An Afternoon in Huntington Botanical Gardens

On week one of my vacation, my cousin brought us to Pasadena, California. 

We walked around the Old Pasadena which I think was such a quaint and charming place.  I loved going inside the different shops and taking pictures almost everywhere.  We had lunch at this nice Thai restaurant which served really sumptuous food.

After touring the Old Town, we went to the Huntington Library.  My cousin, my son and I decided to explore the Botanical Gardens… and realized that one afternoon was not enough to enjoy its magnificent splendor. 

As we walked through the different areas of the vast garden (there was a Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, Chinese and more), I couldn’t help but be awed at the amazing sight. 

In the Desert garden, we saw different species of desert plants.  I never saw so many different cacti — of all shapes and sizes –in my whole life…  

Some cacti were much, much bigger…

Others were small…

Amazing, huh?!

Despite the long walk and the occasional chilly breeze, it is impossible not to admire the thousands of different plant species in the botanical garden.  Like I said earlier, one afternoon was insufficient.

Words are not enough to describe the beauty of the gardens.  Allow me then to share some more photos we took, this time from the Japanese garden.  One need not be a professional photographer to capture the beauty that was around us.

 

one fine day at a Japanese garden

And my personal favorite…

Simply magical, don’t you think?

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photo credits: Supergoddess Me’s GE digicam; 

Huntington Botanical Gardens (Huntington Library), Pasadena California. March 2011 🙂

True Calling

you have a gift

Each person has his or her own gift.  Each of us has our own calling.  It’s not always, though that we find out right away what that calling is…

I used to ask myself what my calling is.  Whereas some people knew right away what they wanted to be or what they see themselves doing, I, for the longest time, was quite clueless.  I knew I was smart enough and I could be hardworking enough so I could pretty much do whatever task or job I would set my mind on. 

But then again, there are things that one does out of need… ie, because one needs a job and it’s the only job available… or because one feels the need to prove something to other people that they do things that others expect them to do.

And then there are the things we do out of passion.  Things we do because our hearts call out for it.  Things that make us feel more alive.   Things that give us the feeling of importance… a sense of purpose. 

Like I said, there are fortunate ones who know their gifts and get to use them in day jobs.  To those who can’t quite figure out what they are called to do… or those who are still uneasy about showcasing their God-given talents, well, it can be a struggle. 

~*~

Certified M.O.M.

I like love being a mom.  I love being a hands-on mom.  Despite everything I heard — the disbelief, the negative remarks, the dismay — when people found out that I chose being a full-time mom over being a career woman, I was never sorry about my choice.  If there is one thing that I know I am firm about, it’s the decision that my son will always, ALWAYS come first. 

Some people think it’s easy.  People from the outside think that being  “just” a mom is synonymous to not doing anything (wait ’til they see my daily ‘to-do list’). Well, it’s not that simple. Motherhood is not easy.  Raising an individual and making sure that said individual will grow up to be a decent, loving, God-fearing human being is a challenge.  Parenting does not come with a manual.  Mothers make mistakes, too.  We try to be good role models to our kids, but we do trip and fall sometimes.  And we have to rectify our mistakes, and at times, swallow our pride, so we can teach our kids what is right. 

Motherhood is not just about giving birth.  It is about molding, shaping, loving the child that you brought into this world.    It is about giving one’s time, attention, one’s heart… one’s self to the child.   

There is nothing easy about that.

~ * ~

One thing I like about being a full time mom is that I am given the chance to extend myself to other children, as well.  Sometimes it’s not just my son that I take care of.  There’s my nephew — who practically grew up with me, and even my son’s friends when needed. 

My friend and her husband had to go out of town for four days last week.  And so for four nights and four days, they left their two boys, Super Slugger and Whiz Kid (aged 10 and 12) with us.  They are my son’s baseball teammates and really good friends so you can imagine how happy the boys were when they found out they will be together for four whole days.    

It wasn’t just a regular “go to school” schedule for the three boys, believe me.  The boys had full schedules going into the weekend.  Full meaning baseball tournament for Super Slugger, Math contest for Superson, Computer contest for Whiz Kid.  Our mornings began at 5:30 am and our nights ended well, pretty late (tell me, how do you make three boys sleep early?!).  My days consisted of shuttling them to and from school, or waiting for them to finish their practices, or watching Super Slugger’s games.  I had to make sure they were well fed, hydrated, with homeworks done… I had to make sure they woke up early, their uniforms were complete, they had enough socks and underwear…  

I had to make sure they were happy and not in anyway homesick.  I was particularly more mindful of Super Slugger because he had a three-day tournament and I didn’t want him to feel alone so I watched every game that I possibly could. 

