Saturday, December 30, 2006

The joys of being unplugged

It's been a wonderful 5 weeks (maybe 6 -- sure feels like more) and it's because of the busted TV.

One day in November, the TV just conked out after months of bad picture quality. It's an old set after all. The first few days were quite an adjustment, primarily for my mother and sister who spend more viewing time and who derive more satisfaction from it.

I don't remember which gave out first, but my PC was also out of commission for more than a month (I got it back from the shop two days before Christmas day). Since I was so busy, I didn't have time to have it repaired right away; hence, staring at screens was reduced to a minimum in this household! In fact, the only screen-staring was done by me -- whenever I had to send or read a text message.

I love life without a TV. Since that day the TV died, my mom and I have been talking more. And not just idle talk -- really conversing, sharing ideas and experiences. Let me tell you that this does not naturally happen so often in my family so help (like a busted TV or a power outage) to facilitate things is always appreciated by me.

My mother got to talk about snippets of life in the province where she grew up, about her siblings whom she had gotten to spend considerable time with lately on account of two sisters who vacationed in the Philippines last month, stories she'd read. Have you heard the details of what inspired the song "Tie a yellow ribbon"?? I've heard it half a dozen times but everytime my mom tells it, it makes me tearful (in a good way). Well, that'll be for another post.

Anyway, I also asked her about her travels with my Dad and she seemed to enjoy talking about those, though I could see she became teary-eyed during some moments. It's not surprising -- they were married 51 years when he died, and sharing one's life with someone for that long is bound to make the separation difficult when God decides it's time to take one of the spouses Home.

Then there was the baking. Did I mention that I have no electric mixer? So ignorant am I about the rudiments of baking and going into this business that the significance of not having a mixer didn't occur to me. Needless to say, my right arm is now very toned and strong. But if my mom had not been around to help me during our mixing sessions, I might have given up completely. So, with all the baking that we did, there was plenty of time for chitchat amid the bowls, spoons and ingredients. One of the things I learned was that she minored in home economics at university, which explains her knowledge of baking and cooking principles which she would casually spew out in the course of our conversations while working the wooden spoons.

At one point, my mother even said that she likes it that we have no TV to use because now she spends more time reading and doing crossword puzzles. Man, I know very few people who can finish entire puzzles to the last letter! Besides the puzzles in the daily paper, she has stacks of crossword puzzle booklets in her room! Then of course I'm sure she notices the difference provided by our "unplugged lifestyle" of late to our remarkable daily interaction. I've been quite content with this...until yesterday when she announced that she wanted to buy a new TV. I was crestfallen, at the same time thinking that it was too good to last anyway and that at least we had the time to do all that talking in the first place.

She misses watching Fr. Corapi and the other shows on EWTN. "Jeopardy" has also been among her regular viewing fare. So I said, "we better make sure we control our viewing time and not let the TV control us."

Let's see what happens. I just don't want to return to the time when people would sit and stare at the TV screen for hours at a time, become somewhat lethargic and more concerned about catching some show instead of checking up on the others in the house. I'll admit the TV holds some "magical power" over me at times so I avoid watching. Even this computer screen has been in control of me many times, so I make it a point to be as detached as possible even if I do love to blog and to read others' blogs!

So, with my PC back on and my family shopping for a new TV set within a week, the challenge to moderate technology use around our home comes to the fore again. Let's see how it'll turn out. I'm wondering if there's a patron saint for technology or electronic gadgets whose help I can enlist right away. We certainly need the assistance!

Great and small

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

- Mother Teresa

Friday, December 29, 2006

Visual treats of the season

First, here are some photos that I came across in the past several weeks that I want to share simply for the visual treat they hopefully provide for you as they do for me. That one above is a shot of the window of Svenskt Tenn, a shop in Stockholm, Sweden. It's one of the many wondrous photos that I've been marveling at recently on Karin's Style Blog, which I do check out from time to time. The blogger, Karin Eriksson, is a an artist from Sweden, and right away after perusing her work (and the inspirations that influence her) do I appreciate the differences in artistic styles and sensibilities compared to the more "conventional" ones I've grown accustomed to. Below is one of her ceramic creations, more of which (vases, cups, bowls, tealight holders etc.) you can see on her website and on her page at Etsy.

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that packaging was among my main concerns this Christmas season on account of my very unexpected venture into the baking business. Hence, I've become quite fascinated by the imaginative ways by which gifts are wrapped and generally presented to the receiver.

This is one of the designs made by Delicious Days -- so not only does her expertise lie in the culinary arts; she's a graphic artist as well!

After making the rounds of several food blogs, I stumbled on these peppermint squares, the origin of which I can't remember. I do recall coming across the site via a link at Eggbeater.

Nice pictures, eh? Definitely eye candy for me, but somehow they make me a little sad. Why? Because they're shots of mere objects. Though they're products of human ingenuity and hard work, they're still just "things." These photos show no people, and even though the first picture shows a beautiful room, exquisitely decorated for Christmas, to me it could be a representation of loneliness. It is beautiful, but kind of empty for the lack of people.

At least I found one picture that conveys the majestic celebration that the season is all about and contains people in it!

This is also from Karin's blog. She writes: "It’s becoming a tradition for my family to go to Storkyrkan for Lucia night. It’s the oldest church in Stockholm and sitting in a building from the 13th century, packed full with people, listening to the violins and the singing is beautifully meditative."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Facing Life on TV

I hope this is not too late! From Barbara of Mommy Life, posted on her blog on Dec. 20 --

Facing Life - TV show about Down syndrome

Remember a few months ago, I showed you how my living room was transformed into a TV studio for an interview I did with a TV show?

Well, the show is scheduled to air next week. It's called Facing Life and you can check out the air times where you live here. On Direct TV, which is what our family has (though why I don't know since we hardly ever watch it), the show airs weekly on Monday at 10:30 AM and 8:30 PM. That's Christmas Day, so I will be setting the DVR to record it, I guess.

