The Thank You Project: #195 (Facebook)

As much as I don’t like Facebook since it constantly changes (it’s one of the things that sometimes makes me feel old especially when I can’t find something because they moved the location), it is useful for a lot of different reasons. The biggest one that I want to give thanks for today is connecting with family. Facebook has the ability to connect people across the globe. All you have to do is find each other and you will be able to chat and leave messages for each other easily. You can put whatever level of your life on Facebook and show how you’ve grown up as well. Photo albums for example are very good at showing your memories and Facebook makes it easier to share.

I was able to reconnect with multiple members of my family. First it was some of my family on my adopted father’s side. Facebook allowed me to connect with enough of them that I was able to invite and have them present on my wedding day. That was a true blessing and it’s all due to Facebook.

Recently, some of my biological siblings have found me on Facebook. I couldn’t be more excited since I have not known them for most of my life and I just want to see how they are doing in life and I’d like to share my life with them as well.

It’s hard to fathom that when I was a child, Facebook didn’t exist and it was much harder to connect with others. It is so easy now and even babies have Facebook profiles. So for today’s thank you, I just want to give thanks for the connections that Facebook can provide.

#7 – Nailing a Business Presentation #1AwesomeThingADay

Approved. There is nothing more exhilarating in the business world than to hear that your proposal or project that you’ve been working for months on has been approved and funding will be given to finish it. It starts with a plan and ends with the business presentation. Just nailing the presentation gives you such a feeling of accomplishment and makes you want to do your best fist pump expression. At least for me, that’s what I do since I work from home 🙂

Nailing a business presentation.. definitely 1AwesomeThingADay! 

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#6 – The first warm day after winter

A_Sunny_Day_at_the_Park_by_FantasyStockThere is nothing better after a cold, long winter than a nice warm day. It seems like it just make everything in the world better. You can go out without a sweater or a jacket and just soak in the sun’s rays. You’ll notice people seem to smile more during this first day as well and people actually start to work out as well (I think I missed the memo on that still :D).

That is definitely 1AwesomeThingADay.

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The Thank You Project: #194 (Having family to stay with while traveling)

1452328_10153602243070173_1765752668_nIt’s tough living in South Bend sometimes because we don’t have any family living in the immediate area. Family is a very important thing for us. They are the ones that will unconditionally support you through whatever situation arises. Whether you are sick or you have hit a major accomplishment, family will be there cheering you on. We’ve found it tougher to travel since KristaRose requires more rest and stops while we go along. We are very lucky to have a lot of family in Chicago that we can stay with. Whether it’s on our first stop into Chicago with Manang Grace and Manong Ray (and their very cute and rambunctious kiddos Gabe, Jonah and Benjamin) or in the heart of the suburbs with Tita Ling, Tito Fred, Steph and Jek, we seem to be covered wherever we go. I know I’m not mentioning all of the family we do get to see but the point is that having family close and so willing to help us out and provide a place to stay is really helpful for us not only for the act itself but seeing family lifts our spirits as well.

So for today’s thank you, I’d like to thank all of our family that allows us to stay with them. This includes Tita Ter and family in DC and Manong RJ, Manang Rachel and Caleb in San Diego. Thanks for being so welcome and thanks for letting us spend some moments of life with you.

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Save time for a hobby

blogentry_michaelI started growing an indoor garden a few weeks ago. I’m not sure what prompted the need for me to buy seeds and try my hands at producing fresh vegetables but I’m glad I made the choice to. I’ve found that if you have a hobby and you can actively do it day in and day out, it brings a sense of fulfillment to your life. In my case, the routine of turning on the grow lights and making sure the crops have enough water is a nice start to the day and gives me something to look at if I need a break from my computer monitor.

