Reality Bites

This is not about that 1990’s classic film. I love that movie though and I’m glad Winona Ryder’s back on track with Stranger Things–which I absolutely love too. Anyway…

So life caught up with me and I have to juggle my attention between work, family and responsibilities. My last post was…last year! I didn’t even do a 2016 Wrap Up post which I intended to do towards the end of 2016. I know I don’t have a fan base of readers but some people came up to me telling how they enjoyed reading my posts. Very encouraging. So here I am, my first post for 2017.

2016: Wrap Up

Last year went by in a blur and a lot of changes happened: My boss (the guy who hired me) left the company, Jason and I moved to a new apartment and money was a little tight–an effect caused by Malaysian Ringgit dropping against US Dollars. I moved offices–from a brightly lit open space, we moved to a higher floor with black metal fence space dividers. At first our reactions were like “What the hell?!”–the office look like an amateur MMA fighter ring. As days go by, it grows on you and you realize it’s kinda cool–industrialized, utilitarian chic. I got a new boss–he’s cool. How did I know he’s cooler than my old boss? He stayed till late during our office Christmas get together and drank with the rest of us alcoholics. It was bad ass–I’m not sure it’s ok to drink alcohol inside our office. I guess the most interesting thing that happened last year was when my 5 year old put a small battery up his nostrils. It was both terrifying and hilarious at the same time. All in all it was a good year. The family is healthy and we got by just fine.

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My MMA-inspired office space.

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New apartment, new space.

2017: First Quarter Storm

We started off this year on a good note. We came back to work refreshed and revived from the time spent with our family and friends back home. We even have plans of taking the kids out overseas. Well you know what they say about best laid plans–they go awry. So Jason has to move back Singapore leaving our family of five spread across 3 countries. Talk about LDR, right? So after packing up things at the end of 2016 and unpacking them in a new apartment, we have to start packing again–this time dividing things to “bring to Singapore” and “leave in Malaysia”.

Jason had to be in Singapore by February so you can just imagine our rush in packing and securing accommodations in Singapore. We realize that our expenses might go up–and go up it did. But you know, God is good. He sends help when you’re drowning so your head can stay afloat. We were able to find a reasonable room for rent. It’s a little far out from the city but the distance to Jason’s office is just nice that it doesn’t take more than an hour’s commute.

First few days was tough especially if you’re not used to being totally alone on a regular basis in another country. Malaysia is generally peaceful nation. The country is made up of people coming from different race and belief but they all live harmoniously. If there were any discrimination, it wasn’t something people talk about in the open. Being alone here, I got to be more observant and aware of my surroundings. Being a female, even more so. I had to start commuting to and from work. My current best friend is Grab. I had to prepare meals for myself–I realized I used up too many utensils and kitchenware when I cook so even if I’m cooking just for myself, I end up washing utensils, cookware and dishes equivalent to 2 persons dining. Recently, I just buy cooked meals.

So yeah, change is not all that bad. 2017 started off with storm and a little uncertainty but what’s good about storms is the aftermath. Sure, there’s destruction and a loss but it also gives you opportunity to rebuild and re-set your goals. And this year, that’s what 2017 is going to be all about.

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My Father The Hero

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12 (NIV)

This post was originally a Note I published in Facebook 5 years ago. Today is my Dad’s 64th birthday and I’m just so grateful how far we’ve come along since I wrote it in February 2, 2011. You can find the original post here.

It’s still more than a month before my father’s birthday or even Father’s Day but today I called up my Dad and realized it’s never too early to give him the honor he deserves.

Flashback 12 years ago:

Me: Dad, mag-shift na lang kaya ako ng engineering? Masyadong mahal ang archi. Ang dami kong kailangan bilhin na gamit eh wala naman tayong pambili ngayon. (Dad, should I shift to engineering? Archi is just to expensive. There are a lot of things I need to buy but we don’t have any money right now.)

Daddy: D bale anak, ituloy mo lang yang architecture. Kahit igapang natin ang pag-aaral mo makatapos ka lang. (Don’t worry child, just continue with architecture. We will do everything so you can finish your studies.)

Further back:

Me and my Dad were at the mall. He was looking for a cheap tennis shoes to replace his worn out pair. I saw a Reebok tennis shoes…’new arrival’…would really look nice with my high school PE uniform.

