Right Decision

Ten years ago, me and my wife made a decision that have changed our lives. We chose to live in Iowa.

Where? Iowa what? Why?

After residing in New Jersey, New York City, California, and Florida, we finally settled in the vicinity of Des Moines, Iowa. It was a decision that was questioned by friends and family, and we may have second guessed if it was the right decision at that time as well. But after 10 years here, we have never looked back.

When we are vacationing or visiting other states, we still get a ‘funny’ look if we tell them where we’re from. Ohio? Idaho? No. Iowa.

I am glad though that some experts are confirming what we and others who have moved here have discovered. Here’s a recent feature of Des Moines, Iowa, in Today show.

But I guess, I don’t need others’ opinion (expert or not) to tell me what I already knew. Moving to Iowa was the right decision all along.

Now excuse me, I got to go. I have to clear the snow in my driveway. And about the cold and the snow? It builds character, you know.

Ninja Runner vs Polar Vortex

It’s dead of winter. But I ran 3 miles outside today!

Before you declare that I am a little crazy, well, I know that already. Yet hear me out.

After last week’s polar vortex which plunged our temperature in the arctic range, we are enjoying a slight break today. During the cold blast, the mercury here in our place plummeted to -15 F (-26 C), with wind chill in the -20 to -30 F. It was so frigid last week that school was forced to close, not from snow, but just from the bitter cold. It was so frosty across the US and Canada that I have seen photos that the mighty Niagara Falls froze and stopped flowing.

But today was different. The thermometer reading have wandered above freezing. It was even a few digits higher than the freezing point that the ice coating the roads have melted and it was not slippery at all. It was a heat wave!

So that’s why I decided to go out for a run. We may never have another “warm” day like this for a while. In fact, it was a balmy 37 F, when I went out this morning.

Besides, over the years I have invested on high-tech cold running gears. They were light-weight yet warm. (See previous escapades of Black Ninja runner). If I layer up and use my nifty apparel, I can run comfortably outside as long as the temperature is not in single digits (F) or lower.

Even though I can run in an indoor running track inside a gym, or in a treadmill, nothing beats running outside in the open. To feel the sunshine on your face, breathe the chilly air, while winter birds cheer you on, is so liberating.

Here is the man-made lake that I usually pass over during my morning run. The water was frozen over. Should I try to run over it?

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Here is what it looks like during summer.

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I have not been running consistently for the past month or so, so I took my time in completing the 3 miles. After about 40 minutes, I came back home exhausted yet feeling fulfilled.

In keeping up with this trend of self-portrait photos, below is my selfie.

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As you can see I traded my Black Ninja look for a more colorful gear. Green Ninja? Oh, Ninja Turtle!

Because it was still cold, even after running for more than 30 minutes, I don’t think I even broke out a sweat, not until I went inside the house. The first 3-mile run of the New Year. No sweat at all!

Now my muscles hurt. Should I ice it? Or maybe I can just go outside to cool them.

Cold Fashion

We are in a deep freeze. In the past couple of days, our temperature here in Iowa had struggled to get up to double digits (Fahrenheit). We have not been above freezing point for more than a week or so now, and I don’t see it happening for the next couple of days. Or weeks? Or months?!

We have accumulated a few of inches of snow on the ground as well, from snowfall from few days ago. I believe the ground snow will linger for a while (White Christmas then?), and will not melt, as our temperature will remain subfreezing for the next several days. My son’s snow fort, which he built a couple of days ago, is still standing sturdy and proudly in our front yard.

I like the sight of snow. But I don’t like driving on it, nor shoveling it. I don’t like the bitter cold either. I grew up in a tropical country (Philippines), where the coolest temperature is in the low 70’s F. And believe it or not, when the temperature in the Philippines drops in the 70’s F, it is already considered sweater time!

Speaking of sweaters, since I live now in a place akin to being inside an icebox, I have learned (or forced) to dress warmly. Over the years I have collected a few sweaters. And for the past two weeks now, I have been wearing my different collection of sweaters and cardigans to work, on top of my usual khakis and shirts. Coat and tie is not my style, at least not in the hospital.

