Days 14-25: Of Tattoos, Symphonies, and Hormones

At the Copley Symphony Hall

Day 14 (7/17)
My first tattoo is that of a Hebrew word that translates to “steadfastness.”
I chose this word for its breadth of meaning, as is common in Biblical Hebrew. Simply translated, it is “faith” but it carries with it a deeper sense of steadfastness than mere assent to facts. It is faith that persists and acted upon in trust. It is not simply saying “I believe you” but it’s more like “I believe /in/ you.”  And if there is trust, then it should be evident in my behavior. To me, it was more about the faithfulness of God more than my own.

/firmness, steadfastness/

To be honest, I got the tattoo because it was trendy at the time for Christians to get Hebrew tattoos on their wrists. I can’t make this stuff up. Then I saw this as an opportunity to connect with people who 1) have a negative view of Christians or 2) wouldn’t step inside a church. I have a tendency to be impulsive but as numerous stories of regrettable tattoos suggest, impulsiveness with something so permanent would be unwise. The tattoo makes for good conversation starters and a way for me to let people know that I follow Jesus without being sounding heavy-handed. It became a way for me to say that the faithfulness there isn't so much my devotion to God as it is God's faithfulness in my life.

The beautiful thing about tattoos is that they can take on different meanings as time goes by—today this tattoo also acts as a second wedding ring, as my husband puts it. Another meaning of emunah is fidelity. This is us committing our lives to one another and because marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church, the

Day 15 (7/18)
My experiences with grief are few and far between. I can count three aunts, one grandparent, one of my friends’ mom, an old uncle.  I wrote about the girl from my high school class who recently passed away. This person has left such an impact in many people’s lives that even though we weren’t close, the loss is palpable. If I’m sitting here at work, distracted at the thought of her, I can only imagine the level of hurt that those nearest to her are feeling at the moment.

Last night I thought, here I am ending another day and Lord willing, beginning a new one tomorrow. She won’t have this and that’s really, really sad.

Day 16 (7/19)

I stole a tattoo idea from Pinterest but it was the perfect image to capture where I was in life at that moment. C and I lived in the mountains  for our first year of marriage. We lived in our first apartment (B-202), and I studied while he taught English to Asian seminarians. Our time in the mountains will not be duplicated and you could say we lived the dream. But now that we’re living more “normal” lives,  I have to be careful not to think that life is less exciting.
——
Baguio City is highly urban and yet surrounded by nature. In some way, the existence of Baguio could be seen as a violation of nature itself, flattening land and killing numerous trees to make way for commercial and residential spaces. But this is the world we live in now. We can try to slow down what is inevitable.

Day 17 (7/20)
New books have arrived!

I am not where I used to be in terms of reading. I miss the days when I had to read a minimum of 10 books to write a paper, on subjects that I’m thoroughly fascinated with. But I have to admit, I’ve just gotten good at making excuses for not reading enough. There’s plenty of opportunity to insert reading into my day if only 1) I would use my phone less and 2) I make reading manageable by setting goals. I’ve learned that a good way to get back into the habit is picking a relatively easy read so you’re less likely to give up. For me, that book is Welcome to Night Vale by the creators of the popular podcast. On the opposite end of the spectrum is House of Leaves, a dense and multi-format beast of a book that I’m reading with my childhood best friend. Maybe, just maybe, if I finish the latter, I’ll be able to tell if I can finish David Foster Wallace’s magnum opus Infinite Jest.



Day 18 (7/21)
It’s just one of those weeks when I have a lot of words but not enough energy to write them down. It’s the end of the week and I’m craving red wine. Sticking with white for now.

Day 19 (7/22)
Today is one for the books. C and I bought advanced tickets to watch the San Diego Symphony play the music of John Williams! Being subscribed to the symphony’s mailing list paid off as we were able to find out about the event as soon as it was announced, and we ended up getting good chairs. We both love John Williams and the movies he scored. Here is today’s lineup of themes:
Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter
Hook
E.T.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Jaws (only 2 notes but it’s so good!)
Jurassic Park
Indiana Jones

The second half of the concert was made up of the Star Wars orchestral suite and it. was. awesome.

