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Click on the image to read from the first day of my 30-day Blog Challenge. Enjoy!

The Inspiration Series

Seven blog posts that warm the heart and inspire.

The Cosmo Series

16 blog posts from my guest-blogging stint at the new and improved Cosmo.ph.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"Go in peace."

Posted by Mariel on Sunday, August 30, 2009 0 comments
Big bites, little bites. There's something for everybody in the Big Apple.

The last couple of days have been so busy that I didn't even realize I haven't blogged in 10 days! Yikes! Sorry to keep you all hanging. Now back to regular Inspiration programming :)

I was in New York this week, and have had quite a productive time out there. The trip included a list of tasks and errands to accomplish, and I must say I'm happy with the results.

The first thing that came to mind when I got to Grand Central was…I didn't miss it. Not just yet. Strange, huh? Then I went to Serafina—an old favorite hangout, for the fruity olive oil, blocks of parmesan, crusty-chewy bread, and thin-crust gorgonzola/pesto pizza—and saw two friends. I managed to squeeze in an errand in Harlem, a place I likened to Cubao, for the street vendors, clustered shops, and overall feeling of alertness I've had to harness at a young age while learning to commute around Manila.

More than the errands and brimming to-do list, I discovered certain things about myself and the kind of lifestyle I'm drawn towards:

1. I was happy to go around town on my own, and I still enjoyed the pace people walked and the accessibility of each block.

2. I didn't find the need to fraternize with a large group, instead choosing simple one-on-one catch-up sessions with just a few friends.

3. I enjoyed the familiarity, but knew in my heart it wasn't time to go back. Again, not just yet.

Re: #2, at sporadic points during my trip, I felt a little bit sad after realizing that it's taken me some time to heal from the trauma of some failed friendships I had made over a year ago. If you read this blog regularly, I think you'd be able to piece together bits and parts of the story: from the breast cysts I got from the stress, down to the disbelief of being talked about for the first time in years, since high school.

I caught myself talking about this carelessly, when in fact, it should have already long been a closed book. Upon realizing this, I'd resolved to completely move on and refrain from even broaching the subject.

At mass earlier, it was as if God, through the Gospel reading, was telling me to do the exact same thing:

"Nothing that enters one from the outside can defile that person; but the things that come from within are what defile."

I likened this to the saying, "You can't change certain things or certain people; but you can change your reaction towards the circumstances."

It's true: Whatever hurt I'd experienced in the past, whatever the betrayal, the dishonesty, the misunderstandings…those were all external. And the only thing that can truly heal me, other than prayer, is my reaction and desire to move forward. So that's exactly what I'll will myself to do from this point on. Even if it means limiting the social scope of my future life in the city. So this time, I am truly going for quality. And besides, I'm not one to play the victim, it's so not my theme in life.

During the homily, as if echoing my decision to be more scrutinizing of the friendships I make and keep, the priest talked about the difference between being judgmental and protecting one's self. "If you have to avoid 'Fred' not because you are condemning him but protecting your own salvation, that's not being judgmental," he said. "But if you're focusing on Fred's faults, then the other saying from Christ Himself applies to you: 'Why do you look at the splinter on your friend's eyes, but not the beam in yours?'"

So this time, and like I've always had anyway but have at times succumbed to indulgent gossiping, I'm now all for 'peace that passes understanding.'

DAY 6 of the Inspiration Series
DAY 5 - "Take the plunge."
DAY 4 - "I have all I need."
DAY 3 - "Just wait for it."
DAY 2 - "You're a kind soul."
DAY 1 - "It smells like God."
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Take the plunge."

Posted by Mariel on Thursday, August 20, 2009 0 comments
The cheese counter at the Grand Central Market: a reason to make Manhattan one's home.

When I first moved to New York, I had about $500 to spend (cash and credit combined) and a generous $400-600 rent donation from my mother. To this day I am amazed and baffled by this and I keep thinking, How on earth did I even think I would survive on that amount?

But I did.

That's not to say though that I didn't struggle during those early days. My first few weeks were marked by the following realizations:

1. OH. MY. GOSH—I'm alone in NYC. Even if I was living "independently" in my hometown, I still had a steadfast support system around me. My dad's house was 20 minutes away from my apartment; Alvs lived nearby as well; doctors were a text message away; my landlady treated me like family. Life was pretty much cushy, despite living on what I thought then to be a meager editor salary.

