Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Can I Really Stop Hating the New Year?

It's no secret that I've always had a disdain for New Year celebrations, or the coming of the new year for that matter. All it ever meant to me was the end of the Christmas or holiday festivities, the end of joyous times, taking down the beautiful holiday decorations, dealing with fireworks, fire crackers and all sorts of noise I can't tolerate, going back to work or school and the whole drudgery of daily life. It means the start of waiting one more year before the glee starts all over again. In other words, new year's eve to me is one big "UGGGHHHH".

I realize that there's something terribly selfish and short-sighted about my views on this subject. I'm not particularly proud of it, don't believe I can just magically change it, but I now see an antidote to this negative thinking. 

I need to zoom out. I need to think outside myself. Isn't this true for all things if we want to cultivate more gratitude and positive disposition?

So, sincerely I wish this for the coming New Year...

May it be a fresh start to those who have lost a job, a steady source of income, lost confidence or direction. Don't write off Hope just yet. Most of all, don't give up on You.

May it offer healing to the brokenhearted, those whose hearts got deserted no matter the circumstance. Know that you are never alone and that Love always finds its way back to open hearts. Don't shut yours.

May those who have resolutions pertaining to weight loss find beauty in the body they have now, beauty in the miracle that it is and how it sustains us independent of its size, shape or weight. Shed the weight of self-hate. That is all.

May we all strive to appreciate the truth that we are all inevitably connected. Male, Female, Rich, Poor, First World, Third World, Healthy, Sick. Our shared humanity calls out to us in every interaction. Recognize it. Feel it. Allow it to make you desire to create a more compassionate world. Have Faith that it's still possible. 

Have a blessed 2016! It can just be another year, another step, more of the same. Or it can be a year when your vulnerability offers gifts of deeper connections with your self and others. No, I haven't changed my mind about the noise and the sadness of ending the festivities. But I have the strangest feeling that I'm getting a bit more excited about stepping into January 1 to see where it leads ALL of us. The New Year Grinch isn't totally incurable after all...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Christmas Wish

"Peace on Earth and good will to all men."

All my life I’ve heard this greeting during the holidays and I’ve always thought it made sense to me.

May peace be with you. I thought I understood what this meant every time this was spoken. As a child I thought Peace only meant experiencing silence in the literal sense, or calm, and the absence of war in the world.

But now that I’m much older, I’m comforted that I understand more.

Peace…Yes it’s a state of calm. Yes it’s tranquility. Yes it’s the absence of war or turmoil. Most importantly, all these things apply to our inner worlds as much as it does to our external reality.

Peace is to be able to accept things for how they are. It’s the ability to befriend the imperfections that surround you, silence the irrational insatiability that haunts you, or to simply be present in the moment instead of resisting it. 

Peace is to silence the fear within you with faith as you give in to the wisdom that tells you that life is not about control, and that real happiness is not dependent on always getting what we desire. 

Peace be to you. May you embrace the imperfections of your family and practice unconditional love as much as your humanity can allow.

Peace be to you. May you accept and embrace yourself wholeheartedly the way you are now and not a future desired version of your self.

Peace be to you. May you sit in quiet comfort having faith that you have what you need at this moment.

Peace be to you. May you feel only gratitude and openly receive all the love that is available to you, no matter how flawed the source or circumstance might be.

May Christmas and the spirit of the holidays bring you true and enduring Peace!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Are You Saying 'I love you' the Proper Way?

It's the holiday season and let's face it, most of us feel festive, positive and most certainly generous even with our words and feelings. Amidst all this joyfulness is the overflowing feeling of love (hopefully!) and sometimes you just have to say it, don't you? Sadly, I don't think a lot of us are saying it right and we don't even know it. By the time we realize it, it's already too late and damage has been done, either to the recipient of those three precious words or most often, to us, the giver. 

So today I will share with you what I've learned, painfully at times, about saying 'I love you'. Here's how you do it right...

1. Choose wisely when deciding who to say these words to. 
Love is precious and powerful. Never doubt that. And so you must choose wisely who you give it to. Make sure you mean it. Make sure that when it comes to that person, you can truly be patient, kind, trusting, humble and steady. You must know what real love means before you can offer it sincerely to someone else. Love changes the source, as well as the recipient and once given, you can't really take it back. It sets in motion changes within you that you cannot undo, inasmuch as it transforms those who openly receive it. Choose wisely who you want to experience this powerful change with.

