Monday, October 07, 2013

A portrait of my 36-year-old self

Someone asked me about my 36th birthday picture. I always have a portrait of me taken around my birthday. So I know what I look like every year, you know! But for my 36th year, I didn't have a photo taken. I had my portrait painted.

Exactly this day last year, I met with artist Soleil Ignacio. (I love her name, which means "sun" and "to ignite.") That's us meeting at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at Power Plant. I'm thinner back then! I can't believe I was thinner 5 months after giving birth than now, a year and 5 months after giving birth! I want those arms back!

(I want to also point out the mommy in the background. I just love the look of love and delight she gives her son.)

Anyway, I asked Soleil to paint me. After three months, here's what she created:

I like it. I look too young, though. I don't look 36 haha. But I believe that that's what Soleil captured. Everyone thinks I'm younger than my age. It's not because I mega take care of myself. It's really because I love life! Kids, that's the secret to looking young—just be happy! And stay out of the sun. The sun is the single, biggest, most harmful thing to skin. So, beach lovers and outdoor sports people, sunscreen is your most important beauty product. Even if you aren't an outdoorsy person, you should still put on sunscreen!

Back to my painting. I haven't had it framed. I should. But I don't know where to put it so I've been putting it up all over the house, just to see where it will fit.
So far, I haven't found a home for it. Maybe when I have my own home office. One day, one day!

I'm turning 37 a month from now and I haven't decided if I'll have a professional photo shoot done again. Hair, makeup, pro photographer. Sounds like a lot of work now!

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Sunday, October 06, 2013

Blogging with a renewed purpose

I don't know if you noticed but I renamed Fashion Friday to Topaz Fashion. This resulted from blogging coach Martine de Luna's advice on how to create a brand. Using the same word across all sections of the blog reinforces my brand. So I have Topaz Horizon (the main blog), Topaz Mommy (the parenting and kids blog), Topaz Fashion (style and shopping section), Topaz Beauty (yep, I also renamed Beauty Buzz), and I'm in the middle of tagging all my cooking posts Topaz Recipes!

Martine, are you proud of me?

Martine is a coach for women bloggers and creative business entrepreneurs. I really admire how she's created a service for the burgeoning online market—blogs, shopping sites, websites. She's an inspiration to me and a lot of other moms for creating a purposeful life that balances home, family and work in a beautiful way. I know people think I'm so cool for living my life the way I want it (and I think that's waaaaay cool, too!) but I also realize that I've just been winging it this year. Mostly because this year's been an exploratory year—will I earn money as a WAHM, will I go back to corporate, will I like being home-based, can I give up my heels and live a life in flats haha? Really scattered!

I've been chatting on and off with Martine the past few months and finally I said it's time to talk. We met a few weeks ago and we talked about my blogs and what projects I can pursue that can jump off from the blogs. You know, businesses, books, workshops! Real money.

Martine is very specific. She asked me about my purpose for blogging, my plans, my hopes and wishes, my lifestyle. Yes, these are all part of the consultation! It's quite unnerving because it's so probing haha but I understand its purpose. Martine believes that everything we do should support each other. For example, my career and my blog should not conflict with my family. In my prayer group Power of a Praying Wife, we call that a life of integrity. Everything is unified, consistent, at one. What is the point of a successful career if it means forsaking your family? What is the point of devoting yourself to your family if it means giving up your life's work?

Many people just go through life taking on whatever comes their way. Ok, I'll marry you because I'm already 30. Ok, I'll have kids because that's what's expected of me. Ok, I'll take that job because my parents need money. Ok, I'll blog because everyone's doing it. Ok, I'll have designer coffee every day because my co-workers have it every morning. And then we all wonder why we're unhappy and our life is meaningless and have no direction.

Do everything with a purpose. From the biggies like marriage and children to the smallies like shoes and what you wear. Yes, shoes. In my case, what is the point of amazing high heels when I'll be running after little boys all day? Of course I could hire a nanny and let her do the running so I can be fashionably fabulous. Nothing wrong with that. What matters is knowing what really matters to me (my family) and arranging my life so that everything falls under it—from my work, social life, down to my fashion choices!

So back to my consultation with Martine.

She asked me really detailed questions which made me stop and think on what blogging means to me. I'll break it down for you.

I love blogging because it's my venue to express myself with honesty. I have always believed in a life of honesty. One of my favorite verses from the Bible is Luke 8:17 "For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open."

Believe me, I have no secrets. I do know secrets that my family would hate to be known. I don't mind revealing them but my mother asked me to never blog about our secrets so I won't. Other than that, I love that my blog allows me to be who I am.

The problem is now that my blogs are bigger, I find that I have to be more discreet. I can't just post thoughts that may hurt people. I can't even just post names and photos of my friends and family because some of them want to remain private. I can't also post things that my advertisers may not approve! What a pickle I find myself in!

