Thursday, January 29, 2015

'My Big Fat Fabulous Life' and Lessons in Pursuing Your (Writing) Passion

One of my recent guilty pleasures is the TLC show My Big Fat Fabulous Life. The show follows the life of Whitney Thore, a self-proclaimed 'fat ass and bad ass'. She has always been passionate about dancing but after gaining 200 pounds in just one yearpartially due to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)she realized that she must now deal with a new normal. This means loving her body the way it is and not being constrained by it in spite of what social norms dictate. The show also highlights the tension between Whitney's desire to love the body she has now and her acknowledgement that she needs to strive for a healthier weight.

My Big Fat Fabulous Life
Image by: tvequals

I admit that I was drawn to this show because I have had a long and deep history of body hate and poor self-image. For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with weight. Though I was never extremely obese, even as a child I was 'round', 'chubby', slightly 'fuller' compared to my peers. Nine years ago, I was also diagnosed with PCOS, though not as severe as what's talked about in the show. Fortunately, I don't have too high of a testosterone level to make me grow a beard, although in my teens up until before getting pregnant, I dealt with highly irregular menstruation, and of course, infertility. 

I was also struck by one episode where Whitney's dad talked to her about not being able to find a man to marry because of her weight. I remember having a similar talk with my father when I was in college where, during a 'moment of weakness' (let's just put it that way), he told me that unless I lose weight and become 'slim', no 'quality' man would fall in love with me and take me seriously. It left me angry, hurt and scarred for life.

I admire Whitney for being comfortable in her body and truly wish I could have the same attitude about mine. While being inspired by her story and her attitude as portrayed on the show, it dawned on me that how she lives her life can be applied to my writing as well. As a matter of fact, anyone who's pursuing a passion can apply these same lessons, regardless of what that passion is. 

1. Whitney has the courage to show who she really is, regardless of what others think of her or whether or not she measures up to others' expectations. 

She lives her life authentically by pursuing her passion for dance and she shows up with no shame. When she dances, it's not her size that strikes you, but the joy and dedication she exude. This is possibly why students continue to show up at her classes, learning from her and finding inspiration.

Having an authentic voice is something all writers should continuously apply and strive for. It's not always easy. Ideas don't always magically show up but I know that discipline is an integral part of the equation if we want to keep doing what we love and do it with love. You may not be as good or as well-known as other writers out there, but finding your own voice and writing about things you truly believe make you relevant. Keep showing up as YOU with all that you have now instead of being defeated by a sense of lack.

2. Her focus is not on being liked but rather on living her life to the fullest, refusing to be constrained by possible criticism or unpopularity.

Whitney knows that when she goes out, there's always a risk that someone will call her names, stare at her with disdain, and spew poisonous words all because of how she looks. She doesn't let this keep her from going out and doing what she wants to do, whether it be dancing, modelling, or wearing a two-piece bathing suit in public.  

As a writer, there's always the temptation to focus on getting more readers or followers on social media, and you may end up retreating from certain topics that you feel may not make you as likable, or as popular. Sometimes we also don't dare to go beyond our comfort zone for fear of being criticized or attacked for expressing our genuine views. But allowing ourselves to be held hostage by such fears only stunt our growth and certainly diminish our authenticity. Let's take in Deepak Chopra's wise words: 
" all my research, the greatest leaders looked inward and were able to tell a good story with authenticity and passion."

3. Yes, she gets affected, and sometimes hurt by strangers unfairly judging her based solely on her weight; people making assumptions about the kind of person she is when they know nothing about her health issues and lifestyle. But I haven't seen her stoop to their level and instead does her best to stay calm and take the high road.

As a writer/blogger, it's not uncommon to encounter haters online. Instead of being able to constructively criticize and diplomatically disagree, some people would rather leave nasty comments that aim to attack not only your ideas but your personhood. In such situations, it's wiser to brush it off and walk away. You can't make everyone happy anyway, neither is it your job to do so as a writer. 

4.  On a recent episode, Whitney was trying to work out with a trainer and was challenged to do the burpee. She started out thinking she couldn't do it but eventually decided to take little steps until she could accomplish the task. Instead of focusing on executing the routine perfectly (which in effect would have kept her from even trying), she poured her energy on simply trying, taking it one step at a time.

Each writing piece, or any end result you are trying to produce, doesn't have to be brilliant and perfect all the time. What's important is that you show up, take the first step and keep at it. Don't get overwhelmed by the idea of a grand and perfect end result. Break it down into manageable steps and give yourself credit for all the accomplishments, no matter how small. That's the only way to build confidence which will motivate you to keep going.

