Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Am I Really Doing This?

I can't believe that Daylight Saving Time starts this Sunday, March 8. Of course this only means one thingthat Spring is almost here. Plus of course the fact that I will most likely be grouchy on Sunday as we let our clocks 'spring forward' forcing me to lose one precious hour of sleep. *sigh*

In honor of Spring and everything new and fresh, I'd like to share some exciting (or is it anxiety-inducing?) news! No, I'm not pregnant although the amount of nausea I'm feeling might make you think that. 

I'm attending my very first blogging conference this weekend! It's the Bloggers At Midlife (BAM) Conference 2015 and it'll be held right here in Nashville, at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel to be exact.


It's my first time attending a blogging conference, hence the nauseating anxiety. It's also the BAM's very first time hosting a conference so in a way it's great that I'm not the only 'virgin' when it comes to these things. 

I had promised myself since mid-2014 that I will dare myself to push some of my boundaries. It started with joining a few more bloggers'/writers' groups to challenge myself more in the area of writing. And then the biggest leap of all last year was my contacting Arianna Huffington directly to pitch a blog post which then opened the door for me as far as being a Huffington Post contributor (note: not 'employee'). At that point, it truly became clear to me that it pays to take risks and push oneself if you want growth. 

So, here I am daring myself once more to be in a big room full of 'strangers'. I've only met some of the other attendees virtually, none physically and I am terrified of looking stupid, feeling stupid, isolated and lost. These are my fears and though I know they will surely accompany me this weekend, I am hoping they will be balanced by my optimism that these women all seem friendly, down to earth and that some of them are just like meintroverted, slightly awkward and are over-thinkers. I've been told those are fairly common qualities among writers. 

So, wish me luck! Keep me in your prayers and kindly send me all the good vibes you can! Better yet, if you've attended blogging conferences before, how about sharing with me some survival tips! I surely need them.

I promise to give you the scoop on my next blog post, that is, if I survive the whole thing without blacking out.  


Friday, February 27, 2015

Fifty Strands of Grey

They're not sexy. But trust me, there's absolutely no shortage of gasps on my part every time I lay eyes on them. Thanks to this sense of horror, I'm also probably beating Anastasia Steele with the amount of "Oh my", "Jeez", "Crap" and "Holy Sh*t" that escape my mouth every time I take a good look at my head in the mirror. Though it's said that there's a thin line between pleasure and pain, I guarantee that mine all come from displeasure and the painful realization that these suckers are multiplying at an unbelievably fast rate and there's nothing much I can do to stop them. My hands are tied and unfortunately not in a naughty way. 

Fortunately though, these silvery-grey strands haven't quite invaded my entire head yet. For the most part, I can still pretend they don't exist as long as I keep my hair parted strategically. However, you have to agree that they're getting noticeably out of control and having Asian black hair doesn't help at all in concealing them. 

When I was in elementary school, I remember having a school assignment where we were asked to note how old our parents were. I asked my folks and at the time, my Mom was 35. For many, many years that followed, my Mom stayed 35 in my eyes. Nothing about her made me change my mind about her being perpetually 35 until I saw her hair strands change color. Bit by bit they surfaced and since my mother was never a fan of dyeing her hair, I had to stand back and watch these silver-grey strands populate larger areas of her head. As this happened, I was forced to adjust my perception and move her from 35 to somewhere 40ish, which was probably her real age at the time after all.

I hated it. Not because it made her less beautiful but because I had to then face the reality that my parents were aging. It seems silly, right? Of course everyone ages! But maybe constancy is a childhood necessity. Maybe deep down I had to believe that my parents will always be there, stay the same, stay young, healthy and simply ageless. 

Now that I'm on the other side, playing the part of the 40ish parent with aging hair (among other things), I'm a bit concerned about how my son feels.

When I asked him what he thinks about my grey strands, he said, "I'm kinda sad". When asked why, his response was, "Well, 'cos you're getting old. I kinda want you to stay young, you know".

This is definitely pain for me of a different kind. It's painful for any parent to see worries on their children's faces and especially so if it's of an existential kind. My son is 7. He really should only be worried about whether or not he'd be able to build his fancy house on Minecraft, or if I'd give him enough YouTube time the next day so he can watch his favorite toy reviewer. I was much older when I started feeling bothered by my parents' greying hair, but then again I was also much older by the time I became a parent, thus giving my son a much shorter period of time to enjoy my completely black crown.

Ah, the joys of being an older parent to a young child! I truly owe it to my son to stay as 'young' as I can, even if this means standing at the hair color aisle at the supermarket for a ridiculous amount of time just so I can choose the perfect hair dye shade that will cover my greys. No pain, no gain. So let me bust out the latex (gloves, that is), let the juices flow (or foam up from the can to the palm of my hand), and let me lose myself in the intoxicating scent of ammonia as I declare war against my fifty or so strands of grey.

