Friday, July 30, 2010

How To Change Your Blogspot Background Color

I know I should be posting something for Fortune Friday but AGAIN, I've been busy tweaking this blog.  One thing you might have noticed (or not) is that I've been playing around with the page background.  I've visited different sites that provide free blog backgrounds but I find most of them too distracting or too 'craftsy'-'girly'.  Obviously those themes don't match the character of my site.  I really just want some color on my background instead of just plain white.  Nothing too fancy, nothing too elaborate.  Just simple color.

I don't know why it took me this long to play around with the HTML code of the blog site.  I've been so scared to touch it for so long despite the fact that I know most bloggers play around with that to personalize their sites!  

Anyway, I'd like to share with you what I did to give my background some color.  Hopefully I'd be able to help someone out there who's also been struggling with a plain-looking blogspot page.

Before starting though, please note that changes in the background color will only take effect if you have the original template and have not placed any other backgrounds from other sites such as from 'hot bliggity blog' or 'the cutest blog on the block'.  If you have those in place right now, remove them first and then this should work!

Step One:    
Log in to your account / blogsite and click on 'DESIGN' at the top of the page.

Step Two:
Click on the 'EDIT HTML' tab on the upper left side of the page.

Step Three:
Under 'Edit Template', scroll down a bit to look for the following code:

/* Variable definitions
             type="color" default="#fff" value="#ffffff">  

Step Four:
Now go to this website for your color slide and select the color of your choice.

Step Five:
Once you've selected your color from the color slide, take note of (or cut and paste) the six-digit code that appears on the bottom with the # sign. (ex. # 39672; #CCBB22, etc).  Cut and paste only the code itself and not the # sign.

Step Six:
Paste that six-digit code in place of 'ffffff' where it says 'value="#ffffff'.  Make sure you do not delete any of the quotes or other values, and that you only replace the six f's with your new 6-digit color code.

Click on 'SAVE TEMPLATE'.  Do not forget this step.  Otherwise, the change will not take effect.

There you have it!  I hope it works for you and that you are loving your blog page more with the addition of your personalized background color!  Let me know if you encounter any problems!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Home in a Suitcase

The hubby recently returned from a two-week business trip trip to Manila and suffice it to say that he brought with him a ton of gifts!  It's not all from him and they're not all 'objects' either because he brought with him my Dad!  Other than my excitement with the thought of now having my Dad live with us here in the U.S. (after approximately a year-long petition process), I was really blown away with all the 'pasalubong'**.  My family and some friends made sure to send through him pieces of 'home' to me...things that really remind me of the Philippines.

I got t-shirts with very cool, and sometimes humorous, logos that represent the Philippines.  I got books on Philippine pop culture and politics.  I got a DVD of a recent Filipino comedy movie (Kimi Dora).  I got clothes for Noah that are made of the thin, cool cotton material perfect for summer here!  There's so much more, but most of all, I got a LOT of food!!!!  

My cousins and aunt and uncle sent me my Goldilocks polvoron (my favorite!!), chicharon from Lapid's, cassava cake, pastillas de leche, cashew tarts, and cornick (or Chichacorn).  And of course, who goes back home to the Philippines and forgets to bring back the quintessential snack, dessert or whatever you want to call it, of my generation (and perhaps other generations as well)....the Choc-Nut!!  I thank my cousins Ate Tess & Kuya Vic for being so brilliant as to include this in my loot bag. 

And let's not forget that Mom sent me a ton of seasoning mixes to help me in recreating my old time favorites from home.
If you think about it, there's nothing really fancy about all these items.  These are things that common Filipinos use or eat in their daily lives.  However, it's because of that ordinariness that makes them so special to me.  Like Iv'e said, they are pieces of home for me that I'm able to enjoy.  They are tangible images that, in the past six years, have only been all memory. 

Most of all, as I was unwrapping each of them, taking them all out of the plastic bags they were contained in, it was as if I was being greeted and hugged by each and every one of my loved ones back home.  Funny as it may seem, it was quite an emotional experience just looking at the quantity of items sent for me and as I went through all the pasalubong one by one, I felt even more emotional seeing how much these people KNOW me...what I love, what I enjoy/ed, what I miss.