5. Her goals are clear to her—to keep dancing, which is her passion, and at the same time reach a healthier weightand she surrounds herself with people who love and support her, and most of all, push her when she gets derailed or discouraged.

The truth is, it's challenging to keep pursuing something we love and sustains us when we don't have a support system. No matter who you are or what aspirations you have, it's essential that you have someone who anchors you, someone who genuinely loves you and will have the courage to tell you honestly when you are failing and also have the capacity to celebrate your successes with you.

So what does having a positive body image have in common with pursuing your passion, and in this case, blogging/writing? It's confidence! I understand it's easier said than done but it's a mental practice and takes consistency. Just don't give up!

Have you seen the show? What lessons have inspired you?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Night an Angel Came to Bowl

The bowling alley was packed. The line kept building up as more groups came, waiting for lanes to become available. Our family was just lucky enough to have made it in time, before the crowds started to pour in.

To the right of our lane was a group of friends in their late 20s. To our left was another family with small children. Noah was clearly enjoying the game and I remember feeling tired in spite of the fun. My son just kept going, eager to learn how to throw the ball properly, while I kept wishing the two games would end soon. Beyond ten frames, my arm and shoulder felt significantly weaker and each swing just got sloppier and sloppier to the point where my seven year old was scoring better than I was.

Just when I was starting to feel crappy and thought the night was becoming too boring for me, a young ladyin her late 20s perhapsapproached my son. I'm not sure if she was part of the group to our right or if she was just seated on the bar stools behind our lane but where ever she came from, she singled out my son. In her hands was a HUGE pile of arcade tickets. I can't even begin to tell you how many tickets she had but it almost seemed like she had an entire roll. It was so unbelievable that for a moment I thought she worked there and just grabbed the tickets from the back office!

"Do you want these?", she asked my son with her kind, friendly voice.

My son was standing roughly three feet away from me and I could see that he was too stunned to respond. He stretched his arms to receive the tickets as I heard my husband, who was standing next to him, say, "Sure! Thank you!"

As the lady started to walk away, I thanked her too and reminded my son to say thanks as well.  

"Oh, you're welcome!", she said with a sweet smile.

Image by: Lisa Padilla

Noah still couldn't believe what had just happened and said, "Mama, at first I thought she was kidding! That's why I couldn't say anything". 

We couldn't believe it either. At that point, my husband and I just kept telling Noah how remarkably nice that stranger was, and how lucky he is that he was chosen from among the many children who were around. 

After emphasizing to my son how blessed he is to experience such a touching random act of kindness and generosity, I told him to pay it forward. I suggested that he take a certain amount from the roll and share it with the kids next to our lane. 

My son was excited to do so and he went with his dad to hand a long strip of tickets over to the other family. They were very happy and grateful as well.

When we went to the machine to check the value of the tickets and see what we can exchange them for, we calculated that they were AT LEAST $50. We had a total of 899 points to exchange after feeding all the tickets into the machine. Instead of just ending up with the usual 'good-as-junk' flimsy, plastic toys that one gets from the glass encasement after every trip to the arcade, Noah was able to take home a stuffed toy bear, a toy gun, a small football and some stickers...the most he's ever gotten!

But this experience gets even more amazing at this point. After Noah got his toys, the same stranger who gave us the tickets was lined up to claim something for herself. She had 150 points left to claim and when she saw us, she even offered us her remaining points! We graciously declined and before finally stepping out, I tapped her shoulder one last time and said, "Thank you so much. We REALLY appreciate it!"

I don't think any of us will ever forget what happened. If I could have one crazy wish granted right now, it would be for that wonderful stranger to come across this post and know that for at least one night, she was someone's fairy godmother, a family's angel even! She transformed at least one family's ordinary night into one filled with a deep sense of gratitude, our tired bodies suddenly invigorated by her inspiring generosity, and our cynical souls left believing again that there's hope for humanity.

Any random act of kindness is never too small. I may never be able to personally tell that stranger of the real gifts she gave us that night. But I hope anyone who reads this realizes that such acts of kindness inevitably create sacred spaces where wonderful gifts manifest and multiply. She didn't only give us tickets. She awakened and transformed us. She shared her light, and this is light we shall carry, with the hope that we can continue transforming the ordinary into something extraordinary through utter generosity.

Our lives are not our own. 

We are bound to others, past and present, 

and by each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future.

