Monday, May 9

It's Been a While

Dear Readers,

Okay, so, it's been a long five years since I last blogged. I am wondering if anyone is still reading my stories, or if I am just sending messages into the ether. If you are seeing this, please do let me know. I'd love to write again, but it's always the question of whether I have an audience or not. 

To write or not to write ... that is the question. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.


Saturday, February 25

The "I Can Be" Campaign

I have always wanted to do a photography series that inspire our young generations; it's always been a non-profit/charity dream of mine to help instill a positive message in our society. That said, I want to do a photo project that features the aspiration, dreams, and potentials of our children, no matter the color, race, gender, etc., in a series of amazing portraits. These portraits will feature each child in their "what I want to be when I grow up" poses. For example, if Mary wants to be a policewoman when she grows up, she'd come wearing a police t-shirt and maybe a police hat, etc. My goal is to help kids believe that they can be whomever they chose to be regardless of challenges, etc. Once this is done, I want to share this with the world, highlighting a little about each child on a website. If this is successful, I'll continue to grow the site into something bigger; we'll be able to include more children and feature the accomplishments of our children even more.

With such a dream, I can't do this by myself. In fact, it's impossible to do it with just one person. As a photographer, I have a vision and the skills, but I'll also need the help from parents, children, educators, and other people in the community to make this a reality. I want to involve everyone who is passionate about our new generation and all that they can be, especially in our current political and social climate. If you are skilled in hair and makeup, I want you. If you are a writer, I want you. If you can help plan and schedule, I want you. If you can help in refreshments and planning, I want you. If you are good in props and storyboarding, I want you. If you have good connections with professional career people whom our kids aspire to be, I want you. In other words, if you are willing to help and be involved and start this amazing work, I need you. I'm looking for volunteers to form our little "board" so we can make this into a reality. I know we all have day jobs, and I respect your time. We will always work around each others' schedules. Moms, dads, and children who've worked with me, know my passion, and I hope you'll join me in this inspiring journey.

Tentatively, I name this campaign the "I Can Be" movement. If you are interested, please comment below, and we'll go from there. And if you know friends and family who are interested, please share this with them as well.

Thank you!!

p.s. Once I have enough people to form a board, I'll call our first board meeting. This is an amazing time to do amazing things. Let's do this together!

Saturday, July 12

The Death of a Friend

Dear Readers,

Last week, I received terrible news about a friend's passing. It was unexpected, and I was a little taken back when I first heard it. Juliana was quite the healthy woman five years ago when I last saw her. Due to our respective busy lives, we have not communicated very much since our last meeting. I must admit, now that I have some time to ponder on everything that had transpired, it was I who should be blamed for our lack of correspondence. You see, Juliana was one of the most beautiful human being I've ever known, both in spirit and body. In many ways, she was the sister I never had.

When I was much younger, I found myself without money and a job, trying to make my way through university sans scholarship and such financial assistance. My parents were poor blue-collar workers just going through the days, struggling to stay afloat in a rather dim economy. Being the eldest daughter, I did all I could to be accepted to an institution of higher learning. The university I attended was not the greatest, but it was everything I could have hoped for. I was going to be a scholar, a professor, and earn my prestige and wealth, so my parents would be proud. But the reality of university life was unexpectedly sad. I'd spent almost all of my savings on tuition, books, and lodging, leaving very little to survive. There were times when I was so hungry, concentrating in class was impossible. That was when Juliana entered my life, and everything changed.

Juliana was a few years older than I, a senior in university, and was incredibly smart. She tutored me in philosophy as the professor's assistant, and we became instant friends. Juliana was kind, sweet, and almost unbearably helpful in every aspect of my life during that time. She would bring me my meals, help me in my homework, and buy me simple gifts to cheer me up every now and then when I was depressed. But like so many young girls my age, I did not think too much of her kindness. I appreciated everything she did for me, but I did not make any effort to get to know her. Come to think of it, I was like a sponge, taking, not giving. And it was quite all right for me, because I did not know better.

Years after we first met, after my graduation, she'd still write me; she would call me every Christmas to wish me the best of the season, and she had never missed my birthday; every year she'd send me a card with the same three sentences: "Miss you. Love you. And a happy birthday!" No more, no less.

I never kept any of her cards, never saved a single photograph, never thought too much of anything. I was focused on my life, myself, and everything I had wanted to achieve.