Every item sent was a warm hug filled with affection, love and unbreakable bond.  I can't even begin to verbalize to you now how truly loved I feel.  

I can't even bring myself to get rid this one, even after it's been emptied out....
I miss home.  I will always miss home.  But for now, the polvoron and choc-nut will have to suffice.  *deep sigh*

To all you migrants out there, what top 3 things do you want sent to you that will truly make you think of home?  I would love to read your contribution and comments!

**Filipino term meaning 'gifts brought by a traveler from a trip'

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sailing Off Into the Night

I hardly knew him.  In fact, I don't even know his real name.  I've always just called him 'Yoyo'.  No it's not in reference to the toy but the fact that as a child, my sister and I both probably couldn't pronounce the letter L so instead of saying Lolo (grandfather in Tagalog), it became Yoyo....

He was our grand uncle, our maternal grandmother's younger brother.  He lived with my grandmother in her home in the province for decades now.  He never married.  As a child, I heard he got his heartbroken and never bothered with anyone again.  They said he worked somewhere in the northern provinces, Isabela I think.  What exactly he did, I don't know.    

I do know he loved to read.  He loved books, the Reader's Digest and National Geographic.  I know he loved music...Jerry Vale, Tony Bennett, The Platters and some other great classics.  He was also into carpentry a bit, and this he probably learned from their father (my great grandfather) who was a skilled carpenter.  He was also someone I enjoyed talking to even if only for a short while.  He had an authority in his voice, an intelligence and sense of knowledge that commanded respect from me.  As a child and teenager, he was patient with me whenever I asked him questions.  

I will miss that.

This morning I was told that he passed away.  A pain in his left arm, they said, and then he collapsed.  I am guessing it was a heart attack.  He did smoke a lot and was also a drinker.  That was one of the things he enjoyed...sitting on the rocking chair at night, looking out the window, into the pitch black sky, with a glass of liquor in his hand.  I've always wondered what he thought of, what questions, dreams or regrets consumed his consciousness, as he stared out into the night.  Was he happy?  Did he think of his lost love?  Was he hopeful?  Or just tired?

I did not really know him.  I will always regret that.  But I am happy that I will always remember him with a child's eyes.  I probably did not see much, know much, understand much.  But isn't it that when someone passes, it is always a gift to remember only the beauty in them and the gift their existence has brought to our own lives?  If it takes being a child to savor all that, then I choose to be one.  

Farewell, Yoyo and I do pray for your peace.  I will miss you and always remember you fondly.  

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fortune Friday 7.23.10: Collateral Damage

“An angry man opens his mouth and shuts up his eyes.”

Truth be told, I feel awful right now, physically that is.  I have the cold and am running a fever too so let me make this one brief.  The bed, couch, floor or anything I can be horizontal on beckons.

I don't really have a bad temper but when I get pushed, I do push back and am capable of exploding.  Sadly, the person who's always with me these days is Noah.  When he 'tests my patience' and I reach the end of the rope, I scream! him. It seems to be the natural thing to do when a parent finds that her/his child is not listening.  The volume just goes up until I'm able to snap him out of what ever he's doing.  In the heat of things, my exasperation consumes me until I shout at him and let it all out.  It may relieve me of the internal pressure I'm experiencing and it's just so easy to walk away after I get him to behave the way I want him to, but what I always have to remind myself is that I need to check on Noah....see how he is, explain things to him and even ask and consider how he ends up feeling.  

When we are consumed with anger, it's so easy to let it out without consideration of the casualties.  But especially where it concerns a child, you cannot afford to just shut your eyes and walk away.  More importantly, perhaps if we just open our eyes more and see, really see, then there may be no need for such explosive anger to begin with?  

Isn't it that, for the most part, anger wins when we don't step back and see the bigger picture that confronts us?  If we are honest with ourselves, we will realize that there are VERY FEW things in this life worth losing our temper over....really.

How about you?  When was the last time you lost it?  What was the casualty like?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Waiting With Grace

Nobody likes to wait.  

