Year: 2013

The Changing Seasons

The nights are much longer now and even in a tropical country like the Philippines, evenings are much, much colder. We have no snow, no winter, but the cool, dry season from November to February gives us respite from the rains and typhoons brought about by the rainy season. The cool months are the most pleasant for many Filipinos, a stark contrast to the scorching summer days, which begin soon after the cool February days come to an end. The Philippines celebrates Christmas in a grand way – and for a long time. Stores and malls begin to display and sell Yuletide items as early as September. There are plenty of glitter and snow-themed displays everywhere. Many of the displays are so colorful, whimsical… and so western!     Poinsettias One of the more popular and ubiquitous displays during Christmas are the poinsettia flowers. Christmas in the Philippines is never complete unless there are poinsettia flowers – either real or artificial. The poinsettia is indigenous to Mexico and Central America, where the climate is cooler. …

Reduce Writing Commitments to Keep Your Holidays Resistance-free

Originally posted on Bane of Your Resistance:
It may seem a bit paradoxical that one of the best ways to sustain your writing habits during the holidays is to reduce your commitments to them. Commit to less, accomplish more. Years ago, before I understood the nature of writer’s resistance, I thought I should be able to log hours and hours of writing during holidays and vacations. Of course, I never lived up to those expectations, which increased my resistance along with my self-doubt. One of the watershed moments that helped me transition from frustrated wanna-be to professional writer was recognizing that writing is something I need to make time for every weekday, aka every workday.Writing would no longer be something I’d try – and fail – to squeeze in and therefore feel guilty about never doing enough of. (Note: Pprofessional is not the only alternative to frustrated wanna-be; plenty of writers who wouldn’t consider themselves professional writers are deservedly satisfied with their writing practice.) “Hobby” writer or pro, you can minimize resistance and potential frustration during your…

12 Days of Christmas: Gift Wrapping Inspiration

Originally posted on Styling My Everyday:
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me … Ten beautifully wrapped gifts Nine Christmas songs for dancing Eight cups of hot chocolate Seven swan chocolate eclairs Six egg frittatas Five golden gifts Four colly chocolate lava cakes Three French Champagne cocktails Two sugar cookie turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tart! For the tenth day of the “12 Days of Christmas” my true love gave to me “10 lords a leaping.” Why were they leaping? Because of all those beautiful gifts! I LOVE wrapping gifts. I’ve done a gift wrapping how-to on the blog before (check it out HERE) where I exclaimed that “gift bags are lazy.” I still feel the same way—especially for Christmas gifts! I like to stock up on all kinds of different size boxes and then customize each gift for the recipient. Here are some of the gifts that are wrapped under our tree this year: Craft paper is something you should always have in your craft arsenal. It’s cheap, can be used for anything (crafts, wrapping),…

Sunday’s Blessings: Writers’ Thoughts on Christmas

“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.” -Charles Dickens “There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.” – Erma Bombeck “Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.” – Washington Irving “I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old, familiar carols play, And wild and sweet The words repeat Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and …

Precious Words from Writers

“You’re a writer. And that’s something better than being a millionaire. Because it’s something holy.” -Harlan Ellison “There are significant moments in everyone’s day that can make good literature. That’s what you write about.” -Raymond Carver “You just have to sit down and write. I never saw myself as a literary figure. The phrase, “writer’s block” would sound a little pretentious in my mouth.” -Red Smith “If you write a hundred short stories and they’re all bad, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. You fail only if you stop writing.” –Ray Bradbury “When I sit down on my writing desk, time seems to vanish. I think it’s a wonderful way to spend one’s life.” -Erica Jong “Watch children at play. They are terribly serious. The same is true with writing: you get caught up in the rhythm. That’s when it really gets to be complete play.” -Madeleine L’engle  

The World and Beiber Continue to Help

In the Philippines, many companies have decided to forgo their Christmas parties. The amount they would have spent for the festivities are instead going to the people in the provinces hard hit by Typhoon Haiyan last November. This is admirable indeed, and understandable because after all, the people in the Visayas are our countrymen. Aside from the additional help from these local companies, the survivors of Haiyan will also experience the joy of receiving aid from many people who work in German companies that have decided to scrap their Christmas parties and donate the money intended for the parties to the people in the Visayas. Germany’s acting head of mission Joern Rohdesaid said that various German companies operating in the Philippines have provided assistance in kind and through donations from their employees. The German companies have also used their own funds and some have tapped into the resources of their headquarters and global networks. An early Christmas gift for the people of Tacloban was a visit from Justine Beiber, who flew in from Australia. Before …

Digital Journaling or Pen and Paper?

