Soul Keeping: Making the most out of my “me” time

Last Friday’s hosting gig took me to Tagaytay City. It was a weekday and so i had to drive myself and go solo as my husband can’t skip work. I usually take my family with me on out of town hosting projects and i miss them on the times when they couldn’t come with me.

But ever since embarking on my soul keeping adventure, i have started to seek hidden joys out of every moment and situation i find myself in. So i decided to make the most of the trip alone and search for every blessing this “me” time has to offer.

Singing can do wonders for your soul

I love to sing. I took voice lessons when i was eight and finished every course my Performing Arts School has to offer. I joined singing contests and managed to bag a prize or two although never the champion’s title. Still i was happy to sing, whether alone at home, in a group at parties, duets with my husband, karaoke nights with my family or while driving. Singing while driving is my favorite. It is an antidote to Metro Manila’s traffic. It releases my happiness hormones.

Singing my heart out for the duration of  a three hour road trip to Tagaytay is more than enough to release endorphins that could give me an overdose of happiness. But hey, if i would have an overdose of anything, i would gladly welcome happiness.

There is a bit of preparation though if you were to try this soul keeping habit. First, make a playlist. My family know this by heart. I have a playlist for every road trip. From worship songs, vintage classics, lullaby songs ( to make my children sleep), old school hits to the most current songs. I make a title for each playlist so i know which ones fit my mood and need at any given time. Some of these are, Worship, Soul Food, Soul Keeping, Something More, Our Wedding Soundtrack, Hopeless Romantic, Wake Up, My Teenage Years, Name that Tune, Old School, Sagada, Elyu and Baguio. My husband and children have their separate playlists as well so everyone gets a turn to enjoy their own kind of music. These playlists are saved in USB and it is ever changing. I also keep my car well-stocked with  CDs of my favorite artists.  The Beatles, Sharon Cuneta, New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, Madonna, Gary Valenciano, Kari Jobe and Chris Tomlin. I call them my car staples.

For my solo drive to Tagaytay, i sang along to two playlists and by the time i reached my destination, i was in such a joyful mood that i found myself craving for more endorphins.

Country Love

I am an old soul. I like old things. Music, clothes, decor, even people! I was born two years before the 80’s but i might as well have been born in the 40’s. To own a country home, that little picturesque yellow cottage with a blue front door, blue window shutters, a pocket garden and a kitchen cupboard full of colorful plates, cups and knick knacks of all sorts is my dream.

My vintage soul led me to the perfect place.

This is Memory Lane.

IMG_5874[1]

I got there just in time for lunch and i was pleasantly surprised that there was only one couple dining when i came. It was so peaceful and the only sound coming from the restaurant’s speakers where the voices of The Platters and Frank Sinatra. Absolutely perfect!

I took a bit of time deciding what to order as they have a pretty substantial menu. In the end, i chose their country style fried chicken and morisquetta rice ( this is Memory Lane’s version of Yang Chow rice).

While waiting for my food to arrive, i picked up where i left off in my morning devotions. Another habit that i have started in my soul keeping adventure is to always bring with me my “me time” bag. Inside this bag are my bible, prayer journal, art journal, a current book that i am reading, my eureka notebook ( where i scribble ideas and sudden thought bubbles and record my train of thought) my planner, and a pencil case filled with every writer’s essentials.

My conversations with God are richer in times of solitude. Finding myself in that quiet place was not a coincidence. God’s grace is never a coincidence. That moment i was in three states at the same time. I was grateful, joyful and content.

Never lose your sense of wonder

I lost track of the number of times that i have seen Taal Lake. But there is not a single time that i am not captivated by its sight. Each time i see it, there is always an expression of awe. It is like seeing it for the first time, through the eyes of a child.

It was my first time to host a wedding reception in Balai Taal. I got there a few hours earlier than my call time. I always liked to arrive early so i will have a chance to enjoy the scenery and say a prayer of blessing for the newlyweds, the event and the work of my hands. It also gives me time to drink in the beautiful set-up and arrangement before the guests arrive and the party begins.

IMG_5879[1]

From the gate, it was a downward slope going to the reception venue. I was unprepared for the view that greeted me. I had to stop midway so i can  just stare and delight in wonder at the beautiful creation in front of me. Balai Taal offers a perfect view of the lake. It looked so close that it gives you the illusion that you could touch it.

Philippians 4:13

By five o’clock the guests have started to arrive. A fog had started to set in and there was a chill in the air which lasted till the end of the reception program. By nine in the evening i was still under the influence of my happiness overdose. There were sounds of laughter, faces glowing with delight and happy smiles everywhere.

