Once-upon-a-time, cutting my hair short was unthinkable. But, bitter years spent tangling with bad hair days had finally taken their toll on my patience, leaving me to no avail but to take the ultimate act of a woman’s sacrifice–that is to surrender the fate of her crowning glory into the hands of a hairdresser. Today, I am loving every single thing there is to love about my new look.
Short hair is literally cool and fun. It has many perks no woman with long hair could ever understand. If you want to know what the chic benefits are of having short hair, then here the following reasons I won’t be missing my long locks for a very long time.
Chic Benefit#1: It’s the Shock Factor
There is always something impressively audacious about women getting a short haircut that shocks people every time. When I had my long thick black hair chopped to a boyish crop about two months ago, I received all sorts of reactions–ranging from derisive disapproval to major admiration–from people who knew me. For a change, I felt brave and unpredictable seeing people unsettled over my drastic transformation.
Chic Benefit#2: It’s a Daring Look Only A Few Can Pull Off
I realize that not everyone can carry a Jean Seberg crop, or rock a Miley Cyrus mohawk. It usually takes a lot of guts and the right amount of sass to shift from soft and feminine to ass-kicking rock star cool.
Chic Benefit#3: It Costs Less to Maintain
What I love about having short hair now is that I don’t have to use as much shampoo or conditioner as I used to when I had longer tresses. Gone are the days where I had to spend a ridiculous amount of money and agonizing time in a salon chair to have work done on my unmanageable frizz. Obviously, maintaining hard-to-tame tresses over the years hadn’t exactly been stress-free for me. But now, it no longer has to cost me an arm and a leg just to look fabulous.
Chic Benefit #4: It’s Flexible
Another thing to love about wearing short hair is that you can style it any way you like (unless it’s too closely cut to the head). You don’t even need gel to look cool and edgy. Sometimes, all that you need to achieve a really mean rocker (just got out of bed) look are eight hours of deep sleep.
Chic Benefit #5: It’s Simply Liberating to Have Short Hair
I used to deal with bad hair days by efficiently hiding hideous knots and horrific split ends in a tight, neat and practical bun. And so, chopping off those hard-to-tame tresses was obviously the wisest thing I have ever done so far this year.
In fact, it had benefited me in more ways I could have thought possible. Not only did having shorter hair make me feel lighter and literally freer (as if half of my life’s burdens have been lifted off my shoulders) but it had unshackled me from the unflattering stereotypes any “frumpy,” “boring” and “old-fashioned” stay-at-home mom would love to finally rid of herself.
Nanny-less with two young kids, a blog and freelance writing job, I find that I suck big time at this entire being organized business. Meanwhile, my husband–a virtuoso in a field where women are reputed to be subject matter experts–is an adept juggler of tasks. He can breeze through any litany of chores, inserting one or two rounds of basketball in between, while there I am–bedraggled, hair unkempt, and could barely change out of my pajamas.
His energy is limitless and his efficiency is unparalleled. I resent and admire him for those very same qualities. For all my mommy angst towards the man who seems too eager to assume my role–on top of his duty as father to my children–I just can’t help but gush a little bit about those Superman qualities of his.
I never thought that I would say this, but I think it’s kind of cool how a guy can get so many things done on top of his own work responsibilities in the office. And, if there is anything at all that I have learned living with this man, it is working smarter and not necessarily harder that helps you get ahead each day and, ultimately, in life.
So, what are these “work smart” techniques that I’ve picked up from the husband over the years? Here they are:
I used to wonder where he’d draw his energy from; but knowing how he values his sleep, I shouldn’t be surprised. As it turns out, the secret behind his get-up-and-go attitude is six to eight hours of uninterrupted zzzs.
Except for his Friday night drinking sessions with the boys, he loves turning in early so that he gets a good head start the following day. Waking up early gives him time to start slow, drink in the silence and exercise before he plunges into some real work ahead.
