Thursday, August 18, 2016

My Parent Sanity Saver Tool

I got the idea from watching this YouTube video and after almost two weeks of using it, I can honestly say I am loving this system! Hopefully, it can save some of you in the same way it has definitely saved, and continues to save me.

It's my Parent School Binder and I honestly don't know where I've been all these years that I never thought of doing this. For an organization freak like myself, it's almost unbelievable that it took me this long to put something like this together. Unlike the system in the above YouTube video though, I can guarantee that my folder is much cheaper. Most of the materials I used are from the Dollar Tree, save for the tabs, labels and sheet protectors. I already had those on hand and didn't need to buy any more. 

So for those who are not familiar with this system, it's a binder that any parent can put together so that all school-related documents are in one easy-to-find place. In past school years, I've either had several folders filed separately somewhere in my office and I've had to go to different locations to locate whatever was needed. Now they're in one centralized location, with this bright-colored, happy lime green binder keeping them together neatly organized. 

You can absolutely tailor this according to your needs and insert additional sections for each additional child. I only have one so let me show you how I've organized mine.

First of all, I was lucky to have found a Dollar Tree pencil case in the same design as the binder. I clipped that in the front. It's convenient to include this especially if you consider bringing this binder to school for Parent Orientation or Parent-Teacher Conferences. 

Now for the main contents, I created 4 Main Sections:


Under CALENDAR, I first inserted a monthly calendar which I also found at the Dollar Tree. It came with a hard plastic folder-like backing (also in green!) and a clear plastic front which makes it really convenient. 

Then I had a sheet protector each for the School District Calendar, as well as the Lunch Menu for the month. Finally, I included a folder and labeled it School Events for whatever flyers we may need to keep for events we're attending. 

The second main section, DOCUMENTS, has 5 tabs under it: Forms, Policies, Report Cards, Permission Slips/ Receipts and Excuse Slips

On our school's website, they have printable forms for notifying the teacher about early dismissal, absences, as well as application for out-of-town trips during the school year. Such documents will be filed under 'Forms'. 

The 'Policies' folder includes both documentation of school-wide (left side of folder, e.g. School Handbook, Illness Policy, log in information for school website, etc.), as well as homeroom-specific  rules and regulations (right side of folder, e.g. Guidelines shared by teacher during parent orientation, etc.). 

The 'Report Cards' and 'Permission Slips' folders are self-explanatory. 

However, I also included 'Receipts' with the 'Permission Slips' section. This refers to any school-related document you want to keep a copy of as proof of payment. Examples of this would be payments made for school portrait packages, receipts from school merchandise bought, or proof of payment to PTO/PTA activities.

Finally, the 'Excuse Slips' folder will contain my personal copy of doctors' notes whenever my child misses school.

The third main section, STUDY MATERIALS, includes any review materials or study guides either sent home by teachers or ones we find or create ourselves. 


The fourth and last main section, BLANK SHEETS, just has a few college ruled sheets of paper (150 sheets for $1 at the Dollar Tree) for whenever I may need them. 

Excluding the sheet protectors and post-it tabs that I already had, I only spent a total of $8 at the Dollar Tree for the rest of the supplies I needed to put together this Parent School Binder. The cost will of course depend on how detailed you want your folder to be, as well as the number of students you have in your family. 

To sum it up, here's an outline of the different sections of my binder: 

     -monthly calendar for the year
     -school district calendar
     -lunch menu
     -school events folder

     -forms folder 
     -policies folder
     -report cards
     -permission slips/receipts
     -excuse slips / doctors' notes



I hope this helps! Here's to a great, more organized school year ahead!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

What Lies Beyond the Impatience

"So, did you work before being a stay at home mom?"

"Yes, I had an office job at an online university, but in the Philippines I actually used to teach!"

Every time I have such a conversation with acquaintances or new friends, there's a part of me that always wants to rush through the answer so that I can further qualify. Actually, whenever I answer in that way, I always want to kick myself for not coming up with a clearer response. It's because a lot of the times when people hear the words "I used to teach", they respond with "Oh! So you must be really good with kids!" My candid response is always an uncomfortable, "Umm, no, not really. I taught in university, college kids, not little ones. I just don't have the patience for teaching young kids."

