Friday, May 22, 2020

Quarantine confession: I feel guilty that I'm happy

People are like water. Bruce Lee once said that water takes the shape of its container and when it gets transferred to another vessel, it takes the shape of that new container. It doesn't resist. It is fluid. It changes its shape but it is still water. In the same way, people should be like water. Be fluid. Adapt, change, make the best of where we are contained. And right now we're all contained in our homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

He turned 8 while in quarantine. All he wanted for his birthday was to go out of the house.

Matapos ang dalawang buwan ng quarantine and I've gone through so many emotions throughout all the fear and anxiety and incompetence of the government and the amazing feats of ordinary citizens and the private sector. What a summer! But now, right at this very moment and maybe for the last month, as I've adapted to the new normal, I've been really happy. But I'm afraid to say it because no one's supposed to be happy in such a terrible time.

It is still a terrible time. Namumutla na kami dahil condo-living kami ang our admin is super strict with us so my kids haven't felt sunlight on their skin for 68 days. My emotions have been wild every day. Especially at the start of the quarantine. Fear, anger, anxiety, worry, helplessness, despair. I lost my lucrative PR clients. Past clients aren't paying me so wala talaga akong pera. Buti na lang may work pa asawa ko. I'm angry at our government. I worry constantly about the future. And I'm afraid of the novel coronavirus and what it can do to my family.    

Then as the days wore on, it slowly dawned on me that I'm no longer worrying about certain things that made me unhappy. I don't wake at dawn anymore. I don't need to force my kids to eat their vegetables and take their vitamins. I don't worry about being a bad mom anymore just because my kids don't play outside or they spend too much time watching TV. I finally have time to fix and organize and clean. And for the first time in 5 years, I'm not gritting my teeth about tuition and enrolment, labeling and covering school books, and sewing name labels on uniforms. I'm finally NOT busy and it is glorious!

I have finally found time for self-care. Like, doing my own LED facials!

You know what's truly different for me? For the first time in the 10 years I've been a mommy, I am finally just here for my kids. Puttering about, cooking, cleaning, reading books with them, playing. Or not doing anything with them at all. Just letting them be kids without me hovering. So nice to just be me—not anxious mommy—just me. Full stop. 

I'm cooking every day, trying new recipes!

I still have a few writing projects to keep me occupied and that makes me happy and fulfilled. My husband is also happy I'm finally paying attention to him! He even joked that working-mom me seems to be happier being a housewife. I don't think I was an unhappy working mom. I love working! But I admit I am a lot less stressed and, well, this is nice. This is really nice. 

Little boy with big leaps in the art department!

I am super happy. I'm writing. I'm with my family. We're safe and healthy. So it is such a special time for me and my boys. Just cooped up in our home, safe from the world. It's almost magical. Like water, I have adapted to the shape of my new situation, flowed into my new container, and I may not like how I got into this state, but I like this cup I'm in.  

I know many people don't like the cup they're in. So I feel guilty that I'm happy. The only thing now that makes me unhappy is the certainty that not everyone feels the same. The world is changing in many scary ways. I'm still scared, too. So I'm extra grateful I have this little piece of heaven, made all the more precious because we don't know how long it will last.
 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Strong immunity is now a top priority: 4 health tips from Watsons


PRESS RELEASE - Our global health situation has affected us critically and required us all to make wellness a top priority. As we turn our attention toward making good health a new way of life, you can count on Watsons to be with you every step of the way. Here are a few recommendations from Watsons on what you can do at home to help keep your immunity strong and your family healthy. 

Be active. 
Exercise has many known benefits such as helping us become fit, improving our mood and helping boost the health of our internal organs. But did you know that staying active also helps strengthen our immunity system? Make sure to allot time for exercise even for at least 30 minutes to one hour a day at least four times a week. Go for exercises you can do with a group like dance or cardio workouts so you can involve the whole family. It can even be cleaning the house or folding clothes. 

Eat right. 
Our diet is important in the overall state of our health. There are plenty of immunity-boosting foods that you can incorporate easily into your daily recipes, from vegetables such as carrots and broccoli to aromatics like garlic and ginger. Additionally, you can also finish your meals with a warm cup of Nutrabliss by Watsons Tea. Tea is also a powerful antioxidant.

Get quality sleep. 
Did you know that getting proper sleep helps increase our defense against sickness? Now that we have more time on our hands, we can sometimes easily sacrifice rest for activities such as binge-watching or staying on up while scrolling through our gadgets. To help avoid this, make sure to set a proper time for sleeping. Manage the household’s schedule and make room for most of your activities in the morning, so the family can sleep soundly at night. 

Take vitamins regularly.
With our current situation, some natural sources of vitamins may be hard to come by. With trips to the grocery stores becoming more challenging, you can count on taking vitamins to strengthen your family’s immunity. We all know Vitamin C is critical for family members of all ages. Pro tip? Stock up on your supply of Watsons Generics Ascorbic Acid.

But Vitamin C isn’t the only vitamin that can keep you healthy, Conzace Soft Gel—rich in Zinc, Vit. A, C, and E—helps boost immunity and promotes healthy hair and skin. Myra E 400IU, on the other hand, is also rich in Vitamin E to help fight cell damage. For the kids, let’s help support their growth not just in height but in strength with Growee Syrup and Cherifer PGM with Zinc capsules.

Like vitamins, supplements are a great way to give your health an extra boost. You can rely on supplements to help provide the nutrients you need on top of maintaining a healthy diet. Given that going back outdoors could mean exposure to environmental factors that may cause damage to our skin and body, make sure you keep that healthy glow from within with supplements like MET Tathione, NU Essence Collagen and Organique Acai Juice. You can also keep your defenses up with supplements that harness the power of natural ingredients such as MX3 capsules and Watsons Generics Malunggay + Mangosteen.

Preparedness is key to protection, so make sure you have your health essentials to help your home stay ready for any health emergency. These include Ascof Forte Syrup, Strepsils, Prosource Extra Virgin Coconut Oil and Biogenic Ethyl Alcohol, know that you can count on these items being available at Watsons.


Watsons is here to continue providing your family's health essentials in any of its stores nationwide. You can also order online at watsons.com.ph or call on select branches to have your orders delivered. For contact details of branches near you, you can check out this list: https://bit.ly/2YMTCT1.