It was a busy and tiring weekend. But my heart was quite full.  I was happy because I was doing what I do best.  I was being a mom… and I was extending it to other children.  I was in my element.   

You know what made the whole thing more special?  It’s the realization that my friends trust me enough to leave their children under my care.  Knowing that they can entrust their kids to either their relatives or other friends, but still they chose me to take care of their children, doesn’t that say something?  Isn’t that a high form of compliment that not everyone gets freely?

~ * ~

We are all called to do something.  Sometimes we have to dig deep to find out what we are called to do, what our purpose is.  Oftentimes we make the mistake of comparing ourselves to others… we think that they are more special, or their gifts are more important, more valuable.

What do you do best?  What does your heart tell you to do?  What skills and talents do you have?  Find your purpose.  Find your passion.  Find your calling.  Stop comparing yourself to others (like what I’ve done half of my life) because you are who you are.  Just be the best you that you can possibly be.

I am a mother… and I strive to be the best mother that I can be. 

In the end, that’s all that matters.

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photos via weheartit.com

Princess for a Day… (A Birthday Blog)

fit for a princess

Twenty years ago, around this time of year, I celebrated my 18th birthday with a big party. With big, I meant, gowns, suits, good food, party coordinator, mobile band, photo and video coverage, the works. 

My real birthday wasn’t until after two weeks, but since it was December and there were a lot of bookings for Christmas parties and weddings, the only available date for our chosen venue was the first of December.  It was supposed to be a garden party but it started raining midday so the venue coordinator decided it was best to move the party to the main ballroom upstairs.

I remember visiting a nearby church that afternoon with my mom.  I remember seeing her crying, angry at the weather for ruining the original idea of having a garden party.  But as I prayed, I just offered a prayer of thanksgiving.  I thanked the Maker for, well, making me and blessing me with another birthday.  I thanked Him for the opportunity to celebrate with my family and friends.  I thanked Him for everything that I had and I think the only thing I asked for was for my friends to be able to attend.  (Oh, and I think I prayed for my accounting exam that I took the day before…)

Twenty years is a long time.  Somehow, I still remember bits and pieces of  my 18th birthday party…

  • I had no boyfriend then.
  • My escort was a cousin who was a couple of years younger.  He was more nervous than me because we had to do the waltz.
  • My sister and another cousin were the hosts of the evening.
  • My sister lost the list of names for my 18 roses dance.  She improvised.  Ended up calling the names of her friends instead of mine!! (Dear, dear sister.  I never let her host any of my events after this)
  • I have a family friend nicknamed Booey who was asked to dance by a schoolmate of mine.  With the music blaring, he couldn’t quite get her name right.  He kept calling her “Boobsy” the whooole night.  (Shame!!)
  • I had a hundred guests. I think half of those were my parents’.  Hahaha.
  • It was 1990.  The song of the night — if not the year — was… All right stop, collaborate and listen…  “Ice, Ice Baby.” 
  • Ice, Ice Baby ended the evening.

Vanilla Ice was THE man!!!

I was a happy, single, 18yr old sophomore college student then.   I was studying in a good university, I had great friends, my family was intact.   Perhaps my main and only real concern at that time was passing my Accounting exams. 

At that time I didn’t really know yet what I wanted to do in life.  I was young, naive and pretty clueless about my future.  Maybe I was a bit scared of uncertainty, but I was expectant of great things to happen.

~ * ~

Now,  20 years (and about 20 pounds) later…

I am no longer the naive girl that I once was.  Experience has taught me a lot.  I can make my own decisions and I am firm about the things that I want as well as the ones that I don’t.  I value my non-negotiables.  I now know when to shed a silent tear and when to be a drama queen.  I choose my battles… and I try to choose well.

Oftentimes I am clueless about certain things… but because I am a mom and children look up to me, I try to exude confidence and intelligence.  Moms are supposed to be all-knowing, so I dare not burst the child’s bubble. 