Like any novice farmer, I have to spend some time at least describing my crops. I started out with just a few pots, some potting soil and tomato and sweet pepper seeds. We got a set at Walmart where they were just small clay pots. I didn’t really like that concept and probably with good reason because if you really want to ensure your crops grow, you should start them either in the pot you’re going to have them in after they’ve grown or start them in a greenhouse seed starter kit. So I planted cherry tomatoes and cilantro in the greenhouse kit. The tomatoes shot up like crazy and were ready to be transplanted. I took a 3ft pot and placed 6 tomatoes in there. That was probably a mistake since they really should be spaced out more. But after I placed them there I made sure I took care of them well. I got self watering pots where you put the water from below so that the roots would be the first to get soaked in water. I turned on the overhead fan so that I could simulate wind and make the stems even stronger. With all of these things going on, I felt very proud of what I’ve done.

In the next couple of weeks we ended up adding yellow onions to the mix. The yellow onions I’ve actually kind of failed at because even with the stem growth, some of the bulbs actually were rotten and so I ended up not having great luck. We added an orchid and another tropical plant which the name of has slipped my mind. This new hobby of mine has really brought a fun addition to my morning routine.

I think the reason why I’m writing about hobbies is because in our busy lives I think it’s good to have something that is not work related and not family related in your life. Life is all about giving to others but you do have to take care of yourself as well. By having a healthy hobby such as my gardening or volunteering at a church group or at a homeless shelter, you are giving yourself a chance to be proud of yourself and passionate for something in your life. It’s a great way to wind down a day or start up a day.

So if you don’t have a hobby or if you haven’t been able to keep one going because you’re busy, try blocking out part of your day or part of your week towards a hobby. It’s definitely something that will make you happy and in turn make others around you happy. It could even be something that helps others unintentionally, like this blog!

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Healthy Eating Makes for Healthy Living

blogentry_michaelI was not known to really be a cook while I was growing up. My mother and father were always the ones cooking for me and I really didn’t learn how to do anything except bake muffins when I was a child. That slowly changed when I started college and especially when I met KristaRose. She’s always been a great cook and to this day I’m still kind of baffled that she can just take whatever items are out there and create great. I think it probably comes from experience and probably she picked it up from Mom and Dad.

In any case, I started to learn to cook a few items in college. Mostly around baking more items but I also learned how to cook some Filipino food. Lumpia, Pancit, Adobo, those were all staples of date nights that we would have from time to time. Then I guess I sort of regressed once I got out of college and was living on my own in Chicago. It was hard to really cook for one person and almost impossible in my first apartment. Let me tell you, that first apartment I moved into was a complete mess! I had bug problems all the time and I still remember just the sheer number of small little roaches that kept appearing even after having the landlords come in and spray. Anyway, to say the least, that deterred me from really cooking. My second apartment that was in Arlington Heights on the other hand had a nice kitchen with a nice island countertop. I did do more cooking but I think I relied too much on frozen TV dinners still.

Fast forward to the present and now the need to cook most meals is more evident than ever. KristaRose has a lot of allergies and we have been trying our best to avoid them. The biggest one and really the hardest one to avoid is corn. Think of everything that has some form of corn in it. It could be corn flour, corn syrup, corn starch or just plain pieces of corn. It’s everywhere! When you go and eat out, you will find that corn is almost in every single item that you eat. To avoid this, we tend to cook and eat at home more often. It’s easier and it leads to less reactions for her which is always a good thing.

Now even when we got to South Bend, I was still not an expert cook. I knew how to cook spaghetti pretty well. I also did a mean bowl of cereal. Slowly though I started to experiment with other items. I would buy just some plain chicken thighs from the grocery store and mix it with various herbs and spices. I learned that it’s pretty easy to just get some garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and olive oil and slap it onto the chicken and bake or fry it. It creates an easy meal that doesn’t take too long and you can pair it with rice, couscous, veggies, you name it. The same can be done with steak. You don’t really have to throw in a ton of things and simplicity tends to be the key.

After discovering that, I started experimenting with other types of dishes. I’ve made chicken marsala and different types of stir fry that I must say can taste better than what you can get at a restaurant. I’ve also really gotten into making easy dishes for breakfast. A quiche is fairly easy to do if you prep it easily. Also, if you want to have a nice snack, stick slices of apples in croissant rolls and add some cinnamon sugar. It’s a healthier version than some of the pies you can get at stores and restaurants.

