Category Archives: Living

Overwhelm: The Art of Subtly Killing It in 5 Simple Ways

I wrote this back in early 2021 and completely forgot about it. I’m currently in the process of writing a short story, and my writing process always begins with everything that has nothing to do with writing – like spring cleaning my laptop. So I’m blowing the dust off this article and sharing this with you because, hopefully, some of the things I wrote here may still have value.

It’s a Monday. The other days of the week are staring back at me from the bright screen of my phone – a fitting substitute for a fog light. Everything is becoming a blur in my head, and I’m beginning to feel it – it that I have no proper name for.

The blur in my head is like a tenant who flagrantly refuses to pay rent but stays anyway. I’m trying everything in my power to rationalize the source of my discomfort because when you can’t even give a name to what you’re feeling, what are you supposed to do anyway? I’m in a labyrinth of thoughts that just goes on and on and on.

I look at my laptop screen, and it feels like I’m racing against something, and losing the game. I can’t win the staring contest I put myself up against. There are thousands of words of things that I need to do and read and review. If I could pull these words out of the screen, they would pile up on my desk – layer after layer of print on paper, and I’d be buried under them – still asking myself where I’m supposed to begin and where to end.

Work. Work is the only thing that could possibly cause tension between my temples, and an unbidden temporary paralysis. More than 20 years in this industry and – no double job in the past, no excitement from the newsroom, no overtime that lasted until dawn, no www abyss – could overwhelm me.

Until now.

There it is. The word is overwhelm.

Once upon a time, ‘overwhelm’ was not even a word I would use to describe my job/tasks/everything else in life. I would look at a kilometric list of things to do, and at the end of the day, I’d be dusting off my hands and putting my feet up and… actually end my day. However, things changed, and these past three weeks, I’ve felt like the days would never end. My checklist kept on growing, and I never seemed to get to the bottom of it, no matter how many hours I worked every day.

Here’s a glimpse of what I do: I manage people and do project and website management. I also write scripts, marketing funnel material, non-fiction, and once again, attempt to write fiction. Not a lot these days, but I write even just inside my head.

On the side, I also manage our bed and breakfast together with my husband. So you see, I’m not treading an unfamiliar path, nor am I new to this. Becoming overwhelmed is an unwelcome novelty in my life.

I read up on a few pieces of advice that experts have given on being overwhelmed with work, life, love. While these prescriptions were designed by people with years of professional experience in psychology and other fields related to human behavior, I could not find anything on their list that could help me. For instance, creating a task list is a given; getting a good night’s sleep is kind of like a chicken-and-egg situation because it’s difficult to fall asleep when you have 50 things going on in your head; taking a break – an advice I like, but if you’ve dealt with anxiety then you know that taking a break sometimes leads to an even heightened anxiety; setting a deadline for yourself – consider it done, then you find yourself hitting the wall of anxiety again; taking a moment to be aware of your surroundings (one of the suggestions that work according to science) – I like this, but it’s another given because I’m a homeschooling mom and new grandmother to my kids’ pups, and so yes, I am very aware of what may be being chewed, where weird smells may be coming from, looking at the lovely sight of soul twins – a teacup Pomeranian and golden retriever, both three months old – playing with each other.

Having said all that, I’m not refusing to try what has already been tested. I realized, though, that we all have different life experiences that led us to this space where the feeling of being overwhelmed is now ruling over us.

Sick and tired of being overwhelmed, I sat my husband down to talk. That’s when everything started to get better.

I’m sharing a few things I’ve done to slowly take me out of the big O in case you’ve also been looking around and feel like none of the other things will help you.

5 Things to Help You If You’re Overwhelmed

1. Talk. Find someone you really trust and can pour your heart out to. It has to be someone who will listen to the nitty-gritty details of the mundane, yet gargantuan, workload you have without them running away from you halfway through your story. Don’t just tell this person that you’re overwhelmed, why you are overwhelmed. Walk this person through your entire thought process: what happens as soon as you wake up, what it is about the kilometric list that bothers you, how you start sweating when you think about things that you need to do for the day.

Speaking out your worries will help you analyze things that you might have been overthinking without realizing it. Sometimes, we tend to magnify little worries, especially if we fail to verbalize them.

Getting another person’s perspective on a matter also helps at times when we’re being unkind to ourselves.

Frances Beldia

2. Measure. Look your tasks in the eye no matter how much bigger they are than you. I realized that my sense of panic stemmed from feelings of being unsure about all the tasks ahead of me and everything that’s already on my plate. For a time, I had to deal with a nagging feeling that there’s something I needed to do, but wasn’t sure what – which led to me being more paranoid because I might be forgetting something important.

Knowing that I needed to deal with it badly if I wanted to get restful sleep back, I sat down with a pen and paper. I’m a firm believer in the hand-and-brain connection, thus, I still have a handy notebook on my desk. I listed down all tasks that needed to be started and completed. I didn’t hurry into it just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I created a major list with sub-tasks under it and a note on how I planned to accomplish each task.

As soon as I filled up a few good pages of those tasks, I looked at everything, and I realized that the list may be long but very doable as long as I created a plan of how to tackle the items on that list. Just knowing that nothing was beyond my control was more than enough. Creating a visual aid for your tasks will help you design a measurable way to finish them.

3. Control. We like the idea of being in control of things in our lives, but even the most successful people have failed in this area. I used to like to think that as long as I could plan my working days well, everything would always go right. Wrong. There are more than 10 reasons why your day won’t go well the way you planned it because you’re not living inside a box impenetrable by outside forces. Let go of the obsession of being in control and the less overwhelmed you will be.

Being overwhelmed is sometimes not about all the tasks you can’t seem to finish, but the feeling that you are not in control of everything.

Be like Hurley. Relax and take it easy.

