Friday, June 26, 2015

Road Trip Part II: Everything IS Big in Texas

"I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 22, everything will be alright if...." Taylor Swift was still echoing in my head minutes after turning my music off. We were talking, commenting on the traffic, the drizzle and then BANG! 

Or was it BOOM?! 

The loud sound of metal crashing.

"What the....!"

I was on the front passenger seat of our SUV, with my Mom behind me, and Dad behind my husband who was driving. Noah was in his car seat between my parents. I looked to our left as I felt our vehicle jerk to the side. Mom screamed. I was mostly confused. I still couldn't process what was happening until I saw this red truck moving between us and the left guardrail, hitting our left side all the way through until BAM! The other driver had obviously lost control and swerved right, further hitting the front of our SUV. At some point, I saw and heard the left airbags deploy, and I could hear my Mom still screaming in shock. I looked back and saw she was in tears, asking if my Dad was okay. Dad's ear was bleeding, though only superficially. He said he couldn't hear on his left ear. AJ's left arm was a bit sore from the airbag. We were all in shock, disoriented. I couldn't figure out why the truck that hit our rear still kept moving and hitting us. It was all so fast and yet it felt like the longest 30 seconds or so.

What just happened?!

It didn't take long before AJ dialed 911. While on the phone, we saw an old man alight from the red truck that hit us, and watched him walk closer towards us. He was shaking, asking if we were alright. He mumbled something about his mother being stuck inside his truck. The 911 operator instructed all of us to stay where we were, flash our hazards and that help was on its way. I'm certain the operator said a lot more but honestly, I was too much in survival mode at the time that I really don't remember all the details of what was said. I was mostly concerned with making sure everyone was okay and figuring out if I was still REALLY alive. (To be honest, I still wonder now if this is all real and that I really made it out of there alive, or if I'm like Tom Cruise in the movie Vanilla Sky).

We were 42 miles northeast of Dallas, travelling towards Benton, Arkansas where we were booked at a hotel to spend the night. One more day and we were back home from our vacation in Las Vegas, our almost two-week cross-country drive. Everything had been fun and amazing up until that point when things just turned plain scary. 

Who would've thought? We were doing everything right. AJ was awake. I was awake making sure he was awake. Traffic wasn't even fast. We were on our lane. We always signal when we change lanes and always do it carefully. But not everyone is the same, right? We still don't know what caused the other driver to hit us. He might have been distracted. He might have fallen asleep. But the logical conclusion is that he clearly did not anticipate that traffic had slowed down in front of him and he just kept going. We're just thankful that it appeared like he had done his best to not hit us head on. Our guess is that he hit the left guardrail first to try not to hit our vehicle, but then he probably ricocheted and ended up hitting our left rear wheel area and then slid all the way to our left side, inserting his truck between us and the left guardrail. Finally he swerved to our front, towards our right, until his vehicle stopped. 

It was a big accident that stopped the interstate for a while. It was bad. And traumatic for all of us. But in the grand scheme of things, we are still grateful and believe that angels watched over us and protected us. It definitely could have been worse...much worse.

What if we were hit directly on the back? The force would have pushed us towards the semi-truck that was right in front of us in traffic. 

What if, instead of hitting the left rear wheel which is a solid part of the vehicle, the other driver had hit the left passenger door which is more vulnerable and not as solid as the wheel? My Dad's injury would have been far worse, far more serious. All of us might have had some injuries too, including my 8-year old. I refuse to even think about it.

Point of impact

Damaged front

Damaged right front corner

Trauma and paranoia aside, this experience highlighted a number of lessons and realizations for me. 

First of all, please, please, please...Wear your seat belt, even when you're seated in the back. All the police officers, EMTs, nurses and doctors asked us that question and were all relieved to hear that all of us were wearing ours. I'm sure it would've been a different story if one or some of us were not securely belted in the vehicle.