To be really honest, I feel like my son is the only child who can stand me. If we break that down, it's easy to see that that's only true because (A) he doesn't have a choice, and (B) he's had rigorous training since birth. 

I'm not exactly a tiger mom in the strictest sense but I will never deny that I have really high expectations of my son. I believe in structure, strict enforcement of rules and discipline. I am very affectionate with him, undeniably protective, but can also be quite harsh and short-tempered. There are days when I wonder if I should seriously consider attending anger-management programs. 

Just the other night, after the second day of school, I snapped. It wasn't exactly a zero to sixty situation although I can tell that it shocked my son when I blew up. I even shocked myself but he had it coming. 

We've long established that he needs to go upstairs by 8 p.m. This has been our routine for at least 5 years now. He also knows that he needs to put in at least 30 minutes of reading time before bedtime which is at 9 p.m. Between going upstairs and reading, he's expected to shower, brush his teeth and just settle down.

While eating dinner he asked if he'd have time to play on the Xbox. I said I very much doubt it and explained to him why. I went over our routine and clarified how each block of time will be spent before bedtime comes and that he needs ample sleep so he can wake up rested at 7 am and not be late for the bus. Besides, I added, he has consumed all his electronics allowance for that day. 

While having dessert he asked the same thing again. I answered and gave him the same information but this time even more thoroughly than the first time.

After dinner, at around 7:55 p.m., as we were both cleaning up in the kitchen he asked me...AGAIN...this time even saying, "Are you SURE I don't have time to play on the Xbox?". That was the final straw.

I screamed!

I don't remember word per word what I said but I remember feeling as if my head was going to explode. I remember my chest tightening until all the frustration got spewed through my mouth. I also remember the rage when I shouted, "DO YOU HONESTLY THINK THAT ASKING ME THE SAME QUESTION A HUNDRED TIMES WILL CHANGE MY ANSWER?! NO IS NO!!"

He froze in front of me, only for a short while but long enough for me to see his shock and fear. I was probably just as surprised as he was, surprised at how sudden my tone and demeanor changed just like that. It was faster than any of Bruce Banner's transformations that we've ever seen.

I hate repeating myself. If there is anything I absolutely loathe, despise, abhor with a passion, it's when I have to repeat myself because I'm not being heard. It's one thing to keep explaining to someone who simply does not have the mental capacity to fully understand, but it's another when I'm left saying the same thing over and over simply because either my response is being rejected or just not heard. 


This is a part of me I'm not proud of. Some of you might try to make me feel better by saying that perhaps I was having a bad day; or it happens even to the best parents among us. But I'll tell it like it is...

It's an adult meltdown. And there are days when I'm humble enough to admit that I'm having too much of it. 

And just like any toddler who screams, cries or throws a tantrum, it's not as simple as just being overly tired but also a deep hunger to be heard. It's my need to be validated. When I'm doing my best to explain something, searching for the most appropriate words in a language that is not even my first, not my native tongue, I expect full attention and expect to be understood. When I feel that I'm already sacrificing so much, doing my best to adapt and accommodate, the least one can do is to make me feel seen and treat me like I do matter. As it is, I feel that I speak excellent English and definitely don't speak with an accent that my American born and raised son struggles with. I don't think some people realize that sometimes I still translate in my head from Filipino to English. It's not always easy, especially when I'm tired or highly emotional. But I still do my best. I really don't have much choice if I want to be understood by others, especially by my family. I do my best with them, hence I expect the most validation from them, especially from my son. 

We associate Patience with the ability to wait. But more importantly, it speaks of having tolerance, and exhibiting self-restraint and a sense of equanimity. Patience is to have the capacity to graciously wait for others to catch up to our expectations.

Tweet: Patience is to have the capacity to graciously wait for others to catch up to our expectations.
"Patience is to have the capacity to graciously wait for others
to catch up to our expectations."