(David Mitchell---Cloud Atlas) 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

It's Not Just a Confession

Image by: Michael Coghlan

"Bless me Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was...."

I still remember the confessionals, those boxes of terror that lined both sides of the parish church we used to go to when I was a child. Growing up in the Philippines, the Sacrament of Confession (also now known as Penance or Reconciliation,) was done during the Sunday Mass. I remember that during the service, whenever I knew I needed to go to confession, I would keep glancing at the confessionals to see which priest would enter the 'box' and administer the sacrament. Since I attended Sunday Mass consistently at the time, I knew which priests had a reputation for being strict and scary, and which ones where more approachable and, shall we say, 'gentle' as far as assigning penance before granting absolution. Being required the trio of praying the entire rosary, giving alms AND fasting was considered bad news compared to simply being required to say three Hail Mary's and the Act of Contrition. One had to choose well. And if you can time your confessionif only to guarantee ending up with the 'nice' priestthen do so to the best of your ability!

I remember the trepidation I felt during my very first confession...and each and every one thereafter. It was held in our school chapel and the nuns made sure we were adequately prepared for this sacrament. (Translate: The idea of a policing God who keeps scores was well-ingrained in this Catholic girl's mind.) I recall seeing some classmates who went before me, sobbing while confessing. I think I teared up a little bit but I'm not sure now if it was because I felt touched by the Holy Spirit or more because of my sense of shame after I just admitted my faults and inadequacies to a complete stranger. 

And in the spirit of coming cleanthis is about confession, after allI might as well admit that one of my most embarrassing life events also happened during confession. You know those movie scenes where the character enters the confessional, all hyped up to come clean as she emotionally enumerates her sins, only to eventually find out that the priest wasn't there yet when she started?? Yes, that was me. To make matters worse, the priest knew of my overeagerness because he was actually there, but attending to another penitent on the other side. Silly me, I didn't even notice that the screen divider wasn't open yet and that it was way too quiet while I was wasting all my words and all that emotive outpouring. When the screen finally slid open and the priest started to speak, I knew that he knew because I swear I heard a slight giggle in his voice. That could just be my paranoia talking but I'm pretty sure I left that priest shaking his head. Not only did I start without him, in the end, when he gave me my penance and asked that I recite the Act of Contrition right there and then, I had to admit to him that I hadn't memorized the prayer. He probably couldn't understand how someone who seemed overly excited to confess could show up so unprepared for penance. Sometimes I really just surprise myself at how much humiliation I'm capable of! Suffice it to say that this sacrament has never been a favorite of mine and one that I continue to avoid at all costs to this day.

This week, it'll be my son's turn. He will receive this very same sacrament for the first time. It made me smile and gave me peace of mind when I read the memo that parents should take this opportunity to teach the children that God is not a law-enforcer, but instead one who is about kindness, friendship and unconditional love. I'm happy that my son is learning this now and won't grow up with a sense of fear towards a God who only keeps scores and takes only perfection. 

Another positive thing I noticed was that his religious education class and the Church now refer to the sacrament as 'Reconciliation' rather than 'Confession'. As a matter of fact, my son had no idea what I meant when I first referred to it as 'confession'. I do think 'reconciliation' sounds more inviting, less authoritative and not at all one-sided. To me, it focuses more on a mutual process of making amends, forgiveness and a moving forward from both sides.

Asking for forgiveness is anything but easy. To ask for forgiveness necessitates the grace of humility. To admit one's own wrong-doing inevitably breaks through any illusions of perfection we may have about ourselves. It requires a willingness to be vulnerable because you need to open yourself up to dig deep and acknowledge your failings, both to your self as well as to the one you ask forgiveness from.

This is also why at the heart of asking for forgiveness lies courage. It is as much about our courage to acknowledge our flaws, as it is about our courage in confronting the possibility that forgiveness is never guaranteed when we ask for it. There's always that risk.

However, during this time when my son is about to go through this sacrament, I assured him that God's love and capacity to forgive is way beyond what he can imagine. I told him that God knows he will still make mistakes in the future but what's important is for him to sincerely want to do better. That's what gives meaning to the act of asking for forgiveness. In the end, I believe that's what God wants for all of us. It's not flawlessness, but that we simply never lose our internal compass that shows us not just what is right from wrong, but most importantly points us toward the direction of the best version of our selves. 