Second, I still can't explain why I remained so oddly calm while it was all happening. I remember hearing a crashing metal sound and then the airbag popping and everything else that happened around me. But I also remember just simply looking and knowing deep down that we were going to be alright. I don't know how or why I thought this but the thought definitely kept me calm. Divine intervention? Perhaps. Who knows?

Third, I know it's cliche but life can really change in an instant. You always say it will never happen to you, until it does and you're shaken to the core. These experiences really make one focus on the good and the real things that matter. I believe that is Love. It's the people we truly love, the relationships we genuinely treasure. Everything else is 'stuff', background noise, replaceable. It's a shame that it takes crises for this realization to be brought to the fore. But as Maya Angelou always preached, "When you know better, you do better."

Before I end this post, I'd like to share that though the accident was truly unfortunate, I believe we were still fortunate and blessed to have met such caring and supportive Texans. Officer Daniel looked after us and made sure we received the help we needed. The hospital staff who cared for us at Hunt Regional Medical Center in Greenville, Texas, specifically nurse Brandi and William, are two of the most amazing strangers I've ever met. They were willing to give us a ride to the closest hotel and went above and beyond their professional responsibilities. I will forever remember their kindness and thank them from the depths of my being. May they always be blessed with earthly angels just as we've been blessed with them.

Thank you everyone for your thoughts and stay safe!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Road Trip Part 1: What Happens in Vegas and Beyond

After my two-week hiatus, here I am doing my best to catch up. I've realized that having a social media-based type of work brings with it a different kind of pressure. Nothing stops or waits for you. No one else can really take over your workload. But that's how it is with every vacation, right? You have fun, be in the moment, and just deal with 'reality' post-vacation. 

As with anything, there is the good, the bad, and the scary ugly in our case. For now, let's treat this post as part one, where I'll share with you the fun highlights of our trip.

Our family went on a (semi) cross country trip. From TN, we drove all the way to Las Vegas, NV, stopping by (1) Oklahoma City, OK and (2) Albaquerque, NM on the way there. On the way back, from Las Vegas we stopped at (1) Albaquerque, NM; (2) Abilene, TX; and (3) Benton, AK before finally reaching home. The whole trip took 12 days, 7 of which were spent in Las Vegas.

Here are some highlights and I hope you enjoy!

I did my best to capture photos whenever we crossed state lines. I guess I was too distracted and excited by the time we reached Nevada that I completely forgot to grab my camera. 

Weather got a bit scary, ESPECIALLY during our drive back. We got stormy weather in Texas and at some point, visibility was severely affected and I was holding my breath as I looked around to make sure there were no funnel clouds forming around us.....whew!

Taking my parents and Noah to see the Grand Canyon was really fun. The last time AJ and I were here was in 2005 and Noah always wondered why he wasn't in the pictures displayed at home. I guess it's time to update them...

Las Vegas is ALWAYS fun for us! AJ was able to get us front row seats to a Blue Man group show and it was a blast! The theme was science and technology but I'd be happy to just call it a light and sound party! Noah enjoyed it so much and I'm sure it was even made more memorable by the fact that he was chosen by one of the blue men to receive an artwork made during the show. Paint was spat out from one of the cast member's mouth as he spun a canvas in his hand. It was amazing! Noah is so proud and so attached to the painting that I can't even bribe him with anything to surrender the canvas to me. Boo!

A few other Vegas highlights were----

...watching the light show at the Bellagio

Me smiling a bit too much ;-)

...AJ and I making it to Rao's since eating at the original New York location is humanly impossible. And yes, the food was phenomenal. You know how they're known for their meatballs and I was thinking it's probably overrated?? Well, they are NOT. Our meal from start to finish was impressive. The mussels were perfectly cooked. The Pasta Bolognese was well-seasoned. The Ossobuco with risotto was tender and velvety. And the meatballs were ethereal! We were so stuffed that we had to skip dessert. Now that's definitely reason enough to go back!