When you shop, use your Watsons Card to earn points and get a chance to win a UV Care Deluxe Germ Terminator, Super Power UV Vacuum or Smart Robot UV Vacuum with a minimum purchase of Php500 on select health items. Promo runs until June 24, 2020.

For more updates, you can also follow us on our social media pages on Facebook and Instagram at @watsonsph. Stay safe and healthy!

ABOUT WATSONS

Watsons is part of the Health and Beauty Store chain of A.S Watson, the largest health, beauty, cosmetics, and perfumery retailer in the world. Today, Watsons H&B Asia is the leading health and beauty chain in the continent with successful operations in 13 markets.

In 2002, A.S. Watson Group joined hands with SM Prime Holdings Inc., the Philippines' leading shopping mall developer. The partnership brought about the first Watsons stores in SM Megamall and The Podium (Ortigas). Watsons now has over 700 stores in the Philippines, serving more than 100,000 customers nationwide.

Watsons strives to ensure that their customers get the best value for their money through monthly promotions, special offers, and continuous consumer marketing programs. Each Watsons store houses nothing but the best brands from top manufacturers all over the world and also carries its own competitively priced, high quality private labels and brands. With more than 1000 brands ranging from medicines, cosmetics, and fragrances to personal care items and general merchandise, Watsons Your Personal Store delivers only the best health, wellness, and beauty solutions to each and every customer.

*To be featured on Press Release Tuesdays, send it to frances@topazhorizon.com.

Monday, May 18, 2020

7 Tips for Keeping Anxious Thoughts at Bay During the Lockdown

GUEST POST - In our everyday life, it's a challenge to keep anxiety at bay. It's especially challenging to not worry during this crazy and scary time. Without being able to go anywhere to change up your environment and take your mind off what is bothering you, keeping anxious thoughts at bay during the lockdown and moving through an anxious experience is critical. 

Here are 7 tips for how you can ease your anxiety during the lockdown: 

1. Establish a routine and stick to it. 
Many of us have a daily routine that was completely turned upside down when the lockdown happened. You need to set up a new routine because routines can establish a sense of normalcy through all this insanity. Sticking to it and taking comfort from the predictability of a schedule, even if it's a new one, can help ease your anxiety.

My new schedule: housewife and mom all day; writer/blogger at night.

2. Free your mind by moving your body. 
To help prevent anxiety and even while going through an anxiety attack, moving your body is especially helpful. Physical exercise is a way to use up all that nervous energy. If you are feeling anxious or restless you can, for example, distract yourself by firing up a few fitness apps you can use with dedicated challenges, such as a 30 Day workout challenge on 30 Day Fitness, as well as HIIT workouts you can do in your home or garden. 

3. Keep your space clean and tidy. 
Your physical space can be a physical representation of anxiety or stress. Clutter can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and overwhelm, as you feel that there is "so much." Keep your space clean and tidy for your mental health. As you clear the physical clutter, you can help to reduce the mental clutter, too! 

4. Try meditation. 
Meditation is a helpful practice to help reduce anxiety and to ground yourself. There are many apps available, such as Insight Timer and Headspace, which give you the option of guided meditations, music, courses, etc. You can also simply practice deep breathing and focusing on your breath. 

I meditate while I do my 15-minute LED light facials. Face prettified, mind cleared!

5. Do not obsess on news coverage. 
The news these days is really upsetting. From incompetent government response and the mounting death rate all over the world to COVidiots who still defend their corrupt leaders and think that the pandemic is a hoax, the coverage is definitely anxiety-provoking. While it is important to be informed, reading numerous articles about the same thing or reading the ‘fear’ stories can really take their toll on your mental health. Choose to only read news from credible media and to limit your exposure to it by turning off social media and doing something else.

6. Find a creative pastime. 
Creativity is a wonderful outlet for all that energy. A common phrase you’ll hear from artists is that their art is where they "get it all out." Your creative pastime is not something you have to be a professional in, but rather one that you enjoy to let your creativity out and get in a state of flow. For example, you could try painting, sketching, writing, photography, crafts, and even rearranging your home décor

I've been cooking, learning how to shade and sketch, and play the piano.

7. Stay together even as you stay apart.
One sad thing about the novel coronavirus is it isolates us from our family and friends. When you feel alone during a scary time, this can add even more stress. It's crucial therefore to maintain contact and connection with your loved ones. Call them up, chat over Messenger, do Zoom calls, or send thoughtful emails.

If you're doing all these and still feel weighed down by worry, seek professional help if you feel the need. Many mental health practitioners are stepping up even more during the pandemic to offer accessible mental health services. If you feel the need or would like additional support, connecting with a professional can be a powerful experience as you manage your own anxiety. 

* This guest post was written by Mary Davis, a freelance editor and copywriter.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

AHEAD: Ensuring Quality Education and Learning During COVID19 and Beyond

PRESS RELEASE - After months of class cancellations, we now ask ourselves, how will learning look like in the new normal? How do we ensure the quality of education during and even after these uncertain times? 

It is undeniable that education is a necessity. It is an essential activity that needs to be adjusted to in the new normal. Especially for kids since education and learning plays a critical role in their development.

Given the effects of the current pandemic, the processes of learning and education have shifted taking schools, teachers, and parents by surprise. Alternative but necessary solutions are now being set in place such as online learning to ensure continuity of learning and growth for students. 

AHEAD has established its credibility as a supplemental education provider that is equipped and ready for online learning. In fact, it has been offering online tutorials since 2008. While the shift to online learning was sudden, AHEAD was able to transition smoothly to a digital set up. Additionally, preparations were already set in place for teachers and staff with training on multiple educational applications to conduct seamless classes online. Since online learning was something that most Filipino students are not familiar with, AHEAD decided to conduct free trial sessions to allow students to experience online learning.


SHARING THE EXPERIENCE 

Recognizing the need for education now more than ever, AHEAD gave students the opportunity to try online learning by providing free daily warm-up classes in Math, Science, and English since last March 23.

In less than a month, more than a thousand Grade 12 students have signed up for these free warm-up classes. This has been a helpful way of giving them something meaningful and beneficial to do during their time at home not to mention experience online learning. 

With the extension of the ECQ, AHEAD has decided to offer other free online services such as a review sampler which is a week-long free review to maximize the student’s time at home. They have also provided a mock test that shows you how you would score should you take the UPCAT today and which subjects you need to improve on. Free supplementary classes that tackle specific topics such as Language Proficiency are also available here. Summer enhancements for kids as young as 5 years old are also being offered. 