Five years ago, she'd asked me to meet her at a coffee shop just to catch up—she was passing through on her way to a conference. I did go. I did sit down with her for a coffee. But it was only for no more than a half hour. I had made plans with my colleagues—we were to catch the latest matinee that day—and I had quickly made my excuses and left in a hurry.

Now, looking back, I would've done everything differently. Juliana was my dearest friend, and I never really saw it until the day she passed away.

I did not attend her funeral—I could, but I chose not to. But what difference would that have made? The dead does not see, and I, the living, can only hope to learn from my past.

Juliana once told me in passing that sometimes in life, we should aim to be the best friend anyone could ever have, instead of constantly looking too hard for the best friend who never exists. And she was right. She had always been right.

Dear friends, please think kindly of me, for tonight I sleep not.

Ms. Lilly Brightbottom
July 12, 2014

Tuesday, July 8

The Flower Shop

Dear Readers,

When my colleague and most esteemed peer, Mr. Christopher Yolanda Cornelius Loke, had decided to retire from blogging for an undetermined amount of time a few months ago, I was since recruited to fill his shoes during the interim. Mr. Loke is well, thank you very much, for those who are curious; but of course, to those who know him intimately and personally, Mr. Loke is full of surprises. You never know when he will pop right in and make me redundant—I do love this new position of mine, writing on his behalf, yet staying true to myself. So, I sincerely hope he won't be back anytime soon. Obviously, I mean him no harm, but since writing is my most passionate pastime, I only hope to be blogging for him for a good amount of time. After all, a girl can only hope. Opportunities like this don't come to me freely all the time. So I say, carpe diem, carpe noctum, and carpe coffum (I can only guess this means coffee, and if does not, please pardon me; mistakes are prone to happen when you have a giddy school girl write on behalf of one of the greatest man alive—in my books, at least).

So, as new as I am, I thought I'd start with a little bit of an observation I did a couple of days ago from my little room up in the attic somewhere only dreams were made. It was a Monday when everyone in the city seemed to have lost his mind over the rambunctious weekend littered with fireworks. Working folks walked like zombies in the streets from the lack of sleep, and children were left unattended, running around like sheep without their shepherd. Heaven forbid that one of them would get hit by an automobile if no parents came to claim these lawless changelings. But did I care? Not the very least; I don't care for children, not too much. I do not hate them, but I don't really think I'd like to be surrounded by them. Oh, the chaos they would cause.

Back to the subject at hand, my focus, still from my window, went directly to a young man, most probably in his early twenties, with short-cropped hair and sharp features, standing quietly on the side of the street staring straight ahead at the flower shop right across. Without any pre-knowledge of this young man, he looked a bit gaunt, slim, but not devoid of a good diet. I shall call him T. Why? Because T is a consonant that possesses a sharp treble of sorts—my opinion, of course—and it fit what I saw perfectly. To the T (no pun intended).

In his hands was a bouquet of white flowers. Not roses, but chrysanthemums. About a dozen of them. Him in his crisply ironed trousers and bow tie around his collar, T looked ready to impress. But what with the white flowers, I thought. White is neither a romantic color, nor is it feminine. As a woman who knows her colors and flowers more than anything, I for one was a bit curious as to how the events surrounding T would turn out that day.

Working at the flower shop was an old lady, pruning the flowers and spraying them with water mists. In a corner close to the entrance behind the clear display window sat the bespectacled accounting clerk, a young man with dark hair and a pale complexion. On first impression, this man appeared tired but his fatigue did not interfere with his face, which was clean, alert, and in the most unusual way, sad. He looked lonely, like he was the only man left on Earth. That eyes of his dreamed of things beyond what he saw, beyond the walls before him, beyond the people in the streets, beyond everything in his vicinity. The clerk had a sense of longing in him I could detect. But from up here, behind my bedroom window, all I could do was observe with my keen eyes. I might be wrong about many things, but today I was quite sure of what my heart told me. From the way the clerk hunched over his work, to the intermittent glances he shot at the street with his careful eyes, I sensed something I couldn't put my finger on. It was a feeling of anticipation I sensed. And as soon as the clerk stood, hands in his pockets, turning abruptly to face the busy street from behind the display window, I knew right away what he was all about.