I am not the most patient person. When it comes to my parenting, I would say that I repeatedly fail at it. I just hope that more than my family simply being patient with me and my failings, they will also have the tenacity to try to see beyond the surface and hear beyond the angry cries. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

I'm Afraid and There's Really Nothing Wrong With That

Last week's post gave you tips on how an introvert like myself can survive an adventure vacation. It was written mid-week while I was enjoying a family holiday in Breckenridge, CO. Little did I know that just a few days after publishing, I would feel the need to update or re-title the piece to "How a Non-Adventurous Introvert Can Survive an Adventure Vacation Without Ending Up in the E.R."!

I wish I could say it was because of something fun and daring, like maybe smoking weed. (It's legal where I was, after all). But no, I'm sorry to disappoint. It was a biking accident. A bad one. I was on a biking trail. It was slightly downhill with a creek to my right. I felt I was going too fast. Fear took over. I lost my balance. I lost control. I swerved into the small ravine then into the creek. And I lived to tell the story.

We think it was probably anywhere between a 7- and 10-foot fall from the street.

The bottom of this frame is where I started to go downhill.

I tried to keep the bike upright for as long as I could until I hit those big rocks.

I ended up by that big bush in the middle of the creek.

Some of what happened continue to be a blur. I just remember feeling horribly afraid minutes before I actually fully lost control of the bike. I already knew it felt too much for me, too downhill, too fast. I am a novice after all and definitely not a risk-taker, not when it comes to sports or physical adventures at least. I can hear my husband screaming from behind me as he already knew what was about to happen. Then I just kept wobbling until in my mind, all I kept thinking was "Oh sh*t. I'm screwed." And then the moment of resignation. Strangely, I wasn't scared of dying. It's either that or I was convinced this wasn't my end yet. (To be honest I also would've preferred something more justified or dramatic, like maybe dying in deeper water or a bigger crash. Please...not a bike in a shallow creek!)

I hit the water and I remember feeling finally really scared because the current was stronger than I expected. I tried to extend my arms to try to grab on to something, anything, until I heard this unfamiliar voice saying "I got you, I got you!" He was trying to pull me up as I did my best to grab his torso. It was a random biker who witnessed my accident. This was my angel and his name is Dan. 

My husband was right there but he hurt himself too, trying to jump off of his bike as quickly as he could. He hit the gravel hard and scraped his knee really bad and was bleeding himself. 

Souvenir from the E.R.

I still can't fully bend my middle left finger. It's still swollen.

My horrible-looking right arm.

In the grand scheme of things, it's still not so bad and I have a lot to be thankful for. The X-ray images didn't reveal any broken bones although I was warned that some injuries can't be easily detected. I still have major pain on my right side, particularly my right ribs and still can't move or breathe painlessly. However, the pain is not to the point that narcotics aren't able to somehow address at this time. I just have to take it slow and remind myself to take deep breaths regardless of the discomfort just to avoid pneumonia.

So what is my take-away from all this? 

I won't tell you life is too short and that things can change in an instant. Nor would I remind you to hug your loved ones and tell them you love them before it's too late. You should already be doing that with or without accidents in mind.

What I would say to you is to respect Fear. 

Right after my accident, this is one of the things my husband said to me: "You know, to others, to 'normal' people, that creek is probably some nice scenery to look at and soothe you while you bike. But to you, it's something to fear".

He's absolutely right. I did not find it relaxing. In my mind, it was a risk to avoid, a danger along the way and it clearly defeated me. My mind betrayed me and defeated me because I didn't listen to it early enough. 

After only two minutes of riding along that trail, Fear started talking to me: This isn't safe. There's no railing and people can easily fall into that creek. This feels so narrow to me. I'm having a hard time...). I dismissed all of it. It's good to try out new experiences, yes. But you also have to be wise enough to know when to listen when your body is telling you to slow down, respect its limits, maybe even stop until you gain your comfort level back. 

Fear is there to keep you safe and alive. It isn't always bad. It isn't always simply the archnemesis of growth or evolution. And it's not always there just to tell you to quit. Sometimes it's just telling you to slow down, find your center, rest, reflect before proceeding again.