Anyway, just thought I'd let you know. The show is about kids with Down syndrome, abortion and the adoption option.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Yuletide greetings to all

Have a blessed Christmas with your family and friends, guided by the true North Star.

Silhouette art by Gertrude Junker

Friday, December 22, 2006

A brown Christmas

These are the reasons for my absence of late. It's my first time to go into business and my third or fourth time to bake anything -- the first two or three forays with the oven being borne out of a Sesame Street activity book I got for my 8th birthday. There was a recipe for Cookie Monster oatmeal cookies and so I worked the mixing bowl and spatula and followed the instructions. I have a very vague recollection of that though.

The last several weeks I breathed flour and butter, baking cups and gift boxes, measuring spoons and walnuts. I think the eight aluminum pans I bought have yielded around 50 batches of lemon squares and an equal number of brownies thus far. Cookies were limited to my mom's close friends and some of my former officemates (personally, though, they're my favorite to munch on!).

Boy, have I learned a lot these past three weeks -- about the intricacies of business ventures, about refining the slicing of baked goods, even about the care of baking tools. I can say I even have a new-found respect for the culinary products of our bare hands and basic ingredients. However, as I told myself during one of those late-night mixing sessions in the company of bowls, spoons, butter, eggs and lemon juice, if I don't take care I'd easily lose sight of the Reason for the season. And I very nearly have on account of all the orders I had to produce. Now things have slowed down and I am doubly grateful.

Only 3 days to go before we again celebrate the birthday of the most important of all VIPs! I wish you all a blessed Christmas in the company of family and dear friends.

Holiday reading

Did I mention that my PC is at the repair shop? I don't think so. Well, I'm typing this in a net cafe a few blocks away from home. Baking non-stop (well, almost) plus a PC that has conked out on me since early this month have made going online nearly impossible. But I'd like to do what I still can to bring out the meaning in this season for anyone who may be reading my blog, so I figured I'd just post a few entries from December last year, from my other blog. Hope they somehow help you to really savor the richness of Christmas and to contemplate the baby in the manger.


Stille nacht, heilige nacht

One of my favorite movies about Christmas is the one that has been shown on the Hallmark channel several times. It tells of the story about a mother, her little son and a bleak Christmas in their little cabin in Germany during World War 2. It's called "Silent Night" and none of the cast except Linda Hamilton are familiar to me, but the movie remains unforgettable.

Silent Night, however, is better known as a traditional Christmas carol. The original lyrics of the song Stille Nacht were written in German by Josef Mohr and the melody was composed by the Austrian headmaster Franz X. Gruber. The version of the melody that is generally sung today differs slightly (particularly in the final strain) from Gruber's original.

It is believed that the carol has been translated into over 300 languages around the world, and it is one of the most popular carols of all time. It is often sung without musical accompaniment. It is given special significance in the Lutheran Church.

The carol was first performed in the Nicola-Kirche (Church of St. Nicholas) in Oberndorf, Austria on December 25, 1818. Mohr had composed the words much earlier, in 1816, but on Christmas Eve brought them to Gruber and asked him to compose a guitar accompaniment for them. The reason for this is unclear — perhaps Mohr simply wanted a new carol for the Midnight Mass, but tradition has it that the organ at the Nicola-Kirche was not working that night (a popular version of the story claims that mice had eaten out the bellows).

If you'd like to read the rest, it's at Wikipedia

Full post at Live and Let Them Live

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

More children's letters

The more items one has on the archives, the more difficult it becomes to find a particular one that was posted a while back! Months ago I posted several of the "Children's Letters to God" but I'm having trouble finding that entry. Anyway, I'll put it here once I locate it. In the meantime, here are more (I may have repeated some of them) --

Dear God, please put another holiday between Christmas and Easter. There is nothing good in there now. Amanda

Dear God Thank you for the baby brother but what I asked for was a puppy. I never asked for anything before. You can look it up. Joyce

Dear Mr. God, I wish you would not make it so easy for people to come apart. I had to have three stitches and a shot. Janet

Dear God how come you did all those miracles in the old days and don’t do any now? Billy

Dear God please send Dennis Clark to a different summer camp this year. Peter

Dear God maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each other so much if they each had their own rooms. It works out OK with me and my brother. Larry

Dear God if you watch in Church on Sunday I will show you my new shoes. Barbara

Dear God is Reverend Coe a friend of yours, or do you just know him through the business? Donny

Dear God I didn’t think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made on Tuesday night. That was really cool. Thomas

Fully booked

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the coming release of "The Thrill of the Chaste," Dawn Eden's book to be out in December. Radiant recently interviewed the author. An excerpt:

There is, as far as I can see, no book for women who are where I was and want to get to where I am. Other books about chastity are generally directed toward virgins, telling them to "stay pure." When the authors of those books address non-virgins, if at all, they're usually writing from the perspective of one who really doesn't know what it's like to change from one lifestyle to another. I've been there, so I thought I would have something new and valuable to say.

The main theme of your book is chastity. Can you describe what that word means to you/represents for you?
Chastity is a state of mind. It entails viewing other people as valuable, even delightful, in themselves, not as means to one's own pleasure or gain. For a single woman, chastity means a refusal to objectify others or allow one's self to be objectified. In the plainest sense, it means reserving the gift of one's sexual expression for one's husband, because only within marriage—with its complete commitment—can it become a gift of love, free from the confines of self-interest.

How do you hope this book will help women today?
For women who want to be married and feel caught on a merry-go-round of dead-end relationships, and for women who seek emotional intimacy and find themselves settling unhappily for sexual intimacy, I hope it will help them build the emotional foundation they need if they're to hold out for their heart's desire.

Do you look the other way?

Something from Modestly Yours --

Going Down the (You) Tube

Recently, a friend of mine noticed that someone using her computer had visited the YouTube site. The YouTube video that appeared in her computer’s history had as its title the name of a popular children’s cartoon. But when she clicked play, she saw a pornography video involving children that was horribly wretched and horrific. She knew immediately one of her young children had been the unintended viewer.