ROLE OF EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS 

Supplemental learning institutions like AHEAD truly play a significant role in our education system and how this season will shape the next generation’s knowledge and skills. It provides them the additional skill and training they need for school. 

However, the shift to learning online or digital is inevitable with the uncertainties of the future. We saw how physically learning together can be interrupted anytime just like what happened in the past few months. Forecasts predict that the online learning setup will now be part of the new normal. 

This is why AHEAD President Ms. Rossana Llenado launched AHEAD Alpha - the first BlendFlex school in the country that merges recorded or live online and/or onsite learning, incorporating the best of traditional, progressive and home school practices used in different parts of the world, revolutionizing the educational landscape in the Philippines amidst the pandemic. 


THERE'S A NEW ALPHA IN TOWN 

AHEAD Alpha aims to provide solutions to the worries and hassles of online learning by making education accessible yet exceptional. Years of expertise and experience of educating students has enabled AHEAD to effectively adapt to the situation and transition to a purely online educational system. 

Using a one of a kind learning method that inspires learning, AHEAD Alpha promotes non-graded assessments, unique curriculum, Singapore Math training, and the unique application of Mind-Mapping and Speed Reading techniques to Science and History. 

Trusting the programs crafted by education experts, one can actually enjoy the benefits of online learning such as flexible schedule and environment, lower transportation costs of going physically to a center/ school, and most of all the sense of self-discipline and responsibility one develops by managing your time to study. 

Formally opening its doors for enrollment last May 8, orientation activities parent seminars, free trials, short enrichment classes will commence these coming weeks with the first round of classes set to begin on June 8. 

As AHEAD continues to develop unique lesson plans and learning methods that are tailor-fit for every child in the best and effective way possible, Alpha will surely make a big difference during this unprecedented time.

*To be featured on Press Release Tuesdays, send it to frances@topazhorizon.com.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Not invisible

This was in my drafts folder, in 2016. I don't know why I never published it but here it is because it made me happy reading it now, the day before Mother's Day of such an extraordinary year. It's such an ordinary story and I want to remember it forever.

* * * * * * *
"You're just like Piero."

My husband Vince declared this yesterday while our toddler woke up languidly from a long nap.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"You stretch when you wake up," he replied. "There," he nodded towards our youngest boy. "Just like that."


Later at dinner, Vince added, "Piero is really just like you. He's stubborn like you. He's cute like you." He said this while he was spooning chopseuy onto his plate, matter-of-fact, absorbed in his dinner, very casual, no gooey eyes. Like he was saying, Just sayin'.

Later in bed, I realized with a start that Vince watches me. And so I kinda went a bit panicky, aware I've let myself go since we had kids. I'm 25 lbs heavier since the day we met. I'm all stretched out in the tummy area. The boobs and butt areas, too, if I'm going to be honest. I dress for comfort not for style or sex. I'm a mom now and this mom is usually busy and exhausted and annoyed and exasperated. What does he see? Does he like what he sees?

Well, he said I'm cute like Piero. I don't know if 40 and cute go together but he still enjoys being with me, talking with me, and apparently looking at me, too. After almost 18 years together, he still looks at me. He still looks at me! He still sees me, he still wants to know me. And he still loves me.

And then I remembered all those times I rushed past him, on the way to a crying, needy, demanding, angry, hungry, sleepy, poopy, sick, or whatever-it-is-this-time child; and all those times he said he wanted to chat and I said, "I'm tired;" and all those times I was so busy working I didn't even look up from my computer when he said, "Hi." I remembered and I wondered if he hopes I see him, too.

Because I do. I do! I always think of him whatever I do. I always look at him, too, when I can, when I'm not looking down at the kids, the chores, the work. I wonder if he doesn't see that I see him the way I don't see that he sees me.

My heart is feeling tender now. My husband still sees me. I don't even care now if he likes what he sees. The fact that he's still looking means he still cares (and he must still like what he sees!). 

I'm not invisible. 

I'm not invisible. 

I'm not invisible.


Thank you, Vince. I see you and all that you do for us. Now I need to make sure you know you're not invisible, too.


Friday, May 08, 2020

What it's like to be quarantined in Côte d'Azur in the South of France

Many years ago, before AirBnB, my friends and I joked that each of us should buy a house in a different country so we can stay over there for holidays and we won't need to spend on hotels. Well, it's come true. They have scattered with the wind save for me, still here in Manila. Thank goodness for social media and messaging apps, we can keep tabs on each other!

Like us, my friends are also quarantined in their little spot on the globe. I still can't believe it, how all over the world, we are fighting this COVID-19 pandemic together. It suddenly makes the world such a small place. My friend, Nicole, suggested I share how people's lives are like everywhere during this strange time. It was a fantabulous idea! It will make us feel less alone in our cooped-up existence by making us virtually visit someone far away. I hope you agree!

Pogi ng asawa ni Nic!

So today, let me introduce you to my friend, Nicole. If you're a Loyal Reader, you must've spotted her here and there in old blog posts. We became friends while working as magazine editors. Nicole was the super chic and talented beauty editor of Cosmopolitan before becoming the freelance beauty editor of OK! magazine. These days, she's not on my blog anymore because I haven't seen her in years since she married and moved to the South of France. She is delightfully happy and soooo in love these days. I can imagine how lovely it must be to be required to be stuck at home with the love of your life in such a gorgeous place as Côte d'Azur! Here's what her life's like:

What are your lockdown rules specifically?
The lockdown rules in France are pretty much the same for the whole country. The only difference (that I am aware of) is that a few cities require you to wear a mask or implement certain curfews. 

Whenever we go out, we have to prepare a form called the Attestation de Déplacement Dérogatoire. It's like a permission slip where you have to enter your personal details and indicate the pre-approved reasons for going out: essential work, groceries, exercise, to walk your dog, urgent family matters like if you’re sharing custody of children, medical appointments, etc. The attestation can be handwritten, but if it’s printed or filled up on your phone, then it comes with a QR code that can be scanned at checkpoints. If you don’t respect the rules, you get a €135 fine for the first offense. 

Still stylish even in the empty streets!

