In this place I call home, the road traffic is so horrendous vehicles are super slow, or at a standstill every few meters. Seatbelts therefore are irrelevant, with absolutely no reason why they were ever manufactured. 

But in the US of A, where vehicles fly on the freeway, one has to be held safe by a seatbelt. Ay, there’s the rub. I had been so used to ignoring seatbelts, I kept forgetting to strap myself.

My grandson, Adrian, had to remind me, every single time:
If I counted all the times he said those words, they’d run up to hundreds as we couldn’t go anywhere, during my month-long vacation, without getting inside a car. 

With Adrian’s prompts, I began to equate plane seatbelts to road-vehicle seatbelts. They were invented for the same reasons—protect both drivers (pilots) and passengers from injury or even death in case of accidents. I had to buckle up each time I rode a car.

Now back at home base, I shudder as I see danger—in all the public utility vehicles (PUVs) such as jeepneys, buses, and taxis with passengers not wearing a seatbelt. The Philippines’ Seatbelt Law (implemented in 1999), which requires every passenger to use a seatbelt, is the most violated rule of the road.

One of the reasons is, most PUVs do not provide seatbelts. And, as was my reason for years, the traffic hardly moves, so why bother?

Yet, here is an 11-year-old boy who knows all about respecting laws. In fact, when he was eight (he was in the Philippines for a visit), in the car with Tony and me, he called the attention of our driver, “Kuya, you just ran a red light!”

Traffic rules are devices put in place for our protection. We need to obey them to experience safety—just as we need to recognize and receive grace to experience God’s promise of protection.



Aside from son #2, his wife, and son, who pick us up from the airport, Alexa welcomes us to the lovely home where my husband and I would spend our vacation—one month for me and two months for him. 

I remember every nook and cranny of this huge, elegant house (which was our home about the same time last year), but it is my first time to meet Alexa.
She sits on the marble counter that separates the family room from the kitchen and when one speaks her name, her screen and her voice say and show all the nice words that could make even a stranger instantly feel at home. 

Alexa is also in every room, including ours. And she plays all the music I could no longer find in any music store. "Try Spotify," one of my students suggested, but I still have to be intensively tutored to understand that technology. Ooops, I digress.

Alexa gives me all the information I need. (Tony is not as interested in Alexa as I am.) She saves me from turning my computer on. Which is how I had planned it—I made sure all my work was done and all my deadlines met before our flight.

Stockton’s weather, according to Alexa, is nice at 60 degrees. But it is cold and freezing for us, having just left a sizzling Philippines at 100. Despite our shivers and shakes caused by California winds, a much-needed vacation with a part of our family that is so far away makes it all worthwhile. 

Jet lag is kicking in. We are tired, sleepy and feel the aches of age. But the warmth of grace soothes as Alexa adjusts the thermostat and turns off the lights so we can turn it.


Traveling with Angels

My husband loves to travel; I don’t.

Not that I hate it, but if given a choice, I’d rather stay home and write and read. I used to hop from one country to another when I was in the corporate world, because it was part of my job. So now that I don’t have a job, not to mention youthful energy, I have the luxury of doing what I really prefer to do—nesting in my comfort zone. 

Traveling to the US to visit son #2, our daughter-in-law, and our grandson is an exception. It’s the only way I could see and bond with all three of them again, unless they come home for a vacation.

Our recent trip for the third year in a row was long—a total of 20 hours (inclusive of shuttling, waiting, standing in line, checking in, and transferring to another plane).

Upon leaving our home, I worried that two super seniors with three heavy luggage might not make it through the rushing crowds. I hadn’t reckoned on the extent of grace.

In three airports, angels helped us lift our baggage onto and from conveyor belts; another angel asked for a wheelchair for Tony; another got me a chair and inquired from authorities for us; and yet another lent us her cellphone, when ours wouldn’t work, so we could call son #2; and one from behind the immigration desk quickly facilitated our exit.

We landed at the San Francisco airport with nary a scratch, except for jet lag that assaults even the youngest of travelers.

I often complain that this is a cruel world with cruel people. It is. But it is peppered with angels, too. They are in places where we need them.

Three more welcomed us at the arrival pick-up area with smiles and warm hugs that made 20 hours seem like 20 milliseconds.


Fractured Nation

When my husband took a fall while nursing a respiratory infection in the US, he writhed in pain on the floor.  He could hardly move, felt faint and dizzy, taking great effort to stand up. He had fractured his wrist.
There is an uncanny similarity between his agony and mine (although in a figurative sense). I ache, feel faint and dizzy, taking great effort to find my footing when I read the newspaper, watch the news on TV, or scan Facebook. 