Lovely date night with my darling my parents and Noah the Fremont Street experience. Actually, this wasn't so kid-friendly given that there were half-naked women walking around. I kind of regret taking my son there but...oh well...lesson learnt.

Outside of Las Vegas, we were able to visit the Hoover Dam....

...the Meteor Crater in the Arizona desert...

...and the UFO Museum in Roswell, NM. Unfortunately, I did not spot any real UFOs while driving through the different states. 

It was a fun and memorable family time UNTIL our drive back home. I'll share with you more details in Part Two next time. Let's keep this post lighthearted and end it on a positive note! 

I hope everyone is having a great summer break! To those who have missed my online presence, THANK YOU for your patience and your thoughts and for welcoming me back! I'll see you around! 


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

When Love Ages

A friend and former co-worker recently posted on Facebook an old photo of me and and my husband. It was taken less than three months prior to my giving birth to Noah in 2007, when some of my coworkers decided to throw me a baby shower. It was to be my first baby, and it was my first job here in this country so I thought the gesture was really sweet and I'll always be grateful for it. 

I've been staring at this picture for days now and I can't help but feel like it came from a lifetime ago. And it's not just because I weighed less then and looked much younger. No, I won't go there lest my friend (and the photographer herself!) Anne ends up lecturing me on loving myself more and to stop body shaming myself! 

It's really because when I look at these two people in the photo, I'm reminded of the simple times. He had an office job and so did I. We would see each other at the beginning and end of each work day, eat dinner together, watch shows at night before falling asleep and on and on it went. With the sensitive pregnancy and the hard work we put in just to conceive, I felt that my husband took such good care of me, like I was fragile and needed to be spoiled. I couldn't be stressed out, shouldn't be angered, or made to feel sad and depressed. I felt especially adored.

And then I gave birth and nothing was ever the same. I decided to quit my office job to take care of our son full time. The amount of stress became unquantifiable, the depression undeniable. Love and adoration were no longer just shared between the two of us. It had to be spread out to include our wonderful son. Worries and paranoia became permanent residents in my brain as I became consumed with my role as mama bear. And he, as papa bear, found new priorities, greater responsibilities and demands on his time. New stresses came as we faced the economic recession, threats of job loss, and then a new job and a new home in a different state, 500 miles away from what he's known most of his life. Far from his family and friends, it was the first time in our marriage when both of us found ourselves with a new sense of isolation and the need to reconstruct our reality as a couple and family. 

The joys are there for sure, though perpetually balanced by some heaviness, doubts, anger, insecurities. More than ever, we found ourselves as two beings with quite disparate axes, yet willing ourselves to stay on orbit as we are pulled and grounded repeatedly by an undeniable force.

Love. This must be lovethis force that is built by us and yet also bigger, more powerful than just our consciousness combined. It creates us and yet demands our nurturance. We know of its endurance, and yet also cannot deny its fragility. 

Love is when you surrender to what will make your beloved truly whole and happy, knowing that this act of death on your part only breathes more life into what truly matters and what is lasting. It is to feel a vulnerability so deep that fear takes over every inch of your essence. And this is why you can't fully love unless you have faithnot that your beloved will make you happy or give you what you desire, but faith that your mere experience of true love, without expectation, ALWAYS brings gifts to those it touches. When you learn how to truly love, your deeper understanding of it makes you recognize more of it around you as it fills you. When you learn how to truly love, you automatically feel the Divine's presence in your being. 

The younger version of us in that photo may represent a simpler, more romantic version of our bond. But I won't trade the complexity we have now for that past life. We have fought more since. Cried more. Screamed more. Hurt more. But we've also talked more. Opened up more. Experienced a greater level of authentic intimacy. We remain imperfect, as is our marriage. But Love
with all its gifts of devotion, courage, compassionremains our bright and persistent star that keeps us in orbit. It is that force that always reminds me that there are no other arms I'd rather have draped on my shoulders, holding me close, than his, my AJ's.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


You can tell a lot about a person by the way she/he responds to pain.