4. Goals. You always hear people telling you to have goals and being realistic with them. But what does that really mean? It’s not like you enjoy setting up goals you know you can’t achieve. I would define realistic goals as ones that are actionable, and doable. I used to write a minimum of 15 things to finish in a day. I would always feel in control when I was writing them, not to mention very sure that those were doable on a Monday because there’s another list waiting for Tuesday. But reality has it that there are tasks that are not only humps on the road you bump into and get over. Some actually stop you in your tracks and lets you say goodbye to the rest of the things on your list. I used to like to think that I should only give a 700-word article 20 minutes of my time to review, but when I get to the first article, I’d realize that the article needs an overhaul, not to mention that the writer completely missed the entire gist of the assignment, and also contained some wrong information. Providing feedback to the writer already takes a lot of time because you want to make sure nothing is amiss in the next submission.

You look at your list, and that article is only #3.

Now I take a better approach when it comes to my to-do list. There is a list, but it’s not screaming at me to finish 15 things or so all in one day anymore. I’m no longer scrambling to finish everything in haste – which often leads to errors, by the way – and this way, I am relaxed as I approach tasks.

Frances Beldia

5. Gratitude. I know this looks out of place among the other four things that I mentioned, but this is the one thing that fueled me to move away from overwhelm or the feeling of being overwhelmed. Although once derided by peers as a workaholic (which I honestly doubt I ever was), the way I feel about tasks changed when I got older. It’s not only about finishing a list of things to do – I wanted to start work more efficiently; walk through taskland and know that things will get done with each given a proper amount of time.

What’s making you feel overwhelmed, and what are you doing about it? Would love to hear your thoughts, so be sure to share them in the comments section.

My 20 for 2020: Awesome Things that Kept Me Going

I wanted to spare you — and myself — mostly, from this cringey excuse for a title, but I don’t think there’s any other way around it. Besides, it’s cute as it is cringey, and after 2020, what else is there that we can’t take anyway?

We cringed, we cried a little, we bawled our eyes out. We were tested as human beings, big time.

Frances Beldia

Covid-19 left friends losing family members and family losing friends. There was a time when I refused to look at my Facebook feed because it almost resembled an obituary.

Covid-19 also caused the collapse of industries with small-to-medium companies taking the brunt of adverse global and local economic situations. People lost jobs, with me included in the statistics, unfortunately.

It wasn’t only the virus that turned our world upside down. There were massive forest fires, earthquakes, typhoons and other kinds of illnesses that were easily ignored because of the thick, mucky mud that was Covid. Some people rose above the occasion, some sank, and some were left unfazed.

Where some people found themselves at their weakest, some surprised themselves by discovering a strength from within them that they didn’t know even existed.

Frances Beldia

This is where I want to begin my list. The list, by the way, is not ranked in a particular way.

20 Things I’m Thankful in 2020

  1. Discovering the strength and resilience I never acknowledged I had. The year 2020 was not so much about going against the negative forces happening around me because there really was nothing I could do about it. There were times when I got scared and got overwhelmed by feelings of uncertainty, regret (not doing some things at a time when I easily could), frustration (I abhor wearing masks), and a general sense of fear that things may never be the same again. But underneath all these, I was also experiencing a deep sense of calmness and steadiness that anchored me through one maskful year. You see, our challenge started in January 2020 when Mount Taal (one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines) erupted and we experienced the horrendous ash fall. Our doors and windows had to be shut tight for two months. We could not go out without masks on, and the whole thing was literally suffocating. By March, we had to continue wearing masks for a totally different reason — Covid-19. I think the one thing that helped me get through was consciously living one day at a time.
  2. Family–my first favorite word. Having my family beside me at a difficult time has given me more reasons to squish them all together, sniff them, see them smile, hear them get mad and vent out their own frustrations, have small fights with them, be able to help them, laugh with them, just lie around and do nothing with them. Being with my family is like living in my own sitcom.
  3. Laughter. If there is one thing I don’t ever want to lose, it’s the capacity to laugh at myself, laugh at my — and secretly at others’ — innocent mistakes (because as humans we are allowed to be mean like that sometimes). A good sense of humor is the best antidote to any illness. I didn’t make that up. Evidence-based studies say so.
  4. The power of the internet. Both my sisters live in places far, far away. The snail mail won’t cut it at a time like this. My closest friends are also in different parts of the world and across the country, and being able to talk to them real time adds one big point to the happy list.
  5. The not so powerful internet — because we need to slow down and cut back on our screen time what with fearmongering and fake news reigning in all the time, and not to mention the anger, anxiety and feigned intelligence that are all enough to give us an ugly hangover we don’t deserve.
  6. Gratitude — my second favorite word. It leads the way to everything that is good and beautiful in my every day especially if I begin my morning with a ‘thank you!’.
  7. The ability to be creative with food. Stuck at home with limited access to fresh food and new batches of weekly groceries, my husband and I depended on our creativity to whip up food that’s not boring and bland.
  8. A safe night market a few steps away from us. We award ourselves ‘lazy days’ and it’s great that we have a reliable go-to night market with lots of options for food that are cheap but sumptuous. Travelers and bikers traversing the Tagaytay-Batangas route (or wherever these ubiquitous riders are coming from) may agree because we see a lot of them dropping by on weekends to enjoy the food.
  9. Meditation. I honestly don’t know how to survive without my daily morning ang night meditations. It works powerfully well that it’s even addictive.
  10. Being a new pet owner. I thought my little, hyperactive and amazingly intelligent Pomeranian was going to benefit from me being his human carer. Turns out, I’m benefitting so much more from him.
  11. Kind, generous, and hardworking children who also happen to have a great sense of humor. All throughout 2020, I have seen so many posts from parents complaining, albeit subtly, about how getting stuck at home has changed their kids in one way or another. Thankfully, ours are riding through difficult times gracefully. They also religiously do their daily household chores without being told to, find humor in so many things and are thriving really well even under the new normal.
  12. My husband’s job and his hard work and dedication to it. We suddenly became a one-income household when the pandemic started. It has allowed us to continue living a simple yet comfortable life that’s also free of worries. At a time like this, it’s so much to be thankful for.
  13. Airbnb named us Super Host for the second time. We sadly had to close down our daily home rentals because of… what else… Covid! It was such a surprise to get an e-mail from Airbnb that we made it as Super Host for 2020. The first time was in 2013 when we hosted in Boracay for a year. I am sincerely thankful for the hundreds of guests who left us 5-star reviews that led us to getting this much-coveted recognition for hosts.
  14. Music. Sometimes I get enlightenment from spiritual gurus and experiences. Sometimes I also get it from Christopher Cross.
  15. Great-paying side hustles. Being offered a freelance job by a former boss means not only gaining the ability to earn good money on my own free time, but also getting the same trust and confidence he gave me under his employment in the past. This is not the first time a past employer has offered me a freelance job. There is wisdom in the words “never burn bridges”. Also, 2020 gave back my faith in freelancing. There are legitimate freelance jobs that pay more than the usual measly $5 to $10 dollars an hour rate out there. I promise.
  16. Good health. Aside from the sniffles usually caused by allergies, none of us got sick throughout the year.
  17. Living a small-town life. There is always joy in living a quiet, rural life. This set-up will not be permanent for us, but while we’re here we are tremendously enjoying fresh and good food, fresher air and well-meaning neighbors who even offered to do our grocery runs for us, clean up the front of our house and do other chores we couldn’t do while on quarantine. We moved here in July — at the height of the lockdowns — and the town gladly adhered to strict quarantine rules for newcomers like us, thus the home quarantine.
  18. Access to electricity and clean water. A lot of people take them for granted sometimes. Not me. There isn’t a day when I don’t say ‘thank you’ for both of these. People who know me well know that running water is the one thing I consider real wealth!
  19. Movie streaming. In short, Netflix. Something is telling me I don’t need to explain this.
  20. Endless opportunities for learning. Having “nothing to do” while on lockdown was a myth. Life in slow motion opened the chance for me to learn new things. I gorged on books that have been on our shelves for many years, learned lessons online, looked at things around me and gained better insight and appreciation for them.