His eyes—dark, handsome—penetrated the recipient of their stare: T, who was still there directly opposite the clerk looking quite as surprised, mystified perhaps. T dropped the white chrysanthemums from his hands, took a step backward and heaved a sigh. The clerk did not move but twitched a smile, a rusty smile, as if he had not smiled for centuries. And T bent down, picked up the bouquet he'd dropped, turned, and walked silently away from the flower shop. There was no joy in his face as he paced himself past the oncoming pedestrians who were unaware of all that was in his heart. A tear glistened from his cheek. My heart hurt for him, and I did not know why. I guess what they say about a woman's heart is true; it holds the darkest secrets of every man who cannot bear to hide them himself.

Behind the display widow of the flower shop, the store clerk removed his glasses and closed his eyes. I saw no tear but the reflection of the passersby who had suddenly come from nowhere, obscuring him from my view. And when I could again have a clear view of the flower shop, the store clerk had returned back to his desk where he would work for another five hours before the shop closed, before everyone decided it was time to hurry back to their wives, families, husbands, and lovers.

There was a story there at the flower shop that day I would write in the near future; it would make a remarkable tale. It would make an author out of me. Maybe one of these days, I'd brave myself to approach the clerk and start a conversation with him. What a day it would be, won't you agree?

That night I dreamed of beautiful things, and among them, white chrysanthemums.

Most excitingly yours,
Ms. Lilly Brightbottom
July 8, 2014

Sunday, February 16

The "Frozen" Tragedy: How My Son Killed Elsa and What Came After

Here's my daily morning routine, without fail: alarm rings (nope, you shall not know when my alarm goes off), I open my eyes, try to imagine today is a holiday (and struggles every time to return to reality), get up and saunter into the bathroom, brush my teeth, sit on the bathroom for what seems like a century, and while doing that try to pick out my clothes in my mind before I even step into the closet. Fast forward a few minutes later, I'm at the kitchen counter sitting on my stool reading my emails while working very hard to spoon my breakfast into my mouth without ever glancing at my food. Then my wife hollers from outside rushing me to get into the car so I can actually be at work on time. Such is my daily routine minus all the mundane details, which, from what I have listed, should not even make a difference in how my morning goes—slow and uneventful. However, things changed a little since I came out of the theater with my family after watching a near two-hour long Disney's Frozen. Yes, Anna and Elsa changed my morning routine, and eventually my life.
After Frozen, my morning routine was incredibly colorful. I mean, I could hear birds chirping outside my window, even when logic told me there was a snow storm outside and the only birds chirping would most likely be from Old Marjorie's fat cat from upstairs—the cat's name is Garfield, go figure. Yes, cats have the ability to chirp to lure birds into their trap, but that would be another story for another day.
So, back to the subject at hand—my colorful morning, yes. Apart from the birds, I would be singing in my mind, which would eventually trickle down to the tip of my tongue, and before I knew it, I'd be humming "Let It Go" all morning long. Then the humming slowly evolved into singing, and the singing became dancing. Yes, I was twirling from my bed to the bedroom in full vibrancy. My morning was suddenly swift and exciting. I saw snow everywhere in my mind, the snowflakes falling and twinkling from my bedroom ceiling—of course, I imagined them, but even so, the idea of a wonderful delightful morning in contrast to the bland straight-liner morning I'd been experiencing was quite a life-changer.
And then came the game of knocking.
Every time I knocked on my son's door, or any door in the universe, I'd start with, "Do you wanna build a snowman?" The answer from the other side was always, "Go away, Dad." And I'd sing, "Okay, bye." Lovely, wasn't it? But wait, there's more.
At dinnertime, things changed a little too. There was much singing involved. I sang everything I said. Life was suddenly a musical. Youtube became the gateway for all things Frozen, from the multi language versions of "Let It Go" to the behind-the-scenes play-by-play clips of the movie. Every day was Elsa day. Conversations in the family was now all about standing strong and making right decisions, including the incessant idea of an independent woman not ever needing a man to make her whole—my wife seemed to grasp on to this a little more than I. Disney songs slow infiltrated my Spotify account, and all this while, my mornings were continuously melodious and Disney-ish to a point where I found myself stamping one foot on the floor whenever the phrase "Here I stand" from the song "Let It Go" appeared in my mind. Before long, the idea of having a reindeer as a pet was not remotely ridiculous at all.
Then one evening at dinnertime, Hayden, my Olaf, started to sob a little. As a responsible parent, I naturally caressed his hair, gave him a pat on the back and asked, "Do you wanna build a snowman?" The sob suddenly turned into a wail. I was surprised, a little shocked. "Let it go," I said, "let it go." He cried more. Then he looked at me and said the most pin-pricking words I'd ever heard: "Dad, you embarrass me." Suddenly, unexpectedly, the colors around me turned gray and the Elsa in me curled stiff into a dead matter. She died, and my son killed her. I looked at my wife; she shrugged and continued with the dishes. I closed my eyes and prayed to the God of Disney, "Why has thou forsaken me?" No answer. "For the first time in forever . . ." No answer. "I really need a fixer upper . . ." Suddenly, a tune; I heard a tiny voice in me, sharp and high . . . okay, it was Mickey.
"We need to first melt and heal that frozen heart," the Mouse said.
Without a second thought I took my son's hand and said, "Love is an open door, you know. You just have to let your insecurities go. Just let it go. And for the first time in forever, you'll hear music, you'll see the light. And before you know it, if you were to let loose and have a little fun in your life and not worry about what people might say about you, you'll be having fun. It'll just be like playing in summer. And before you know it, we'll be blowing dandelion fuzz without a care, and we'd be doing whatever snow does in summer. And no one can take that away from us. No one. Nothing else matters."
There was a pause, he turned back to his food, ate silently, wiped the tears off his face, and let out a heavy sigh.
That night was quiet, the songs just wouldn't play correctly in me. I didn't find myself skipping or singing. My wife came up to me and said, "Give him time, it'll be fine again." The magic was gone. I looked at the Frozen wallpaper on my computer with Elsa staring back at me. I saw no sparkle. The light dimmed and I lumbered myself to bed.
A few mornings went by, Frozen was slowly forgotten, life went back to what it was before. I was now channeling The Walking Dead (the new season has just started, yay!) as I fumbled my way through my morning routine. Toothpaste on toothbrush, squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Then mouth slowly opened ahhh as I brushed and gargled, foam running down the corners of my mouth. I was a zombie. No birds chirped outside. My morning was back to the dinosaur days again.
Then there was a knock. Another knock. Knock knock knock.
"Daddy?" Hayden called.
"Yes?" I slurred.
"Uhm . . ."
"What is it? I'm changing."
"I hope it's not too late . . . but . . . uhm . . . do you wanna build a snowman?"
Immediately, the blood in me started to run, my heart was beating again, the colors came back, and I heard a faint tune returning back to me. Disney had answered my prayers. I swung the door open, lifted him up in my arms and hugged him close to my heart. "Yes, yes, yes," I said. But the way it came out, it sounded just like a song. Our song.