Once again i thanked the Lord for sustaining me. It has been a very long day. One that started at half-past three in the morning. I am amazed by the stamina that He has given me.  It was another three hour drive back home but i looked forward to it. After all, i was packed with the essentials. I was tired but happy. My soul was full with all the big and small joys i was able to find. A “me” time well spent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Embracing life in light of eternity

The house is quiet again and i am having my second cup of coffee. I embrace the solitude. Never mind the occasional whining of the neighbor’s toddler and her mother’s loud reprimand.

I am bent on savoring the stillness inside my home.

Lately i have found myself craving for more of these moments. Could it be middle age? I am going to be forty next year. But i have always been a solitary person. I am happiest at home, away from the crowd and safe from the noise. It  is where i can unlock the reservoir that is my heart and put those feelings into words. It is where i take out one by one the thoughts that have been piled in the many compartments of my mind.

Today is one of those days when i have to open my reservoir.

On life and death 

Last month, a co-parent of ours at our daughter’s preschool passed away. She was forty one. It was a sudden death. She was the picture of perfect health and there were no telltale signs that she would be moving on ahead of us. A month before her passing, we chanced upon each other and happily shared stories of our motherhood journey, about how we are embarking on a new chapter as we help usher our daughters into adolescence and about how there is nothing more fulfilling and rewarding than being a wife and a mom.

We were not that close, but her death affected me in so many ways.

“Death comes like a thief in the night”. (1 Thessalonians 5:2)

I began to think about my life and how i have been living it.  We were on the same journey and i couldn’t help but imagine how will it be like for my own family if i leave them suddenly without a warning. I see a picture and i quickly blot it out . It is unbearable. There are no words to describe the grief.

Death leaves you feeling lost and empty but it also makes you want to embrace life even more.

Since her passing i have found myself in the habit of reflecting about my days constantly. My quiet times allow me to check my heart and deal with issues that are preventing me from from living the life that God wants me to. I no longer reserve any space for pride. I have began to find it easier to accept my shortcomings and apologize for them. Being right doesn’t matter anymore if it means hurting the people i love. It is like i am making sure that i leave nothing unsaid and undone even before my time is up.

On the day of her death, i wrote God a letter in my journal.  I thanked Him for my life and for everyone and everything that He has placed in it. I told Him how much i am grateful for everything that He has done for me and about how sorry i am for all my sins. I expressed my desire to serve Him even more as i wait expectantly for more of His breakthroughs upon my life. Lastly, i asked Him not to take me just yet. But if He does, i hope that He will allow me to prepare myself and my family.

But since i will never know when my life will come to an end, the best preparation i can make is to live each day as if it is my last.

She lived her days like this.  Looking back, i remember snippets of conversations with her over the years. Her decision to devote more time to her marriage and family despite a very promising career,  the way she has humbly accepted her role as a wife and how she pursued to know God more by studying and immersing herself in her journey of faith. After her death, i began to piece all of these together and there emerged a clear picture: She was preparing herself for God.

God takes.

But even as He takes what is rightfully His, He gives us opportunities to make ourselves ready. It is just up to us to obey or to ignore. She chose to obey and i believe that she met God with open arms.

At her wake, another co-parent and i talked about this and if there is an intuition or a sign that would somehow let us know that our time is almost up. In an attempt to liven up the somber mood, i wondered aloud whether a person’s changed ways is a sign that her life is about to end. “Kapag ba bumabait na ako, ibig sabihin malapit na akong kunin ni Lord? Huwag muna kaya ako magpakabait para hindi muna niya ako kunin”. ( “If i find myself being kinder, does it mean that God is about to take me back already? Maybe i should continue with my wicked ways so He won’t take me yet”). We both laughed at this but i know that deep down, the joke has struck a cord.

I think about this everyday.

Last Sunday after ministering to my daughter on the subject of Lordship, i told her that more than anything else, i am doing it to prepare her. It is not an act that i do to impress people or to make her look up to me.  I am doing it so that on the day that i come face to face with God and He asks me what have i done for Him,  i will have a truthful answer. That i was able to live my life according to His will.

20423962_10211127646601871_8690481110555443941_o

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”( Psalm 90:12)

 

 

 

 

We are not super heroes

No matter how hard we try to be, we are not.

After two days of migraine, my head is finally pain-free. Now i am back on my feet and busying around once again. Keeping my fingers crossed that the next month will pass by without an attack.

For someone who has been living with chronic migraine for twenty years, taking it easy is the golden rule. But if you are extremely stubborn like me, taking it easy is not that easy.

I thought i could do it all. I have been doing it all. I believe i could keep doing it all.

Full-time motherhood with part-time freelance work on the side is something i have always been grateful for. Eleven years of it and counting. I know that it is a gift because not all mothers who wish for it are able to have it. But sometimes, when you are caught unaware, gratefulness turns into pride and you start to depend solely on your own abilities rather than on the One who gave you those abilities.