When you hurt...

You can strike back. 
You can retreat.
You can deny the pain exists.
You can drown it in other distractions.
You can nurse the wound and wail silently in your sorrow,
or you can announce it to the world for them to cheer you on.
You can fall on your knees and call out to the Divine,
or curse what you've been dealt and feel driven by anger.

I keep it,
for as long as I could.
I try to breathe it in,
turn it inside out, dig deeper into it,
take the shards in my hand only to cut myself again...
and again.

I swim out of it, or at least try to,
if only to steal a breath or two,
and dive and drown in it all over again, as if in search of something.
I sing with it, dance to it, but most of all,
I write verses with it.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why Do You Scream?

 “You always scream at me!”

I turned my swivel chair to face my eight year old boy and saw his face turn red, eyes welled up with tears.  I felt sorry but was simultaneously so frustrated that the next best alternative for me was to try to calm down and explain myself to him.

“Do you know why I raise my voice and then finally scream?” 

He murmured, “Because you’re angry?”

“No. It’s because I feel like you don’t hear me.  The reason why people talk louder, raise their voices and then scream is because they want to be heard.”

I wasn't planning on that explanation at all, but since divine wisdom seemed to have decided to descend upon my short-fused and moody self, I couldn't refuse.

We scream to be heard. And we all have the desire to be heard, don’t we?

But each of us ‘screams’ in different ways and it’s not always easy to realize it.

Sometimes we act out in different ways in place of a scream.

We overeat.

We drink too much.

We get addicted to drugs or medications.

We rebel, throw tantrums or exhibit belligerent behavior.

Some of us end up overworking. Some choose to be perpetually tardy at their jobs.

Or we choose to retreat and become depressed.

‘Screams’ also sometimes manifest as silence. We withhold.

I think a lot of the times I’m the silent, withholding type. And I write. Sometimes I ‘scream’ here, on this site. But a lot of the times I just keep my written screams to myself to minimize collateral damage.

If there is anything I deem most important about screams, it is this lesson: 

 That one has to care to hear; one has to have heart to have ear. 

To hear and truly listen to someone’s difficulties, anger, pain, sense of isolation or any other wound one carries, you need to REALLY see the other person, be open and have compassion. Screaming back at another’s screams only creates more noise, produces more useless energy that blocks each person from truly receiving what lies behind the scream. 

I don't advocate screaming, nor am I encouraging parents to scream at your children. There are other alternatives, yes, and I'm not here to justify my behavior towards my son. Instead, I hope that next time I'd be more aware of why I'm really screaming, what it is that I want heard, acknowledged or received. 

What's behind your scream? In what other ways do you find yourself 'screaming'?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

What I Know For Sure About Motherhood

In observance of Mother's Day, I'd like to share (in Oprah-ish fashion) things I've become most certain about when it comes to motherhood. We already know it's a lot of hard work. And that it will surprise you with the amount of love you never knew existed in your heart. But beyond those obvious things, what else have become true for me which I am willing to bet are likely true for a lot of other mothers as well? 

Here are my thoughts after my eight-year stint in this job:

There's no one-size-fits-allunless it concerns child safety or health, and existing recommendations are backed by science (e.g. vaccinations, sleep safety, car seat safety, etc). My point is that there is no reason to torture yourself by worrying too much about guidelines on when or how to take away the binky, how long to breastfeed, how to carry or bond with your child, when to potty train, what sleeping arrangements work, or whether or not your child will be permanently damaged if you let him watch some television. We're really all just winging it and much of it depends on our specific situations. What has worked for one family may not be the best for yours. Use commonsense and ditch the beeyatch friend who keeps judging your choices and makes you feel inadequate by perpetually sounding like a talking American Academy of Pediatrics Handbook. 