In thoughtful conversations with her children, she and her husband learned that her middle school boy had been introduced to this video via a friend at the other boy’s house, the son of a close friend of hers. Knowing the horribly damaging impact involved, she let her friend know that her friend’s son had also somehow been introduced to the horrific child pornography. My friend, with sadness at what these children had been exposed to, had a difficult but open conversation with her friend, encouraging the mother to check her computer’s history, follow-up with a conversation with her kids and install parental controls. She called this mother with loving sadness, not anger, as an offer to help and prevent further exposure.

The mother did not respond kindly and took offense.

Read the rest at Modestly Yours

Monday, November 27, 2006

Cute overload (again)

All I've got time for for today's posting (and probably for the next several days' as well) is all-pics-and-no-text. Except to say that there's a smirking face, a couple of shy-looking ones (either that or they feel bad about being blamed for something they had nothing to do with), a couple of chaps who look really gleeful, one that's not afraid to get all huggy with an infant, and one that, according to a commenter, could pass for a young Yoda.

So, here you go! Hope you get a kick out of these...

All images from Cute Overload ("Pups" category)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Where women can use their strengths

Have you ever met a female ambulance driver? The most I've seen in this area (on TV, that is) are female paramedics, and they're usually portrayed as cool-headed people. Of course they need to be, and needless to say they're trained for this kind of work. But that's TV. This is about real life -- a pretty insightful piece written by a woman who was part of an Emergency Medical Service (EMS) for three years. "Although we may not have the muscles of our male counterparts, we do have other gifts to offer," she points out.

Intuition and attention to detail. Whether it’s assessing an accident scene, documenting evidence for suspected sexual assault, or trying to get a half-conscious patient to reveal exactly how many pills he took with that bottle of vodka, powers of observation are essential. Women pay attention to the little things: the patient’s tone of voice, objects around the room, and what someone isn’t telling us. Sometimes these small details are what can complete the puzzle for a physician at the ER – or even catch a life-threatening problem.

We can flirt our way out of a crisis – seriously. I’ll never forget my first call for a suicidal patient. He was elderly, drunk, combative, and miserable. No matter what they tried, the policemen and firefighters on scene couldn’t get him to come peacefully to the hospital. They were thinking of physically forcing him into the ambulance when he looked up and saw me arriving on scene. His expression changing, he straightened up and said “Hello, beautiful girl!” I took this as an opportunity, got him to start talking, and had him walking with me into the ambulance within five minutes. While this story certainly isn’t the norm, it does raise an interesting point – there are some emergency situations in which being a woman is actually an advantage. From talking down a suicidal patient to gaining the trust of a girl who is afraid to talk about being sexually assaulted, a woman’s calming and non-judgmental presence can be a true asset to any crew.

Read the rest of "The Girly Way to Save a Life" at

No one is too young to be told the truth

From a commentary by Erik Whittington (that's him on the right, with the megaphone), Director of Rock for Life:

While out on the streets I had several encounters with those who support abortion. One was a 13-your-old kid. He was driving around town with a pro-abortion sign on his dirt bike. I asked him if he knew what abortion was. He thought it had something to do with giving your baby up, like adoption. I asked him, “Did your mom ask you to do this?” “Yes,” was his answer. He was clearly confused.

Next to him was another kid with the same pro-abortion sign on his dirt bike. This kid claimed he was 15. He seemed a little more informed than his friend, but was still gravely misinformed. “Who sent you out here?” I asked. “My mom,” was his response. After I described a few abortion procedures and told him what abortion really is, he rode off. Although he didn’t thank me for disclosing the truth to him, I can tell that he was disturbed about what abortion is and what his mom had ordered him to promote.

Read "Victories amid a loss"

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Weddings and work

Here's an amusing and entertaining read from Scott Adams about his wedding (written hours before the ceremony). Only in this blog -- which is more of a personal blog than those discussion blogs that are really meant to take apart heavy issues and get all the viewpoints there are on the table -- have I seen posts that generate about 200 comments on the average. Once he posted a 1-liner ("I'm taking a sick day today.") and you know how many comments he got from that one line? 117!!

Hope you enjoy the following, and if you're in the mood for more funny stuff, read this one.

Wedding Day

Well, it’s wedding day. I’ll be married in about 11 hours.

This wedding has taken more planning than the invasion of Iraq. And yet there is still one guaranteed failure built into the plan: the first dance.

I’ve been taking dancing lessons for the past several months to prepare for this one specific dance. It would be fair to say that I am not gifted in the performing arts. It would be equally fair to say that I dance like a drunken monkey pissing on an electric fence.

My bride and I have practiced this nightclub style dance about 900 times. So far I have done it wrong 900 times. I wasn’t worried until yesterday because I thought we would keep practicing it all week until we nailed it. But, you know, we ran out of time and only practiced once at the rehearsal yesterday. At which point I managed to knock her sunglasses off during a turn. If you don’t know much about dancing, let me just say that if you are hitting your partner in the head with any part of your arm, you are doing it wrong.

So my beautiful bride-to-be is holed up in a hotel room an hour away, guarding the magic dress, and all I can think about is “was it quick-quick-slow or slow-quick-slow? GAAAA!!!!”

Just to make matters even more interesting, we’ve never practiced the dance while my bride was wearing a huge puffy dress. This is a bit like being a Superbowl quarterback and just before game time the ref tells you “We’ve replaced the football with a couch. You won’t even notice.”

Worse yet, the bride’s feet will be completely hidden by the dress. She could be doing the Macarena under there and no one would be the wiser. All eyes will be on my rhythm-impaired cracker legs.

So I’ve decided to lower my expectations to the point where I can’t disappoint myself no matter how much I disappoint everyone else. My new goal is to limit my bride’s bruises to body parts that won’t show up on the wedding pictures. Sometimes that’s the best you can do.

