Saturday, November 14, 2015

A return to blogging

Sit tight. This is going to be a long read. I got a lot to say!

I turned 39 last weekend, on the 7th of November. Big day. Small celebration. Just me, Vince, our baby boys, and my sister who dropped by for a quick visit on her way home from work. Quiet day. Nothing happened much. That's a good day, mind. I LOVED IT! With all the NOISE in my life since having kids (don't have kids if you want peace and quiet!), the best birthday gift was a quiet day, just chilling at home, napping, relaxing.

The nap was the best.

Nap!? Yep. I am old. But I'm happy!

Anyway, it being a quiet day, I had time to reflect on what I want my last year in my 30s to be like. Well, I want to do something more meaningful. Aside from motherhood and marriage, of course, which really are the most meaningful aspects of my life now and forever. It's been a tough year or so, starting from my last pregnancy in 2014 to now, just juggling everything. I'm not good at juggling. What a startling thing to realize when you're almost 40. I mean, I'm supposed to be amazing at everything by now. But, surprise, surprise, I'm not!

Family has really taught me a lot about humility. Strangely, being humbled by my failures makes me happier because I see myself pick myself up after each failure and face another day and say, "I'll do better today. I love them too much to give up trying." As long as I know I'm trying, I know I'm a good wife and mommy. Not the best, I'm afraid, but the fact that I never give up gives me hope, and hope makes me happy because as long as I have hope, I know I'm alive, and that God gave me another chance to make a difference in my family's life!

So I've been busy being—or trying to be!—a good wife and mother. That's enough for today, I always say. But I see a lot of other women around me changing the world, and while I have no grand plans for changing the world, I do want to use whatever influence I seem to have to make it a better place.

This influence I was made to realize this year when I appeared on lists like 15 Filipino Moms We Love, 7 Most Inspiring Pinay Mommy Bloggers, and 28 Engaging Filipino Mommy Blogs to Follow. My husband and I were invited to be part of The Asian Parent's parenting council. Brands like Bobbi Brown, Philosophy, Powerbooks and Enderun partnered with me to hold workshops. What an incredible year for me as a blogger!!!

Whether that influence is big or small, real or perceived, I don't know. I always said that I just blog because I want to share stories, that I'm not interested in being inspiring. Numbers and influence don't matter to me. If they did, I'd be more serious about blogging! I'd blog every day, I'd attend all the events, I'd make myself a brand! But no. I've often said here and to anyone who pushes me to build "my brand" that I'm a storyteller. I just want to tell stories. So if I don't feel like telling a story, I'm not going to blog. I'm just going to live my stories and maybe I'll share them one day and maybe I won't. My prerogative.

Thing is the past two years I haven't been wanting to tell stories. Mostly because the past two years have been crushing as they have been exhilarating. I'm living a glorious life as a work-at-home mommy to three healthy, beautiful kids. At the same time, I'm desperately trying to survive each day without failing as a wife and mother (and yet I fail, not every day but many days). And while I'd love to share all my triumphs, I realize I'd have to share my trials, too. Balance, you know! But I want to keep those ugly stuff to myself. So I retreated from blogging. Until I figured out what blogging should be for me—whether to tell my stories, to just become a lifestyle blog of fun finds, to earn money, to be a "brand"—I just kept blogging as an income-generating activity.

But I missed blogging. Real blogging. I still love it. Many of my friends now are because of my blogging. Many of the people who hate me now are also because of my blogging but who cares about the haters, right? Well, I do, sometimes, but am I really going to let them stop me from doing what I love?

LOVE. That's why I blog. I love it. I love it. I love it. I LOVE BLOGGING!

I hate that I have haters because of it. I hate that bloggers now are in it just for the fame and the freebies. I hate that bloggers have a bad reputation. I hate that I've had to stop myself from publishing posts because I worry about being bashed. I hate that there's so much competition and backbiting and gossiping when I've always believed that blogging is so beautiful because it's so personal. Everyone is unique and so every blog is unique. Why the need to compete and malign and besmirch?