2. Say it without any expectation. Don't say it expecting it will be said back. There's no rule saying that reciprocity is a prerequisite to offering love. Think of it as a gift. When you give a gift to someone, there is no expectation that you will receive anything back. You can't even impose that the person send you a  'thank you' card and give you praises. And if silence is all you get, you should not throw a tantrum and blame the other person for not behaving the way you want them to. Remember that love and freedom go hand in hand. You give it freely and the other person has the freedom as well to receive it in the manner they want to. If you find yourself always expecting a response, then that just means you are doing it for yourself and not for the other person and therefore you need to re-evaluate your idea of Love. Perhaps You and Love need to be further re-acquainted.  

3. Since it is a gift, you cannot dictate how it should be used or received. I don't believe you can say 'I love you' and then impose rules as to what the other person should do with it. 'Tell everyone'. 'Don't tell anyone'. 'Be happy'. 'Don't be flattered'. You simply can't be a control freak like this. If you and the other person truly know each other and share a mutuality in your relationship, then such things become unnecessary. Elaborate explanations or clarifications won't be necessary. If you are still in the mindset of controlling how your 'I love you' should be received, then you need some growing up to do and again, some re-evaluation of what Love is really about.

4. Say it with a breath of gratitude. Don't cloud it with a sense of need or fear, embarrassment or a sense of lack. Let it go, let it wash over you and be happy that you have it to give. No matter what happens, how it's received, just be truly grateful that you know Love and have been touched by it. Not everyone is as blessed.

Before I end, I want to share with you three of my favorite love quotes:

"All love eventually becomes help" ---- Paul Tillich

"Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own". --- Robert A. Heinlein

"For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation." --- Rainer Maria Rilke

Enjoy this love-filled season!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

When Grief Is Hope's Shadow

Maybe I am.

Maybe it'll be different this time. 

Maybe it's worth one more chance.

Maybe we can do it all again.

Maybe it's not as bad and draining as I envision it to be.

For a few days, I agonized. I wondered if there could be life in my womb again. Feeling scared was my knee-jerk reaction to this possibility, but what threw me off was the hint of excitement I knew I felt deep down. It might have only lasted for a moment but that feeling makes its presence known and there was just no denying it.

Finally, I gave in to the tester to put an end to my agony. There was no chance in hell I was willing to wait weeks to see whether my period would come or if I should be digging through our attic to locate my diaper genie, so I decided to get answers as soon as possible. I took a deep breath, held it in, and ended up with both a sigh of relief and slight disappointment which really surprised me.

I'm not pregnant. Only one line showed up. The unusual cramping I experienced for several nights were not implantation cramps after all. 

Maybe it was just my aging and hormonal body going haywire. 

Maybe it was all in my head. 

Maybe the specter of hope I felt was my body's recollection of Emily, my womb missing her after almost exactly five years. 

In 2010, my husband and I decided it was time to give IVF another shot. Noah was 3 years old and I was ready to go through it again. My body has had enough rest from all the hormones pumped through me, all the ultrasounds and blood draws that anyone going through assisted reproduction is all too familiar with. With the success we had with Noah, I was beyond optimistic that as long as this embryo took, everything would be alright. 

On September 2010, I started with my round two of IVF, taking all necessary medications to trick my body into thinking it was ready for pregnancy. By mid-October, my eggs were harvested, fertilized and three embryos were placed back inside my womb. By the end of that same month, we found out that one embryo took and we were declared 4 weeks and a few days pregnant!

The celebration didn't last long though because by the first week of December, just a week after celebrating Thanksgiving, I was told my baby was gone. She had stopped growing by 7 weeks. 

I still remember exactly what I was wearing on Thanksgiving Day during our annual family gathering. I still remember how everyone was telling me I had that undeniable pregnancy glow. I was happy and excited and enjoyed how everyone was hoping and betting that this time it will be a girl! Looking back now, I know that there was no real 'glow'. During that party, underneath that Merlot-colored top I wore, and the festive mood that enveloped me, there was no longer any heart beating inside my womb. My baby was gone. 

And I also still remember the initial puzzled look the nurse and ultrasound technician had on their faces as they tried to detect my baby's heartbeat. All that quickly turned into sadness and a loss for words.

And how can I forget Noah's words when I came home and stood by our door after that dreadful appointment, with my then 3-year-old saying to me "Sorry you lost your baby, Mama."

Through chromosomal analysis, I was told I had a daughter. She would be 4 1/2-years old by now had she survived. She could be in preschool. She could be playing with Noah's Legos, fighting over them and then hugging it out. She could have helped decorate our Christmas tree. She could be trying to write her wish list for Santa. 

