Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down List for 2011

Have you discovered something new about yourself this past year-those things that you love and can’t live without and those stuff that you can’t even stand leaving you puzzled why in the world did you hang on to those in 2011?

Ok, it’s almost the end of the year, when you sit down in the little corner of your room before midnight- few minutes away from the first day of 2012 while you do your New Year’s eve self assessment routine, it won’t hurt to contemplate on some new revelations like an epiphany ( not likely coming from heaven) about yourself that you thought you knew but actually didn’t know about until you got the chance to discover it only last year.

It may not be something significant though. It may just be some minute part of your everyday life but matters a lot.

I can’t wait to know what’s yours. But before you tell me your list, let me burn your ears first with mine. You ready? Here goes…

Thumbs Up List

1.Latino Parties:
I’am a sucker for latin dances but two particular dances that make my heart beat faster in a bossa nova rhythm are salsa and samba. Who cares if the rest of the world are sleeping? All I care about at Latino parties are Mojitos, samba and lots of hip shaking and grinding with sultry Latino friends who dance to their heart’s delight. Oh, did I mention about hot Brazilian bartenders?

2.Facebook’s More Than Just Happy Birthday Greetings
When it’s our birthday, it’s a known fact that the first thing we do is to look at our Facebook wall, right? Ofcourse we’d like to see who remembered us on our birthday.

But how could this birthday routine be exciting if all we see is “Happy Birthday, All the Best!” or just simply “Happy Birthday” or worse “Happy B-day”. Therefore, if you’ve got 25 friends who remembered you on this day, all you’ll see is a “Happy Birthday” repeatedly written 25 times on your Facebook wall. Gee, that’s exciting!

How about writing something nice about the birthday celebrant? Write something that’s encouraging, or say something about a person’s good traits, write something positive. Oh, for heaven’s sake! Write something that’s more than just “Happy Birthday!”

3.Scented Candles
I used to dread opening Christmas gifts before especially when I could feel that what’s inside are candles. Until I got smitten by L’occitane candle fig scent (again a gift to me) whose seductive scent can throw you down on the floor.
That’s when I got a paradigm shift about candles. From that time on, I always ask my friends that I’d like to get scented candles for Christmas. What can I do? Things change!

4.Bubble Bath
My new bubbly passion. I didn’t have the chance to have bubble baths before since my old apartment didn’t have a tub but just a bath corner shower stall instead. Now that I’ve got one in my new apartment- ha! I make sure that I always give myself reason why I do so-to relax my muscles, to calm me down, for a good night sleep, to try different bubble bath soaps. I don’t run out of reasons just to do it every other day. In case I do, run out of reasons, I’ll make one for the next day.

5.Caramelized Almonds
Gosh, I’ve never thought that this stuff are so delicious. Ok probably because I got sweet tooth. But really, they’re addicting that once you munch one sweetened almond, there’s no way for you to stop until you wipe out the rest in the jar. But let me give you a caveat, they’re harder than you thought. So those with porcelain caps, be careful.

Since when did I start to like running? Three years ago, I guess, when my goal was to simply substitute smoking with running. But this year, I don’t just like it. I love it! Doesn’t this sound like a Nike slogan? Running to me now is more than just good for my body- it’s good for my soul too.

7.Jelly Babies
Ok from running to eating sweet high caloric jelly candies? They don’t go together, right? But you know what? I don’t really care. Jelly Babies are the best gummy candies I’ve ever tasted. Taste is perfect. Sweetness is just enough for my once in a while cravings ( ok sometimes more than once in a while) but the shapes? Well…uhmm, let’s just put it this way, it’s like your chewing sweetened little babies. Eewww!

Don’t ask me. I didn’t make them.

8.Ask and It is Given -Law of Attraction Book ( self- help skills) by Abraham- Hicks
Powerful book that everyone must have. When I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I was hoping that I won’t reach the last page since it has revealed tons of information that I missed before. The book generally endorses the principle of law of attraction where you can attract what you desire ( or in the same token as attracting negative things or events as well) depending on how you direct your thoughts.If you get the chance get hold of the book. Go and get one for yourself. It’s a good read especially during the beginning of a new year.