Me: Daddy, gusto ko yung shoes… (Daddy, I want those shoes…)

Daddy: Sige na nga, ikaw na lang ang ibibili ko. (Alright then, I will just buy for you instead.)

February 2, 2011:

Me: Daddy, ok na. Nakakuha na kami ng flight ni Kiel. Iu-uwi ko na siya sa February 12… (Dad, it’s ok. I finally got a flight for me and Kiel. I will bring him home on February 12…)

Daddy: Ah ganun ba. Si Kuya na lang ang susundo sa inyo… (Is that so. Your Kuya will be the one the pick you up…)

Me: Ha? Ah…bakit? (Ha? Ah…Why?)

Daddy: Iko-confine na ako this Friday or this weekend. O-operahan na ako… (I will be confined this Friday or this weekend. I’m having my operation…)

My Dad is never the one to complain. He deals with his own pain as much as he can and despite all his struggles, he still manages to take care of his family. He already had a heart problem when he was younger but choose to ignore it while he served in his family, his church and his community.

I remember telling him one afternoon that he’s going to be a grandfather soon–the context being me not yet married. I saw a millisecond flash of anger and disappointment. It was so fleeting that you wouldn’t notice it because his countenance changed so quickly into compassion and just said, “Kailangan mo nang alagaan ang sarili mo at si apo.” (You need to take care of yourself and my grandchild.) He is so forgiving and he does not hold any grudges on anyone. He made sure I start my own family right and until now, he’s still a pillar of support for me–even as his heart problem worsen. And this weekend and in the coming days, we can only lift up our worries, anxieties and fears to our Lord.

March 17, 2016:

I wrote a prayer as an ending but I thought I should just leave that one out. Reading it again made me feel it’s too personal…too raw. Until now, tears well up my eyes while reading it. I would like to end this post with a thank you: Thanks Dad for everything. Thank You Lord for answering my prayer.

That Contract Called Marriage

The past is only the future with the lights on.

“Baby Come On” by +44, written by Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker 

There will be a point in our lives where we look back to moments we tried so hard to forget. That point has finally arrived for me and right now I’m forcing myself to remember every detail of those moments.

I remember how we met and the circumstances that led us to meeting each other. I remember how I saw the red flags and warning signs but choose to ignore them. I’m in love or so I thought. I remember how the truth finally sink in because someone finally told me. I remember my reaction after being told the truth: I accepted my fate. I remember how I continue to defend him and make excuses for him even if my heart could take it no more. I remember losing sleep, feeling tired, burying myself at work because that was all I can hold on to. I remember how I finally snapped out of it: I packed my things and left with what I could carry. And he still had the audacity to threaten me.

Looking back, I realized how I toughened up. How I stopped being a people person. How I cleaned up my friends list and started touching base with people who knew me when I was just a harmless little girl. I started to re-connect with my college best friends and primary school classmates. I kept my inner circle small and professional network wide. I stopped keeping it all inside me and started sharing my inner struggles with someone who truly understood me.

Next week, I will start all over again. I’m going back my home country and the trip has some twisted irony in it. I’m going back to see the end of a marriage I’ve been fighting so hard to get nullified and bear witness to another marriage contract being entered to by a dear friend.

I have nothing against the institution of marriage. I’ve been guilty of making a mockery of that institution myself. Me and the other person who got me into it. And I’m sorry for that. I’ve come to realize how powerful the piece of paper called marriage contract and marriage certificate is. So here’s my piece for anyone who plans to get into that contract: Sign the contract if you can’t live without the other party. Sign the contract if, despite all his inadequacies you still want to sleep and wake up next to the other party. Sign the contract if you’re committed to it even if the other party isn’t and no matter what you will still fulfill the terms and conditions of that contract. Sign the contract if you don’t mind sharing whatever asset you acquire while being bound to the other party. Otherwise, get a lawyer to draw up a pre-nuptial agreement. Sign the contract if you don’t mind having to decide on everything with the consideration or consent of the other party. Sign the contract if you’re honestly capable of unconditional love. If you can’t do a third of those conditions, don’t sign. Don’t put yourself to misery. Don’t put the other party to misery.