Sometimes to be so daring is the dumb thing to do, and to have fear is smart. It all depends on knowing your self and your limits. Pay attention because those voices in your head are there for a reason, and if anything, they can definitely save you a trip to the E.R. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Adventure Vacation Survival Guide for the Non-Adventurous Introvert

Our family pet, a betta fish, is the perfect pet for me. It loves swimming by itself and needs comfortable spaces for hiding. Typical introvert, isn't it? So you can imagine my trepidation when it was decided that we would go on a week-long family vacation in Colorado with my husband's large family. Sixteen people total, mostly active, outdoorsy people. Except for me. 

Let's talk about the destination. Is there any other place that invokes the idea of 'healthy, active lifestyle' more than Colorado does? Probably not. People here live to move. And eat kale and protein bars. I'm happy to be on a treadmill for 30 minutes while I munch on pork belly and crunchy peanut butter. I am certainly out of my element here and participating in all the adventure activities being planned by family members will surely kill me. It's either that or lack of oxygen due to the high altitude!

So how can someone like me, unadventurous with lots of aches and pains and who would rather recharge by being alone in her cave, survive this kind of vacation?

Here are a few tips I've learned along the way...

Dress appropriately. 

You can't dampen everyone's mood by simply saying you will stay home alone every time they go out. At some point, you will have to get outside and join your group. And even though you have no plans of getting bruised and broken, you need to at least dress the part. That way, you'll blend in. This also gives you some flexibility should you suddenly realize that there are some activities you can do at your destination for the day. An introvert can be a bit of a daredevil too from time to time, right? (And yes, I'm using 'daredevil' here quite loosely).

Bring a good camera or at least a phone with a good one. 

If you can, be the only one in your group with a camera! You'll be an indispensable resource and your group won't fault you for wanting to stay behind while they do all the active stuff. What kind of vacation would it be, after all, if there was no one to take all those action shots, right? You're not being a kill joy. You're merely doing everyone a huge favor and sacrifice so they can post something over on Facebook and Instagram. Win-win!

Be Shamelessly Creative

You know those signs at recreation parks identifying the activity they offer at certain areas? You know, like those that would say "Ski Adventure" or "Deadly Rollercoaster"? Yes, look for those big signs and pose as if you've just done it yourself, even though in reality you just ate ice cream or funnel cake while waiting for your crew who actually dared to risk their lives. Make sure you throw in a thumbs-up or two, as well as a happy exhausted face to make it believable. Don't worry about deceiving anyone who sees your picture online. Half of what you see on social media is a lie anyway.

See what I just did here?

Don't Say No to Everything

Though you know you're low on the scale as far as risk-taking behavior is concerned, I assure you that you can't write the entire outdoors off. There are still some activities that you can certainly choose to participate in. Go for an easy hike. There are also bike rides that are great for beginners and not-so-adventurous souls. Or simply take a stroll and enjoy the magnificent views around you. I understand that staying indoors is always a tempting idea but try to remember that you can do that anytime when you're home. You already traveled a hundred miles or so. Try to make the most out of the new scenery you find yourself in because you never know what wonders can surprise you.

Carve Out Some Me Time 
Even For Short Periods

It doesn't matter how big or small a group you're traveling with, introverts always need some alone time every single day. This helps us recharge, function and relate better. If you find yourself needing this while you're out, don't be afraid to walk ahead or walk behind. Try to find a quiet spot where you can also enjoy the sight, or at least pretend to. Excuse yourself and go to the restroom. Walk away to take photos of a good scenery, flower or rock. Whatever it is, just take a few minutes off from your group. They might not always understand but I guarantee they will appreciate how this can do wonders to your disposition in the long run. 

Whether in vacations or life in general, there are never guarantees that you'll only be traveling with like-minded people or kindred souls. But the variety in life is what makes it all fun and enriching. Wherever you find your self in, or whoever you may be with, just be present. Enjoy it and if you're truly lucky, focus on the fact that you are traveling with the ones you love. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Have I Failed My Child This Summer?