I wish my son much courage as he goes through this rite of passage. Most of all, I pray that he feels deep in his soul how this sacrament has nothing to do with fear, nor shame, and is really all about Love and Compassion.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Clean Up to Blog Better

I love organizing. And while a lot of people are busy these first few days of the new year trying to organize their homes and their schedules, it occurred to me that a similar kind of clean-up can also benefit my life as a blogger/ writer. If you're anything like mefinding it harder than expected to kick-start your writing this new yearthese three simple steps might just do the trick. At the very least, it gives you something concrete to start working on. Incorporating these practical habits into your routine will help bring you closer to your goal of becoming a more focused and committed blogger.

1. Clean your physical work space

I understand that different people have different work styles and preferences. But personally, I just function better when I have an organized and relatively calming surrounding. So for the past few days, I've taken the time to get rid of the holiday mess that seemed to have piled up in my office. Gift ribbons, holiday wrappers, greeting cards, bills, and junk mail all had to be either put away or shredded. I needed my desk to breathe again and for the surface to show. The simple reality is that the more organization I saw, the less distraction I had, allowing me to focus more on the real work ahead.

2. Clean your virtual space

As a writer / blogger, I spend an insane amount of time on the computer writing my essays and engaging in a host of other activities that go with online publishing: research, reading other articles for inspiration, gathering blog images, and looking at publication opportunities, among other things. On a typical day, you'd see my computer screen with no less than five tabs open (and that's being very conservative) and most of the time, I end up bookmarking various sites for future reference. Though I've created folders and subfolders with even more subfolders in an attempt to organize these gazillion bookmarks, I've found that it has simply gone out of control. It was time to clean this space if I want to be able to work more efficiently and pull out my writing resources more quickly when needed. Some links were too old and were no longer active sites and therefore had to be deleted. The same goes for the publication opportunities with expired deadlines. Some links were misfiled or mislabeled and therefore had to be moved to the proper folder. 

Starting this year, I also decided to create and work off of an editorial calendar. Yes, believe it or not, I've never made one for myself all these years but have now discovered its advantages. It's never too late to at least try to do better, even for someone who's been doing this for roughly six years! For one, I'd be forced to plan ahead instead of perpetually torturing myself to come up with topics to write about. Using an editorial calendar will also (hopefully) make me more disciplined as it puts more structure into my weekly schedule, guiding me with tasks that I need to focus on (e.g. writing fresh content for Catharsis, revisiting evergreen content, submitting existing or new material for publication to other sites or anthologies). If you need ideas to spruce up your editorial calendar, you might want to check out this Pinterest board by Susan Maccarelli of Beyond Your Blog. It's a valuable resource.

All this virtual space organization took (and will continue to take) a lot of time and patience but I knew this clean-up had to be done and needs a constant renewal of commitment if I want to fulfill my promise to myself to become a more organized and focused blogger starting this year.

3. Clean your mental clutter

This is the most important and most challenging clean-up involved if you are serious about being better at your craft. To me, it's not so much as simply being able to concentrate and remain focused in order to accomplish my writing. More importantly, it's the need to rid my mind of the unnecessary noise, the mental obstacles that make 'wanting' and 'planning' too comfortable for me, and as a result keep me from 'doing', 'executing'. These noises or voices are the ones telling me that I shouldn't write unless it's perfect, or highly profound, relevant, something other editors will love and end up publishing on their sites; the ones telling me that my voice is not unique, that I'll never be as good as those other writers, or that no one listens and that none of this matters.

I know that the voice I need to amplify is the one that says I just need to keep writing and stop judging myself. Each of us has a story to tell. It doesn't have to be highly dramatic, heartbreaking or remarkably life-altering. Having some form of trauma, abuse or some unusual life story are not prerequisites to good writing. All that's needed is authenticity, the courage to write YOUR story, YOUR truth, in YOUR own voice. That is all, and that's the best place to start from.

Which of these techniques work for you? Are there other 'clean-ups' that help you blog more efficiently?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Blog Posts of 2014 I'm Happy Never to See Again

I'm sad to see the holidays go, really I am. But since I promised myself to always do my best to see the glass being half-full, I'll adjust my lenses this time around.

Yes, I'll miss the empty space left behind by our Christmas tree. I will ache a little every time I see a colder looking mantle, or the bland wall abandoned by the colorful string LED lights we hung above our television. Most of all, I know that I'd feel a bit lost for a few days as I search for that palpable sense of anticipation and excitement in the air.

But just as I'd miss all that, there are things I'm happy to finally see go (I hope!); things on the blogosphere, in particular, that I can't take another ounce of. These are either holiday-related or just posts I've seen too much of that I'm beginning to think I'm in a perpetual state of dèjà vu. One more of these and I am very likely to snap and just end up randomly slapping people.