I honestly thought I would be completely over it by now. But I had long suspected that one never really fully gets over the grief of losing a child, a death of one's hopes most of all. I still hang my angel ornament every Christmas to remember my Emily. I still hang a red baby stocking for her, right beside Noah's blue one just to honor her brief presence in my life. The wound has healed and no longer bleeds, and my heart has opened its doors to make peace with God. But healed wounds never meant complete freedom from the memory of the pain. 

My short-lived imagination of the possibility of being pregnant again this year is not about me changing my mind about being a single child parent. I think it's more about me wanting to replace an old scar with a better outcome. It's about me easing out my sense of guilt and failure through the possibility of success. It's not about wanting to replace Emily with another child but about my desire to change a painful narrative that has since defined me; that narrative that says my body doesn't work the way it's supposed to.

Maybe in time I'd be able to accept the full narrative and experience full forgiveness for myself.

Maybe in time the scar will no longer bring any memory of suffering with it but instead only a feeling of grace and Divine wisdom.  

Maybe soon I can go through the holiday season without a sense of lack or the desire to imagine an alternate reality.

Maybe soon I will truly realize that Life is not defined by the number of happy endings we get, but by the strength of our faith that no matter how the chapters in our lives turn out, everything is still bound to make sense in the end. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

My Real Weight

A friend of mine, MSD, nominated me over at Facebook to participate in the Glimpse of Everyday Life seven-day challenge. For seven days, I am to share something about myself that might give the reader a deeper understanding of my life or who I am. It could be a photo, with or without any write-up, something that I saw or read that might have inspired me, made me laugh or reflect, a rant or positive words that could inspire. Anything goes, really.

I shared one for today but then after writing, I thought I might as well share it here on my blog. A few weeks ago, I promised I would write as authentically as I can, and after logging in my first 'Day In the Life' write-up I felt that it's a genuine admission of a wound that I have carried for so long.

Here's the picture I shared and what I wrote: 

This terrifies me and I'd avoid it like the plague if I could. Every time I see it or 'engage' it, I'm reminded of all the self-hate and dissatisfaction I have with my body. I'm reminded of who I've never been and might never be and the whole futility of a dream. Simultaneously, I try to fight the self-hate with a dose of self-acceptance and gratitude that at least I'm still generally healthy. The numbers on it hardly change now, especially after turning 40, and stepping on it each time is like allowing myself to be mocked or shamed for what I'm doing or not doing enough of. It makes me want to smash it or throw it out the window but I know that every time I step on it, it's also a challenge to accept where I am, who I am and how I'm built. Its existence is a constant reminder of how far I still am from truly loving myself, JUST AS I AM.

I wasn't expecting it to be as cathartic as it ended up being but it's out there now and I'm glad that it is. It's not a big secret that I've struggled with my weight and my body image for as long as I can remember. I've never had an eating disorder and have never really experienced severe weight cycling. Sure I would lose and gain a little here and there but always just gradually through the years. In other words, to be very honest, I have never been 'small', 'skinny', or 'just right'. I have always been 'chubby', 'round', 'sturdy', overweight. 

And I have always been made to feel bad about it. From childhood to my 20s, I've always heard backhanded compliments such as "Oh, you have such a pretty face, if only you'd shed some weight." Or as a kid, I heard a lot of "Ah, this one was let loose in the kitchen" as other adults spoke to my parents about me. It hurt. I resented those adults. But the damage was done the moment I heard them and unfortunately, can't be undone just as easily. These wounds linger and though they may heal on the surface, the inner layers have already been compromised and can break open and bleed any moment. 

And so I grew up being unhappy with my body, dreaming of a magic number on the scale or tag on clothes to tell me I look great and should feel great about myself. 

But it never really comes. I've never really seen it. Once I see something less or smaller than before, it's still never really enough. Never small enough. Never light enough. I almost feel like I'm chasing the end of the rainbow. But in pursuit, I always end up tired and hitting a pot of donuts or Cheetos instead. 

So you can understand my aggression towards the weighing scale. All I see when I look at it is judgment. Defeat. A sense of lack.

I often wonder what I'd do once I step on it and see a number that would make me happy. Right now, I say it's between 15 to 20 more pounds of weight loss. But is it really? Can I assure myself that I would be satisfied if and when I reach that goal? I'm not so sure. 