There are so many things I am thankful for, but let 20 be my magic number for now. I am praying that 2021 will be a much better year for all of us.

What’s the biggest thing you’re thankful for in 2020? Would love to hear them!

Cure for Mondays, Asia’s Top Women’s Blog, Philippine Homeschool Blog, Best Mommy Tips, Family Issues Website, Covid-19 2020, Surviving 2020, Things I’m Thankful For

Can You Choose Your Child’s Friends? Or Should You Even?

It’s is not the first time I’ve mulled over being involved in the decisions our children make, especially with the people they choose to become friends with. Our children are growing up fast, and once again I’m back jumping through these little humps thinking if, as parents, we should have a “friends checklist” to discuss with our kids.

I have actually asked the question I myself dread: how do I teach my child to choose friends without going overboard?

We all had good and bad friends when we were young, and when I look back to that journey of diverse friendships I am thankful for the experience of meeting all kinds of people. I am grateful for the opportunity of learning how friendships unfold.

If there’s one thing I consider to be true, it’s the fact that our friends and the foundation of our relationship with these people have a lot to do with how we treat people and how we let people treat us later on in life.

Frances Beldia

Has anyone influenced you in choosing your children’s friends — if you have ever gotten to this point at all?

Can You Choose Your Child’s Friends?

When I was  in fourth grade, I briefly became friends with a girl named Lena. How we met escapes me now, but she must have been the daughter of one of the housekeepers at my uncle’s hostel. My uncle and his family weren’t running the hostel anymore and was only using a small portion of it as their home. The four-storey structure was a haven for the Nancy Drew wannabe in me. All the empty rooms and dark hallways gave life to the stories I always carried with me inside my head. 

Lena and I would meet every Friday at the top floor of the hostel and sit at the landing that had quite a view of the tiny city. I was doing an “adventure” in the hostel one time when I saw Lena there. She didn’t say anything when she handed me what looked like a cone made out of newsprint. The cone, I found out soon, was filled with polvoron (powdered candy). She went to a public school and the students were each given polvoron before the end of the week. It was part of some sort of a government feeding program.

After she explained how it was supposed to be eaten {raise your head, pour the contents into your mouth and try not to choke}, she looked away and gazed at the view in front of us. There was something about Lena. She was a quiet person and she never talked about her family. She also didn’t talk about friends. Lena was what one would consider a lonely person. She only talked about school of all things, and, surprisingly, it was one of the rare times when the topic of school didn’t trigger a pre-crisis crisis within me. 

I went to a private school and Lena often expressed curiosity about what people there were like. She was particularly curious about nuns since she had never met one, while I was surrounded by a many of them every single day at school. 

My friendship with Lena only lasted for a few weeks. When my mother found out that I was friends with this girl who went to public school and whose parents “may be one of the caretakers”, she became wary and strongly disapproved of the friendship.

I wasn’t too happy with that decision, but following her was the only way to assure peace at home that time. She was my mother after all, and she just wanted what she thought was good for me.  In hindsight, maybe she should have explained more about the importance of choosing good friends.

We all just want what’s best for our kids, that’s why we focus on teaching the importance of choosing good friends–and honestly — sometimes to a fault.

Importance of Choosing Good Friends

I was raised in a small town where people had quite a standard for everything: only expensive schools produced worthy graduates; poor people were most likely dishonest; kids who are not the kids of your parents’ friends were not the right kind of people for you, etc, etc. 

It was something that I wasn’t very happy about growing up, and yet, like a deadly disease, I unconsciously carried some of those invisible, dreaded yardsticks. I finally knocked my own head off later on. This was when I had my first kid and wanted to be the kind of parent who did not judge people, like or dislike them on the basis of what kind of house they had, or what their parents’ jobs were.

