Mindset Overhaul

Hello blog!

Its been 4 months since my last post and I sincerely missed you! I’m currently on my energy boost mode (that’s between 11:00pm to 2:00am daily recently). And as I found my to-do list brightly highlighted with “DONE”, I figured I now have a guiltless time to revisit my alternate world.

Last time I checked, I mentioned that we had Olive baptized. She was 3 months old then. Fast forward to now. She’s a budding 7-months old baby with advanced locomotor skills which have kept us (me, Mr. H and Yaya) all the more watchful of her. She’s been laughing at funny faces we make, peek-a-boos and quirky sounds. A few weeks ago, she was down with mild fever, cough and flu, but she’s all better now. She’s grown her first teeth and has been fond of biting anything and anyone. She has really become our source of fatigue and joy. And each day, I wanted to spend more time indulging in this phase of her childhood.

7 months old Olive

7 months old Olive

Time is essential for me right now. And time is something I do not want to spend often as a stressed out work-at-home mom who doesn’t have a social life and is unhappy. So I decided to shift back to gear one and take things in stride.

The Happiness Factor

In June, I was able to earn $300 a week from my freelance job. It felt great and I wanted to maintain earning that figure for as long as I could. But that accomplishment came with a price.

I was less attentive in taking care of Olive. I did not gave enough attention to my husband and our business. And despite those, I still found myself constantly stressed and feeling guilty. Stressed because I know, I left a lot of things undone for our business, and guilty because I felt I was irresponsible as a mother and a wife. Think of having a bag full of a month’s laundry which I only washed because we didn’t have anything to wear anymore.

I tried justifying my act. I pushed myself to work hard because I wanted us out of our current apartment. The houses we are looking at cost the same, if not more expensive. But I was looking for a place where we could be more comfortable as a family with a growing kid. I was unhappy with our current environment and the fact that we’re experiencing flooding.

I wanted us to be financially capable of drawing ourselves out of here. But I learned that I can’t change everything in a month’s time, no matter how mad and desperate I am with working.

I was only leaning to become more stressed, more unhappy. I felt like no one was taking me seriously and I was hating by myself, alone.

Pause and Realizations

That’s when I tried to stop for a while.

I felt like I deserved to rest after working so hard. I took time to literally just lie down and do nothing but reflect. Then realization and remorse hit me.

I realized it wasn’t just me who’s having a hard time. Mr. H has also been restless (driving for days, sometimes sleepless working on preventive maintenance schedules and lifting heavy objects). It wasn’t my sole responsibility to earn for us. We’re partners and he’s also burning his ass off earning for our family. I need to stop saying “I”. It should be “us”, “we”.

I shouldn’t work hard. I should be working smart. But right now, the place just doesn’t allow for an engaging workplace to hire an assistant. The first and last one who came for a walk-in interview didn’t came back. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean I couldn’t work smart in the future. Answer: Set up a spare workstation once we’ve transferred office.

I am unhappy and whining all the time. I am too stubborn to accept that some realities that can’t be changed overnight. I read somewhere that 90% of the problems a man has is caused by himself. For instance, I was sleepless for 2 nights in a row because there’s a wild and loud party on a nearby covered court. I can’t do anything about it. And yet I kept myself bothered about it for several days.

I don’t have a social life. But becoming a mother didn’t cause that. I chose to live here, that’s why. And naturally, I wouldn’t have my family and friends here.

I am not the best person to take care of a child. I admit that. That’s why we hired an in-house nanny. But that doesn’t excuse me from bonding with my baby, and for not lending a hand when Yaya needs to do the cooking, dish washing and the laundry.

Finally, I felt like I was too hard on myself for no good reason…

Night owling again…

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Cultivating Good Vibes

The rest period after my workaholic June was an extended one.

WE treated OURSELVES to a full body massage. It wasn’t at the expensive spas we used to frequent when we were still dating (those that offer sauna and 1.5 hour couple massage). But with a baby behind us, Nuat Thai at the nearby Shopwise sufficed. The last time we had a more luxurious one was the day before our wedding in 2011. I know… its 2013 already.

I started declining job invitations I’m unsure if I could accomplish in time. Instead, I focused with my regular clients who send me tasks every now and then. That meant I didn’t have a full load. But I wasn’t really happy with having a full load and restless just the same.

