2016 Reflection and Review



If 2016 taught me anything, it's that we can't have everything we want, we can't control everything, we are not the center of the universe, death is real, and we're not making things better by promoting hate. We're more connected than we realize and the impact of our choices do go beyond the radius that we've set up in our minds.

We can no longer say that by doing nothing, we are not harming anyone. You live your life, I live mine. But precisely by doing nothing, we contribute to the ills of the world by refusing to act within our means. On the flip side, we can have this messiah complex that makes us feel better than anyone else because we care about everything, and therefore we care about nothing. We drift and base our identity on our piety but our priorities are out of whack. The reality is that we will never solve everything and we will only be constantly burdened by the perpetual and multiplying problems of the world.

Truth:

Book Review: Enjoy by Trillia Newbell


Trillia Newbell invites us to dive deep into God-ordained joy in her latest book, Enjoy: Finding Freedom to Delight Daily in God's Good Gifts. The author kicks things off by laying out that God has given us good gifts and these gifts point back to Him, but there are enemies to enjoying these gifts. She identifies discontentment, ingratitude, and guilt as barriers to properly understanding and freely celebrating our blessings. Over the next 10 chapters, readers learn about practical ways to battle those enemies as we seek to enjoy our relationship with God and others, work and rest, sex, possessions, food--all of life.

Relationships: Thoughts on Singleness


There was a point in my life when I thought I would be single forever.
I shared this with my mom when we were driving home one afternoon. I told her that maybe I was like Paul—gifted with singleness for life so I could serve God with an undivided heart. She thought I was being silly. She laughed and then she told me not to close my doors. You never know.
She was right, in all her Mom Radar/Mom Intuition glory.
I had idealized the thought of being single. Choosing not to marry and be celibate for the rest of my life felt like the ideal thing to do. It seemed like the only way for me to be a better Christian. I've made some mistakes before marrying Carlo but throughout the years prior to saying "I do," I've grown in many ways I never thought possible. I treasure those 24 years.
Today I am happily married and I'm learning a new set of lessons as a wife. But before I share those, let's look back at what I learned during my season of singleness.

in celebration of freedom: thoughts on the US 2016 Election, the Marcos burial, and the Gospel

What a day.

Today, I read the news that the Philippines' former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos would be given a hero's burial. He's been dead for nearly 30 years. It is infuriating news considering the atrocities that happened under his regime--military rule where thousands were imprisoned, tortured, and killed, ill-gotten wealth leaving the country in debt and many to suffer poverty. He stayed in power for 20 years. The road to restoring democracy was a long and arduous one.

Many contend the fact that there was no law against this decision by the Supreme Court. In my opinion, that's not the issue. Despite the legalities, it is a slap to the face of those who suffered under his presidency. The point is not whether he could be legally buried there but rather what it says about how we view justice, how we treat corrupt politicians, and how this act blatantly disregards Martial Law victims. It's not about his achievements as a military man and president, but rather about the dark realities of his dictatorship. To bury him as a hero only for the "good" that he did would be tantamount to neglecting justice. Those who oppose his burial ask that the Marcos family own up to the atrocities--the protests are in the name of pursuing truth and justice and not simply for expressing sentimentality. 

how i got rid of perioral dermatitis


perioral dermatitis solution

How my perioral dermatitis developed and what products I used to clear it up


HOW IT STARTED
My first ever bout with perioral dermatitis happened a few weeks ago while I was enjoying Japanese buffet with my husband and another married couple.

As I stood in line to get starters, the lower right corner of my mouth started to itch. I thought nothing of it and scratched the area a bit. A few minutes later I asked Carlo if there was a rash on that part of my face. He said there was something but it wasn't noticeable. The itch was on and off up until we got home and it felt like there was a scaly rash that kept getting bigger. The following morning these little bumps showed up around my lip line and it was itchy as heck. I decided to leave it alone to see if it would subside the following day.

It didn't. 

caffeine chronicles | 02: blue bottle coffee




We visited visited the Bay Area last July for a friend's wedding and the ceremony was held in Oakland, where Blue Bottle Coffee's headquarters is. We checked out the W.C. Morse cafe since it was the closest to our Airbnb. This particular cafe is in an historic building within the Temescal area.

marriage: i feel like a yeti


"I'm feeling like a yeti today," I told my husband last Sunday after service. You might think that it meant I was feeling monstrous or abominable. There's a sense in which that was the case, but I used "yeti" as a code word for something more complex.

I got the idea of using a code word from Jennifer Smith's blog. I recommend that you read that article since she writes it better than I could, and she touches on most of what I personally experienced with Carlo when it comes to our communication.

But to give you an idea, we use this code word when:

making the most of unemployment


I've been in the States for three months already. Dang, that's a full quarter. There are days when I think I'm bored, only to realize that I do have plenty of things to keep me preoccupied. I'm still in the middle of creating rhythm in my life, and the lack of routine leads me to think that I can't possibly be productive while job hunting. I know I'm wrong.

