Writing for a Living and Coloring for Stress Relief

Today I’m suddenly inspired to write about the past, present, and future. I’ll start with the past and write the about the other two topics in my next posts.

What about the past?

I started this blog back in 2013, after I finally found the courage to quit my job of nine years which drained my soul. I wanted to practice my writing skills. I thought maybe becoming a writer would be suitable for an introvert like me. I also dabbled into part-time teaching work while I was at home. I taught conversational English and a little grammar to Japanese people via Skype. Basically, I wanted to find a meaningful job I would be happy and passionate about.

Well, what do you know? Looking back by God’s grace, it did come true. I got a full-time job as a snippet writer. It was good enough for me because I lack writing experience and the pay is not so bad. My work schedule was just what I wanted and the office was just a 10 to 15 minute walk from our place. (I hate driving in traffic.) At the same time, I also got a part-time home-based job as a TV program monitor for a Japanese TV network which is more of like a hobby for me since I love, love Japanese food and culture. I was busy living my new life. I didn’t have time to write for this blog.

But as we all know, there is no such thing as a perfect job. Soon stress crept in, mostly from dealing with competition, pressures from management, and clashing personalities at work. During this time, I got into the adult coloring book craze. Coloring pages really helped me transition to a relaxed state of mind and forget about work-related stress when I’m at home. I colored to my heart’s content for 30 minutes every night during weekdays and even more during weekends.

Here are a few of the pages I worked on:

DSC_3696[1]
Aiko Fukawa’s Four Seasons
DSC_3695[1]
Aiko Fukawa’s Four Seasons
DSC_3736[1]
Johanna Basford’s Enchanted Forest

A cousin learned I was into coloring and he gifted me with Johanna Basford’s Enchanted Forest and a coloring pencil set. I was ecstatic! 🙂 Being frugal by nature, I usually don’t buy myself pricey coloring books and pencils. I just go for cheap ones. (These days I’m also learning and immersing myself in Philippine stock investing, which I will write about later.) 

There also came a time when I wanted to try and buy more color pencils and books, which I felt did not coincide with the minimalist life I aspire to live. I already had four coloring books and three color pencil sets. I became frustrated after I saw other works of artists online with beautifully blended and realistic colors. I felt my work was lame. But then I realized they were artists and I was just a hobbyist. (I always have to be mindful to control my perfectionist nature 🙂 )

As I write this, the department where I work as a full-time snippet writer is folding up starting tomorrow. But it’s alright. I’ve learned what I can from that experience and met people who I have shared fun and melodramatic moments with. My part-time work and domestic chores keep me busy as well as doing research about motherhood, parenting, and homeschooling. I still color from time to time, but my passion for coloring has subsided. There are still a lot of uncolored pages in the four books I’ve collected. I wish I were more focused like the Japanese. They devote themselves to doing and mastering one thing their whole lives.

But life comes in stages, right now I’m beginning another new chapter in my life. And I’m extremely grateful to God for it. He always makes things happen in His perfect time.

Advertisements

Road Trip to Nasugbu on My Second Trimester

Since I learned I was pregnant I’ve been overly paranoid about everything around me. It seems like everything is a threat to my growing fetus, including traveling.

View of the lake at the center of Pico de Loro Cove

During my second trimester my husband suddenly wanted to go to Nasugbu, Batangas. It will be our first vacation in two years since he recovered from depression. I was a bit hesitant at first because of my pregnancy paranoia. According to many pregnancy websites, it’s basically safe and advisable to travel during the second trimester while the tummy size is still manageable and the unpleasant pregnancy symptoms have passed. Manila to Nasugbu is a fairly long drive but thankfully we had a safe trip and a relaxing overnight stay at Pico Sands Hotel.

Always Pray for Safety and Remind the Designated Driver to Drive Carefully

Before we left Manila I made sure to pray for safety and protection. Whenever my husband drives I would be his second set of eyes. I never doze off during a trip. My eyes are always on the road. I warn him if I see other vehicles veering from their lane and pedestrians along the road. In Philippine roads you can’t be too cautious.

Take the Time to Rest and Relax but Do Some Light Exercise as Well

When we reached our destination Pico de Loro Cove, my tummy had this “tagtag” feeling. (Sorry, I can’t think of a direct translation in English.) But after a little rest, I was back to normal.