Accepting the chasm between the imagined and actual reality is never easy. I am in constant struggle with accepting the breach when it comes to scrutinizing both my own life trajectory, as well as my parenting life. And I'm not just talking about grand ideals on how I want to parent or my dreams of how my child should blossom. No, the reality is that it's a daily struggle, a sense of guilt, if you will, when you picture what good parenting looks like in terms of day to day activities. This angst gets even more pronounced during the summer break. 

Oh the Summer, when children are out of school and when my son, in particular, gets to say to me, 'I'm bored' or 'What else can I do?' ad nauseam. This year, keeping him busy at home has been a bit more challenging than previous ones because we had to skip the camps offered by his school. Since we had to fly out of the country and threw in some out of state short breaks in the mix, fitting the camp sessions into our schedule just became impossible. But I didn't think it would be a problem. After all, I had great plans that won't only keep boredom at bay, but would also adequately prepare my son academically for the next school year. What kind of stay-at-home mom doesn't come up with creative and fun learning activities for her child, right???! There's just no excuse!

I imagined having structured days for my son during the entire summer vacation. There will be time for learning and time for play.

I imagined having him read one novel a week, or at least complete ten books by the time the new school year starts.

I imagined having him log on to math websites to review, as well as learn advanced skills. He will do this for 30 minutes per day. 

I imagined teaching him cursive. I learned it when I was in third grade and so there is no excuse for him. He has to perfect it before starting fourth grade.

I also imagined being able to arrange numerous playdates with his school friends who he has missed and will miss, as these boys will be transferring to a different school within our district. 

At the top of my list shortly before summer break started was also my plan to go through all of my son's paper work from the past school year. They've been begging to be organized, filed away or thrown out. 

And speaking of organization, I was also certain this would be the summer when I would finally get around to finishing that scrapbook documenting our Disney World trip...from 2012! He was five years old at the time with lots of baby teeth. All his front teeth are now (mostly) permanent. 

By now you all probably know me enough to know that I have an overactive and overachieving imagination. In reality, all I have to say is that real life got in the way. 

We wake up and go about our days when we want to. Isn't that what summer break is about? He finished one novel and watched a million other YouTube videos and some Netflix shows. Yes, I let him. Why? Because I feel too tired and am mostly too busy to keep getting angry and fighting. He has reasonable limits but definitely nothing too structured. He still remembers his multiplication and division but didn't really log on to the advanced math lessons I wanted him to watch. Fortunately, with three more weeks left for summer break, it's looking like we can finish the alphabet in cursive. He still forgets some letters, but I'm optimistic he learned it enough so far. Now as to whether he would remember what he learned is another story. And those playdates? We haven't had any arranged ones to date. For now it's enough that he gets to play with the other neighborhood kids. 

I can give you a hundred explanations or excuses. I was jet-lagged. I caught a bad virus and felt so drained and perpetually exhausted. My father-in-law got hospitalized. A very good friend of mine is ill. I miss my own family. I had writer's block. It's too hot outside. There was a ton of laundry to wash and fold. Ants attacked our kitchen...

This list can go on and on and all I really have to say is something I always say when I need a jolt of calm and sense of acceptance: It is what it is. 

Should I be consumed by guilt that my son could have had a more productive summer than what I was able to give him? I don't think so. I think what would have been more disturbing was if I took all the fun out of the equation and made summer break into serious business.

Do I think I'm being a bad mother? Absolutely not. Could there be others who think I am? Perhaps, and it really shouldn't and doesn't matter. Life is too short to be wasted on guilt, and frankly there are far more important things in the world to be guilty about. Having a laid back summer is definitely not on that list. 

In the end, the questions should never be in the direction of "Is my child going to be the smartest?", "Is he the most prepared?", "Is my house the most spotless, most organized?", or "Did I keep him busy enough?". Rather, they should lean towards "Does he know how to appreciate the feel of sand between his toes or the warm breeze against his skin, and all the other simple wonders that surround him?", "Does he know how to be a good friend?", "Am I teaching him about kindness and compassion?", or "Does he feel loved?" These are the things that point to character and not simply credentials. These are the things that can't just be peeled away or get easily dissolved by the changing tides as we journey through life. They point to things that build us and make us authentically stronger. 