I still get scared of things unknown, things uncertain.  But now, I have more faith in myself. I also have more faith in Someone greater than myself.  I know I will be led.

I still continue being thankful.  Thankful that I have a family that has been ever supportive.  Thankful for my son — the very reason why I try to be the best person I can be, always.  I am thankful for not being alone.  I am thankful for my high school friends who are still my bestest friends ’til today. I am thankful for the new friendships that I have forged.  

I am thankful for this gift called life and for each and every breath that I continue to take. 

And I thank the heavens that I don’t have to take another accounting exam ever. Ever, ever…

Just as I was when I was 18, I am still expectant of greater things to come.

~ * ~

Let's parteee!!!

 

I have no plans for this year’s birthday yet.  Most likely I will spend the day wrapping Christmas gifts… then maybe have a quiet dinner with the family.  Maybe my birthday weekend will be about baseball games and Christmas parties.  I really don’t mind.  At the end of the day, it’s about spending it with the people I love.

It’s 2010.  I have no idea what this year’s best song will be… but I have a feeling I’ll be hearing Justin Bieber’s Baby over and over before the year ends…

 

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photos via google images and clipart

The List

...and the countdown begins

The other day I opened my file that says “Xmas List” and decided it’s about time that I update it.  

I made a template for said list years back.  It starts with “Immediate Family,” followed by “Relatives from Side A,” then “Relatives from Side B.”  Next in line will be “Godchildren,” then  “Mommy/Daddy Friends from School,”  then  “Son’s Friends from School/Baseball Teammates,” then “Personal Friends.”  This will be followed by the “Teachers and Coaches” and then “Business Staff/People.”  Believe it or not, I also have the names of the staff of my favorite establishments — the ones who are really nice to me– as well as the guards at the mall. 

Every year, I update the list.  I remove some names… like of the ones who are out of the country, or those people I haven’t seen nor talked to in years… or my son’s old classmates who are no longer his classmates… or old teachers who are no longer his teachers… 

The hardest to remove are the names of the ones who passed away.   Somehow, by keeping their names on the list, it feels like they are still around. (Sigh.)

To retain order in the universe, of course by removing names, I know that there is a big chance that there are new names that will be added.  A new godchild… a new teacher… that really nice barista at Coffee Bean who knows what to make for me even before I enter the store… a whole new set of chosen classmates and friends for the schoolyear… a whole new set of baseball teammates… the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker…

… and the list goes on. And on. And on.  For some reason, it is much easier to add than remove names. 

~*~

were you naughty or nice?

I like Christmas shopping.  Okay, so I love shopping, period.  That’s a given.  But there is something about Christmas shopping that gives me a certain sense of thrill.  I like thinking about what to give this or that person.  I try to think hard about what the recipient will truly appreciate.  It is not always easy.  I do have a budget to stick to.  And considering I give gifts yearly, well I do run out of ideas.

Yet despite that, I still think it’s fun.  No, it’s more than fun. It’s exhilarating.  You should see me coming out of a mall or a bazaar after a Christmas shopping spree… you will surely see that big smile plastered on my face.  My feet may be complaining, but my smile will still be there. 

Ticking all the names on my list is quite a feat.  One friend commented that I seem to have a corporate budget given the number of people I want to give gifts to.  And given that it’s already mid-November and I haven’t really started tackling the list, I will need to manage not just the budget but the time, as well, if I want to finish shopping for this Christmas.

But the ever positive shopper in me is not perturbed.  For one, I know that when you give out of the goodness of your heart, then it shouldn’t be difficult.  You will get something back in return.  I believe in provision.  I believe that as I give — cheerfully, if I may add– I will also receive something… whether it’s more shopping time… or more budget… or a genuinely happy smile from the receiver.. or more gifts that are in turn meant for me.  As shallow as it may sound, the shopping experience, to me, is happiness enough. 

As I look at my Christmas list, in a way, I can’t help but be thankful… because I know that the long list, with tick marks and all, signify that I am provided for.   I give because I have. 

160 names and counting… and I’m saying, bring it on!

~*~

Note at the end of this year’s shopping list says:

Remember: You are blessed to be a blessing!

 

 

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photos via weheartit.com

Judge and be judged

the imperfect storm

Mom: I am thinking of setting up a business for your brother and you.

