Four peppy words from an old, old camp song, which we used to sing with gusto, defined me—and they still do, or so I think.
As one steps closer to the sunset, his/her energy naturally diminishes. I see gray-haired men and women walking slowly or being assisted by a younger someone. God has so designed our human bodies to be born with all the verve in the world that will slowly wane as the pages of time flip away, till we reach our final resting place.
We recently sang this song in one gathering and I am blessed to still be alive, first of all.
Then the fact that I am still alert—friends say I am quick to respond to communications like emails and FB messages, and can take notes faster than a millennial—is a bonus.
Now, being awake is a mark of aging. I wake up at all odd hours, go to the bathroom, then stay wide-eyed till the wee hours of the morning. When I finally rise from bed, I do a one-hour walk, and all through the day, I don't take naps. All because I don't feel sleepy.
Enthusiastic—I oooh and aaah at every little thing. Ordinary things awe me, which is why I paint them. I marvel at people's feats, big or small, old or new, which is why I write about them. And I continue to love interacting with young people, which is why I teach them, twice a week.
Let's take enthusiastic further.
I am excited to see what my glorious body would look like after my early body has conked out or decayed. This enthusiasm I share with my friend Yay, a faith sister and a fellow writer/teacher. She is abroad at the moment and won't be back till next month, so this topic of conversation is in the freezer.
Meanwhile, I will keep singing this song to myself—allegro con brio, con confuoco—and thank God for those four grace words which he continues to lavish, not only on the young ones, but also on the young once.
"That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!" 2 Corinthians 4:16-17
The paid workforce runs under stress and duress. That’s why workhorses need to chill out or go nuts.
This I can say with authority, having gone through an incinerator called corporate world for over two decades, after which I said, “Enough.”
So now, every day is chill-out day, right? That’s overstretching it.
Even out of the workplace, one can’t run away from stress and duress in this chaos-filled world. Watching TV news and reading the dailies make one’s heart pump faster than it should. Chill-out day is here to stay.
Mine is painting.
I could get lost in a world of colors and shapes with bottomless possibilities. All I do is dab, swoosh, splash, swirl, drip, smear, smudge, scratch, or fling paint (depending on how my feeble hands could manage it) on to the surface of the canvas.
Voila! Images come as a surprise.
At day’s end, whether observers’ eyes (not mine) think they are passable or terrible is immaterial. I always paint over the original painting anyway.
“Oh, you changed your pink flowers to yellow?!” my friend G said when I showed her the image I worked on a day after she saw the beginnings of it.
“Where is that field of flowers you did last Easter?” Ate Vi asked while putting my canvasses in order at the end of my chill-out day. She was shocked when I told her it had become a solitary sunflower.
Hey, a chill-out day is supposed to be a cool, relaxing day, right? No pressures, no quotas, no inventories.
It was on one of these days when Tony was on a chill-out mode, too, reading a thriller a few yards from my work area. Without my knowledge, he took some photos of me and uploaded one to his FB page to show only me. He forgot (or doesn’t know how) to adjust the setting to private.
Next thing I knew, almost 300 of my friends made comments about the photo!
“This is my most-liked post ever,” Tony said. I couldn’t tell whether he was complaining or bragging.
Then it was picked up by Metrocebu News. Below is a screen grab:
Like clockwork, the exuberant colors of grace emerge to refresh me on my chill-out day.
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 (ESV)
This post has nothing to do with labor prior to childbirth. I can’t remember that far, far back. It’s about that one day when all of me was 100% on the job. Yet everything went wrong and I had no scapegoat.
Ate Vi was due back from her summer vacation. No show.
The two temps who helped with household chores were to come early. No show.
My boys had all left for work and I was left at home holding the (doggie) bag. Attorney, JR’s dog, stared at me and I stared right past her. What do you want?
Oh, breakfast. So I rustled up left-overs and served her a plateful. She stood still, fixing her gaze at me. On a diet?
I moved to the kitchen to tackle the pile of dirty dishes everyone left on the breakfast table.
I’d rather do something else, I said to the suds on my hands, especially when I got to the pots and pans. I had not turned on my computer; my primed canvas was waiting for the first dash of paint; the books I was reading stayed untouched on my bedside table.
Tough luck, today housekeeping is what you do, the suds might have replied.
Dishwashing done, I dashed to the bedroom to make the bed and neaten the place. That should be a cinch, but the scorching temperature hovering over 40 degrees Celsius made me itch all over. I picked up one of my three back scratchers to ease my triple-deck prickly heat.
On to dust the furniture and sweep the floor, sweat drenching my clothes. Back scratcher to the rescue!
What to do about lunch? I scraped off the cold omelet from a pan, and gleaned some diced carrots from yesterday’s dish. Unfortunately, the left-over rice smelled funny so I turned my sight on the solitary pandesal.
The afternoon temperature rose further. Attorney had not touched her breakfast so I didn’t serve her lunch. I mixed some doggie pellets into her uneaten breakfast, though, and close to panic, I texted Tony, “Ate Vi has not arrived, the two girls did not come, and the dog won’t eat.”
He texted back, “She’ll eat when hungry.”
I was hungry, but I didn’t eat. If you had my kind of lunch, would you?
Six PM, the furnace that was our home had not cooled down. The cleaning, scrubbing, and scouring took forever, so I called up a neighborhood restaurant and ordered supper. (Actually the real reason was, I can’t cook; so shoot me.)
I will beg the boys to use plastic spoons and fork, and paper plates. This was my best idea for the day.
While I was throwing away the used plastic wares, the doorbell rang. It was Ate Vi!
Before I could collapse, grace ended my labor day happily ever after.
P.S. I am now in awe of housekeepers in all shapes and forms.
How productive are your meetings? Do you really spend more time discussing the major issues, or do you dwell on the trivial ones?
