Welcome to my site! I hope you will enjoy reading the personal articles as I journey and navigate this life. I welcome suggestions for topics that you think are important, relevant, and valuable.

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A close-up of a newly opened delphinium flower (Summer 2013).

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Random Acts of Kindness

"Your greatness is measured by your kindness; 
your education and intellect by your modesty; 
your ignorance is betrayed by your suspicions and prejudices, 
and your real caliber is measured by the consideration and tolerance you have for others."
~William J.H. Boetcker

I was just finishing my lunch today at the North Hill Centre food court, when suddenly, a box of blueberries fell and landed underneath a nearby table where an older woman was also having lunch. I rushed to pick up what was left of her blueberries in its container and gave it to her. I tried to pick up the scattered ones and she told me she doesn’t want the ones that are already in the floor. A lady janitor immediately went to work, removing the blueberries off the floor.  

The older woman, who told me she’s 79 years old, looked so disappointed and dejected, telling me she loves blueberries to go with her cereal and yogurt. I told her this fruit is one of the top 5 fruits in terms of health benefits. After a few more conversations with her about the merits of eating blueberries, I excused myself and ran to the nearest Safeway store, logging my heavy gym bag in my back. I knew what to buy--a box of blueberries!

I returned to the food court and gave her the box of blueberries. She was so surprised and gave me an immense, happy smile, thanked me profusely, and told me she wants a hug to go with the blueberries. I gave her a tight hug and at that instant, she was no longer a stranger having lunch in the food court who lost 2/3 of her blueberries. She was a person transformed by a little act of kindness.

Lesson: A small act of kindness goes a long way. It creates joy and happiness between the giver and the receiver and its impression could last a long time.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Days of Our Lives

"The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered...We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren't able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It's called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.” 
Elizabeth Edwards

I was told that she is a 31-year old Filipina caregiver and is suffering from Stage 4 lung cancer. Her oncologist had informed her in January 2012 that she has only 3 months to live. She requested to have a female counsellor but only if that counsellor is a Filipina. I was then asked to provide counselling to her, pro bono. And even though I was already working as a volunteer for the Filipino community, I said yes to the program coordinator of a non-governmental association helping immigrant women in Calgary.

Her name is Jane, and as I hugged her the first time we met in May 2012, I wondered if she will die soon. If the 3-month diagnosis applies, she would have died a month before. On the day of our meeting, she had walked the 7-minute walking distance from the train station to Safeway where I was waiting for her. I looked at her as we exchanged pleasantries: Her face was full of brown dotted spots, as if measles had mercilessly invaded her; she was strikingly bald, and her skin has turned brown, results of the “tablet” form of chemotherapy, she explained. However, there was something profound I noticed in our first encounter: she was happy and all smiles.

We went to have lunch in a nearby Vietnamese restaurant and I let her do the talking. She said she was supposed to have died the previous month as her cancer has metastasized to her brain. Test results in January 2012 showed brain tumor. The diagnosis looked grim. However, she told me that she can now walk without having to gasp for air and is feeling much better. So I gave her my own analysis. I told her that some cancer patients survive mainly because of their positive attitude, their belief that they can be healed, and their determination to survive against all odds. The rest is up to science.

Jane and I met several times after that and every time we meet, she appears to be improving. Last November 2012, 10 months after her oncologist told her that she has only 3 more months to live, she asked me to meet her for lunch as she has something wonderful to tell me. Between spoonfuls of fruits, she told me she had passed her driver’s test and had bought a brand new Honda Civic (to be paid monthly and on a lease). She said she didn’t want to own the car because she might still die. She is starting to buy new clothes because she sent most of her clothes back to the Philippines, thinking that she will only have 3 months to live. And latest test scans reveal her brain tumor had shrunk. She is breathing so well that she’s walking and jogging every other day. She is working again as a caregiver. And she has applied for permanent residence in Canada. What a transformation in less than a year! After our lunch, she brought me home in her new Honda Civic. I am so proud of her and how she handled her cancer. What a remarkable human being!

Lessons learned: Connecting with friends is important. Nothing is impossible. Cancer is not a death sentence for some people who have tremendous will to survive. Being brave is optional but having faith in God is not. Resilience is arrived at after meeting the prospect of death. There is such a thing as a miracle.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

When God Winks

This happened a few years ago: I was on my way home one cold, late wintry afternoon. It was cold, probably -17 C, and I was tired after a day's work. I was on a bus when I noticed a man, probably in his late 60s, sitting near me, with blood oozing from his nose. There were blood stains in front of his jacket. He was visibly shaking. He asked the driver to stop at the bus stop where he could take another bus to take him to Foothills Hospital. We stopped at the same stop point and I could see that he had difficulty walking. After crossing the street, we went to the same bus shelter and by this time, he looked like he will collapse anytime. I told him to sit down, to hang on, and assured him I will help him get to Foothills Hospital.