Our summer break has been fun, lazy, hectic, unstructured and definitely full of memories. It is what it is. And in the grand scheme of things, where we are and how it is looks imperfect but feels precious and inarguably blessed.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Reason For My Tears...

I (almost) never, ever cry in public. It would take a lot to make me do so and it's not because I'm heartless. It's just that, I think, it's a combination of my sense of control, sense of privacy, as well as the fact that it simply takes a special trigger to let the tears knock down that gate of control. 

When I left the Philippines this time around, ending our 17-day visit early this month, I was so sure I wouldn't cry. The first time I visited in 2008 after migrating to the United States, I was 'weak', a new mom, in need of much support and missing my family so much, that letting the tears flow freely was inevitable. It was the time when I was able to finally say my proper goodbyes since I left so unexpectedly in 2004 and never got the chance to do the proper rituals that somehow ease one's transition from the familiar to the unknown.  

This time though, I felt less emotional about the thought of visiting. Prior to arriving in Manila, all I could think about was my prayer that none of us get sick, especially not Noah. I was too stressed over packing everything we needed and might need, as well as trying to fit as many meet-ups with friends and family as I could in our schedule while factoring in the unpredictable Manila traffic. I made up my mind that this was going to be a fun and matter-of-fact visit. There's definitely no need for tears. After all, I already felt established in my life as an American citizen, seem well-adjusted and really can't complain about much.

Of course you know that I was proven wrong and still ended up quite emotional in the end. Seeing my dearest friends, some I've not seen for about 20 years, reminded me once more of the sense of camaraderie and familiarity I've so missed all these years. Bonding with family in Manila only highlighted for me the fact that I am, in all honesty, alone here in the States. Sure, I have a husband and in-laws who are beyond supportive and genuinely caring. But let's tell it like it is. It's still different from having my own blood relatives who have known me all my life, isn't it? It just is. 

When I said my goodbyes, especially to my parents, my sister, and my aunt and uncle (who are like second parents to me), I cried. As I hugged them, I felt the warmth of the tears soak my eyes. As I said my goodbyes, my voice broke as I struggled to keep the tears in, to no avail. It didn't matter. What I felt was too much to contain or be embarrassed about. 

But what exactly did I feel? I have been thinking about the reason why I consistently cry with this same set of people every time I bid them goodbye. Why them? Why always with them? 

I remember that one other time when I felt the same way was when I bid my (ex) fiance goodbye. We had a long distance relationship and met up to spend five days together in Manila. At the end of that short week, I had to muster all the strength I had to walk away from him as he took his ride to the airport. Remembering that time helped me figure out the answer to my question when it comes to saying goodbye to my family...

The fact is, I cry because saying goodbye to these people spells out the uncertainty that looms over our love. Guarantees or promises set in stone to say when we'll meet again are impossible to make. We only have plans and hopes, and we all know Life doesn't bow down to either. I can't help but feel a part of me die every time that sense of uncertainty surfaces as I hold my loved ones close and say, "I'll see you again".

I cry because leaving them always signals the end of a wonderful, love-filled period of my life. It means the end of beautiful moments actually lived and the beginning of when I am left to settle with just fragile memories.

I cry because the time spent is never enough and is always prematurely cut short. It's grief over more hours, days or weeks pregnant with beautiful possibilities but must now be surrendered to goodbyes.

I cry because to say goodbye to them is to part with someone who truly knows me, inside out, and loves me unconditionally. These are people who know me soulfully. 

I cry because to say goodbye to them is to say goodbye to someone who will always hold my heart. And for this, 'home' can never just be in one place alone. It is both painful and beautiful at the same time, making every tear drop worthwhile. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

My New Happy Place

The EU referendum results are in and the United Kingdom has voted for Brexit...

Commonsense reforms to gun laws in the United States continue to be rejected, thanks to law makers under NRA payroll... 

Donald Drumpf is still making a lot of noise and people continue to support him...