Wish me luck.

'Chastity with Ray-bans on'

Due to be out in bookstores in December yet, Dawn Eden's book is seeing movement already through I mentioned The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding fullfilment while keeping your clothes on here several months ago (go here if you missed it).

The author will be busy promoting her book, as talks, appearances and book signings are already lined up.

Check out two interesting reviews at The Dawn Patrol by two writers who received their advance copies.

Around the world in 7 headlines

A few days ago I came across a news article about a hospital in Japan that has plans to set up something like a "drop-off" section for babies whose moms, for one reason or another, would like to get rid of them. In other words, it's for unwanted babies and the so-called baby hatch consists "of a flap in an outside wall which opens on to a small incubated bed," according to the article. What's next? Dialing a special number if you want your unwanted baby to be picked up from home, then boxing up the baby for easy pick-up and transport for the courier guy?

Read Hospital plans to set up baby hatch, and for other news and features from around the world, take your pick:

Rabbi praises interfaith effort that kept 'Gay Pride' parade off Jerusalem streets
Agape Press

Chile court okays morning-after pill; politicians push to legalize abortion
The Santiago Times

From Tunis to Tehran, the great veil debate
The Christian Science Monitor

Transgender New Yorkers can choose bathrooms at MTA Stations
NY1 News

Liver, now lungs from ethical stem cells
Mary Meets Dolly

Flexibility is the key
The Times

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

If there's a will, there's a way

Distraught man uses terrorist tactics to stop girlfriend's abortion
By Gudrun Schultz

MOSCOW, Russia, November 13, 2006 ( - A young man dressed in military gear attacked a Moscow abortion clinic in an attempt to stop his girlfriend from undergoing an abortion, Interfax reported Nov. 8.

Identified as ‘Alexander’, the student from the Ulyanovsk region burst into the hospital clinic wearing camouflage gear from his army service and carrying what appeared to be a grenade and a pistol.

According to reports, the man took a nurse hostage and ordered her to take him to the operating room, arriving just before the doctors began the abortion.

Begging his girlfriend not to have the abortion, he threatened the doctors, ordering them to release the girl.

The man was restrained by guards and taken to a local police station. His grenade was discovered to be a plaster cast, while the pistol was an air gun.

In his defense the man said he had not intended to do anything wrong, but that he loved Tatiana, the girl, and wanted to marry her and raise a child. He was released without charges.

The couple married. Their child will be born next spring.

Tasty pursuits

I've been frequenting more food blogs and websites recently and paying more attention when "Boy Meets Grill" is on. Then yesterday I even took down notes when Giada was demonstrating one of her sumptuous-looking (and simpler) recipes on "Everyday Italian." Needless to say, food has been on my mind and I even did a little baking over the weekend (no, the breads in the photo did not come from my oven).

Food imagery no doubt has a lot to do with making the culinary arts more attractive. The pictures here definitely beckon to me, but more because I find them a novelty.

Know more about Cubed Coffee and Pink Pasta at Delicious Days, one of my new favorite stopovers in the blogosphere. Nicky blogs from Germany and takes superb photos, too (the photos on this post are hers)!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Candy bar

The people at Generations for Life blog about a variety of issues, and recently the topic was a study in the Journal of Sex Research that links depression in women to casual sex. Here's part of the article from which the discussion jumped off:

Sex on Campus: Not as Fulfilling as you Think
By John Bambenek

A recent study in the Journal of Sex Research links depression in women to casual sex. This flies in direct contrast to a campus culture that tries to celebrate “uncommitted sex.” The problem is it flies in the face of our internal nature, and is the case in most emotional matters, comes down hardest on women.

Like most campuses, the University of Illinois hosts an annual celebration of uncommitted sex called “Sex Out Loud.” It presents a generally one-sided account of sex which doesn’t represent reality. Sex has consequences and those consequences are felt mostly by women.

We know that because people in general have come to put a lesser value on protecting their intimacy, what's rightly reserved for within the marriage bond is becoming commonplace even among teens. Let's hope that studies like the one mentioned above gives more women a jolt and gets them thinking seriously about their choices. One way, however, of helping women understand the whole concept of sexuality and enable them to realize and appreciate their self-worth, is by starting them young -- ahem, not in sexual activity but in exposure to explanations that help them understand the big picture gradually, at their level.

One of the comments by Mary Kay in the blog I mentioned provides just the thing. It's sad in a way because imagine having to tackle such things already with young minds. This is partly the price of being in a wired world with the MTV generation. (Sigh) Anyway, Mary Kay's analogy provides food for thought and an answer that may come in handy someday:

I have used that analogy of a candy bar with my 9 year old. Not wishing to get too graphic with her when she was 7, but needing to address some overtly sexual dancing at a 7 year olds birthday party, I told her that all little girls have a candy bar. Many little boys will try to get that candy bar. If they give their candy bar away, those boys will eat their candy bar and then dump the girl, moving on to fresh girls and fresh candy bars. I told her not to even let those boys taste her candy bar, because then no boy would want her candy bar anymore. I strongly suggested (I emphasize “strongly”) that she furthermore, not even so much as unwrap her candy bar. Some girls like to unwrap it and tease the boys. But this too is inappropriate.

However, one day, when she meets the right boy, and they stand at an altar in front of God and everyone, and she has a nice promisory ring on her finger…then, and only then, may she finally share her candy bar. And she will recognize the boy because he will be the one who never tried to bribe, steal or cajole that candy bar away from her. He will be the one who waited, and respected her.

Believe it or not, a few weeks later, she pointed to a window ad in Victorias Secret (sexy angels I believe) and asked if those women were giving their candy bars away…

out of the mouth of babes…

Read more of the discussion here

Being unfair to the fairer sex

From Feminine Genius --

Muslim leaders have blamed Muslim women for leading men astray, claiming that if they are not adequately covered, men cannot be held responsible for their actions. OK. Now these Egyptian girls, who were properly veiled and went out to a movie to celebrate the end of Ramadan, were attacked.