My Thumbs Down List for 2011 will be posted tomorrow. Stay tuned!
While I’m ending the first part of this blog few hours right before 2012 begins.

Let me wish all of you, ( my dear blog readers) a life rich in love, peace, good health and abundance of blessing for the Year 2012.

I hope that I could see you more often here and that my blog would always be worthy of your reading time.

Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Different Flavor of Christmas in Croatia


I'm reposting my article published on American Chronicle. This article is dedicated to all my Croatian friends who consider me as one of their own . To all travelers planning to visit the country during the holiday season, you may want to read this too. Here's the link to the page. I'm giving you all my blog readers more pictures of Croatia since I wasn't able to do so at the site below.

May your hearts be filled with love, peace and grace this coming year.

Merry Christmas to all!

Happy Reading!


Monday, October 31, 2011

Remembering Her.....

For most of us, this time of the year means thinking about outlandish costume to wear, coolest Halloween party to go, ghoulish makeup to put on or maybe boozing the night away.

But for us in the family when the first of November was coming close, we used to think about how we were going to make my mom's birthday party celebration a day to remember.

Considering her propensity to be particular about party details, we used to think about whether she preferred home catering service, dining out or home cooked special lunches and list of close friends to invite. In general, the aim was to make the party as festive as possible and make her the happiest birthday girl in town.
Ever since I can remember, first of November is a sacred date, a day when any excuses for not visiting my mother whether excuse is valid or not is utterly unacceptable. All of us were always expected to be at home- reporting for duty like loyal soldiers. When the party frenzy is over, we sat together at the dining table or gathered around her in bed like little chicks squeezing closer next to mother hen for warmth.

And you know what was the best part? It was the marathon of latest update about our lives. That completed my mom's special day. Well, at least before she ended her usual birthday, we always managed to make her smile and stretched her laugh lines with funny anecdotes as we massaged her arms and legs- a thing that we spoiled her with since we were little kids.

Since we got used to this routine yearly, November 1st didn't look anything exceptional for us until last year when Mom celebrated her last. Early morning that day before she got checked out after a full month's stay at the hospital due to a massive brain stroke, the nursing staff, close friends and us (her children) once again gathered around her not in her regular bed but in her hospital bed this time with birthday cake, fresh flowers, confetti and balloons feigning party mood excitement. Because deep in our hearts, we mumbled prayers of healing and life extension in a hope for another year of blissful birthday celebration.

But who are we to question God's plan for us? Apparently, His plan is way much better. Twenty two days after, He took mom to rest with Him in His kingdom.

But before that, He made her experienced her best birthday party celebration ever.
Happy Birthday Mommy! I miss you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Grocery Carts Follow the Law of Nature

It's amazing how the law of nature applies surprisingly from regular situations to inanimate objects such as grocery carts. Grocery carts especially the ones we have in our common grocery stores in Croatia are attached by a chain that can only be released once you insert a coin. Naturally, when you return it back by attaching back the linked chain, the first thing you'll see is a coin sitting there that quietly says "take me." But that was what I exactly did this weekend. I attached back the chain and hoping to get back my coin. But there was no coin waving at me. I didn't see any.

Then, my friend curiously asked "what are you looking for?" I replied back "your coin" What coin? I didn't insert any. She continued. "I found a loose chain from an unattached cart that I just pulled out. That's why I got the cart without inserting any coin." Then I realized- so no money in- no money out.

Simple. Isn't life as simple as that? Why do we always have to complicate it?

You give love, you get love back. You show hatred. You get being hated. You show kindness. You'll experience kindness in most unexpected place and time. You share your talents. You get rewarded. When you cheat, you'll get cheated too. When you smile at somebody, that somebody will likely smile back at you.

Accept it or now, law of nature spirals to law of reaping what you sow, law of retribution or karma philosophy or even Newton's law of motion's "for every action there's an equal or opposite reaction."
W hat ever way you put it, still it will boil down to the amount you give is what it is going to be given back to you.