I became aware that kids copy what their parents do, and you can’t teach kids anything that you’re not capable of doing {or becoming} yourself. That includes kindness, respectfulness and obedience. 

Frances Beldia

All throughout my life, I’ve met people — all kinds of people with so may different stories to tell. It’s beautiful and it happened because I escaped from the norms of a culture that was so limiting. I learned that people could be good no matter to which financial status they belonged

The Friends Checklist. How Do I Teach My Child to Choose Friends?

Should there be one? Yes and no.

There are a few things we might want to discuss with our kids when it comes to friends. If you want to know what our checklist looks like, it’s this simple.

  • Respect is needed at all times; no sweating over pointless things like politics, religion and noontime shows. 
  • Mood swings are not welcome at our home. We like positive energy, and mood swings may be an indication of deeper troubles at home, especially for kids. Sort them out first. That’s one of the importance of choosing good friends.
  • Bad words are uncool, so leave them outside our door.
  • Good Manners and Right Conduct (remember GMRC?) are still on top of our list no matter how much the rest of the world has forgotten about them.
  • Just be a friend and be sincere. There exists no competition around here. Our home is not a place for blind auditions.

Children are their own persons and have their own personalities. Truth is, we can’t choose their friends for them while standing on our chariots and pointing at who could be their friends and who should be removed from the lot. I certainly don’t own a chariot. I usually walk holding hands with my little one.

The most that we could do is to provide them with a home brimming with love and treat them the way we want other people to treat them. This is how they know how they are valued and will, in return, value other people.

Children also learn from example, so if they grow up in an environment where there is love, respect, openness and acceptance, it will be such an effort for them to stray and end up with the wrong people. 

Let’s share stories. If you have anything to share about the importance of choosing good friends, do e-mail me at 

If there’s one thing I consider to be true, it’s the fact that our friends and the foundation of our relationship with these people have a lot to do with how we treat people and how we let people treat us later on in life.

Cure for Mondays, Asia’s Top Women’s Blog, Philippine Homeschool Blog, Best Mommy Tips, Family Issues Website, Importance of Choosing Friends, Can You Choose Your Child’s Friends?, How Do i Teach My Child to Choose Friends?

Midnight Diner: Relearning 5 Life Lessons from Master

With all the noise strafing us from all sides of the world, a little hush could be quite refreshing. Netflix is a busy street and when I hauled myself into it during the quarantine period, I’d always end up flustered by all the choices. So, I spun the imaginary wheel and discovered Midnight Diner by chance.

I needed a break from my usual mix and (mis)match of British crime series, black comedies, sitcoms, psychological horrors and documentaries. Having no expectations whatsoever, I found myself slowly melting into melancholia — the good, nice, deep, warm and familiar kind.

Set in a rather typical Japanese izakaya, the Midnight Diner offers a totally different experience, a trap that will keep you wanting to sink deeper into the enthralling stories of the oft intertwined lives of the diners. It redefines binge watching because the stories are so well crafted you’d want to take them in slowly and savor every moment of it, like you would your cup of tea.

No, you can’t watch it all day even if you wanted to because you’d need to take breaks to contemplate between stories, and sometimes even between dialogues.

The Midnight Diner is run by Master, and all that we know about him is his name.

Every story begins with the Master opening his shop.

When people finish their day and hurry home, my day starts. My diner is open from midnight to seven in the morning. They call it Midnight Diner. Do I even have customers? More than you would expect.

5 Lessons I Relearned from Master in Midnight Diner for a Better Life

1. Never rush through life.

Master only has four items on his menu, but he would make anything that his customers would request for if he had the ingredients or if they’d bring them to him.

The first thing he asks is, “Are you in a hurry?”

At the diner, no one is ever in a hurry. You could come in hungry, but you’d have to wait for a freshly cooked meal, then you savor it like it’s the first time you’ve ever tasted it.

Oriental rice meal with vegetables and dragon fruit on the side
Every meal has a story. What’s yours?

It is a glaring comparison to what we normally do in life now. We breeze through the day and do everything in a hurry. People eat breakfast with one foot already out the door, spend less time with the people they love because work is always hovering, and even bring work to bed to beat a deadline. Everywhere you look there’s a traffic light going on.

We forget the value of slowing down. Ironically, the more we hurry to finish a kilometric to-do list, the more we lose valuable time. We don’t often realize it because it’s been part of the norm. We live in a “if you don’t hurry, you worry” mentality.

It won’t hurt to say, “No, I’m not in a hurry” once in every while and just enjoy life’s sweet time.

There is a reason why the term ‘mindfulness’ exists. It helps us hit the breaks so we can make those short stops and look into ourselves and assess our actions if they’re truly helping us reach our life goals.

2. Forgiveness is the key ingredient to a happy life.

People pick on our weaknesses because we let them, whether they’re aware of it or not. These people may not be physically present in our lives anymore, but we still afford them a good space inside our heads. These are the people who have done us wrong, but instead of letting go, we hang on to that feeling of hatred — which unfortunately hurts only us, not them.

Diners come to Meshiya with pockets full of both heartwrenching and funny stories, but some of my favorites would be the ones on forgiving. I realize that we are weighed down by experiences that no longer serve a purpose in our lives.

It’s easier said than done, but nothing else sets a person free than forgiving and letting go.

3. Everything in moderation.

Even if you are in the mood to get inebriated, Master will only serve you up to three drinks.

“This is a diner, not a bar,” he’d remind his customers.

Japanese people are generally known for their healthy diet. Their portion is a fourth of the size of what Filipinos normally eat during each meal. As a Filipino, there’s no escaping a lavish food culture where we eat until we’re too full to move, and we even talk about the next meal while we’re enjoying the current one.

