Messages for the Soul

My social media account is saturated with all sorts of life hacks and inspirational quotes about attaining success or dealing with everyday anxieties. And every time my sanity needs salvaging, these motivating words of wisdom have a funny way of popping up all over my cybersphere with answers to unspoken questions, like esoteric road signs from God along this rough and winding highway called Life.

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It isn’t easy being a mother.

Often I am besieged with frustrations and nagging self-doubt as a parent that I’d forget the very reason I chose this path in the first place.  Then just when I’ve convinced myself how terrible and uninspiring and messy life has become, an inspired mommy friend would up and post this on her wall as if to remind me over again what a beautiful blessing motherhood is.

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It’s a great pick-me-up for any parent going through a bad day.

Sometimes what a stressed-out mom needs is a dose of humor to dispel that overwhelming sense of inadequacy or feeling of being unappreciated despite all her pain and efforts.

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It’s just eerie how the universe has a way of agreeing or sympathizing with me every time I’m feeling down and persecuted.  On .such days, I would stumble across posts that any hapless individual on the receiving end of vicious gossips would simply love to fling at their critics’ faces.

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I admit I am given to occasional spells of self-pity that seeking refuge in the consoling arms of misery is a lot more enticing than standing up against a battalion of haters.  However, people know only too well that this–wallowing in defeat while your enemies gloat in their victory–is a total waste of time.  Even the late and great Elizabeth Taylor would’ve gladly slapped some sense into me, if she could, just to get me to deal with the matter at hand.

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However, where there’s no drink strong enough to knock some gumption into me or lipstick red enough to bring me back to life from zombie mode, a no-show at some dreaded event is always an option.  But of course, there will always be someone who, as if somehow reading my thoughts, would contradict this notion by sharing this well-meaning no-nonsense advice on her wall.

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Speaking of never giving up, these words of wisdom from Martin Luther King, Jr. never fail to motivate me in the aftermath of a major crisis. .

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And indeed, unfaltering determination is key to achieving any goal as grit is the secret super power of the truly successful.

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But getting back up on your feet after careering off track and splat into the mire of shame isn’t always what it’s apt to be.  It’s an excruciating process that often requires a helping hand or two and some encouraging words from people who love you most.  Every time I see this post on my profile wall or news feed, I am immediately reminded of a friend’s comforting arms and gentle reassurance of what really matters most.

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In this fast-paced day and age of advance internet technology, it is easy to get caught up in the latest trends or to be overcome by the pressure of social media.  Like everyone else, I am plagued by anxiety and other paralyzing self-deprecating thoughts about my ability because of this.  It’s akin to being lost in the woods, and a motivational quote on your news feed when you need it the most is like a headlight of hope in a dark abandoned highway.

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Also, stumbling across a quote that is just spot on (and funnily so) is like discovering a dime in the dirt when you’re feeling blah and stuck in a rut.  And so far, this motivational quote below is the best advice I’ve come across  in social media.

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The Pitfalls of Being Too Emotional on Facebook

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When you choose to bare your soul in a place as public as social media, you are setting yourself up for criticism.

As I scroll down my Facebook memory lane, all seven years of it, I can’t help but cringe at some of the posts–emotional rants, cheesy love notes, quotes with undercurrents of bitterness, and a host of other regretful outbursts that had dotted my wall like angry gunshot holes. It had felt good to write about them at that time. Now that I’m looking at them from the third person angle for the first time, I feel utterly ridiculous.

Regret is a terrible thing. As feelings are ever-changing, what you feel strongly about today may not always ring true a week after. For that very reason, I am turning a new leaf. And, here are just some of the things that had gotten me thinking thrice lately before clicking that “post” button.

Gossipmongers’ Delight

I’ve had my fill of the juicy inside news on who got dumped, who cheated, who is warring with which relative, and the lot. But, I’ve also made my fair share of the headlines in the social media news feed given my flair for the melodramatics. I could imagine former colleagues, old high school friends, and relatives feasting over the morsels of information I’ve unwittingly fed them at the climax of emotions. Like everyone else, I do care about what people say or think of me from time to time. I mean I know how it is to take part in round table lunchtime discussions on so-and-so’s post about her terrible breakup and oohed and ahhed over the controversial Facebook war some Ed started with Jed. Whether you like it or not, what you choose to write or post on your wall can automatically become hot topic for some serious gossip marathon.

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What you choose to write or post on your wall can automatically become hot topic for some serious gossip marathon.