How is your town taking to the lockdown? 
I think everyone is doing the best they can. At 8 p.m., people gather by their windows to pay tribute to the frontliners—you’ll hear clapping, random trumpet playing, dance music, occasional fireworks, and even boats blaring their horns. The only thing that’s strange to me is that I see a lot of people walking around and even kids playing outside without masks. But our town started distributing them for free to encourage residents to wear them and you can also buy masks at groceries and pharmacies now, so hopefully this will change. 

How do you get your food? 
My husband goes to the grocery every two weeks. So far, the stock situation has been fairly good and there are delivery options available. Our local market and some restaurants have also opened for takeout recently. But I think the funniest thing I noticed was that a lot of people were ordering wine for pickup from one of our neighborhood restaurants. Of course, the French need their wine! 

Nic prepared this for their Easter meal.
Another Nic confection. I don't know how this couple stays slim!

You can go out! Whyyyyyy??? 
Everyone is allowed to go out for exercise once a day for one hour and within one kilometer of your home. We’ve been on strict lockdown since March 16, but we only started going out for short walks towards the end of April since we wanted to stay home as much as possible. But now that masks are more available and the weather is warmer, we take walks on paths where we run into less people maybe 2-3 times a week. It's been good for our sanity! 

What will you do once lockdown lifts? 
Since we live near the sea, I find myself daydreaming about going on a nice picnic and taking a dip in the ocean. I definitely hope I can visit Manila again soon because it’s unnerving when you don't know when you'll be able to see your family again! But I try not to think about these things too much since everything is so unpredictable anyway. I just take it a day at a time and try to appreciate the simple things. As long as everyone is healthy and safe at the end of the day, that’s all that truly matters. 

Oh, what a view! The South of France is one of the prettiest places in the world.

What have you been doing during quarantine? 
We usually spend most of the day cooking and baking! Making bread really helped me relax and experimenting with different recipes in the kitchen made us both happy. I tried studying a little French and did some yoga a couple of times a week, but it never really stuck. So I switched to crocheting while he'd watch a series on Netflix or catch up on the news. After dinner, we turn off our screens and play a game of cards, Monopoly Deal, backgammon, checkers—something old school. And of course, there's Instagram, Facetime calls, and lots of texting with friends and family. Making videos for those with birthdays in my family actually became a trend, so I think we also made at least four or five of those. My husband also learned to cut his own hair! I'm hoping I can teach him how to give me a manicure next! Haha! 

Nic making the most of quarantine by baking bread.

Gosh, I miss this woman. Nicole's quarantine diary sounds dreamy — I'm looking forward to spending time at her place instead of an AirBnB! But even she lets slip that there is anxiety for the uncertain days ahead for all of us. Well, we can choose to despair or we can make our shuttered life at home beautiful, safe and heavenly for us and the ones we love just like Nic did!

Get to know more of Nic's adventures by following her on Instagram @beautyandsparkl!  

Have a good weekend safe and healthy at home, mamas!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

A joyous labor: Jennifer Lopez on the necessity of working and how she deals with working-mom guilt

I need that pink bag!

Even though I follow @jlo on Instagram, it's only now that I saw her videos for the Coach Spring 2020 campaign called "Originals Go Their Own Way". At 50 years old, Jennifer Lopez is having a really good year (good for her) that kicked off with her jaw-dropping performance at the Super Bowl, nominations for her role in Hustler, and her numerous brand endorsements. And yet, as her famous song goes, she's still Jenny from the block and her every interview just shows a woman who is warm and funny and real. Which is exactly what I want to always be!

I'm loving her little NY Minute interviews for Coach. This one, where she talks about being a mom, is especially inspiring for me as a working mom.



The best thing that happened to Jennifer is not her phenomenal career. It was her twins, Max and Emme. I remember covering this story for OK! magazine way back in 2008. As the editor, I was hell-bent on getting the photos and exclusive interview. And we got it! It was a beautiful feature but one I—as a newlywed with no desire for kids—didn't understand.

In London for the 2008 OK! annual conference and so proud of our cover.

Now that I have my own kids, I can appreciate Mommy JLo better. She says in her Coach video, "Your whole perspective on the world changes.  It's all about [the kids]—how you can be better for them, how you need to be better for them. [With] my type of work, I'm lucky that I can have [my family with me]. Because when they're there, they empower me to soar. I want to make them proud."

For Jennifer, being better means never getting complacent, which kinda stung because I wasn't dreaming anymore. I've already had my dream career come true before so I believed that I can't get greedy. I'm lucky I had that. Now I can be a nobody, just be there for my family, dream for them not for myself. But what JLo said stirred something in me. The old me. Perhaps the real me. I want to dream again! I want to conquer something again!

And if the new dreams make life as a mommy harder? Jennifer says, "I think they wish I didn't work as much but I think they also appreciate all they have because of it. Just like anybody's life, it's not perfect but we make the best of it. Just like every working mom... there's not just enough hours in the day sometimes but it's a joyous labor making it all happen."

A joyous labor. I love it! I finally have the words to describe what motherhood is. It's so succinct. So perfect. Motherhood is hard work and the work never ends. But it is also joyful and though we're exhausted all the time, we can't imagine life without this joy.



Here's Jennifer being interviewed by People magazine's Jess Cagle in 2017 [full interview here]. He was asking her about her comeback way back in 2011, when she was a new mom and she was 42 years old (ancient in Hollywood) but that was when she launched her mega-successful album LOVE? and invaded homes everywhere as a judge on American Idol. Jennifer said she was a new woman and the world needed to see the new JLo. "Here's what changed in my life: I had given birth. I had given birth and the kids honestly gave me a new direction. They just made me realize what was real and what wasn't real... They just changed everything."

And instead of feeling, as I did, that motherhood means retreating from the world, for JLo, it meant conquering it. She said, "It's true! There is a thing that happens and 'On The Floor' honestly was me [going]: 'Get back out there. You're an animal. You're a beast! Pull up your panties and get back out there!'"

"Here's what happened: I had the kids, and I started working on some more music and I started thinking about life in a different way. Like I said, I started asking more questions of myself, of love, of what was right and what was wrong, all because I wanted their life to be great, too. And I knew for their life to be great, my life had to be great. I had to fix some things."

And boy did she fix things. Actress, singer, dancer, fashion designer, producer, author, and businesswoman. And mother! Jennifer does all that she does while she's a devoted mother. I am so inspired! Of course I'm aware our situations are different. I know I'd be able to work better if I had household help, for instance. But just dreaming again is a big step, I think! I want to do something again apart from motherhood, for myself really, that my kids will see and be proud of. 

