Sing your Praises

“Qui bene cantat bis orat”, one of my favourite quotes, is greatly attributed to Saint Augustine of Hippo whose feast we celebrate today. This Latin phrase when literally translated to English means “He who sings well prays twice”.

A catholic forum also published the un-abridged version of this: “For he that singeth praise, not only praiseth, but only praiseth with gladness: he that singeth praise, not only singeth, but also loveth him of whom he singeth. In praise, there is the speaking forth of one confessing; in singing, the affection of one loving.” (St. Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 73, 1)

As a child who loves to sing, I have always believed in this dictum. I love to sing my praises. And I, somehow, feel closer to God when I sing my prayers instead of just saying them.

As early as 12-years-old, I became a member of the church choir. The group was composed of young boys and girls whose dedication to singing was evident in their commitment to attending the practice every Saturday — rain or shine … unmindful of the tedious walks, long sessions, and the simple merienda of nilagang saging (boiled banana). Our choir master was very skilful in bringing out the best in these young voices that the singing in the Sunday morning mass always turned out to be outstanding.

I loved singing with the group, and I loved it most when one day, I was given a solo part. I remember being so nervous that Sunday morning that I refused to eat and talk to anybody. I vowed to give it nothing less than my best… and, as our choir master gave me a quiet thumbs-up after my part, I knew I did well! At a tender age of thirteen, I felt the joy and gratification brought in by not simply singing my praises, but singing them from the heart.

Growing up, I had to leave the church choir as I have to move to Manila for my university studies … but I made it a point to sing my praises whenever I can, whenever possible.

The movie “Sister Act” made a lasting impression on me. Not only because of the outstanding performance of legendary Hollywood actress Whoopi Goldberg, but more so because it presented how music can bring people back to the church, and even reunite a community that ceased to exist due to the lure of modern life. Some of the traditional and conservative members of the church may have categorized this movie as profane and sacrilegious because it diverts from the conventional way of praising — the solemn and almost inaudible utterances read from the book of customary prayers voiced for centuries — but let’s be honest … what works for the modern world is the always the unconventional.

“Songs are prayers wrapped in wonderful melodies,” this is how a good friend of mine puts it and I completely agree with him. The melodious sound when sung sincerely and beautifully, to me, is a more powerful prayer than parroted litanies of the rosary uttered again, and again, and again.

Call me finicky, fastidious, or fussy … but I am not embarrassed to say that I only go to a church that has a good choir. For me, a good choir is an aid to a more meaningful service or mass. Of course, how the priest delivers the homily is another one of my criteria in choosing a place of worship to go to, although I tend to compromise on that aspect because I believe that if I intently listen to the gospel, I can relate to it in my own way. The Lord speaks to us beautifully through the gospel, why can’t we pray the same way to Him … by sincerely giving thanksgiving and praise though the beautiful melodies of the songs.

***All images are borrowed from the net.

Count your blessings

The internet is abuzz with quizzes that claim to identify our personality and tell us what we are and what we will be. I go through these quizzes for fun, many a time, for amusement! The accuracy is questionable, sometimes ridiculously absurd, illogical, and irrational. But there are some that actually strike a chord or two. One such is a quiz from Buzzfeed, forwarded to me by my daughter with the sweetest message saying, “I thank you and daddy for giving me a good life!” Tell me then, what more can a mother ask for?

The quiz titled, “How privileged are you?” is a listing of questions ranging from family life, education, relationships, career, sexuality, caste (here I realize that the quiz was designed for Indian audience), money matters, travel, and even the most mundane of things. The more tick marks you get, the more privileged are you.  I got 116 out of the 127 questions and the result says, I am in the top tier of privilege!

The number of questions may seem long and endless, quite exhaustive, laborious to deal with, and something that can wear one down and eventually give up. I almost gave up at Question 34. But then, I went ahead and found that if we only take it seriously, there is an unfathomable meaning in every question that awakens our thoughts that would have gone into deep slumber not realizing how blessed we all are.

The question on schooling up to university level made me realized that I am luckier than one billion adults as per the recent study conducted by UNESCO. The question on life and living conditions gave me an insight on how fortunate am I to have roof over my head, food on my table, clothes to wear, and a bed to sleep in.

