d think “hmmm, am I really prepared to answer this, even if I’ve studied all night?” 😆 )… mostly because I’ve never really scrutinized my writing process. I just know that I’ve been writing since I was a little kid (Writing was both an extension of my love for reading and the result of having 5 older siblings who had more important things to do than listen to the ramblings of the youngest, hahaha!!!) So anyway, because I’d do anything for my playground sistahs, I’m writing what I do know just from my totally-not-an-expert experience of writing, and I hope it helps in one way or another.

Disclaimer: These are just my opinions and so do not take them as gospel truths, okay? And don’t shoot me down if you don’t agree! 😆

1. To W or Not to W?

letter w wikimedia commonsI know that many scrapbook-journaling how-to books will say we need to get the 5W’s in on the journaling. In a way that makes sense, because future generations will want to know these facts when they look at a layout, and it’s a wonderful way to preserve history. Personally, though, I don’t pay attention to this when I write, because I feel it stunts my expression. I figure the fact-details can always be added on a tag or through other ways that are separate from the journaling text itself. It may be because my journaling is usually very personal and from-the-heart, so throwing in the facts could be like having a harsh fluorescent light shining on an otherwise soft-lit corner of the sofa, kwim? 🙂 So maybe, for those who have a difficult time going beyond the 5w’s, just maybe, the “cold, hard facts” might be the root of the difficulty in going beyond the 5w’s… try to journal without paying attention to the “w-facts” first and go with the flow. It might help?

2. Love Words 

Scrabble by GiniMiniGi stockxnchgLove affairs are great, especially when they go on and on. Words are no exception. Seriously.

When I was a kid with long summers and nothing to do, I used to devour all the books that my parents filled the shelves of our library with: Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Medical Encyclopedias, the Webster’s Dictionary (70s edition, the kind that filled two huge books that you had to heave and suck in your breath before you attempted to lift one up), Roget’s Thesaurus, the Great Books (Aenid, Oedipus & Rex, Shakespeare’s countless classics, etc)… I drank it all in. (Can you spell n-e-r-d? 😆 ) I am thankful for those boring summers though, because they are what began my love affair with words that hasn’t ended till this very minute.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is, read. Read a lot. Words have a way of sticking in the corners of our brain. Sometimes, even on the tongue (I love the way serendipity rolls on the tongue: go ahead, try saying it aloud). And if you find a word you don’t immediately understand, look up its meaning. The discovery is worth the extra trip to the bookshelf to take down the dictionary. Which brings me to…

3. Make Friends with Mr. D and Mr. T

Mr. DMr. Dictionary and Mr. Thesaurus: great friends of mine. To me, both are indispensable tools that really help put more color when I write. Case in point: 

“Our dog ran out and we chased him around the block. Bingo ran really fast, but there we were, running right behind him. Running after this old dog really tired us out…” I would think there would be more words to use than just run in all its tenses, right?

Consider this: “Our dog bounded out the door and we chased him around the block. Bingo galloped really fast, but there we were, racing right behind him. Sprinting after this old dog really tired us out…”

Oh, and this is really just an aside, but you know what word really gets me? Nice. I don’t like the word nice. I think it’s really rather bland. When I hear “nice” I think of that Charlie Brown strip where Linus says his chocolate drink tastes like hot water with brown crayon in it. I guess “nice” is just so over-used. “She’s nice… the movie was nice… the food was nice… the party turned out nice…”

There are so many ways to say something is nice in much clearer terms: pleasant, delicious, wonderful, great, awesome, amazing, fabulous, pretty, sweet, kind, charming… the list goes on and on. To me, all are far more preferable than just “nice.”

4. Sense-Appeal

Stop and Smell by smojellojo stockxnchgI guess what makes the second set of sentences above work much better than the first is that it appeals to the senses. This is where I make the case for descriptive words. When I used to teach teachers how to teach kids, I used to tell them “The whole concept of a subject must be tangible to a 3-year-old child. If you’re going to teach a child about an apple, don’t just show him a picture of the apple. Let him touch its skin, let him see its shiny red color, let him smell it, let him taste its juice, let him hear how it crunches when he bites into it…”

It’s the same with writing. Your words have to be able to draw the reader into your own experience.

How to do this? 2 foolproof ways:

Appeal to the senses: Use words that describe sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste. Use similes and metaphors: You are our shining star (you can actually see the star shining). His words fell on my ears like the soft petals of a newly-awakened rosebud (suddenly you can see and feel what his words were like).