I want to be happy where I am now. I want to accept my body for what it isplump but not curvy, straight but always lumpy in the wrong places. It's where I have always been, where I am now and maybe it'll never change. I just wish I were at peace with it and would never feel or be made to feel that I need to do more, shed more, just to be 'better'. I wish I could reach that place where a better version of myself no longer includes how I look on the outside. It's a gift only I can give to myself but frankly still don't know if I can afford it.

I know there are other real problems in the world but this is a burden I carry, the weight in my soul I don't quite know how to shed. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

#TuesdayThought....and It's Thankful!

Being that it's Thanksgiving week, I thought I'd share with you some wise words by U2 that have always pulled me through some 'whining-glass-half-empty-times'. It may not always be easy to see it this way, but indeed, 'It's a beautiful day!'......

Original Image by: Viktor Hanacek

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Birthday Gift I Desperately Need

Photo Credit: Joey Gannon

My niece's son, B (Yes, I'm his grandma), celebrated his third birthday a couple of months ago. On that day my niece posted on social media that they celebrated by filling B's day with his most favorite thingsgoing to the arcade, pies, cupcakesall around fun stuff. I thought it made perfect sense to celebrate birthdays this way, celebrating by surrounding yourself with the people and things you love and enjoy the most. 

Last week, I celebrated mine. I pretty much just stayed home all day and struggled with making the day feel special. Sure, I can say that I have an excuse in the form of a husband who just had a shoulder surgery three days prior. Insisting on a celebration while your significant other is walking around with a sling just didn't sit well with me.

But beyond that excuse, the really disturbing reason is that I sincerely couldn't figure out how I wanted to celebrate. If you asked me what my ideal birthday celebration would look like, I honestly wouldn't know how to answer you. In the end, I ended up spending much of the day envying 3-year-old little B. At least he knew.

Maybe a trip to Las Vegas to eat, watch shows, gamble and eat again....But it's Fall...too many germs and viruses this time of year to be in such a crowded place.

Maybe a nice day out with my oldest and dearest friends and family, watch a movie, enjoy a meal, have coffee while drowning ourselves in overanalysis! Yes!!....Oh oldest and dearest mostly live hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Maybe just a shop-'til-you-drop day at the Container Store, different apparel stores and makeup stores...Really? Since when has shopping fulfilled anyone? And to spend an insane amount of money on clothes and makeup and containers?? I feel guilty just thinking about it.

Alright then, I guess I just want to be alone all day and night, lounge and completely free myself of all sense of responsibility and just chillax...Ummm, maybe a lobotomy is what I need to do first for this to be even remotely possible!

As you can see from a sampling of my thought process above, I am really my own worst, most ruthless enemy and critique. For every thought, a counterargument is almost simultaneously fired. It's like my brain is in a constant state of reload, as if I can't shoot down my own ideas fast enough.

After all this, it finally dawned on me that there really is only one gift that people like myself desperately need and that is Permissiona priceless gift that can only come from within.

This is why children have fun and know how to have joy in their lives. They know how to be themselves and really don't need permission to savor their experiences. Everything seems to be novel and as adults, we actually encourage them to enjoy, be amazed and be free of worries. They are in the moment and don't bother with the cost of gifts, the calories each bite is worth, nor the question of whether or not they deserve it. They just accept and say 'thank you'.

I need to give myself permission to relax, to enjoy material things, compliments, and to just savor the moment. I need to give myself permission to believe that I do deserve as many pockets of happiness especially when I celebrate being given the gift of life and more than 4 decades of doing my best to evolve in this earth school. 

We are all just struggling and grinding away in our own ways. I think each of us deserves a healthy serving of Permission every now and then. A little joy never hurt anyone. Go ask the kids.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


There is so much fear, ignorance, and hate going around in the world, especially after the November 13 Paris terror attacks, and so I thought of offering this reminder. 

We need to remember the light and love, instead of giving in to fear.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Scent of Time's Passage

I'm a featured blogger on Mamapedia Voices

I realized something was not right the moment I stepped inside his closet. I was only there to grab his laundry basket and for the first time in years of doing this, I found myself in an unfamiliar zone in my own home. For the first time I felt as if my crossing the threshold from bedroom to closet became more than just a literal experience. Crossing this threshold today both dampened and sent panic to every cell in my body, and at that point, there was nothing worse for me than being able to smell the truth.