You function at full speed. Your radar is on all the time. Saving the day is your life’s motto. And you like it. To be truthful about it, you like it.

Your pride buttons burst each time you receive compliments about how unbelievably amazing you have been managing everything all at the same time: household chores, raising your children, taking care of your husband, squeezing in work and earning.

People tell you are Wonder Woman. You “humbly” brush it off, but deep down you are secretly giggling with glee.

wonder woman insignia

 

And because you have been doing such a great job, you ignore the stop signs for fear that there is no one else who can do it like you do.

But even God rested. He stopped working for a day after finishing His creation and seeing that it was all beautiful. He was happy and He rested.

For two days i rested.  There was no other choice. But even under extreme pain, i was mentally picturing the chaos waiting for me and making lists of the things i will do when i get better. Control is such a hard habit to break.

But I never had any use for those mental notes.

Someone else saved the day.

During those two days my husband took care of me. He cooked, did the laundry, took our son to the park and gave me massages.

It was not done in the standard that i have built for myself, but i didn’t mind. I have built such a high standard that most times, i myself can’t even climb it.

I used to do everything out of love and only that. Somewhere along the way, love became just a motivation and perfection the goal. It was tiring and never fulfilling.

My husband did everything i couldn’t do out of love. He was not striving to show me he could do it also. He did it because he loved me and to show me that it is alright if i can’t be super anymore. He was happy to see me taking a break and finally resting.

The weekend is almost here and i am taking extra care to avoid bed confinement again. I want to make it up to my family. Not by making sure that everything is perfect but by making sure that i am alright. I am re-evaluating my standards and deleting things that are beyond human capacity.

After all, i am not a super hero. No mother is. The title belongs to only one person and it is because of Him that i am here in this season of full-time motherhood surrounded by people who make this journey my greatest adventure.

Only by God’s grace and nothing else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because motherhood is more blissful with friends

The alarm went off at four this morning. With eyes closed, i turned it off and got out of bed. My eyes wouldn’t open and so i sat down on the sofa and told myself i would start breakfast in ten minutes. I have another alarm set for the next thirty minutes. I was confident i would hear it.

I didn’t. I slept through it and woke up with a start at five. The time i was supposed to wake them up with breakfast ready on the table.

Thank God for our pantry staples. Cereals, milk, bread and butter. I thanked God a second time for ready to pack snacks and lunches.

With a precision gained from years of experience, we have managed to do and finish everything in an hour.

I took my first sip of coffee as the house grew quiet and the last of the breakfast dishes have been rinsed.

I sat down and decided to call my best friend and set an impromptu date.

But because motherhood comes first, i did my grocery shopping first so i could enjoy the rest of the morning with her.

I did.

We sat, talked and ate breakfast for three hours. It could have been more  if i didn’t have to pick up my son from school. But those couple of hours were enough to replenish our cups. It was not all happy talk, but we were happy. There is something therapeutic with an honest and candid conversation with a friend. It releases you of  that extra baggage which you cannot really unload and leave at home.

I left that cafe with a full tummy but with a light heart. It felt like losing weight without starving yourself.

It’s the unplanned dates such as this that add more color to my already colorful days. A much needed and welcome break from my daily routine. I remind myself that i should do this more often.

Motherhood should never be an excuse to cease nurturing friendships. Friendships nurture mothers.

They are food for the soul.

IMG_9106[1]

 

 

 

 

 

Of patience and sunscreen

It’s my third treatment session and i am waiting for my therapist to arrive. I came in an hour earlier than my schedule having nowhere else to go after bringing my son to school.

I sit on the clinic’s lush and comfortable couch and look at the magazines sprawled on the coffee table. And i am thinking if i should get one and read.

I think. I seem to be doing a lot of this lately. Going around in circles and always going back to that sunny day at the beach where i sat on the sand while keeping watch on my two children and taking photos and videos of them happily surfing the waves.

They were so happy and i was happy just looking at them.

All was well in my world.

For two hours i stayed in that spot never really minding the sun.

Without any sunscreen.

17966249_10210262242087299_3129116068540590880_o

Which is is why i am here at the skin clinic. A place i never go to except for occasional facials. The number of times of which i can count on my fingers.

Sunburned was what happened to me. And because getting a really nice tan was not part of my plan, the dress that i wore that day which had most of my back exposed, left an uneven, unpleasant and dark tone. It has been two months and i feel like it is not going to go back to its original color.

But my Dermatologist tells me it will.  Although it will take take some time because the older one gets, the longer the skin heals, she says. Which goes without saying that i am not as young as i used to be. She then added that I just have to be patient.

Patience is not my strongest virtue.

Why didn’t i practice what i preach?