An added bonus is all the other luxuries that I enjoy like having a car to take me wherever I want to go and a limitless access to many other things that I now think as indulgences rather than need, superfluities that make me feel guilty after knowing that millions of families are living within $1 per day.

At least six questions dealt with experiences dealing with the caste system. I may not have been born and brought up in India, where caste system was a prevalent practice, but I was always aware of the dissection of economic levels in my country. Suffice it to say that I did not allow any of those to affect me while living my life the way I want to, and it has never bothered me even today. Moving to India, I never spoke of or brought up the fact that I have become part of the Brahmin community after having married an Iyengar Brahmin. There is no need, and no reason to. And in twenty long years, it has not affected me or my status in this country that I have come to love as my own.

Another set of questions focus on safety, inside and outside the house, in the workplace, or elsewhere. Knowing that I live in one of the most peaceful cities I know keeps my mind at ease all the time. And this brings me back to war-torn countries like Syria (where we lived) where its people are not sure of living their lives the following day.

Going through the list is for me … a wake-up call, it is a process that each and every one of us should go through just to be reminded that we are so privileged than countless number of people, that we are given things even before asking for it, and that we are provided with extras that we, sometime, don’t even deserve — as a person — as a human being.

The quiz transported me into a different state of mind … a state where I am happier than ever before … a state where I tell myself that I cannot ask for more. Asking for more will only lead me to greediness. And as the Great Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed!”

I have pasted the link (in case you haven’t been fortunate enough to stumble on it) to the quiz below. Please go through it. My wish is that, like me, you may realize that we ought to stop complaining about the life we have, and actually begin living it with gratitude in our hearts for the fact that you have a computer system, a laptop, a tablet, or a smart phone to read this blog post — you are more privileged that most.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/soniathomas/how-privileged-are-you?utm_term=.fu9M19weoz#.admy729rnE

In conclusion, I would like to share the lines of one of my favourite Christmas carols that help me get sound sleep at night:

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep. And I fall asleep counting my blessings

When my bankroll is getting small, I think of when I had none at all. And I fall asleep counting my blessings.

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads. And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds. 

So if you’re worried and you can’t sleep, count your blessings instead of sheep.  And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings 

 

***All the images are borrowed from the net.

I am STIN-GEE

When I refused to splurge on the latest model of Iphone … when I told my husband that the price of any car we buy should not exceed ten lakhs … when I decided to buy my things only when there is a “sale” … when I stood firm on not buying my daughter similar toys to what she already has … when I insisted on going to libraries instead of buying books all the time … when I stressed on giving inexpensive gifts but useful to the receiver … when I insisted on cooking and eating at home in order to avoid the risks of feeling sick from eating outside food … when I preferred to walk a certain distance instead of taking the car … I’ve been branded – STINGY (pronounced: stin-geeee)!

People who know me will agree.  People who are close to me will understand.

Growing up, we didn’t have much. As a child, I held on to my one and only plastic doll gifted by my Ninang Petz one Christmas. In school, I was happy with one Hello Kitty pencil when my friends had the entire gamut of Sanrio items. In high school – I used to walk to the main road where I took the jeepney for the 30-minute ride to school where I got by with only three sets of uniform and some “civilian” clothes bought from the palengke (local market). I sailed through college with jeans from Divisoria when my friends were strutting in their “Levis” and “Girbaud.”

I gave myself a break when I started working, thereby earning. I treated myself to branded items, an occasional “Benetton” shirt or “Our Tribe” sandals. I also went splurging on “Guess” jeans and some “Paperdoll” blouses. There was even a time when I would wear only “Naturalizer”. When I got married, my husband indulged me by buying only the most expensive, the latest, and the grandest.

But then, was I happy? Maybe for a couple of days displaying the brand and getting the “ahhhs” and “ohhhs” from friends and people around. But, then I realized early on that I was not one of those  clueless, shallow female (and some males) whose goal is to spend and show-off!

I have always been the practical one. For me, any brand of smart phone (yes, even those Chinese-made ones) can do anything that an Iphone does, any car can take us from point A to point B, clothes or shoes need not be expensive to look good on anyone. My daughter enjoyed the toys she had and still has vivid memories about each of them. Books from libraries help me instil the love of reading in my little one. And gifting, some may not agree with me, does not depend on the price of the gift but the thought poured in while choosing one.