I’ve attended top-level meetings myself where busted lightbulbs—and other minor concerns that could have been delegated to the janitor—were discussed with passion.
That’s called the Parkinson’s Law of Triviality (PLOT), created by the man who likewise created the Parkinson’s Law, which I blogged about recently. His name: Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a British naval historian and author of some 60 books.
PLOT means meetings/sessions give disproportionate weight to trivial issues.
Let’s say a steering committee meets to map out their strategies for their organization’s 70th anniversary. The members spend majority of their time with pointless discussions on easy-to-grasp issues which they debate endlessly: where to hold it; who should be invited; design of the advertising artwork; food to serve—forgetting the strategic issues.
We usually put the blame on the leader’s lack of facilitation skills, or on our fellow team member’s low intellect or competence, or both. We get frustrated and hope we slip into a coma so we are oblivious to it all.
Why do such meetings happen? According to Parkinson, it’s difficult to discuss hi-fallutin’ issues, and not many can contribute deep ideas that will wow others. So we confine ourselves to things we are comfortable with—with matching jokes and anecdotes that make others take notice.
A board of trustees meeting: 10 minutes discussing the proposed vision/mission strategy and 90 minutes on where and how to print/post the new vision/mission.
An annual planning session: 10 minutes on year-that-was review and 90 minutes on the slogan for next year.
A building committee meeting: 10 minutes on the budget of a one million-peso wing and 90 minutes on what to call it.
There are more.
The thing is, triviality is woven in the fabric of human nature. So when you go to a meeting dreading a PLOT, summon enough patience, put up with all the chit-chats about this and that, and beg God for grace so that you may be able to sit through it all without losing your good humor.
“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4: 2
There’s nothing I look forward to more than meeting old friends—those who figured largely in my past; those who never made it easy for my brain in the workplace; those who encroached upon my comfort zone.
Challengers, I called them collectively.
They made working worth waking up for, and worth not sleeping off for.
In a retiree's placid life, which encourages you to do anything you want at your own pace and time, and which has reprogrammed your bedtime to a ridiculously early hour of the evening, you entertain yourself with thoughts of frenzy-crazy yesteryears—when every second counted and every word uttered had to have a rationale or you’d be niggled, either by your conscience or by the challengers.
One get-together was planned to celebrate the birthday of one, in a place unheard of by my now un-hip, un-trendy ears, used to a quiet place away from the maddening crowd: Dillinger’s 1903.
Dillinger! Born 1903, he was a wild, dangerous criminal whose name evokes the Gangster Era in Midwest USA. A joint named after him must be some kind of a place. Oh, dear.
The place was dark, too dark, for someone whose eyesight has grown dim. But the food was excellent, even if you couldn't scrutinize it. And the company—it’s what I’ve always known: SUPER.
That one word, all caps, is an all-embracing superlative I couldn’t improve on.
Except for a few who couldn’t make it, the laughter, the wit, the banter, the reminiscences, the irreverence, the warmth, the friendship, despite disparate ages, was complete—all there.
The oldest in the group, not yet me, was repeating like a mantra, “I can’t see people’s faces.” And then there’s me.
Not drunk, just struggling to stay awake because it was way past my bedtime. Challenging it was, but the evening was not something I would have slept away for the world.
It was, in my blog parlance, SUPER grace.
My thought balloon, I’m game for the next one.
Photos by Baby
And grow up she did, under the care of her mom, who also took up the cudgels for a dad. As a toddler, Abigail was regularly brought to Sunday school, while her mom attended the church service. In adult Sunday school, her mom (many years my junior) and I would be classmates, and eventually teach the class alternately.
As a teenager, Abigail was an active member of the church youth group, leading in various activities. She would also handle little kids in church projects.
Now she is a remarkable young woman, reminiscent of her courageous namesake in the Bible. After finishing a degree in education, she immersed herself into the rigid review for the licensing exam. Predictably, she aced it, and landed a job in the process.
And then came the anticipated milestone of every newbie in the working world—payday!
Here's what her mom shared with me, meant to be confidential. But I am writing about it because my heart is full, and I feel like it's light on a hill that can't be hidden:
Abigail asked her, “This is my first fruits, right, mom?”
“Then I should offer it to the lord.” And she placed the total amount, every single centavo of it, into the offering plate during the next Sunday worship service.
This is the sort of thing that makes me cry (okay, bawl and blubber, in private). And I tear up every time I remember this. She makes any mother proud.
Knowing and seeing Abigail, who must have learned her ways by her mother's example, is grace beyond words. I say no more.
“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” Proverbs 3:9-10 (ESV)
Our twins, Maika and Nikka, are now as tall as I am. And they just turned 11!
They are not our own children, but the use of "our" seems right since we have been privileged to watch them grow up from age seven.
They recently finished fifth grade, financed by a kind-hearted benefactor, who took on from where Tony and I (now both retired and therefore unable to afford the cost of education in a private school) left off.
This same benefactor again volunteered to take them through sixth grade, the last level offered by the Christian school where they are enrolled.
During their Moving-up Ceremonies in March, Maika and Nikka got medals of recognition for good performance. They also participated in the school program (yellow arrows below).
Just last week, they finished the Daily Vacation Bible School in church, and I see them attending Sunday School. Our hope is that they continue to know more and more the Source of every grace through their teachers. It is also our prayer that their mom and siblings will meet and see Jesus through them.
When our third and youngest son graduated from Law school a few years back, Tony and I thought we had graduated, too. But life throws in surprises at every turn; we are moved to welcome them, making our twilight years more delightful—in this case, doubly delightful.
Now, we have to see to buying two pairs of black pumps, two pairs of PE rubber shoes, some pairs of socks, two school bags, two umbrellas, and we’re ready to go for another school year!
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)