Childbirth automatically raises your pain threshold. The pain you felt giving birth becomes the ultimate standard by which all other types of pain shall be measured against. When you step on broken glass and end up with a gaping wound, you say, "Bah! This is nothing compared to when I felt as if my body was being literally split in half!"

In the same token, your grossness tolerance is exponentially increased. As is true for most mothers, we're the ones relied upon when it comes to clean uppoop, pee, nosebleeds, earwax, snot, throw up, you name it! Of course we don't enjoy it but who else would do it? I once attended a party where one of my single friends threw up after drinking too much. She felt too ill that she ended up just laying on her bed. I went to assist her with the trash can as she continued to throw up and one of my other single friends asked, "How could you stand that smell? It makes me want to throw up too!" My answer was brief— "I'm a Mom".

Your life will be consumed by plans, routines, schedules. It's the only way to survive and keep your sanity. From coming up with a birthing plan, to feeding schedules, doctor's appointments, planning birthday parties, playdates, vacations, laundry, mealtimes, trips to the grocery store, as well as when YOU can pee, poop and take a showeryou will find that everything requires a lot of time organization and following routines in order to accomplish tasks...and to keep looking and smelling human!

You will gain weight and go through some degree of self-loathing. You'll regret all that wasted time in the past when you hated your body and thought you were big. But don't worry. If you're lucky (and almost all of us are!) you'll have a child that will always tell you the truth that you are perfect and beautiful just as you are, squishy and simply divine.

It's inevitable that thoughts of your own mother will come to haunt you. When you become a mother yourself, you ponder on your own childhood and the kind of mother you had/have. You will think of things that worked and want to emulate, and things you hated and swear you'd never turn into. You will remember the grief you gave your own mother and shiver at the thought of karma always finding its way. Most of all, at least for most of us, you won't be able to help but regress to your young self needing TLC every time you are sick and need that comforting touch only your mother could give. 

You will be plagued with self-doubt. Because you know this is the most important job you will ever do, you will keep asking yourself, every step of the way, if you're being good at it. However, you will soon realize that 'good enough' is a good place to be in. You need to be comfortable  with it, be friends with it, and know that the objective is not to raise someone perfect, just someone who knows how to love. 

I don't care how much you love and adore your children, but when you're a mother, the highlight of your day becomes that time of night when you can sit quietly on your couch or bed, let out a deep sigh of relief and have alone time. A remote control on one hand and a consumable treat on the other (think chocolate, or wine) are priceless and highly encouraged!

If you forget your own dreams, daily realityyours and others'will torment you. You will end up resenting everyone around you and everything will just feel unbearable. You have to find something outside of motherhood that will nurture your spirit and offer growth. This is not selfishness. It's commonsense. If your spirit feels replenished and cherished, this energy has no other choice than to overflow into all that you do and the roles you play. If you feel like an overused and neglected empty vessel deep down, you will be incapable of seeing joy around you, and time spent with your family will only feel like a duty, a burden, rather than a gift.

You may not need an entire village, but a small reliable tribe is always great to have when you're raising children. Never take for granted the amount of assistance you have available to your family. As a migrant whose family lives on the other side of the globe (and my husband's side lives in a different state), we don't have the privilege of having extra hands who are truly trusted, reliable, and not to mention, free-of-charge, when it comes to childcare or any type of family assistance. Having sitters who are strangers to us is an alien concept for me culturally, and so this is something that my son is strongly averse to. Going on a couple's date is a huge production number that takes a lot of planning and impeccable timing, often times involving my best friend's family. Every two or so years, my mom manages to visit from the Philippines and the three or four months she spends with us are priceless! I feel like those are the only times when I'm allowed to get sick, go out on dates and lay off the kitchen somehow to let her take over on certain days. That's my opportunity to taste Filipino dishes I can't cook myself and which I want my son to be familiar with. So if you have family close by, loved ones you can trust so that you can take brief, needed breaks from being 'mommy', consider yourself blessed and make sure you are grateful. Not everyone is as lucky as you.