As moms, we all know our children are our priority. That's a given. It's so easy to get lost in motherhood, however, and we forget we are more than moms, that we were someone before we became moms, that we can be something else, too, while we are moms. It's been a struggle for me to go beyond motherhood because it's easier for me to focus on just one thing. But I want to always push myself to work. For my own fulfillment, yes, but also for my boys. I need my sons to see me as more than their mama, because that will color how they see women for the rest of their life. I need them to see women as more than just a devoted wife and a nurturing mother, but as a fully realized human being with dreams and goals and ambition and drive and power. 

That is my joyous labor. I'm so excited! Now let's dance to some 20 years of JLo tunes!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

4 home-based business ideas that actually make money

Many moms ask me how I earn from home, especially now that many of us are suffering a loss of income because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I earn money from just writing. I contribute articles to websites and magazines, my blog earns from sponsored posts, and I get paid for links and guest posts. There are many more ways to put up a home-based business. Today's guest post tackles 4. 


GUEST POST - Whether you’re saving up for a huge purchase or looking for a supplementary income, starting a business can be a profitable side hustle. With the available technology today, you don’t need to rent a commercial space, hire employees, or even leave your house to establish a business.

You can earn an extra income just by staying at home and making use of the resources that you have (e.g., your skills, expertise, or hobby). Or you can also find a reliable manufacturer that will supply you with products to sell.

Either way, you can earn money while running your business at home and with minimal capital to start. If you’re looking for inspiration for a home-based business, here are five profitable ideas to try.

Sell Your Handmade Products

Are you a crafter? You can earn money by selling your creations online. Handmade and personalized products are popular gift items, which means there is a market for them. With you making the products, you have a lot of control over the production process. You can tailor products for a particular audience, find ways to make them more cost-effective, or innovate methods to improve quality.

Then you can sell your handmade products through a marketplace, social media, or your own online shop. Certain products, particularly those that ingested or applied on the skin, are regulated under laws. These include makeup, skin-care products, food, and beverages. Be aware of the legalities and permits you need to apply for if you’re planning to sell such products.

Here are some examples of handmade products you can sell:
  • Artworks
  • Dolls and toys
  • Home accessories
  • Jewelry
  • Knitwear
  • Party favors
  • Pet accessories
  • Wedding supplies
Making your own products takes a lot of time and energy, but you have full control of how many you’re going to sell. You can also stockpile your creations before opening the shop. Many crafters take commission work to avoid getting overwhelmed. 

Try Drop Shipping

According to Big Commerce, drop shipping is “an order fulfillment method that does not require a business to keep products in stock.” The business is more like a distributor who does the selling and marketing and then passes on the production and fulfillment to a third-party supplier.

Drop shipping requires significantly less effort on the business’s part, but you have to make sure that your supplier can consistently provide quality customer experience. Otherwise, your business’s reputation will suffer. 

This business model also creates a minimal opportunity for personal branding and customization. One way around this issue is to curate products from various suppliers to provide quality items for a specific niche. 

Sell Your Skills or Expertise

Do you specialize in a specific field or have a marketable skill you can sell? Monetize your skills or expertise by starting a service-based business. 

Social media managers, writers, proofreaders, editors, designers, and developers can take freelance projects or sell their skills to marketers, agencies, publishers, companies, or individuals. 

If you’re an expert on a certain field (e.g., finance planning, medical billing, college applications, and SEO marketing), you can publish courses or e-books and sell on your website or platforms, like Udemy, Teachable, or Podia. Or you can start a consulting business and market your skills to companies, organizations, and individuals.

Monetize Your Blog

Create a blog, and choose a specific niche so that it’s easier to find your audience. Pick a niche that you’re knowledgeable in and passionate about. Then publish quality content that’s relevant and valuable to your audience. Engage your readers so that they’ll spend a lot of time consuming the content you create. 

Here are some ways you can monetize your site:
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Advertisements
  • Sponsored content
  • Email marketing
  • Selling digital products like e-books
  • Selling coaching services
  • Sponsorships
The bigger and more loyal your audience is, the more you can earn from your blog.

My blog earns money from brand ambassadorships, too!

Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or a freelancer, earning a living has been made easier through today’s technology. Anyone can now run their own home-based business and earn money by selling products or services or monetizing their knowledge and skills.

So if you’re interested in starting a home-based business, here are a few ideas you can try:

1. Sell handmade products online.
2. Start a drop-shipping business.
3. Sell your skills or expertise.
4. Monetize your blog.

Making money is hard work, but it can be made easier by using the resources that technology and the internet have made available to everyone. You only need to put it in work and find the right opportunities. 

*This guest post was written by Melissa Page. She writes for a living and goes bowling for fun. Follow her on Twitter: @melissapage90If you want to place a guest post on this blog, please email frances@topazhorizon.com.

*Photos from the Biogenic Alcohol campaign 4 years ago! Don't forget to wash your hands with soap and water and sanitize surfaces with alcohol. Stay well and healthy! 

Monday, April 27, 2020

Where to get immunity-boosting Welch’s 100% grape juice (and why!)

Public service announcement, mamas! While we all know that Welch's 100% Grape Juice is available in all leading supermarkets, drugstores, and convenience stores, you can have your favorite health drink delivered right to your doorstep! Visit website: https://acefoodservice.com or place your order in the following online groceries: metromart.com, Lazmart, and waltermartdelivery.com.ph.


In these strange days of the novel coronavirus, it's even more important to keep ourselves healthy and strong. So exercise and stock up on fruits and vegetables! That's what I've been doing. Sometimes I make a fruit shake when I bought too much fruit. Or I just let everyone drink Welch's. It's convenient for mommies like me to let a fruit’s nutrients can be enjoyed by my entire family through fruit juices. Regular consumption of 100% grape juice made with Concord grapes such as Welch’s is really part of our diet.  

Doctors advise that the best ways to fight the Covid-19 disease are: 
(1) regular handwashing - make sure to do so for at least 20 seconds to really kill germs
(2) social distancing - this is to lessen the chances of spreading the virus
(3) avoid touching one's face - because our fingers can have the virus and it gets into our system through our noses and mouths
(4) strengthen one’s immune system - a lifestyle of getting enough sleep, regular exercise, and a balanced diet is basic!

