The Heart of a Volunteer

With the kind of schedule – packed – that we lead nowadays, who has time for volunteer work, right?

Some weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a volunteer orientation seminar where, I was informed, many people signed up for. The original number the organizer was expecting ended up with a handful of participants.

On one hand, I couldn’t blame them (those who didn’t make it to the orientation seminar). It was a Saturday, after all, and it was early at that. Second, the venue of the orientation (a school building) is a place people don’t commonly go to. That being said, I can only presume some got lost on their way to the venue.

While it was regrettable that many couldn’t make it, I was proud of those who did show up on that weekend morning. It proves that they have the heart of a volunteer!

Volunteers are committed.

They walk the talk. If they say they’ll do something, expect them to show up and ‘do the work.’ If they’ll be late, and is sincerely so, they’ll find a way to get the message across. Incidentally, some of the participants came from opposite sides of the metro. Now, THAT is commitment!

Volunteers treat ‘volunteer work’ like it’s ‘real work.’

They prepare for it and give their best in whatever activity they choose.

There may be no monetary rewards or recognition in this kind of ‘work,’ but it doesn’t matter. True volunteers know that the real reward comes in knowing they’ve made – or they will make – a positive difference in someone’s life.

Volunteers know that giving back is a responsibility, and they gladly do so.

Listening to the participants and why they want to volunteer, I noticed a common sentiment: the need to balance their careers and free time with some form of community service.

Personally, I also think that because we’ve been blessed with so much, it’s only ‘right’ that we give back to those who don’t have access to the same privileges as many of us do. In fact, sometimes I think that’s our role in life: each of us is given a talent so we can be conduits of God/ the Universe.

Hopefully, this sharing makes you think about sparing even a few hours a month to do a bit of community service or volunteer work. With the number of options we have nowadays, choose an activity or advocacy that you’re passionate about. Doing so will easily take the “work” out of ‘volunteer work.’

Those Brown Spots Aren’t Freckles

If I had known early on that having one’s place repainted would be emotionally, and not just physically, draining, I would’ve better prepared myself.

I had long wanted to have my unit renovated because molds had taken over many of the walls and other surfaces inside a home that you can think of. Molds look innocuously like brown spots until you realize they’re on that wall here, on that wall over there, on the ceiling, and . . . are those molds on the surface of the fridge?

When you see something similar in your residence – or even where you work – be slightly wary. If for some reason you develop an unexplained bout of colds or rash on your skin that won’t go away, chances are they’re caused by these small but offending organisms. Thinking of scraping them off the walls with a solution of soap, water, and bleach? It won’t work. Molds are hardy; once they grow on surfaces, especially those that attract moisture, the only way to remove them is to sand them away.

It actually took me several months since last year to find someone who’ll do the job, and the first thing he said when he saw my place was, “What happened here?” It sounds funny now, but in hindsight, it meant the situation was bad and needed remedy as soon as possible.

It took only a few days thereafter for the sanding and repainting job to begin. This is the start of the emotionally draining journey I mentioned earlier because what was once an orderly home instantly turned into disarray: pieces of furniture covered with newspapers or wraps were moved to the middle of the room or from room to room; there was masking tape everywhere; there was dust everywhere. “War zone” is a good description. For five days or so, I also had to supervise the painter, monitor (the quality of) his work, prepare his meals, and pay his daily wages. Oh, let’s not forget the trips to the hardware store to buy the paint and other materials we needed.

One would think that after all has been said and done, things will turn out “beautifully” or at least “great.” Not quite. You see, one has to let the paint dry thoroughly before all the covers and the tapes can be removed. And even then, brace yourself for some ‘surprises.’ In my case, I discovered areas that weren’t painted over properly, so guess what? I took the remaining paint and retouched those spots, hidden or not-so-hidden from plain view. It’s actually quite therapeutic, much like applying make-up on walls. Don’t rush the process, and you just might find yourself looking forward to doing a paint job yourself in the future!