So… for example, instead of writing “The whole place smelled bad,”  you could choose from a whole array of words that would most closely replicate the experience you had: aromatic, fetid, fresh, heady, nasty, pungent, sweet, rancid, rank, funky (this last one always cracks me up when my kids use it to describe a smell)… you get what I mean. 😀

5. Action! 

clapboard by bartgroe stockxnchgAnother foolproof way to let your writing be experiential for the reader?

 Imagine this: which movie would appeal to kids more (and I say kids because I would like to think there’s a kid in us that never dies 😀 ) –one with lots of action or one which requires them to sit back and listen to a lecture go on and on?

Yeah. I thought so.

Action is definitely more exciting, even in writing. So… we could actually do better by using active verbs. What this simply means is that we need to get rid of the primary-school textbook “There is – There are” sort of language and let the action happen. So instead of saying “The cake fell on the floor when you took your first bite…” you might want to say “You toppled over the cake as you excitedly took your first bite…” (You is active, the cake is not). The person becomes the doer of the sentence, and so there’s more action involved.

Here’s an easy way of thinking about it: Show and Tell. When you think of showing an experience, you become more aware of all the little details that sum up the experience, so it becomes much easier to tell someone about it.

6. Know Basic Grammar Rules

No Way by beriliu stockxnchgYou don’t have to be a grammar-fiend, no. This is just important insofar as it helps the reader go with the flow, instead of getting interrupted by words that stick out.

I don’t mean spelling stuff (hail, spell-check!!! 😀 ). I guess for me the thing that interrupts flow of thought most is when the voice of the text changes. For example:

“Finding Danny was the greatest thing that could ever happen in my life. When we met, he was sitting on a park bench and I was running across the grass, chasing after my niece. I tripped. You looked at me, and it was love at first sight.”

Notice the shift? First I was talking about Danny, and then I was talking to Danny. It seems like a small thing, but it does make the readers stop and say “huh? say that again?” and then they have to go back and re-read the whole thing, and you know what they say about a joke always being funnier the first time around…

Don’t worry, knowing grammar rules isn’t a big thing. It just helps. Believe me… just read the next:

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Break Some Rules

Against Sun by asifthebes stockxnchgSee? Told you it didn’t matter that much. 😀

If you try typing Every. Single. Time. on Word, you’re going to get all those warning green squiggly lines that tell you you’re making a huge grammatical mistake. The same thing happens if you type You make me so happy. Because you say hilarious things. Because you make crazy faces in front of the mirror.

I do these things all the time. And I ignore the green squiggly lines. I have no idea if an English professor will slam me for saying this, but heck, I excuse myself by crying “poetic license!” 😀  I’m a firm believer in: if it works for you, then go for it (as long as it’s not illegal, immoral, etc. etc. 😆 ) In fact, when I’ve written for others and editors change what I write because they put in all these grammatically-correct things, I ask them to reinstate my original text. Sometimes the experience just isn’t the same when you go by all the rules strictly, kwim?

8. Write Conversationally

talk bubble by spekulator stockxnchgEver read scientific journals? Last time I read one, it was because I had to, not because I wanted to. Jargon is appreciated by those who speak that particular language, and often it’s not the rest of humanity. 🙂

When I write, I like to write as I speak. (I wouldn’t say “I utilize these” in everyday conversation; I would say “I use these” so that’s what you would see in my journaling).

Journaling is wonderful on layouts, because you can write as you would speak to the person you’re making the layout for. It makes it more realistic and touches the heart more. Think about how you would speak if you were having coffee with your best friend… the informal tone, the heartfelt, honest conversation: that’s what we should try to bring out in our journaling.

So go ahead, don’t be shy: Put yourself in your journaling. Use the word “I” more often: I think, I love it when, I wonder… It’s a wonderful way to add your own perspective to the entire page, and it gives the generations to come a glimpse of you and how your mind and heart work.

9. Focus on One…

target by woodsy stockxnchg…event, feeling, idea… I think journaling about one particular event, one particular feeling, one particular insight, can bring about a much richer message than trying to fill in a text box with many factual details.

Focusing on one thing to journal about–an experience, something your child or loved one said, an item that means a lot to you, your nerdy little secret 😉 –allows us to explore that thing deeply. Deep is always a good thing, because you can draw a lot more from a deep well than from a shallow puddle, kwim?  🙂

10. Think Outside the Box

outside the box by eliteds3 stockxnchgThink of different ways of saying the same thing. There are many interesting ways to journal; here are just some:

* use phrases or words (this is really great when we’re not feeling very confident, or when we’re just too lazy to write an entire paragraph 😀 )

* use quotes / he said-she said

* use definitions, dictionary entries, and other ways of presenting thoughts that are out of the norm. I think this is the reason I actually read magazines cover to cover: I spend just as much time admiring ads and when I find one I particularly love, it normally leads to a spinoff on a layout (I take the inspiration and use it to create something of my own)

 * Q & A style of journaling, step-by-step procedures, recipe styles, etc. etc. etc.