A favorite song of mine has this line: “The past is only the future with the lights on.” Mark Hoppus is spot on! I’ve learned a really nice lesson the hard way. I can talk about it as casually as the weather but deep inside, I can still feel a tiny prick at my heart. I can’t say I’m no longer in the dark but at least I have fairy lights ahead of me now.

What’s Good Enough?

Today is Valentine’s Day and I though I’d make this post a little something about the most awaited–and most dreaded day of the year.

These past few days have been marred with a few disagreements between me and Jason. Mostly because I think he plays too much Xbox while he thinks I dabble in too many things. But the most striking line during our exchange was said by him:

“No one is ever good enough for you.”

So what is indeed good enough for me?

Disclaimer: This is my personal list of what’s good enough. It might be different from what others believe in. Hey, it’s a free country. Feel free to write your own thoughts on the comment section.

A man is good enough for me if…

He is a responsible person.

Being responsible is a big deal for me. I have my parents to thank for that. Being an adult is difficult enough as it is but being an adult with family is even harder. When you have monthly bills to pay, being irresponsible will be a hard blow on every relationships. Even if you don’t have kids, you still have adult responsibilities to fulfill: taxes, bills, rent or mortgages. Being responsible is not only limited on the financial aspect of life. I want my man to be responsible enough to live a well balance lifestyle. I’m not too keen on being a widow.

He dreams big and gives his best shot to achieve them.

I always believe that people who dream big have 90% chances of living the life they want. The remaining 10% is the effort they put into achieving it. If you don’t dream big, what’s left to achieve?

He knows how to have fun.

You can be responsible and still have fun. I can’t be with someone who doesn’t know how to have fun. I would die…of boredom.

He’s great with kids.

I have 3 little boys. He has to get along with them 80% of the time so that’s playing, eating and playing again. 20% is left to parenting and that covers pep talks and sermons.

He’s good at time management.

I’m not even good at this myself so he has to be good in it. When I’m running behind on everything else, he has to help put me back on track.

He’s neat and always pleasant to be with.

Who doesn’t want to be with a well dressed and fresh smelling person?

He loves me for what I am, faults and all.

Selfish but this is the person we’ve all been looking for: Someone to love us back the way we want to be loved. I’m not saying that he cannot complain about my faults because he can. I would try to improve myself but I won’t be doing it for him, I would be doing it for myself. When we love, we cannot force the other person to change. When we love, it means we’ve accepted that person without any conditions or reservations. It’s tough but that’s the very definition of love as God has taught us: unconditional.

We’re ok now. Like any arguments, they always blow over. But I still would like to say if there really is no one good enough for me. Because there is. And he’s that man.

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Happy Valentine’s Day Jason!

 

Why Girl Off the Beaten Tracks?

Why did I call this blog Girl Off the Beaten Tracks? The places I’ve been to and the things I’m sharing are not exactly “off beaten”.

There’s actually a story to this title.

While I was still working in Singapore, me and a couple of girlfriends from church decided to do a one day trip to Palau Ubin. We took a boat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal to a small jetty in Palau Ubin. We went around the island by bike and I must say, it was the closest thing to nature trip that I have ever been to. I don’t really do nature trips. I prefer places with “proper” tourist amenities such as working restrooms, paved paths, refreshment stands and a buggy to take you around in case you get tired of walking. It was my first time to bike on uphill and downhill dirt paths. It was my first close encounter with “unrestrained” wild life. Fortunately, it was just a monkey. I would’ve died of fear if it were a wild boar which we were told roam freely in the island.

But the rewards of the grueling bike ride were breathtaking. We saw the bluest lake I’ve ever seen. We walked through the longest boardwalk-on-water I’ve ever been to. By my standards with the places I’ve been to, it was really mother nature at its best for me. I might be exaggerating here but that just goes to show how much of a city person I am. I went home seriously tired and sore. I took 2 muscle relaxant and woke up the following afternoon. It was Sunday and I already missed church service. I  was checking my mobile phone for any decent photos taken during the trip when I felt a sudden burst of inspiration and decided to start a blog about the things I try for the first time. It took a whole afternoon figuring out a name so I decided to edit the photos hoping that would inspire me for a really nice blog name. I came upon a photo of me and my friends biking towards an uphill path, just us girls on the road. Then it hit me: Off the Beaten Paths. Like I would do something like “I go where you don’t go” (read it with sarcasm). But it was catchy. I just added “Girl” since the blog will be all about the things I’ve been doing.