To the people who did and still call me stingy, I am done with you. To me, you belong to the group of people who would rather drown in credit card bills and live from pay-check to pay-check just to impress other people. Those who do not look at the future for as long as their present is instagrammable or worth posting on Facebook! Those whose life is dictated by society’s artificial approach and whose every action is based on trying to fit in on circles where they are obviously an outcast. For if they truly belong to that circle, they need not exert any effort. Superficial and pa-sosyal ,.. these words aptly describe this group that am definitely not part of,  and will never be.

I may be stingy but I am a happy soul. I have a good phone that serves my purpose, a car that takes me wherever I want to go, and clothes that flatter me. I have a child who is beautiful and smart, but most importantly, someone whose feet is firmly grounded.  A husband who now thinks the same way I do and supports me in any decision I make. A circle of friends who do not look at what I have or what I am capable of  giving. And, a bank balance that allows me to splurge whenever I want to … all because I decided to be — stin-gee!

 

***All images are borrowed from the net.

 

Working from Home (WFH)

A life with no worries, ok — less worries … a life where I can wake up any time and be in my PJs all day for all I care… a life where I can spend as much time with my family as I want… a life where I can have coffee dates with my girlfriends any time I wish to and plan for a quick holiday, head to somewhere cool … a life with no targets, no deadlines… a life with no bosses but myself — and myself alone… a life where I can be free! This is what I envisioned when I quit my previous job thinking I will just take up a few work-from-home assignments and ease up on life. The first couple of weeks were fine, I enjoyed the bliss. The following weeks made me restless. After a quick holiday, and a few more days, I was already attending interviews. Barely three months later… I joined another company!

I guess I am not that type who can be confined at home. Or even, the type who can actually work from home. I remember asking my husband to install a new air-conditioning system, buy me a fancy swivel chair (the one CEOs use), upgrade our desktop, change our screen to a 21-inches, and convert our study room into a nice office set-up because I am tired of going to office and that I intend to “work from home — permanently!” The result –a swanky office arrangement at home that my husband uses more than myself!

Working from home (WFH) may be the “in” thing these days … but nothing beats the experience of driving (despite the horrendous traffic) to work, hoping Mondays never come, negotiating deadlines, reasoning with bosses, juggling projects, managing a team of enthusiastic youngsters, exchanging banter with colleagues, sharing that much awaited coffee during break, and longing for the weekends to come.

Suffice it to say that I enjoy company. I love being surrounded by people. I love being able to voice my opinions, listen to what others have to say, exchange ideas, share commonalities, and decipher dissimilarities. I love knowing that people are different, and those differences add fun to life. I love being exposed to eccentricities and peculiarities that make me love my own self simply for who I am.

On the peculiar side, working from home would never give me the opportunity to know people as they really are. Working from home would prevent me from knowing that the man who talks like he is the busiest person on earth is actually doing nothing but dumps all his work to his already-burdened assistant … the woman who is always glued to her laptop is actually attending to personal business and not her office work … the guy who is working quietly in the corner is freelancing for other companies… and the lady who we thought are making call to clients is actually talking to her friends, making plans for the evening.

WFH has its per ks. No rushing to swipe in, no need to dress up, no bosses hovering around, no endless meetings (except for the occasional con-call), no internal (or external) politics, no need to worry about gossipy colleagues, or those whose insecurity hangs on the office walls, no filters on which website to visit, no guidelines on how long the lunch break is … endless NO’s.

A big YES to work!

Working from home does not mean doing less, forgetting about deadlines, and easing up on quality. Working from home actually entails a lot of responsibility. And…hear this, the fact that the person is allowed to work from home is because he/she is trusted enough to work without supervision. This reminds me of a former colleague who would always berate people like me who was given the WFH option (two companies ago). She was upset that the same privilege was not accorded to her forgetting the time when she asked for a couple of days of WFH only to completely expose and embarrass herself by not doing the work expected from her. She proved to be so untrustworthy that she was denied her WFH requests thereafter. Expectations from people who are working from home are more. And the fact is, they do work more…in most cases, even after office hours, and during holidays!

There, just as in any argument, I have laid the pros and cons of WFH. And I have also mentioned that fact that I am not cut out for it. But yes, since I have that cozy setup at home, I take WFH once in a while. Or who knows …. Ohhh I’ve been there before…

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***All graphics are borrowed from the net