I suppose I should first tell you that I’m extremely olfactory. I’m very sensitive to odors and I wouldn’t be surprised if my husband told you how it sometimes feels like he’s married to a bloodhound. We’ve always joked about that one night early on in our marriage when he went out with the guys and I was told they were headed to the bar. I thought nothing of it and enjoyed the evening by myself and hit the sack early. Later that night, as he sneaked quietly next to me in bed, I was roused from my sleep not by his movement but by the way he smelled. I sat up and sniffed him. Instead of inhaling just the typical boys’ night out smellyou know, that combination of musk, cigarette smoke and alcoholmy nose was assaulted by this heavy, saccharine-sweet, strawberry scent of cheap lotion.

“You guys went to a strip club, didn’t you?!” 

He chuckled like a naughty kid caught in the act and couldn’t believe I was able to guess. It’s such a distinct smell that’s quite hard to forget. I have only been to a strip club once, out of curiosity, and what mostly stuck out for me was not what I saw but what I smelled. From that point on, I had made up my mind that there must be a prescribed stripper lotion. And my husband made up his mind too that denying anything to me is futile especially when odors are left as evidence.

So when I stepped inside my son's closet and sniffed a different smell, I knew the evidence was all around me and that I've just been in denial for the longest time. 

My 'baby' is not a baby anymore. 

Instead of not smelling anything at all, or at times even detecting a hint of baby powdery scent, this time I inhaled the smell of sour, salty, sun-drenched sweat. When I would open that closet door before, it was as if I was being greeted by friendly, happy gnomes who met me with smiles and flowers and a joyous dance. This time, I was overpowered by this vision of a tired ogre, heavy and gross. 

My son is just eight, definitely still a good distance away from puberty. But at this stage I am already definitely detecting the changes, more than I would happily acknowledge. When you're a parent, the changes that you resist make their appearance way before your eyes perceive them. 

It's in the smell of their heads. The scent becomes more intense, more sweat than baby shampoo or the fresh, light smell of infancy.

It's in what we hear, the changes in their voice or their tone when they reason with us and learn to argue. Their words become more complex and so does their logic, which causes you ambivalence as you toggle between admiration and exasperation, pride and regret.

It's what your fingertips feel when you stroke their hair and you know it's coarser and thicker.

It's the slight jolt or confusion you can't quite process when you notice that he now just walks past you sometimes after the school bus brings him back home in the afternoon and you ask yourself, "Where are my hugs and kisses?

And then your heart can't seem to catch up to what your mind already knows when on weekend mornings you start to notice that he no longer enters your room and jumps on your bed as soon as he wakes up, and instead walks downstairs eager to do his own 'stuff' like video games, books or YouTube. All of a sudden you start to think you're losing your mind for resenting having a lot of extra minutes in bed, the very thing you said you'd kill for just a few years back.  

Perhaps children are designed to transform into something less endearing, even a bit repulsive to their own parents, something that would create more distance between parent and child. Perhaps the transformation is nature's way of urging us, parents, to slowly let our children go.

I know I have a few more years before the real stink and grossness all set in. I have a boy after all. But until then, I will continue to enjoy all the baby soft skin he still has, the very few soft and fine strands of hair I still catch glimpses of here and there, as well as the sensation of my son's tiny fingers twirling my hair to help him relax at bedtime. I know every single day brings me closer to the expiration date of all these simple gifts I've been given but I find comfort in knowing that one thing shall never ever change...

He will always be my baby, no matter what. And I am entitled to be in denial about that for as long as I want.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

This Question Takes You a Step Closer to Your Most Authentic Self

One of the most important existential questions we ask ourselves as humans is "Who am I meant to be?Being an overanalyzer, I've always had the tendency to think my way through things rather than act and engage. However, the older I get, the more I realize that life will never slow down or pause for me while I analyze my options. I can't just withdraw from all my commitments because I want to stay in my room, meditate or pray about what the next best step is. It just doesn't work that way. 

I've been able to confirm that realization even more so these past few months. The truth is, I've been having serious doubts about pursuing my writing. Quitting my blog altogether has crossed my mind several times. I don't know what happened but I've been finding it more and more difficult to sit down and develop my thoughts into essays interesting enough to read. Self-doubt has been plaguing me more than ever, with the voices getting louder and more incessant, telling me it's all for nothing or that I'm never going to be as good as the rest of them. Every time I make an attempt to write, it never takes long before I get to the point where I'm asking myself, "What good would this do? Will this be of any value to others?" Then the discouragement mounts and I just shut down. 

I hated how I was beginning to feel about writing but at the same time knew deep down that it isn't something I'm ready to just give up. How could I when I know that it's an integral part of myself as a thinker? I could never stop thinking and being an overanalyzer, and writing is my expression of that. One way or the other, I would keep writing somehow, somewhere, whether it's on my journal, some random piece of scrap paper, on my cellphone or wherever. It's still part of who I am and therefore I know I can't give it up, at least not just yet. 