So without further ado, here are my top three types of blog posts that I'm excited to bid farewell to and hope to never see again :

Image by: Miguel Angel

1. Posts on the annoying Elf on the Shelf 

It was in 2013 when I first started reading posts on this little imp. The first I read was humorous and I found it so spot on. Then I read a second one, and a third, and I'm sure many more but I just lost interest by then and decided to move on. I guess I expected too much when I thought the rest of the world moved on with me because this year, I saw the same posts, or at least they read so eerily (and annoyingly) similar, though written by different authors. It's all about how it all starts out with the desire to have fun trying to create magic for the kids by coming up with the craziest, most creative antics imaginable. And then as expected, it all turns into a living hell as the bar keeps being raised and the expectations become unachievable. Add this pressure to the need to clean up all the crazy mess this stupid elf leaves, and it's a formula for the worst, most sickeningly whiny post a mom blogger could ever come up with. So yes, I am so over these elf posts and I pray to God I don't see any of these next December. Let's just move on, people!

2. "Scam" blog posts giving "tips" on how to blog better

I will ban you from my reading list for life if I find you guilty of this. These are the posts with the most enticing titles, luring you to click on them because the writer makes it seem like the article will be full of novel and brilliant ideas that will help you and me blog better, have insane traffic and whoa!...even earn a lot of money! And then you enter the site and read what the author has to say and it's nothing but crap, things that even someone who just started blogging yesterday already knows. You'll find advice such as "write good material", "keep learning", "be creative", or "choose a good title". And then you reach the end of the article and wonder where the rest of the promised valuable information is. At the end of it, you just feel duped for clicking through this sh*t and wish you could give the author the finger. 

3. Open letters to future daughters- /sons- in-law

Look, I'm a mom too, and one who's so in love with her own offspring and want only the best for him. But no matter how much I love my son, I really see no point in writing a letter this early to someone fictitious who may or may not come into my son's life, telling that person how awesome my child is and how I want him to be treated and loved. When I first came across such a blog post, initially I thought it was endearing. I mean, here are moms who are drowning in love for their babies. But then after a while I thought how a little neurotic (to say the least) it actually is. Your child's just a baby and doesn't even know where his/her genitalia are, and here you are contemplating on what you want to say to his/ her future partner in life?? Seriously?! If the objective of these letters is to make sure that your beloved child repels any sane and wise partner in life who knows what's good for them, then congratulations! You've just devised the best in-law repellent known to man! News flash: Relationships with mothers-in-law are complicated enough as it is. Why must you go over the top and announce to the world how awesome your kid is that really, no one will ever be good enough to deserve him/ her? Wise. Very wise move.....

Now that I've gotten that out of the way and out of my chest,
allow me to greet all of you
a BLESSED 2015!
May we all strive to read (AND write) better material!

How about you? Are there blog topics that you feel have been overly-covered this past year and really can't take any more of at this point? Please do share in the comments below!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Christmas Wish For You


Don't you just love that word? There's something about it that makes you really breathe out and let it all go.


Now that Santa's cookies are done and ready to be served, the presents are all wrapped, and cards all sent out...


The bird is ready, potatoes all mashed, baked and fancied up; the pies, pastries or cakes are smelling divine and the drinks are all chilled...


This is my wish for you this Christmas, that you can exhale, let go, be still.

Maybe you are spent from all the holiday preparations. Maybe that stupid elf on the shelf made you curse unnecessarily these past weeks...

Maybe you are caring for a sick loved one. Maybe you are worried sick about your, or a family member's health...

Maybe you are far from home, your heart missing those dear to you...

Exhale. Let go. Be still.

This is Christmas' gift to us. The anticipation is over and Christmas has finally arrived. Everyone takes a pause, simmers in the joy, and focuses on the love.

Exhale. Let go. Be still. Nothing has to be perfect, not the day, the gifts, the decorations, nor anyone around us. It's a day about Love and Love never demanded perfection. It only asks for open hearts and the courage needed to focus only on those things that truly matter to our souls.

Merry Christmas, Catharsis family and friends! 
May you find comfort and peace as you exhale, let go, be still, and give in to Love and the true meaning of this season.

Friday, December 19, 2014

We Gave Tamiflu A Shot, And Here's What Happened...

I knew it was only a matter of time. 

On Monday, Noah's teacher announced that there's something going around. 70 kids out sick at his school. 