I frantically waved at an incoming ambulance with no siren lights. I quickly realized you have to call an ambulance instead of simply waving at it because it merely passed by without stopping. Some agonizing minutes later, a bus with a notice that says "Out of Service" approached. I went to the curb of the road, waved frantically, and the bus driver stopped. I explained the situation to him and pleaded to take the man and me to the emergency section of Foothills Hospital. He must have been a kind person because he did.

A month later, I saw the same man on the same bus route. He smiled when he saw me so I moved and sat close to him. I asked him what his problem was when I brought him to Foothills Hospital. He said he was experiencing internal bleeding and was in the hospital for 5 days. He further told me that he needs a weekly blood transfusion and that he was on his way to Foothills Hospital for that. He thanked me for saving his life because the doctors told him had he arrived 30 minutes later, he would have died from internal bleeding.

Lessons of this story: I learned that you have to be compassionate to anyone who needs your help, even to a complete stranger. Life is precious and if you can extend one man's life by doing what you could to help, then that is a moment when God winks at you and gives you His loving embrace.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Grieving: The Lessons

Grief doesn't have to be a passive thing that happens to you.
Grief is first and foremost something you do to heal your wounds
after experiencing a terrible loss in your life. 

~Bob Deitz, Life After Loss

I have just recently lost my life partner, Deane. We were each other's worlds, and our love shaped the life we shared everyday. 

When I met Deane 10 years ago, my heart clicked in the right places. When he died on the night of June 24, 2011, I was broken into pieces: pieces that hurt and agonized, pieces that ached for him, pieces that died with him.

People say that you are lucky if you find your one true love in this world. I consider myself as one of those lucky persons. And although my grief right now is deep and painfully raw, Deane 's love for me and my love for him will carry us through into a place of wholeness and transcendence.

I would like to share with you some lessons I am learning while in the process of grieving, hoping that should you traverse the same path one day, you will see the footprints I left behind.

It is okay to cry. Tears are healing. You accept your pain and your vulnerability when you cry. You embrace the turmoil of your soul when you cry. Crying is an acknowledgement that your world is never going to be the same again.

It is okay to feel as though you're falling apart. The death of your loved one can shock the entire system of your body. You might feel you are dying inside. You can't eat, you can't smell the coffee, you can't see the nice flowers.  

It is okay to feel lost and insecure. When someone you love dies, the normality of your life is broken. You feel like a ship without an anchor and without direction. Suddenly, you are made to face one big challenge: How to live without your loved one.

It is okay to slow down. Grieving takes time. There are days when you would just want to curl and cry. There are times when you want to shut your curtains and sit in the dark. There are nights when you cannot sleep and days when you cannot face the morning sun.

It is okay to be distracted and feel out of sorts. You may become forgetful, not focused, even disoriented. You may forget phone numbers and names of some people. You may experience exhaustion, as though you have just gone through a major surgery. There is just too much pain  that your mind and body gets out of whack for some time.

It is okay to feel intense emotions. You may feel deep pain and sadness around special occasions: birthdays, anniversaries or Christmases. Some places can trigger vivid memories and some objects owned by your loved one can bring tears. Allow yourself to feel these intense emotions as a way of respecting your grieving self.

It is okay to feel the presence of your loved one. You need not be scared if you sense the presence of your loved one. You might see an image, hear his/her voice, or feel your loved one's touch. It is okay to smell your loved one's scent or see his/her fleeting image. These experiences might be your loved one's way of contacting you to bring you comfort.

It is okay to be afraid. Your world has been thrown out of balance and that can be a terrifying feeling. It's okay to be afraid of the unknown after the death of your loved one. Fear enables you to take control of your safety. Fear makes you bolt your doors at night or to close your windows before going to bed. The feeling of fear, which is natural during the grieving process, can lead you to care for yourself.

It is okay to lose your sense of purpose. Your life's purpose might have been part of your deceased loved one's purpose, too. You might have had dreams and had envisioned what to accomplish together. There was certainty until your loved one's death. Suddenly, your life does not seem to have a purpose anymore. You are left with shattered dreams.

It is okay to accept help from others. You are not alone in your grief. Your friends, relatives and neighbors may have experienced having lost their loved ones, too. They want to comfort you and ease your pain. Accept whatever help they offer, be it a dinner invitation, a walk to a park, or an offer to cut your grass.

Because I'm still grieving, the lessons I have shared with you are the lessons I am going through. I have lost the most wonderful person I have ever met and I will always miss him.

The best way to honor Deane is to continue to live with meaning, aware that he just left ahead and that one day, I will be with him.

Meanwhile, my tears still flow.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Dear Readers:

My beloved husband, Deane McIntyre, died suddenly last June 24, 2011.

I would like to take time off from writing my weekly article as I grieve his passing.

Here is the link to his obituary:

Thank you so much for following my articles.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Learning from Shania Twain

When everything goes without a hitch,
where's the challenge,
the opportunity to find out
what you're made of?