Daughter:  What’s that got to do with me?

Mom: Because if you don’t help him out, I will really make you take up law. 

Daughter: (looking totally clueless) Huh?

Mom:  You should be a lawyer.  I want you to be a judge someday.  You will be happy if you are a judge.  You shouldn’t waste your intelligence… 

Daughter:  Who said I’m not happy?!  (Big sigh)

Sounds like a storm is brewing.

~*~

Initially, one would see nothing wrong with the above conversation. 

I suppose it is but normal for parents to tell their children what they want their children to become…  what path they suggest their children to take.  Out of love and concern for our kids, we parents, most often than not try to persuade them to choose a certain direction.  Of course our choices are based on our own personal experiences, as well.  We teach based on what we know.  We try to influence our children based on how we lived life and we think that what made us succeed will do the same for them.  We just want them to be successful and to be happy.

Nothing is wrong with offering suggestions.  Nothing is wrong with telling your child you dream of him or her to be this or that someday…

Not unless you are talking to a 35+ yr old. A mother of an 11yr old, with her own family unit– her own household– and a dog, to boot.    Someone who has been independent and has been taking care of her family, as well as other people’s family, for the past decade. 

You simply cannot tell that person, even if she were your own child, that you know what will make her happy. 

Because you don’t.   

~ * ~ 

I have mentioned several blogs back (see Highlight of My Day) about how I decided to veer away from the corporate life and chose to be a domestic goddess.  I believe I also mentioned that I came from a career-oriented family.  I knew that a lot of people didn’t understand why I made such choice. I knew a lot of them questioned why I chose being a full-time-rah-rah-mom over working for some company that would give me a nice title before my name.   

I didn’t mind, really.  I believed that having a peaceful family life, with a happy, loving — not to mention, very intelligent– child was more than enough to make me feel successful.  I derive my self-fulfillment from having the chance to make memories with my son.  I never really craved for any other title.  It’s not something that I miss having because I am happy where I am.  Like what I always say, to each his own.

But then hearing my mom telling me a few days ago that being a lawyer or a judge would make me “happy” really almost made me blow my top.  At that moment, the only thing I could think of was how little she thought of me… and how little she knew of me

It was pretty sad, really.  Sad not because what she said made me feel small about myself, but more because I don’t think she truly understands the happiness I get out of being a mother.  Obviously, she gets her sense of happiness elsewhere… while I derive joy from being with the people I love, doing things with and for them, sharing moments with them.

~ * ~

My mom has always been career-oriented. We never faulted her for that.  My siblings and I grew up under the care of a nanny who stayed with us until she was 85.  When our nanny passed away last year, my sister and I (being the two older ones) really felt like we lost a big part of us, as well.    My mom never understood why we cried so much.

Now in her 60’s, my mom is still happily working… proud to keep her title of being an attorney, and every other title possible, depending on her position.  Because of her present position, she got assigned in a faraway place, gets to come home only once or twice a month.  She is still happy, though.  She has reached the pinnacle of her career… 

Our weekends are spent with lunches, dinners or coffee dates with my dad, my sister and her family and my brother.  Without our mom, though, because she’s somewhere else.  We share moments here as a family, while she’s out there somewhere, socializing with the lawyers and judges like herself.  And oh yeah, she’s working, too.

She doesn’t realize that while she’s out there happily being a Somebody, I am back here taking care of her household.   I run their errands, manage their househelp, do their groceries.  My sister and I take turns staying with or inviting our dad over when he needs company.  When my brother went through some rough spot, I was there to give him whatever guidance or support he needed. 

So, maybe I don’t have a title other than “mom.”  I don’t introduce myself as Atty. So and so or Dr. Something something.  Not even Supermodel Someone.  I also see no reason to introduce myself as Writer Me when I meet with my son’s teachers or my other co-parents.  I simply see no point nor reason to.  But being ‘untitled’ doesn’t mean I am less busy, nor does it make my life less significant.

Maybe she is happy being what and where she is.  But that doesn’t mean that I am NOT happy being who or what I am.

~ * ~

What really brings you joy? Think about it.

SGM : We all have different sources of happiness.  I am happy with my family.  I am happy that I get to write.  I am happy with my life… Besides, i don’t want to be a judge. To me, it’s just a title.  

And that was how the storm ended. 

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photos via google images