I had to start making a conscious effort to eat until I’m about 80% full or what the Japanese call hara hachi bu. It has not only helped me maintain my ideal weight, it has also helped me gain control of everything else in my life. If you can control your food portions, then you can control everything else.

Automation and technological advances have pushed us to live excessively. We don’t need to leave the house to get everything we need and we don’t need. Shopping and dining in the comforts of our home have never been so convenient…and damaging.

The thing to keep in mind is, just because you can have something does not mean you have to. Living a minimalist life has proven to improve people’s mental state and overall well-being.

Sure, you can manage more than three drinks a night, but no, you don’t really need more than that.

Happiness is not defined by how much you have, but how you enjoy what you have.

4. You can’t overdose on kindness.

In life, no matter which crossroad we are at, there will always be people who will need us, as well as those we will need to get us through tough times. We may not realize it all the time, but there are challenges that we overcome with ease because families and friends are there to help us slide through.

If you have helped people, you know that the feeling is priceless. If you got help during your lowest point, it is proof that good souls exist and the world is not that all bad. So yes, gratitude counts. It’s scientifically proven to help with mental health, too.

5. Food is a universal language.

If there is one thing that binds us together beyond color, language, smell, race and origin, it’s food. Even during this time of pandemic, people disagree about so many things in so many levels, but never about food.

Food heals, food helps build relationships, food brings people to all sides of the world. Food sometimes even stops conflicts in its tracks.

Food is a language we all speak no matter at what point in our lives we’re in.

Is the Midnight Diner Real?

The set looks as real as it could be, but the diner is set in a studio.

A documentary called Japanology will take you through alleyways in parts of Japan frequented by those who love a more traditional approach to dining. I’ve had the impression that Japanese people mostly keep to themselves, but the documentary revealed otherwise when interviewees said they frequent diners similar to the Midnight Diner because it’s where they strike up random conversations with strangers. Well, apart from the fact, they say that these obscure diners have the best varieties of drinks and food. And, apparently, of people.

5 Ways to Help You Heal from a Difficult Mother-Daughter Relationship

Happy Mother’s Day to all the women reading this — whether you’re a mother or just about to become one.

While everyone is celebrating Mother’s Day today, there are those who were or are not blessed with a loving relationship with their mothers. If you’re one of them, I’m sending you love and good energy. If there is something that you need to know right now, it’s the fact that you are not alone. It may be odd talking about it on Mother’s Day, but it is on days like this (yes, when everyone is raising wine glasses to cheer their moms) that makes it a tad more difficult for some of us to think about our own mother-daughter relationships. Or the absence of it.

Yes, I know.

“Thank you for being the best mommy in the world!” My daughter hugged me while telling me this yesterday. I get my daily dose of this almost every day. I live and breathe I love yous and thank yous from my children. It still makes me wonder what I’ve done to deserve this. It is, without a doubt, too much credit for the aglio oglios I make for them.

I would have said the exact same words to my mother had there been a relationship that existed between us. Unfortunately for me, and I imagine for her, too, that there just was none. I will spare you the details, but I’ll tell you this much for perspective. Growing up, my mother was always distant and cold. And scary. It was that side of her that other people never would see because no matter how “close” she seemed to be to some people, they didn’t live in our house. No one sees what happens beyond walls.

Those cautious smiles that were few and far between were not meant for me.

Today, she’s the same. It took more than 40 years of  practice for me to finally get to this point of acceptance — that no, there will still be no hugs, no I love yous, no apologies, no thank yous. There will never be “you are worth my time”. Ever.

I grew up believing that for as long as your mother puts food on the table and gets the household chores done (either by her or the househelps), you have no reason to complain. I never did, until the years rolled by and I felt like I was missing out on something.

For most of my teenage and adult life, I had an incessant feeling of loss, of emptiness, of spaces within me that could neither be filled with the presence of friends nor alcohol. It was an incurable, invisible gash.

Then a cure came finally. Miraculously, I should say. It came in a small package called motherhood.

They say your relationship with your mother will define the kind of relationship you have with your children. That is why I live to defy that statement.

Here are 5 Ways to Help You Heal from Your Difficult Realtionship with Your Mother

1. Accept that your journey is different from others’.

One of the most difficult things I had to deal with growing up was envy. It was hard to look at other mothers hugging their children or to hear them asking how their kids’ day was without feeling that lump in my throat. I wanted to be asked, too. It was a long, winding journey for me to finally accept that the path I was treading was different.

I hoped and prayed for change, and, when I knew that it would never come, I tried so very hard to change my perspective. It was a long, hard road. I faked it until I made it. At the end of it all, I began to see the beauty of it all. My friends and relatives who have a beautiful relationship with their mothers are happy, successful and strong. How could I not be happy for them?

I realized that it’s not a one-way road. If I could not be at the recieving end of affection, nothing was stopping me from giving it. Others have their own journey, and I have mine.

I got myself busy paving my own road that any mother and daughter who passed by began lighting up my way until I have forgotten how envy felt.

2. Let go of the shame and blame game.

It is not your fault and it was not your choice. Everyone is raving about their mothers in social media while your own brushes you off in the hallway and eats dinners with you in silence. You can’t talk about how your mother is when people ask you because you simply have been coldly co-existing and not really sharing a life together for decades now.

Tell your story as it is. That is the only way to free yourself. If your mother can’t fix what’s broken in her, so can’t you. She has faults that should no longer matter now because no amount of force can help you change the choices she had made for herself.

3. Give motherhood a new definition.

A daughter will always seek the attention of her mother up to a certain point in her life. If you were not granted this as a young person, it’s time to move your focus to other beautiful relationships around you. Open up to friendships that will help you grow. Seek the guidance of other women in your family.