Sadly a significant part of our lives is spent on waiting for either something or someone and it's simply a fact of life that needs to be embraced.  Each of us had to wait in the womb before tasting our first breath on this earth.  We had to wait until we all became independent and capable of doing things on our own to address our daily needs.  We had to wait before we can go to school, find our first job, get our paychecks, find someone to love, so on and so forth.  On the level of the mundane, our lives are filled with waiting.  We wait for our computers to fully load each time we turn it on.  We wait for emails, letters, IMs, text messages, faxes, Facebook updates.  We wait for food to cook.  We wait in traffic.  We wait in line at the stores.  We wait at the doctor's office.  

We wait all the time and know that in this life nothing is instant and yet some of us never get accustomed to it and still wonder, complain and refuse it.

Personally, I'm not one to label myself 'patient'.  Sure there are times when I at least seem to be more patient than other people but generally, or at least when it comes to the really important 'stuff', I'm anything but patient.  I've often wondered about this...about this contradiction I have. 

For instance, when I'm waiting in line at the checkout counter, you will very rarely hear me complain.  I can wait.  When at the doctor's office, as long as I'm sure I've not been forgotten or no mistake has been made with the appointment schedule, I can wait.  Even in traffic, putting aside all the tension I may go through for being late for an appointment, I will not really experience any rage or cuss myself to death behind the steering wheel.  I can wait.

But why is it that when it comes to the 'big' things, the things that truly matter, the things that  in some way or another will truly define me, I seem to lack the capacity to wait?  Waiting in line or at a doctor's office is one thing.  Waiting for something to happen in your life is another.  I am ashamed to admit this but the truth is, I tend to morph into a toddler when it comes to the latter.  I do remember times when I threw tantrums at God for not giving me what I desire when I desired it.  I have had my share of resentments towards life when I don't get what I want when I want it, and it's during those times when I throw most, if not all, spiritual maturity out the window.  Where is my love life?  Where is that job?  Where is that baby?.....and the list never ends.....................

What I've come to realize is that Patience is a function of Faith.  The reason I am more patient when it just comes to falling in line or waiting at the doctor's office is because I know and feel certain that no matter how long my wait is, my turn will come.  There is a system in place and one way or the other, I will get the service I need, I will get what I want.  In life though, it doesn't work that simply.  We deal with a lot of intangibles and there are far more variables to consider when we want something to happen.  Of course my premise here is that there is a Divine and a divine order to things.  That being the case, I'm a believer that some things are either 'not meant' to happen, while some are 'meant to be'.  The problem is, if you are lacking in faith and you desire something, a little glitch, delay or bump in the road makes you panic and you take it with all negativity and accuse life of being unfair.  Instead of seeing life through a lens of gratitude, you tend to see life as something that withholds from you, deprives you.  And the more you work within this framework, the more impatient you become, never trusting the Universe to deliver what and when it needs to deliver.  Instead of graciously taking answers of 'no' or 'not yet' to mean that something wonderful can still unfold, you throw tantrums and choose to believe that you are helpless and a victim.       

The difference between someone who lacks faith and someone who truly possesses it, is that the latter sees the world as a field of buds, rather than patches of treacherous jungle.  

With genuine faith, you can walk through life enjoying each step and seeing beautiful possibilities waiting to bloom.  Things may not turn out how you envisioned them initially, but you can still eagerly await each event to unfold, and appreciate how ever things mature and fully reveal themselves in the end.  How ever they turn out, you are able to see the distinct beauty and miracle in them.

Without faith, you can feel like rushing through patches of treacherous jungle, where you just can't wait to get through things and survive; where life can seem like a maze and not getting what you ask for just spells out plain disappointment or heartache.  Not getting what you want or have been waiting for will always feel like an inconvenience and seem cruel.

Nobody likes to wait.  But sometimes, we have to.  And for those of you who, like me, can get impatient with life sometimes, let me share with you (once again), a favorite quote of mine that helps calm me down and remind me of my field of buds---

"Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day." 
---Rainer Maria Rilke (Letters to a Young Poet)

* Clock face image courtesy of
** Flower images courtesy of Francesca San Pedro

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fortune Friday 7.16.10: WANTED: Genie

“If your desires are not extravagant, they will be granted.”