Job hunting. It's been just over a month since I officially started looking for work. The people who told me that it would be easy to get employed here probably had good intentions, but now I'm learning to manage my expectations and change my strategies for the search. Friends here in the US say it can be hard to find work even if you've been in the workforce before. Finding the right job that fits my skills and interests is tough (like I said, managing expectations!). I have work experience but it still won't make the process any easier. What's easy is for me to beat myself up for not landing a job immediately, but I am making extra effort of keeping perfectionism and guilt out of the way as I move forward.

There is an upside to all of this free time on my hands--precisely because there will most likely be no other point in my life when I would have this much free time. So what do I do with it? I try to savor it. Here's what I've been doing to make the most of my unemployed season:

1. Getting fit
This season is all about planting seeds (read: good habits). I started taking fitness more seriously last year when I got married. Carlo and I began P90X3 but because our move from the Philippines to California, exercising fell by the wayside. We were so close to finishing it but we did what we had to. We're going through P90X3 again, intent on finishing the 90 days this time. During this period of unemployment, I'm training my mind and body to crave the movement, nourishment, and rest that it needs. I'm thinking long-term here: I want to be a strong employee. A strong mom. A strong wife. I want to live long with my husband. I'm glad I'm not too busy with work and I don't have to deal with not having time to exercise, or feeling too tired to do it. Staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet. Simple things add up.

2. Feeding my mind
I've been so caught up with browsing job listings that I forgot to exercise my brain cells. No wonder I'm feeling bored. As a learner, I frequently have to be picking up a new skill or new information to process. I became single minded and made it all about the job hunt to the detriment of my continuous learning. Everyday I make a commitment to read and process the news, and visit my favorite websites . I don't go through all of the links everyday but I make sure I work out my mind, too. I'm trying to read a wider variety of books and playing brain games like those in Peak. I've also been trying to write everyday in different ways, be it blogging, writing in my journal, or typing thoughts in Evernote on my phone.

3. Reflecting on a lot of things
Reviewing my life plan, our marriage, my other relationships, my life mission. Taking inventory of my skills, strengths, weaknesses, experiences, likes, dislikes, interests, passions. Reflecting on the past 25 years of my life, as far back as I can remember and being grateful for how everything turned out.

This reflection includes learning about managing finances even before we get a regular paycheck. Just last weekend Carlo and I had a financial management primer with his cousin--he shared his knowledge of stocks and the market, bonds, and different apps he uses to manage his resources. We had a fun time and it piqued my curiosity about investments. Useful knowledge for the future, for sure.

4. Being useful around the house
My in-laws are generous enough to let Carlo and I stay with them while we are getting back on our own feet. The least I could do is help out with the chores. Carlo and I try to make sure our space is tidy, that we clean up after ourselves, and that we generally help out around the house.

5. Cultivating my relationship with the Lord
I saved the most important area for last. I had a mid-year reset and decided to revamp my Bible reading plan. I should finish reading the entire Bible again by August next year, since I started the new plan last month. I updated my prayer lists and continue journaling. But what keeps me going isn't any system that I set but rather leaning into the Gospel daily. The habit of preaching the Gospel to myself everyday humbles me and frees me from trying so hard to earn God's love, when He's already put me in a place where I'm already loved. Cultivating my relationship with Him is not about having the perfect morning routine so I can pat myself on the back and check off my daily prayers and readings from the to-do list. Rather, it's about having my priorities aligned with His so that I can live according to His design. My marriage, other relationships, my view of work and how I carry it out, my view of finances and material possessions...all of them are shaped by my relationship with God and it is indeed my most important relationship of all.

As long as I seek first His kingdom and righteousness, I have nothing to worry about despite not being employed yet (Carlo calls my status "soon-to-be-employed"). Because my identity is found in Jesus, I am not insecure despite being dependent on others for a time. I am not ashamed to be where I am right now because I know my identity is not based on any title, salary, status, or possessions.

MOVING FORWARD.
I'm still looking, still praying, still trusting, still doing my part. There are things to learn and do for this season. Instead of being miserable, I am grateful and excited to see how things will turn around.

Have you experienced a similar season of unemployment? What did you do during that time?


blogtember 2016 | joy

source

DAY 7: FIVE THINGS THAT BRING YOU JOY

1. Blogging. If I could make a living out of blogging, I would. I've been trying to but I suppose the effort I'm putting into my blog still leaves much to be desired. Regardless of my stats and no matter how much I lament my lack of consistency, I still love blogging. I've been at it during the glory days of Xanga and LiveJournal, and I'm still at it today. It's very likely that I'll be blogging until I die.

2. Stationery. I know I'm not the only one. The office supplies section of Target, Staples, and Office Depot are my happy places. I can't explain it but I just really like paper products, all sorts of pens in different colors, and a variety of sticky notes.

3. Discovering and trying out local eats with my husband. Or doing anything with him, period. I'm glad we've reached that point where we have local favorites that we frequent.

Brunch at Eat Chow // Costa Mesa, CA
Tajima // Convoy Street
Yi Sushi // National City, CA
4. Reading. In the morning, I visit my favorite websites and blogs while eating breakfast. I get into the Word afterwards and later in the day, I work through whatever it is I'm currently reading. Reading and writing help me make sense of the world.