It’s especially easy nowadays to go on the internet and find some recipes matching what mood you are in. I find that eating home cooked meals is a lot healthier and it just somehow makes you feel better. I guess the worst part or the hardest part would be finding the time to do this. I have a weird schedule nowadays because of various appointments and how work is going. But I try to find time during the day to put something in the oven or on the stove and keep doing my work while food is cooking.

We started tracking what we eat on an app called MyFitnessPal. When I say we, I really mean KristaRose. I’m still not 100% there since I have a million things on my mind usually. It’s a great little app that allows you to enter in what you’ve eaten for the day and it has a huge database that’s populated by its users. You just select what you’ve eaten, what portions or serving size and voila. You can set your target goal calorie wise as well.

Something seems to be working because as of right now, I’ve lost a good 10-12 pounds and KristaRose has lost about 6-7 pounds. I’m hoping that if we continue this healthy trend of eating and I discipline myself to cook instead of eating out that we’ll continue to see these results and most importantly not see the weight come back. I think if maybe we can add some more exercise to the equation especially when Krista is feeling better, we might in turn feel a lot better and have more energy.

So really my ask to all the readers is to really take a look at your diet and see where you can make some improvements and take out a fast food meal here and there. Look into making simple dishes for yourself and watch the savings weight wise and on your pocketbook. I think you’ll be glad when you do!

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Sale, sale, sale

blogentry_michaelI think one of the biggest gripes that I have about the economy today is the shopper mentality. It seems that nowadays everyone is looking for a bargain whether it is on clothes, food, or services. I think that’s fine to look for the better deal but the way companies are approaching it now is becoming almost criminal in my opinion. Let’s take a look at some stores for example.

I think the biggest example of the excessive sales is Kohl’s. They have all kinds of promotions and clearances going on every single day. In fact when I go into the store there’s not a lot of things that don’t have a red “Sale” tag on it. Kohl’s is really guilty of bumping up the MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price) and then claiming you save 40% or more. It’s like an addiction because at the cash register when you ring up all of your items, they tell you that you’ve saved a ridiculous amount of money. Just from listening to some other people’s orders you can save like $300+. Are you really saving that much money though? Let’s take a simple polo from Kohl’s. They usually advertise it for around $13 after a sale. That’s after saying the MSRP is around $19. You’ve saved $6. That sounds like a good deal doesn’t it? However, if you do some comparison shopping to other stores for the quality of the polo you just looked at, you’ll usually find that the price should be around $13 or maybe even lower if a store has a true sale. With Kohl’s, I find it difficult to commit to buying anything because it’s really so hard to figure out if something is a good deal or not. I have to always look at the “sale” price and ask myself, “Is this really a good deal? How much would it cost at other places?”.

Another example of excessive sales is JC Penny. I actually really liked this store when it had the fair pricing scheme from a couple of years ago. Prices for everything were held constant and you knew what everything was really worth for every day pricing. It was a fresh change at least in my perspective. That ship has since sailed though. Prices are back to being on sale for everything. There are very little items in the store that aren’t marked as a sale and just looking at the MSRP, you can tell the prices are inflated. I mean come on, $60 for a mediocre quality dress shirt? The one thing I will say about JC Penny though is when something is truly on clearance you can get great deals. When things are out of season, that’s the time when you should buy. It’s also when I found a great strategy to know if something truly is on sale.

Do you ever notice what number a price ends in? Most items end in a 9 because they are worth like $5.99 or $6.49. That usually would indicate that it’s a regular “Sale” price. However, when items end in another number like 8 or 7, that’s usually an indicator that they’ve been given an extra discount. I’ve seen it happen at JC Penny with many of their discounted items. They usually end in a 7. There’s an article about the codes they use in Costco and what was found is the following:

  • Prices that end in 97¢: These have been marked down from the regular priced items, which end in 99¢
  • Odd pricing, such as 79¢, 49¢, or 89¢: These indicate specially priced items that Costco got a deal from the manufacturer. Rapoport says these can be better deals than at other stores, but not usually better than the 97¢ markdown.
  • An asterisk* on the upper right side of the sign: The item won’t be reordered.
  • 88¢ or .00 endings: Manager markdowns. Sometimes the company uses these to move a product very fast.