We will always find inspiration in almost anything we do.

A few years went by since that afternoon, I started my blog. Life caught up with me so when life dropped me, I resort to doing the things I’ve been putting off for a very long time. One of it is writing. I still have a long list: a papercutting project, watercolor painting project, editing my “To Be Sorted Out” photos and my adult “keep calm” coloring book.

This blog isn’t going to be about nature walks or trek to Mount Everest. I will definitely fill it with lots with things I’ve been up to and a few travel articles. I have such a huge collection of photos of hotels I’ve stayed at so I might write some useful hotel reviews. Seriously, we need more un-biased people reviewing hotels as I myself rely on this reviews in choosing where to stay in any country I’m going to. And somebody please review the breakfast buffet spreads at hotels. Anything “with breakfast” on their room package better be worth the extra dollars.

So guys, that’s the story behind the story. We will always find inspiration in almost anything we do. Who would’ve thought a trip out of the city can spur something so creative. Or just something. I will always be grateful for that trip. But don’t expect me to do it again.

Note: I will try to look for my photos of this trip and will update this blog post once I find them…Or was it inside the hard disk that went to the ex? Hmm…

 

Wisdom in Solitude

I was always quiet at work, doing my own thing in my tiny cubicle (which is just a few steps from my boss’s glass encased office–so you know why I stay quiet in my place 80% of the time). From time to time I would go around the production floor tending to my colleagues’s ArchiCAD-related issues (and for some strange reason, even IT-related problems). It would give me an opportunity to interact with them, make small talk and catch up on some  topics that are not work-related. But today, I was more than my 80% of quietness. I stayed in my seat, save for the few minutes I spent in my boss’s office for a quick discussion and that was it.

Solitude has always been my favorite therapy. I’m normally a chatty and highly opinionated person. People like me tend to get too overwhelming for others. But I find that as I get older, I start to prefer quiet and intimate conversations. I prefer silent musings–and my, am I the most talkative person in my head! But really, keeping quiet helps you gain focus. You get to navigate through all those white noises, focus on your thoughts and organize them: How do I want this situation to end? How do I get this situation fix itself? What should I do? Uhm…What should I wear to our Annual Dinner? The questions go on and you find that after being quiet in your thoughts, you have an answer to every single little thing.

My question to myself this afternoon was: What do I want out of my relationship? Jason and I fight like normal couples do and the issues vary from something so mundane to something so significant. I’m not gonna say what we fought about. I’m gonna say how we settled it…quietly. I realize that when you give each other space to vent out the anger separately, you reduce the number of hurtful words you end up saying to each other during a fight. I also realize that sometimes in your anger, you get irrational. Taking time out, helps you rationalize. You get to say why you’re mad/hurt in logical manner–not totally devoid of emotions but less hateful and bitter. In that way, your argument is validated and doesn’t sound petty. Nope, we still end up saying things we will probably regret saying but it wasn’t as bad. At the end of the day, I get to answer my question: I want permanence. I want something that no vows nor any legal documents can hold. And that’s love. Love always win. Not ego. Not pride. Not your own selfish reasons for being in a relationship.

All this we achieve by being with our own selves in solitude. Like what I’m doing now. I’m not really alone, I’m with a laptop and a shot of D.O.M. and for some weird reason, I’m actually enjoying it. Everything that you have read so far are words of wisdom that come from 40% alcohol.

Why This is My Last One (Final Part)

Baby is Out But Not Quite Out Yet

Me and Jason would spend the following days shuttling back and forth the hospital. The time finally came for our tiny preemie to feed on breast milk but it would have to be given to him through a tube going directly inside his stomach. In order for that to happen, I would need to express milk artificially. It was quite difficult without a baby latching on so we asked friends if they know anyone willing to donate or even sell breast milk to augment what little I have. I was overwhelmed by the huge response to our call for help but I settled for two mommies who were willing to share milk.