5. Reflecting. Like a true INFJ, I love to contemplate. What do I reflect on? My life, things I'm grateful for, my weaknesses and what I can do about them. I love to reflect on the Gospel. I reflect on the goodness of God, his bigness and my smallness, and how blessed it is to have a great God. I take stock of things that fire me up (as advised by the lovely Lara Casey), what I'm good at, what I love to do. I reflect a lot but I hope to put more action into my everyday goal-setting and thought-processing (which is why I'm excited to purchase Powersheets for the first time this year for 2017!). 

Side note:
P.S. Lara Casey and her team are giving away a grip of awesome goodies! Visit her blog for more info. I have no qualms about sharing this here because it also appeals to my stationery addict sensibilities ;)

YOUR TURN. What are some things that bring YOU joy?


blogtember 2016 | september goals

DAY TWO: GOALS

How I lost my 2016 goals post escapes me but luckily, I typed them up in Word as a backup. I tried to set SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely. Those words overlap but that acronym's been helpful in keeping my goals reasonable.
I can't complain about how the year's turned out. This year and the last have been filled with transitions for me and Carlo, but we look ahead. We look forward to what God has prepared ahead. He goes before us and we are anticipating how He'll continue to direct us.

Here's a recap of my short and tentative 3rd quarter goals that I set up at the beginning of the year:

Jul-Sep

  • Go on a road trip with Carlo. Yes! We were able to visit NorCal last July and I'm really glad we got to do a road trip before the year ended.
  • Find a job. Still working on this one. I try to apply to at least 2 jobs every weekday.
  • Find a mentor (and find someone that I could mentor as well). I'm not sure how this will play out but this is my heart's desire and I'm just trying to be sensitive with how God will lead me in this.
Now that list, as I mentioned, was written at the start of 2016. As with any list of goals, it's always open to being updated and changed in some way. Now that we've made the big move back to San Diego, I can now add to this list of goals that are now affected by my new living situation. 

In addition to those items above, here are my top priorities for this month:
  • Continue daily driving practice. One of my August goals was to learn how to drive and I achieved that by taking driving lessons with an established school. It's now up to me to keep building my skills, particularly lane changing and being able to drive on the freeway. I've only driven on the freeway with my instructor and I still need Carlo to be with me when I drive, but even with a companion I'm not sure I can take the freeway just yet. By the end of 2016, I hope to do that.
  • Continue my daily Bible reading plan. Since the year started until August, I was reading consistently but I had no system. I decided to follow M'Cheyne's one-year reading plan starting last month, where I read four chapters everyday from four different books (2 from the OT and 2 from the NT). I don't need to wait until January 2017 to re-read the Bible from cover to cover.
  • Try to write everyday for the Blogtember challenge.
  • Focus on one area that I want to be an "expert" in. This month is freelance writing. I don't know if I want to pursue freelance writing while I'm job hunting, but I plan to consume as many resources as I can (ebooks, videos, articles, podcasts) about the craft. Next month will probably be all about apologetics. Anything to keep my mind engaged!
  • Continue P90X3 six times a week until we finish the 90-day schedule. We shifted from the Lean plan to the Classic plan, which involves more weight lifting so we lose weight and build muscle. The Lean plan is not necessarily better for weight loss.
  • Affirm my husband daily. Pay attention to your loved ones' love languages. It really does affect not just the person receiving love, but it also uplifts YOU. My goal is to make sure my husband knows he is loved through words of affirmation and encouragement. 
Now, my friend, if you yourself are in need of some encouragement, I am here for you and cheering you on with your goals.




blogtember 2016 | howdy

Today's the first day of the Blogtember Challenge hosted by Bailey Jean (awwyeah!). It's my first time doing the challenge and I look forward to pushing myself to write something every day of this month.

DAY ONE: INTRODUCE YOURSELF
Who indeed, Harry? Also, I hope the Hogwarts Express didn't leave you behind.
My name is Patricia and I'm married to my favorite preacher/drummer/writer/warrior poet named Carlo. I recently moved from the Philippines to sunny San Diego, California a few months ago. Jesus is my Lord and Savior, and my faith is integral to who I am. I hope to share Jesus in some way as I process and document life in this blog.



I am an INFJ and as far as Strengths Finder results go, I have Connectedness, Learner, Intellection, Input, and Empathy in that order.

I'm in the thick of job hunting, learning how to drive, and reading Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. 

I could eat Japanese food everyday.

Two of my musical guilty pleasures are old school rap (think Nate Dogg, Bone Thugs 'N Harmony, Busta Rhymes, earlier Jay-Z...you get the picture) and 80's music.

I have three tattoos: a Hebrew word on my right wrist, peonies on my right bicep, and mountains and trees enclosed in a half circle on my right forearm. 

I enjoy writing for self-understanding and expression. This blog is my passion project, which means that whether or not I decide to monetize it, I'll always write in it and maintain it for my sanity. . Lately, I've been trying to become a morning person so I can write more but so far, my body refuses to wake up before 8am.

Dogs > cats (sorry cat people).