Despite my circumstances, I am grateful for having a sister who is six years my senior. She is kind, caring and loving. She has always been there for me. We did not only share the same experiences, she also enveloped me with love that protected me from irreversible damage. She has always been my guiding light and her selflessness has molded me to be the mother that I am right now.

4. Forgive, but don’t expect reconciliation.

The mistake I kept making was expecting a reconciliation or seeing a change in our relationship. I believed that’s the natural course of things, but whenever the verbal and psychological abuse would happen again, I knew I had to park the idea of reconciliation somewhere. Permanently.

Among so many things, forgiveness is probably the most challenging process. First, you have to forgive yourself before you can forgive her. I know it’s counterintuitive to forgive yourself when you are the victim, but being human, you are not infallible. To forgive, you have to be in that loving place within you.

Forgive and let go. This will not happen overnight, but the sooner you get into the process, the earlier things will get better for you.

5. Create your shield.

It would have been impossible to do this when you were still living in your parents’ house. As an adult, you are now free from the walls that kept you from expressing your innermost feelings. The physical freedom alone will help you protect yourself from any more abuses.

I can imagine (and I know) how challenging it is if your mother is under your care and is living with you and your family.

Remember that you can always close your boarders to toxicity. It is your home now, run it the way you want to. Fill it with love, so much love to cleanse away negative vibes. You are no longer that young person who can’t leave your room out of fear.

Honor the fact that she is your mother, but no longer subject yourself to her opinion. Fulfill financial obligations, but don’t let her make decisions for you, especially when she has refused to be part of your life growing up. Consider the silence between you and her a blessing.

Having a difficult mother is like being on a ship with the person who wants to sink the boat. However, we are all given choices in this life. If you can’t convince your mother to dock the boat so you can swim to shore on your own, jump ship. There will be an island somewhere or a passing boat. I know so because I’ve gotten this far alive and well, and with children who remind me every day that they’re glad I did it.

Le Petite Prince and the Disadvantages of Being a Grown Up in the Modern World

Being a grown-up is a boring job. It is a job to begin with — a big one where people expect you to do big things like earn money and have “important” things like houses, and cars, and all those expensive stuff that have nothing to do with being happy. Remember Le Petite Prince?

We all have times when we tell our kids to never grow up because they’re so adorable and we don’t want them to grow into larger human beings bedeviled by worldly problems.

I foolishly once begged my son a long time ago to never grow up, to which he politely said “yes”, only to shoot up to a five-foot-nine 14-year-old anyway. I’m doing the same to our daughter now. Grown ups never learn, I know.

Besides being adorable, we also don’t want our kids to grow up too soon because childhood is a happy place that you can’t go back to. Time machines have yet to prove they work.

When you get to an age when people earnestly begin to explain to you that magic isn’t real and unicorns don’t exist, that’s when life starts to get boring, and then being happy becomes a job.

Adulting for Dummies: Who Else Needs to Know a Thing or Two About Being Happy?

A few days ago, we sat around the dinner table and started recalling our life as kids. So much positive energy bounced around the room and there was just so much joy in sharing stories about the kind of games we played {the ones that young people know nothing about because we didn’t press buttons to play}. We played funny pranks on people {house helps were favorite victims, so it seemed} and recalled all the mischievous deeds we enjoyed as kids.

It was the call of the dirty dishes that brought us back to reality, and that is what makes adulthood not so fun sometimes. You need to have time for everything, yet not really have enough time for…well, everything.

Frances Beldia

I don’t wish to go back in time although I may sound like it sometimes. The tunnels that lead us back to happier times in our lives are called childhood memories, and they certainly help when we need to remember that life isn’t entirely a long foreboding journey. Oh well, we do need an adulting for dummies guide from time to time, but it can’t be so bad.

We are better versions of ourselves now, but the younger us weren’t so bad either. We were just more genuinely joyous. And again, being happy wasn’t something you had to think about. The world looked so much brighter and had more free-spirited people in it.

For our homeschool film-showing last Tuesday, we watched Mark Osborne’s take on The Little Prince, a reinvention of  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book of the same title published in 1943. We watched the charming 1974 fantasy-musical The Little Prince last year. This is why Attika, who couldn’t read that time yet, knew Le Petite Prince so well.

My Re-acquaintance with Le Petite Prince Made Me Realize Why Adulthood Isn’t Always Fun

Inescapable zombie pre-programming. On the average, a person spends 16 years getting himself “educated” so he could, later in life, spend eight to nine hours a day in a job he hates. He drags himself to work like clockwork five, maybe seven, days a week. He complains about it, but does it anyway.

Being happy is just another concept. Everyone is sure they’ve heard the word “happy” somewhere from someone but can’t quite put a finger on it.

Question: What makes you happy?

*Crickets…crickets*  Does anyone have a copy of Adulting for Dummies?

Vacations don’t come for free anymore. One has to work like a horse to go on a decent vacation. Don’t you miss the times when everyone enthusiastically volunteered to pay for your travels? I certainly do.

Daydreaming equates to being lazy. When you’re young it’s synonymous to the word imagination, and imagination is good. It was what summers and afternoons and dawns were for me. When you’re an adult you have to do something, or at least pretend to do something, while daydreaming, so no one accuses you of being lazy. Or crazy. They even have a word for that. It’s called multitasking.

Meal planning never ends. “What do you want for breakfast, lunch, dinner?” Repeat twenty times, and if you get lucky you will get an answer that’s not “anything”, then repeat 365 times. Life was easier when I was from the “anything” end.

The must-haves list is a very long one. Most adults’ head-to-toe list of must-haves is kilometric. I never thought I would be told I’d need ten different things for my face alone. Not ever.

Nap times used to be a daily requirement. In an adult’s life it is a million-dollar privilege.

Even if I said all that, being a grown-up isn’t all that bad. Being able to think about what life was like and how to make it better from there is a gift.

I believe everything that happens to us is a result of the choices that we’ve made.