Why should my desires not be extravagant for them to be granted?  Dreams are one of the few free things in this life so I say, feel free to dream big and dream away!  Besides, extravagance and simplicity are all relative. are a few things I desire today.... weigh 30lbs less, although I'd settle for just 10lbs in the meantime
...for all the washed clothes in the house to be magically folded or ironed
...a $5000 shopping allowance or gift cards for the Container Store, Bed Bath & Beyond and Ikea
...a bag of Lindt Lindor Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Truffles all for myself (which won't make me gain back the 10 or 30lbs I would've already lost!)
...true universal healthcare for all citizens of the world
...and of course, world peace.

I'm sure this list will be different in the next few moments but for now, at this moment, that is it.  Are there any available genies out there?....anyone????

I'd love to hear about your own wishes!  Would you care to share with me your top 5 for the day?



Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Defying Physics

Shortly after waking up this morning, I felt a bit nostalgic and decided to look at some of our Church wedding photos. Halfway through it, Noah woke up and started looking at the photos with me. I would point at some images and ask him if he knew them. Some of them he could recognize, some he could not. He was having so much fun, seeing how his cousins looked 5  years ago. The young teenagers now were just little boys and girls before and it was amazing for both Noah and myself.  Some lost weight, some gained, while some look exactly the same.  I thought, how time flies indeed...


After leafing through some more pages, Noah paused and asked, Where's my picture, Mommy?  Then I said, Well you weren't born then yet.  That was in 2005, you were in my tummy in 2006 and you got out of my tummy in 2007.  I thought that was the end of the conversation but then he smiled and said, I came on a spaceship and went here, and you guys were here, you and Daddy. (pardon the grammatical awkwardness) 
I laughed and thought, Oh what a witty, funny boy! But I know the weird part of me (possibly comprising 85% of my being) thought, What if he's really from outerspace?  That would explain so much!    And of course I also thought, If only it was really THAT simple! (Let's save that for another blog entry, shall we?)

Seriously, though, other than appreciating my son's wit and imagination, I also felt a tinge of sadness as I realized how much he's grown. He's speaking so well, making up stories, doing so much more on his own and acting more like a 'boy' than a 'baby'. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you're probably thinking how I sound like a broken record at times. I apologize. But if you're a mother, I guess, the passage of time becomes more pronounced as you watch your child get older every day. Actually, some days you don't notice as much (or maybe your denial dial is set at its max), and some days it just hits you how much has changed with your 'baby'.

Soon after this feeling of sadness, I then felt some guilt over how I used to wish he'd grow older, faster.  You see, my Noah has never been an 'easy' baby.  He had reflux as an infant.  He's always been a light sleeper.  And when he cries...oh my...He cries as if there were no tomorrows, cries with such intensity......until now....


I never had an easy time taking care of him because his being difficult has always been coupled with my being paranoid and overly-high-strung. This insane combination made me always utter, How I wish you were older...How I wish you'd be more independent already and do things on your own.

But now, seeing how time truly flies, I often find myself holding him tightly, as if doing so could keep him from succumbing to the laws of if squeezing him tight can guarantee me that that moment of holding my adorable 3 year old will forever be frozen, if not in time, in my memory...that it will never dissipate, not even by my own aging and inevitable memory lapses. Often times now, I panic, wondering if I'm holding Noah enough, hugging him enough, doing my best to savor the way he feels, smells and sounds NOW.  Sadly 'now' never fails to slip through and bid me goodbye, taking with it much of the physical experience I want to preserve so desperately.   

Physicists have found that time is not universal, but rather personal.  Well, I will take that knowledge in my own universe and in this universe, I will allow myself to have time stand still as often as I want, for as long as my own brain will allow it.  That's really all I can do.

So my friends, be VERY careful what you wish might just come sooner than you planned....and you know it ALWAYS does...


Friday, July 9, 2010

Fortune Friday 7.9.10: Connections

“No job is so simple that it cannot be done wrong.”