2. I can't sleep on an airbed! Yet, I couldn't cough up the $300 for a new mattress. I also couldn't get approved for the six-month installment plan at Sleepy's around the block, because I was new in town and therefore had no credit history. I did find a decent, brand new orthopedic twin mattress in a small furniture store in Queens (the manager probably took pity on me) for a good $150. I blogged about this experience/ordeal in great detail in ChocolateSoundboard.com, which is now private.

3. I have to find a job—ASAP. With a huge chunk of my money spent on the bed, I had about a week or two to survive without going totally broke…or hungry. I met up with a friend from my early days at Seventeen. We were interns back then and she's an actress now based in New York. She mentioned I should look into restaurant hostessing—a job seemingly many actors take on for the flexibility (and visibility, I presume). At the time, I was still waiting for a call from Hearst, so I had to temp somewhere, somehow.

On my seventh day in New York, I found a hostessing job at a Japanese resto on Park Avenue (ah, the beauty of Craig's List), wherein I worked for three months before finally landing my first "official" big city job at the Hearst Tower. Here's my article on the experience.

4. Which way is east/west/north/south? During those first few weeks, I had to leave the house extra early to allot enough time for travel. Now, my apartment in Sunnyside was only 15 minutes from midtown Manhattan, BUT I kept taking the train going the opposite direction, thus, doubling my commute. It took me a good three months to get my geographical bearings. To this day, I can say that the public transportation system is one of my favorite things about New York. I drove around a lot in Manila, and I said when I moved to NYC, I would only take public transportation. (By the way, if you're car-shopping, these reviews on Ford, Audi, or Buick may help.)

The great thing about sharing this whole experience is that, I'm not the only one I know who's left everything lovely back home for a bite of the Big Apple. I was just chatting with a friend—a prolific accessories designer in my hometown—a couple of weeks back and she was contemplating a Big Move as well. The other day I got an email saying she was already in town, and currently looking for sublets near F.I.T., where she'll be attending the fall term.

My former roommates also shared anecdotes on their early days in New York. One of them slept on an airbed for months. He didn't have the motorized pump so he had to manually inflate the bed every night for it had holes in it (My lips became as big and red as Angelina's!"). His wife, on the other hand, had subsisted on canned food and survived old roommates who rummaged through her belongings. But now both of them are happily settled in, have a new baby, and are enjoying life in the city.

Manhattan is scattered with people with their own unique stories about leaving their comfortable lives and just taking the plunge. Some find success and stay, some find out it's not their thing and Manhattan is not all that, while some stay for a bit and share the experience back home. I, for one, have finally reconciled my living situation in New York. I'm no longer a full-time resident, for the time being. On the other hand, much of the work I do and most of my income still comes from there (ah, the beauty of telecommuting).

Money will always be an issue—at least if you make it to be. I truly believe that if you pursue what your heart craves and what your gut calls out to do, the resources will follow. In the same vein as when my dad told me to never take a high-paying job for the sole reason being money, going for something you want or a livelihood you enjoy, opens up the cashflow down the line.


DAY 5 of the Inspiration Series
DAY 4 - "I have all I need."
DAY 3 - "Just wait for it."
DAY 2 - "You're a kind soul."
DAY 1 - "It smells like God."
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Monday, August 17, 2009

"I have all I need."

Posted by Mariel on Monday, August 17, 2009 0 comments
Moon Safari"And if I need more, it'll come."

I just wrote that on my notebook and within minutes—or maybe seconds—the song, "All I Need" by Air (from the album, "Moon Safari: A Lunar Adventure") played randomly on iTunes. Doesn't that sound divine, literally? I know God listens and affirms with grace.

I had a full day with family today. I know for many of you reading this blog, it's not unusual to spend Sundays with loved ones, hearing mass, going out to lunch, shopping around town, enjoying a hearty dinner. But to me, this is something I treasure because I'd missed out on this for many years, having lived independently since my early teens and for most of my adult life.

I always joke with my mother that I've done this totally backwards. In the Philippines, most girls live with their parents until they're married. Some get their own apartments after graduation, but the former is the norm. I, on the other hand, am living with my mother for the first time since I was 13! It's as if I'm cashing in on those missed years. But Mom says it's not even an issue: I'm getting married, and I need to save up. And she loves having me around, taking advantage of her marvelous kitchen gadgets. So Thank you, mom.