I did a lot of walking around the hotel grounds and then cooled myself at the pool. I read that walking and swimming are good for pregnant women. I’ve also read that chlorinated water can harm the fetus while others state that unchlorinated water is actually more harmful because of all the bacteria it contains. Hmmm… I took a dip in the pool anyway.

Always Be Prepared

Since I hate mosquitoes, I brought an insect repellent. Again, some recommend that mosquito repellents should contain DEET in order to be effective. While others say DEET is harmful to the growing fetus. Hmmm… I still applied a little OFF lotion on my skin, because it’s the only thing available that time. I think Zika and Dengue are way bigger threats to my baby than DEET.

A Short Review of Pico Sands 

The Good

We got a good discount for a room upgrade and were allowed to extend our stay for 2 hours since we arrived late. They also gave us a complimentary chocolate cake (really yummy! 😊) to celebrate our coming baby. Aside from the usual welcome fruits, instant coffee, and tea bags, there were lots of complimentary bottled water and some juice drinks inside the room. More generous than other hotels we’ve stayed in so far. My husband and I appreciated this because we are big water drinkers.

The Bad

What I didn’t like was the beach area. It was a little dirty with plastic cups, foil snack wrappers embedded on the sand. I’m not exactly sure were the trash came from. (Swept by the tides from other areas or thrown by guests?) But all in all, I had a relaxing experience. 

On our way home we stopped by Breakfast at Antonio’s to have an afternoon snack. I had a veggie sandwich and a decadent brownie. I read that pregnant women are supposed to control their caffeine and sugar intake. What can I say? I really love chocolate! 😁

My Singapore Trip: Traveling Tips for Pregnant Women

View of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel from The Gardens By The Bay while waiting for the Light and Sound Show to begin. 

My husband booked tickets to Singapore months before we found out I was pregnant. I was silently dreading it as the travel date drew close. I was thinking, “Should I rebook and pay a big fare difference or go ahead and risk the life of my child?” After researching, thinking, and praying for guidance. I decided to go. Here are a few insights I learned from this experience.

Be Aware of Travel Advisories

I checked travel advisories and found that Singapore had a Zika virus warning. It made me more paranoid. But then later I found out that the Philippines also had the same travel advisory warning. Hmmm…

If you can, ask people who live and work there

My cousin who lives and works in Singapore assured me the zika case happened way back and has already been contained. My mother also asked her friend whose daughter is a stewardess based in Singapore. And she said they weren’t notified of any new zika case. It’s basically safe to travel there.

Check your airline’s fare rules and travel restrictions for pregnant women

I flew with Jetstar. Based on their website, they allow travel for pregnant women 27 weeks and below. Beyond that they would have to present a doctor’s note indicating they are fit to travel with their estimated delivery date. The date on the doctor’s note should not be more than 10 days prior to the date of travel.

Talk to your doctor before traveling

I saw my doctor for a routine check-up before my trip. To be on the safe side, I got a certificate from her which cost me P500 on top of her consultation fee. Hmmm… I was already on my 27th week and might be on my 28th week when I get back to Manila. I didn’t want to be stopped and stranded at the airport.

My doctor said that it’s alright to pass through metal detectors. That was my biggest concern. She also prescribed a medicine to prevent “hilab” because I would be walking a lot in Singapore. But when I googled the medicine and read the side effects, I decided not to take it.

Ask close mom friends about their travel experience

I did a mini-survey among a few of my mom friends. They mostly said yes, it is generally safe to travel by plane and traveling after having a baby would be more challenging.

Assess yourself and take precautions

In the end, it’s really up to us to decide. In my case, I made sure I brought a copy of my medical records. I tried getting travel insurance, but unfortunately most of them don’t cover pregnant women. Malayan Insurance covers pregnant women but up to the first trimester only.

Rest when you feel tired. Don’t force yourself to follow the itinerarTRy.

Traveling to a new country requires a lot of walking. This became a problem for me. Make it clear to your travel companions that they can leave without you while you rest and recharge.