You get the idea… there are many ways of presenting our thoughts, and sometimes the particular medium through which we communicate our journaling helps get the message across even more effectively

11. Resist the Urge to Self-Edit

!? by Dhiegaum stockxchngWrite without thinking about how big a space you have on your layout for your journaling.

Write without thinking about words or style or punctuation (that can all come later). I think in journaling class they call this the “free-write.” The idea is to free yourself of inhibitions and self-regulation, and to just keep writing until you’re not aware that you’re writing at all. For those who freeze up at the thought of writing, this is a really effective way to get rid of those fears (and who of us has not known that fear?).

So forget all the rules, all the do’s and don’t’s and just write your heart out. 

Then once you’ve gotten everything down on paper, go back and read what you’ve written. Sometimes you’ll want to keep the entire thing, and sometimes there’ll be just one line that stands out, that you want to develop into a whole different text to journal with.

(PS. But do edit, once you’ve gotten all your thoughts on paper. I rarely ever write and stay with the first version of what I have written; I’ve always found something that needed some editing).

12. Write What You Know aka Write from the Heart

Heart by MaciusWe do our best when we are confident. The same goes for writing. And who would be better experts of what lies inside our hearts than we ourselves? So go ahead and write without fear, write what’s in your heart. Because you know what? No one can say it better than you. Really.

PS. If you’re gripped by writer’s block, forget about who’s going to read what you’re writing. Write as though you would be the only one ever to read what you’ve written. It’s always a great surprise to find the words flowing out so much more easily when we’re liberated from our silly fears. 😉

13. Carry Pen and Paper aka Freeze the Moment

writing in the agenda by jan-willem stockxchngIf you open any bag I have at any given moment, there are just four things there that you will always find, no fail: one of those would most definitely be my pen-and-paper (yeah, that counts as one, because to me they’re inseparable partners, hehe).

This to me is my no-fail go-to solution to journaling. Why? Well, I get struck by thoughts every now and then, and I know that if I don’t write it down somewhere, I’ll forget everything about it by the time I need to summon up that perfect moment to journal about. Writing it down, even in the most general, most rushed outline form, will ensure that I will have something to jog my memory later on.

Also, my kids say the most amazing things, ranging from funny all the way to awww-precious!, and those statements are all too easily forgotten if I don’t write them down. So I do. On my trusty little notebook, as Blue’s friend Steve would say.

14. Just keep writing

e-sign by erkinsahin stockxchngWrite. Write. Write. Write even if you have nothing in particular to write. Pretty soon it’s going to be such a habit, you’d have gotten so comfortable with it, that it would be like second nature to you.

I read somewhere that a sure way to become a better writer is to write more. So, do! 🙂

A little extra tip: Journaling with Text

qwerty by groenmen stockxnchgAll the effort to write loses some of its value if it isn’t read, even if the reader is just you. Make reading your text easy. I’m not sure if many would agree with me, but I’d strongly suggest staying away from decorative fonts for journaling (more apt for titles or accent words, IMHO). My personal favorite for journaling are sans serif fonts because they’re more “now.” Serif fonts are fine too, and are actually said to be more readable in a block of text.

I also learned from the typography books I’ve read that left-aligned text is most readable. If you plan to justify your text, make sure there aren’t those large blank areas, because those cause the brain to stop mid-thought, and those interruptions distract the reader from taking in the whole message of the text. Right-aligning only works if each line is more or less of the same length. (Otherwise, it’s just plain discomforting to keep shifting from end to middle to end to read.) Practical things that have nothing to do with how to journal, but which I think wouldn’t hurt to know.

My Writing Process

Just thought I’d share the usual way I go about journaling for my layouts, just in case you might want to try it out. 😉

99% of the time, I begin with a photo that speaks to me. Once I have the photo, I think of the reason why it called out to me, and I start to write down what it is that I’m thinking, feeling, imagining, etc. So always, always I begin with a general idea: sometimes it’s a word, sometimes it’s a quote from one of my kids, sometimes it’s an emotion, sometimes it’s a thought. Then from that one main thing, I go into the specifics. That’s what becomes the text.