I won’t debate about which journaling method is easier, smarter, better. Ultimately, I believe that every writer will have his/her own reason to choose one over the other.   I’ve been journaling with pen and paper most of my journaling life – I say most because for brief periods I tried digital journaling. There are many journalers who are all praises for digital journaling.  That’s why I tried it. I journaled for a while in Penzu, but when it didn’t feel right, I thought of trying a private blog with WordPress.com.  That went well for a few days, but I soon got tired of it and something just didn’t fit. I read about OhLife – and tried it. It was great to receive an email everyday, reminding me of the day and date, and the question: “How did your day go?” My journaling stint with OhLife was short and sweet  – in time I felt railroaded by the question,”How did your day go?” When journaling became a mere act of answering OhLife’s question about my …

UNICEF and Rihanna, “There for the Philippines”

Last November 25, UNICEF and Rihanna  launched “There for the Philippines,” Campaign to Help Children Affected by Typhoon Haiyan. “There for the Philippines” will support the immediate and long-term relief efforts for Filipino children and the families who were displaced by Super Typhoon Haiyan. UNICEF Supporter Rihanna helped kick-off the campaign and raise awareness of UNICEF’s relief efforts in the Philippines through social media.The singer, who has held concerts in the Philippines before, also made a $100,000 donation to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Other celebrities who graced the launch were  WNBA’s Skylar Diggins, MLB star Robinson Cano and actress Vanessa Hudgens. Caryl Stern, President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF said, “We are incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support shown during this crisis.” She vowed that the organization will continue to support the people of the Visayas in the Philippines: “The effects of the strongest storm to make landfall have been devastating and the rebuilding process will not happen overnight. UNICEF will be there for as long as it takes to …

Digging Through My Journals: Lessons on Choosing the Right Journal

After journaling for decades, I recently hit a plateau and could not get the pen to move on the paper as fast as I used to. After a few months of touch and go, I decided it was time to take a closer look at my journaling habits and perhaps incorporate a few changes here and there. To do that, I thought of going through all my journals – those that I hadn’t burned. I had burned many journals simply because I felt they had served their purpose. The remaining ones were written during the past eight years.  I hadn’t decided what to do with them – it’s not yet their time to get burned, apparently. The notebooks had been stored in a cabinet in my room and it’s been a few years since I’ve looked at them closely. It was surprising to see that through the years I had written on spiral notebooks in different colors but all of the same size. I had forgotten about these notebooks, but upon seeing them again, I …

Free Online Writing Courses

Several institutions are offering free online writing courses and the great thing about these courses is that they are self-paced. So, no pressure and lots of learning. What is good writing? If the idea of writing an essay intimidates you, this unit offered by The Open University  will help you realize that there’s no reason to fear essays. Writing what you know If you want to improve your skills in descriptive writing, this unit will help you “to develop your perception of the world about you and enable you to see the familiar things in everyday life in a new light. You will also learn how authors use their own personal histories to form the basis of their work.” Start writing fiction This unit will help you learn how characters might be drawn, as well as how setting is established. The course description says the unit “works on the different levels of characterisation, from flat to round, and how character and place interact. It also works on the effect of genre and how genre can …

Remembering Paul Walker

Actor Paul Walker died in a fiery accident while helping raise funds for the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The statement on his Facebook page reads: It is with a truly heavy heart that we must confirm that Paul Walker passed away today in a tragic car accident while attending a charity event for his organization Reach Out Worldwide. He was a passenger in a friend’s car, in which both lost their lives. We appreciate your patience as we too are stunned and saddened beyond belief by this news. Thank you for keeping his family and friends in your prayers during this very difficult time. We will do our best to keep you apprised on where to send condolences. We join the world in mourning the loss of the actor and philanthropist, and we thank him for his efforts in helping our countrymen. May he rest in peace. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Finding It Hard to Blog Regularly? Join a Blogging Challenge!