I've always had issues with my own blogging.  I still do, actually.  Sometimes, I find myself questioning its value and trying very hard to justify the hours I spend thinking about topics, figuring how my words can accurately represent my thoughts and all my angsts.  The guilt level goes off the charts especially when I get consumed with the technical aspects such as layout, page design, etc.  I keep worrying, "Am I not just wasting our family's resources by continuing to do this?  I'm not really making money from all this and yet I put in so much time and effort into it.  It's also not as if I have a significant amount of readers / followers compared to other blog sites that attest to the level of success of my site."

For some of us, it has become all too easy to put ourselves down, to believe with so much resolve that what we do does not count and that it is not as important as what others do, think or say.  But every time we think that, we move farther away from the truth.  Because the truth is, there is no act too insignificant, too small, that it cannot produce any consequence.  Everything we engage in, whether consciously or not, produce effects, though they may not always be obvious to us, nor instantaneous.  Everything has the potential to either do good or harm.  

Think of it as being a drop of water in a vast lake, seemingly insignificant, yet capable of producing ripples with every single tiny movement.   

I'm reminded of one of the scenes from the movie Evan Almighty (which sadly, I just saw this past weekend).  Evan (Steve Carell) asked God (Morgan Freeman) how he can change the world and God told Evan that it all starts with him...with one Act of Random Kindness (ARK) at a time.  

None of us need arks or some grand miracle to manifest itself before us for the world to change and be saved.  It starts with us, our actions, thoughts and intentions.  It starts within us.  Just as the world needs saving (to which we can all contribute as powerful and motivated little ripples in the vast lake), our respective selves need saving as well.  We start with our self.  For you can't really be capable of any act of kindness towards the world, if you deprive yourself of that same kindness, care and high regard.  It is utterly naive to think that nurturing oneself is easy and inconsequential because it's probably one of the most difficult projects one can ever take on.  Most of the time, I find my own mind and heart to be more resistant to change compared to others', in the same way that it's easier to solve other people's problems than attend to my own.   

The 'self project' is no easy task.  My blogging has been anything BUT easy and painless. With every entry, I put myself out there.  And with some entries, I am forced to confront personal demons, ask questions I've been denying and let myself loose in some dark, uncharted labyrinth in my mind.  It does not financially reward me and it demands a lot of time.  But it enriches me.  With every word I type, I affirm my sense of self.  With every published entry, I release some hope that somewhere, someone will be nurtured as well.  I am but a tiny drop in the world wide web but I know that with every word released comes with it the responsibility of either nurturing or hurting someone, whether it's me or another reader.  Things CAN go awfully wrong, just as they can lead to happy roads ahead.

I will probably never be completely free of my doubts with regard to the value of what I do as a blogger.  I will probably never earn much from this and I will probably never achieve the same amount of popularity and readership as the other bloggers out there have.  But friends and readers who urge me on make me see how powerful an ARK really is.  You make me realize how my writing is truly an act of kindness towards my self, my soul.  As I hope to continue practicing kindness towards my self and sanity, I also hope to be a source of positivity, clarity, entertainment and most of all, kindness, to some of you.

Have you done an act of kindness towards your SELF lately?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Fortune Friday 7.2.10: Demons Reined In

“A purpose is the eternal condition for success.”

I can't believe this.  This fortune sounds like Part 2 of my 'Demons Unleashed' blog from Wednesday night!  This is a blessing though, since somehow this fortune illuminates the point that having a purpose is at the core, not just of success, but ultimately, contentment or happiness.

After reading all the comments I received in response to my previous blog entry, I realized three important things so far:  

One, I am in great company.  I am definitely not alone in my doubts and questions with regard to my value and contribution to the world.  So many other women share the same predicament and it's not just that misery loves company.  It's the fact that somehow, sharing the cross with so many others just makes the burden seem lighter, the task at hand more doable.  So to all of you who wrote your comments and sent me such comforting messages, I am and will forever be grateful!  You made it crystal clear to me what an amazing group of readers I have on this blog site!  