Pending job invitations... >_>

Pending job invitations… >_>

I scoured the newspapers, internet advertisements and braved talking to the Cebuano landlords/ladies of apartments and houses for rent. I wasn’t successful and we were nearly frustrated discussing with prospects only to back out because of practical reasons. Just in time, my father-in-law told us that someone from their hometown is building a house and they’d want to rent it out to someone they know.

We visited the site (it was still under construction) and it turned out to be exactly what we were looking for. A 3 bedroom duplex house with a garage. The owners are kind enough to allow our business. One room was allotted for our office. They had a really nice ventilation (strategically placed windows in almost every room) which were lacking in most of the houses we’ve seen. The bathrooms are new. And Olive can roam around in a walker. It was the answer to our prayers!

There was a kapilya nearby where fiestas and parties are held oftentimes. But instead of whining about it, I just found a valid excuse for us to occasionally sleep in a pension house.

Alba Uno

Alba Uno Pension House. I dream of sleeping here one noisy night.

I volunteered to do collections from business clients and bank deposits from time to time. Going out of the house makes me forget that resentment of not having family and friends close by. Aside from the cardio, I’ve been able to visit the public library and learned that they offer free wifi access. I was able to enroll our accounts for online funds transfer which has been in my to-do list for so long. I also made efforts to meet with fellow freelancers within the city (who also lack the social life that usual employed people enjoy).

Looks familiar? #librarygirl

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More than anything else, I made it a point to express and show my love for Olive and my husband. I let her crawl, sit, roll and stand on our queen size bed, play with stuff toys, sing songs to her, teach her how to high five, clap and close/open her hands. I embraced her, kiss and cuddle as much as I could, because I know tomorrow she’d be bigger. I carefully watch over her milk, vitamin and hygienic supplies so we wouldn’t run out of stock, and personally walk to the drugstore to make the purchase even when her dad isn’t around.

Whenever my husband comes home after a full schedule (of deliveries, checkups and pull outs), I remember to prepare a dry bath with lukewarm water and a soft towel. I kiss him whenever he goes to sleep first, and take the 2-3:00 am shift of feeding Olive. I became more thoughtful of buying material things (while we’re together) that he needs but wouldn’t prioritize because he’s thinking of our expenses, like a new collared shirt or a better brand of hair gel.

Let Go

Within that rest period, I let myself indulge with things unrelated to work and with which I felt gratification afterwards. Things I stopped doing because I thought I didn’t have time or I couldn’t afford them like:

  • Cooking a meal
  • Doing the laundry
  • Reading AND finishing books (I’ve finished 2 books within that rest period, including Steve Jobs)
  • Watching movies and random Youtube videos
  • Having drinks and pastries in a cafe
  • Appreciating new artists and downloading MP3s
  • Running (although I haven’t repeated this after that one time)
  • Sorting things (clothes, files, bags etc.)
  • Making random lists
  • Thinking about the good times and how I could repeat that with my family in tow

Otherworldlyworkplace

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With those, I let go of my workaholic self and saw how different everything could be. The end result wasn’t like an Extreme Makeover Self edition radical kind of change, but I knew I felt better.

I saw that I have a budding family, a promising business and career, a hope for a better household and the resources to enjoy life. Nobody was demanding me to work 40 hours a week while looking after a baby and running another business but MYSELF. I should stop because I wasn’t actually happy.

And when I did, I felt more lighthearted. I was more playful and was easier to get along with. Everything seemed simpler.

I finally came to terms that in order for me to be happy with what I have now, I should not focus on my anger, frustration and sadness. I am licensed to feel angry, frustrated and sad. But I shouldn’t keep myself feeling that way all the time. Looking back, I felt stupid and stubborn acting like a kid.

I couldn’t say that I won’t feel negative again in the future, its part of my personality after all. But I wouldn’t force myself to go robot mode again, and feel sorry about myself afterwards.

To sum it up:

My to-do list is always full. But I’m pleased that everyday, there’s something being crossed off.

Oh the things that we can’t buy

Daddy H, Olive, me and Yaya Jane are all tired tonight. We went to SM (SM City Cebu) to canvass a laptop and digicam. The laptop is a replacement for Toshi (Daddy H’s 4-year old Toshiba laptop) who retired last January. We’re eyeing for a Lenovo Thinkpad. The specs are compatible for Daddy H’s work related requirements. Meanwhile, we’re hunting for a Lumix LX7 to replace his old digicam so we could capture Olive’s growing up moments more dramatically. We’re opting for the LX7 because of its semi-DSLR features.