(Source: http://lifehacker.com/save-even-more-money-at-costco-by-knowing-their-secret-800666594)

It pays to really look at the items and discern whether or not they’re really good deals. In today’s society it seems that companies have to fight more and more to get your business and they try to do so with pricing. Don’t get fooled into good deals, go with your instinct and don’t buy into the shopper’s mentality.

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Marriage Isn’t for Me

blogentry_michaelSociety has a problem. It’s been one that’s been developing for decades. There are more than a few movies that show the problems of marriage. They depict how it’s quite alright to have a divorce. It’s quite alright to just move on to the next person to find what you’re searching for. It’s a scary thought to me that it’s becoming the norm and is accepted. I think it’s because a person goes into a marriage thinking about the benefits of themselves. In reality, a marriage isn’t for me. It’s about the person I marry. It’s about the woman I love.

When I say society has a problem, maybe I’m generalizing it too much. There are plenty of couples that I know that have been happy and married for years. I only have to look towards many of our family members who are celebrating anniversaries of 20, 30, or even longer amounts of time. I’ve even had the great opportunity to be there for mom and dad’s 35th anniversary. What a wonderful thought that is isn’t it? To be married for so long and to see that love is not only still present but ever growing. It’s just a beautiful thing.

Even though I haven’t even been married for a year I’ve come to a conclusion that hopefully will help and guide me going forward.

Marriage isn’t for me.

I didn’t get married so that I would gain these wonderful benefits for myself. When I was up at the altar, I did not make vows to myself and that I would take care of myself and be selfish. I took a vow to take care of KristaRose. I took a vow to grow in love through the good and the bad. I took a vow to grow in love for Christ through my union with Krista. Nowhere in the celebration was it a congratulations or a pat on the back for me gaining anything. It makes me realize that I need to keep remembering that marriage isn’t for yourself, it’s for the one you love and most of all it’s for God.

Now I know that you might be thinking to yourself that hey wait a second, marriage can’t just be a one way street. You have to be able to have certain things that you like and be able to do certain activities that bring you joy and pleasure. That’s good and true but think about it this way… The person that you marry is supposed to be the one that will make you a better person. That person isn’t perfect. Every person is not perfect. But this one person that you have put a ring on is that person to help you grow. Your wife or your husband is going to be the one that wakes up everyday and learns about you and your tendencies. He or she is going to be the one that encourages you to keep doing the things you like to do and is going to make sure it makes you a better person.

I think a good example of this would be going bowling on Monday. I know that I made a blog post about it but it really is something special when Krista decides to take me bowling. She hasn’t been able to physically do bowling because of medical reasons but she knows just how much I love going and sat there and watched me as I played 5 games. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

Other things I can think of are the times that I’m not too much of a happy person on the road. She’s always there to make sure I calm down and see it from the other person’s perspective. She’s really showed me how to consider everyone that is around you and that sometimes if a person is having a bad day, that person can make a bad move on the road and you shouldn’t be penalized for it. Isn’t that a good lesson we should learn in life? If someone makes a mistake, we shouldn’t yell at them. We should learn why they might have made the mistake and then work with them if they need our help. It’s a refreshing attitude that the world desperately needs.

I think most of all, Krista has been able to help me back to a more spiritual path. It’s great to have lots of conversation and discussion. It’s also great that we are able to have our own prayer time that we have in the mornings and evenings. I think it really helps us to fulfill our role in getting closer to God. I think it was Manang Grace that introduced this concept to us. In a marriage, you really have a triangle where God is at the top and the husband and wife are on the bottom parts. The closer you get to God, the closer your relationship will be. What a wonderful concept that is and it’s something that I definitely believe in.