By God’s grace, I was able to survive our 5-day Singapore trip with no medical emergencies. By the way, I didn’t see a single mosquito while we were there and the airline crew never asked me for a doctor’s note. One my way back to Manila, one ground stewardess just asked, “Ma’am are you pregnant?” I said, “Yes.”, “How many weeks?”, “27 weeks.” And she let me board the plane.

Traveling while pregnant does have it’s fun moments but it is also very tiring and stressful. So take extra care. It is doable but if you choose not to travel it is also a wise decision.  

The Long Road to Pregnancy

I know there are many women out there still hoping to get pregnant against all odds. I share this story to inspire and give hope, miracles do happen. However, If God doesn’t grant our prayers, all the more we need to trust that He has something better in the works for us. Hustle while you wait. Live your life to the full with or without a child.

Ah, The Joys of Being a Woman…

October 2009 at 29 years of age, I underwent a bilateral ovarian cystectomy and myomectomy (big words). It just means my OB-gyne removed two large cysts from my left and right ovaries and a myoma. Thank God they were non-malignant. She then advised me to get pregnant right away. I was single and my then significant other (now husband) was not yet ready to tie the knot. I didn’t want to get impregnated out of wedlock, so I waited.

At age 32, we finally got married but were not in a hurry to have a child. We wanted to enjoy our time together as a couple. We also weren’t using any contraception. I believed that if it’s God’s will to give us a child. It will come naturally.

A Message from God

One Sunday March 2014, I was attending church service. The pastor spoke about finding joy and purpose in work. Back then I resigned from a longtime job that drained my soul, took some time-off and found a lower paying job that I felt passionate about. A thought suddenly entered my head. “Wait on God. Trust me. It will happen in my own time. Just like your new job. Do not rush things.” I immediately typed the words on my smartphone.

I was already in my late 30’s and still not getting pregnant. My OB-gyne suggested fractional curettage (a.k.a. raspa). Despite my jittery nerves, I psyched myself that I had to try it or regret that I didn’t later in life. Besides my mother was really prodding me. The test results came out after. I had endometrial polyps, a dermoid cyst on my left ovary, and complete obstruction of the fallopian tubes. Not good. Well at least my right ovary was okay.

When I read “complete obstruction of the fallopian tubes”, I felt hopeless and downhearted. I immediately brushed the test results aside and got back on with my life. Thank God my husband was very supportive and understanding.

But then 2015 came with other challenges. My husband suffered a deep depression, which also affected his physical health. The cause was not related to our not having a child. We rarely had sex because of this.

Supplements and Prayers

August of 2016, my mother again nagged me to no end. She wanted me to take some supplements to help me get pregnant. (here’s a hint: it starts with a U and ends with an A) I was really hesitant because I distrust people who are into networking and besides they wanted me to buy a bunch of bottles and take mega-doses. My super insistent mother eventually bought the whole set at a hefty price. I had no choice. I shared the cost because I didn’t want her to spend that much on me in the first place. I took the vitamins but not in mega-doses. I just followed the dosage indicated on the bottles. I didn’t think much about it.

One day, I found a novena booklet to Mary Health of the Sick in our home. I thought maybe I should give it a try. I remember my mother telling me how she prayed to the Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran just so I could be born healthy and normal. She also had her share of uterus issues, which I probably inherited. She told me how her prayers were answered. I was a living proof.

So I started praying for my husband’s recovery from depression. (Having a baby was just secondary.)  I replaced the words on the novena as I prayed to make it more personal. Mary was instrumental in my life from the start and she’s  also a mother. I thought Jesus wouldn’t mind if I also asked her intercession. There were nights when I was too sleepy to pray, but I eventually finished the nine-day novena. Again, I didn’t think much about it.

Adoption or IVF?

January of 2017 came. It seems the new year brought us new hope. My prayers were answered. My husband was slowly getting back to his old self after two years of depression. He was again planning about our future. He told me we could try in-vitro fertilization. But in my heart, I wasn’t ready for that. I didn’t want to force things. Sometimes a thought would enter my head. Should we consider adoption? My husband was not open to it. I told him about that incident at church when God promised me we would have a child at His time. I often said short prayers to God. I told him if it’s your will. It will happen naturally.

Is This for Real?