A daily diet full of fruits and vegetables is not easy for me. Expensive, hard to store (they ripen quickly in our tropical climate), and needs to be prepared so that my kids will eat it. They're not the kind of kids who just bite an apple or pop a berry in their mouth. I have to make a salad, a smoothie, bake it into bread or cake. So tiresome! 

But I can't give up! So queen-of-convenience me always has Welch's 100% Grape Juice in the house! The Journal of Medicinal Food published a study that said, “Regular consumption of Concord grape juice benefits human immunity.” 

Welch’s juice is full of polyphenols, a natural plant nutrient that plays a key role in supporting a healthy heart. It's packed with Vitamin C, which helps the body recover from infections. Grape juice made from Concord grapes contain natural sugars that are low in the glycemic index. So a refreshing glass can be enjoyed with all the benefits without the guilt.

From left: me, makeup artist Carmel Villongco, Erika Rodriguez of Welch's, and Aliza Apostol at the 150th-anniversary party of Welch's last year
Erika Rodriguez, VP for Marketing of GEMCo, the Philippine marketing agent of Welch’s International, said, “Welch’s juice uses the entire dark purple Concord grape – skin, seeds and all – to release the plant’s true polyphenol power. In fact, at least 20 grapes are squeezed into each 4-ounce glass. Imagine the vitamins and minerals in each glass of Welch’s that can help boost your family’s health especially during this time!" 



Erika has become a friend and I admire her for her devotion to her family. She's also committed to making Filipino families healthy through Welch's! I'm with her on her mission because these are scary times and we mamas must make an extra effort to make sure our families are healthy. I hope you are all safe and well! 

Friday, April 24, 2020

How to get in the mood for sex when you're an exhausted wife

A Loyal Reader sent me a request recently. She asked me to write about sex again. She got hooked on my blog years ago when I was writing about how I was enjoying sex with my husband, Vince, and she said it was so refreshing to see sex talked about enthusiastically and in the context of a loving relationship. She then wondered why I stopped writing about sex.

Well, the kids happened. That's what usually happens when you have sex: You have kids haha. The more kids we had, the less frequent lovemaking became. And let me tell you from experience that a marriage is in trouble when the couple isn't making love. There were a few years when Vince and I would fight about it. He was trying to tell me that he needed sex while I was trying to tell him I'm too tired of taking care of three little boys to be in the mood for sex. It was tough, I will admit.

I'm sure I'm not the only mom who experiences this. Back then, I'd have little chats with my fellow mommy friends and talk inevitably goes to sex—the lack of it, our exasperation at needy husbands, and our bewilderment at why said husbands can't see how fucking tired we are!


What finally worked for Vince and me is good, honest talk. It wasn't easy at the start but talk we did, and this conversation happened several times over a looong time. We needed to be open about our feelings of neglect, of being undesirable, of feeling overwhelmed, of being lonely. It's hard to be intimate with someone who you think doesn't understand you. So the first step we really took as a couple was to be honest so we can understand each other.

That's so important in any relationship, but especially so in a marriage. I needed him to understand why I was never in the mood anymore. At the same time, I had to make him understand the conflicting emotions that even when I'm not in the mood for sex, that doesn't mean I don't want him anymore. So confusing, right???

But talk we did, and understand we did. And finally, make love we did!

It's really difficult to get in the mood for sex if you're an exhausted mama. So here's what worked for me and I hope this helps you, too!

1. Share the load.
Let's all just come right out and say it again and again and again: We don't want to have sex when we're tired. Or when we feel ugly. Or when we feel unloved. Or when we're worried about money or work. Sex is seriously the last thing on my mind when I'm tired from a whole day at work, caring for the kids, and doing chores. I can't even think of sex when we fight or when he's masungit. So if our husbands want us to be in the mood for constant sex, the solution is really simple: They better make sure we never get tired, we always feel beautiful and adored, and we never have anything to worry about!

So my husband started taking over many of my chores. Cleaning, folding the laundry, taking care of the kids. He was already a hands-on father before but when he understood that a tired me means no sex for him, he made sure I rested a lot!

2. Make him put the kids to bed.
I need time to transition from mommy mode to wife mode. So after dinner, I can't mom anymore. I need to de-stress and do a mental shift. Remember: The brain is the most powerful sex organ. If I can't think about making love, I won't be able to make love.

So let your husband do the bedtime story while you collect yourself, quiet your thoughts. If you're a breastfeeding mom or a mom of littles, you'd want to rest your skin from touch, right? Tell your husband he should take over bedtime duties so your skin can rest. In my experience, if I can't carve out time for myself at night, I can't get into the mood for sex. I need at least 30 minutes of Me Time first!

3. Take a shower.
It's so hard for me to feel sexy when I smell like sweat, laundry detergent, toilet cleaner, and cooking oil. Vince used to tell me that he doesn't care what I smell like. And I always retort, "Well, I do!" I just can't do it when I can smell garlic on my fingers. So while Vince is reading bedtime stories to the kids, I lock myself in the shower and wash away all the traces of my day. Then I pretty up my face, go all glowy. Then I apply lotion. Spray on his favorite perfume. He may like me whatever I look and smell like but I need to like myself before I can feel sexy. And I like it when I smell nice and fresh, when my skin is nice and soft, when my hair is pretty. I feel confident to go naked when I know I look, smell, and feel nice. 

4. Listen to love songs.
My favorite is "Crack the Shutters" by Snow Patrol. It's such a gentle yet sexy song about waking up next to someone you love, watching him sleep and wake up, and then exploring each other's body in the soft sunlight. Can anything be more intimate? And when you've been together 21 years and still feel that wonder... it makes me all soft and gooey inside! This song makes me want to go run my fingers all over Vince's skin and make him mine all over again.

I've found that love songs remind me of how much I love my husband. They remind me of who I was before I became a mother. Sometimes I get so steeped in all things mommy that I forget I'm a wife, too. So love songs get me in the mood for romance.


5. Fill your head with sexy.
There's romance and then there's raunchy. Like I said earlier, your brain is your biggest sex organ so you need to make it think of sex. Lovey-dovey is nice, okay. I love it when Vince writes me letters, gives me flowers, and especially when he tells me I'm beautiful. It makes me think, "Oh, he loves me!" But when he grabs me and kisses me, I think, "Oh, he wants me!"