Currently eating a bacon maple donut from Great Maple as I type this post.



I'll keep Day 1 short and sweet. You can learn more factoids about me here. For tomorrow's post, I'll be sharing my goals for the month and the rest of the year! Hope to catch you tomorrow and looking forward to meeting more bloggers through Blogtember :)



a murderer made in america

pic source
The Hubs and I recently started watching O.J.: Made in America on Hulu, a five-part documentary on O.J. Simpson's life. What I didn't expect from the film is its scope--it covers so much more than The Juice's trials. The mini-series juxtaposes O.J.'s ascent to celebrity, his early desire to transcend race, the LAPD's history of police violence and racism, and how O.J.'s rise and fall become the lens by which these other issues are viewed. Three out of five episodes in and we're so immersed in this documentary, which was directed by Ezra Edelman and produced for ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary series.

O.J.: Made in America is at once about O.J. and also about America, and that's what makes it brilliant.

I can compare it to Making a Murderer in that O.J. also exposes flaws in the American legal system, mostly because the people in the system themselves are flawed. And so it follows that the system as a whole creates problems for everyone involved. Truth becomes relative, conspiracies arise, there are prejudices on both sides. In O.J. Simpson's case, his defense attorneys leverage the color of his skin so that a predominantly black jury would be able to better identify with him. Early in his life, O.J. works hard at transcending racial categories but after the 1994 murders, he is, to borrow from the documentary, "made blacker."

Clearly, the documentary has many layers and complexities in it but it's all woven together in a seamless and engaging way. I agree with the critics who say that when you watch it, you almost don't want it to end. Race and civil rights have a long history in the States, and there's a lot I need to catch up on, but watching O.J.: Made in America is one step to understanding similar issues that confront us today.

There is a simple way of viewing racism--it's wrong, it's ignorant, it's damaging. But it's also complex since there are other factors to consider when dealing with the subject-- and in this subject, you don't just deal with concepts, but with real people. O.J.: Made in America makes the issue more human again by putting a face to the abstractions. Here, you are forced not just to imagine racism, domestic abuse, egoism, and celebrity, but you get to see, hear, and almost feel pain and desire. It makes you question whether you have empathy or not, and if you do, to wonder where it lies.

We are two episodes away from finishing the mini-series but I can already recommend it with gusto. The series is perfect material for discussions on sociology, anthropology, theology, and so many other fields because of its rich narrative. I'm rating it 4/4 stars based on what I've seen so far. Yes, it's that good.

Would you be interested in watching the film? If you've seen it, what did you think?

alien life by the numbers

Alien registration
Social security
Driver's license
Every breath
Every movement

quantified

Passport
Bank account
Footsteps
Fit
bit by bit

qualified

by borders
by people
who are more than just
numbers.

Book Review: None Like Him by Jen Wilkin


What do you do when you're slowly losing your sense of wonder and awe of God because there are far too many things competing for your attention? This was my dilemma so I decided to pick up Jen Wilkin's book None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different from Us (and Why That's a Good Thing). I knew I needed to recover that sense of wonder and I figured that the best way would be to re-acquaint myself with the attributes of God.

The subtitle does sum up the focus of the book--it highlights God's attributes and contrasts it with human characteristics. Some may say that this is like Tozer's The Attributes of God when it comes to the subject, but it is still different in its presentation and scope. None Like Him highlights 10 attributes whereas Tozer covers a total of 20 in two volumes. Both are amazing works and are sure ways to recover that sense of wonder I mentioned earlier.



None Like Him is well-written, conversational, and accessible in its tone. I appreciate the numerous illustrations the author uses to explain her points derived from Scripture--like a good sermon, stories and examples drive the point closer to home and "brings the fodder down" enough for the listeners (readers) to reach. It's not a dense and academic work but because of her approach, stories and images connect with readers immediately and in more personal ways. In terms of pace, I would recommend that readers go through one chapter per day. Really savor it, and take advantage of the ways the book allows you to engage, which are Scripture references and discussion/reflection questions at the end of each chapter.

The book elevates the holiness and greatness of God and expounds on how each attribute affects our everyday lives. It doesn't sugarcoat the depths of human sin and just how lost we are without God, and yet precisely because God is different from us, we can count on him to do things only he can do; we are free to find joy in depending on God and find fulfillment in worshiping him. It's not only a fear of judgment that inspires worship but rather an understanding, limited as it is, of God's attributes.

I would assume that this book is geared towards women since Jen Wilkin primarily teaches women, but both men and women will benefit from this book.. I highly recommend it for women's group studies and for personal study as well.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for an honest review. All opinions my own.

week-long wandering pt.3 (bay area edition)

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
For our last installment of Week-long Wandering, I'm sharing highlights from our trip to SF, Berkeley, and Oakland.

Like LA, we stayed at an Airbnb in Oakland as a cheaper alternative to a hotel. We enjoyed our stay and loved our host, Joan. If we ever visit the Bay Area again, we'd definitely book her place. Her house is conveniently located near the freeway and is also close to where the wedding and reception were held. As I mentioned in the first post in the series, we originally intended to go to the Bay Area for a friend's wedding. Here's what happened during our weekend there.