For all the stress blogging has put me through the last couple of years, I realize now I still want to do it. I miss the old days when blogs were intimate and inspiring and relatable, when they electrified me with their thoughts and dazzled me with their pictures. I miss blogs where I found someone who thinks like me, who understands what I'm going through, even when they were from the other side of the world and spoke another language. I miss blogs where everyone bared their hearts and souls and didn't give a damn about what people (or brands) thought, blogs that made me stop and think and feel. I miss these disembodied voices that shouted out or whispered to the vast space of the Internet and spoke to me because they are astonishing in their authenticity and boldness to say what they think and share their story. They were relentless in saying, "This is me! Listen to me! I am proud to be me!" and they were never stylized, put on, pretentious. They were real.

I think there are a lot of those that still exist today. I just haven't been reading blogs lately. Big reason: Motherhood takes up all my time. Smaller reason but just as important: Many of the blogs I followed stopped being relevant, got boring, or they became avenues for press releases (and they don't even try to add their personalities to the press release or the sponsored post). Or perhaps, like mine, they simply stopped updating.

There are many reasons for the slowing down of blogging. I gave mine—I wanted to understand what I was going through before I blogged about it, and I was intimidated by the haters. I mean, really. Is a blog post worth the vitriol? Is there no such thing as respect these days? But I also have more reasons why my posts have lessened. These are Facebook and Instagram. I felt sharing my thoughts with my friends on Facebook was safer, and Instagram made daily updates fun and easy. Why go through the agonies of giving birth to a blog post when a cute photo and a funny caption will do the trick?

Readers have also migrated from blogs to other social media platforms. My readers (yes, you!) prefer to leave comments on my Facebook page rather than fill out all the blanks in the comments form that Blogger requires. I do that with the blogs I follow, too! It's just easier. Even I prefer chatting with my readers on Facebook. People are also on their mobile gadgets more and because of those small screens, they don't want to scroll through paragraphs and paragraphs of words. (If you've gotten to this point, thanks for sticking around!). Everyone wants fast content and blogs are not fast content. At least, the content that matters, the content that draws people in, the content that invites you to "Come sit with me a while and let's talk about our life," that asks you to think and feel and dream, that demands a response. Readers now don't like content like that. It just takes up too much of their time.

So why did I want to return to blogging then?

I believe strongly that some things need to be said and they need to be explained. It doesn't matter if only one person reads it but if it changes that person's life, then that is everything. I don't need to change the world but I need to tell my stories and if those stories made someone laugh or cry or think or make a change (whether to a recipe or in their relationships), then sitting down in front of my computer in the dead of night to write my story and share it was less of a lonely activity. It was an act of community, friendship, fellowship, love.

And if love is the motivation, then why stop doing it? The numbers won't matter anymore. The haters, the sponsors, the number of followers and likes—they won't matter! They will affect content now and then but if love affects everything, then content—whether it's a personal post, a funny post, a sponsored post, a silly post—content remains fresh, relevant, real.

Blogs are real when you see that the person behind it is passionate and unafraid, and I want that back, if not for every blog then for mine at least. Rest assured I've been very real all these years. I've said no to brands (and to lots of money) because I don't believe in the brand. I've been vilified for being "picky." I've gotten into arguments because I insisted that I'm going to give an honest review of the product or service, no matter if it's a paid review—"You bought the space, not my opinion," never goes down well with anyone.

But while I've been unafraid when it comes to the business side of blogging, I've paused with my personal stories because I was concerned about being judged or hated by readers. Why haters will want to loiter here, I do not know, but the hate has affected me. It's not fear of them I feel (I've faced worse); it's more of I just don't want the negativity in my life. So I watched my blogs' content become increasingly sponsored as I retreated from personal blogging. I've thought a few times of letting the blogs die a slow, natural death, but something stops me. "Ten years of blogging," I think. "My sponsors!" Now I know it's really because of love. I love blogging and if I love something, I shouldn't give up on it.

And I'm glad you haven't given up on me either, dear Loyal Reader.

For you, I'm going to make some changes here:
  • I'll be merging my two blogs, Topaz Horizon and Topaz Mommy. Easier for me to update, easier for you to follow! 
  • I will blog regularly. I can't promise an update every day (a lovingly made blog post takes time!) but definitely I won't allow weeks to pass anymore before I publish a story. 
  • I'll balance the sponsored content with personal content. 
  • I will talk more about topics that mean a lot to me but I was shy to share—my faith in God, feminism, women empowerment, raising my sons to be feminists, the joys outside of motherhood that moms are always feeling guilty about (for example, a fulfilling career), awareness of sexual and domestic abuse, and women writers.
Topaz Horizon will have more meaningful content. It will be the meaningful act that I will start to do before I hit 40. This isn't a little blog anymore so I'm going to use this blog for the better. I love blogging too much to give up trying. As long as I know I'm trying, I know I'm a good blogger and from now on, I'm going to make sure this blog makes a difference in someone's life!