Today is the last day of NaBloPoMo. Another blogging challenge completed – well almost, since I missed one day. After (almost) completing three blogging challenges this year, I can very strongly recommend that you try it – if you haven’t yet. If you are a blogger who needs to get into the habit of blogging regularly and frequently, then blogging challenges are the perfect tool for you. Joining a blogging challenge will help you set the habit of blogging regularly because you are part of a group and because you have committed to it. Don’t worry if you fail to complete a blogging challenge.  This year, I bowed out of three daily blogging challenges because of circumstances in my life.  But I kept trying, so now I have completed my third blogging challenge for the year. There are many blogging challenges that are being held throughout the year – from daily, to weekly to photo challenges – there’s a whole array of choices. I’ve collated a list of the different blogging challenges in another blog …

The Journal as a Stepping Stone

The notebook – no matter what size or shape; whether it’ cheap or expensive – holds many promises for any writer. It can be called a journal or simply a writer’s notebook, but those blank pages can serve a variety of purposes. A journal need not be a mere diary – actually, a journal should not be a mere diary. Writer James Brown uses his journal as a stepping stone, where he explores his ideas and characters for whatever he’s writing. It is, so to speak his “drawing board.”   When writing non-fiction, he writes short biographical sketches of his characters in his notebook and workouts the scenes in the pages of his journals. “What matters is how journaling can help the writer come up with ideas, kind of a warm-up to a bigger process. The next step is building on those ideas, discarding some and fleshing out others, developing characters and motives, and arranging the scenes in a logical, meaningful sequence with a firm sense of a beginning, middle and end,” Brown explained. Brown …

Gear Up for Read Tuesday

Chris Mcmullen has organized a special day for writers and readers.  “Read Tuesday,” which is set for December 10 will give people the opportunity to buy books at low prices.  McMullen says Read Tuesday will be a huge affair, akin to Black Friday (interesting trivia: in the Philippines, Black Friday is commemorated as the day when Jesus was crucified). In his website, McMullen says “Read Tuesday will be a huge day like Black Friday, but for buying and gifting books at amazing sale prices. It will also be a great way to help improve literacy. Encourage someone—especially, a child—who doesn’t read much to read more.” He has invited authors to participate and offer their books at huge discounts as a way of promoting their products. The public is invited to buy the discounted books, and McMullen suggests giving the books away as Christmas gifts.  Several famous authors have signed up for the event. This year, Read Tuesday will be held on Tuesday, December 10 – mark your calendars! If you want to participate you may …

Why Writers Keep Journals

  I don’t remember exactly when I began writing on a journal. Unlike some writers who remember the precise time and day when they first wrote on their first journal, journal writing crept into my life slowly and unceremoniously. But if I am ever to lay claim to the title “Writer,” the only viable reason I can give is that I have been a journal writer most of my life.  It is the only writing activity that I have constantly practiced since I was young. In my younger years, journal writing had been a venting place where I could write without abandon about things that confused, saddened and angered me.  Later on, it became a safe place where I could write about the deep secrets that I could not share with anyone. In my adult years, when I worked as a photojournalist, then as a journalist, the journal was my constant companion through my travels to the jungles, the mountains, and into other people’s lives. I wrote in hotel rooms, at tiny eateries in the …

Songs for the Philippines

iTunes tweeted, “The music world comes together for Typhoon #Haiyan relief on Songs for the Philippines. http://tw.itunes.com/0As.” Several top artists/groups have contributed songs to the album “Songs for the Philippines,” which is available for download on iTunes. Proceeds from the sale of the 39-track album which cost US$9.99 will be donated to the Philippine Red Cross and will fund relief efforts in the Visayas, in the Philippines, where more than 5,000 people were killed and 670,000 people were displaced by Typhoon Haiyan. The anthology includes songs by top international artists including Justin Bieber, Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Adele, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Eminem, and Madonna. Songs by famous bands like U2, The Beatles, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Fray, Linkin Park, Imagine Dragons, and Kings of Leon are also included in the album. List of Songs: 1. The Beatles – “Across The Universe” (UMG) 2. Bob Dylan – “Shelter From The Storm” (SME) 3. Michael Buble – “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” (WMG 4. U2 – “In A Little While” …

