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A Good Marriage

This arrived in the mail today.

Microsoft Office for Mac2008

Given the fierce competition between Apple and Microsoft, who would have thought that the latter would be producing software for the Macintosh platform?

The music industry realized that they couldn’t sue everyone who shares or downloads free music for online piracy. Following dwindling music sales, they agreed to work with online retailers; an acknowledgment that the web is one medium they can no longer ignore.

Seth Godin, the American author of bestselling business books, said it best in his blog, You don’t have the power:

“Movie execs thought they had the power to fight TV. Record execs thought they had the power to fight iTunes. Magazine execs thought they had the power to fight the web. Newspaper execs thought they had the power to fight Craigslist.”

Which leads me to hope for more collaboration in other industries in the future, particularly: modern medicine with naturopathy.

My eldest daughter has been suffering from mild eczema for over a year. Our family doctors have advised that it is a genetic condition, there is no cure and it will go away on its own as she grows older. I have inquired countless times over a period of repeated consultations if the condition was triggered by certain foods and they have constantly reassured me it has nothing to do with her diet. They prescribed continuous application of Vaselinette cream which moisturizes the skin and hydrocortisone creams for flare ups specially in the winter months.

I refused to believe them when they told me there is no solution and I was bent on finding out the cause in order to arrive at the cure. I turned to a friend, an alternative medicine therapist who informed me about the triggers of eczema. After a consultation she explained that my daughter had immune reactions to certain foods and given her genetic predisposition, this led to her having eczema.

She recommended following the blood type diet and by slowly eliminating foods like dairy and wheat, my daughter is now itching less, has not had any flare ups this winter and her skin looks clearer by the day.

So the next time I run into a parent whose child has the same condition, who do you think will I recommend?

Smart organizations know that working against the competition is a thing of the past. When it comes to healing, there shouldn’t be any  rigid nor drawn lines between prescription drugs or alternative medicine.  Collaboration is vital.

Businesses and institutions need to work together and build on each other’s best practices to serve their end consumers well. This is a win-win for everyone.

And this is one marriage guaranteed to last.

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New Year always brings about resolutions.  But before we resolve to do the things that we haven’t been doing, why not take stock of the present and decide to leave behind things and practices not worth continuing?

1) The job you hate.

If you have been dreading your waking hour for the most part of this year because you have to go to work, then its time to fold.  Make an exit plan.  Starting now.  You determine whether you want to be an entrepreneur or be an employee in a company you love to work for.  Either way, write down a step by step action plan to make sure that six months from now you will be doing something that you love instead of something that brings in a monthly paycheck only.

This is the year you decide that you will have both.  Because you can.

2) The relationship that stifles.

Are you with somebody who limits your growth instead of enhancing it?  If you feel like you have exhausted all communication channels and stated clearly what you both need and can offer to each other and still nothing works, its time to move on.

Life is too short to spend it with people who do not share your dreams.

3) The friend who smothers.

There are people who suck your energy after spending one hour with them.  They are the ones who gripe about what an ugly day it is, or how disgusting the food is in a restaurant and how the world is never enough.  If you hang out with such people and walk away every single time as if the life has been drained out of you and you feel like screaming your head off, its time to stay away from them. For good.  For your own sake.

4) The credit card charges.

Are you cash strapped as you enter the New Year?  Would you have been more liquid had you decided to skip the latest Blackberry on the market; or bought a Renault instead of the BMW which you are struggling now to maintain?

Realize that the things you own do not define you as a person.  And the next time you want to buy an expensive item, save for it.  An empty bank account is un-cool.

Keeping up with the Joneses has never been good for everyone’s pockets, and you’re still left with the credit card debts to pay.

5) The stuff which clutters.

Let go of things which consume space but do not add value:  the shoes you haven’t worn in a year or the clothes (with price tags still attached) in your closet for the last 3 months.  Somebody else will benefit from those.  And you will brighten someone’s day.

What can you add to this list as 2009 draws to a close?  Would love to read your thoughts below.