True enough on March 2017, I missed my period for the first time. My first thought was maybe there’s something wrong with my uterus. I bought two urine pregnancy test kits. I was positive for pregnancy. I also did a blood test at a clinic and it too came out positive. God kept his promise to me. I just had to wait on Him. It was not easy. Until now I continue to remind myself to trust him for my baby’s life is in His hands.

The End and a New Beginning: Life after Quitting my Corporate Job

Quitting my corporate job meant freedom for me. Seven months ago, after much thought, I decided to quit my job and became a housewife, indefinitely. Forgoing the stability of a monthly paycheck and medical insurance benefits, I took the plunge. I didn’t want to be 40 and still be in the same job that didn’t speak my heart.

Last month, I came across an article on the newspaper about women who left their corporate jobs to spend more time with family, in the process some turned their hobbies into small business or do work from home. It goes…”Yes, there is life after a full-time job – especially when it means spending more time with family.” I could really relate to that. I wasn’t alone. Neither of the women mentioned missed their corporate jobs. They are happy living simple lives as housewives (with or without kids), with time to focus on their interests and things that matter to them.

My husband and I don’t have kids. By normal standards, what’s the point of being a housewife if you don’t have kids to take care of? Other people would ask, “Don’t you get bored at home?” You know what? Not really. I always find something to do at home. In fact, I enjoy it a lot.

I realize most women I talk to would want to quit their jobs and rest for awhile. But they don’t have much choice because they have dependents. I am fortunate enough to be spending time with my bestfriend 24/7, since my husband works from home. He works at his own time, so we get to have a lot of quality time together. Many people don’t have that luxury.

God has been good and faithful to me and my family. We live simply but never lack a thing we need. Although, I did have to cut down on shopping. I am basically a simple person so it wasn’t that hard. Stress drove me to shop in the past. Now, I no longer have the urge to shop on impulse.

But most of all, I have become ever dependent on God. I know He is the source of all. I must say my relationship with God has grown, simply because I now have the time. Before, I used to have work on my mind all the time. Full of worry and stress. My day-offs would be spent sleeping and vacation leaves spent queuing at doctor’s clinics for routine check ups. I was working so I could keep my medical insurance because I felt sick most of the time. I realized this was not how I wanted to live the rest of my life. (Thus, my Happiness Project was born after a disheartening visit to one of my doctors.) It is a wonder I lasted that long in my job (but not without serious health repercussions).

Now after a long pause, I am trying to make a go at working again. But this time connecting my passion and interest with work. I am starting from scratch and I feel anxious. For starters, I will be earning less than what I used to get. Long before quitting I thought about those things and decided to forgo them. But here I go again, asking myself If I am doing the right thing. My loving spouse tells me, “What are you even worried about? I can still support you even if you didn’t have a job.” I am truly fortunate to be in this position where I can now choose to follow my passions without worrying about the paycheck.

I am going to do it one day at a time. I am now in the process of becoming an online English consultant (a.k.a teacher) and a writer too. Not the most esteemed and high paying careers in the world, but this is what I really want to do. Nevermind if I labor in obscurity and get minimal pay for now. I have nothing to prove to the world. What matters is I am learning and loving what I do.

One aspect of my happiness project is discovering my passion and relating that passion to work. I guess I’m on the right track. I can say that it was through prayers that I have gone this far in my journey. I know I still have a long way to go, but I am in no hurry. I am simply trying to enjoy each day as it comes. No stress, please.

I am going to work out of love. Hopefully, someday by God’s grace, I will earn enough for doing what I love.

For the Unattached in February

This is the real heart. Happy Hearts Day!
Stay real and true. Happy Hearts Day!

As far as single unattached women are concerned, February 14 should be erased from the calendar. At least in my own experience. I didn’t announce my bitterness to the world, but deep inside I was. I hated seeing other women receive bouquet of flowers and couples all lovey-dovey during Valentine’s Day (come to think of it, any day!) I wanted to throw acid on them or something. I stayed away from watching Hollywood mush because it gives me the notion that a fairy tale love story exists. I was being all Ally Macbeal-ish at that time, that was me in my single years. Or as Bridget Jones would say, “the wilderness years”.