The next day, my hairstylist informs me while snipping away at my hair, that at her daughter's school, less than 10 miles away from us, 98 students were out sick. Statistically speaking, I knew the odds were against us. I kept praying, "If we can just get through this week, just this week....please..."

And then Wednesday morning came and I got the dreaded call from the school nurse. 

"Mom, your son is here with me at the clinic and he's complaining of a headache and his temperature is 99.6. So....can you come pick him up?"

I could've been a smart ass and argued that 99.6 is technically not a fever. But I also knew that my son is not the type who fakes illnesses and who won't really agree to be sent to the clinic in the first place unless he really wasn't feeling well.

And so I rushed to pick him up and saw that my son really didn't look good at all. While walking towards the car, he said he felt extremely nauseous and that his head was throbbing really bad. By the time we got home, his temperature began to spike and I knew in my heart it was the dreaded FLU.

Yes, we all got vaccinated, we are fairly healthy, and doing our best to always wash or sanitize our hands and minimize the face-touching. Yes to all that so NO, I did not see this coming. 

On Thursday morning, I was able to book an appointment at the pediatrician's office and after two swabs (one for the flu and another for strep) and a longer than normal wait time, the doctor informed us that my son does have the flu. On the bright side though, she quickly added, my son came early enough (less than 48 hours after the initial onset of symptoms) for him to get the benefit of taking the antiviral drug Tamiflu.

I asked if what I heard was true, that Tamiflu can cause hallucinations. The doctor said yes, it does.

Then I asked if the drug can prevent further complications of the flu, such as pneumonia. The doctor said no, it does not.

I've heard of this drug for at least a couple of years now but never really bothered to do serious research on it. So with an optimistic heart and an in-denial mommy brain, I agreed to the prescription and focused on my desperation to shorten my son's illness and make the experience for him as bearable as I could, or as any drug could.

This sense of desperation was further made obvious by my willingness to pay the pharmacist $70+ in exchange for the last bottle they had! How lucky can I be?!

So I went home eager to administer the first dose to my suffering child. I fed him a little bit and then gave him the medicine. 

After 30 minutes, he threw up...a lot. After that, I encouraged him to rest and take a nap. In the next two hours that followed, he kept opening his eyes and with a troubled look on his face kept asking me, "Am I bigger to you? Am I taller? I feel so tall, Mama. I feel like I'm floating above, like I'm right by the ceiling"

At that point I really wondered if it was the drug. I knew it wasn't delirium from his fever because his temperature wasn't even that high. It only hovered around 102. But since I still wanted so badly to trust in Tamiflu and its 'mighty powers', I chose to remain in denial and chalked it up to Noah's predisposition to sleep talking or night terrors. 

Everything changed when one of my lovely neighbors messaged me on Facebook. They live across the street and her daughter also started with the flu last weekend. She sent me this blog post talking about cases of deaths in Japan after taking Tamiflu. It also mentions how Roche (the manufacturer of Tamiflu) has refused to release all the data from their clinical trials for the said drug.

After reading that one post, I decided to keep searching online and weigh all the information I could find. 

A lot of the information are anecdotal and I still wasn't all that convinced. However, I found these two sites that made me all the more comfortable with my decision NOT to continue with Tamiflu for my seven year-old. 

What has become clear to me is that this drug does not seem all that safe especially when administered to children, and that at this point, it appears that the risks still outweigh the benefit (which may just be a shortening of flu symptoms by one day). I would rather have my child go through that extra day if it means not giving him the severe nausea, diarrhea (which, by the way, he also had), hallucinations, and other possible psychotic episodes that have been reported. 

I'm not here to tell you what to do. I'm merely sharing our brief experience with this drug and the data I've found online. The point here is that medical / health decisions are personal and it is our responsibility to weigh the facts available to us instead of merely relying on advertisements, hearsay or make hasty decisions based on fear.

To end on a lighter, more holiday-appropriate note, I'm leaving you with this song I 'wrote'. Sing it to your heart's content to the tune of 'Here Comes Santa Claus'.  Enjoy!

Here Comes Tamiflu

Here comes Tamiflu,
Here comes Tamiflu,
Right down 'Fluenza lane
Oseltamivir and Phosphate
Pullin' on the reins
Voices talkin', Shadows chasin',
All is causing me fright
So lock your doors and say your prayers,
'Cause Tamiflu comes tonight.