One day before the wedding, we drove to San Francisco to do some touristy things at Fisherman's Wharf. Pro-tip: We booked parking at Hotel Zephyr via Parkwhiz. We paid about half the original all-day price and the hotel is within walking distance of the places we wanted to visit. For food, Yelp all the way!



Seals hangin' out
 

We didn't go to Madam Tussaud's in LA, which is bigger, but we went to the one in SF. We also checked out Ripley's museum because we like weird things :P Pro-tip: We bought our tickets via Groupon. Check it out if you want to save on admission fees and other things!


Walking around Fisherman's Wharf was good exercise. When we got tired, we decided to go on the boat ride that goes around the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. I'm interested in actually going inside Alcatraz if we get the chance to visit again.

Karl the Fog being up close and personal
We finally got to meet San Francisco's famous fog, Karl. I didn't edit my pictures so much because the fog gave the photos an interesting mood.




We spent Friday, July 29, in SF. The following day, our friends got married in Christ the Light Cathedral in Oakland. Per the couple's request, phones and other devices were not allowed during the ceremony. I thought that decision was wise as it enabled everyone to focus on the beauty of their coming together. Our attention spans are far shorter than they were before, methinks.
The nicest cathedral I've ever been in! This is one of the few photos I took before the ceremony started.
The reception was held inside the California Memorial Stadium, which gave us a spectacular view of Berkeley and SF on the horizon.

Berkeley. SF is visible on the other side of the bay.

Our time in NorCal was really short. We initially wanted to drive via the PCH but it would be cutting it too close to when we had to return the rental car. We could have extended but we didn't have much time planning for a longer trip either. This week-long trip was good practice for a longer road trip though! By that time, I will have learned how to drive so my poor husband won't have to struggle to stay awake, and he can enjoy the views.

Hopefully in the near future, we get to travel long again maybe even all the way to Seattle ;)

What's the longest trip you've gone on? Any recent travel plans for you?

coffee date #2


If we were on a coffee date, I would give you a bear hug upon meeting you. I'm a hugger and I find hugs incredibly therapeutic. I would offer a listening ear and caring hands. I would ask you what your plans are for the new week, if there's anything I could help you with, and if there's anything in particular you'd like to do for our time together.

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask you about your first time behind the wheel. I passed my DMV learner's permit test last week and yesterday I tried out driving for the first time ever. Sitting on that old but reliable Volvo sedan, controlling the steering wheel, was a surreal experience. I'd ask you what age you started driving, what your feelings were when you first sat on the driver's seat, and what it was like for you to take the actual driving test. I suppose driving is one of those activities in life where I must strive for control for everyone's safety.

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask you about Stranger Things. The Hubs and I are not huge TV fans but Stranger Things got us hooked.

If we were on a coffee date, I would wonder if I could take a peek into your bullet journal (if you have one). Or at least ask you what your favorite formats are. I'm always open to suggestions.

If were on a coffee date, I would ask you if you've seen or are interested in watching Suicide Squad. It's better than Batman v. Superman IMO but I wouldn't give it 4/4 stars,  and maybe not even 3/4. But if you take it for what it is and come see it with low expectations, you might enjoy it.

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask you to pray for me as I have begun my job hunt. Work is a way to honor God. It's a means to exercise what gifts he's given us, and to be a part of his redemptive project by contributing to the greater good through the work of our hands. I believe that work is not a curse, as some would interpret Genesis, but a part of our design. Adam was meant to cultivate the land he was placed in and to enjoy its fruit; work was meant to be fulfilling until that monster called sin reared its ugly head. But we can redeem work and use it to serve, to love, and to be conformed to the image of Jesus. Please pray that I would find that "perfect" job and to submit to God's perfect timing. (I highly recommend Tom Nelson's "Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work" for an introduction to a theology of work.)

Linking up with Amber and Erin for this month's edition of Coffee Dates.

week-long wandering pt.2 (+a playlist)





Here's part two of our NorCal trip. Pictured above is Fratelli Cafe along Melrose Avenue. As usual, we found this place through Yelp and so far we've made really good decisions based on Yelp reviews! Breakfast food is my favorite so I can eat it any time of day, everyday. I'm glad we hit the jackpot with this place. One of the owners told us that their menu was revamped so a lot of the things are new. I had The Jacksons omelet (eggs, chicken breast, avocado, spinach, tomatoes, monterey jack cheese) and Carlo had the breakfast burrito. I lost the photo I took of our breakfast, but check out their gallery to get an idea of the portions and quality. For drinks, we ordered iced caramel and almond lattes. We highly recommend Fratelli Cafe if you're in LA.

week-long wandering pt.1


DTLA

Hey, friends :) Carlo and I just returned from our mini road trip last Sunday. Because I can't drive yet, he had to power through nearly 10 hours of driving, stops included, from Oakland to San Diego in our rental car. Props to The Hubs for being a trooper! Trips like these often leave us more exhausted than when we started, i.e., we end up needing a vacation from vacation, but we're both grateful that we're able to make more memories together.