Target for Ridicule

When you choose to bare your soul in a place as public as social media, you are setting yourself up for criticism. Many people stalk to find fault in others–I think that’s a given. I have seen friends snicker at some online displays of affection which they thought spared nothing to the imagination and rolled their eyes at posts that were, by their standards, tacky and over-the-top.  If wearing your heart on your sleeve can place you at a vulnerable spot with gossipmongers, volunteering too much information not only places you in danger of giving psychopath stalkers the lead on your whereabouts but also puts you on the receiving end of ridicule and more nit-picking.

Damaging Friendships

It always feels liberating to unload all those pent-up emotions on some virtual wall which I believe is a lot like relieving yourself at the johns or the little girls room. However, letting it all out online can do more damage as far as relationships are concerned.

Let me put it this way.

Do you know that feeling when you read about yourself on someone else’s post? Your name may not be there, but you recognize yourself nonetheless in the description that is reminiscent of a recent event involving you. As a result, you resent the person who posted it for all to see. You either confront this person or distance yourself all together, opting to cut your ties with him or her as quietly as possible. Ranting about a friend to cleanse your otherwise negatively clogged up system may provide temporary relief in the present but does nothing to resolve the issue that started it all.

The pictures you post and the things you say on your Facebook wall will always be a reflection of who you are, even though they are just tiny representations of a whole mass of things in the real world. It affects your readers to a certain extent, but its effects on your reputation and friendships maybe permanent.

Taking Beautiful Photos of Children

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She just loves to dress up for the camera.

Since the dawn of throwbacks in social media I have earned repute for living in the past by peppering my Facebook wall with Timehop photos and a host of other do you remember whens? I can’t help it. I have a treasure chest and an online gallery of beautifully captured memories. Most of them are snapshots of unforgettable moments and milestones in my children’s lives.

I love taking photographs of my children, so much so it’s an obsession. And luckily enough, they, too, love the camera.

But, my kids have not always made it easy for me. Backtrack to the time they were just gaining independence by learning to walk, every photo session with them had been practically a testament of my patience. Forcing a two-year-old to follow my lead when all he wanted was to explore the world had resulted over and over in major meltdowns, often leaving me panicked and embarrassed before all and sundry. Fast-forward to the present, getting a fidgety five-year-old boy to sit quietly throughout a snoozy Sunday Mass or a wedding ceremony, even more so having him stand in one place long enough for me to find the perfect angle can still be quite harrowing.

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My then 4-year-old son at his aunt’s wedding.

Photographs of Children in Their Element are Always Beautiful

I have learned to roll with the punches. Years of experimenting with various tactics to get my son and daughter to say cheese in front of the camera have taught me a couple of things about taking pictures. Really good ones.

For one, a good photo doesn’t always have to be a beautiful portrait. Most of the time a child’s personality shines brightest on pictures that have been captured at the spur of the moment. That is the beauty of candid photography; it allows the photographer to capture his subject in their element, which always translates into visuals that speak a thousand words. Running after them, clicking away at their heels, and trying to sneak a shot or two of their facial expressions may yield many blurred images. Still, there will always be two or more photos among the roll of disappointing candid shots that are worthy of a place in my Instagram account.

Great Photography is a Matter of Good Perspective

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My daughter and her cousin at Nuvali.

It always takes a lot of creativity and thinking out of the box to capture the best of everything. I have had fun experimenting with different angles over the years and many of them have produced beautifully preserved memories of my children’s childhood.

I love watching my kids explore the world around them. So, shooting from a distance, a safe few meters away from where they play with the other kids allows me to see them bloom in their environment. Often times, I feel like an outsider looking in on someone else’s life, but I am thankful for that momentary space and detachment, giving me the freedom to click away to my heart’s content at the awesome scene before me.

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A glint of mischief. Photo credit: Aileene Mayuga

But, getting down to their level always gives me a better perspective of my little subject.

According to professional photographers, a good over-the-shoulder shot of a child immersed in a hobby provides a unique kind of story-telling. This sort of angling gives people access to a child’s world as he sees it. Admittedly, I don’t have very many photos of my kids taken at this angle. But, I always delight in watching them work or play from where I stand hovering quietly and contemplating sneaking a shot or two of their creativity.

An aerial shot of a child lying down or preoccupied with a hobby provides another cinematic third person point of view of their world. It feels pretty much like looking down on my loved ones from heaven. When the Daughter was a baby, I used to take pictures of her while I stood over the bed in my effort to capture those very fleeting seconds of pure love and joy.

But, beautiful pictures do not always have to be big or cinematic in appeal. The little things that people take pleasure in counts too. Zooming in on a minute detail that makes a part of a beautiful wholelike a little girl’s pouting lips, the wide glistening dark eyes of a baby, and a toddler’s pudgy little hand– can result in photographs that are both intimate and artistic.