Thanks for reading, Loyal Reader. Thanks for the birthday wishes, too, and for telling me how my stories have inspired you, helped you, changed you, entertained you. You inspired me to make this change! Thank you for your love all these years. God bless you all!

* * * * * * *

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  1. I am so looking forward to your future posts Frances :) I am so proud and happy to have known you as a blogger, a friend, an Ate all these years. And blogging brought us together (even if I haven't blogging for the past year! Ack!)

    1. Thanks, Chrissy! And I'm so glad we're now friends!

      Why did you stop/take a break from blogging? I'm curious to know why "old" bloggers have lost their mojo.

    2. I think real writers lost their mojos from time to time hehehe... tao rin naman kasi tayo eh, naaapektuhan ng mga haters. Ako nga tinuring ko pang kaibigan ang isang hater ko. nagpakalat ba naman ng kwentong "kaya daw di ako napopromote sa trabaho dahil nagboblog lang ako, duh! INGGIT lang sila hahaha...

      keep blogging Ms. Frances!

      sorry di ko mapigilan mag-reply dito sa comment ni Ms Chrissy. nakaka-relate kasi ako.

    3. Haaaay, ako rin. Yung mga haters ko akala ko mga kaibigan ko rin. Hindi pala. Kaya sobra akong apektado. But buti na lang nahuli natin sila, diba? =)

  2. Happy birthday Ms. F! Looking forward to your new found mojo in blogging :-) - B your reader from Houston

    1. Oh wow! From the other side of the world! Thanks for the birthday greetings! =D

  3. Hooray for this post!

    I've said this so many times before, but to encourage you blog all more and be as real as you can, you're my favourite blogger. Sobra. Everytime I read a post like this, I can always relate. And you express it beautifully. I hate myself for not getting a photo of us when I finally met you!

    I love that you mentioned the pink elephant in the room--that some are blogging not because of the love for it but in pursuit of other things. When I got a Gymboree franchise, I had so much on my plate that I didn't know what to do first. It was very stressful. Blogging took a backseat, of course. I thought of shutting down my humble blog. Because I thought that with my work and where I live (I always have to turn down event invites), I'll never be a blogging superstar, anyway. I'll never be one of those whose bread and butter (or even just dessert) would be from blogging. But then when I remember the joy of having a voice online, however small the audience may be. Blogging is therapeutic for me, and I realized that during my stressful times, blogging about my problems sorts things out for me.

    I love you because you are an endangered species in the blogosphere. Bloggers who do not pour out their heart and souls on their blogs are a dime a dozen. But those who write from their hearts--those whose happiness and pain you can feel (like you!)--are rare gems these days.

    Online hugs!

    1. Yes! It's the blogs that want to just tell a story and share their lives, those are the best ones to read. Ang weird din kasi ng mga blogs na alam mong naghahanap lang ng invites to events or ng freebies.

      And yes, therapy! Many times, just writing it down solves the problem =)

  4. I stumbled upon your blog just this week, then i realized what i have been missing. I've been lucky now. :)

    I just want to greet you first, happy 39th! May God continue to bless you and your whole family.

    What I appreciate about your blog is it being authentic and genuine, and so I've been binge-reading (is it even a valid term, haha) the older entries and it's just feels great. It's the way you're telling stories that made me addicted and attached. I'm completely out of words now. But what I really wanted to say is THANK YOU. Just keep doing what you've been doing and if LOVE is the denominator, you can never go wrong. <3

    P.S. It's my first time to ever post a comment (though I have been loving tons of bloggers out there), so yeah, that only means how much this particular post made an impact on me (not to mention your beautiful love story!). Thanks again, from the bottom of my heart.