Sunday, January 19

My Take on a Polynesian Dessert—Purple Yam Rolls with Coconut Cream Glaze

Okay, due to popular demand, today's blog entry is about a recipe. Yes, I'm going to share with everyone this delicious recipe I just made the other day. Drum roll, please! It's my newly invented yam rolls with coconut milk sauce. First of all, having lived in Hawaii for almost six years (my past is filled with adventures, yes), I've learned to appreciate and enjoy some Polynesian delicacies. One of my favorites is the pane po po, soft rolls drenched in coconut sauce. It's something to die for, well, at least it is for me.

So, my wife recently brought home some purple yam (I have no idea what to really call it, so purple yam it is), and I decided to be inventive and do something with it—I baked rolls with it, kinda like a sweet potato rolls, but with purple yam. The result was soft, fluffy rolls. Then, the creative that I am, I decided to kick things up a notch and glaze them with a thick layer or coconut cream sauce, and it was literally food for the gods. So, without much ado, here's the recipe.

Mix 1/4 cup of warm water with 2.5 tsp of instant yeast.
Preheat oven to 400 F.

Boil/scald the following over medium heat:
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1.5 tsp salt
5 tbs butter

Mash the following:
Boiled purple yam; you'll only need 2 cups of the mashed yam.

Now mix the following until smooth:
The scalded milk mixture
The mash yam
1 tsp lemon juice
1 egg slightly beaten

In a mixing bowl (I use a Kitchen Aid mixing bowl with a dough hook), knead in the following until they form an elastic, smooth, and moist dough:
The yam/milk concoction
5 cups bread flour
The yeast mixture

Cover and let proof for about an hour, or until double its size. Then punch down and form into rolls and place them onto a greased cookie sheet. This recipe should yield 30 rolls. Now, I use baking paper instead of greasing the pan for easy cleaning, and it is also quite the professional way of doing things. Anyway, leave the rolls covered and proof until they double their size again. Then plop them into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes.