Poetry Tryout

Although I never studied poetry, I love to write poems. Here is a poem written a few months ago, using one of the techniques suggested by Peter Levitt in his book “Fingerpainting on the Moon, Writing and Creativity as a Path to Freedom.” Pen and Me Pen in my hand, Cold and warm in places I write with this – It is an extension of my Self. For that brief moment That the words flow From the innermost places Of my being. Pen in hand – A friend. And, just like me, An instrument. The process of writing this poem was almost magical – the words simply flowed from within. The words of the poem were drawn out through a process that Levitt calls, “soft focus.” Levitt explains, “I call the techniques that help you listen at the root of things while freeing your senses and imagination soft focus. These techniques know how to slip beneath your ego’s defenses and make it possible for you to approach the exact name of the thing itself…” Soft …

Witness to Courage

As we begin another week, I would like to pause and take this opportunity to pay tribute to our beleaguered countrymen whose lives had been gravely affected by the wrath of Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the country last November 8. CNN has put together a special documentary entitled, “CNN SPECIAL: WITNESS TO COURAGE.” The half hour documentary has been aired and replayed in Asia several times.  In the documentary, CNN correspondents who covered the typhoon and the aftermath of Haiyan relate their experiences, share their insights and pay tribute to the Filipinos’ courage and sense of humor, which they found extraordinary. Recently, National Geographic published Ker Than’s article entitled, “Photojournalist Captures Resiliency in the Philippines After Typhoon Haiyan: David Guttenfelder documents hope and rebuilding after devastation.” Upon arriving in Tacloban, Guttenfelder reported, “It’s just a complete wasteland. It looks like a nuclear bomb went off and flattened the place. Nobody has power. There were bodies everywhere when I got here—on the road from the airport into town, just body after body.” Kher writes: Another major …

Give Yourself Permission

One of the best, easiest, yet highly effective and extremely liberating writing advice I have followed and integrated in my life is Peter Levitt’s recommendation to make a sign that reads, “PERMISSION GRANTED.” I still remember how I felt when I first read those two words – it was as though shackles were removed from my mind and the doors to the chambers of my heart opened and a waft of fresh air pushed out constraints that had been deposited there through the years. “There is room. Room for every part of life. Even room enough for me.” This realization came to Levitt one day and it led him to understand that each one of us, and every thing in this world possesses what he calls “an inherent permission to exist.” Levitt explains, “No matter how many obstructions are thrown up in an attempt by some fearful part of ourselves to disrupt the natural flow of our expressive lives, no fear, no writer’s block, no personal history, no internal conflict or neurosis changes this fact …

Authors Talk About Life

Virginia Woolf: “Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.” Ernest Hemingway: “In order to write about life first you must live it.” Ray Bradbury: “And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.” C. JoyBell C.:“I hope I don’t write TOO many books! When I look at authors who have written too many books, I wonder to myself “When did they live?” I certainly want to write BECAUSE I live! I know I don’t want to write in order to live! My writing is an overflow of the wine glass of my life, not a basin in which I wash out my ideals and expectations.” C.K. Webb:“It is a long journey, not just as a writer, but as a human being. Take nothing and no one for granted, be humble always, be kind especially when it’s difficult and never forget the place where you came from and the people …

The Family Dinner Project & Giving Tuesday – The Family Dinner Project

Today I am giving the spotlight to the Family Dinner Project, “A start-up grassroots movement of food, fun and conversation about things that matter.” Growing up, family dinners were regular, important parts of our lives. The daily ritual of eating dinner together has fostered a deep bond among the members of our family, one that has remained strong even as we have gone separate ways. This is a wonderful site with lots of ideas on how to make family dinners fun, heartwarming and really cool! The Family Dinner Project & Giving Tuesday – The Family Dinner Project.