So now that I've chosen my path, how can I get myself unstuck? 
If I feel so lost and uninspired, how do I find my way to becoming the truest version of myself?

The truth is, becoming who we're meant to be and reaching our highest potential has to do with doing, and not just thinking your way through it. This means if you find yourself in a rut and you feel discouraged with the obstacles you see before you, whether real or imagined, the only way to overcome them is through action and not merely endless planning or mental conditioning. Some form of actual energy or force has to be introduced for real movement to happen, any movement in the right direction no matter how small. 

Recently, I read a line from a magazine that stuck with me, one that I feel can help jump-start anyone's journey towards self-realization and identity affirmation: How about asking yourself what things you no longer agree to do? Answering that question jolts your consciousness into accepting change. Answering that question forces you to draw boundaries even when you are not clear what you want to do or what the next step is. By identifying which actions you want to reject, and therefore identifying where you don't want to go, you are also ultimately clarifying the direction you want to take, or options you accept that define who you are. Boundaries tend to do that. 

What are the things I no longer agree to do?

The more I asked myself this question, the more inspired I felt. Forcing ourselves to confront what has not been working for us, strengthens our sense of self-determination and therefore breeds self-confidence. More importantly, the more I asked myself this question, the more I realized that it was a way of honoring my innermost truths. For me it highlighted patterns I've gotten so accustomed to, but which have only served to give me a false sense of security and kept me from taking risks. In so doing, I've deprived my soul from its voice, its truth. Every time we silence our soul, our sacred truths, we die and lose ourselves little by little. If we do it often enough, that's when we feel lost, out of balance, empty.

I'm tired of feeling drained and lost, consumed by self-doubt, and so I've asked myself the question and came up with this:

I no longer agree to compare my journey as a writer to the journey of other writers.
I want to honor my own creativity, my pace, my limitations. I need to honor my own life circumstances, personality inclinations and thought processes that make me who I am, no matter how different that may be from the typical mold of a 'writer'. Not everyone succeeds in the same way and I need to define what that looks like for ME instead of measuring myself against others' achievements.

I no longer agree to start my days with social media, specifically checking my Facebook news feed, and end up spending an insane amount of time on it instead of focusing on what I really want to write about. 
It has also become apparent that reading the never-ending updates from other writers stresses me out too much, heightening my insecurities even more, which then incapacitate me further. Being extremely engaged in 'the game' might inspire and fire up others, and if that works for you, then go for it! However, it's clearly not for me and I function differently.

I no longer agree to deny stories inside me that have been crying out to be told. 
They are part of who I am and though they may not be truths that many others might be interested in hearing, they define my voice and spirit. These are echoes from my past that continue to manifest insights and aid me as I try to construct a road map for my unfolding biography. 

I no longer agree to minimize and devalue myself and my identity by believing that I am not an expert on anything and have no background or knowledge that anyone else might find interesting, let alone useful.
I have what many may call a 'nicheless' blog simply because it's a personal blog that allows me to write about a gamut of topics. But I really don't just write about anything under the sun. 
I write about parenting.
I write about insights I glean from daily life viewed through the lens of a migrant. 
I write about marriage and relationships. 
These past couple of years, I've also started writing a little about aging. 
These are my niches. These are my expertise and I need to claim that for myself and give them the value they deserve. 
If I continue to love what I write and write with Love, it will be valuable to someone. 
It will be of help, as Paul Tillich said. 
("There is no love which does not become help").

I no longer agree to focus on being the best in the field or focus on enriching others. Instead I will focus on enriching my own creativity, that is all
Writing is a creative expression and a need I have. If a side effect of my writing is to be able to help others and I get recognition from it, then thank you! But I refuse to be driven by anything else now, especially not perfection, catching an editor's attention, or going viral. I desire to focus only on enjoying my craft and giving my best in expressing my inner world through my writing.  

This is a contract I now make for and with my self, one which I know honors my spirit. I highly encourage you to do the same and ask that one simple questionWhat are the things YOU no longer agree to do? It might surprise you how much growth you can experience simply by changing your mind.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Can Halloween Be Any Scarier?

I knew seeing a police man stationed close to the entrance of the store was not a good sign. At first we thought there must have been a commotion inside. As soon as we swung the doors open though and stepped in, and seeing that the cop was trying to be as unobtrusive as possible yet still visible, I figured he was just there as a deterrent. It is the last weekend before Halloween after all and things can get a little crazy at costume and party stores.