I can only take so much insanity in a week and it's during these times when I feel so angry, helpless and anxious that I feel the need to turn inward, focusing on things I can control. That said, it's also when I need to calm myself and go to my 'happy place'. Since we just got back from our trip to the Philippines, I've decided that one spot from the Shangri-la Resort in Boracay shall now be my quiet, beautiful, happy place.

I wish I can teleport to this spot any time I need to...

Let's all be in denial for a few minutes. Join me as I reminisce about our heavenly five days in Boracay just three weeks ago...

What's not to love about the white, powdery sand?

The water was so clear, Noah even freaked out when he saw some fish!

It's more fun taking selfies in the Philippines!

 My boys thoroughly enjoyed the magnificent pool at the resort!

 And listen....Don't you hear angels singing as you lay eyes on this spectacular sunset?!

Ok, now scroll back up again and repeat the process until you feel recharged enough and less anxious about the state of the world. 

Wishing you all a happy and sane weekend ahead!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Friends You Need to Keep

Through the decades, I've found friends and lost friends. Some of those lost were voluntarily or consciously let go, and I've had varying reasons for doing so. One became too toxic and literally unhealthy for me to the point that I was having nightmares, waking up breathless with chest tightness. Another one changed and I felt that the other person was acting like I wasn't good enough anymore. I certainly don't need that kind of attitude and energy in my life. 

As an introvert in her 40s, making new friends especially in a foreign country has never been harder for me. I've realized how selective I've become and I suppose it's really because most of the time I feel that I'm already happy with my existing friends. However, I don't want to fully give up. I still think the process of developing new friendships is an adventure I can't just pass up on. Besides, the few real friends I've fairly recently discovered have all been wonderful, making the process totally worthwhile. 

I don't need to tell you how important friendships are. That said, I don't believe in wasting my time with connections that simply aren't working out. The more we age, the more valuable time becomes and I want to spend that time with connections that will nourish me and suit who I am instead of me still trying to fit in. After all the heartaches, disappointments, fun and lessons learned, I've concluded that the following are the types of friends I intend to keep for the long haul...

Low-Maintenance Friends

We all live terribly busy lives and having friends spread out across the globe has become more of the norm than the deviation. With all the busyness and the fast-paced lives we live, the last thing you need is a friend who demands constant contact, hence adding to your stress and insanity, rather than be a source of calm and be your soft spot to land on. Real friends are those who don't equate the authenticity of your friendship with frequency of contact. I very rarely communicate with most of my truest, oldest friends but every time we do, as cliche as it sounds, it always feels as if we've just spoken yesterday and can pick up from where we left off.

Non-Judgmental Friends 

One of the most spot on memes I've seen recently on social media is that one that says 'True friends don't judge each other; they judge other people together'. Kidding aside, no one needs a judgmental person in their circle of friends. At any point in your life, but most especially as you're older and have become more sure of yourself and have healed your disease to please, you'd want to be in the company of people with whom you can be your true self without fear of rejection or rebuke. You don't want a friend who feels superior or is self-righteous that you always find yourself walking on eggshells, trying not to disappoint. You really don't need that crap in your life. Life is too short to be spent around people who constantly exude an overcritical vibe and who are not so forgiving of people's flaws. Friendships are about building a circle of trust and that includes trusting that you can be your authentic self and know that such will always be enough.

Discreet Friends 

Trust is very important at any age but more so as you get older. Our lives become more complex and nothing is as black or white as they used to be when we were much younger. As such, you would want to have friends you can discuss anything withyour troubles, your gray areas, moral dilemma, etc.and feel assured that whatever you say will not mysteriously be broadcasted to the entire town. And really good friends are those who you feel have the moral capacity to discern on their own which topics are confidential and which can be publicly consumed. They would have that level of discretion and propriety that you feel you can always rely on. 

Deep But Easygoing Friends

I would like to believe that as people age, the more depth we acquire. Aging, for the most part, truly teaches us how to sift through our life experiences so we can cherish things that truly matter and let go of superficial ones. Most of us become more reflective and insightful and it's great to have friends around you who appreciate your wisdom and whose insights you can also rely on. You need people around you with whom you can discuss the meaning of life, or debate the existence of free will, while also having humor and acknowledging that none of these deep thoughts matter in a zombie apocalypse scenario.