A Christmas Poem

A Winter Wonderland in Wiler, Switzerland (2009)

Photo courtesy of Marjon Rodijk

Growing up in the Philippines, the Christmas holiday season is a very festive one.  Christmas trees go up right after All Soul’s Day on November 2nd.  Decorations are colorful and abundant and Christmas lights and lanterns dominate the streets, gardens and gates of houses.  Yuletide music can be heard wafting through the air from neighbor’s homes, supermarket speakers and shopping centers – some as early as September.

There are no snows, no pine cones and no chestnuts roasting on an open fire but the feeling of Christmas is an unmistakable one and here are a few reasons why I miss being in the Philippines this time of year:

a festive Christmas tree up close

1.) Children caroling on your house’s front steps in the weeks prior to Christmas.

Nothing adds more holiday cheer than the sight and sounds of little ones enthusiastically ringing your doorbell and belting out their own off-key renditions of Silent Night and Jingle Bells with their tambourines and Santa hats.  And scuttling off just as quickly to the next house once they receive some coins and goodies – even when they were still in the midst of their performance.

2.) I miss my friends.

There are high school friends and university friends, groups and organization friends and social friends – the kind of people you prefer to hang out with regardless of any affiliation.  The weeks before Christmas Day are a mad round of dinners and parties for each group and catching up with them in a festive atmosphere are always heartwarming.

3.) There is no noche buena and no misa de gallo here in The Netherlands.

I miss that warm, fuzzy feeling when the whole family comes home from midnight mass on December 24 and sit down together for a meal.  The table is abundantly laid out with foods like the lechon (whole roasted pig), chicken relleno (stuffed roasted chicken), camaron rebosado, pancit, lumpia and the like and traditional delicacies like biko, puto bumbong and bibingka with hot chocolate made from the real cacao plant.

Food is a central theme in any Filipino gathering and no other occasion than Christmas brings out the most meticulous planning and preparation on what to serve on this occasion.

4.) Christmas family parties in the Philippines are like family dramas on steroids.

I miss the family gathering which always starts in a happy mood and everyone is having fun, singing and dancing and lots of laughter.  Then everyone slowly gets a little bit inebriated and then the drama begins.  An aunt or uncle usually starts a discussion or rehash an old wound which quickly turns into an argument and everyone else join the fray and everybody starts shouting and crying.  And then they all end up eventually hugging each other and being friends –- or relatives again.

The unfolding drama is entertainment fodder to us –- namely me, my sister and my cousins who are all quietly chuckling in the background.  And it happens year after year and in most other families as well.

As these sweet memories run through my mind, I can’t help but smile; feel wistful and nostalgic about Christmas back home… so here’s wishing you all a very lovely and heartwarming celebration wherever you may be in the world.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! Cheers!

It is easy to get lost in the run-up to Christmas.  The pressure to give presents increases as the holiday approaches and the list seems endless.  And you haven’t even started planning the Christmas dinner yet.

One can glean a lot from the way the Dutch celebrate Christmas.  Perhaps, the most valuable of all is letting go of commercial manipulations practices disguised as generosity, creating shopping madness even to the most organized among us.

Having spent the holiday season in Holland the past three years, here are four reasons why this particular time of year has been very relaxing ever since.

1) The Dutch are big on sending Christmas cards, not on gift-giving.

Church Tower in Oud Rijswijk, The Netherlands

It’s the thought that counts, really.  This takes a lot of pressure off from the last minute shopping sprees trying to figure out which present to give to whom; sometimes done out of courtesy or social obligation or in keeping up with others’ expectations.

2) Friendships are celebrated by having intimate dinners with the people who really matter.

No fancy dress up parties, no fake pleasantries, no social obligations.  You show up because you really like the company and the conversation and not because it’s a social happening.

3) The obligatory company parties and exchange of gifts are non-existent.

4) Christmas Day is a family affair.

As a testament to this, there are two Christmas days.  The first one, December 25, is when the whole family sits down for a lovely dinner together.  December 26 is also known as second Christmas Day and gives couples a chance to visit the other side of the couple’s family, and the grandchildren to see their other set of grandparents.  This also means a lot of traveling up and down, but the Dutch don’t seem to mind. Family ties run deep.