Most of the time, though, we're too distracted by all the things on our To Do list that when the hubby grabs us, it's more annoying than flattering. So we need to think sexy, too. Some people watch porn but I don't like watching other people do it. Some people like dirty text messages. I would be naughty but my kids sometimes borrow my phone and text their Papa so gotta keep that clean. What I do like is naughty reads. I took an erotic writing class back in college and wrote a few sexy stories myself (and got into the U.P. National Writers Workshop where I found the great love of my life!).

I don't write fiction anymore but I love Literotica.com. There's a wealth of kinky stories there—nothing is off-limits. But I stay away from the weird ones. I like reading the romantic ones, like this: "April's Fool." Read it! It's torrid at the start. Okay, it's torrid throughout, I won't lie. But it's a well-written story, there's character development, fantasy, and a nice build-up of romance that is sooo satisfying in the end. After reading it, you'll feel all sorts of out of sorts that can only be relieved by a proper lovemaking session!

6. Do it regularly.
There's no other way around it, ladies. If you want to always be in the mood for sex, you have to have sex regularly. I think it's because you get addicted to all the hormones your body releases while making love. Some time ago, I was talking with my OB-GYNE, Dr. Rebecca Singson, about my lack of interest in sex, and she advised me that the only way to get in the mood is to just do it and do it often, too. She said, "You have to look at it as play. Our children need to play every day, right? At least 2 hours of play for proper growth and development. Why can't adults play, too? Think of sex as play. It's healthy. It's good for you. Do it every day!"

I'm not doing it every day yet. But we're doing it often enough now that my husband is even more in love with me. It's really so fun! We're discovering new things about our bodies and what we like in bed—and that sure is something considering we've been together for 21 years. One thing we haven't tried is sex toys. But I found this new sex toy shop and it's right here in the Philippines. I'm so excited about it. Mamas, check out Noti.ph. I love how the site is so professional and classy. And informative, too. I haven't bought anything yet but after quarantine ends, I'm going shopping!

I hope my oversharing today helped you, mamas! If you have other tips, please do spill. We wives need to help each other keep our marriages not just alive but hot and exciting, too!

*images by Dainis Graveris on SexualAlpha

Monday, April 20, 2020

Homemade recipe: Atsarang talong (pickled eggplant)


I shared this photo on my social media last week and even though I said it looks horrible, I got a lot of requests for the recipe. Apparently, there's a lot of us who love eggplant! Yes, this is atsarang talong, a.k.a. pickled eggplant. The great thing with pickling is you can pickle any vegetable. So if you have lots of veggies and don't know what to do with them, pickle them!

Atsarang Talong (or Pickled Eggplant)

2 eggplants, sliced into strips (I used the long Pinoy eggplants)
2 tbsps salt for water
water for boiling
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/3 cup vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsps salt

1. In a pot, pour enough salted water to cover eggplants. Boil for 10 minutes.
2. Drain eggplant slices.
3. Combine eggplant slices with the rest of the ingredients.
4. Marinate overnight.
5. Eat with happiness!!!

The great thing with atsarang talong is the unique smoky-sweet flavor of the eggplant that balances out the sourness of the vinegar. It tastes amazing! My husband, who has known me for 2 decades, was pleasantly surprised that I knew how to pickle stuff (thanks, Home Economics 101!). He was so happy with this recipe! It tastes great as a side dish to pork chops, adobo, fried fish, pork barbecue, anything inihaw. Try it, too!

Friday, April 17, 2020

How I knew Vince was serious about me (plus old couple photos from before we were married)

Tomorrow is April 18. It's the 21st anniversary of when Vince and I fell in love and our 13th wedding anniversary. So exciting!!! There are no plans haha. I'm just excited at the fact that I've been in love for this long!

My Loyal Readers sometimes ask me, the girl who said she'd never get married and have kids, what changed my mind. Well, Vince did. He didn't force me to do anything I didn't want, okay. He just made me see things his way! And I'm glad he did! I have never been happier. I'm just so glad he didn't give up on me haha

Anyway, as an anniversary gift to you, you who have been following my love story for as long as this blog's been alive, I'm sharing these photos I unearthed recently! My kids, bored from being indoors for weeks now, asked one night, "Mama, how did you and Papa meet?" So I told them and they laughed and cringed and then said, "Pictures! Where are the pictures???" And so I asked their Papa to take out the heavy red album and we all took a trip down memory lane, all 21 years of happiness.


All of these are old photos, in no particular order, from before we were married and I wanted you guys to see. Because you always ask me about my love life, married life, sex life... Thank you for being so interested! It keeps me interested, too, hahaha.

One question I get from time to time is how did I know Vince was serious about me. Well, I knew from the start. He made it clear from the very start. 


And here are my little stories from the many times he showed me just how serious he was about me.


#1
On our first date in Manila (we already had a few in Baguio), instead of going to the mall, he brought me to meet his parents first. That was a complete shock since I wasn't dressed for it and wasn't ready at all. I wore a thin sleeveless shirt and tight jeans—definitely not what I'd wear to impress the parents of a guy I just met. But he said, "You should meet them! Our house is on the way."

"Really? I'm not ready to meet your folks."

"Why not? They'll love you!"

"I'm not... dressed."

"You look amazing!"

And that's how I met his parents. I think everyone was surprised but Vince just smiled throughout the whole thing. Like, he literally didn't say anything. He just let me and his dad do all the talking! He later said in the car, "It's nice to see you with my parents. It looks right."


#2
He asked me, "Do you want to be a June bride?" in May, a month after we met.

#3
He surprised me in the car by suddenly singing to me: "I want to take you home, I wanna give you children, and you might be my girlfriend, oh yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!" That's from Babies by Pulp. We had just started dating and we weren't even girlfriend-boyfriend yet so babies were not anywhere in the realm of my consciousness so that was pretty scary haha


#4
I lived in Antipolo back then and it floods in the Cainta-Marikina intersection all the way up to the rise to Masinag. His low Toyota meant he won't be able to visit me during the rainy season so he bought a big pickup truck that roared through the flood.


#5
When I started working for the Senate, I was dismayed to find out that they hold your salary until you're regularized. You get all of it in one big bulk but I figured I'd look for another job because there was no way I could survive that long without income. Then Vince said, "I'll support you until you get your money. No problem. It'll be like practice for when we're married."

I paid him back when I got my money, which I think offended him haha


#6
He took me house-hunting. After every house we checked out, he asked, "Did you like that?" And I would say, "It's your house. It doesn't matter what I like." And he insisted, "But it does because it's going to be your house."