This minor renovation project ended last week, but I’m still in the process of moving things back to where they were. I still espy paint drippings here and there (frustrating, I know), and there are still dust on some shelves. Overall, my place looks near normal again and should be fully ‘operational’ soon. I can’t wait to hit the home section of stores and shops to buy new accessories!

And what of the molds that triggered this roller coaster of a journey in the first place? I’m happy to report they’re gone, and so are my colds. And now that the walls are much more pleasant to look at, will it surprise you if I say I find more and more reasons to stay at home as the days go by?

Do you have a similar repainting project and experience? Please feel free to share.

Writing the Story Within – Part II

Image - Quote on writing (1)

Image credit: Google images

In Writing the Story Within – Part I, the writing steps therein include ideation and drafting. Here are the rest of the steps.

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Walking away from the draft

There’s really no such thing in the writing step as “walking away” from the draft. But I noticed it helps to verbalize and even visualize this action because in an age of “let’s get this over with” and send it on its merry way, it is important to set aside your work for a while to give it a new perspective. Notice that when you step away from your workspace and give yourself a break, new ideas come to mind!

“What if I say it this way? What if I move this paragraph right here? No wait, I’ll remove that paragraph altogether!” Those are all your other ideas, waiting in the wings until they can ‘come on stage’ and show you how they can make your piece look much better than the original!

Whenever I’m involved in any creative endeavor, not just writing, I do take a walk. I also run or swim to, literally, give my mind a breather. Many times, it is when I’m away from my workspace that other thoughts come flooding in. When that happens, like you, I find that I couldn’t go back home fast enough to start working again. Which brings me to . . .

Re-writing the draft

The hardest part is over – laying the foundation of your article – now it’s just a matter of making improvements ‘here and there.’ I say that with a bit of humor, but implementing changes could range from simple to complex. From replacing words, to revising or removing a sentence or, worse, taking out a paragraph or two and replacing them with new ones.

Don’t let such challenges discourage you. All your efforts are for your intended readers, I assume. Therefore, give them your best work! Did the words you choose evoke the emotions you want to bring out among your readers? Do the paragraphs flow when you read your piece aloud? Is it long or short enough to contain all the details you wish to convey? Has someone else with an impartial eye seen your work and said, “This is good”?

When all has been said and done . . .

Publish your work.

Make that leap and get it out there. Caveat: it is but natural that some will not take to your story right away or never at all. And that’s fine because it is assumed you wrote your piece for a particular audience.

Remember: to write for everyone is to write for no one.

Once you’ve published your work, give yourself a pat on the back. Look back on your writing journey, from the day a seed of an idea was born, to the days or perhaps weeks that it took you to develop your work, to the day that it made its debut among your readers. Isn’t that something to celebrate about?

Long or short article, it doesn’t matter. Congratulations!

Writing the Story Within – Part I

Image - Quote on writing (1)

Image credit: Google images

Note: This entry is about the writing process. Since it contains several steps, the article has been divided into parts I and II.

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My love for words and writing stems from my passion for reading, a habit that was instilled in us when we were young.

In the beginning, I’d pore over many books, especially if a particular subject or person interests me. As I grew older, however, my focus began to shift from being a reader to being a “writer.” I still love books, mind you, but I also discovered that I have stories of my own to share with the world. What stories would they be?

Well as a young person, I’d write about how I felt towards this or that chore or how I felt towards friends, family members, and school. As I went on to college and when I started working, my train of thought moved from people to events. Nowadays, it’s a mix of both.

Even after all these years, writing doesn’t come naturally to me, and I think it’s the same with most people. Words don’t just fall from nowhere and form sentences and paragraphs in front of me. Neither do I just wake up from sleep and start putting words on paper . . . or words on MS Word.

I did notice that like any creative endeavor (e.g. cooking, drawing, and building a house), writing follows a process. From personal experience (which isn’t too different from the others), that roughly includes: ideation, writing the draft, walking away from the draft, re-writing the draft, and publishing the final work.