~Shania Twain 

One of the many gifts I received on my birthday from my hubby, Deane, is Shania Twain's memoir, From This Moment On (buy it here). I had placed a hold of this book in the Nose Hill Library but there were 373 people before me, and even though there are 18 copies to go around, it would takes months before I can finally read it. I am grateful for Deane's loving thoughtfulness.

I have started reading Shania's book which detailed her early childhood.  I am now in Chapter 7, where she described 1978 as the worst year of her life. She just turned 13. Extreme poverty, her parents' constant marital conflicts (which oftentimes turned violent), her mother's severe depression--all this has caused fatigue and stress in what she calls her "dysfunctional home". In this chapter, this young teenager narrated how she helped her mother and younger siblings escape to a shelter for battered women to put an end to the domestic violence in her family home.

Shania Twain, whose real name is Eilleen Twain, is one of five children born into poverty in rural Canada. Her family often didn't have enough food that she sometimes would go without breakfast or without lunch in school. In -25 degree Celsius she would go outside during recess despite wearing only worn-out rubber shoes with plastic bags over her socks to keep her feet dry.

What can we learn from Shania Twain from the first six chapters of her book? 

Living a frugal life. Shania never complained about eating goulash (boiled milk poured over broken pieces of dry, white bread and topped with brown sugar) most of the days. Looking back, she saw the benefit of a simple diet with little meat as a better choice to fattening, synthetic, refined foods.

Lesson: To live a frugal life is to live simply. Why buy more than you need?

Being resourceful. Even when Shania's family had enough to eat, they would make food last. Shania learned how to ration food and prepare meals just enough to go around with nothing left over. She was able to make things last and to make something of value from simple things. 

Lesson: When you don't have the resources, you can learn to be resourceful, thus empowering you to be more self-sufficient. 

Following your dream. At age 7, Shania learned how to tap melodies on a cheap electric keyboard. At age 8, she learned to play the guitar. At age 10, Shania started writing lyrics for songs. Her music became her savior. She began to perform during house parties of relatives. Although she was petrified being on stage, she would muster enough courage to sing. Her dream was to write songs and sing as a back-up singer. Guess what? Aside from being a five-time Grammy Award winner,  she is now a best-selling artist in Canada, having sold over 80 million albums worldwide. 

Here are a couple of my favorite songs: Forever and For Always and You're Still The One.

Lesson: Find those dreams you have tucked inside you and bring out your best, magical self by going in the direction of your dream. It's a risk but it's worth it.

The power of Shania's book lies in her ability to write about her life in an honest way. In her introduction, she hopes that her life story will serve as a guide or as an inspiration to others who are struggling to find meaning in their life.


I will continue to read this book and will share what I have learned from it next week.

Until then, leave your comments below.

Have a wonderful week, my dear readers!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Are You An Optimist?

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. 
An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

~Winston Churchhill

Optimism is about great expectations. We expect our future to be rosy. We expect our relationship to last. We expect the economy to bounce back. We expect our kids to do well in life.

Optimism is a belief about the future, the belief that more good things than bad can be expected (read Breaking Murphy's Law, 2007). And the belief that the future will be much better than the past is known as the optimism bias (read The Optimism Bias by Tali Sharot, 2011). 

If it were not for our optimism bias, writes Sharot, we might still be all cave dwellers, still huddled together, dreaming of light, heat, and food.

Optimists, according to a Duke University study, have better career prospects and are more likely to get promoted compared with those who have a pessimistic attitude. Further, researchers at the University of Pittsburg discovered that optimists live longer, healthier lives than pessimists. 

How do you know if you are an optimist? Below are some indicators to gauge if you are one, according to Sharot:

You expect your life to turn out better--to be be able to afford that nice house on the hill, to find perfect love, to obtain a high-paying job, to finish your MA or PhD degree, to write that riveting, award-winning novel.

You expect your children to be extraordinarily gifted, you envision yourself as achieving more in life than your peers or former classmates, and you imagine having a long, healthy life.

Even when you experience unfortunate events, you automatically confirm that your misfortune is a blessing in disguise. Losing your job, being diagnosed with cancer, or your marriage ending up in divorce--all these, you believe, may lead to more fulfilling life events, as you look for the silver linings in the storms of your life. 

When you encounter difficulties, Tali Sharot comments that your brain seems to possess the philosopher's stone that enables you to turn lead into gold and helps you bounce back  to normal levels of well-being. Sharot's research in brain imaging shows that the brain is hard-wired to encode only the positive information. So when you read success stories like Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates, your brain will note the possibility that one day you could also become immensely wealthy and popular.

However, the optimism bias can lead to overly positive assumptions. Thus, you might less likely to get your regular check-up, apply sunscreen, open a savings account, or bring your umbrella on a cloudy day. Too much optimism can bring about unexpected illness, financial hardships, or simply getting wet in the rain.

So if you are an optimist, try not to be overly positive. Get your medical check-up, apply your sunscreen, save money, and yes, bring your umbrella. 


I hope you have learned something important in this week's article.

Leave your comments below.

Have an amazing week, dear readers!