Frances Beldia

The one thing that’s great about being an adult is having a choice. So you can’t blame your imaginary friend anymore if your life turns out to be…a little bit less than what you hoped for.

Being a grown-up is a boring job. It is a job to begin with — a big one where people expect you to do big things like earn money and have “important” things like houses, and cars, and all those expensive stuff that have nothing to do with being happy.

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So I’ve Been Made Redundant at Work. Here are 5 Things I’m Doing to Get Back on My Feet

Losing your job hits you hard in so many ways, and from so many directions you feel like a hurricane came directly at you out of nowhere. I, together with 16 others from our now partly defunct company, were recently made redundant. It obviously came as a shock despite hearing rumors about it weeks ahead. I was part of a small group that was called in for a meeting a few days before the big announcement was made and we were assured that there was no truth to the rumors of the company closing down. A short software training followed — to improve how we’d run day-to-day operations, and as we know now — to help us forget about things we’d heard and gather strength for what would really hit us. While it’s true that the company is not closing down and has kept a few key employees on board, it doesn’t change the fact that the company’s decision to let a majority of us go has tremendously changed the course of our lives. Much similar to the fate of talents trying their luck in a popular singing contest, those chairs didn’t turn for us and have left us hanging, thinking, why not? Why us?

Shit has hit the fan. We can cry a little, rant a lot, but as the lyrics of a song goes, “Time asks no questions it goes on without you, leaving you behind if you can’t stand the pace…” Like most of my colleagues, I’m also a parent who needs to provide for our kids. If I could put voices to the silence that came after the announcement, it would be cries of fathers and mothers asking, but what about our kids? Or the younger members of the group saying, what now? Reality isn’t always a pretty thing to deal with. The company expressed the anticipated apology, while I slipped off my seat convincing myself to get a grip. Literally.

5 Things I’m Doing After Losing My Job

1. Doing Nothing. It seems counterintuitive, I know. There is no use, however, in acting up on the panic, the disappointment, the fear that you feel after losing your job. I am allowing myself to take it all in, accept my current situation and clear my mind (meditation works wonders), so I can make plans and take action soon enough with a clean slate — or in other words, a head that’s not muddled with decisions made out of fear and anger. I find this to be a great time to just be quiet and understand that we’re not always in control of the things that happen around us. I also remind myself that the redundancy had nothing to do with my ability to do my job well, and that there is always a good opportunity elsewhere.

It’s time to grow. The universe may have a mean way of sending messages sometimes, but we won’t grow sans the challenges and by staying on the same spot. ‘Doing nothing’ also means I’m taking myself away mentally, emotionally and psychologically from the work environment that just released me and focusing on things I enjoy doing. And yes, binge watching on Netflix passes off as doing nothing.

If you’re doing the same, make sure you give yourself a deadline. Don’t allow yourself to do nothing for more than three days because there is a chance you will spiral down, and that clearly is not part of the plan.

2. Reviewing the Family’s Finances. It’s something that some of us do often, moms especially. I don’t particularly enjoy it, but I have to if I don’t want my household running amok. With one income source shut down, I’m checking if there are extra expenses in my book that need to be slashed down. I’m making sure that there are no forgotten or overdue bills. The last thing I want is a mountain of bills avalanching on me at a time of financial insecurity. We’re not huge spenders, so it’s helping that we’ve stuck to basics in the last few years. We also have no loans, so for me it’s a big win in my current situation.

The advice of financial experts is to set aside three months worth of your salary in case the unexpected happens. But with, again, the mountain of bills that come knocking on your door very often, school fees and other household expenses, it’s just not feasible sometimes. If you haven’t done this, know that it’s okay and that you’re not alone. Maybe it’s time to do an audit of your stuff at home and see what you can let go through an auction or a garage sale. Trust me, some of the things that are just collecting dust at your home have buyers just waiting for you to sell them. Creating pockets of income, no matter how small, is never a bad idea.

3. Considering Freelancing. I see it as a blessing that we now have numerous freelancing opportunities in the Philippines. It’s something that was not available to us many years ago. To earn, we had to be on a nine to five job…in an office. Being between jobs is not as scary as it was in the past. I’m checking online and I see several freelancing opportunities that I may jump into now that I’m still trying to decide whether to get back on a full-time job or go freelancing all the way. The point is, there are jobs that can help tie people over while searching for a new job. Also, don’t discredit the joys of freelancing or remote work. You get to spend more time at home with your family or any place you fancy. I have been doing remote work for eight years now, so I’m able to say this with certainty.

4. Updating My CV. It’s time to put a dot on my tenure with this company. I thought I’d stay for many years because I was very happy with my job, but the decision was really not for me to make. There isn’t much to change in my curriculum vitae and my LinkedIn account, but this is one of the things I like paying attention to. It’s feels symbolic even, of a new phase in my life.

There are some people who need help with their CVs and don’t take offense if you’re one of them. If you check online, there are people and companies that offer resume/CV writing services because quite frankly, it takes some skill to put together a CV. Don’t hesitate to approach family, friends or experts. Remember that your CV showcases your strengths and there’s no harm in getting as much help as you can.

5. Exploring and Learning New Skills. Working a regular job meant sacrificing the time for some things I enjoyed doing, and learning was one of them. Now is the best time for me to pick up where I left off. This means finally finishing the Modern Poetry course and the health courses I started embarking on a couple years ago.

This is not the best time to spend money, so don’t pay for courses and trainings just yet. Given the rich resources we have online (yes, this way I adore you, dear internet), all you need to do is look for free trainings and courses online. There is no excuse not to learn anymore. Learning is a choice, not a privilege.

Being made redundant at work is a bitter pill to swallow. But then again, you can only give yourself a short time to sulk because time flies. The thing to keep in mind is you just lost a job, not the world, and as you may have proven to yourself time and again, there’s always something better out there waiting for you.