But being reminded of my purpose—to express myself with honesty—guides me in writing this blog. I don't need to write or post about other people; I can just find topics that are relevant to me and my experience. I don't need to say yes to every brand that wants to work with my blogs; I just need to focus on the brands that make me happy. I don't need to be too open or talk about everything under the sun; I can just pick issues that matter to me and yet are respectful to other people.

Martine pointed out that I have a loyal following that will support my projects should I choose to launch them. She gave examples of women who launched empires from their kitchen—books, workshops, magazines, product lines, seminars! That's something she believes I could also do since I have you guys! I love you, dearest readers! Oh my goodness, I can't thank you enough for reading my blogs every day, for supporting me and encouraging me, for sharing your thoughts and your life with me, for just being there! Thank you so much!

Anyway, Martine did make me rekindle dreams that I had about this blog. Remember when I sold leather satchels? Maybe I can do that again and sell other things, too. Brand collaborations, like what Gwyneth Paltrow does on her lifestyle website goop, are very attractive to me. I'm also thinking of making mini magazines that you can download as an app. Topaz Mommy, Topaz Recipes, Topaz Style & Beauty, Topaz Home. How crazy is that?! I'm also already writing a book! Well, I've written down the outline so it's really just a crazy plan, but who knows? Maybe I'll actually write that book and publish it and hopefully get you to buy it!

But the important thing right now for me is my family. My consultations with Martine reinforced that. As I was answering her questions, I just realized that I may have many dreams but right now I'd prefer to put them in the back burner so I can focus on my little kids, Vito and IƱigo. They grow up so quickly! I realized that a successful career in my previous life has allowed me the luxury of slowing down. Oh, every day I'm thankful for my life, for these days of lazing about in bed with my husband and our sons, that I can get to choose projects, that I can just blog. Life of luxury, I tell you. Not a lot of money but there's a lot of life!

So that's what I plan to do this year and next year: blog. Grow the blogs, be more purposeful in my writing, get to know my readers more, build my reputation as a credible and honest blogger. Maybe these steps will help me in the next stage—empire building!—or maybe the next stage is more babies and just settling down to be a simple housewife. Who knows? Whatever it may be, I welcome it!

To consult with Martine, check out her website: You can also follow her blog, Dainty Mom

UPDATE 12/17/2014: Martine has Make It Blissful now!

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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

I'm on Instagram. Plus, thoughts on social media madness

Follow me! I'm @francesasales.

I only joined last week. Why so late in the game? Well, to be very honest, I didn't want to. I already have enough social media to drive me crazy. Facebook alone already eats up so much of my time! But I finally created an Instagram account because blog partners wanted it. It's part of the campaign package that they want. So there.

I promise to make it fun for you! Well, I'll try. For starters, you'll see more of my kids. We may have thousands of photos and a few videos of the cutie patooties but I am so lazy to resize their photos for the blogs. But on Instagram's instant camera, that's the easiest thing to do!

Second, I'm going to just have fun with this Instagram thingie by just posting things I love. I won't spam you with boring, mundane things. Although I did join this Instagram challenge by Fat Mum Slim, where you post a photo a day. I think it will be fun (although part of me thinks it's a chore but I'll do it anyway so that I won't forget I have Instagram now), and I'm already thinking of doing something similar for Topaz Mommy. Like, a photo a day but everything must be mommy-related!

Third, you can finally get an instant peek at my blogger's life a.k.a. the freebies I get on an almost daily business. Like I said, blog partners want me to feature their products. I think they give me gifts not because they like me haha but because they want me to promote them. I'm happy to do that. I give the stuff away anyway on my blogs or Facebook page (and that's why you should like my Facebook page!).
Give me more likes!

You know, all this "follow me!", "like me!" can not be healthy. It's like we're all trying hard to impress people. "Pleeeeeeeease like me! Do you like my new dress? Do you like my trip to so-and-so? Do you envy my fabulous life?" It's like every day is performance level day. Well, I guess that's good because we're forced to really live life. But at the same time, there's this unending competition that is so exhausting.

On my part, I just really like to share stories. I'm so open that way. At the same time, if you don't like my stories then I have no problem with you moving along. I don't enslave myself to the desire to please. I don't expect people to like my face, my career, my marriage, my clothes, my food. Basta I'll share. Walang basagan ng trip. I will admit, however, that if I post photos of my kids and konti lang likes, I get hurt haha. I feel like, "Come on! They're sooooo adorable!" Then I boink myself on the head and remind myself a lot of people don't like kids. It's not about me or my kids. It's about them not liking kids. Period.

But a lot of us do get affected. We take it personally. "Does no one like me?" We can't base our self-esteem on what other people think or don't think, like or don't like. We are not here to entertain (unless you're an entertainer haha). We are here to learn and love and live and laugh and serve and work with purpose. I think that's the best thing about social media. We use it to reconnect with long lost friends and family, to share love and laughter over distance, to spread information, to help a cause, to promote our passion and career. Social media is a wonderful tool. Just remember it's just a tool; it isn't you!

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