Rey’s Theme
Scherzo for X-Wings
Main Theme (!!!)
Princess Leia’s Theme
Imperial March (!!!)
Yoda’s Theme
The Throne Room

Encore: Superman Theme

C and I waiting for the symphony to start!



Day 20 (7/23)
It was our first Sunday at the South congregation, the start of a 3-month long stint. Everyone’s love was warmer  and their smiles brighter than the sunshine outside the chapel. Seriously, these people were aglow when they saw us. We were overwhelmed by the South family’s kindness and their passion for the Lord is infectious. We got to know the small group of youth that gather every morning before the service for Sunday school, which C and I will be leading over the next few weeks.

Pray for us during this special time of ministry and for wisdom moving forward!

Day 21 (7/24)
For all the ladies out there, have you heard of this app called Hormone Horoscope? I know, the horoscope part sounds sketchy but trust me when I say it’s actually really helpful. Lately I’ve had this increased fascination with hormones and how it affects my mood, energy levels, and focus. This curiosity was further roused when I read The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine. Since being diagnosed with polycystic ovaries when I was 17, I’ve also done a bit of reading about the female hormonal cycle but reading the book made me realize how much it affected my day-to-day.
As a result of this research, I ended up finding the Hormone Horoscope app to help me predict what I might feel on a certain day in my cycle. Most days, it’s really accurate. The app has given me suggestions on how to improve my mood and work with my current brain state instead of fighting it. Some may see the ups and downs of hormones as a curse but I love how intricately God has designed us, male and female alike.

Day 22 (7/25)
Feeling antsy today about a decision but hey, I have a great boss who follows God. In a way, it makes my life so much easier but at the same time, having a Christian for a boss motivates me to perform at work better. Why? Because we hold ourselves to higher standards. We are not only accountable to each other, to our higher-ups, and to our peers. Ultimately, we are accountable to God. Are we loving him and our neighbor at work? Are we pursuing excellence so that no one may say that we are lazy and incompetent? Are we using our gifts fully for his glory? Are we seeking him and relying on him instead of our own strength and creativity? Are we pursuing holiness? I’m so grateful that our church’s theme this year is Faith at Work to help me keep these questions in the back of my mind.

Day 23 (7/26)
My husband is so supportive. I appreciate him being a sounding board. For today’s writing, I want to leave you with a reminder: Find your “safe” people so you can ask for their feedback, and they will tell you the truth in love. But you know what? I think the irony there is that it takes a great amount of vulnerability to know who these people are. To find your safe people, you yourself have to be a safe person for someone else.
There has to be an exchange but man, it can get scary or tiring. All relationships are like that, but the “return on investment” is immense.

Day 24 (7/27)
I’m flying out to San Francisco tomorrow with my boss and I’m a bit anxious. This tends to happen when I wallow in self-doubt, when I question my place at work and wonder at whether I’m good enough. In these moments, God speaks through all the noise in my heart, gently reminding me that His strength is made perfect in my weakness.

Day 25 (7/28)
San Francisco Bound, surrounded by great leaders who are just so unbelievably committed to the mission. They are what it looks like to fully give yourself.

An Update on my 100 Day Project

Friends! There's been a lot to write about and I've been doing it in my iPhone Notes, the Bear app on my Mac, and good old pen and paper. There have been days in the last week or so when I would just write down a sentence and expand later on. A couple of lessons learned: try to be more organized the next time I do this. It's been an eventful past couple of weeks but I plan to post some of the days over the weekend :)

Days 7-13

It has now been two weeks since I started this daily journal/writing project! Here are last week's entries.




Day 7: In and Out
I am a self-improvement junkie. This is probably why I have such an affinity for personality tests and LifeHacker type content——self-awareness paves the way for self-improvement. But over the course of wanting to refine my daily processes, I’ve learned that a measure of acceptance and release is needed.
A kind of acceptance that embraces the present while rejecting mediocrity. Refuse to settle but accept first what makes you /you/.
A kind of letting go that relinquishes complete control over life. Holding on to life with a death grip is a dangerous way to live. Absolute control over our circumstances is an illusion.

It’s like breathing. Take in what you can and need, exhale the rest. Both are needed to thrive.