Friday, February 20, 2015


I often find myself saying that word under my breath more than I would prefer, to be honest. Since I've never been a confrontational person and choosing my battles is a skill I've internalized very early on in my marriage, I'd have to say that this word is possibly a relationship game-changer and sanity savior. 

I suppose this word is my verbal equivalent of an eye roll but it suits me better since too much eye rolling generally gives me a headache. I summon the word like a true drama queen when I need to express frustration over little annoyances that are not worth nagging about but to a minimum are definitely worth whining over.

...when I see an empty toilet paper roll left on the holder and a fresh roll is within arm's reach

...when dirty clothes are on the floor, just ALMOST making it to the laundry hamper which stands two inches away

...when the snoring is in surround sound just when I'm beyond exhausted and would kill for two hours of sleep

...when dirty dishes are left on the counter top and the dishwasher sits right below it

...when the bathroom mirror is bathed in toothpaste splatter and I've just cleaned it yesterday


Yes, seriously these things happen to me on a regular basis. 

And seriously, I'm certainly not perfect too and I'm sure my husband puts up with a whole lot of things I do that don't make much sense to him either (e.g. fear and avoidance of driving on the interstate, social anxiety, and tendency to over-think, among other things). But seriously, all these are not serious enough to outweigh the things that really count.

In the grand scheme of things, I still seriously think our marriage is seriously solid, having two seriously flawed people dead serious about seriously making it all work, taking it simply one step at a time. Seriously.

Friday, February 13, 2015

My Fair Share of Blind Dates

Blind dates are possibly one of the scariest things ever invented. Broaching the topic to another could send that person sprinting in the opposite direction at lightning speed and you won't even have enough time to finish uttering the term. Believe me, I get it. I've agreed to do it one too many times.

The truth is that I just wasn't meeting enough people and I was getting close to 30—lethal combination to the brains of most single people. At the time, I was teaching in university and everyone I found even just remotely interesting or attractive were either married or gay. Well, that or they were clearly pining for someone else. So, I let friends and relatives take matters into their own hands and announced to the Universe, "What the hell, let's do this!"

The first one was through one of my closest friends, M. She said her female boss highly recommended a male friend...single guy, smart, funny and comes from a good family. The guy called me a couple of times before our date, (which, by the way, was to be a group date with my friend and the boss). He sounded okay over the phone, not impressive by my standards, but I promised the Universe I'd keep an open mind. 

On the night we were all meeting up, M and myself arrived first at the restaurant. I wanted it this way so that I can give myself enough time to breathe and calm down before I saw my date. While waiting, my friend and I spotted a few grammatical errors on the menu and killed time making fun of those silly mistakes. I should've taken that as a sign at that point and just called it a night. When M's boss came, she stood by our table, greeted us, and I saw that there was a guy standing behind her. I think at this point I should tell you how much this 'boss' built up her friend so much that M and I were convinced we were going to meet someone with a showbiz-worthy face. No such face showed up. As a matter of fact, when my friend and I saw the guy standing by our table, we were both thinking the same thing..."Where's THE guy? Is there someone else showing up?!"

But, no I didn't walk out. I'm not that superficial. I stayed, had dinner, did my best to have fun, and even let the guy drop me off at my apartment. But I knew I didn't want to see him again. He was completely conceited, shallow and uninteresting and all he seemed perfectly capable of was to brag about his family's textile business and how much money they make. Unimpressive. Simply not my cup of tea, so...moving on....

Blind date #2 was one arranged by a cousin of mine. They said the guy was a bit older than me, definitely mature, successful and looking at finally settling down. I had just come out of a very intense and consuming relationship and wanted to see what else could be out there for me, and so again I said, "Bring it on!"

He was a gentleman. Picked me up from the apartment, made sure to open doors for me, mild-mannered and seemed completely good on paper. He wasn't my usual type but at that point, I was so heartbroken that it probably didn't matter anymore if he looked like Kermit the Frog. He took me to a nice restaurant and I thought it was a good sign that we were having good conversations and I was feeling comfortable. Too comfortable, as a matter of fact, that I crossed over to being verbally incontinent, sans alcohol. There was nothing or no one else to blame but me. I committed the worst first date mistake—over the top self-disclosure. I think I talked about my ex and then I'm pretty sure I used the words 'psychotic' and 'neurotic' quite often to describe myself. Suffice to say that after our meal, I was pretty sure I scared him off badly enough that I wouldn't see nor hear from him again. 