I always write my journaling on my computer. (So I guess I should say I type 😛 ). I think it’s because one, I’m not very fond of my chicken-scratch penmanship, and two, my fingers are never as fast with a pen as they are with a keyboard. I also like the ability to cut and paste (and save), hehe.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I type my journaling, but never, ever directly on my layout. For some reason unknown to me, writing directly with my text tool on my layout stunts me. (Go figure). So I’ll type in Word, then when I’ve gotten my heart out on the paper, I’ll read through it and do the editing (but only after I’ve gotten out everything I’ve wanted to say). When I’m satisfied, I copy/paste my journaling onto my layout.

Sometimes a photo will be so powerful that I will write immediately, and the words flow easily.

Sometimes I will need to go back into my little trusty notebook, because I know there’s something that I jotted down before that’s related to the photo I’m looking at, and I’ll develop that little note into the text of my journaling.

And sometimes, not very often but a few lucky sometimes, there’s an emotion so powerful that the words take center stage and the photos come after.

Illustrations of the “Sometimes” Writing Moments:

The last layout I made developed from a quote that my friend Lisa gave us on the playground to play with in a challenge. (The quote is by Mary Ann Wise from Designer Digitals–love that site!) I admit, it was quite difficult to decide which of my five sons I would use the quote for. Eventually, I asked myself “Which of the five would I want, right now, to be in my place so he could know exactly how I felt?” This helped me zone in on my eldest; I then looked for the photos, and the journaling came after.

Wish

NOTE: I know I said sans serif / serif fonts were most readable, and this just proves the point, right? 😀 I chose to break that rule this once, because I wanted this layout to exude the aura of a private diary entry or letter… So really, at the end of the day, do what feels right to you, even if it means breaking some rules! 😉 (I speak of journaling, okay? 😛 )

Journaling reads:

It seems like it was just yesterday when hugs were abundant as were declarations of love. But time stops for no one, and all too soon the little boy is replaced by a young man, eager to strike out on his own and establish his independence. Today, the hugs are a rare commodity and saying I love you is bound to cause embarrassment and shy shuffling of feet. I respect that; am even amused by it. So, understanding, I stifle the urge to embrace you and swallow those three little words. But, though unspoken and undeclared, you know that I do. And for now, at this stage of your life, that will do  just fine, my dear, first-born, teenaged son.   

CREDITS:

Mary Ann Wise – Wish Quote; Gunhilde Storeide – Folded Frame; Cafe-digi – Life’s Journey Bk frame; Petit Moineux – L’airdutemps paper sheaf, papers, rusty brad; Annie Manning / Paint-the-Moon – CharmesdAntan Kit: distressed bird stamp, pressed orchids, velvet leaves, paper (clipped on photoframe) | The Naturals Kit – leaves wrap; Anneli Andersson – pocketwatch

This next layout, done when I was just beginning to learn digital scrapbooking, was a result of one of Jessica’s first challenges in the beta Up & Running course. This is a perfect example of how journaling came first, before the photos. On the day of the challenge, I had just picked up my 5-year-old son from school where he had just had his first “fight.” The exchange between us flooded my heart so much so that I knew I needed to get the emotions out on paper in order to give my heavy heart some sense of relief. This layout was what resulted from that (and the photos came after… these were actually cheat-photos, since I had taken them not on that day but sometime before, when my son was in one of his pensive moods right after waking up one morning).

Oh Honey

Journaling reads:

You had a funny look on your face when I picked you up from school today. I knew something was wrong. You were heartbroken because your friend at school had fought with you. True to form, you didn’t fight back: “I only gave him my angry eyes.” As always, you held your tears back with great effort. You whispered to me, “I don’t want to cry. I don’t want to be called a baby.” When I embraced you and told you it was okay to cry, you put your head in the curve of my neck and sobbed your heart out. It was all I could do to keep my own tears from falling. Oh, honey, go ahead and sob your heart out. Real boys cry. And when you do, I’ll always be here to hold you, my little five-year-old man.

CREDITS:

Papers-Amy Teets & Chris Beasley; Stamp-Katie Pertiet; Ribbon-Anita Spaberg; Date dial-designing-on-the-edge; Bubble wrap tag-Lindsay Jane Designs

And that’s it!

I apologize for the extreme length of this post and hope that you don’t regret asking me for input. 😀 I think it’s safe to say I kind of got carried away. 😆 In any case, if this has helped just one of my girlfriends, then it would’ve been worth the whole day spent on getting this down here. 🙂 Thank you, di and the rest, for asking: I thoroughly enjoyed the inspection of the process (even if you may have wanted something less thorough, hahaha!)

Have a happy day!

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