Actually, crazy is a pretty accurate word to sum this all up. 

When we got to the 'wall of fear', it was packed. What's the wall of fear, you may ask? It's the store's wall displaying pictures of all the children's costumes they're selling, from which kids and parents select their costume of choice and take note of the merchandise code so that a sales attendant can grab the package for you from the back storage room. It's not the costumes that I find scary. It's the prices! Costumes to be worn once, all averaging $30 a piecethat's scary. And crazy!

Then the line for fitting was also crazy. If my son didn't bother with a first and second option, I would've insisted not bothering to fit. After 11 years of living here in the U.S., I can finally say that I'm now comfortable with the idea of returning merchandise when absolutely necessary. (It's crazy too that it's taken me that long).

When we finally made it to the fitting 'room', I realized that you can hardly call it a room because it was more like a box. Stepping in there with a child and unpacking costumes with a million components inside the packages was hell! There was nowhere to rest anything on and things just kept falling to the ground which meant you'd have to pick them up. But have you tried bending over in a 3' x 4' space while with another person in it? After 10 minutes, I just wanted to scream and knew I've had enough. If I spent another five minutes in that store, I would've ended up attacking everyone with the overpriced ninja swords laying around before I committed harakiri!

Can you really blame me if I'm not a big fan of Halloween? To me it embodies the height of capitalism with businesses taking advantage of people's desire to participate in a tradition. It's mostly about profit and commercialism. It's not even a real holiday!

I grew up in the Philippines and we celebrated All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. People went to the cemetery to visit loved ones who have passed. Families gathered and prayed. There were no costumes and candies and expensive decorations. I think only those who lived in exclusive, gated subdivisions participated in that but only minimally. At least up until I left the Philippines 11 years ago, Halloween was never celebrated to the extent that I see here in the U.S. 

I'm sure the children have fun. I'm sure the children pressure their parents to give in and the parents (like myself) feel powerless because no one wants their child to feel left out. Adults and children alike don elaborate costumes for one night for the thrill and fun of it. Are we really that desperate to escape from reality and be something else for a few hours even when it means spending unwisely? Or maybe the costumes allow us to be more of who we think we are or who we authentically are deep down? That we need one designated day a year for that and have to spend money on costumes to accomplish something so important is a really scary, crazy thing, if that were the case.

One thing is certain. Even though as Americans, we're really not celebrating anything significant on Halloween, businesses will continue to have a lot to celebrate with this 'holiday', that's for sure.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Our Parents in Us

As my husband and I stood outside my son's classroom waiting for the start of a school affair, papers hanging on the wall caught my eye. On display was a class project where the kids had to come up with synonyms using the letters of their name. Immediately I searched for what my son came up with and though it's obviously not perfect as you can see below (e.g. spelling), I am intrigued and fascinated by the thought process behind it.

First of all, I completely agree with the adjectives he chose to characterize himself. But more importantly, I'm actually impressed by his choices and happy that he didn't choose Nasty, Nutty, Neurotic or Narcissistic. Or even Anxious, Absurd or Abused (by a recovering perfectionist mother). 

What screamed out to me, and what I find most amusing, is that it's become obvious how he feels defined by being organized, or at least aspires to be. And look at that illustration he came up with! It's him sweating it out in the organization process. Papers, markers, toys, games and crayons all in their rightful spots...and contained in bins no less! What sense of accomplishment indeed!

There is one question I'm left wondering about after seeing my son's project. I'm now left thinking of how much of this is true for him, independent of what he knows I want him to be. In other words, are these qualities he truly believes he possesses or qualities he tries to possess because his parents approve of them? He could have written 'nervous', 'obedient', 'adorable' or 'affectionate' and 'happy' or 'helpful'words I easily associate with him. But he chose what he chose and it makes me curious.

Consequently, isn't it also worth asking ourselves how much of who we are or have become as adults, truly and authentically represent us and not just qualities we think we have, simply because we still aspire to possess them for the sake of having our parents' (or any other significant other's) approval?

If you say you're 'ambitious', are you truly that or are you pushing yourself to be that because it's what you've been taught to aspire for?

If you say you're 'compassionate', is that who you are to the core even when no one is looking or judging you? And is this something you freely chose?

Are you really 'funny' or did your family assign that role to you and you never really wanted it in the first place?

Or maybe we all somehow turn into versions of what our parents wanted us to be and end up internalizing their ideals.

I understand that we are all products of our socialization, especially the socialization process we received through our families. I understand that we become who we are because of what we learn, what we see and that it's all these things layered on to us and eventually define us.