    - Cha

    1. Aww! Thanks for finding my blog and then back-reading! Although I'm kinda ashamed of my entries from 7 to 10 years ago. So immature and mayabang!!! =(

      And thanks for leaving a comment! Your first comment ever! I feel so honored!!! Talagang affected ka ng hugot ko =D

  5. Whew. That was long and I finished it. Like you, juggling work and family is hard work. Hurray for your plans! I may not be able to read all your blog posts, but I know you will be fine. We, working mothers, will be fine. That's what I love about your blogs, so true, so real and pushing the right buttons. I'm rambling. Haha! Happy Birthday, F!

    1. Thanks for the birthday greetings! =) And, yes, juggling is hard but many moms do it and you all inspire me!

  6. Hi Frances. Just want to say your blog has always been fun, inspiring and honest. I enjoy reading your posts and I love both blogs (topaz mommy and topaz horizon). Can't wait to read more of your stories and adventures in beauty and mommyhood. Don't think about the haters. You have lots of readers because you inspire them to be better person with your positive and honest look at life. :)

    1. Thanks, Jen!!! You've always supported my blogging by listening to my boring kwentos about blogging!!! =) Miss you!

  7. Hooray to this and hooray for you! Your writing has set you apart and hooray for returning to it.

    1. Thank you for saying that my writing has set me apart! That is a wonderful thing to know. How affirming!

  8. Thanks for sharing this. Thanks for being a topnotch blogger/influencer who still loves te old school blogging. I've been blogging for years already and though it doesn't earn me money as I had hope sometime in the journey and even if I paused during pregnancies I still go back to it. I couldn't leave blogging for good. I guess that's love too. Money and numbers have become irrelevant. It makes me a better person though, an outlet and an avenue to express my self. Sorry for this long comment. I just feel your post so much. Looking forward to your posts! :)

  9. You know what I have to say, of course: GO.FER.IT.GURL.
    Still your biggest fan!

  10. I just came across your blog and have to say that your "style" is very refreshing. Keep up the good work. If there are days you can't blog, don't worry about it. Blogging to change the world view is not as important to being a mommy with little ones - it is a lot of work and they come first.

  11. Belated happy birthday, Frances! Glad to know you're going back to telling your stories. It's great that more bloggers (now two of the blogs that I follow) are going back to blogging the old way, telling stories. I love it!

  12. A long but meaningful post... Go, go, go Ms. Frances.

    Belated happy birthday! I will consider myself as one of your loyal readers, hehehe...Nothing compares with blogs and bloggers that influences and inspires their readers, and I honestly say that you are one of them.

  13. I will look forward for your combined blog! I still love you and will always adore you glad that I've met you on one of your workshops! Please don't stop to blog! Happy Birthday!

  14. Looking forward for more of your blog :) I agree with this part "Everyone is unique and so every blog is unique." Everyone is unique and has style of writing, keep doing what you love :)

  15. This is worth reading... I lost my blog's purpose and got redirected to freebies, events, press release, and got intimidated and affected of what others might say.

    At one point, decided to delete my blog to "really live at the moment" and not be burdened with oversharing, tagged as too personal posts, and dropping off negative thoughts for the sake of keeping my blog safe and neat.

    But then realized I become unreal and trying hard just to please others.

    Your post remind me to stay real and bring back the balance and personal touch to my dear blog.

    Sure, being paid from a sponsored post and collaboration was a good exchange for our time and effort. Afterall, we need to cover domain fee and need a little help for our personal expenses, but keeping the balance between advertorials and personal sharing must be considered to keep our goals and excitement alive. =)

  16. Happy Birthday Ms. Frances! My birthday is nov 5 and you are on nov 7. We are both scorpio! I've been a lurker of your blog for a long time but this is my first time to comment. Keep doing what you love and I'm looking forward to your upcoming posts! God bless your family. :)

  17. Oh my God, you awaken my soul. 😭 na inspire ako every word of it. Thanks for this ate. I know it is never to late. We all know how bloggers nowadays were after for. And you are darn right. May times na kailangan ko pa igoogle article na dapat ko ipost baka kasi mabash ako. Yes, I am afraid of being bashed, because i am still newbie. I am looking forward for your future post po.

  18. Can't wait for your future posts. You're one of the few bloggers who are real and write from the heart. I keep coming back to your blog because of it. More stories!