If we as human beings forget this basic law of life, well, the good news is that grocery carts will remind us that if you did not insert a coin, then don't expect to get a coin back.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Follow Your Yellow Brick Road

Yellow Brick Road? Remember the story of the Wizard of OZ? When Dorothy wants to find the wiz in the Emerald City? She was told to find the yellow brick road- the way that will surely get her to the elusive Wizard of Oz so she could find her way back home.

You may not be Dorothy literally looking for your way back home. But I know that there are times when you get into a situation where you experience an undefined feeling that you've lost a valued missing piece that could be in a form of a person close to you or a part of yourself that has drifted away.

Though, it may not be as massive as Dorothy's home swallowed by a tornado. But losing something that has made you complete all throughout the years, would definitely prompt you to turn your back, search around or march forward and leave no stone unturned to seek for the right answer to bring back what you're missing.

And what you should be looking for actually is the Yellow Brick Road.

Yes. The Yellow Brick Road. You know it exists but you don't know where and how to find it, right? Don't look at me. I myself also don't know where it is. I'm still on my search. But I know what I'll take with me in my Yellow Brick Road life search adventure. This is why I'm sharing it with you so we could saunter together hand in hand and make this trip an exciting life experience. Don't forget, take all of these with you and you'll never get lost on your way to the Yellow Brick Road.

Scarecrow: Did you know that humans experience as much as 70,000 thoughts each day? Perhaps, that's the reason why the scarecrow wanted a brain so bad so he could think, discern and be judicious like humans. Well, clearly, if he had a brain he wouldn't be humiliating himself hanging on crossed sticks and do a pathetic job of giving crows a scare donning his faded overalls and straw hat. Probably he'd be a dignified scarecrow- Ok still on a scaring business but in Armani suit. Huh!

Wisdom is what we need to seek all the time. We can only find it through prayers and becoming sensitive to God's voice. There's no doubt that He'll definitely guide you through. However, don't forget to astutely weigh and balance your predicament. They say that the reason why God put our brains in our head so we could use it to rule our lives with sound decisions.

The Tin Man: When I watched "The Wiz" on TV last Saturday for the umpteenth time, I still get amazed with the scene when Dorothy opened a square window on the Tin Man's chest and saw a vacuum inside. It was hollow and empty. Thankfully, we're blessed with a heart ( sorry for you Tin Man.) Then follow your heart where it leads you. Ignore what other people think about you and your decision in pursuit for happiness. You only live once. You don't want to spend the rest of your life sacrificing your happiness because other people disapprove of it. Andrew Matthews, an International speaker and author of "Be Happy" contends "Happiness is in the way you think. No one can make you happy except yourself." Know what's inside your heart. Find out what your heart desires. As soon as you know what your heart longs for, then climb the highest mountain (if you have to) to attain it. Subsequently, your beaming smile will radiate the joy coming from your heart.

The Lion: You may have the brain and the heart but without lion's courage -you won't get anywhere. Your ability to muster courage and strength will make up your unwavering character and steadfast integrity. It is through courage and strength that you can trek the rough mountain terrain, walk on hot coals in bare feet and jump over the cliff. In the same token as through courage and strength that you can rebuild your life and pick up the bits and pieces of yourself and start all over again. I read this quote once before that says "A strong woman is one who gets her heart broken time and time again and still has the strength to gather the pieces to create a new life for herself." Nothing could be more undaunted than attempting to start your life all over again. It takes a boulder sized courage and strongest character to be able to do that.

Toto: Lastly, don't forget to grab Toto a dog Terrier on your way to the Yellow Brick Road- friendly, endearing and lively dog that reminds you not to take life too seriously. Don't sweat the small stuff as they say (Ok I'm telling this to myself too.) Sprinkle a dash of humor as you meander one step at a time towards the Yellow Brick Road.