Ideation

Where do ideas come from? They’re everywhere: at home, in school, in the workplace, on the streets. The world is practically teeming with possibilities, and it boils down to what is it among these myriad options that interest you?

What inspires you?

I commute a lot and taking public transportation means I have to be aware of my surroundings all the time. That mindset and attitude have yielded good anecdotes to write about, though: seniors crossing the streets by themselves . . . children excitedly talking to one another on their way home from school . . . young – and even not-so-young – professionals discussing their next summer getaway . . . all of these and similar observations have given me a lot of food for thought. I don’t write about all of them, of course, but I develop ideas from those that catch my attention the most.

Writing the draft

Years ago, I had an opportunity to interview a high school English teacher for my graduate school thesis. She said one of the common misconceptions budding and young writers believe is that they have to get things right the first time. They overlook the fact that nothing can be farther from the truth, and that they can initially cobble some words and paragraphs together to serve as a foundation for their final piece.

I’m not exempted from this step, even after all these years of writing for newsletters, corporate intranets, and blogs, among others. Whenever concepts come to mind, I grab a pen and any piece of paper – table napkins, receipts, wrappers – and take note of them immediately.

Ideas are like bubbles; they float mid-air for some time and then they disappear.

In this age of electronic convenience, use your phones or tablets to your advantage. Send an SMS to yourself to be reminded of an idea you’d like to develop in the near future. Type in the key words you’d like to use in your article. Aside from SMSs, I also use a BlackBerry app called MemoPad, especially when I’ve blog ideas that need fleshing out and I’ve a long waiting time ahead of me to do so.

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In part II, the writing steps therein include walking away from the draft, re-writing the draft, and publishing the final work.

If I were to teach a basic beading workshop – Part III

2016 - Book thongs for Yayo Torres (13 January)(4)

If I were to teach a basic beading workshop, these are SOME of the tips and reminders I’ll share with participants – Part III (of 3)

On being patient

I’ll skip the part on what tools to use because regardless of what we invest on, this form of hobby is hard on the hands. Not even those with “ergonomic handle” and “double leaf spring for smooth operation”  will spare you from the eventual callouses that will result from cutting, bending, twisting, and turning, among others.

I taught really basic beading class to a group of ladies a couple of years ago. On both occasions, they all exclaimed, “This is harder than I thought!” And I was just showing them how to close the loop of a pin head.

If you will take this up as a form of hobby and are serious about it, the first tool I will recommend is “patience.” Keep lots of it on hand because even a simple pair of earrings can take a while to create, especially if one is a beginner.

Once you put “patience” at the top of the checklist, you can now proceed to invest on pliers, cutters, and other tools you have in mind. It can be tempting to buy a lot, but investing on the basics will do for now.

Have a project in mind you’d like to start on this summer? Good luck and have fun!

Disclaimer: I am by no means an authority on this hobby. In fact, I’ve an on again-off again affair with beading ever since I started nearly 10 years ago. But because I’m forever in “startup mode,” I keep discovering things that I wouldn’t have paid attention to years ago because I was focused on just “getting it done.”

Paying attention to what materials are made of is just as important, but I can’t recall ever hearing these tips from the workshops I attended in the past. Hence, I’m sharing them here.

If I were to teach a basic beading workshop – Part II

2016 - Book thongs for Yayo Torres (13 January)(2)

If I were to teach a basic beading workshop, these are SOME of the tips and reminders I’ll share with participants – Part II (of 3)

On components

On using components such as head pins, eye pins, and the like: they’re not necessarily of the same quality. Once inside a packet, it’s hard to tell if they’ll be too inflexible/ hard and subsequently, unsuitable for a design you have in mind. It takes some trial and error, depending on your source, to determine what head pin will work well with, for example, a Swarovski crystal. I should know; I’ve broken a couple – maybe more – of those when I was just starting out years ago!