Word spread through the crowds of people waiting to enter the cinema at around 7 pm that the ticket office was unexpectedly closing. This news angered 40 or 50 male youths who became violent and hysterical, according to witnesses. They began to rampage, losing control and damaging properties.

Then some of the youths began to taunt and molest the women who were standing nearby. Dina recounted that she and other girls suddenly found themselves almost cornered by men. In panic and confusion she was split from her girl friends, whom she later heard escaped in a taxi.

"It was like being in a battle and I didn't know what was happening," Dina said. "Then the boys grabbed my buttocks, my breasts, and they groped me, all over my body."

"I sprayed them with my pepper spray can, but others kept coming. I saw a car whose driver was parking by the roadside and I tried to get in," she said. "But before I was in, one of the guys grabbed my buttocks and I slipped, cutting my hand."

Interesting that she carries pepper spray, but nevertheless, the next level of protection should be the authorities, right?

The interior ministry later released a statement saying that a "disturbance" had indeed taken place, but denied that women were molested. If they had been, the ministry statement reasoned, someone would have complained to the local police station yet no one did.

So, young ladies, why does he say such a thing?

According to an unsubstantiated claim by a friend of a victim, a small number of women went to the Qasr Al Nil police station shortly after the incident to lodge a complaint, but they were told to go away and take their charges to a higher authority. The source suggested that this is likely the reason why the interior ministry has no record of sexual abuse charges.

Nearby shop owners corroborated the story and were appalled at the behaviour. From other accounts on the web, there were many women attacked -- not just a small handful of girls. Taxi drivers tried to help, some in the shops pulled the girls in to safety, and yet the police did nothing. One reporter explained the dilemma:

"Simply put, women are encouraged to shut up and put up with it. Harassers make their catcalls, or worse, with impunity because our culture mandates that decent women do not attract attention to themselves."

In her piece, attention is brought to the way society maintains implicit silence when sexual assaults happen in the country, which, Mabrouk maintains, needs to be addressed.

"Ten years ago, my sister saw an argument on a bus where a man who had just groped a woman assaulted her when she dared to object. He grabbed the front of her clothes and tossed her around like a rag doll. The woman was wearing a khimar - a circular head covering with a hole for the face that covers the entire upper body - and she was carrying a baby.

"No one on the bus said anything. The bus driver asked the man to get off the bus, but no one else lifted a finger to help the woman."

Read the whole thing here

When 'no' means 'no'

"Hindi lahat ng gusto mo ay makukuha mo." ("You won't get all that you want.")

I remember being told those words several times as a child when I had wanted something so bad (a new toy, a trip to the pizza restaurant, among other things) that I ended up having a tantrum. Those words were sensible, words that every kid needs to be told at least once during his growing-up years if he's to develop into a reasonably grounded adult -- but of course I didn't relish hearing them!

Now as an adult and seeing how parents have such a tough time instilling discipline in today's children, I can understand the need for an environment that will help parents (instead of making it harder for them) to bring up their brood properly. Apparently, Wal-Mart in this case is adding to parents' problems. But you can do something!

From Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood --

At Wal-Mart's new website,, children review a parade of toys while two animated elves encourage and reward them for adding items to a wish list. "If you show us what you want on your wish list, we'll blast it off to your parents," say the elves. "We'll help plead your case."

Wal-Mart is ruthlessly coming between parents and children and actively encouraging kids bratzto nag for their holiday gifts. Many of the products in Toyland - such as the Bratz Fashion Makeover (pictured) - may be antithetical to parents' values. Others, like the Fisher Price Power Wheels Cadillac Escalade ($279), cost more than many parents can afford. Yet children do not need a parent's permission to enter Toyland, there is no age requirement to use the site, and kids are encouraged to submit their parents' email address in order to send their wish list.

Families have a hard enough time navigating holiday commercialism without the world's largest retailer bypassing parents entirely and urging children to nag. Please tell Wal-Mart to close the doors to Toyland.

Your message will be sent to Wal-Mart President and CEO Lee Scott and President Carter Cast.

Go to the website and help this petition move forward!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

1st grade proverbs

This went around via email several years ago. Then this morning I passed by the Heartwarmers archives and it happened to be there!

A first grade teacher collected well-known proverbs.
She gave each child in the class the first half of the proverb,
and asked them to fill in the rest. Here's what the kids came up

1. Better to be safe than... punch a 5th grader.

2. Strike while the... bug is close.

3. It's always darkest before... daylight savings time.

4. Never underestimate the power of... termites.

5. You can lead a horse to water but... how?

6. Don't bite the hand that... looks dirty.

7. No news is... impossible.

8. A miss is as good as a... Mr.

9. You can't teach an old dog... math.

10. If you lie down with dogs, you... will stink in the morning.

11. Love all, trust... me.

12. The pen is mightier than... the pigs.

13. An idle mind is... the best way to relax.

14. Where there is smoke, there's... pollution.

15. Happy is the bride who... gets all the presents.

16. A penny saved is... not much.

17. Two is company, three's... The Musketeers.

18. None are so blind as... Helen Keller.

19. Children should be seen and not... spanked or grounded.

20. If at first you don't succeed... get new batteries.

21. You get out of something what you... see pictured on the box.

22. When the blind lead the blind... get out of the way.

23. There is no fool like... Aunt Edie.

24. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you. Cry and... you have
to blow your nose.

Leisurely reading

What's wrong with this picture?

Actually, nothing. But I have something to say about what's in it that would be odd if the same scene took place in my country, the Philippines (particularly in the capital, Manila).

You don't leave your bike lying around like that outside your house. For example, let's say you're right in front of your house and ready to pedal to your destination, and then you realize that you left your wallet in your room. If you park the bike on the sidewalk and run into the house to get your money, the bike would've vanished with a very happy new owner by the time you get back out three minutes later.