Once the rolls are cooked, leave them out to cool, and while they are cooling, do the following:
Mix one can of coconut milk, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbs flour in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until it boils. Remove from heat.

Transfer your rolls into a Pyrex baking pan (I use a 9 x 13 in. pan) and pour the coconut cream all over the rolls. Let the whole thing cool for a few minutes. To keep the rolls fresh, just cover and seal the pan with Saran wrap (cling film). So there, delicious rolls with very little effort.

Enjoy, and let me know if this recipe works for you. Comment below :) Until next time, have a great week!

Sunday, January 12

Valuable Lessons I Learned in 2013

Surprise, surprise! It's me, yes, 'tis true. I have returned. But enough about me. How is everyone doing this year so far? Good? Working on your new year resolution? Or not? Whatever you are up to, I hope you are all doing real fine. This year I will try to blog more regularly and tell you all about the crazy things happening in my life, good and bad. Mostly good, of course!

2013 was an amazing year—loads of roller coaster rides and adrenaline rushes, but through it all, I've learned valuable lessons that made me stronger and more confident about this new year. First of all, I have a dream job I am in love with. I wear many hats, but I absolutely love what what I do. My family is happy, and I enjoy every minute with them, and that's all that matters. That said, here I am in my pajamas, bed hair and all, writing you my first blog while my pumpkin cake bakes in the oven. It smells heavenly in my house right now, and the kitchen is spotless. Now, that's what I call a home. Okay, I digress again—and you'll see segues such as this a lot as you continue to follow my oh-so-exciting-blog.

Anyway, before I start sidetracking about something else unrelated to the original subject at hand, here are the a few valuable lessons I learned in 2013, and I hope they will also help you deal with life's challenges (and triumphs).

Optimism begats positivity; positivity equals success. Positive people are always successful. They may not always be the richest people in the world, but they are the happiest, because when you believe all things are possible, you are already on the right track. Self-doubt and looking at the cons of everything does not make the situation better. Instead, when you look at the positive side and adopt an optimistic attitude, suddenly, the solutions to your problems start showing up. On a similar note, when you start looking at the good side of a person you normally do not like, you'll slowly find it easier to love that someone. Am I not right?

You can't do it alone. 'Tis true. Big accomplishments are always achieved by team efforts. The smart way to go through life happy and successful is to associate yourself with people who will support and empower you, which leads me to the next lesson . . .

Surround yourself with great friends and people. Just as an employer depends on her employees to grow her business, we depend on friends and families to reach our goals. We can never do it all alone. And that also means you will also need to be the supporter and the friend everyone is looking for. Love and empowerment work both ways. If anything, be the best friend you can ever want and have.

Appreciate everything around you; be grateful and thankful. When you start to feel thankful for everything you have, life is going to smooth-sail through anything. This is because when you are thankful, you don't take things for granted, and when you don't take things for granted, you are more inclined to be kind, loving, and polite. And a kind soul is what the world really needs now. From my experience, when you are thankful, people are also more inclined to treat you better; they are happier to do you favors. And when you have people doing you favors all the time, you are the luckiest star in the sky. Am I not right?

Always know what you want and do it. Focus and work hard. Those are my ultimate mottos in life. When I want something, nothing can stop me from doing everything I can to get it. And I always get what I want. Not because I am privilege in any way, but because I am focused. I sprint-run toward my goals. I am committed, and I am stubborn. Nothing is ever easy and quick, but it is all worth it.

Stay healthy, stay young. Health is so important in my life. I am not perfect at it, but I am trying. I watch what I eat, trying (very hard) to avoid eating out if at all possible. And I find that the simple habit of cooking at home can yield very satisfying results. Staying mentally healthy is equally important. Read to broaden your horizon. Stay abreast with technology, and learn new skills. Just this past week alone, I have learned to cook from three different recipes I was too intimidated to try in the past. And now that I've tried, I'm glad I did. Remember to smile always, as well, which brings me to my last lesson . . .

Be happy, for life is too short to be sad.

And that pretty much sums up everything for me today. Until the next blog entry, remember to smile and believe you can accomplish everything you put your mind to. I've done it, and so can you. Ciao for now!