Lessons About Writing From Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing instructs us on the craft of writing -You can only learn to be a better writer by actually writing. I don’t know much about creative writing programs. But they’re not telling the truth if they don’t teach, one, that writing is hard work and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer. -Words. Words. I play with words, hoping that some combination, even a chance combination, will say what I want. -What I had that others didn’t was a capacity for sticking to it. -I’m very unhappy when I’m not writing. I need to write. I think it’s possibly some kind of psychological balancing mechanism—but that’s not only true for writers … anybody. I think that we’re always … just a step away from lunacy anyway, and we need something to keep us balanced. -The story dictates the means of telling it. -Well, it’s certainly true that I’m driven myself, about writing. But you know I don’t do anything else. I don’t …

Finding Strength After the Storm -Anderson Cooper

CNN’s Anderson Cooper joined the numerous journalists from all over the world to cover the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan’s devastating spin through the Visayas group of islands in the Philippines last November 8.  We cried for our countrymen who died, and for those who survived but lost family members and everything they owned. This tribute from Anderson Cooper touched the hearts of many Filipinos. Maraming salamat din (thank you too), Mr. Cooper, for recognizing the strength, faith and courage of our suffering countrymen. Foreign broadcasters have repeatedly referred to the Philippines as a poor country. Yet we, the Filipinos, have always been proud of our rich heritage, of the indomitable Filipino spirit. It is our true wealth, something that no one or no catastrophe can take away from us. We can never repay the generosity of people and governments from all over the world.  We hope that the manifestations of courage and strength – the Filipino spirit –  will in some way help pay back the gestures of compassion shown to us. If only for a …

Do You Scoop.It!?

I discovered Scoop.It! when I was so busy with work I had no time to blog. It was a fascinating discovery – within minutes I became the curator of a magazine-like webpage which I was then able to publish and share.   I tweeted,  “Too busy to blog, so I Scooped.It!” This free platform allows you to gather stories pertaining to the topic you want to focus on.  Scoop.It! provides you with dozens of suggestions within minutes of typing the topic you want to curate. If you find a blog or web page that you like, you simply press the “Scoop.It!” button and the post is included in your page. The article or blog post is linked directly to the original blog site or webpage. Scoop.It! is akin to Pinterest – instead of boards though, you have curated topics.  There are three plans: free, expert and business. The free plan allows you to curate up to five topics. Since I blog more often now, I use Scoop.It! to help me gather ideas for my blog …

Authors for the Philippines

Originally posted on CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD:
Keris Stainton, friend and money-raiser-extraordinaire, has done it again. In response to the devastation Typhoon Haiyan has left in its wake, Keris has organized Authors for the Philippines, an online auction that hopes to raise money for the British Red Cross’ Typhoon Appeal. The idea is simple, but inspired. Keris has asked authors, agents, editors and all associated with the book world to donate items. These range from signed ARCs of books that aren’t out yet, to manuscript critiques, to signed special editions, to your name in a book, to a night down the pub with authors Andy Stanton and Anthony McGowan (for which bidding has become complex and hilarious, taking place in ‘bidding cartels’). Simply navigate to the post that describes the item you want to bid on, leave your bid in the form of a blog comment and then wait until the auction closes on Wednesday 20th November to see if you’ve won. Winners will be asked to donate the equivalent of their winning bid to the…

How to Be A Good Writer

  Matthew Arnold said that the only secret to good writing is to “Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can.  Every successful writer has his or her own success formula. Here are some writers and their advice on how we can all become good writers: Elizabeth Gilbert: “I believe that if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns…I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I bult my entire life around writing.” Doris Lessing: “The essential question is, “Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?” Into that space, which like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words your characters will speak, ideas – inspiration.” Jane Yolen: “Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. …

Thank You World: From the people of the Philippines

Last November 8, one of the most powerful typhoons to hit the Philippine islands wrecked havoc on the Visayas island group. Days prior to the arrival of Super Typhoon Haiyan, the local governments of the provinces expected to be hit by the typhoon evacuated 125,000 people. Contingency plans and emergency protocols were formulated to deal with the aftermath of the typhoon. But after typhoon Haiyan left, all the preparations and contingency plans were rendered useless. The local government officials and their families, who thought they were safe in their houses were swept away by the storm surge and had to fight for their lives as did thousands of others. Many evacuation centers crumbled and others were inundated with seawater, and many evacuees drowned.  The death toll has not yet been determined, but is expected to reach several thousand and corpses are everywhere, waiting to buried in a mass grave. Relief efforts are challenged by the amount of debris on the roads, and the sheer number of survivors who are in need of basic necessities. The …

Writing Regularly – A Prerequisite to Good Writing?