But I still wonder how much of ourselves are simply reflections of our parents' desires for us. How much of myself can I claim, with utter certainty, as completely devoid of my parents' fingerprints or echoes of their voices. If we were all to make a list of five qualities we believe define us, how many of these can we say are independent of our parents' aspirations for us? In addition, which trait do you wish to drop or disassociate from, if only you could, because it's really more just a reflection of what people expect from you rather than something that you feel is authentic to you? Are there any?

I don't have firm answers to these questions yet, and am still mulling over them. 

What are your thoughts? I would love to read them.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

No More Routine Response

I am terrified.

If you live in the United States, and assuming you've not been living under a rock, I'm sure you understand why I feel the way I do. You probably all the more understand this sense of terror, the anxiety and anger if you are a parent.

On October 1, another mass shooting happened at a community college in Oregon where 8 students and a teacher perished. Nine others were injured before the gunman, also a student, shot himself. 

The following day, Friday, an 11-year old boy accidentally shot his 12-year old brother at a target shooting outing. A man who was with the boys at the time left a loaded gun on a picnic table when the younger boy picked it up and fired the weapon, fatally shooting his brother in the head. 

A day after that, on the evening of October 3, news surfaced of yet another 11-year old boy shooting an 8-year old girl just because she wouldn't let him play with her puppy. The girl is dead. This was in Tennessee and just felt a little too close to home. 

Insanity aside, my husband and I wondered what it is that might explain the shocking rise of gun violence in our society. My Sociology background makes me most certain it can't be explained by a single socio-cultural variable, although I firmly believe that easy access to guns accounts for a lot of it. 

And it's not the amount of mentally unstable people out there that terrifies me now. What terrifies me is that I see hints (to say the least) of the type of parenting that engenders the kind of behavior that makes an 11-year old think it's acceptable to hurt another human being because he didn't get what he wanted. 

What terrifies me is that I see around me, on an almost daily basis, adult and parent behavior that could explain why some gun owners refuse sensible changes to existing gun control laws simply because of their desire to protect their right to own guns. Their guns. Their rights. It doesn't seem to matter that there are other voices out there, other more important rights to protect. What's theirs trumps all other cards on the table. 

I'm well aware that I've ranted quite a bit on this site about parents behaving badly in school, specifically in school pick up lines. But if you think about it, it is this same sense of entitlement that potentially creates who we now call 'monsters' or 'evil' after they pick up their guns and shoot innocent and defenseless lives.

It's okay to teach our children that they are special, as long as we don't forget to add that everybody is too, in their own ways. What's not okay is to model behavior that teaches our children that our needs are more important than others'. Or that we are better than everybody else and can get away with anything. 

It's okay to help out our children in times of need. What's not okay is to forget to teach them that actions have consequences, or forget to demonstrate to them how the choices we make create ripple effects and that we are all connected

I'm terrified and I know a lot of you are too. But none of us can afford to let this sense of terror paralyze us. Don't give in to routine responses anymore as our President astutely stated. That would just be tragic and morally irresponsible. 

I decided long ago that I would avoid, as much as I can, any political discussion on this blog. But I can't do it this time. I need to challenge my own routine responses even on this site. If I want to remain authentic, I need to be able to write about what rings loud and true inside me, and at present this is it. I don't want to be numb. Neither do I want to feel and yet do nothing, say nothing. I hope you will not give in to your routine response either if it translates to passivity or indifference. 

Speak up and take a stand. And I hope you will stand up for the right to live, the right to go about your daily lives without the crippling fear that you or those you love will succumb to senseless gun violence. It doesn't make sense that in the U.S. more preschoolers die from gun violence each year than police officers on duty. We can't keep saying that the status quo works because clearly it doesn't. 

Say NO to routine responses, and YES to stricter gun control laws. Change needs to happen at every level. We need to look at not only policy or legislation, but also how we live our daily lives within our families. How are we raising our children? What values are we teaching them? What behavior are we modeling? Are we creating monsters who are disconnected from the world around them and don't fully understand the meaning of humanity? Ask yourselves these questions.

There are a lot of questions to answer and a lot of introspection that needs to happen. But it must be done if we want something to change. In the end, all of us are responsible for each other. Let's not forget that. 


*People magazine released contact information for all 535 voting members of the House and Senate on this link. Please take the time to contact your state representatives to let them know how you want them to act on this issue. Feel free to share the meme and hashtag above (#NoMoreRoutineResponse) on social media.