And then of course there was Guy #3 who didn't even give me the chance. We spoke on the phone, another one who's totally great on paper and then NOTHING. No follow through. The friend who tried to fix us up said the guy chickened out. I was upset and mainly only because it felt as if I was weeded out so early that I didn't even get thrown into the lottery drum! What's up with that?!

But as cliche as this may sound, I'm actually grateful that none of those blind dates worked. If they had, then I wouldn't have had the chance to go on another blind date where I finally met my husband. By that point, I just cared enough to show up and look presentable, but didn't care too much to try too hard to stay too focused on results. I showed up as me and thought, "Take it or leave it. I'm way too old and too exhausted to play these games."

Fortunately, it worked. It wasn't instant. It took almost a year after my husband and I first met on that blind date for us to really reconnect and acknowledge that 'we' might be a possibility worth exploring. Yes, our attraction was instant. But we were both not emotionally prepared when we first met and there were way too many loose ends in my life at the time for me to seriously consider having a relationship with him. The delay was needed and ended up being worth it. 

So my point is this. You have to want something badly enough to get it. This includes Love. You have to make the effort to put yourself out there and make your declaration to the Universe as clear as you possibly can that you want THIS. You won't know exactly what will show up, but if you are clear about what you are looking for and know what you deserve, then you'll recognize it when it finally shows up.

You have to be willing to experiment, try new things if you want different results.

Most of all, in your quest for love, you have to value yourself and know that no matter how it all turns out, you will be fine. This is YOUR story, YOUR journey. And every one else you meet, date, fall in love or end up with, are cast members with supporting roles. Your focus should be on how you will evolve as your story unfolds. 

Waiting to see if the frog's just a frog or if it'll turn into a prince is not where the excitement lies. It's in wondering what the princess is willing to do or how far she's willing to go to find what she's looking for and seeing how it's all transforming her as well. To me that's the more interesting story!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Romance is Relative

"Mama, I'm so glad I'm not a girl", my seven-year-old tells me while waiting for me to finish putting my make-up on. I wondered if it was because he thought there was too much pressure on females to be attractive and all 'made-up'.

"Why do you say that?", I muttered while rushing to finish putting some mascara on, being careful not to take my eyes off the mirror.

"Well...It's just too hard! I don't want to get pregnant or give birth. And most of all, I don't want to have any of the pokey!"

It was a good thing I was already done with my eye make-up at that point because I'm pretty sure I would have ended up shaking with laughter and poking my eyes in the process. In our family, we say 'pokey' to refer to anything that refers to injections or poking yourself with the needle. Apparently, my son has heard our conception story often enough to remember that I had to go through A LOT to have him in our lives.

"Oh, honey. Not everyone goes through that just to get pregnant. It's just that my body has a hard time making babies so I needed all that stuff". 

It was all I could say to remind my son that that what I had to go through was not the natural way that most people experience. It was as far as I was willing to go in order not to say too much about sex and the whole reproductive process. I didn't think he, nor I, was ready for that kind of conversation yet.

Whenever I share some details with my son on how he was conceived, I always find myself trying to be really careful that I don't make it seem overly-scientific. I don't ever want him to think that the route his father and I took was completely 'sterile', matter-of-fact, and unromantic.

Though on the surface it may seem that way to some, the truth is that our experience was quite romantic, really.

My husband and I had several appointments where we were both around and knew it took solid commitment, dedication and sacrifice from both of us to make it work.

My husband was always around to assist me with the most difficult and most painful shots in order to give me the hormones I needed to trick my body into thinking that it was getting ready for pregnancy. It didn't matter whether we were home or out at a banquet hall attending a wedding. He knew that when it was time for my injections, he had to show up to help me.

My husband had to comfort me during those painful injections when all I could do was lay on my stomach and cry in pain as I felt the fat needle and the viscous fluid being injected through my flesh.

Both of us worried when I had some spotting after my embryo transfer.

We held hands, cried and prayed together while on our drive to the hospital, rushing through intersections that early November morning as I bled at almost 20 weeks of gestation, terrified that I'd lost my baby, this baby we've worked so hard for and hoped for.

Aren't all those romantic? 

In spite of relying heavily on predictability and timing, our incessant monitoring of numbers and obsessing over the slightest of symptoms felt, we never felt more bonded and I wouldn't trade any of it for a more traditional route.

Romance shows up differently for different couples. Most of all, sometimes looking too hard for romance the way you expect it might make you miss the real things when they show up. 

Having someone stay with you in uncertain times...

Having someone strong enough to cry and grieve with you in moments of pain...

Having someone embrace you for all that you are, with all your sense of inadequacy and guilt...

All of that are romantic AND more. They are real things that not only make your heart leap and melt, but most of all, break it wide open so beautifully to flood your life with hope.

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!