Never give up finding the road signs. Follow the arrow pointing where it leads the way. Be wise. Listen to your heart and muster some courage. Be Dorothy. Click your heels three times as you take a leap of faith and trek the Yellow Brick Road that will surely bring you back home.

Have a lovely summer! - J.A.S.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Are You Ready to Take the Plunge?

Many years back, when I was a young girl, I was blown away by an iced tea TV commercial that left my mouth agape every time it got flashed on TV. It didn't matter then how many times this commercial hit the airwaves – its euphoric appeal got me thunderstruck and wowed me endlessly like I've seen it the first time.

Picture this: a young teenage girl drinks a glass of fresh iced tea and quenches her thirst on a hot summer day then suddenly makes an unexpected backward fall into the pool- aaahhh….feeling the freshness of cool water as she splashes away.

Now tell me, who wouldn't want to be in her place? If I were her, I'd do back flips, backward takeoffs, springboard dives, or side flips or swan dives- Ok …Ok…. I don't really know how to do any of those. I was just showing off.

But I still wish I could really venture into a free fall one time in my life. Who cares about a bad fall as long as I get the best time splashing all over and getting out of the water with a big grin on my face.

I may sound a bit of a ballsy adventurer. True. Probably because I'm the type who'd like to embark on a certain level of excitement in my life- not necessarily adrenalin- pumping and hair- raising excitement but I'm talking about everyday life adventures. Although giving adrenalin pumping and hair raising adventure-a try is not a bad idea at all.

Sometimes we don't realize that every single day is an adventure itself. Just think about this, you start your day making an insignificant decision such as how you like your eggs cooked for breakfast- will it be fried? boiled? over easy? or scrambled? Will you wear a green shirt? or a brown one? Will you wear your hair down or curl it a little?

You pick your choice. You decide.

Then you end up your day in bed racking your brains about heavy-weight decision whether to take better job offer or not or whether to marry your boyfriend or stay single. You cull and then you decide.

Whatever we do everyday, we're always left with choices. To risk or not to risk. Accept it or not, it always demands a great deal of audacity to be a risk taker- would you like to have your breasts augmented? or climb Himalayas, meet your Facebook friend in person, break up your relationship in favor of a new one, emigrate to another country or simply decide whether to sit next to a dubious looking character on the plane or not.

These will absolutely require you to come up with a snap or a well thought about decisions that could make you feel better at the end of the day.
If you come to think of it, what are you really looking for? I know. It's the inner joy the certain level of happiness is what you're aiming for like a pot of gold sitting at the end of the rainbow for your prize.

The pursuit for the elusive happiness is the driving force can make you take a giant leap of faith- that no one else can do. The search for the elusive happiness is the one that can make you do what you don't normally do. Seeking for the elusive happiness is the one that can make you suddenly become a different person.

Some may frown or raise eyebrows, purse their lips or downright put two thumbs down on your decisions but who cares? The strength that you mustered going out of your comfort zone to find the indefinable happiness is way admirable.Give yourself a reward for that since not everyone has the temerity to move heaven and earth just to seek his own happiness.

Packing your bags and living in an exotic country or trekking the Himalayas or starting a life with a new person in your life is not as easy and fun as shopping downtown. Not even close. (I wish they were- so I'd be in the Himalayas every weekend.)

Taking chances to experience something new in your life doesn't give out promises that will be followed by a happy ending. But expecting for happiness to fall on your lap while sitting down and watching six o clock news is not going to happen either. Sometimes, it's worth to take boulder sized risks to be able to feel the glory. No guts, no glory as they say. The odd side of chances is that- once you let it go, it may never come back again in the same form.

The line "Life is too short" has been overused (and abused several times.)But it's true. Life is too short. You got to make the most out of it while you still can. Whenever I make decision, I only think about Mark Twain's words, "Twenty years from now, you'll be more disappointed by the things you did not do than by the things you did."

And I hope I won't come to a point when I'm old and gray,as I sit on a rocking chair, pondering, that I'd regret why I didn't do what I had to do before. The truth is, life is teemed with risks and decisions. That's why don't be afraid to up your ante a little. Because life is a game of chance. One can never be sure of what life will bring you.