So back to where I started this post. I think the world is really suffering with an attention disorder. It seems most people are satisfied to find instant thrill and not settle down and find the people that will actually make a difference in your life. Marriage isn’t supposed to be a fleeting thrill. It is a lifelong commitment that no matter what happens, you are sticking by that person. No matter how hard it gets, no matter what sicknesses come along, you love that one person and by giving your all to them, you become the person you are meant to be as well. Keep in mind that if you find the right person, he or she will give their all to you as well. It’s not a one way street, but a symbiotic relationship that brings you closer to each other and more importantly closer to God.

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Take it slow

blogentry_michaelI got the rare chance to go bowling today as KristaRose decided to take me today. I don’t get many chances because I’m simply really busy most of the time. It’s always refreshing to go bowling though because it’s something I’m passionate about. I know that for some people, it’s hard to grasp but for me bowling has been kind of an art form. You really have to have dedication and discipline in order to do well. There are many different ways you can throw the ball but there is probably only a couple of ways that will suit your style and your strengths. Once you know how to throw the ball, then it becomes critical that you can throw it the same way over and over again. It’s the same concept in basketball or football. You have to practice that jump shot so that your arms and your legs automatically know how to shoot even with someone in your face. For football, you have to practice exactly how to throw the football so that it has the precise speed or you have to know how to run your route and how to adjust.

For today’s session, I was able to start off really strong with a 207. That’s fairly high for me especially since I haven’t really bowled in awhile. Actually, I think the last time I might have gone bowling was during my bachelor party. Anyway, during that game I started off ok but I quickly realized that I was bowling too fast. If you’ve bowled for a good portion of your life, you will instantly recognize when you’re a little too energetic. When I bowl too fast and with too much power I end up not curving the ball as much because I force it down the lane. About midway through the game, I adjusted and what was the result? I got a turkey (which for those who don’t know that means three strikes in a row).

After that, I started thinking about how this really could be applied to the real world. How many times have we gone through situations and sped through them as quickly as possible because we wanted them to just be over with? How many times have we been at work and wanted the clock to speed up so we can get back home? How many times have we waited impatiently at a red light and just want to blast right through it?

I know that I’m guilty of many of these situations. We live in a world that demands us to manage our time very carefully. We have to spend a lot of time devoted to work. We have to spend time for the family and kids. We have to spend time for friends and those around us. We think that going fast allows us to do so much more. Maybe we’re going about this the wrong way.

Take me for example. I tend to forget a lot of things. Maybe it’s because I’m a guy. Maybe it’s because I’m just me. But whatever the case, I tend to forget instructions unless I write them down or there’s not too many steps involved. I really have to focus sometimes just to get things right. I’ve always thought that it’s a combination of these problems that leads me to forget. However, what if it’s because I don’t take my time and really absorb what’s going on around me? What if my memory improves if I take things slower?

I’ve started trying this with things that Krista has told me to do. We use this app called Wunderlist, which by the way is a great free app that allows you to create lots of to-do lists. In this app, Krista can outline things for me to pick up from the grocery store or chores to do around the house. Many times though, I’m so pressed for time and I think that I have so much to do like dishes and laundry that I actually forget that I have this app on my phone. Because of this, I end up not doing everything on the list and I have to spend more time accomplishing those goals.

I’ve found that if I take things slower and do everything one by one on my lists, things get finished and I don’t have to redo the task. Sure it might overall take a little longer but the time saved in not redoing tasks more than makes up for it.

I think that going forward this is the method I’m really going to follow. Whether I use lists on Wunderlist or a list on my whiteboard in the office, I can spend some time each morning just going through all the tasks that I have and making sure I prioritize what I need to get done. I find that I just get a lot more done and it keeps me motivated to keep going through my tasks.

So what can you do today to take things slower? Think about everything you need to do and approach things one by one instead of all at the same time. Once you learn to take things slower, then you’ll really be living in the moment as well!