One Task At A Time
I’ve always admired him for the way he can handle so many things at the same time. But truth be told, my husband attributes his efficiency to focusing on one task at a time. Basically, it’s quality over quantity for him. Concentrate on the task at hand to come up with an excellent result and immediately move on to the next. Before you know it, you have accomplished more than you have intended.
For the husband, doing what’s important first always work best. For me, however, it’s getting the easier tasks out of the way as working on the more challenging parts can be time-consuming. Whichever way you choose to go about accomplishing your to-dos, prioritizing always works to anyone’s advantage.
Efficiency is a Habit
Routine may sound ho-hum to you, but it’s a practical and effective way of getting things done. In the process of doing things over and over, you develop or discover better ways of accomplishing tasks which then over a period of time becomes a habit.
It’s in the Attitude
Sure, I know a thing or two about this science of budgeting time and I’ve written about it once for a webzine and the other time for a defunct personal blog. But, I realized that preaching about what should be done is a lot easier than actually applying the techniques. As for my husband, managing time has less to do with keeping a planner or sticking to a timetable, rather it has always been more about his attitude towards work and life’s challenges.
You turn 9 today and I marvel at how much you have grown, or rather metamorphosed into this amazing adult of a child. Every day, you keep me in awe with new revelations about yourself.
You’re now into rap music and song-writing which I think is awesome. I’m thinking maybe you’re a poet, just like your grandma when she was alive. You’re quite a story-teller, too, preferring to narrate your tales in the way scriptwriters organize their story lines into scenes and segments. Perhaps someday, you’ll be the greatest Pinay playwright the world ever had, or the genius creator of brilliant cinematic artistry worthy of a Cannes or an Academy award.
I know that you’d rather be a teacher so that you may serve as a beacon of inspiration to many young learners. Or, a doctor so that you could extend a healing hand to the sick and the needy. I won’t stop you from pursuing those dreams. It’s just that I see a lot of myself in you. But then again, unlike your mommy, you have a way of growing on people. And I suppose in that way, we are different.
You have a knack for dressing well, too. With your sense of style, I bet you can upstage any sophisticated twenty-something-year-old at their own red carpet event. But there are still so much of that baby in you that you haven’t outgrown: Barbie dolls, Disney princesses, and wearing big fancy bows and candy-colored hairbands. There isn’t a single trace of masculinity in your body; for some reason, that worries me a lot.
You see, the world can be a great and dangerous place: something like a bottomless ocean that can swallow you into its perilous depths should you slip out of Mommy and Tatay’s close watch. I suppose liberal as I am in my parenting philosophy about raising you and your brother, I am no different from any parent prone to paranoia. Though you continue to amaze me with your beyond-your-years insights, there is still a lot that I want to teach you about this world.
It’s your 9th birthday and here are nine reminders (out of a never-ending litany of advice and life lessons) to guide you in the next nine or so years of your life at the least.
Enjoy your childhood. You are allowed to be a kid. Though education is very important, never forget for even just a second to reward hard work with a lot of fun play. Run, jump, leap, and laugh out loud even though I tell you off for being too rowdy. Play dolls, play soccer, go hide-and-seek with the children in the neighborhood, and hang out with your girlfriends at our balcony. Celebrate your youth before it’s all gone.
Learn to love reading. It’s your ammunition against ignorance and it will take you to the farthest reaches of the world. But, Alex, when you’re old enough to afford it, travel to those far-flung places. Sometimes firsthand experience is better than imagination. For now, relish the joys of reading books.
Appreciate beauty in every color, shape, and size. Kim Chiu may epitomize your definition of beauty, but I want to remind you that being beautiful is not just about being tall, glamorous, and fabulously thin. You can be short, brown-skinned, and stunning in a pair of faded jeans and a tie-and-dye tee, or voluptuously gorgeous in a velvety blue cocktail dress. A girl’s true beauty shines brightest when she is at her element: doing what she loves best and so comfortable in her imperfection.