Two, there is probably nothing more valuable and more special than raising another human being and help shape that life to be something filled with love, compassion and integrity.  I have always known how special parenthood / motherhood is and how it's the most difficult job on earth.  But I suppose I have yet to REALLY believe that it should be enough and maybe more than just 'enough'.  More importantly, whatever I do, wherever life takes me, I need to know that nothing can make 'me' ordinary for as long as I'm being myself.  As my wise niece Francesca said to me, my being present in situations, my letting my true self show up, already takes the situation out of the ordinary just because it has my personal stamp on it.  YOUR stamp will never be like anybody else's and that makes every situation we touch special and unique.

And three, it's not so much about being 'ordinary' or 'special' as it is about being happy where you are.  You can be the most accomplished person on earth by normative standards and still feel lost and keep wanting more.  Or you can have a life that most people would label as 'simple' and yet be filled with so much contentment and zest for life.  In the end, really it's up to you.  It's who you are, who you want to be and which lens you want to view your world with.  A Dr. Phil quote is in order:  There is no reality; only perception.  

It's very tempting to think that this latest fortune is merely telling me that having a sense of purpose and being clear about your purpose or objective will ensure success in your endeavors.  Yes, sure it's saying that on some level.  For me though, it's speaking in another voice, and although muted, it certainly is not less valuable.  

First of all, success means being able to achieve an objective, a purpose.  Hence, if you are not clear about what you want to achieve, then you'll never know when you've achieved it if you ever did.  It's like driving on a long road without a destination in mind, or shooting arrows without a known target.  Being clear about what you want to accomplish is of paramount importance.  

Second (and more importantly), the muted voice of this fortune is urging me to redefine my purpose.  You see, I've always thought of 'purpose' as one's 'calling', or that all too elusive ideal job, career or whatever you want to call it. It could be being a teacher, journalist, artist, doctor, social worker, mother/parent, economist, etc...anything you truly desire and feel as the reason for your existence.  However, thinking this way has only left me utterly frustrated and lost.  For at least two decades now, I have been trying to figure out what the Universe is calling me to do and to be.  I have done my best to listen to that voice (whatever it is) telling me what to do, what I was made for, where I can make the most difference and most of all, what will fulfill me and make me genuinely happy.  Suffice it to say that I have not figured anything definite to this date and my search has only left me questioning my self-worth.  I see people on television talking about how passionate they are about what they do, saying that if you truly love what you do, then work does not feel like work and success is sure to follow.  Countless books have been published helping people figure out what they were made for, what their passions are and helping them translate these to lifetime careers.  

I have listened.  I have read.
Have I found answers?  No.

Now I think is the time to redefine what purpose really means.  After giving all this much thought, I have resolved to  think of purpose not as a task, work or job position, but as a state of being.  I am done obsessing over what the most perfect job is for me or what place in this world I need to be in.  The only purpose worth endeavoring for is to be present where ever you are placed on this earth, in this life.  The only thing that truly counts is to be certain that your true and most brilliant self is showing up whatever task is at hand. 

I could end up working in a coffee shop, be a clerk somewhere, a counselor, professor, chef, writer or remain a stay-at-home mother and none of it will matter if I don't allow my best self to show up.  I don't need to exhaust myself and strive for perfection at all times.  That is not the point.  The point is to be self-aware at each moment; to savor each moment in your journey; to be where you are instead of thinking of the next step, the next possibility as if every stone you are in is merely a stepping stone.  The point is to find joy where you are planted in the now, instead of holding back, forever anticipating, hoping, dreaming of the next journey or something better.  

This is not to say that we should all let go of our aspirations for a better life or more favorable situations.  Aspiring and hoping for something though, should not distract us from truly finding joy in our current situations.  I cannot tell you how often I've been in situations feeling miserable just thinking to myself that I should be somewhere else, doing something 'more', something of greater value.  In the process, I just ended up not giving it my all and missing out on so many pockets of happiness that could've enriched me...all because my mind, my eyes were focused on something else...something that wasn't even really there.

We always hear that we are where we are for a reason.  Well, that reason could be so that you can show more of who you are and what you are about....always unique and special...never ordinary.