Symptoms of my fractured nation?

Our culture has of late bred vicious cat-fighting. Many people are no longer careful with their language, freely using lewd and fowl expletives, unabashedly hurting those with differing opinions.
The Supreme Court justices, elected and appointed government officials, columnists, celebrities—they are at loggerheads over every issue. Then there are bloggers fomenting hatred, and social media trolls, incapable of intelligent dialogue, spewing words that maim. 

Our beloved Philippines, celebrating its 120th Independence Day today, seems fractured right down the middle. 

It does not help that the inflation rate has accelerated to a new 5-year high of 4.6%, and the peso is at its weakest in 11 years (P53.03 to a dollar as of today). The drug war rages on with unabated extra-judicial killings; the roads and air are clogged up with traffic; and our Supreme Court chief justice has been ousted via quo warranto.

Stoking the fire of divisiveness is our fractious president who cares not about whom he insults by trash-talking people, institutions, and countries in public fora; who treats women like toys or doormats; who boasts repeatedly by saying, “I will resign if . . .”

Blaspheming has become the new norm. We have crossed the line of decency and now we can't find that line.

Apologists for the administration scamper for justifications, “Look at how our country has progressed!” 

Progress? On that, even our definitions differ.

Tony’s doctor said, “You need a cast to protect and immobilize your injured wrist, keeping the bone in place until it fully heals—in about six weeks.”

God of grace, is there a cast for our fractured nation? When will we heal again? 
“. . . the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27 (NIV)

Photo credit: pinterest.com (face painting)


Carbon Copy

A young dad was carrying his toddler in the mall. The kid looked at me and waved.

I chirped, “You are a carbon copy of your dad!”

The dad looked at me as though I was some kind of a con artist. Or worse, an evil spirit.

Moon’s ago, carbon copy was grace beyond excitement for parents. I believe it's always a compliment for moms and dads to have an offspring looking exactly like them.

If you are a young dad or mom reading this, I might have already lost you (as I did when I narrated the same story to my Business Communications class). So let me explain.

The term carbon copy is derived from carbon paper, which was used to make copies of typewritten documents. Naturally this term predates photocopiers.

Carbon is a thin paper coated with a mixture of black wax and pigment. It was first called carbonated paper by its inventor Ralph Wedgwood in 1806. When people typed a document and needed an exact copy, they took two sheets of paper and put the carbon paper between them.
So when they typed the document, it was copied onto the paper under the carbon paper. If they needed more copies, naturally they used more carbon papers.

A carbon copy is referred to as cc. Yes, that same cc you see in emails. If you typed in an addresses on the line of cc, that same email sent to the primary recipient (To) will also be sent to that secondary email addy.

How about the bcc? It stands for blind carbon copy. It allows the sender to direct a copy to another address but is hidden from the primary recipient.

Carbon copy therefore means one is the spitting image of the other. If that isn’t understood today, I understand. Maybe I should have said to the baby in the mall, “You are a photocopy of your dad.” I’d have received a smile instead of a scowl.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com


In Case of Papers

Papers, papers, papers—finally I am done with papers. The semester has ended. The next time I’d see them again would be in August, the beginning of another school year. What a relief.

Don’t get me wrong, I love papers. It’s what I do. My books and blogs are, in essence, papers. They have a purpose; a beginning, middle, and ending.

But some of those papers turned in to me by my students, for grading, were not written like papers. At best, they were a hodgepodge of phrases, words, and paragraphs cut and pasted from the Net.

That’s where coffee came in—a booster, a waker-upper for me to give these papers sensible comments and fair marks.

One of my outstanding students, R, who writes good papers, must have read my thoughts. She gave me this gift last Christmas, the first one I received during the season. I broke it open each time I received a paper.
By coincidence, this became empty at the end of last school year. Exactly when I didn't need coffee to perk me up anymore.

I teach in a university that delivers UK diplomas and degrees. If you’ve gone through the British educational system, you know that it centers on writing papers that require critical thinking based on research, called academic underpinning.

Unfortunately, this digital age of brevity, one-liners, and short attention span has made writing, thinking, and researching tedious—requiring focus and lots of time—and therefore a challenge for students who loathe all of the above.

Result: badly written papers. Or should I say, very long “unwritten” papers.

I am writing another book during this lull between the last school year and the next. It’s a kind of paper that needs no coffee. My cup is already brimming over with grace.

It's been a bright and breezy break!