Remember that beauty is skin deep. For adults, this saying may sound like a line worn out from overuse to convince friends that they are beautiful. But there is truth to this cliche. You see, beauty really does come from deep within. If you feel good, it just radiates. When you are sick and feeling down, it is reflected in the pallor of your skin and in the dark circles under your eyes. If you’re mean, people will distance themselves from you. Physical beauty is nothing when you have an ugly heart.
Try to be kind even when it’s hard. There will come a time when you will feel insecure about your looks. You will be discontented about the way things are going in your life. You may even feel pressured by the success of other people. As a result of this sense of inadequacy, you may want to lash out at people and indulge in gossip to make yourself feel better. No matter how terrible you feel, be kind anyway. When you try to hurt others you hurt yourself more because the satisfaction you derive from putting people down is only temporary. And, when you’re happy and feeling on top of the world, be kind still. Never gloat in your victory over other people. Instead extend a helping hand because you never know when you might need it.
Know that there is really no Prince Charming! When you grow up, you will discover that fairy tales are simply just that: the stuff of make-believe. And boys, in general, are just as rough-and-tumble as anything. They are nothing like the princes of fairy tale books–gallant, chivalrous, and perfect. They are prone to self-doubt and temper-tantrums as any little girl. They are not always invincible and brave as they make themselves out to be. They cry, too. Only that they won’t show it. But be warned: there are boys who will use their tears to get what they want. Be wary of those people. Nevertheless, respect them as your equal.
It’s the quality of your friendship that counts and not the number of likes on Facebook. It’s sad that many people find validation from the number of acquaintances in their friends list or in the number of comments and likes on their social media wall. But genuine friendship cannot be measured by the stats that appear on your posts. Rather, it is defined by the conversations that take place in private; the warm hugs; the kind words; the arguments; and the apologies that are not publicized on your FB account.
Be your own hero. Not everyone you rely on can be depended on all the time. Sometimes, you will have to face your fears and fix your problems all on your own. Trust your instincts, rely on your skills, depend on your inner strength, and learn to stand up for yourself. Most of all, stick up for other people, too.
Be grateful. “Thank” and “you” are two of the most important words that you will ever say to anyone. Expressing your gratitude for every kind gesture, big or small, can make a world of difference. It makes people feel good to be appreciated by others. It will also make you feel better to know that you’ve made someone’s day by simply being gracious. So, thank your teachers for imparting new knowledge. Thank your friends for staying by your side. Thank your brother for making you laugh. Thank your parents even when they’re mad. Thank a stranger for helping you out with the right directions. And thank God for the simplest things.
Most of what I’ve written in this letter may sound gibberish to you at the moment, but in time you will understand what I mean. Keep this letter and read it every year on your birthday until it finally make sense to you. I have so much to tell you about life that it would probably take me a couple more pages until I am done. So let me reserve the others in my succeeding letters to you that are yet to come.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. .
And indeed, unfaltering determination is key to achieving any goal as grit is the secret super power of the truly successful.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 whole—like 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.
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.
It’s Valentine’s Day. And, I’m feeling kind of sentimental about the father of my children—the person responsible for my angst and mood swings, the one who could break my heart over and over and mend it in an instant; the man who had been at the receiving end of my countless Facebook tirades over the years.
I hate him. I love him.
Sometimes I want to throttle him.
Oftentimes I just want to kiss him senseless.
It’s interesting that the same person who could bring out the best in me could also incite the worst from me. But despite the complexity of our relationship; my ever-changing feelings; my discomfort over this occasion (for reasons which I’ve already explained in a previous post), I choose to honor him the best way I know via this blog post (whether he deserves it or not).
Our story goes all the way back to the angst-ridden mid-nineties, when Eraserheads, Rivermaya and Siakol conquered the airwaves, and Teeth’s “Prinsesa” was the most requested love song on radio stations all over the country. We were college students from different campuses. He was a small town boy with big dreams. I was a balikbayan girl struggling to adjust to her new environment and her parents’ native language. There were no sparks, no fireworks in that first meeting. But it was definitely the start of a long winding journey of comic friendship and on-and-off-again courtship.