 

Fortunately and unfortunately, we came in time for the last day of mall-wide sale. It was great that there’s so many tempting bargains and we’re both armed with our credit cards. Unfortunately, there were so many people (more than the crowd at the Ayala Mall sale I went to last Thursday) that it killed the mood for me to enjoy window shopping. The people made me nauseous along with the fear of losing the sight of Olive and Jane from the sea of shoppers. Despite that, I think Olive enjoyed seeing so many colors around. She was never irritated all the while. Just sobbing a bit when she’s beginning to feel hungry. We bought her glow in the dark stickers of celestial bodies and a few scrapbook picture frames. Later, we had snack at Starbucks using the GCs Daddy H won from the Emerson event.

Starbucks GCs

Prizes from Emerson’s Product Launching Event 🙂

So after whirling around the mall, we found our target gadgets on display at several retailer stores in the Cyberzone and at the SM Department Store. They’re available for purchase on 12 months zero interest installment. The sad thing is that they’re also offering the items with a bigger discount if paid in cash. *SIGH!!! So much savings if only we have cash!

I used to believe that its wiser to buy anything in cash than in credit. Never buy something you can’t afford. THEN CAME MY CREDIT CARD. I have my BPI Edge Mastercard for more than a year now and it has been my friend in times of need. The most desperate moments were during my pregnancy and after having delivered Olive. Thank God I’m not that much of an impulsive buyer. I have this constant fear that we might not be able to pay the next month’s bill. Luckily, we haven’t been able to miss a due date. I always see to it that we’d be able to settle both of our credit card bills. My husband has Metrobank with double my credit limit. Oha! Daig ako! The laptop, digicam, the LED TV, and a new airconditioning unit were large eye candies for us. But mentally summing up all of them, I know we’d be in debt for 100,000 pesos. Divide that by 12 months and that’s more than 8,000 pesos on the credit card bill. Ansarap bigla umuwi. I know of a few stores in Manila where we could buy the Lenovo and the Lumix for almost half the mall prices. But of course, they wouldn’t offer installment options.

 

Sale Sale Sale!!!

A parody of mall sales as depicted in the movie Zohan. Clearance sale ang peg ng mga Middle-Eastern immigrants. XD image from http://www.movie-censorship.com

I know this is another price to pay since we had a baby in the family. We couldn’t just buy anything at a whim without considering the next month’s checkup, her vaccination schedules, milk and impending baptism. We have to have a purchase plan. This is also the main reason why we as parents are driven to work doubly hard. The gadgets, a vehicle and a house – we need everything but we know we can’t afford to get them all at once. I could double my earnings as a freelancer, but that would need me to stop being a mother. And that is not an option.

Olive's Vaccination Checklist

We’re not even halfway through Olive’s vaccination checklist @_@

Again, I remember when someone told me “your baby’s gonna be a handful”. I didn’t expect that I’d be almost paralyzed from working. I was even a bit proud to decline my mother-in-law’s offer to send a yaya immediately after I gave birth. I am now thankful that she did. Otherwise, I’d be crazy right now. And even if Olive has recently been sleeping through the night, I could still barely manage accepting new design projects. Add to that my memory gaps – side effects of the general anesthesia administered to me.

Slowly now, I’m like a car being overhauled and tuned up in getting back to work. I wish and pray really hard that this year wouldn’t be as tough as the last financially. I know with faith and action, it will be!

IT Park

Strolling at IT Park

Black Hole

I had a milestone to celebrate yesterday, but am in no great mood to cheer for it now. I’m sharing a bit nonetheless…

I have actually managed to finish another book – Where We Belong by Emily Giffin. That accomplished during breastfeeding and waiting for Olive to burp. My enthusiasm to share an unsolicited review was washed cold. I could relate perhaps to the characters since I’m a mother now, crying at one point when Giffin narrated through Marian and Kirby, the painful decision to give away a baby. I loved that Kirby is somewhat a kickass girl with a cool biological parents who turned out to be a famous TV show producer and a musician. Must be the dream of any child out there…

I was reminiscing a little about my working life at Dasma after remembering that it is National Women’s Day yesterday (March 8). I sorta miss the brief recognition program for the female employees of the LGU. Some are even lucky enough to win a simple raffle of gift vouchers. I wasn’t sociable back then (well, even until now), but I do miss being a part of the crowd and having something different happen in your day.