Like the back fall into the pool or skydiving, I'm doing a full gear check, strapping and buckling up tightly to make sure my parachute is going to open up in mid-air.

Because soon, I'm about to embark on a big sky dive of my life and when I jump, I intend to glide gracefully wherever the wind takes me and enjoy one hell of a ride.-J.A.S.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Spring Cleaning: If You Can Do It-Your Kids Can Do It Too!

Need help with your Spring Cleaning? You don't have to do it alone. Your kids can join you too in cleaning up the clutter, dusting off furniture and tossing old worn- out stuff that you haven’t used up for ages.

Teaching kids to get involved with household chores prepare them for their responsibility in the future. According to Marty Rossman, a researcher and an Emeritus Associate Professor of Family Education, "Teaching kids at an early age to take part in the household tasks will enable them to develop sense of responsibility, competence self-reliance and self-worth."

So before you rack your brains in figuring out how to complete your Spring Cleaning adventure, here's how you will do it in 5 easy ways.

1.Make Spring Cleaning a Fun Activity:
Just like kite flying, swimming and other fun activities, spring cleaning should be considered as an enjoyable activity too. However, that depends on how you present the idea to your kids. If you want to make them join you, put a little excitement in your tone. Hype up spring cleaning activity few days before you do the actual work. And when you start, play some games as such sorting, classifying, counting, identifying colors and beginning sounds of words among others to make it real fun.

2.Give Special Rewards:
Helping you with gardening, cleaning the closet, or sorting broken toys could be quite a challenge for young kids. So to increase their motivation, give special incentives like stickers, ice cream, a trip to the park, arranged play dates with friends among others. You don't have to spend a lot of money for rewards. Remember that children love simple joys in life.

3.Use the Opportunity to Teach:
If you're encouraging your kids to learn how to do household chores, make use of this chance to teach values, learning concepts or basic ideas so learning would not only be confined in the four corners of the classroom. Share the goals and objectives of your spring cleaning task. Let them know that they are already growing so fast. And it's time for them to do what big boys and girls do.

4. If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It:
An old saying that means if everything is alright, then don't do something about it. With regard to the kids' spring cleaning exploration, this means the other way around. I'm sure you know that kids will never clean up the way adults do. It will always turn out that the finished job would be needing some polishing somehow- you know how kids are! However, if your child's completed job is far from your neatness standards, then leave it at that. It will add to your child’s self-confidence to see that you appreciate their efforts even if the job needs a lot of tweaking in the end. By recognizing his efforts, chances are, you'll get a help again from your children with your Spring Cleaning next year. But ofcourse, nobody stops you from fine tuning their finished job when they're away or asleep. Just don't make it too noticeable, they'll surely spot it.

5. Be Proud of Your Child:

Tell other moms and dads, your friends, family, relatives and colleagues at work what you turned your child into. Flaunt his small but meaningful accomplishments. When he hears you're proud of him, he develops his self-esteem and self- worth subsequently.

By getting your child involved with tasks like Spring Cleaning, you consequently, make your child become responsible, caring, competent and more matured for his age.

So what are you waiting for? Ask your child to help you now before he changes his mind.

Enjoy your Spring Cleaning!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Helping Your Child Get Back on Track

NOTE: This article is a repost of an article that I've written exactly one year ago on American Chronicle. Just thought of sharing this again to my blog readers who are parents, teachers, child advocates or care givers who may be struggling with some post Christmas holiday issues with your child. I wish you a smooth and an easy going back to work or school transition on Monday.

Now that the holiday season frenzy is over, after getting yourself ginger up with home decoration, shopping, cooking, planning your family winter skiing holiday, the next thing that you wouldn't even dare to think about is to go back to the old grind, isn't it?

The thought of coming back to a desk with high pile of papers, driving your kids back to school in an early morning traffic rush and beating deadlines at the office are not only akin to being visited by your Christmas past but thoughts that you wouldn't even want to muse about in the midst of your relaxed family bonding this holiday season.