I was rounding in the ICU yesterday when one of the nurses approached me and smilingly said to me, “Doctor, you are the Imelda Marcos of classy sweaters.”

I am not sure if I would be glad with that compliment or not. Or is it even a compliment?

Well, at least she said “classy” sweaters. Here in this part of our world, “ugly” sweater is more notorious. They have ugly sweater parties, ugly sweater contests, and I know there is even an ugly sweater event run.

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Ugly Sweater Run (photo from here)

Though I cannot really take credit for my “classy” style. My wife bought all those sweaters. She must have a fine taste and she is dressing me right. She is a good shopper as well, as she got those quality items at discounted price.

But to be compared to Imelda Marcos? That is different. Well, she got good taste, I’ll give her that. But being “Imeldific” has a different connotation. Besides I don’t have thousands of sweaters as Imelda has thousands of shoes! I only have a few sweaters. OK, more than a few.

This made me think: am I living lavishly and excessively? I hope not. There’s so much need in this world that is more important than fashion.

Maybe I am over thinking the nurse’s comment, which she intends as a compliment, and nothing more. Maybe she just really admire my sweaters. Or maybe she was just impressed with my GQ fashion sense (barf!).

At least I have an excuse for having all those sweaters. It is so darn cold!

Beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I woke up this morning feeling cold. I pulled up the comforter to warm me up a bit. As I opened my eyes I was greeted with snowflakes softly tapping on our windowpane. It is December after all, and in two weeks it would be Christmas.

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view from our window

Today, my wife decided to decorate our home for the season. Yes, we were a little late decorating this year. We even skipped having a Christmas tree this time. Putting up a freshly cut tree had become a tradition in our home since we moved here in Iowa.

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our fireplace

As we hung up our holiday ornaments, and with snow continuing to fall outside, it is really “beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” just like the popular song goes. That also means that I need to shovel and clear the snow in our the driveway later. Rats! Though my son was excited to go outside and build his snow fort. One man’s misery is another one’s fantasy!

However even with the “holiday cheers” in our home, for some reason I cannot get off my mind the images of a place where I was, a little more than a week ago. A place of devastation (see previous post), where Christmas is the farthest thing you think of. And another familiar song is ringing in my head – “do they know it’s Christmas time at all?”

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(image from Manila Bulletin)

As I ponder on this, I was comforted with the thought that real Christmas is not about decorations and Christmas trees. It’s not about shopping and completing our list (wives, are you listening?). It’s not even about receiving gifts or exchanging gifts (good luck telling that to your kids!).

Christmas is commemorating the coming of the Son of God to this wretched planet (wars, calamities and all), to redeem our dying world. With that thought, we all can celebrate Christmas.

Snowballs

It’s March. Are you tired of winter yet like me? I am so ready for Spring!

However, my surrounding is still covered with snow, and there’s more snowfall in our forecast.  Yet there’s no use of cursing the snow, so might as well appreciate its beauty. Just bundled up of course!

Here’s the sunrise in our neighborhood.

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Maybe you can even have fun in the snow. If you ask my son, he wishes for more snow. A feet more of snow!

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Here he is in our front yard throwing snowballs.

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My daughter also joined my son in playing in the snow. However she always ends up as the target of snowballs.

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My wife even made “snow art.”

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Here are my kids again frolicking outside. Or perhaps my son is enjoying it more than my daughter.

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Pausing to admire the sunset, after some time of laughter in the snow.

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As always in life, we don’t have to always curse the dark or the cold. We can learn to accept it and even embrace it. Just like the adage: “If life gives you lemon, make some lemonade.”

And if I may add: if life gives you snow, make some snowballs.

White Christmas

I am dreaming of a white Christmas. Not!

A warm Christmas maybe. A brown Christmas will do. Or better yet, a green (as in tropical!) Christmas.

I agree a white Christmas is so beautiful and iconic. Until you realize you need to shovel that pile of snow in your driveway in the subfreezing temperature. And there’s nothing beautiful in the bitter cold unless you are a polar bear.