Here comes Tamiflu,
Here comes Tamiflu,
Right down 'Fluenza lane
It's got promises you can't confirm
for boys and girls again.
Read those reviews and research papers,
Oh what a frightful sight.
So jump in bed and rest instead
Before Tamiflu comes tonight.

Here comes Tamiflu,
Here comes Tamiflu,
Right down 'Fluenza lane
It'll come around when the temperature drops
It's flu time once again.
Fun and Health will come to all
Just rest, hydrate and sit tight
Don't spend your money, you prob'ly don't need it
Don't need Tamiflu tonight.

Do you have any experience with this drug that you'd like to share? I would love to hear your stories!

Friday, December 12, 2014

In Defense of the Stage Mother

He stood on stage, happily singing and moving his arms in 'perfect' coordination with the words of the songs. He was obviously having fun, as I was, and I sat there several feet away from the stage, feeling proud and joyful. I stared at my second-grader the whole night. As far as my eyes were concerned, there was only one spotlight and it was all on him.

Remember those advertisements or movie scenes where the parent looks at their grown child but actually sees the younger or 'baby' version of that child instead? I had that experience last night. As I stared intently at my son, with a smile and obvious sense of wonder plastered on my face, I was actually toggling between seven- and three-year old Noah. I kept wondering how this 'baby' became so amazing and never fails to keep me in a perpetual state of awe. I clearly felt so star-struck, only it was far better than that, far more real because I knew I was in awe of someone I TRULY love as unconditionally as my humanity allows.

After each song he completed on stage, especially after singing his solo part, my husband and I noticed how Noah would glance at us, clearly trying to see how much approval we were expressing. I raised my arms to show him I was clapping hard and kept showing him a double thumbs-up. We knew it wasn't perfect. Noah knew that. But every child on that stage gave their very best and clearly did it with all the joy in their hearts and that made it so perfect and memorable. The entire gym was simply full of love last night.

How we appeared as a family last night makes it hard to believe that just two nights ago, hearts broke and tears were shed. Noah told me something that he remembered doing in school a couple of months ago, something that really disappointed me, and so I gave him a long lecture. If you knew me, you'd know that a long lecture means a LONG lecture and that I can belabor a point to death, with as many versions imaginable, and then do it all over again. (Thanks to 7 years of teaching college kids). That's how long it was. Too long for a seven year old brain, admittedly.

He said I made him feel stupid when I correct him. I said it's not my intention and that it's my responsibility to correct him and guide him because I love him. I told him how disappointed I was and that what he did was unacceptable in my books. He promised not to do it again and to always do his best next time. We ended with our usual Maya Angelou line, "When you know better, you do better".

After all is said and done, the fact is that I was disappointed and so was my son. And we both know that mistakes will continue to happen and that we will continue to disappoint and hurt each other because that's just how it goes.

Love and Disappointment is a package deal.

If you want loveto love and be lovedyou must accept that you will be disappointed and will disappoint, because love can only be possible if you welcome vulnerability. It will hurt tremendously, and this is why it's important that when you love someone, you assure them that your love is stronger than your disappointment. This is why it's important that as parents, we show our children as much unconditional love as we can so that as they grow up and learn to love others, they will also know that disappointment does not end love. It's not the period to any of love's narratives.

My son is not, and will never be, perfect. Not even in my eyes. As for me, well, let me say that there are countless days in a year when I ask myself if God was sure He did the right thing in making me a parent. I often wonder how much therapy my son would eventually need because he ended up with me as his mother.

But in spite of these feelings of inadequacy, all our mistakes and hurts, I am certain my son knows that for me, he is and will always be front and center; that I will always hold a spotlight for him, ready to flood his life with as much love and illumination as he needs. In this sense, I know now that every mother who does her best to love unconditionally plays the role of the best stage mother there is. We all want the same thing and that is for our children to shine in life as they play the role of the best version of themselves. It won't be perfect, but hopefully it will play out with immeasurable joy.

Friday, December 5, 2014

5 (Non-Lame) Reasons Why I Can't Workout at the Gym

Now that Thanksgiving is done, my ambivalence over this week has arrived, settled in, blew up its airbed and completely made itself feel at home.

Though I love how this week marks the beginning of Christmas preparations, this is also the week when all the remorse and self-loathing from allowing myself to overeat last week during Thanksgiving set in.

"I have to work out", is the constant voice in my head these days. And thank God I have a treadmill in my home, because frankly, you can't drag me to the gym. Not even if you dangled chocolate truffle-stuffed peanut butter cake pops coated in dark chocolate every step of the way.