We drove north last week to witness one of Carlo's friends get married (congrats Lenny and Jelly!), and we saw this as an opportunity to explore part of LA and San Francisco. We got to visit two other cities since the wedding ceremony took place in Oakland and the reception was inside the California Stadium at UC Berkeley (aka Cal). It amuses me to think that I got to visit Cal ahead of UC San Diego, where The Hubs graduated from and which is about 30 minutes away from where we live. A La Jolla trip is in the works :)

For the first installment of our week-long road trip, I'll share some highlights from our time in LA.

caffeine chronicles | 01: communal coffee

Meeting an Instagram friend IRL! @thisgirlnamedchristian
I used to think that coffee was gross. Back in the Philippines, I would always watch my mom make coffee in the morning and sometimes a second cup in the afternoon.  I never thought I'd be a coffee person; coffee was for the moms and dads, the titos and titas but not for me. However, like most adults I know, I started drinking this caffeinated liquid gold in college. It seemed a better alternative to Red Bull or Mountain Dew. Coffee kept me company throughout university life, my first two years of employment, our wedding planning, writing sessions, conversations with friends, and of course, my daily proclivity for introversion.

I regret not exploring more coffee shops in the Philippines but now that I'm living in a new country, I want to make sure I scope out my area better. I'm starting at North Park--a hip neighborhood teeming with local restaurants, craft brewery, and cafes here in San Diego. My first stop in this lifelong coffee crawl is Communal Coffee.



Communal Coffee is also home to a flower shop called Native Poppy. That's right, they sell flowers right inside the cafe, hence the bold wall you see in the photo above. Coffee + flowers together is a good combination--both can delight and perk anyone up!


Native Poppy also has an array of specialty items like stationery (including really witty and lovely-looking cards), artisan candles, and other quirky items. I read on the website that they also arrange flowers for special events.


My first drink at Communal was an extra hot honey lavender latte and dang, son, that drink was amazing. They serve coffee from San Francisco-based coffee company Sightglass. I've also tried their vanilla bean latte--try it iced for a hot day. I wonder where they get their almond croissants from because that was quite delectable as well. The dough was soft and moist with enough crunch on the outside and inside. They didn't skimp on the shaved almonds.

On my first visit to Communal, I met up with a lovely lady I connected with through Instagram. Her name is Christian. It was my first time doing an "instameet" and I'd say the experience was fun! Christian and I had a good talk over delicious coffee for about a couple hours, basking in the perfect San Diego weather.

Overall, I'd rate my experience with Communal Coffee 5/5 stars. Friendly staff, adorable interiors, quirky products, and flowers to boot.

Communal Coffee
located at 2335 University Avenue, San Diego, CA 92104
Monday to Saturday, 6:30 am to 6 pm. 

everything in its right place*

*A stream of consciousness entry. Title is from a Radiohead song.

I dream of a world where diets are no longer a thing,
where donuts are as healthy as broccoli.
Or we eat what we were designed to eat,
what we were designed to crave
so as to make
the invention of donuts
unnecessary.

But what would such a world look like?

A world free from disease. Yes, I dreamed a dream. Free
from war, from pain, from loneliness. No elephants or donkeys
that lead a parade of fear, unrest, division.

I have a dream.

And then the Son of Man came and showed us
that everything
will be
in its right place
I opened my eyes

There is a place for the sick, the war-torn
the lonely, the outcast,
the dying soul

All our wishes to extend life
with all our poison
injection
cut, stitch, (re)cover

All our experiments of life
from life birthed in a lab dish
a desire to echo our Maker in
weaving new parts into old machines
temporarily succumbing to decay

And death hurts and it paralyzes me to think
that all of this will be for naught? Surely there must be
something more than this
And there is
And oh, Jesus,
we can say "Death, where is your sting?"
Because you've given us
something more than this
here and now

Everything will be
in its
right
place.

coffee date #1

Honey lavender latte + almond croissant from Communal Coffee | North Park, San Diego, CA

If we were on a coffee date, I would order a hot vanilla latte or perhaps some unique latte like that honey lavender one. Extra hot, because we have the rest of the afternoon ahead of us. I would tell you that I saved my monthly doughnut allowance for today's coffee date, because I'm trying to cut back on certain things. I'd savor that doughy piece of heaven slowly and then ask you what your most recent highlights are. I would also ask you if you'd like to explore North Park with me a.k.a. San Diego's hipstertown.

If we were on a coffee date, I would recommend that you listen to King's Kaleidoscope's new album Beyond Control. One of their songs, A Prayer, is controversial for its original lyrics. The song is rooted in Chad Gardner's (the vocalist) own fears of death and separation from God. The words are strong, searching, and soberingFor someone who has had to deal with anxiety issues, the song brought me to tears as it echoes some of my own prayers. But just when you think the song is over, the second half of the song affirms hope that does not disappoint; it does not waver in the midst of our own instability. That hope is Jesus and he is a sure anchor.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you about my quest to understand myself better. I don't know if it's my INFJ-ness or Learner attribute--possibly both--but I always enjoy reading books with exercises for self-discovery. At this point in my life, I'm looking at changing careers and Richard Bolles' What Color is Your Parachute? has been helpful so far in this process. I would ask if you're also thrilled by self-discovery. I'd also be wondering what's on your summer reading list.