  I didn’t study writing in college and have never attended writing workshops.  The only writing classes I ever attended were “Creative Writing 101,” and “Advance Journalism,” during summer school in Harvard.  At that time I was already a feature writer and my articles were being published by a foreign magazine. I became a journalist by chance: When I was working as a travel photographer, the person assigned to write an article that had to be published immediately couldn’t make it, so I conducted the interview, took the pictures, wrote the article and sent it to our main office.  I received a call from our publisher shortly before publication date and he said the article was written well. Thus began my writing career. In 2010, I decided to revive my writing life after a ten-year hiatus, and even though I continued to journal, I had no confidence at all as far as writing was concerned. I began reading up on how to improve my writing. Up until then, the books on writing that I had …

Help comes in the midst of a disaster

Typhoon Haiyan is now being considered as one of the strongest typhoon that has ever made landfall. Last Friday, local time, it made landfall in the Philippines at peak strength, with maximum winds of 195 miles per hour. Typhoon Haiyan’s tail hit some parts of the major island of Luzon, including some areas of Metro Manila, the nation’s capital. Our family lives in the suburbs, south of the metropolis. We had power outage for 2 hours, and the wind howled through the night and well into late Saturday afternoon. At worst, we had fallen tree branches. The picture is entirely different in the areas that were directly hit by the super typhoon. We are only beginning to see the extent of damage wrought upon the lives of many families who live in the second biggest island group of the country – the Visayas.  The entire region was blanketed in darkness after the storm because electrical facilities were damaged, and all communication lines were down till yesterday. The news headlines were not exaggerated after all. What …

All About Islands and Archipelagos

This is a scheduled post.  Our country will be experiencing Typhoon Haiyan,  so there may not be time to blog. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this post, which contains some surprising facts. There are more than 7,100 islands in the country where I live.  The Philippines is an archipelago, which means a large group of islands. The Philippines is part of a bigger archipelago – the Malay Archipelago.  This group of islands is composed of over 25,000 islands and is the largest archipelago by land area.  It is ranked as  the fourth largest group of islands in the world. The Republic of Indonesia has 17,000 islands.  Out of these,  8,844 islands have been named, and only 922 are permanently inhabited. It is the largest archipelagic state in the world by area and population. Out of the 7,100 islands of the Republic of the Philippines, only about 2,000 are inhabited.The islands are clustered into the three major island groups: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Singapore’s geography is always changing, because of massive land reclamation work which has removed much of the …

Thriving in the Most Unlikely Places

Without any effort from humans, this plant sprouted from a crack between our concrete fence and the floor near our garage.  I have always marveled at how plants can grow in the most unlikely places.  And they don’t just grow – they bloom and multiply. It is past midnight in the Philippines.  I had planned to stay up late to do some work, because we don’t know what tomorrow will be like. I drank two cups of tea to keep me awake and as soon as I finished my second cup, the lights went off…then it came back on…went off…on again and then…it just stayed pitch dark. The rain poured. Yesterday, I wrote in my journal, “Rain in November, God is watering the plants.” The rainy season in the Philippines ends in October. Tonight, after the lights went off and the rain poured, I carefully went about the task of lighting candles around the living room as the other members of the family lit candles in their bedrooms.  I don’t know what was going on …