Together, we were an unlikely pair. Nevertheless, my strength was his weakness and my weakness was his strength. In that manner, we complemented each other—helped one another. He was always proud of me and sometimes bragged about me. In return I respected him for the man that he was then and could be.
From where we stood at that time, the future looked bright. And eventually, we went the way of all couples in long-term relationships: down the wedding aisle to exchange vows of eternal love and lifelong commitment. But, of course life thereafter was never to be the same.
Looking back on those happier days, I just can’t help but wonder how we have come to be this today: Complex. Uncooperative. Always bickering.
Witnesses to our love story and friends privy to our problems would shake their heads and say, “I told you so.” Apparently, not everyone approved of the relationship. To some, we were bound to fail at the onset.
Whether they were right in saying so or not, our relationship have so far withstood the test of time and surpassed speculations at its worst.
“Love is blind. Marriage is an eye-opener.”
Now, when long-hidden idiosyncrasies begin to surface in a marriage, realizations as ominous as dark foreboding clouds usually start to seep in. Gradually you lose sight of the good things as you start to focus on the more serious negative aspects that have just made themselves known.Then, you begin to question:
Where was the loving sentimental man so afraid of losing me? And for that matter, where was the understanding, patient woman who only saw the best in her man?
Well, nothing could be any truer than this definition of love that I came across one day at the Gallery of Love inside the Peranakan Museum on one of my Singapore visits. After being married for several years at the time of the visit, I just couldn’t agree more with its author (one of the hundreds and thousands of tourists that came to the museum year over year).
I came into the marriage with ideals molded from watching “Friends” and believed that no matter what, the Husband and I will work things out like Chandler and Monica. Apparently he was no Chandler, and neither was I anything close to being Monica.
The Husband’s refusal to play the part of the funny, witty and attentive spouse became my frustration. In the same manner, my failure to become the quiet, meek and understanding wife befitting any swaggering testosterone-packing leather jacket-clad action hero disappointed him. But, of course, that wasn’t the be-all of our troubles. Apparently there were issues—no, actually just one major flaw on his part–that still needed some fixing. At the start of the marriage, this problem has been nothing but a giant wedge in our relationship. But, then again that’s another story I wish to discuss at another time (when I’m ready) because it deserves a separate blog post all on its own.
Understanding His Language of Love
Though I can fault my husband for that one major flaw, I can certainly credit him for many great things.
First and foremost, he is by all standards the perfect father. He is a terrific caregiver who never fails to attend to our children’s need in times of illness. Usually there at the kids’ beck and call, he would rush to their aide without further ado. I envy him for his boundless energy and for his fast-thinking (always knowing what to do and when). I’ve always felt that I pale in comparison as a parent. But, who am I to complain? Any hardworking woman would hanker for a husband like mine who would gladly take half of the parenting responsibilities that have been bestowed upon her from the very moment she became a mother. And for that, I am proud of him.
But, romantic he is not. Often, I’d wish that my husband would do what other men would, since time immemorial, for their wives. But after nine years, I’d given up all hope for candle-lit dinners, out-of-town escapades for two, flowers and violins and other frivolities besotted men usually indulge the love of their lives. Instead, he’d do my laundry. He’d cook dinner when I’m bogged down with work (and I confess he is a way better chef than I could ever be). He’d make coffee and breakfast for the two of us, long before I could even open my eyes. He had always been my nursemaid when I’m weak; the doctor/nurse who administered my wounds post C-section. I just couldn’t ask for more.
Clearly, he and I speak different languages of love. I love long walks in the park and meaningful conversations. He is quite content with a quiet night at home with the wife and the kids. Though he has little taste for frivolities and other trappings of romance, he would always hold my hand as we walk together in public—and proudly so–regardless of curious stares or glares from by-standers.