If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you about how I'm adjusting to life in the United States. I would express gratitude for being in a "First World" country with all its freedom, traffic system that's 10 notches better than Manila, toilet paper in all public restrooms, and other little things that I don't get to enjoy as much in the Philippines like authentic Mexican food. But I would also tell you how it breaks my heart to read the news these past few days and how it's driving me to ask questions to hopefully educate myself better. I would love to talk about how we can love other people in our lives better than today.

If we were on a coffee date, I would close our time in prayer and ask you to pray with me if that's cool. The Lord deserves our thanks and this sweet time together is also something to be grateful for. Often, all that we could do is pray while the world suffers labor pains before the Lord births it into complete restoration. There is hope and I'll sip to that.

What about you, my friend? Tell me all the things if we were on a coffee date.

Linking up with Amber and Erin for the Coffee Date link-up.

in nuce: june-july

Yours truly at Universal Studios
What's been going on lately? I decided that Squarespace was too expensive for me, blogging isn't as fun as when you're trying to market yourself (at least in my opinion), so here I am back to good old Blogger. Apart from this shift, here's a life update in a nutshell.

Lazy Butt Confessions

This post brought to you by Perry the Platypus
I like to write.  (False. I like the idea of having written.)
I like to read. (False. No, well, I still do. It’s just that I get easily sucked into the social media black hole that endangers my time to read more substantial things.)
I like to exercise. (False. I like gathering exercise routines on Pinterest because I’m a boss at filing away things for future use.)
I manage my time well and I’m good at goal-setting. (False. I like to set goals but I always forget to make them actionable. Why? Because I spend way too much time experimenting with different bullet journal approaches that I have no time to actually fulfill said goals. Why? Because I feel the need to fill up my current notebooks which, once I’ve accomplished, gives me a good excuse to buy new Moleskines. Which is kind of sad but fun at the same time.) 

From the Archives: A Manifesto of Sorts

I tend to overthink, be over-emotional and over-sensitive. I may or may not have the qualities of an HSP (highly sensitive person). But it doesn’t really matter how accurately I fit the HSP description; what matters to me is how my inner life and relationships are affected. Because emotions are so powerful, I figured that evil could use this against me. I find that a bigger cause for concern than my tendency to cry so easily in certain situations.
If I am to break unhealthy thought patterns, to grow in being more responsible for how I feel, to stop looking for rejection when there is none, and to be secure in people’s love for me, I’ve decided that Philippians 4:8-9 is a great weapon to combat negative thoughts and calm overwhelmed emotions.

Balboa Park Tour

California Tower now open to the public again! :)
Over a year ago while we were still in the Philippines, The Hubs was already telling me about all the places he’d take me when we get to San Diego, and one of them is the famed Balboa Park. You can’t go to San Diego and miss out on this gem.
We were considering our options regarding passes since there’s plenty of things to see and do in the area. We settled on the Multi-Day Explorer/Zoo Combo for $94 per person, which includes admission to 17 museums and the world famous San Diego Zoo. This explorer package is valid for seven consecutive days. We looked at the rates of all the museums we’re most interested in, added up everything and figured that it would be cheaper to get the multi-day pass.
Carlo and I love going to museums and art exhibits. For our honeymoon in May 2015, we went to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore to see not the beaches or do outdoorsy stuff, but to check out the museums to help us take in the culture; I was certainly thrilled to know that Balboa Park teemed with them. 
Here are some photos to give you a glimpse of our local adventure:

A Lesson in Humility

Resting by the Fjord by Hans Dahl, date unknown

Three weeks ago today, I landed in LAX carrying two suitcases, a backpack, a curious head and an anxious heart. My husband was home and I officially became a new immigrant.
Within the first two weeks, I got to meet some of the people in Carlo’s life whom I “know” only through social media. In one sense, having that Facebook or Instagram connection was also great since it lessened the awkwardness of meeting them in person for the first time. We’ve been exploring San Diego starting with Balboa Park (a separate post on this coming up!), eating in many of the famous fast food places (I’m looking at you, In ‘N Out), and getting settled with new routines. Three weeks later, I probably got 5 pounds heavier but I’m definitely enjoying it here.
Before this feeling of enjoyment, however, I experienced a few episodes of anxiety and extreme stress. Everyone tells us not to rush things, but there have been days when I think about all the things I need to take care of ALL AT ONCE–insurance, learning to drive, finding a job, taxes, etc.–and that’s where my anxiety and stress come from. Carlo’s been in the Philippines as a missionary for 5 years and I’ve been uprooted from my homeland of 24 years, so it’s only normal to take it easy for now. I know we need to work on those important tasks, but we should still pace ourselves. We both need the time to adjust even as we set goals and begin new life here, but I struggled so hard to accept that. For the first few days of being in the US, I often felt pangs of guilt for not being able to contribute much.