Happy Mother's Day! 

I would love to hear what you know for sure! 
Please leave them in the comments below.  

Friday, May 1, 2015

Top 5 Excuses for Failing to Blog

I can't seem to write anything decent. I don't know exactly what's causing the dry spell but it's a bad case of writer's block. I sit and stare at the blank computer screen, hypnotized by that blinking black line that keeps on mocking me.

So instead of completely surrendering to this void on my screen and my brain (which is possibly more of a dense black hole, full and yet void at the same time, incapable of spewing anything intelligible at this time), I've decided to milk my misfortune and create a post around it.

Here are my top five excuses for failing to blog! Yay!

Image by: Drew Coffman via Flickr Creative Commons

1. There's just far too many interesting updates on Facebook, organization porn on Pinterest, and endless Amy Schumer videos on YouTube...all much too entertaining and zapping my brain cells in the process.

2. I went to leave a blog comment on another site and the 'I'm not a robot' captcha wore me out. It asked me to check all the pictures of bread I can see and gave me 12 pictures to choose from. I chose one that obviously looked like bread, one that looked like dough, and included two that looked like pizza. It says I'm wrong. Isn't pizza bread???? And thus started a never-ending existential crisis.....

3. I'm having way too much real life, face-to-face adult conversation than what I'm used to (and trust me, I have a really low threshold), making cathartic writing a bit redundant. 

4. I'm seeing too much ugliness in the world and am still waiting for world peace to inspire me. I'm taking to heart what my mother taught me—"If you don't have anything good to say, just stuff your face with brownies!"

Which brings me to #5...

5. Fudgy brownies vs. sit in my office to type a blog post? No brainer, right?!? One might argue I can eat said brownies in my office. But they're so chewy and moist that I need to enjoy every moment of this sacred experience. Respect the brownie, people! How dare you even suggest I multitask!

How about you guys throw me some of your best excuses for not doing what you're supposed to be doing? Misery loves fudgy brownie, right?  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

My Meant to Be

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW). Interestingly, this week is also when my son, my only son, celebrates his birthdaymy one and only triumph against my condition.

I suffer from this disease and I'm just grateful that it feels less taboo to speak about it now than decades ago. It is said that 1 in 8 couples of reproductive age face infertility in some form or another. This is why having conversations about this issue is important, not just on a personal level so that people like me don't feel alienated, but also on a social level as this reality creates ripples in so many different spheres of our social lives. (One cannot tackle infertility as an issue without realizing that it is multifaceted as it includes the medical/health aspect, an economic dimensionfinancial costs, health insurance policies, population issues, etcas well as the moral and religious concerns a lot of us with this condition often times contend with). 

This year's NIAW theme is 'You are not alone'. I know the power of those words which is why I promised myself never to feel ashamed of my condition or my story. There are a lot of articles or essays this week that raise awareness on infertility and here are two that resonated with me:

The 3 Biggest Myths About Infertility (and I highly recommend you read the comments here too!)

I asked myself what it is that's left for me to say when there are already countless brave and wise voices in this conversation. What is it that I want people to know about infertility?

This is my simple answer: That I am just like any other parent; that my infertility doesn't defineor shouldn't make you look at me any differently in terms of the kind of parent I am.

Yes, it was certainly not an accident that I became pregnant. And yes, I obviously wanted to become a mother which is why I actively sought out ways to make it possible. I disregarded all the pain and discomfort of getting numerous shots, vaginal ultrasounds, and countless intrusive diagnostic tests required of anyone using assisted reproductive technology, all because I longed for a child. But my agency in all this, and my deep desire to become a parent don't exempt me from any of the normal sentiments felt by any other kind of parent, and this includes my right to complain. 