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An over-the-shoulder shot of my young graphic artist at work.

Staying on Guard for Unguarded Moments

When I became a mother, life as I knew it was never to be the same. It turned me into an expert multi-tasker almost overnight and taught me to balance career with parenting responsibilities literally. This memory of me–a then sleep-deprived freelance online writer–using one hand to type a paragraph while the other held my attention-seeking one-year-old daughter on my lap will forever be etched in my mind and heart. I wish my husband had taken that picture, but then again, the most moving experience isn’t always captured on camera or witnessed by any other. Taking that thought with me through the years, I have made a point to be on the lookout for special moments, whether it be sad, happy, mad, or downright silly.

It has been my quest now for more than eight years, to document the important milestones in my children’s lives–the fleeting moments of happiness and sadness, the frowns and the laughs, the scratches and scars that constitute one’s childhood. As a mother so in-love with her children, I just cannot do without a camera. Still, it is nearly impossible to capture everything because there will always be instances in life that are just too meaningful to let go of for just a minute only to take a snapshot of it.

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Guests at my daughter’s 7th birthday party. Photo credit: Tel Pechon

 

 

 

Introducing: Elegant in Pastels

“Women are many things–strong, meek, complex, forthright, vain, mysterious, tragic, and self-contradicting. What better way to celebrate their beauty than to draw them in oil pastels, crayons, and pencils? The featured artworks in this blog are accompanied by famous quotes and not so familiar lines from movies, songs, celebrities and fashion icons.”

Source: Elegant in Pastels Defined

When my eight-year-old daughter told me that she wanted to grow up to be thin and beautiful like the model on the centerfold of the fashion magazine she had just shown me, I couldn’t help but balk at the thought.

The woman was pretty no doubt. But thin? Scrawny? Close to skeletal even? I was deeply concerned.

The Skinny of It All

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“Style”

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against being “skinny” per se. At least, not in any way personal. For a lot of people, it is their genetic makeup to be thin. I mean I’ve also had my fair share of struggles trying to gain weight when I was growing up. Besides, people just can’t help their metabolisms or rather how it’s programmed to work.

But even with that in mind, I am still not thrilled about my daughter looking up to ramp models and other fashionably skinny celebs as paragons of beauty. I could imagine the disappointment and heartache that she would later face in life, should she fail to live up to par with society’s standards, or worst, fall short of her own expectations. For years, women all over the world have suffered in the name of beauty.

Died for it even.

And, in vain.

Beauty is Diverse

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“It’s the Eyes”

Beauty cannot be and shouldn’t be confined in a box or restricted to a set of adjectives (tall, svelte, and fair-skinned). Over the years, media have successfully defined beauty as so that young girls today are dying with insecurity over poor self-image. You can imagine my panic as soon as my daughter expressed her desire to look like the model.

Unlike my daughter, I’ve had the privilege of growing up in a place where practically the whole world converged in one community. There, I saw beauty at its most diverse—race, color, shape and size. It was largely because of  my exposure to different nationalities and cultures, that I developed this appreciation for beauty of all kinds. I could only wish the same for my daughter–that one day she finally sees beauty for what it is beyond its packaging and grow to understand that being beautiful is not necessarily about looking fabulously thin in a tight-fitting dress.

Redefining Beauty Through Art

Beauty is diverse. And, diversity is most definitely beautiful.

So, how do you explain that to an eight-year-old?

That question got me starting on a project last year aimed at redefining beauty for my daughter. I took pencil to paper and created a series of portraits of women from different walks of life.

My efforts resulted into  Elegant in Pastels, a blog that celebrates not only beauty in its multi facets, but women empowerment as well through famous lines and immortal quotes.

The world is filled with all sorts of flawed, strange, and unique wonderful creations. Bits and pieces of imperfections, when put together, usually sum up to become this magnificent whole.

Diversity is what makes the world so beautiful.

Why I Dread Valentine’s Day

It’s February 9th. Exactly five days to go before Valentine’s Day here in my side of the world.  And, I’m not at all enthusiastic about this oncoming event that lovers everywhere are hankering to commemorate (once a year), which is never complete without the pomp and glamour inspired only by commercialism.

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Valentine’s Day celebration is never complete without the pomp and glamor that is inspired by commercialism.

This year, I choose not to celebrate for reasons only a few folks can understand and happily marrieds will never seem to get.