I have a plethora of little snippets of how he felt for me. I looked through my diaries recently. Apparently, my 2004 diary tells me I did want to get married after all. It also told me why I resisted. Even though I knew he was the one for me, I didn't know if I was the one for him. He wanted the marriage and the kids and because I had endometriosis and was possibly barren, I didn't want to disappoint him. Well, after all that resisting, it turns out I didn't have anything to worry about.

Sharing with you these last two photos, one from my diary and one from my Facebook Memories.




Monday, April 13, 2020

Quarantine Update: What I've been watching on YouTube

Hello everyone! It's a month into our community quarantine because of the novel coronavirus. How are you all? I hope you're all safe and healthy inside your homes, with family you love. We're doing okay over here in our condo. The kids are watching more TV than usual but they do spend their mornings doing chores, playing with each other, and doing arts and crafts. My husband is working from home. I sometimes work, do a few chores but I'm mostly sleeping in. I haven't slept well in 10 years because of motherhood so I'm now definitely catching up!

What else have I been doing? Well, there's Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (yes, I started Tweeting again!). Organizing. Cooking a ton! I finished Spiderwick Chronicles because my eldest boy said he liked it. I've been seducing my husband every chance I get haha.

I fell in love with this little cutie while quarantined.

Another thing I've been doing is watching YouTube a lot. I thought I'd be Netflixing or reading a book, which I do now and then. But I'm mostly on YouTube. I think I'm late to the platform. There are just so many videos I've discovered! I used to just watch YouTube for music videos. But now I'm browsing so much and having lots of fun, I'm even thinking of finally vlogging (yikes—discourage me please haha).

It all started when I was looking for an old Spice Girls music video and got this on my recommendations: a funny Posh Spice!
 


After wandering around in YouTube, I found tours of tiny homes. Such joy! I follow all sorts of tiny houses on Instagram. It's a little hobby I love—checking out people's houses, specifically tiny homes. I like to dream that when the kids are all grown up, I'd live in a tiny home with a big garden or a magnificent view of the mountains.

So imagine how thrilled I was to find Living Big in a Tiny House! I have a lot of favorite episodes but I want to share this one because the couple living here are so cute. The guy's obviously in love with the girl. Ladies, always be with someone madly in love with you.



Another thing I follow on Instagram and like on Facebook are cats and dogs. I can spend hours and hours watching corgis and munchkins! So I searched for cat and corgi videos on YouTube and found so much happiness! My super favorite channel now is Kish-log, which follows the adventures of a munchkin kitten in her new forever home.

It's also a peek into life in South Korea. I loved the accidental home tours (because the camera followed the cat around the house), the food the hooman eats, the changing seasons, and the family trip to Jeju island. The recent videos also touched on how COVID-19 has affected their lives, which was jarring for me because here I was enjoying all the cuteness and then suddenly a reminder of the health crisis felt around the globe.



How about you? What do you watch on YouTube, Netflix, etc? Please share with me! Our community quarantine just got extended and I need more happy distractions from these strange times.

I hope you are all safe and healthy!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Oh, to see beyond the tomb! Hope in time of deep despair

In the Christian world, today is Good Friday, the day when Jesus Christ gave up His life for all mankind for our salvation from sin.

I've always loved the story of salvation. For some of my friends, they don't like the theology of man needing saving. It makes them feel like they aren't good enough. Me, I like the idea that I'm not good enough. It just makes sense because I'm not perfect. I'm not the prettiest, the smartest, the sexiest, the healthiest, the kindest, the mostest of everything. And while I try to be a better person every day, I also rest in the sweet comfort that I may not be good enough for people, but I was good enough for Jesus to give His life for me. It makes my heart glad, no matter what life may throw my way.


Good Friday is when Christians grieve for the death of Jesus. I honestly don't understand why we need to kill Him every year. Why not just celebrate Easter, right? But today is the first-ever time I thought about Jesus in the grave and how his followers were scattered in fear and despair, their beloved Lord and leader dead. All they saw was Jesus in the tomb and they saw no future beyond it. And that made me think of all the times I felt fear and despair: when I was molested as a child, when I was bullied in high school, when I had an abusive boyfriend in college, when Mama died, when I lost my dream job, when Papa died—one year ago today to be exact. 

There were so many times I could've gone down the path of hatred, depression, and self-destruction. But every time I bounced back. Okay, sometimes I crawled back. But every single time I just clung to God's promises that He has plans for me, that there is hope for me, that there is a future. And yet every single time, too, I will confess that I couldn't see beyond the tomb. All I could see was the darkness, never the light. And I guess that's why I just clung to Him because I can't see what He can and I knew if I let go, I'd be swallowed up in the abyss. But because I didn't let go, He always led me beyond the tomb and my life has become bigger and better than I ever even dared to dream it could be.
    
So I was so happy that in my devotions today, I read this verse: “Jesus has the power of God, by which he has given us everything we need to live and to serve God. We have these things because we know him. Jesus called us by his glory and goodness. Through these, he gave us the very great and precious promises. With these gifts, you can share in God’s nature, and the world will not ruin you with its evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

The world tried but it failed to ruin me. Not because of me and how perfect and amazing I am. Far from it. Because of God's nature and the promises of Jesus, my little old self in all its weaknesses and imperfections was able to go through the darkness many times unscathed. How beautiful is that! Thank You, Lord!

I see all the people around me now doing their very best to overcome the fear and uncertainty that the novel coronavirus has suddenly wrought upon us. It's hard to see beyond this, to imagine the new world where a deadly virus is loose amongst us. I honestly don't know how life as we know it can go on. Things will drastically change, no doubt. What I hope is we don't lose hope. I see all the wonderful things everyone is doing—whether it's donating their time and resources to help frontliners and the less fortunate to whipping up amazing things in their kitchen to give happiness to everyone locked up at home. 

Yes, there is darkness around us but everyone is working hard in their own big and little ways to fight it. We are all little pockets of light! I still believe that faith in God adds more than hope. It protects us from despair and ruin. Let's not let these dark times ruin us, dearest friends. This will end, sooner or later. I miss the sun, walking around, freedom. I miss my family and my friends. But for now, I will stay home and cling to that hope that Jesus gave us when He broke the tomb, the hope for a better world and a future beyond our wildest dreams. It will come. I know it! I hope you know it, too.