Friends Who Value You

And I certainly don't mean this in a utilitarian kind of way. 'Friends' who only remember you when they need something from you are not true friends by any means. What you need are friends who make you feel seen, understood and with whom you feel genuinely connected to in a spiritual and mental level. I know I said that low-maintenance friends are precious and though true friends don't demand constant contact, the need for quality connections is still important. It's that feeling of assurance that you remain important to each other, that there is solid mutual respect and affection dependent only on who you are and not necessarily on what you can give. Being you and time spent with you, no matter how brief, will always be enough to this true friend. 

These are the types of friends, TRUE FRIENDS, old and new, that I have and intend to keep. 
What about you? Any criteria you'd like to add?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Two-Word Advice For My Younger Self

Original Image: Flickr Creative Commons

Around 3 years ago, I encountered this article from HuffPost where fans were asked to write down some advice to their younger selves in only two words. Giving advice in hindsight is quite easy but to do that in only two words sounds ALMOST impossible. 

Well, challenge accepted! 

Here is my list of 2-word nuggets of wisdom to my younger selves. I decided to break it down per decade of my life given the unique challenges each period presents.

First Ten Years: COMPARE NOT. 
I can't even begin to tell you how much of my life and sanity have been consumed unnecessarily by comparison. As a young child, I found myself always looking up to my older sister who, in most people's eyes and mine, was probably the perfect child. She was compliant, gentle and most of all, highly intelligent and academically brilliant. She set the bar really high and I was neurotic enough, even as a young child, to take it upon myself to strive for that bar and then consequently hate myself for not succeeding. I heard and interpreted every compliment given to my sister as a criticism toward me and how I was not measuring up. And it's not even like I was a failure and not doing well in school. It was just that I was different from my sister, that's all. No one punished me, compared me or made me feel less. It was all me and my predisposition for self-flagellation. I wish I had known better. 

It was in my teens when I began to realize that I was not your average small-framed Filipino. I started hearing insensitive remarks pertaining to my size and weight that contributed to my insecurities getting worse. I never fully allowed myself to feel fully confident in my own skin and always wished I could look different, more attractive, more lovable. I wish I had known then that it all needs to start from within and that I am perfect in my own imperfect self; that loving oneself gives one that priceless beauty that radiates from within.

20s: LET GO. 
I looked around me and found that my peers were getting into serious relationships, getting married and even having children. A lot of them also seemed set in their chosen careers and there I was, still trying to figure things out. I wish I had more patience and saw that we are rarely able to really control much in our lives. I wish I had known the value of being able to let go. It would have saved me much stress and more joy as I let life unfold and allowed myself to just be present in each moment rather than agonizing about an unknown future. Letting go would have gifted me with Patience which in turn carries with it a whole gamut of gifts such as acceptance, gentleness with life, courage and love. 

It was in my 30s (or very late 20s) when I had my first taste of true love. I fell in love twice, got married and had my child in my 30s. This is truly a decade of mature love and I am certain that the real lesson to take to heart is to love well and to never hold back. Choose who you love and love with all your heart. Be brave and know that love should never be defeated, diluted or clouded by fear. Loving well means giving of your whole self, and though it's a big risk, there really is no other way. Only in loving wholeheartedly can deep joy and fulfillment be found. You need to go all in to reap love's rewards.

People often ask me now why I've become so paranoid. I always answer with one word: Motherhood. Having my son brought out the Mama Bear in me to the extreme. I am overprotective and am perpetually consumed by worries. Though I have slowly improved through the years as I've acknowledged this disease, I know I still have a long way to go. If given the chance, I would tell my younger self to enjoy life and be certain that Faith is larger and stronger than fear. Perhaps with 'Stop Worrying' I could add 'Breathe Deep', 'Slow Down', 'Have Faith' and 'Pray Often'. Those are the most important elements to staying calm and finding joy in our everyday worrisome lives. 

How about you? I'd love to hear what two-word advice you'd like to offer your younger self.