And what of components that are more pliable, easier on the hands? Are they any better? Again, it depends on your source. Some will ‘handle’ better until you take the tools to them. Some will peel and flake, and others of substandard quality will feel ‘rough’ in the hands once bent, twisted, coiled, and so on.

Lessons then: be patient when buying components such as those mentioned above. To be on the safe side, and if you’re just starting out, buy small packets of each (e.g. head pins, eye pins, jump rings) to determine if they’re of good quality. If you’re satisfied, keep calm and bead on.

If I were to teach a basic beading workshop – Part I

2016 - Book thongs for Yayo Torres (13 January)(1)

If I were to teach a basic beading workshop, these are SOME of the tips and reminders I’ll share with participants – Part I (of 3)

On beads

Not all beads are the same. That’s pretty obvious, right? After all, one can easily tell a metal ball bead from a plastic one. But even plastic beads are made of different materials. Some have more sheen/ luster while others don’t.

But just because a bead is shiny, it doesn’t mean it’s better or that it’s easier to handle. From experience, pretty-to-look-at beads such as Swarovski crystals, Class A crystals, and similarly lustrous materials are prone to chipping or, worse, breaking apart. If you really want to use them for your projects, use a light hand.

If you shy away from plastic beads thinking they look inexpensive and inferior, shy away no more. There’s now a broad range to choose from. Some even look better and much easier to handle than those I mentioned above. A personal trick I use is to choose ‘rich’ or deep colors or a range of pastel shades that look good together. The former are perfect for accessories that need livening up, while the latter can be used as accents or to help soften deep-colored materials.

Crafternoon Activity II – Book Thongs

2015 - Book thongs for Tita Fely (19 December)(2)

If you have an idea for book thongs or charms, let me share with you one tip: look for beads that have heft or weight in them. But not too much, though. You’ll want just the right amount of weight that will easily slip over the pages of your book.

Are books still in vogue? I think they are. Printed materials may be on the wane, but if bookstores are any indication, those paperbacks and hardbound reading materials will always find loving ‘homes.’

Crafternoon Activity I – Key Rings

2015 - Project key rings (12 December)

I think gone are the days when everything inside a handbag should be in black. (Admittedly, I used to do that.) Something has to stand out, especially if they need to be ‘fished out’ every so often.

Some may find these key rings ‘bulky’ in the pocket. Not really, and I’m not saying that because I made them. For a tactile person, it’s reassuring to know that as long as I can feel the beads, the keys are safe along with them.

Simple Lessons from this Holiday Season

“Baby! Baby!”

Earlier, a little girl’s voice, squealing with delight, caught my attention as I rushed to an appointment.

Looking up, I saw a few feet away from me two young girls, one about three years old and the other about two. Both were running excitedly towards their father. He was holding aloft a doll, while a playful smile hovered over his lips.

The doll looks dirty, as if it had been unearthed from a long-forgotten toy box. It was intact, however, with its body clothed in a light pink onesie and its head covered with a matching pink-colored bonnet. The girls couldn’t care less, judging from the gleeful expressions on their faces. Daddy has a toy, and it’s for them!

When they finally got to where he was standing, the girls tried in vain to reach up and get the doll. The playful father waved it briefly over their heads before handing it over to the younger one who had been pleading in earnest, “Baby! Baby!”

I wish I had a camera at the time to capture the expression on the young girl’s face as she tightly hugged the doll. It was pure joy. As for the older sister, she simply looked on, and not once did I hear her whine. Perhaps her innocent heart knew how important it was for her sister to get the doll . . . and to retain the peace between them.

And the father? When I had the chance to look away from the girls and glance at him, he had a look of contentment. “Mission accomplished,” his expression seemed to convey. “I made my little ones happy just in time for Christmas, and that’s more than enough for me.” After a few more minutes, he picked up his younger daughter, held the older one by the hand, and they turned to walk away.

No, I don’t think a camera would’ve helped me capture those ‘lessons’ – simple joy, peace, contentment, sharing – in such a brief moment. Some are better seen and heard and committed to memory.

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