[Sojourners and Exiles] Abraham: Our Model of Blind Faith?

Sacrifice of Isaac (1603) by Caravaggio. Image from Wikipedia

As a kid in Sunday school, I learned that Abraham was the father of nations. But more importantly, he was the man commended for great faith in Yahweh as his inclusion in Hebrews 11’s “Faith Hall of Fame” affirms. Why else would he leave the comforts of his home and sojourn to a new land? What other motivation could he have had for being willing to sacrifice Isaac, his son promised in old age?How else could he be counted righteous if not for his faith? Surely his faith was blind since when he accomplished those things, he was simply obeying what God said. All action, no thoughts given. God gave the word, Abraham complied. Right?
Wrong.
Or at least we might be misunderstanding the nature of Abraham’s faith and thus applying it to ourselves wrongly. Did Abraham lose his reason once he followed God? Is that the kind of faith reiterated in the New Testament and one that we as modern Christians should exercise? To answer these questions, we can turn to Genesis 12 and Hebrews 11 for insight into what kind of faith the father of nations had. Basically, Abraham’s decision to leave his land and obey what God commanded was rooted in these two things: God’s promises and character. In my opinion, it is these two interconnected factors that formed the basis for Abraham’s actions. 

Sojourners and Exiles: GUEST POST


I choose to view the world in a very holistic way. The spiritual and the physical exist equally. Equally as strong, equally as present. That’s my worldview. However, while this deliberate perspective makes me more sensitive to the supernatural, I don’t feel I’ve honed or tended to this spiritual gift. I am by nature an analytical thinker, and that can tempt me to reduce the world to the purely physical.
Travel has changed this in some ways as the developing world, as a cultural whole, often adopts the holistic world view. It’s much easier to see the connection of spiritual and physical here. As a result, I’ve been confronted with several spiritual predicaments: Is it ok to participate in an experience that has spiritual roots if it is also hailed as a cultural experience? What about just observing it? I’m tempted to offer the “but I’m a tourist” defense. After all, one of my primary goals in life these days is flinging myself full measure into every iconic experience.

Sojourners and Exiles

I am now officially an alien in the United States of America. I’m an alien that sounds American, looks Filipino, and thinks like both.
I’ve been uprooted and transplanted to a land I only know from movies, television, the internet, and of course, the stories of other people. It is surreal being here, like having a vivid dream, and the newness of it all makes my mind explode in the best of ways. I am a child again who has to learn a foreign system that in some sense must become my own.
I now join the ranks of these biblical figures who were sojourners in other lands: Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Joseph, and the Israelites before and after their time in Egypt. In the Old Testament, they are the ger—aliens who do not just pass through but are coming to live for long periods in a land not their own. Scripture teems with examples of sojourners and exiled individuals. Even believers in the New Testament (and by extension, modern-day Christians) must consider themselves strangers in the Earth (1 Peter 2:11).

California, here we come!

Yesterday, Carlo and I went to the US Embassy in Manila for my immigrant visa interview. Good news: My visa was approved and we’re set to move to SoCal sometime in May! In honor of our imminent trip, he put together this list of of things to look forward to in California.

FIVE THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN SoCal (AND THE U.S. IN GENERAL)

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and neither is it a list written against third-world living. (I’ve enjoyed the economy, community, and simplicity of life in the Philippines!) Put simply: Carlo misses these things, and he’s looking forward to enjoying them with me.:)

1. GREAT FOOD.

Mexican food (California burritos. Carne asada fries. Fish tacos. Fix-ins like salsa, sour cream, and fresh guacamole—because welcome to avocado heaven). Panda Express. Subway. Good burgers, oh yes—In-N-Out is just the tip of the iceberg. Seafood anything. Costco food (and Costco in general).

2. EFFICIENT TRANSPORTATION.

Driving your own car, blasting your own music, no need to stop to pick up strangers, no need to breathe in fumes from the belcher in front of you. Freeways. Carpool lanes. Clearly marked lanes.😉

3. GOOD INTERNET.

Which means loading HD videos without needing to wait, watching Netflix with good quality streams, reliable Skype with friends and family abroad, photo-heavy webpages that won’t take a lifetime to load.

4. FUN TIMES.

Cultural experiences unlike any other. Lots of venues for reasonably priced concerts, great playhouses with Broadway-sized price tags, baseball and football stadiums (American football. AMERICAN FOOTBALL!), quality museums, and theme parks galore (Disneyland included). We’ll have fun dates for sure! And he’ll finally get to teach me about American football, in case he hasn’t mentioned that already.

5. AWESOME PEOPLE.

Enough said. Combine with any of the above for instant magic.
What a list. I can’t wait to take in the culture of SoCal, meet other Filipinos there, be rooted in community and serve with a local church. I LONG to be more deeply connected to a local church and I’m glad we can expect that when we arrive and get settled there.
In my next immigration-related post, I’ll share a timeline of my immigrant visa process and an introduction to a new travel-related blog series. Stay tuned!

Have you visited California before? Tell me about your experience! If you’re from California, I’d love to connect with you. Feel free to share any California-related posts in the comments :)

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