That rarely happens when you’re working at home. There’s a very thin line that separates the awareness that you are at home and you are at your office. Oftentimes, I tend to mix it up and admittedly, my productivity gets affected. And it doesn’t help when you’re shuffling with various jobs (graphic design for your right brain, bookkeeping on your left brain, baby on your chest and arms). Sometimes, you need a change of scenery. But having a baby who’s dependent on you ties you where you work, sleep and eat.

The only reward I know is that I’m doing what I love for work. Not so much for the accounting tasks though. It friggin feels like I’m handed a final exam doing the spreadsheets.

Numbers

Felt like taking an exam in accounting

I have the urge to write more, since I have no friends to talk to in this hour (actually, even in daylight since we’re islands away). Blogging has after all, been my way of venting of anger and frustration in the past decade. Thank you Multiply for bringing down that feature of yours. I wonder how I could ever digest the negativities if I bothered reading them again. But browsing through numerous blogs authored by a variety of people made me feel that I could share my brighter side of life this time around. I was aiming for that outcome…

Oh if only I still have a car to drive around at my whim. Maybe city lights could offer a little spark. Going adrift to see something different and hopefully help fill up that hole in your chest that aches of gloom.

Dealing with Getting Stuck in an Inhospitable Environment

I’m up at 5:30 AM as I’m beginning to write this.

Blame it on the neighbors, neighbors’ pets, and the pesky construction workers who buy their coffee from the apartment next door. My pregnancy must be at the most sleep-deprived phase as of several weeks now. Tough getting sleep as my stomach gets bigger. Tougher keeping oneself asleep when you hear even just a little noise.

I could rant the whole 9 months of my pregnancy and even after giving birth perhaps. And yes I’m at the threshold of my patience. But given our financially constricted situation, we have no choice as of the moment but to stay here…

We’re supposed to have found an apartment in a more ideal environment. I’ve even convinced myself that its worth spending our little savings if I could afford a little peace for ourselves. But upon almost final negotiations, we realized we’d be spending more than we thought about. Not good considering I’m about to give birth in 2 months (62 days from now to be exact). That’s 50k slashed off our pockets and we haven’t bought any baby stuff yet. Heck, 7 months on and I haven’t even bought myself that maxi dress! Paeta!

So to console ourselves… I decided today should be a bit more rewarding. We’ll have lunch out, buy some Christmas décor, get a haircut and shop a little. Anyway, I was able to withdraw some dollar savings with a higher forex rate last night. I promised we’d allot some of that for our personal shopping needs. We haven’t bought anything for ourselves in almost a year now.

*Sigh! So this is how it feels to live (almost) independently. I didn’t realize how much it could cost to eat well, rent a comfortable nest, and keep the simple lifestyle we have. We’ve been so frugal in shopping, traveling and nights out. And we’re still grateful that Cebu offers an urban life at a cheaper cost. I’m sad to admit that my mom was right when she said it was a pain to write down daily expenses and review each tiny expenditure if its worth it or not. Sometimes, especially when a pregnant woman craves for it, you just have to spend. It feels wrong to compute every peso you spend just to eat a decent and filling meal – not when you’re having a baby and is living with 2 adult males.

If I do the math, what we’re probably earning right now is just enough for our basic needs. And it could be lesser than what my parents were earning when my dad was on active police duty. I could almost hear my mom behind me sarcastically saying ‘I told you so…’ =_=

So after accepting the (SAD) fact that we’re bound to stay here a little bit longer, the only helpful things I could make of our situation is to:

1)   Be more productive (as tough as it is to concentrate on working). I’m glad I was able to attend the oDesk Contractors Appreciation Day. I think everyone who participated were able to get increased client job invitations. I plan to increase my weekly quota in earnings. Slacking is not an option if we want to beat life’s bitch. I’m also thinking of collaborating projects with some people in our network. All that while still performing as co-manager of our humble business. AND DESPITE finding it hard to focus. (Construction workers spend their break times on the next door apartment selling snacks. THEY ARE LOUD & always on a yosi break!).

