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 mahigit na 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 this whole summer. 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.

* * * * * * *

This story was a finalist in the ComCo Southeast Asia’s “Write to Ignite Blogging Project”. The initiative is a response to the need of our times, as every story comes a long way during this period of crisis. Igniting and championing the human spirit, “Write to Ignite Blog Project” aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities to inspire the nation to rise and move forward amidst the difficult situation. This project is made possible by ComCo Southeast Asia, co-presented by Eastern Communications and sponsored by Electrolux, Jobstreet and Teleperformance. 

For more details, please visit https://www.comco-hq.com/comco-in-action/comco-sea-launches-write-to-ignite-blogging-project.
 

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!