After years and years and years of waiting and hoping, my own love story started to happen. Looking back it maybe fit for a good read, with me a clumsy, self-deprecating girl as the unlikely heroine. I won’t bore you with mushy details though. I just want to write a piece that would somehow help single unattached ladies out there. I have a number of single girl friends in their early, mid and late 30’s and even in their early 40’s, all hoping to walk down the aisle; racing against time before their ovaries go on retirement. I can’t say I consider myself a “love guru”, but I guess I have learned some things based on my own experience and research (yes, it also takes research to be successful in dating and relationships).

We all have our own destiny, our own paths. I guess some people are meant to be single all their lives, but still live happy and purposefully. But for those who really want to find a suitable lifetime partner and get hitched, here’s my two cents:

1. Pray. Ask for Divine Guidance/Providence.

As a Christian, this is the most important thing a girl needs to do. Choosing a potential lifetime partner is very crucial to your future happiness. Some may think, “I can do this on my own.” But finding the right man in a sea of losers takes some divine intervention.

2. Don’t rely too much on physical appearance (and other tangible things).

So he looks well off, dresses well and emits an expensive designer perfume smell. He makes you swoon. You will surely be the envy of other girls when they see this guy. Overall appearance does count but don’t ever forget examining the person’s character first, his values and belief system. They should match your own or at least be compatible. Otherwise, how else can you live with each other in the future?

3. You can’t change a person. He is who he is.

If he makes you cry and upsets you in the first stages of your relationship, don’t ever hang on and think that he will change. “He’ll change. I just have to give him time.” You are only fooling yourself. Letting go is hard for most people. But isn’t staying with them even harder? Love must be a balance between the head and the heart. It is always better to stay single than be with the wrong person.

4. Don’t hurry.

Tell yourself, “I have lots of time”. Who imposes this time pressure on you? Is it yourself or other people around you? Don’t let yourself be pressured by other people. It’s your life to live. The more you hurry and act desperate the more you will attract the wrong person. Please stop comparing yourself with others. Stay calm, hopeful, enjoy each day and be your most beautiful self (inside and out).

5. Choose who you date.

If the new guy is not from a reputable source. Don’t bother getting to know him. Why? At this day and age, there are so many con artists out there, especially on the internet. Please save yourself the trouble. If you think you’re already over the hill and can’t afford to be choosey. Think again, show some respect for yourself. Don’t act out of desperation.

6. Make yourself the right woman.

While waiting work on yourself. Maybe you are attracting the wrong guy because your values and thinking are wrong. Learn and make yourself into the woman you want to be; then you will attract the right man. Of course, there’s no such thing as perfect but I think there is someone out there who will be perfect for you, in terms of values and belief. It’s just a matter of meeting each other.

If no prospect shows up year after year. Don’t lose hope. Go back to #1 Pray. If you truly believe and if it is God’s will for you to be married. Then you will be. It takes a lot of patience and prayers.

Dating and relationships are a complicated process. I know this is just a tip of the iceberg. To those like me, don’t ever lose hope. Your time will come. Try hard to find contentment and happiness in your single state. Take your focus off finding a mate and get busy doing things you love. You’ll be surprised one day, he might finally show up, when you least expect it. 🙂

Bringing Japan to Manila the Affordable Way

How to sample Japan while in Manila the affordable way? Travel by way of food. Ever since our trip to Japan, I have morphed into a Japanophile. I started recreating my Japan experience in Manila, my place of residence. Fortunately,  you don’t need to buy an airline ticket to go to Japan, sampling some authentic Japanese restos and food marts may just do the trick . They seem to be popping up left and right.

Anyway, here’s my own hit list (in no particular order) of all the things and places that remind me of Japan in Manila.

DSC_0183

1. Family Mart

I was excited when a saw a Family Mart opening near our place. Not many people know that Family Mart is a Japanese owned corporation. (Much like 711) But what floored me was the quality and variety of food being sold. Eating there made me think I was back in Tokyo, their sandwiches and ready made meals are quality but at half the cost.