That being said, this photo accompanies a nice story called "Return of the paperboy," not at all new but one of those which I bookmarked because it's a pleasant read. Suffice it to say, as a kid I nurtured feelings of wanting to have my own paper route but that doesn't happen to people in my country unless they or their families are close to living a hand-to-mouth kind of existence. My family has been fortunate in that respect so my making extra money by delivering newspapers would have robbed someone else of the chance to earn a little extra when he needed it more than I did.

Read "Return of the paperboy," and then go on to "Off to the beach with a Volkswagen -- and Grandma," another piece you're bound to enjoy (especially if you're reading this on a weekend).

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Life with kiddies

At Phil's blog:

Here are a few things my 8-year-old son was told today:

"Go back to the bathroom and wash your hands!"

"Put away your toys!"

"You need to eat your salad because it's good for you."

"You should put on a jacket so you don't catch cold."

And who was nagging him all day?

His 5-year-old sister. She's going to be a great mother.

* * * * *

At Kris' blog:

John: You know what I want for breakfast, Mama? I want to make something from that book. Let's make something for breakfast, Mama! Where's the Dr. Seuss cookbook?

Me: Hmph grmbl leftover Blueberry Bumpkins ... coffee ...

John: Mom! I can't do it by myself! I don't know how to do the ingredients. Where's the [Dr. Seuss] cookbook? Where is it?! Mom!

* * * * *

At Jules' blog:

Needing your thoughts moms. The boy did something today which I cannot explain. While chowing down on his lunch of nuggets, chips and raisins he actually bit his finger. The finger is fine now, but this evening LoveBug (almost five years-old) told us that his tooth hurts. He said it started to feel sore after he bit his finger. It is his top front tooth. He says it only hurts when he bites something. When he isn't biting something he says it feels fine.

So, what on earth do I do moms? Will the sore feeling pass? I can't imagine that he actually damaged the tooth biting his own finger.

Update on the Tooth: I phoned the pediatric dentist this morning, just to be sure. Dr. David assured me that it's nothing serious and is much like a bruise. He said it will be fine in 24-48 hours. He said it's not uncommon for kids to do this sort of thing and biting Legos is the most common occurrence. Who knew?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Bringing eternal sunshine to dimly lit homes

This little piece on what four Missionaries of Charity are able to do is beautiful.

They bring food to those who are house-bound, help the disabled by doing, among other things, house cleaning, and pray with those who wish to pray. They are the Sisters of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity who are helping about a hundred elderly and ill people in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

In a Muslim country whose Catholic community consists of 250 people, the four sisters visit those in need three times a week, regardless of their faith. They also run a soup kitchen for the poor.

What this means for each soul is remarkable.

“The sisters are everything for me. My wife and I are absolutely alone and nobody comes to see and talk with us, except for them,” said Yuri Vorobkin, a 67-year-old former mountain rescue official who lost his legs. “Some days, I sit in front of my window waiting for them for hours.”

and another,

“You can't even imagine how much we appreciate the work of the sisters. Do you know how horrible it is to stay in a bed full of bedbugs when you can't do anything because of your disability?” Sherstneva said. "The sisters help us live as human beings.”

Sister Lamola regrets that she cannot visit elderly folk only two or three times a week, because on other days all four of them are busy running their soup kitchen.

“We want to help all of the disabled old people, but we don't have enough time to do it,” she said.

We each have lonely souls we can visit who are only looking for smiles. Although time is often cramped, think of the graces, think of the joy, think of Christ. I must do better ...

Hat tip: Genevieve

Thursday, November 09, 2006

An upbeat message about reality

If you'll scan the list of links on this blog, you'll see some additions. I found out about BreakDown via Generations for Life and quickly added the site to my list. It's just the thing that would be perfect for youth conferences and rallies that aim to truly empower young people!

BreakDown is the new generation of Edutainment, bringing the message of self control and hope to a generation of young people looking for the REAL thing. BreakDown is a team of young people who bring a powerful and dynamic message to their peers.

Through music, hip-hop dance, drama, inspirational speaking, video and more teens are engaged, educated as well as entertained. Our amazing dance team uses music and hip hop style dance to grab the attention of the audience and present abstinence as a cool and most importantly realistic choice for young people.

Why are we doing this?
We desire to inspire hope for the teens in our audiences! Hope that they always have choices. Hope that it is never to late to start over. Hope that the good choices they are making will eventually pay off. Hope that they can reach their goals and dreams by choosing wisely today. And hope that they are not alone in the world and that there are people who care about their lives and futures and ALSO want them to succeed!

BreakDown began in Tucson, Arizona in 2001 and expanded into Phoenix in 2003. Phoenix was the first of MANY expansions as in 2005 Expantion Teams (XTeams) began in Northwest Indiana, Chicago, Missouri, Indianapolis. Opportunities are opening up all over the world now!

Light and darkness

“One can easily understand a child
who is afraid of the dark.
The real tragedy of life is when men
are afraid of the light.”

— Plato

The rainbow connection

If you've got homosexual tendencies,

-- that doesn't diminish your dignity as a human being in any way
-- that doesn't give anybody any reason to show you disrespect
-- that doesn't mean you ought to give in to those tendencies
-- that doesn't mean a life of genuine fulfillment and deep joy is out of reach

Homosexual men and women, like anyone else, deserve to be encouraged toward affirming their dignity as human beings.

But homosexuality and its practice are not something to be encouraged, celebrated or distorted into being regarded as manifestations of freedom.

What are we doing to correct the distortions?

* * *

If you're one to support the Gay Pride Parade, whether it's the ones held in Manila, New York or Amsterdam, better think again. Is it authentic freedom or merely exhibitionism and a hedonistic lifestyle that you want to promote?

Excerpts from a LifeSite report about the upcoming parade in Jerusalem:

The “parade,” an international demonstration commonly characterized in North America and Europe by graphic sexual content and public nudity, had been staged somewhat more sedately in Jerusalem until it was banned. In September, the homosexual activist organization, Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, won a lengthy court battle to have the event allowed and had set a tentative date of November 11th.