2)   Save more. Increase quota. Increase earnings. Increase savings. We’ll be saving for three people by next year already!

3)   Acquire household stuff one at a time. I didn’t realize we barely have any furniture, household equipment and fixture when we move out. Top on the list would be water boiler, drinking glasses, pitchers, pails, laundry basins, curtains, rugs, kitchen towels and bed sheets. Washing machine and LED TV is also a priority for clean laundry and space-saving home entertainment.

4)   Keep constantly on the look out for rental properties. Apartments for rent don’t run out in the city. Somebody always moves out and moves in. But there are only a few that offer comfort and peace. They’re like needles in a haystack though and may be more expensive. But as my cousin (who’s been renting ever since her college days) says – you’re also paying for the environment. Never live in a place where you’d be unhappy.

5)   Financially, mentally and emotionally prepare. Rent plus utility expenses could almost cost one of our salaries. Being pregnant, I can’t stay sane without an air-conditioning unit. I sweat all the time. Right now, we’re also splitting our rent with my sister-in-law, mother-in-law and a lodger. If we’re moving out, we’ll be paying for the rent by ourselves. And when the baby comes out, we can’t settle with eating noodles and street sold food as meals. It would be quality over expense. Health shouldn’t be sacrificed.

So there… I am now about to count our savings. Not going back to sleep because everyone in the nearby compounds, that brat who always scream for his mama, construction laborers and the roosters next door are thrice more awake by now. Throwing bombs and going on a killing spree is not a kind option. I’m trying to stay positive hoping that somewhere before I get to deliver the baby, we’ll be able to find a better nest.

Defining Family vs Relatives

Oftentimes, I have critics who’re disgusted when I tell them I don’t know THAT person who shares the same surname/middlename/maiden name as mine. I really don’t bother browsing through family history to trace whether we’re related or not. Some INSIST I should, because we COULD BE FAMILY. Well I beg to disagree. Being RELATIVES and FAMILY has quite a stark contrast in my philosophy.

FAMILY in the Filipino sense is always nuclear – something that extends beyond places, dialects and regions. Maybe that’s why some people push me into looking through the (family tree) and locating how some stranger is related to me. I just don’t buy it. Another product of my cynicism is a harsh realization at how some ‘relatives’ take advantage of that connection depending on your occupation. Like when my dad used to be in active police duty and even now as my mom works in the justice system. I do empathize with relatives in really dire situations. Heck, we help out friends and neighbors when they’re in need. But sometimes, relatives just recognize you when you’re needed. People think sharing the same name and blood thickens the connection and puts a special ring of importance. It doesn’t.

Sometimes, there are friends who are more like family to you than your own relatives.

As common in most groups of people, not everyone likes everyone. When you don’t do anything, something’s gonna be thrown behind your back. I don’t really care.

Possibly the worst I was told, was that one person who shares my maiden name is quite a problem in their community. That’s the problem. You introduce yourself to me as a relative (my husband’s side), and you ask me if I know this person because we share (my maiden) name. And then you tell me how he/she is a nuisance around your neighborhood. Well, I don’t know him/her and neither do I know you. But don’t follow up your statement as if you’re trying to generalize the people I share my name with.

Because like me, you are also a part of a nuclear family of relatives – known and unknown to you, who could be problem people (addicts, rebels or thugs) equally adding a negative connotation to your brood.

For me, a Family is that group of people you’re comfortable with, who accepts you as you are (despite brutally knowing your flaws), who unconditionally stays with you through good and bad, and those who just doesn’t bother keeping up with you no matter how distant you’ve been, how you’ve changed and even after that – they don’t treat you any differently. No need to remind you of how bad you’ve been in the past, or how you did something to smear the name of your family. They say we don’t choose who becomes our family. I say we do. We choose the people we want to keep up with, bear with and live with unconditionally. And that makes the difference of being a ‘family’ and a ‘relative’.

This popular soap on TV, Walang Hanggan, shows the essence of being relatives and family. A grandmother who gave away her grandson heartlessly, and decades later begs for forgiveness upon realizing how deserving that grandson is of recognition. (He became successful, wealthy and equally rich as she is). And there’s the other grandmother who kept this unwanted grandson, raised him as her own child, wept when he was lost and rejoiced when he was found. That simple.