But whether it is white, or brown, or green, or red, or even pink, that is not important. For Christmas is not about snow or colors. It is about the birth of a Redeemer, that though my sins are like scarlet, He made them as white as snow.

In that sense, it is a white Christmas after all. Have a blessed Christmas!

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(*photo taken last winter)

In Search of Paradise

(Someone close to me requested me to translate in English the article “Hinahanap na Paraiso, ” that I recently posted. Nothing against Google Translate, but it just did not give it justice.)

As I peek outside our window, my morning was greeted with freshly fallen snow that blanketed our surrounding all-white. Because of the numbing cold, I pulled up the thick blanket over myself and dreamed of a much warmer paradise…..

our first snowfall this year

A paradise where the sun kisses the prancing ocean waves. Where the eternal summer breeze caresses the dancing palm trees. Where the proud mountains are always lush and green, and where mighty trees boast their broad and dense canopies. Where visitors are welcomed by hanging leis around their neck, while beautiful smiling women with flowers in their ears greet “Aloha”.

Not so long ago, my family were blessed to visit the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Here, we jaunted through the island and witnessed the enchanting places and scenery. Here we waded and played in its warm seawater. Here, we laid and unwind in its alluring beach. Truly this place is like a paradise, so it’s not a wonder it is one of the happiest places* on earth.

photo taken at Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, Hawaii

However this place is not totally free of its own problems and difficulties. The traffic jam can be terrible at times. There are beggars and homeless people who wanders around and sleep in the parks. And the local residents whine that the price of commodities are so high and the cost of living here is so expensive, that they say this place is only for tourists. Even on this “happy” place, there is no shortage of people who are forlorn in love.

If we would be familiar with its history, this paradise is the place of such vicious tragedy, a site of awful bloodshed, when the Pearl Harbor was attacked during World War II. Thousands of lives were lost, and some are still entombed in their watery grave up to this day.

My point only is that even in a paradise-like place, it has still its own troubles. In fact, even in a perfect paradise, the Garden of Eden, it still became a place of temptation, disobedience, and fall from grace. This has caused all of the misery of mankind.

Is there really a place of paradise? To me, a paradise is not a location. It is not a place that can be seen in a map. For me, it is a state or condition in life. A state in life where you are happy and contented. A state in life where your dreams are realized. A state in life where you are free to love and is freely loved. In paradise – love reigns.

I looked around where I am now. My wife and my kids were still fast asleep. They transcend happiness and peace in their faces. It is true that even in such a frigid place like this, a place buried in snow, can be a paradise.

my frozen paradise

(*According to the recent Gallup poll, Hawaii is the happiest state among the 50 states of USA. Iowa though, made it to the top 10 too.)

Snow Biking

It was a glorious day. After days of frigid temperatures, we finally had a respite from cold.

Few days ago, it even dropped to actual reading of 10 below zero (degrees Fahrenheit), with wind chill factor of 30 below zero. At these temperatures, some motor oil, like 10w30, will freeze. Starting a car’s engine may be difficult (antifreeze will actually freeze at 40 below zero). With human’s blood freezing point at 31.1 above zero(just a tad lower than water’s), it is understandable that exposure to this level of cold can be dangerous. Our body by the way, maintains a normal temperature of 98 to 100 F to function properly. No wonder my brain freezes on frigid days.

Today was different. We started the day with temperature just above freezing. I know that was still cold, considering that the optimal refrigerator temperature is 35 to 38 F. We reached 40’s yesterday, and today we rose up to low 50’s. It was warm enough that my children went out to ride their bikes. Yes, they rode their bikes through melting snow. Finally, a ‘global warming’ that I can appreciate.

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But wait. It is only mid February, and with official spring time not until 5 more weeks away. That means we can definitely dip down to below zero again sometime in the near ensuing days. But for now, I certainly enjoyed this arctic break.

There’s one downside of this above freezing temperature: it melted my children’s igloo in our yard. But then again, they can build a much bigger one next time. Do I sound like I’m asking for more snow? No, I’m not. I’m just being a realist.