Just like any other parent, I go through challenges, frustration, doubts, anger and immeasurable exhaustion from caring for my son. But what I don't want to hear when I vent or complain is that unsupportive tone that says, "Well, isn't this what you wanted so badly? Suck it up and stop complaining! You asked for this.".

I won't even focus on the fact that such an argument doesn't hold much logic, but I will point out its obvious unfairness and cruelty. It's bad enough that people suffering from infertility go through so much physical, pyschological and emotional pain while trying to conceive. We really don't need the added guilt when we are simply being like any other normal parent struggling with our role. Just like any other parent, we need to know it's okay to give ourselves permission to feel the whole gamut of emotions that parenthood brings, from the saccharine sweet to the dark and ugly.

My son turned 8 this week. He continues to fill my life with unparalleled joy and love every second. But I will admit that not a day goes by when I don't ask myself if I'm being the best mom that I can be to him. Fertile or not, I'm still me. I get angry, I scream, I'm a recovering perfectionist, I tend to be impatient and I hurt and will continue to hurt my son's feelings at times. All these make me question if I'm giving my all to be the best version of Mom I could be to my 'baby'. 

But there is one thing I will never ever question, and that is if I was meant to be a mother, and particularly a mother to him, my Noah. It doesn't matter how he was conceived, how we became part of each other's lives. He is my Noah. Just as the Biblical character, he is the chosen one for me, my survivor, the only one from among our three embryos during our very first IVF cycle in 2006 who made it to the end. My son and I, just like every other child and parent out there, fertile or not, are a perfect match in spite of, and most especially because of our imperfections. I know in my heart without a doubt that it was all meant to be. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

What Your Photos Really Capture

Late last week, my social media channels were flooded with photos of my friends with their siblings. According to everyone on Facebook, it was National Siblings Day. I didn't even know this day existed until last week but then again why should I be surprised when there's a day for everything, from grandparents to jelly beans!

I enjoyed all the nostalgic photos posted and the sentimental write ups to honor all the wonderful brothers and sisters my Facebook and Twitter friends have. But I also have to admit that I felt a bit alienated and yes, even jealous after seeing all those sibling pictures.

I was scrambling to find a good photo of myself with my older sister and 'baby' brother until I realized that I don't have any with me, except for the one above. That was taken in the late 1970s, if I'm not mistaken. My sister was probably in first grade and I was in nursery school (the equivalent of pre-K). Here I am in my 40s, living in a foreign country and I really don't have any recent photos of the three of us.

It's not because we're not in good terms. On the contrary, we have nothing but respect and love for each other and I would never trade them for any other sibling in the world. The real reason why I don't have a photo of us is because the three of us have not been physically together since the late 1990s.

My sister left the Philippines to live and pursue graduate studies in Chicago with her family in the late 1990s. My brother and I were together in Manila at the time.

In 2004, I left Manila to go to Chicago for a vacation and never came back. Two sisters in the U.S., a brother left in the Philippines.

In 2008-2009, my sister left the U.S. for good to go back home to the Philippines. I was left here in the U.S., with my brother and sister back home together. 

This means our last photo together might be from the mid-90s and of course I don't have any proof of that because all our family photo albums are in Manila, at my parents' house. Any migrant, especially those who have moved internationally, understands this sad reality and each of us have our own ways of compensating for this sense of 'lost' history. 

After feeling sorry for myself for the lack of 'proof' to display on National Siblings Day, I was left to ponder on my need for photographs. 

We take pictures to attest to certain realities. In as much as pictures are taken as proof of a certain event, they are in themselves proof of a human being's desire to immortalize a memory. We take pictures to aid our memory, to help us preserve an event. In the end though, the basic truth is that photos represent our desire to have some proof of a relationship, whether it's to a person, thing, place or event.