The Graciousness of Life

“So, Joe, why grow your hair long? Why not just go bald?” Len asked our friend Joe, matter-of-factly.  I heard Joe mutter something, but my mind was far too preoccupied to listen to his answer.  I gazed out the car window, thinking of Joe’s back hair gathered into a thin, foot-long ponytail, his head topped by a glistening crown that was bare of any hair strands. “Just like Pico de Loro,” I thought, sadly anticipating the sight of deforestation at the  two-peaked mountain my mountaineering buddies and I had climbed many years ago.  On this cloudy Friday, my friends Len, Joe and I were finally headed to the beach house owned by Len’s family, and she promised us we would pass by a resort that had been built on a cove near Pico de Loro. I say “finally,” because Len had, for years, been asking me to visit their beach house.  When I acquiesced, I asked her to invite our Tai-Chi teacher-friend Joe. Living in a country that is an archipelago composed of 7,100 islands, …

Turn Your Words Into Works of Art

The image above was created in a matter of seconds – yes, that quickly!  In this post I’ll share with you three online resources that you can use to create pictures with quotations.  There are so many memorable quotations and you can easily find them in the web.  I’d like to remind you though, that your very own words can be powerful quotations.  Go over articles, blog posts and stories that you have written, and I’m sure you’ll find noteworthy phrases and sentences.  We often forget that we too, have written powerful words. Three Free (so) Easy to Use Online Tools for Turning Words into Masterpieces Recitethis   Even if you’re a non-techie like me, you’ll love this tool.  The only problem with this tool is that it doesn’t have any facility for credits. If you want to attribute the quotation to a writer, the name will be in the same size as the rest of the quotation, and it’s hard to differentiate the name from the rest of the text.   Look at the two …

Free E-books for Everyone!

Early this year I discovered a site that offers free and discounted e-books.  I subscribed to Pixel of Ink , and everyday I receive an email with the latest free and discounted e-book offerings.  It has been an invaluable resource and I’ve downloaded so many interesting e-books for my kindle.  I highly recommend it. For this  blog post, I surfed the net for more sites that offer free e-books and I was surprised to find so many other sites that offer up to over one million e-books for free!   Here is just a partial list of sites where you can download e-books at no cost: Free E-books – Project Gutenberg “Download free ebooks for kindle, android, ipad, nook, epub or read online.” Free E books.net “Free-eBooks.net is the internet’s #1 source for free eBook downloads, eBook resources & eBook authors. Read & download eBooks for Free: anytime!” OpenCulture “This collection features free e-books, mostly classics, that you can read on your iPad/iPhone, Kindle, Nook or other devices.” Kobo “Over 1 Million FREE eBooks! Find a Free read and start reading in minutes.” bookboon.com “Bookboon.com provides 1000+ free eBooks. …

The gift of time

Time is endless, it lasts forever. Why do we oftentimes run out of time? We squander time when we are not present where we are. Mindfulness is an art that we all can learn.  Mindfulness allows us to enjoy the freedom of time. When we are mindful, we experience time. Once we choose to experience time, it lovingly stretches to embrace us.  It unfolds and expands and we find that we have all the time we need, we just don’t know it. Time is not expendable. It is not limited. If you can dance with time, it can be stretched to infinity. Time is always here, it will never disappear, so there is no need to grab it. Time is of the essence, we are told. Time is essence, I now know. Time heals, time allows us to unfold our wings. Time is our friend. When we choose to be mindful,  time indulges us, and time waits for us.

Insights from Writers

On the need for silence and solitude – from Doris Lesing: “To write takes dreaming and remembering and thinking and imagining –and very often that feels like wasting time.  It takes silence and solitude. It takes being okay with making a huge mess and not knowing what you’re doing. Then it takes rewriting and struggling to find your story and the truth of the story, and then the meaning of the story. It takes being comfortable with your own doubts and fears and questions. And there’s just no fast and easy way around it.” On loving the reader – from Ellen GilChrist: “The first thing a writer must do is love the reader and wish the reader well…Only in such well wishing and trust, only when the writer feels he is writing a letter to a good friend, only then will the magic happen.” On trusting one’s voice – from Natalie Goldberg “Once you have learned to trust your own voice and allowed that creative force inside you to come out, you can direct it …