It is no surprise that Christmas in Holland is not dictated by retailer stimulations.  The Dutch people are known for being stingy, and yet, The Netherlands stands at no. 6 in the world ranking of donor countries providing economic aid to developing nations.

Generosity doesn’t happen once a year.

And those of you who worry too much about that ubiquitous Christmas list are usually the ones who are thoughtful to family and friends and provide help to those in need the whole year round.

I am not against giving presents.  But it is overrated in certain parts of the world and that is not the essence of Christmas.  I prefer the toned-down Dutch version and that is why I love spending this time here.

Besides, there’s always the possibility of a snow white Christmas adding to the holiday cheer!

First snow in December

I woke up to this beautiful sight! A snow-covered earth; our first snow in December!

There’s something about the sight of snow at dawn, when the world is asleep and everything seems so pure and clean, untouched.

This makes me happy.  This makes my heart sing.

Maybe its the Christmas spirit.  Maybe its the celebration of all the good things this year has brought.  Maybe its the coming of a new year and the promise of hope it brings; a brighter tomorrow. Another chance to right the wrongs and look forward to better times.

Of stepping away from the heartaches of the past and a renewed energy to focus on all things good and wonderful.

I am thankful for this quiet moment before mankind wakes up and leaves footprints on this pristine earth; before the sun breaks through the clouds and melts everything into mush.

Looking out from my glass window… I know that today is going to be one fine winter day. 

It’s 2:00 in the morning and I’m sitting up in bed with my 7-month old in my arms.

She’s running a fever of 39.9 degrees Celsius.  She’s teething; her first incisor just broke through.  She has been crying pitifully for the most part of the night.  She has a cold and her nose is stuffed. Saline spray was administered through her nose earlier; the relief was temporary.   When laid down she shifts her head restlessly from side to side.  She can hardly breathe and she wails in a heartbreaking sound.

I pick her up and cradle her in my arms.  She relaxes and slowly drifts off to dreamland.    I hear her laboured breathing through her stuffed nose.  I hold her for half an hour more, wanting her to get the rest she deserves after all those hours of discomfort.  Soon my arms and eyes start to give.  I lay her down gently in the crib.  This time she stays asleep.

I hit the bed and before I know it, morning breaks through.  I get myself ready to call my office that I won’t be coming in today.  I always feel uneasy to say I can’t be at work.  I feel even more uncomfortable at the thought of going to work knowing that my baby is not well.  I get a sinking feeling at the pit of my stomach.

When it comes to childcare and household chores, the default person in-charge is almost always the woman.  It would have been so much easier for us then to opt out from the workforce and stay at home once we start having babies.  It is easy to lose ourselves in the whole family and kids equation.  But working outside the home, aside from being professionally rewarding, provides a welcome break from the diaper duties, the baby talk; and everything that has to do with running a household 24/7.

It is a woman’s way of holding on to a piece of her own self.  It provides a venue for adult interaction about things that matter in the workplace.  It gives her validation that she’s contributing something significant to society; not as a mother, not as a wife, but as herself.

Combining professional work with raising kids are two equally demanding tasks.  By choosing to work outside of the home, we are confronted with the dilemma: are we putting too much on our plate?  Would it make our lives simpler if we only had two choices:  to be a stay-at-home mom or a working mom?  Has the feminist movement done us any good by giving us more choices?  Or has it raised our stress levels just a notch higher?

There is no perfect solution. And I am thankful for the many choices I have in front of me.  I would not want my love for my children nor my parenting skills to be questioned or challenged just because I want to develop myself professionally.  We deal with the issues as they come and we hope that the workplace will be more enlightened about the struggles confronting women everyday.

At the intersection of every woman’s career and home life, we will continually face situations which will force us to make a decision.  Either way, that decision will make us uneasy or guilty.  Either way, something or someone will have to take a backseat for a while.

And that is not going to be my daughter.