Anyway, I dormed throughout high school and up to Freshman year college. By then my aunt and uncle said I should be spending college in a family environment (I was an only child at the time), so I lived with them, and my three cousins, for three years. We were quite close, to the point that my youngest cousin, who had been born the following year, thought I was her sister. Eventually, I moved out (and my cousin cried when she found out I was her cousin! Aww...)

Don't get me wrong, dear blog readers: To borrow Liv Tyler's words describing her childhood, "Mine was filled with love." There may have been times when my parents were absent, but everybody pitched in and provided me with a sense of family. Probably quite the non-traditional kind, but family nonetheless. My favorite aunt, Tita Joan, once said, "Family isn't just blood." And it's true.

As for those times my immediate family members were 'absent,' my dad, back then was new at his newspaper job and was busy toiling away at work to the point that he bunked with other reporters/editors in the office living quarters for many years. He didn't get paid much in the beginning, but he was able to send me to college and provide for me financially. Plus share helpful books (see my "Good Morning, America post from last year) and insights along the way.

My mother, on the other hand, was busy trying to get all of us a green card. These days she lives comfortably, but during her early years in the U.S., she took on several jobs to make ends meet. Eventually, after the strain of a five-year long distance relationship, she and my dad split. But I won't elaborate on that in this post (looong story).

Anyway, those three years I'd lived with relatives before moving out were quite critical in my growth as an adult human being:

I learned to ride a bike at 16.
At 16, Tito Al hired an instructor to teach me how to ride a bike. This was in Baguio, (a northern city in the Philippines) during a family vacation, and they didn't come get me until I was balancing/wobbling on my own. Within weeks, we were rough-riding at the construction site of what is now The Fort. I am not kidding—we were biking around tractors, submerged in dirt, on unpaved/non-existent roads. By Christmas that year, Tito Al and Tita Joan gifted me with a bicycle—one that I took to school, to the climbing gym, around town.

At 17 and 18, I learned to eat Boursin and Havarti, enjoy chewy walnut bread from the Mandarin Hotel, eat chicken baked in paprika, know what a clean kitchen and living room should look like, source seat covers from obscure places, PAINT a gate (not kidding!), clean and oil a bicycle, do long and short runs, make (or destroy) carbonara, and so forth. The works.

By 19, I was on my own, again. But armed and ready to be independent. I didn't go wild, I'd been trained well. I felt like a responsible adult.

In retrospect, I see that no matter how life seemed lacking or incomplete at different points in time, I'd actually been given the building blocks needed for each step of the way and every accomplishment. Sometimes it's just easier to fixate on what's missing, and crave for certain things, but looking at the big picture, it's all in there.


DAY 4 of the Inspiration Series
DAY 3 - "Just wait for it."

DAY 2 - "You're a kind soul."
DAY 1 - "It smells like God."

Image courtesy of http://www.tunequest.org/ (album) and http://www.allthingsjeep.com/ (bicycle).
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Just wait for it."

Posted by Mariel on Thursday, August 13, 2009 0 comments
Little Amélie spending a leisurely day eating raspberries.

When my dad started blogging a couple of months ago, he took to building posts, sourcing photos, and finding catchy titles in a classic journalistic manner—just like he would during those years he worked as an editor for a newspaper. At one point, we were trying to figure out a domain name (or was it a blog title?) and we were just sitting there in his study and he said:

"Just wait, it'll come. The universe just gives it to you. Just sit and wait."

Now, my dad isn't space-age-y that way, in fact, he can sometimes be painfully objective and straightforward. But there is that side of him that churns out cool and catchy life mantras, many of which have come in handy during tough times at work. Here are some that I'd managed to write down in random pages of my notebook:

1. "Being down makes you flexible and enterprising. View this as a challenge."

2. "There are 14 million people in New York, according to Sex and the City. You'll find at least 10 good bosses in that 14 million."

3. "When a door closes, a window opens—or break a window!"

4. "Plant seeds. They bear fruit at the right and perfect time."

5. "Don't step on people on your way up, so on your way down, they'll catch you instead of kicking you lower."