Invocation for Writers

Today is the first day of NaBloPoMo, and thousands of bloggers will begin blogging daily till the end of November.  It is a challenge to blog daily, and life sometimes takes over during the challenge, presenting us with various distractions. It is easier to give up than continue.  I know – I’ve joined and dropped out of at least three blogging challenges this year.  But I did manage to finish two, and hopefully, I will be able to even the score by finishing NaBloPoMo. To inspire us, hopeful NaBloPoMo bloggers, here is an invocation from the book “Before You Quit Writing, Read this!” An Invocation to You, Writer on the Brink by Jeanine Nicole Cerundolo Dear Writer, Before you quit writing, Don’t. Instead, remember why it is your birthright, Remember why you started, one day, once upon a time. Remember what compelled you to express the words that are your song. Dearest writer– Put away your staff of fire. Destruction has its place. But today, you are birthing something grand and generous. Let the currents …

Here We Go Again!

For the entire month of November, I will be writing on the pages of life daily (again) after (again) another long hiatus, which was the result of a spiritual awakening. Awakenings are a wonderful thing, but sometimes they can be so powerful that life just has to stop at some areas so that it can be experienced fully and the messages and lessons can be learned well. Blogging is a wonderful activity…so join us at Yeah Write, where writers who blog and bloggers who write will be participating in BlogHer’s NaBloPoMo. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Lifelines for Writers

When we write, we lay bare what lies within.  When we write, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  Vulnerability is a scary thing, which is probably why so much of writing is preceded (and oftentimes accompanied) by fear. This is the paradox that many writers struggle with – what nourishes the soul grips the heart.  It is probably one of the reasons why many famous writers were and are alcoholics.  The rest of us (I raise my hand) who are neither famous nor alcoholics frequently fall by the wayside and allow days, weeks and months to pass by without writing.  Never a year though – we cannot survive that long without writing. But one day, we read something, we feel something within, or someone says something that hits us to the core and makes us think, face our fears and finally inspires us to decide whether we will embrace writing as a calling or indulge in it as a hobby. “I didn’t know you write so well – it would truly be sinful if you …

We are part of the organic whole

“Once we not only recognize but experience ourselves as inseparable parts of the organic whole, it’s no longer possible to make excuses for our indulgent and destructive lifestyles, to accept the dispiriting domestication or complete extinction of other life forms.  When we feel the earth as an integral and continuous part of ourselves, we no longer protect the dying rainforests as a botanical source for medicines or as a “scenic resource,” as something other than us. We know them deeply and completely.  They are our lungs – to save them is to save ourselves.  And as they are the lungs of the planet, we are the conscience.” – Jesse Wolf Hardin/Lone Wolf Circles

Join the Two-Page a Day Writing Challenge

Spiritual Writers Network is sponsoring a two-page a day writing challenge, which begins on September 1 and ends December 31.  That’s a total of 122 days and if you write an average manuscript page consisting of 200-250 words, you would have a complete manuscript by the end of the year! I’ve joined this challenge mainly because I realized just recently that my writing persona has changed through the years, and from being a feature writer, I want to focus on spiritual writing.  Join us! HOW IT WORKS: On September 1st we will all start the Two-Page-a-Day challenge together.  Be sure to join this event NOW so you will be reminded to start writing on September 1st. (Late-comers will be welcome to join at any time but they will have to spend some extra time writing to catch up.) Be sure to dedicate a time for writing each day.  It’s only two pages. You can make time…no excuses! Get up an hour earlier if you need to. You must make a commitment to yourself and stick to it. Some days your …

Blooming in Hard Times

As I write today, I marvel at how brightly the sun is shining outside my window – draping the leaves on the trees and bushes with its warm glow.  The computer monitor is positioned in such a way that even as I glance at it, I have a clear view of the backyard, if I so choose to train my eyes above the screen. How time flies, and how time moves on so swiftly, as though what happened a few days ago can be so easily forgotten.  And how well we humans cope with the fleeting nature of time – we move on with it and bravely march onward. Looking at the backyard now, who would have guessed that earlier this week, the same trees and bushes that are now bathing under the sun were drenched.  Everyone’s roof tops are dry once more, providing houses with shelter from the sun’s heat, whereas a few days ago, many rooftops in the Metropolitan Manila area served as safe refuge from the rising floodwater. “I always worry when …