It's not simply because of my introversion and my avoidance of as much human interaction as possible that strengthen my resistance to working out in the gym. And I wish I could tell you that it's because I think gym memberships are too expensive and that I simply don't want to pay for something I know I won't be able to wholeheartedly commit to. 

Those aren't my real reasons. 

These are...

Original Image by: Health Gauge

1. I'm too self-conscious and too lazy. Bad combination if you're talking about going out of the house. I'm too lazy to fix myself just to mess myself up within 30 mins of making all the effort to look presentable. I don't have a kind of haircut that permits me to just wear a headband or a pony tail to remedy a bed head. This means I'd have to shampoo and blow dry just to feel good about stepping out in public. My face also gets too puffy in the mornings and since I'm a bad sleeper, I also have to deal with dark circles around my eyes. Just the thought of making the effort to look presentable, only to sweat already exhausts me. It just doesn't make sense to me when I know I can just hop on my treadmill at home and feel free to look like crap. 

2. Exercise turns me into the Big Bad Wolf.  No, it's not that I morph into a villain. However, serious physical exertion does seem to transform me into some sort of blower. I huff, and puff, and I do it LOUD. After a couple of minutes of jogging, I end up exhaling really hard that anyone brave enough to stand within two feet of my face would surely feel my breath. Oh, and I think it's worth mentioning that when I get really focused and push myself to the edge of exhaustion, I sometimes unconsciously stick out my tongue to the side of my mouth. No, it's not sexy. Trust me. It looks odd and I'm sure, off-putting. These types of behavior are simply not for public consumption. Let me just stay at home and allow me to preserve some dignity.

3. Other hidden talents tend to come out. I hate exercising, so I really need to motivate myself for about 30-40 minutes and make sure I keep moving on my treadmill. To do so, I rely heavily on music. Having my iPod with me is imperative so I can listen to my workout playlist and feel feisty. As a result, I always end up singing along with The Style Council, The Script, and most especially Taylor Swift, while I also end up making these ugly, emotive facial expressions to go with the songs. From shouting "you're the best thing that ever happuh-hund" "we, are never, ever, ever....getting back together...", it's really like a mini-concert and I don't think any gym patron or other workout enthusiasts would be a fan of my performances. 

4. I have 'control' issues. Now, I really don't know how else to say this, or if I can even really sugar-coat this. And I wish I could say that if I told you, then I'm gonna have to kill you. But then who would read my blog? So, I guess I just have to spit this out and tell it like it is. Somehow, all the movement on the treadmill sometimes makes me either want to piss or take a dump. And while we're at it, I'll throw in 'passing gas' for good measure. It doesn't happen 100% of the time, but it happens often enough to convince me that working out outside of my home is not such a good idea for me. What if I feel the urge and have to run to the restroom, but have only used up 10 minutes of my treadmill time? I would have to lose my spot to someone else and it would just be such a hassle, not to mention extremely embarrassing if green gas followed me around! That would just be a waste of gym membership since I can guarantee that I'd never be able to show my face there ever again. Ever!

5. I'm a germaphobe. I think this is self-explanatory.

Beyond these five reasons however, there's really only one that perfectly justifies my choice to just workout at home.

My son made me a 'GO MA MA' banner and asked that I hang it in front of my treadmill in order to motivate me. He also placed a 'Way To Go' sign with his cut-out arrows right in front of me so that I won't give up and tire so easily. Isn't that just pure sweetness? I'm pretty sure no fancy gym anywhere in the world can offer me such heartwarming perks!

What about you? Do you have other non-lame reasons for staying out of the gym?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Turkey's Dread

Last week, my second grader had to work on his 'Turkey In Disguise' project. Admittedly, my being foreign-born and -bred made me clueless as to the rationale of a turkey wanting to be something else. It's during those times when Google becomes an indispensable best friend. 

In the end, my son decided he wanted his turkey to be Batman in order to avoid being hunted and eaten. And since I'm a normal mom with other concerns and don't exactly swoon over each and every school project my son completes, I didn't bother taking a picture of his Batman turkey. Instead, I have Mr. Boxer Champ below as a sample picture just to give some of you an idea as to what this 'tradition' is all about. 

A Turkey in Disguise

In any case, I got inspired by this school project to create a haiku, something brief so as not to interfere too much in the chaos that I'm sure we'll all experience at some point during the festivities this week.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! 
And remember--Be kind to your turkey and try to do it justice.  

The Turkey's Dread

In disguise this week,
I'm hoping to spare myself
from mushy stuffing.