DSC_2378

DSC_2389
Green Tea Twirl: getting better at twirling

My favorites are the maki, (cooked) sushi and the dark chocolate twirl-all-you-can ice cream for only Php 25.00! (Only in the Philippines.) You can’t find this in Japan. It sure beats a McDonald’s sundae anytime of the day. It sort of reminds me of the Wendy’s Frostee of olden days, but not quite. My first twirling experience was passable but not up to par with the experienced customers who frequent the store just for the ice cream. So what does it taste like? It is slightly sweet which is a signature taste for almost all Japanese desserts. It’s creamy icy texture, slightly bitter (because of the chocolate) with a hint of sweetness is truly refreshing. It pairs well with the sugar cone too. Yes, I’m coming back for more.

2. Gavino’s Mochi Donuts

In Japan, we had mochi donuts in a Mister Donut shop which also serves unlimited freshly brewed coffee. My kind of place. Unfortunately, Mister Donut shops in Manila sell a different breed of donuts. No sign of mochi donuts anywhere. Until I happen to see a Mochi Donuts stall at one of the newly built malls near my place. (Again? these Japanese goodies seem to be following me, I swear.) I readily bought some, even if I was dismayed with the cranky vendor, I was won by the chewy yummy slightly sweet donut. The glazed versions are too sweet for me, I prefer these flavors instead: Choco Crunch, Choco Glazed, Choco Almond and Ensaymada. I have long wondered why people would fall in line for a JCo. I’d rather have a mochi donut at Gavino’s. I have never been the type to follow crowds anyway.

3. Little Tokyo

In Manila, there’s ChinaTown for the Chinese and then there’s Little Tokyo for the Japanese expats. It’s only a few months ago that I learned of such a place located in Makati City. An hour’s drive from our place via Skyway. For our anniversary dinner, we decided to try it out. My husband wasn’t too crazy about the traffic once we got to Little Tokyo, merely getting through the small intersection was a struggle. It was rush hour what did we expect? The place was beautiful and exciting as described in some blogs, but honestly when I got there I was a tad bit disappointed. Nothing like Tokyo as I remembered it. Some parts were a bit sleazy. Although, I did not venture out into the red light districts of Tokyo while we were there. Plus it was filled with the grime and pollution of the city with signs of “beware of thieves” and “take care of your belongings” posted inside the Little Tokyo courtyard.

DSC_2311

We chose a place called Seryna, the place had more Japanese nationals than Filipinos. I watched the Japanese sushi chef across our table as he prepared plates and plates of fresh sushi while chatting with all the Japanese regulars seated dinning at the bar.

DSC_2314
Different kinds of sushi at Seryna
DSC_0437
Sushiro: Conveyor belt sushi

My bad, I did not do prior research on what food I should best order on their menu. As a result, I wasn’t that satisfied with what I had (curry udon). I mean who orders curry udon?! Although, thankfully I did enjoy the fresh sushi my husband ordered. Meals in Seryna are rather pricey as compared to the other restos inside the Little Tokyo compound.  I remember the many platitos of sushi we had, served up on a conveyor belt at Sushiro in Yokohama. It cost as much as the 3 plates we had in Seryna. I guess its cheaper to eat sushi in Japan.  I also thought the place was too dimly lit. For ambiance I guess, but it made me feel heavy and gloomy.

DSC_2329
green tea Kakigori with red bean paste

For dessert, we had some green tea kakigori with red bean paste at Hana, one of the restaurants located at the inner courtyard of Little Tokyo. I very much liked the laid back atmosphere, dinning al fresco inside the courtyard with the trees, the remaining Christmas lights and the cool evening breeze. I regretted not having dinner in Hana instead. While eating our refreshing dessert, a cross between an ice cone and halo-halo, I was watching a Filipina waitress cook takoyaki in those curved grills. Wow, she was fast and efficient! I wanted to try out their Takoyaki (which I heard are the best) and Bento meals which were really reasonably priced. But that’s for next time, we were already full.

Before heading home, we bought some Japanese goodies at Choto Stop. It looked like a small bodega to me. The store was dingy and the most of the goods were placed inside carton boxes. While in Japan my husband and I would shop at grocery stores everyday to save on hotel meals and we enjoyed it alot. I guess I was trying to recreate that experience. Anyway, I was happy to just buy some japanese goodies as pasalubong and souvenir for our short trip to Little Tokyo.

So there’s my list of some of the things that got me excited and happy at the start of this year. Of course, there were some misses along the way, but it’s all part of everyday adventure! I hope you try and find your own piece of happiness in everyday life.