6. "Enjoy the search. It's about the travel more than the destination. So travel tomorrow."

7. "EBAY." :)

And my favorite so far is:

8. "Don't sit on your garlands."
(a.k.a. "Never rest on your laurels.")

As for "waiting for it," he may be right. I am a true believer in Divine Inspiration and Timing.

With this Inspiration Series, when I was forming it in my head, I'd intended it to be regular, but not daily pieces, unlike the 30-Day Blog Challenge wherein I'd blogged for 30 consecutive days, with one or two scheduled posts within the series. But I find that everyday, a burst of inspiration (sometimes, two) just instantly leads me to start typing away on the keyboard, and I don't have to rack my brain for the perfect words; they just flow. Cool huh?

Well of course, with that, I follow the standard writing/editing mantra of "Create and collate," meaning, write freely, go with the flow of your thoughts, and then edit: Check for form, grammar, and readability, and so forth.

DAY 3 of the Inspiration Series
DAY 2 - "You're a kind soul."
DAY 1 - "It smells like God."

Image courtesy of http://intimatevignettes.blogspot.com
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"You're a kind soul."

Posted by Mariel on Wednesday, August 12, 2009 0 comments
I will survive the next round.

Today I made a call to the Digital Film Academy in New York City to inquire about their 14-week Digital Film Making course which gives students a chance to learn to write, produce, direct, edit, and publish their own films. This skill set, I believe, is great to have in this economic clime, where print media is struggling to meet advertising quotas and at the same time churn out quality content even with skeletal staffs on board. (I DO still love paper, magazines, books, and newspapers by the way!)

I spoke to the president, Patrick DiRenna, who had a very subtle New York accent and whose demeanor on the phone was surprisingly very helpful. In my head I felt that I had to speed it up and ask the appropriate questions so as not to waste his time—but I also could tell that he welcomed my inquiry.

After getting all the information I needed, I politely said goodbye, thank you, and take care, to which he warmly replied, "You're a kind soul, I could tell by your voice."

I was stunned yet, at the same time, felt a surge of happiness. Comments like that are heartwarming, especially for someone who's been rejected the world over in a span of less than two years in Manhattan. These career blows are mainly why, this year, I've taken to living and traveling anywhere and everywhere else but NYC. (Part of my income still comes from there though, from off-site editing work. And my belongings are in a storage facility in Queens.)

But recent developments, along with this detoxing, stress-relieving sabbatical, have truly recharged my batteries and put things back in perspective: I feel that next year would be better and I would be able to take another bite of the Big Apple. I, once again, have a grasp of the little bits and pieces that will propel me towards my next undertaking. I just have to listen, seek, and very importantly: follow through.

DAY 2 of the Inspiration Series
DAY 1 "It smells like God."

Image courtesy of Paulo Barcellos at Flickr.com
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"It smells like God."

Posted by Mariel on Tuesday, August 11, 2009 0 comments
I recently ordered a box of Pocket Inspiration cards from my former boss and editor at Seventeen, Maya, who now creates these lovely pieces: from the writing, design, and illustration (you can get them from her Etsy shop online).

The small padded envelope arrived containing the following: a handwritten note from Maya herself, wishing me well for my upcoming wedding, a tiny card with instructions on how to use the cards, a small wooden clip with a tiny orange ladybug bead attached to it (too cute!), little white envelopes, and the cards encased in a lavender box tied with native twine.

I noticed that the note I was holding was lightly scented. My little brother was a few steps away so I showed it to him. He exclaimed, "Wow, it smells like God!" My heart immediately swelled and I almost got teary eyed. As we unwrapped the white envelopes, he again said, "They smell like God, too!" I can't exactly describe the scent, but the closest I could get to putting it to words is that it's a mix of a powdery floral aroma with a subtle tinge of musk.

So Maya, if you're reading this, thank you for making these cards: They're precious—and I'm calling them my little pieces of heaven. I know they're also meant to be shared with other people, to "make it your intention to inspire," but I'll forever treasure them, whether they fly away or stay close by.
DAY 1 Thanks to a blogger tip I recently read and in light of today's lovely parcel, I'd like to start an Inspiration Series—seven posts that are meant to inspire and warm the heart—starting TODAY.

(Center-aligned images courtesy of Pocket Inspiration at Etsy.com)
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