Orthodox Jews and other groups in Israel and around the world have protested the event since the summer saying it would desecrate the ancient city that is held holy by three of the world’s great religious traditions. Jewish protests have called the event a “parade of debauchery”.

In an editorial in Jerusalem’s daily, Haaretz titled, “When tolerance is tyranny,” Ellen W. Horowitz called the handling of the situation by police, parliament and the courts “provocative negligence.”

“This isn't about minority rights or freedoms of expression and assembly. It is about the deliberate trampling of the religious and moral sensitivities of the people of Jerusalem,” Horowitz writes.

“The pride movement's peculiar parades have successfully reduced self-expression and freedom to nothing more than a promotion of voyeurism, hedonism, narcissism and exhibitionism. Homophobia is a misnomer, because we're not afraid of the gay community - we're afraid for them.”

Read Ellen Horowitz's editorial, When tolerance is tyranny, here

2 legs, 4 legs

A remark that one of my friends made years ago stuck to my mind. His theory was that children are made cute because this makes it easier for their parents to keep their cool whenever the little ones act like brats. If they weren't cute, he says, they'd probably be thrown out the window or something equally horrible by their parents in a fit of "temporary insanity," which may be diffused once the concerned mom or dad catches sight of the pudgy toddler.

I've often wondered if puppies were made cute for the same reason (the "parent" in this scenario not being the canine mom or dad but the human owner). After all, when the little pooch chews your new shoes to beyond thrift-shop condition, or keeps doing its bathroom business on the carpet, you can hit the roof and consider torture as a form of canine discipline. But once it looks at you with those droopy eyes and then scampers off as fast as those tiny legs can do it, of course you can almost feel your heart turning to jelly.

This same jelly transformation happened to me recently -- not on account of my dog, Sabrina, itself the most adorable creature on four legs in our household. I needed only to review the photos I'd accumulated in my computer, photos of these canine cuties. All in all, I had 12 -- it would've been more had I not trashed the others I used to keep. By the way, if you've been passing by my blog in the past several months, you may have seen some of them. I even realized that several of Norman Rockwell's illustrations have cute dogs in them! And, all the image-boosting for dogs/puppies (especially Beagles) can probably be attributed partly to Charles Schulz. Years of seeing Snoopy can do that...

By the way, I saw a photo of two pampered little dogs from the Neiman Marcus online catalog (featuring limited edition pet homes). To be clear, I don't go for treating animals like humans and splurging on their care, even if one has tons of money. And I believe in inequality 100% when it comes to comparing animals and humans. Concern for animal welfare and respecting the innate dignity of human beings are perfectly compatible. Still, this is a cute picture so I decided to put it here. =)

Looking at the canine pictures then reminded me of an entry I posted in my other blog last year about dogs and people. Here it is:

It's hardly surprising that a preschooler who has been spending his whole life (all 4 or 5 long years of it) around the family dog would assume that canines and humans are on the exact same level as far as the hierarchy of creatures is concerned.

Keeping a family dog does have benefits in that it provides occasions for play in the home as well as opportunities to teach kids about responsibility. Also, having a pet around is a good way to demonstrate to a child what he is and what he is not ("we drink our milk from the glass, we don't lap it up from a bowl like Pepper does"). Another thing you can tell kids when they're behaving more like four-legged creatures is that for humans, there is such a thing as manners. Dogs can be taught tricks; persons learn manners and what these are for.

You can learn a thing or two, if you please, by checking out the following -- from the book Talk to the Hand by Lynne Truss :

Manners are about showing consideration, and using empathy. But they are also about being connected to the common good; they are about being better. Every time a person says to himself, “What would the world be like if everyone did this?” or “I’m not going to calculate the cost to me on this occasion. I’m just going to do the right thing”, or “Someone seems to need this seat more than I do ”, the world becomes a better place. It is ennobled. The crying shame about modern rudeness is that it’s such a terrible missed opportunity for a different kind of manners — manners based, for the first time, not on class and snobbery, but on a kind of voluntary charity that dignifies both the giver and the receiver by being a system of mutual, civil respect.

And what's more...

Being friendly and familiar with strangers is not the same as being polite (as we have seen), but if it helps us to overcome our normal reticence, all right, be friendly. Yes, we live in an aggressive “Talk to the hand” world. Yes, we are systematically alienated and have no sense of community. Yes, we swear a lot more than we used to, and we prefer to be inside our own individual Bart Simpson bubbles. But just because these are the conditions that promote rudeness does not mean that we can’t choose to improve our happiness by deciding to be polite to one another.

You can read the article, Don't be so rude, at Times Online.

Okay, a couple of more photos I have in my pc, in case you'd like to see them --

A classic


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Beauty and madness

It's not just a magazine cover. For as media and culture analysts (as well as women with a deeper level of self-awareness) know, whatever are on the cover of certain publications have a way of dictating cultural standards and trends. To some degree they may also reflect what's going on in society. By the way, this was Twiggy on a 1967 issue of Seventeen magazine.

Great article on teen magazines and the message they propagate here

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Do you find it hard to forgive someone?

May we begin with a reflection on a prayer? It is this: "God of forgiveness, do not forgive those who created this place. God of mercy, have no mercy on those who killed Jewish children." The context of Elie Wiesel's prayer was a ceremony commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz, where he was imprisoned and experienced fully the evil of Nazi hatred. Having visited a concentration camp in Germany, a heart-rending experience, I could absorb, at best, a thimble-full of the emotion that must have washed over Mr. Wiesel that day as he spoke his prayer toward the heavens occasioned by Holocaust horrors. Who could blame him, I thought, as I trod the grounds where the innocents were tortured and massacred.