Adults are not the only ones feeling the jitters of the first week back to the old routine mode.

Your child feels the same way too.

This is why some children sometimes revert to the adjustment period stage exhibiting episodes of crying, whining, temper tantrums and clinging when they go back to school. Children spent three long weeks or even more with parents at home during the holiday break. From the first day of their Christmas vacation ending to its last day, children have adapted new set of I-can-do-what-I-want-to-do-at-home routine. This includes, staying up late, frequent play dates, watching late night TV shows or DVD, skipping afternoon naps, getting up at ten, tagging along with mom on a shopping spree and other similar free wheeling activities.

Now that classes have just started or perhaps to some are about to start next week, getting back your child on track may be an onerous attempt like pulling a tugboat with bare hands. To make your home-school transition in a smooth fashion, here are a few tips that can make wonders and less stressful for you in dealing with your child's post holiday struggles.

1. Psych Up Your Child Gradually. Inform your child that holiday season will be over after the New Year. Thereby, he'll be going back to school and doing the same old routine of getting up early and being picked up in the afternoon just like before Christmas. Whether your child understands the concept or not, it doesn't matter as long as you made him informed and reminded about the series of events that will come his way soon.

2.Establish the Old Routine Few Days After Christmas: It doesn't matter whether it's few days after Christmas or few days after the New Year for as long as you start putting your child to bed early-instead of ten in the evening, try nine then move down to eight ( if that was his ideal bedtime.) Slowly, his body gets to be readjusted to new habits gradually and will get accustomed to it before he goes back to school. By the same token, if waking up your child early could post as a problem, try getting him up the usual time he wakes up before he goes to school. Remember that the earlier you put him to bed, the more chances he gets the ample 8 hour sleep.

3. Do Your Bedtime Story Earlier: If your child can't sleep without your mom-child-story-bonding-time, then adjust your bedtime story earlier. This would entail an early adjustment of your household routine such as making dinner, tidying up the kitchen and putting on his pajamas then accentuate the end of the day with a bedtime story before tucking him into bed.

4. Control Late Night TV Viewing: Say goodbye to late night cartoons, DVDs or computer games. Staring on the TV screen or computer monitors for a long time has harmful effects on children. According to Dr. Sigman, a psychologist who studied on the effects of television watching on children, "Excessive TV viewing may cause physical, cognitive and educational damage later on."

Ergo, limit your child's TV viewing in the afternoon for one to two hours. Don't deprive him of his pleasure to watch instead monitor TV watching strictly.

5. Start Doing School Work Piece by Piece: Some schools give homework or essays about a recount of their Christmas holidays. Some don't.

If your child's school sent some homework, you may start doing it one piece at a time. There's no point in putting pressure on the child to accomplish everything all in one go. Few days after Christmas or New Year are still part of their holiday. So, let your child set one foot in winter wonderland and the other foot in the school door.

The point being here is to make them do their homework on a scheduled time consistently while enjoying the rest of the holiday season. Whether answering pages of workbooks, writing essays, book reports or coloring pages, as long as these tasks are done while on vacation religiously-at least for an hour, you'll see that redirecting your child's mind to go back to school won't be a Herculean task after all.

6. Prep Him Up The Night Before:

Don't forget to give your child a plethora of encouragement anchored to the idea that school is fun. Cheer him up with the assurance that his classmates and favorite teachers are there waiting for him. You may entice him to tell his friends at school about his wonderful holiday skiing trip, memorable time with grandparents, presents he got from Santa or the tallest snowman he ever built. Providing a feeling of excitement to your child a night before the first day of school after the holiday break will evoke a more positive disposition which consequently will make your child look forward to go to school.

Spending the holiday season is such an invigorating respite from the endless humdrum of daily work-home routine schedule. The sad thing is, in as much as you would wish that the alignment of stars will be in your favor bringing no end to those blissful moments of vacation, you'll always reach your vacation's last day, no matter what. In this case, you might as well get yourself armed to the teeth and accept the fact that holiday is over.

That's when reality bites.