Our son Joshua stayed in NICU for almost a month. Some of the babies there even longer. Jason had to go back to work a week after Joshua came out so it was quite tough dealing with all of it on my own. For a month my routine would be hospital-home-hospital-home. Inside the hospital, I would go to NICU and check on Joshua’s improvements then to cashier to slowly pay off bills and back again to Joshua to just look at him and touch his hand from time to time. When he was big enough and his tubes were finally removed, I would be there 90% of the time, coming home just to catch some sleep, shower and change clothes. It was very, very tiring. There where times when I cried not because my baby was in the hospital but because I was so exhausted.

Inside the NICU while breastfeeding or lulling Joshua to sleep, I was able to witness a whole range of human emotions and situations that goes on inside the hospital. I witnessed a father losing his wife to aneurysm but gaining a beautiful baby girl in the process. I saw a baby who was forced to stay in the hospital for so long because his young mother couldn’t afford to pay the hospital bills. Then there were two other babies in the NICU. My son wasn’t alone in his struggle to survive. I wasn’t alone in my struggle.

I have two older boys but I hardly had time to check on them. I was really grateful I had a lot of help from my parents and my kids’ nanny. The whole pregnancy also took a toll on our finances but I’m grateful that Jason and I were both gainfully employed at that time and we were able to afford all the hospital expenses. I was also grateful for all our well-meaning friends especially for my good friend Aimee who is a medical doctor herself. I believe she helped us a lot in making well-informed decisions about the whole situation of having an emergency c-section.

The Baby Is Finally Home

After a month of staying at NICU, it was finally time for Joshua Jason to come home. He was still small and fragile when we brought him home. The house has to be spotless and if any of us got a slight sneezing or coughing, we will have to wear mask before we get close to him. He slept for most of the time…and most of the nights. And for that, I’m also truly grateful.

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Joshua at 19 months. 

You don’t just carry a child for nine months and give birth. You have to make sure your offspring have everything they need to have a fighting chance in surviving this world.

So Why This Is My Last?

People are so surprised when I tell them I don’t want to have a baby anymore. They look at my boys and say that I must be insane not to try for a baby girl. Well, here are my reasons:

  1. I’m contented. I’m happy with just three kids no matter what their gender is.
  2. We can only afford to give good life to three kids. I’m really practical at this point. Whether we admit it or not, finance is a big factor in having kids. You have to be able to give them a safe environment to live, access to medical facilities, good education and kid-friendly activities they can enjoy from time to time. I don’t believe we’ll be able to do that with four kids. We might just end up short-changing our children with the life they should be having.
  3. I’m not up to it anymore. I’m generally a healthy individual but let’s face it, I’m past 30 and the lifestyle I have as a working mom will not allow me to have another healthy pregnancy. I don’t want to go through the same situation as I have with my youngest. I don’t want to spend my pregnancy in and out of the hospital and I don’t want my child in and out of the hospital either.

Having a child is both a miracle and a responsibility–a really, really huge one. You don’t just have sex and play Russian roulette of getting pregnant or not. If you’re having a baby on the way and still not mentally and emotionally prepared for it, you can be doing harm to yourself and your unborn child. I know any type of contraception is being shunned by the Church so having sex and not having a baby can prove to be quite a challenge for a lot of couples. I believe that it’s each to his or her own conscience and most of all, I believe more in educating people on responsible parenthood. You don’t just carry a child for nine months and give birth. You have to make sure your offspring have everything they need to have a fighting chance in surviving this world.

Note: This is the last part in a 3 part series called Why This is My Last One. You can read the second part here. It had taken quite awhile for me to finish this series, almost two years to be exact. But I remember everything as if they happened a few months ago.

I first had an idea writing about my “final” pregnancy in April 2014. I was constantly being admitted to the hospital and confined to total bed rest due to bleeding that for the last two trimesters of my pregnancy, I feared for mine and my unborn child’s life. I was a relatively healthy adult female with two previous normal childbirths. I never had any complications except for the threatened PLC (Premature Labor Contractions) with my second son which I was able to carry to term. April 2014 was also a milestone for the proponents of the RH Bill or Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health of 2012 (R.A. No. 10354) where the Supreme Court declared the law “constitutional” while striking down 8 provisions as “unconstitutional”. You can read about an update on RH bill on a Rappler article here. I am not Pro-RH Bill nor am I Anti-RH Bill but I am a firm believer of being a responsible parent. Being a responsible parent, I have to make sure I am healthy enough to care for my young sons even if it means giving up on hopes of having a daughter.