Also, isn’t it a relief to say goodbye to Monday, even just for a bit?

Feel free to share your experiences. I’m sure a lot of people would want to hear from you.

Benefits of Plants Inside the House

When we moved into our new home in September 2011, I got unbelievably busy with so many things. Attika just turned three-months-old; Cole was still attending regular school then; hubby had an important job to take care of, and I had an entire house to unpack. I wasn’t doing everything on my own but the term obsessive-compulsive exists for a reason.  I was carefully arranging and rearranging things (and sometimes repeating the entire routine when “something looked like it was in the wrong place”) to the amazement of my (superwoman) friend Christie who was visiting at that time.

I couldn’t get any luckier. I had a fairy godmother staying with us and showering my kids a lot of love. But it was me, really, who needed her more than anyone else. I needed her to be there to laugh with from the time we’d wake up in the morning until we’d fall asleep late at night. With her around, everything seemed funny. Now thinking about it, Christie’s the reason why I never had to suffer from postpartum blues.

Talk to the Plant!

So while all that love was being passed around in our household, our plants were out in the verandas suffering from brutal neglect by yours truly. Not that I intentionally did that but for weeks I completely forgot that besides my little one, there were others waiting for me to feed them, too. They all looked withered and their leaves were starting to fall out. Some of them were on the verge of dying, some looked weather-beaten, all of them looked thirsty and hungry, some of them looked…sad. I was panic-stricken when I saw what I’ve done (or haven’t done) for them. I promised them my White Dwarfs, Snow White, and all the living things we owned that I’d start feeding them regularly and that I’d talk to them more often than I should.

Another friend of mine, Anna, left me with two boxes of books before she left for Canada.

One of the treasures in that collection is Lynn and Joel Rapp’s “Mother Earth’s Hassle-Free Indoor Plant Book” published in 1973. I love the old book dearly because it was written for dummies like me who love plants but don’t know how to grow them. It’s so comprehensive and a fun read, too.

Here’s why you should become emotionally involved with your plants.

A plant will make you happy.

A plant will beautify your home.

A plant will freshen the air.

A plant will make a friend feel good.

A plant will never talk back to you.

A plant will never mess on your rugs.

A plant will love you if you water it.

A plant will give you something to talk about.

And best of all – you don’t have to walk a Begonia!

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Why You Feel Like You Never Have Enough and What You Can Do About It

“Are we rich? My classmate wants to know.” I remember my son asking me this many years ago.

“We are comfortable. ‘Rich’ is a complex word,” I said.

“Are you rich? We are comfortable.” He was talking to himself when he frowned and said, “The answer doesn’t make sense. ”

Your life doesn’t have to make sense to anyone, but if it’s a six-year-old boy asking, you have to somehow put things into perspective.

It dawned on me that contentment is still one of the most difficult things to work on in life. When does anyone ever feel contented anyway? Is contentment just a feeling or is it a state of mind? Do people ever stop to say they are satisfied with what they have in life?

What is it that’s making you feel that you don’t have enough? I talked to some people and there’s one (unsurprisingly) common answer to my question about security.

Is Money the Root of Agony?

I have never had a relationship with money until we had kids. By “relationship with money”, I mean that I had no feeling towards it. If I had money, I was fine. If my wallet was empty, I would be just as fine. Things, however, changed when we had diapers, tiny clothes, formula and baby things to start worrying about. There were also looming thoughts about the kids needing more things, so a thought of a fat bank account started to cover my head like a dark cloud.

Many people feel that their life is nothing more than a tiresome rat race. Hard work does not often translate to satisfactory compensation. I know of someone who had a job but could not afford the fare to work on some days. I know this so well because that person was me many years ago.

So what changed?

Did I get a higher-paying job? Did I move closer to my workplace? Did I leave the workforce? Yes to all of that at one point or another, but that wasn’t what changed it all. What wore me down on a daily basis was worrying about what was going to happen to me.

The Noisiest Thoughts Inside My Head

What if the kids or Alex or I got sick? Where would I get the money for hospitalization?

What if I lose my job? How am I going to support the kids?

How will I survive with the very little money I have?

In the next few months… and years…

None of us got sick; I did not lose a job, in fact I quit a few of them and found better opportunities; my kids would always tell me how I was the greatest person in the world and that none of them cared about money; I had friends and things I needed, so misery was never in my way. But did I tire myself out? Yes, big time, by worrying. Every day.

That was what I really gave up — worrying. Don’t shoot me down yet because I’m not suggesting you throw all your cares away and be foolhardy. All I’m asking is that you ask yourself this: has worrying ever helped you in any way? Probably not.

Here’s what helped me over the years. How to be contented in life is no top secret. It is something that your heart knows if you listen close enough.

What You Can Do When You Feel Like Everything is Never Enough

  1. I stopped letting money define me. With or without money, I am the same person.
  2. Gratitude. I started counting my blessings every day and thanked the Universe for them. I started feeling richer than I should ever be.
  3. I stopped comparing myself to others. The more I ignored thoughts about other people, the more I saw how beautiful my life really was.
  4. I went back to basics and let go of things I wanted and not needed. I gave away 70 pairs of shoes, sold a few more pairs, gave away and sold clothes and things that were just collecting dust in my closet. I gave and gave and gave and felt richer every time.
  5. All that I could not have, I knew that they were not meant for me.

The self could be difficult to deal with because we’re pre-conditioned to think in certain ways — we learn this from school and our families. We’re also often subjected to the (sometimes very preposterous) standards of the society.

Be patient with yourself. I also have days when I make slips and pity myself for not having everything I want in the world. But then, that’s what makes us human. We have the amazing ability to pick ourselves up as soon as we realize the mistakes we make, and strive to become better persons than we were yesterday.

When you feel like you never have enough, look around you. Sometimes we just fail to see that we’re actually richer than we think.