Read the rest of "Forgiveness is a healing choice" at MercatorNet

Unveiling some notions on the niqab and the West

The first time (and thus far, the only time) I saw a woman in a niqab was in 1992 during a 10-day stay in Pakistan. Back then I knew practically nothing of Islamic traditions and regarded the wearing of the garment as nothing more than a simple expression of national pride. How wrong I was. [Addendum: I just remembered...during an overnight stopover in Egypt prior to landing at Karachi airport, my colleague and I went on a day tour, the other participants of which were several Pakistani women donning the black garb like the one in the photo here]

Food for thought on the subject of women, Muslim tradition, the West and the idea of banning the niqab could result in better understanding, or it could lead to more questions. Either way, learning is bound to happen, right? Excerpts:

William J. Bennett
To go after women donning their veils is to attack the problem at its weakest — and frankly, least important — link (again, when the veil is freely chosen). While Muslim women are being beaten, while honor killings are extant, and while mosques, universities, and madrassahs are fomenting actual terrorism, Muslim women assuming a dress code is not where our — or our allies’ — focus should be. Go after the men who do these things — that’s where the fight is.

I’m all for a terrorist profiling system for those that should receive extra scrutiny because they actually carry themselves, or look, like the enemy (including pat downs and further examinations of the suspicious) — but the entire female population of Islam cannot credibly be seen as the enemy, and those who assume the veil in Western societies may seem extreme, may be extreme, but if peaceful in belief and deed, they are not the enemy either. Indeed, it is a distraction from the real enemy to pick on what I assume a large percentage of these women are — seriously religious women who are not building bombs in their garages or study groups. To deny them the first right we boast, namely, the freedom to practice their religion peaceably, seems to me a good way to further radicalize them.

* * *

Phyllis Chesler
Western democracies pride themselves on religious freedom and on the separation of religion and state. From this point of view, we are upholding our own most cherished values by allowing diverse expressions of faith. However, this may also prove to be our downfall. The veil in Muslim lands is imposed upon women whose religious training and opportunities for scholarship and ritual authority is practically nonexistent. The veil is no more freely chosen than is their religion, which neither women nor men are allowed to leave without risking exile or death. Muslim women in Muslim lands or in immigrant communities in the West might gain their only access to public attention and approval if and when they espouse a fundamentalist point of view, namely one that favors Islamic gender and religious apartheid and that upholds the view that women must be veiled.

* * *

Andrew McCarthy
In the U.S., notwithstanding our veneration of both free expression and religious liberty, the regnant interpretation of the First Amendment holds that a religion-neutral law (i.e., one that does not expressly target a religion) is valid even if it happens to infringe on religious practices. The drug laws, for example, are valid even though that keeps peyote and cannabis away from sects which would use them in religious rites.

In terms of what the law can do, versus what a society should do, this gives clear guidance. For legitimate public purposes — e.g., testifying in court (where the fact finder must be able to make a discriminating appraisal of credibility which involves observing the witness’s demeanor), photographs for identification purposes (as on a driver’s license), inspection at a security checkpoint, etc. — the nikab would frustrate the public purpose. That public purpose is expressed in laws and rules that apply to everyone equally — they do not expressly target Muslims. Therefore, orders that the nikab be removed are proper. That doesn’t mean the nikab is illegal; the ban is situational.

More at National Review Online

Monday, November 06, 2006

Say it with stickers

...and t-shirts

...and wristbands

...and patches

Who's 'it'?

What do Chef, Parachute, Mickey Mouse, Popeye, and Egg have in common?

They're all part of the Game & Watch series of toys by Nintendo!! Remember those little electronic playthings? I think the first ones came out in the early 1980s and I remember getting full-swing into the craze (my favorite was Chef; for some reason, I took a liking to the toqued fella juggling sausages and what-have-you)! Alas, too many other kids became fans of the toy and schools decided that banning it was a good idea. *grimace*

It was a few years before that the chinese garter -- yet another favorite pastime of mine -- was banned at our school's grounds. From what I heard, some kid sustained a broken bone in an attempt to get past what I assumed was the #4 or # 5 level of the "modified high-jump." Hence, it was back to Agawan Panyo, Agawan Base and Chinese Jackstones after that.

And now schools in the States are banning tag??

Schools are banning tag. What's next: musical chairs?
By Dean P. Johnson

More and more elementary schools are banning the game of tag from playgrounds. Why? To prevent accidents (read: lawsuits) and to keep kids' self-esteem intact. But if physical harm and psychological harassment can be hidden in a simple game of tag, surely educational experts must be on alert for other forms of abusive playground games.

While patty-cake may seem innocent enough, who knows what's actually happening with all that slapping. And those rhymes! Why was Miss Mary Mack dressed in black, and what's up with this 50 cents to see an elephant jump so high it doesn't come back until the Fourth of July? Sounds like a drug-influenced song to me - something more likely heard at a Pink Floyd concert than at a playground.

Full story at The Christian Science Monitor

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Helping others to warm up

Charity knitters stitch up the world
In providing warm clothing to soldiers, third-world infants, and the needy, they comfort themselves as well.
By Marilyn Gardner | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Laura Payson has always enjoyed knitting for others. As a college student, she made argyle socks for boyfriends. Later she turned her talents to baby clothes for relatives. Now she has a different focus: knitting for those in need. Every Saturday morning at 10, Mrs. Payson joins more than a dozen residents of the North Hill retirement community in Needham, Mass., for an hour of charity knitting. The women, known as the North Hill Knitters, stitch caps, mittens, scarves, and blankets for families who are homeless or struggling.

"I love to knit, and to know that I'm doing it for something worthwhile is really nice," Payson says as she knits and purls her way through rows of a yellow baby blanket bordered in white.

Across the country, groups like this are finding pleasure in what is sometimes called community knitting. Other knitters, including men, stitch at home and during lunch hours. Collectively they form an invisible army, creating afghans, caps for newborns, security blankets for ill or troubled children, and clothing to provide warmth and comfort.

Full story at The Christian Science Monitor

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