The mere thought of going out to public places strewn with public displays of affection, flowers, balloons and what-not is sending cold shivers down my spine. And, social media is no better place as people will surely be littering their virtual walls with undying professions of love, proposals, and photos of precious blings their hunny-bunny gave them that day.

So, why do I dread Valentine’s Day so much these days? Let me count the ways.

We can’t afford it.

When times are hard, wining and dining your sweetheart at some fancy restaurant is just out of the question. So why jump into the bandwagon of splurging on luxury items when you can actually spend quality time with your loved one in quiet and simplicity?

Unfortunately, everywhere I go, I see ads screaming “buy me!” in bold white or glaring red italics:

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It’s disheartening to know that love and happiness can be bought, knowing that you have very little to spare for even a  bar of chocolate

Buy this to put a smile on his face.

Buy that to please her silly.

Book a room at Forever Bliss Hotel for a night to remember.

It’s just disheartening how everything like love and happiness can be bought like that for just one day, knowing that you have very little to spare for even a cheap bar of chocolate.  If I don’t give my husband a present, does that mean I love him less? If he doesn’t buy me flowers, should I be upset?

Once upon a time, Valentine’s Day was as a liturgical celebration of one of the earliest Christian saints.  But, since Chaucer’s time of courtly love, Valentine’s Day has evolved or devolved to what it is today–a tradition embedded in romantic love strongly defined by commercialism and made special by a culture of materialism.

Keeping up is stressful.

Celebrating love isn’t a competition on who is happier or which couple did it better. It shouldn’t be. But, sometimes it feels like one, especially on Valentine’s Day.

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Since Chaucer’s time of courtly love, Valentine’s Day has devolved to what it is today.

When life was a bit kinder and our marriage full of hope, I anticipated Valentine’s Day like a child looking forward to Christmas. I never got diamonds nor was I ever treated to a luxury cruise at the Caribbean.  A stem of red rose and a love letter were enough to make me teary-eyed with happiness, and I was just as contented with chocolate cake topped with a greeting that said “I love you” from the husband and the kids. Like everyone else in this day and age of social media, I took pictures of those simple gifts and posted them on Facebook and Instagram, alongside all other posts from friends that boasted of a vacation at some far-flung place or a lavish gift from their wealthy spouses. Nevertheless, I was happy.

Now, seeing these beautifully curated lives on social media juxtaposed with my less than desirable reality never fails to magnify that growing sense of pain inside me. It just makes me want to turn to the happier past rather than embrace change and move on.

Too Tired To Celebrate

Our marriage has been under a lot of stress in the past year and we have just pushed the restart button on our relationship. But, trying to rebuild our life together in the present isn’t enough to put us in celebratory mood for Valentine’s.

Most of the time, we feel tired and ornery from all the worrying about the future, especially with remnants of the past still weighing heavily on our conscience. We’re now gradually picking up the pieces of our shattered plans and dreams, and every shard is a reminder of how something so little can easily hurt a marriage.
All we want now is to shut society out from our private little world and not let its disapproving voice get in the way of our progress.

 

 

This Work At Home Mom

Once upon a time, Friday after-office fun was all about seeking action in the wildest part of the metro. And, Saturday nights meant sleeping in until Sunday afternoon without so much of a care in the world.

Gone are those days.

Over the years, the proverbial glass stilettos have morphed into sensible flats and grand balls (or street foam parties for that matter) have been naturally replaced by kiddie birthday celebrations, where little boys and girls are obsessed groupies hankering for an embrace from this over-sized bee in red tuxedo. These days, if I am not stressing about the jungle of work I am forced to reckon with on a day to day or refereeing squabbles over the last melting block of chocolate, I am venting marriage angst on my Facebook wall and having anxiety attacks over the Husb’s “bad” habits.

Oh, what I would give for a little bit of personal space and peace of mind.

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Happier working at home than I ever was as an office dweller. It keeps me close to everything…especially my children.

When you become a work-at-home mom in the absence of help in the house, you tend to grow tentacles.

Eight invisible tentacles. Powerful and multitasking.

In-between the work assignments I am given from day-to-day, I would tutor; cook lunch; heave bags (the size and weight of lockers) up and down our apartment staircase; shuttle the kids to school and back; and clear away the clutter that never fails to affect me internally…the list goes on.

The mental (and physical) oscillation–work mode to mommy mode to work mode again–is just driving me crazy.  And, at the end of the day, I am reduced to nothing more than this bedraggled rag of a thing awaiting rescue in front of a blinking blank laptop screen. Only the big warm slobbering kiss from the Son and encouraging words from the Daughter could break me out of this spell of paralysis that is exhaustion.