Days 5 and 6: On planning your leisure and quitting Whole30 (for now)

Day 5: On planning your leisure

People spend their leisure time in different ways. This is something I had to learn the hard way. Early in our marriage, I would look at my husband’s “man cave” time as a waste. I didn’t even acknowledge it as man cave time—a special part of the day and week to himself to rest and enjoy.

But some days, our leisurely activities can also end up being just a complete time suck when it’s not planned. What does that look like? Me, spending hours scrolling mindlessly on Instagram.

Free time shouldn’t equal wasted time. It may seem odd to plan but since time is a non-renewable resource, I think it’s worth the effort to be intentional about what goes on even in my free time and to not just wing it. Granted, there are days when I just want to laze about and do absolutely nothing. But for the better part of the year, month, week, and yes, even day, I want to pursue life-giving leisure that allows me to still recharge while bringing me closer to my goals. Now what that looks like is something to brainstorm about this coming weekend. ;)

Day 6: Quitting Whole30 (for now)

After 5 days, I quit Whole30. I quit because I was no longer looking forward to eating, I had no extremely bad habits to break, and it required more time to prepare the food than I realized. For that last point, I would chalk it up to lack of planning. Add in the fact that I was doing it by myself and while C was supportive, I think it would have been easier for me had I followed the rules to a T with someone.
Lettuce with ground beef, carrots, and potato

The fanciest chicken sausage salad I've ever assembled
Sweet potato strips, egg, and Italian sausage

I learned to eat chia seeds! Pictured: chia seeds with almond milk, banana, berries, and coconut flakes

Egg frittata with leftover lettuce wrap filling, roasted plantain chips, berries


It seemed like I was never eating enough so I was ALWAYS hungry. Again, perhaps it’s just lack of planning. I still learned a lot about myself during those 5 days so it was not a complete failure. For instance, I gained a better understanding of how much I eat when I'm bored. I lost 3 pounds (!). Restricting myself showed me just how much harmful stuff is in the food we eat if we’re not careful. For 5 days, I proved to myself that I could make better choices.

Whole30 may be a great way to reset your gut and I know it has done wonders for many people, but I need to plan even better for me to last the entire month. I'm just not ready. Not yet. And even if it doesn't work out in my second attempt, that's okay too.



Days 3 and 4: The Happy Wanderer / Melatonin and Me

 Day 3: The Happy Wanderer

Sounds like a nice blog name. Someone’s probably registered that already.

I wasn’t paying enough attention to this particular Sopranos episode to know who the actual happy wanderer was. The old lady that just died? Tony Soprano’s estranged uncle who’s also passed away?

——

I am a stranger in a foreign land. This is my second exile, the first being exiled from my True Home. How does one thrive in Babylon?

“5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” - Jeremiah 29:5-7

It’s true. We reap what we sow. As much as I miss the Philippines, I’m blessed to be here. I embrace this new home fully and I’m growing to love it more every day.


Day 4: Melatonin and Me

Two years ago my friend introduced me to the sleep aid melatonin, which occurs naturally in the body. For those of us in need of something to  wind down faster and sleep deeper, added melatonin is available in pill form.

C and I use Schiff Melatonin Ultra. It has melatonin (3 mg), theanine, GABA, and an herbal blend that supposedly helps you “fall asleep faster and wake up refreshed.” If my sleep is uninterrupted once it kicks in, the pill actually works quite well. If I don’t get enough, I wake up groggy instead of revived and this was precisely what happened today. Leftover melatonin plus our Tempurpedic mattress (aka cloud bed) made it challenging to get up today. I dreaded the day and it was only 6am.



C and I had to go to work earlier than planned so we set our alarm back one hour. When my phone alarm went off, I pressed "stop" instead of snooze and I was mildly irritated that we had to go so early. I was too comfortable and every cell in my body was protesting—I was a brick in bed and no sense of urgency would have moved me. C subversively woke me up by opening the blinds before I restart my sleep cycle.

Here is a metaphor for life according to our bed: It’s so hard to move out of your comfort zone. Sometimes, someone just has to open the blinds to let the sunlight in and wake you up, so that your brain gets a kickstart. Even if it annoys you, take it and be grateful for it. You need a measure of discomfort to get you off your butt so you can do what you’re meant to do. Even if you have to roll out of bed one leg at a time first, surrender to the stimulus then hit the ground running.

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