As a migrant, I don't have this privilege of having complete tangible documentation of all of my most valuable relationships. I cannot rely on photos to serve as anchors of my identity. As a matter of fact, migrants like myself would probably tell you that a valuable lesson we've learned is to be able to more easily let go of material anchors for our memories and emotions. Instead, an important skill for us is to internalize that memories and relationships can occupy more valuable real estate in our minds and hearts, rather than on shelves in our homes. We had to develop the ability to carry what's important wherever we go, without necessarily adding more tangible or physical weight. 

The greatest lesson for me has been to focus on how an event, or a memory, has shaped me, more than simply holding on to tangible proofs such as photos. 


Every event, every memory is within me and has shaped me into who I am today. All the love, the happiness, pain, regret, desire or sense of loss that a picture may evoke are already either inside of me, or released after transforming me. 

Often times people take pictures without truly being in the moment, focusing instead on the mere desire to keep a souvenir, or perhaps even obsessing on how it would look once posted on social media. I'm guilty of the same, sometimes. But now I do try to remind myself, especially when it has to do with my son or some other memorable event. Go ahead and take pictures. There's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to capture a moment. Just make sure you are not missing out on the present by focusing too much on what you want to offer the future. As you capture images, focus too on how that image, that experience, is capturing you. In the end, it's really those feelings that will last and not what's on paper or your hard drive. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

My Journey to BlogHer Syndication

If you're a writer/blogger/online content provider like myself, you probably have a bucket list that changes each year depending on what you want to focus on. If you're like me, I have on my list a number of websites or projects that I want to be published on or be a part of. 

Last year, at the top of my list was to be able to get on the Huffington Post. With a lot of guts and possibly good timing, I was able to accomplish this through this essay.

This year, I announced to the Universe (as well as to a few blogger friends) that I want to be syndicated at BlogHer. I have been part of the BlogHer Publishing Network, as well as their Influencer Network since 2012 and I've enjoyed the community, especially the exposure my writing gets through their site. I have had several of my blog posts featured on the BlogHer site through the years, and though each time was thrilling and was such an honor, I have always wondered how I could get 'syndicated'. To have a post syndicated means that you actually get paid! Now who wouldn't want that?

It was a mystery to me, and wondered why I was still not getting any of the editors' attention when I've had 2 featured posts each in 2012 and 2013; 10 in 2014 (which meant I was practically getting featured every month last year); and then 2 so far this year. 

Then I met Susan Maccarelli of Beyond Your Blog and Pecked to Death By Chickens, online and in person at a blog conference. She had previously published her recipe for BlogHer syndication and I would advise anyone aspiring for syndication to read that post!

I learned a lot from Susan's experience but I told her that I was still wondering why I wasn't getting that precious email from an editor in spite of my numerous featured posts. Susan pointed out something I never thought about before—my featured posts were 'all over the place'. I had some under Blogging & Social Media, some under Work/Life, Love/Sex, Family and even Race/Class. It was great that I was everywhere, but not so great in terms of really getting noticed by a particular section editor.

This year though, after having two essays featured under Blogging/Social Media (5 Important Life Lessons from 'My Big Fat Fabulous Life' and Going to a Blog Conference When Your Blog is In-Between), I was emailed by the editor, not only to inform me about my featured post, but also to give me the opportunity to pitch three topics that I can write an original post on. She ended up liking 2 out of 3 but asked me to go ahead and send in a completed essay for her top choice to be Syndicated for April!

So, it is with great joy and much humility that I share my very first BlogHer Syndicated Post with all of you! It was published last Friday, April 10, 2015, and it centers on a topic that is very important to me, as well as a lot of online writers and actually even anyone active on social media. 

My article focuses on setting your boundaries when publishing online. I discussed questions you can ask yourself that will help you decide what you can and should not write about on your blog or surrender to social media. I hope you can join the discussion and find the guidelines useful! Thanks in advance and I wish you the best on checking off items from your bucket list! Is there one on your list that you're currently REALLY focused on?

*For more information on BlogHer Syndication, click here.*