I have always made sure my children are protected with sunscreen every time they go swimming. Even reprimanding my husband when he forgets to use one when he goes biking.

Why did i not use one for myself?

I shrank and abused myself even more by having a pity party with Google. Reading articles and looking at photos. Feeding my anxiety drove me to the conclusion that i am never going to get the skin on my back to the way it used to be.

I  find myself heading to the beauty isles which i ignore whenever i do our shopping. Whitening soaps and lotion are now included in my grocery list. A quick stop at the pharmacy to get my weekly capsule supplement  is now part of my routine too. Things i never did before.

Anything to make it heal faster.

Being patient is one of my greatest struggles.

“It’s just skin Mommy”,  my daughter scolds me. Funny, she sounds just like me when she went through a similar situation. The mother who preached that real beauty is skin deep and that simplicity is always the better choice over vanity is obsessing with a tan. Because it’s a bad one, my stubborn self whispers.

“It will go back Mommy. Just wait”, says my seven-year old son. So wise beyond his years. I wonder what he thinks of me worrying over a tan.

“It is not a serious matter Tart. You are still the most beautiful woman in the world”, my husband tells me. This man has always loved me despite my unpredictability and craziness. I wonder why.

I hear my Dermatologist again. “The tan is not permanent. The layers of our skin changes and are replaced regularly. Your skin was just traumatized because of the lack of protection. It will take long but it will go back. Don’t worry. Just be patient.”

That word again.

Her smile is so reassuring. I am almost ashamed of my pettiness. No, not almost. I am ashamed. This is not me. The me who thinks that buying clothes and putting on make-up is a chore. The me who would gladly sit on the floor of  a second hand book shop rummaging through piles of books. The me who buys high-heeled shoes only because her work requires her to but would trade all of it for sneakers and slip-ons.

What has happened to me?

This obsession made me realize that it is not really the bad tan which troubles me the most. It is knowing that i made a mistake. My thirteen-year old daughter was right all along. “You are used to having everything perfect Mommy. That’s why when something goes wrong you can’t accept it. Mistakes happen and you just have to accept them and move on”.

She knows me too well.

After an hour’s treatment, my therapist shows me the progress we have made. It is not the miracle i wish for but it surely is improving albeit slowly.

Patience, i remind myself.

I drive to my son’s school to pick him up. He goes to me with a smile and kisses me on the lips. He is always excited to go home. His jolly chatter soon fills  the car and i silently tell myself to never again waste time and energy thinking about my skin when everything around me is filled with so much wonder and beauty.

Would it really be that bad to wait till next summer for my bad tan to fade? While i would have to forego wearing a couple of dresses which show my back to my hosting gigs, i could always wear something else. I never really liked wearing those outfits anyway.

Now i have the next ten months to complete a crash course on the subject of patience.  I look forward to next summer when i can just shrug and laugh as i look back on this “personal crisis”.

I have learned my lesson. Loud and clear.

And while i pick myself up from this temporary insanity i remind myself to train my mind to see the beauty in everything, that patience is a virtue and to never, ever underestimate the importance of sunscreen.

Even artist Baz Luhrmann swears by this truth in his song “Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen)

“Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of
Wishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off
Painting over the ugly parts and recycling for more than it’s worth
But trust me on the sunscreen”

In the meantime, there are dinner dishes to wash and clean laundry to fold. Life goes on for this full-time mom. Her beautiful life goes on.

While you were sleeping

He is sleeping soundly now. After two rounds of rice meals for lunch, a movie and some play time, he finally agreed to take a nap.

My little boy. In a few years, he won’t be little anymore.

I have an hour before i start the preparations for dinner. It has been a week since the new school year started and the three of us have been slowly adjusting to our new routine.

There has been so many changes. I knew they were coming but i didn’t realize that my heart was not ready for them. It was just too much. All at the same time.

A new school for our eldest. Hiring a school bus for her after ten years of driving and picking her up from school. Having a teenager in the house and seeing how she is growing so fast everyday. Becoming more and more independent. Spreading her wings as my husband sadly said.

I remind myself that i still have a little one. His toys still clutter our house and most especially our bed.  I tell myself i still have a couple of years of having him all to myself. But i know that is really not true. At some point i will have to start letting go. Much earlier than how it was with his sister.

It is different with a son.

I remember there is this shirt which he personally picked out from a rack while we were shopping for school stuff last year. The shirt has a big print out of ” I love Mom” in the front. Now he doesn’t want to wear it in school anymore and says that he is reserving it for family trips. He is trying not to hurt my feelings. I smile and let him know that i understand.

He is growing up too and there is nothing i can do about it.

Except remember the baby that he was and love him over and over again.

He is still sleeping and i take a long time just staring at him. I tell him, “Don’t grow up too fast darling. Mommy misses her baby”.

IMG_9089[1]