  19. Yay for the merging of the two blogs. Though I don't mind following both. It's still you anyway. :) Thank you also for writing about this. I've been blogging for years as well. Kaya nga ako naging Loyal Reader (loud and proud) mo because I'm also a blogger and I really look up to you. Your honesty, the rawness of the post and for being fearless. I miss the "old time blogging" too. And I'm glad that I still get it from here.

    Don't mind the haters. Mwah!

  20. Hi Frances! That was one awesome post! This is the first article I read on your blog and I am already a fan. You just made me look into my posts from 10 years or so on an older blog and I realized that I wrote with much more passion and honesty during those times. Thank you for the inspiration. :)

  21. Happy Birthday Ms. Frances! Looking forward to whatever changes you'll be having here. May God always bless you and your family. Hoping to see more personal post in the future (but not too personal!).

    By the way, i love you just the way you are. :)

    From your Avid Reader,

  22. Hi Ms. Frances.been following you for months since I started blogging April this year. I love reading long posts, bec I have long posts as esp if it's abt me. I think that's the real essence of blogging. blog by ♥ and with all your ♥. Blogging is a passion and we are not here just for freebies. This also saddened me that some bloggers are here just for freebies. It's time to redeem the name of the bloggers and with you and other "matitino" pang bloggers... mababalik ang tiwala and magandang image. Happiest birthday! God bless! ;)

  23. You are a wonderful storyteller. I love how you write, so vivid and really honest. I love the way you write about motherhood, marriage and faith. We mothers always feel we fail in many ways, many days, but indeed we have hope as long as we do not give up. Happy belated birthday!

  24. Hi Frances. I'm a long time reader of your blog. I was almost a customer of your leather goods venture a couple of years ago (are you still going to pursue that, btw?)

    What I like about your style of writing is the honesty. You don't project perfection, and that's perfectly okay with me. I can relate to most of the things you write here (and in your other blog) -- family issues, dealing with haters and the struggles that come with motherhood. That's why I keep coming back to this space.

    So many blogs are cropping up these days that say they aim to "inspire" women, but then I find their entries and pictures are styled to perfection, I don't really get inspired and I cannot relate to what their talking about. Then there are those new blogs that are so obviously fishing for sponsorship with brands, the writer's personality does not shine through.

    In your blog, I don't mind reading through the sponsored posts, because I can still relate with your stories. I'm assured that the products you endorse are relevant and useful to me, because you're also a mom. :)

    As a blogger myself, I still look for and follow blogs that are made by people who write because they just love to write their stories. There's too much noise in social media these days, and to find good quality blogs like yours where I can just read relatable content is such a treat.

    I look forward to the merging of your blogs and am sure I will follow that too!

  25. Hi Frances! (I actually call you Topaz Horizon in my head haha). I've first stumbled upon your blog while reading on Ibuki Reviews (I love Ibuki!) and ever since, I've found myself revisiting once in a while. I'm glad and happy to hear you're back because I blog for the same reason that you do--to share stories and inspire a soul. Do drop by my site if you've got the time at :)

    1. Heehee I call bloggers by their blog names, too. Like funny kasi someone said to me, "Kelan kayo magkikita ulit ni [name of somebody]?"

      Me, "Sino yun?"

      "Si [blog title]! Diba friend mo yun???"

      "Ack! Oo, friend ko yun! Friend ko nga pero di ko alam name niya hahahahaha!"


  26. I think I've been waiting for this post for years. Happy 39th Frances, and welcome back! I've missed YOU!

    1. And you've been there for years! =D Thank you!

      Sorry if I've disappeared. Life's happening and it's an amazing life that needs to be lived! No time to sit down to blog so much =) It's all good, all good =)

    2. hi ms. frances :)
      please keep blogging - i am one of your loyal readers :)
      i love how honest you are in all your blog posts :D
      advance merry christmas and have a prosperous 2016 :)

  27. You are actually one on the reasons why I am pursuing blogging right now. I made a new website where I can actually share my thoughts. I love how you blog because its natural. Keep on blogging!

  28. There you go, the blog merger. Sayang lang talaga yung archives--baka pwedeng long tail income earner pa rin from ad revenue? Tho I heard blog ad revenue isn't anything anymore, sadly.
    I love long (well written) blog posts. I should always comment when I see one to say thank you.


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