Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Lucky Ones

I used to have a column in parenting website, Juana.com.ph. The website folded within a year and that made me very sad because I loved being a parenting columnist. Loyal Readers would know one of my dreams is to be a columnist.

Well, it came true naman. I was a lifestyle columnist at Manila Bulletin 4 years ago (my column was called Behind the Scenes) but that didn't go so well because I was a new mom for the third time and quickly found I couldn't juggle three kids, a blog, and a weekly newspaper column. After a year, I resigned with much regret and I think my editor was very disappointed I wasted my chance. So, two years later, when the Juana column offer came, I was so happy!

Oh well. Life in the time of rapidly changing media. 

Anyway, I wanted to publish my Juana articles here on my blog to preserve them. I'll post two or so every month. This was my first—a love letter to Vince when we were so dangerously close to not making it. It's apt since this April is also our 19th fell-in-love and 11th wedding anniversary! I'll add an update after.

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This was taken shortly before I wrote my letter.

Dearest Vince, 

People tell me all the time how lucky we are to have careers that allow us to work from home. I blog. You write. I cook. You play with our boys. I negotiate another contract. You edit another chapter of your book. I help the preschoolers with their homework. You read to the toddler. I rush to meet a client’s deadline. You rush to meet a magazine’s deadline. We live and breathe words and kids under the same roof, 24/7. It’s an amazing life, one we always dreamed of, and we made this life together, just the two of us. 

People tell me how lucky we are that we live the way we do, but they don’t see that we are so busy, we sometimes spend days rushing past each other. There’s always dishes to wash, laundry to do, deadlines to meet, emails to answer, chores, errands, kids! Always the kids. They need to be fed, hugged, kissed, read to, played with, bathed, scolded, encouraged, taught, brought to school, fetched from school, again and again and again. While we love our life, everything in it is so urgent. Everything is now, now, now! Oh, Vince, if you only knew that my need for you is just as urgent as your need for me. 

I feel it from across the living room, where the kids and their toys and my laptop and notes are between us. It isn’t even sexual, this need, although of course many times it is. Most times what I desperately need is a laugh, a hug, a kiss, a good long chat. I feel it when we’re in the car with the noisy kids in the back seat and the endless errands before us, and we can’t really talk because the things we talk about when we finally do talk are just for the two of us. 

I miss the two of us. Please know that there will always be the two of us. We just need to ride this out. I hope you’ll wait for me, not years from now when we’re old and wrinkly. Please wait for me now, for those pockets of moments when we can be alone, even for just a minute. I know you do but after six years of the kids, work, and exhaustion grabbing me away from you, I know sometimes you give up and you fold into your books, knowing your books are always there and I am not. 

Sometimes I also ignore those moments. Sometimes I catch a rare chance when the kids are all asleep, and this is it, this is when I can be with you, but I chose instead to check Facebook because being married takes effort and I was too tired to get up and be married. 

I’m sorry, Vince. I’m sorry for not always appreciating the gift of you. And oh what a gift! I still remember that rainy Monday from 18 years ago when I met you. I didn’t know then that you, my wonderful you, were about to completely change my miserable life. 

My luck changed when I met you. People call it luck. I think it was love. It was love that made us push each other to chase our dreams and be each other’s sole cheerleaders because no one else believed we can make a living out of words. It was love that put us in a church on the hottest day of the year to vow forever. It was love that made us children, and love for them that made us build a life around them, and love that keeps us going even when we haven’t talked or bathed or laughed together for days.

So it isn’t luck that we have. It’s love. And love may not be as exciting and as passionate when it was just the two of us but the two of us built this amazing life with so much love. We may be buried under diapers and duties now, but we’re still here. And it sure isn’t luck that’s keeping us here. No, it isn’t luck at all. For that, I’m grateful.

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This is us now. Stronger, better, happier!

Update: That letter was published February 2017. My Juana editor said my theme was Valentine's Day. I was a bit dismayed because I wasn't feeling very romantic. I believe any mama drowning in childcare and household chores can relate. But I sat down, took pen and paper, and forced myself to think about Vince, to think about him and only him and, and about us, too, and I was overwhelmed with a fierce love and longing, and then grief because children were overwhelming our marriage.

I was afraid we wouldn't make it, not because we were having affairs or fighting or hurting each other, but because we were so focused on the kids. Kids when we wake up, kids throughout the day, and kids when our heads hit the pillow. I was afraid that one day, we'd look up and see a stranger. 

So I wrote my letter. 

It's been more than a year and I'm happy to tell you we're still married. And we're so much happier now in our marriage than last year. There are things that could make our life better (like more money, a yaya and a maid, the work we really want to do—like writing and publishing books, editing dying magazines, and did I mention more money haha) but all of those are extra now that the marriage is going smoothly again.

What changed? Basically, it's time. I have more time for Vince now. I'm glad we waited for each other and I'm glad we helped each other through it. You know how people will demand, "I'm married. I have to have my needs taken care of!" Valid point. But what if you're sick, what if you're apart, what if you're working, what if you're just too tired and overwhelmed by parenthood? I believe in waiting, I believe in the right moments, I believe in riding it out. And I'm glad we waited out this whole small-children phase in our marriage. We know there will be other phases when we'll have to take a back seat to more urgent things. But we survived this. Good things come to those who wait. I'm glad we were so patient because now our marriage is good. Again. 

Friday, April 06, 2018

Frances Finds: Manulife GradMaker app to make college tuition not so scary

The school year has finally ended! Let me tell you, mamas, that when I paid the last quarterly installment of my boys' tuition, I literally felt weak in the knees as I stood at the cashier window of my sons' school. "Nakaraos din," I breathed out and I felt a bit like crying, too. I'm not being melodramatic. Last year was tough financially mostly because clients weren't paying on time. Plus, I was sick a lot and busy with the kids too much to take on more projects that could've eased the money situation. Only by the grace of God that we made it.

And while I'm again breathing a sigh of relief that summer has come and I won't be so caught up with the boys' activities (which hopefully means I can focus on making more money), the summer only lasts 2 months. After these short months, it's tuition time again and now I'll have 3 kids in school. Three little boys who are so smart and deserve the best education, an education that costs a lot of money. 

The climb to success starts with a good education.

I seriously get terrified thinking of the next 20 years. I mean, people worry about their kids' college years but where my kids go now, the tuition is already a lot. So I'm not even thinking of college yet—so far off into the future—because I worry if we can afford their basic education now! I have to keep reminding myself to take it one day at a time and trust God to provide. 

I was forced to think about the boys' college tuition when I attended a Manulife event launching their new app, the GradMaker, and introducing their new brand ambassador, Bianca Gonzalez-Intal. It was a small event, very intimate. Bianca and the Manulife officials went to sit at every table to answer questions. So in that setting, instead of volunteering to go up to a mic and asking in front of the whole audience, we were really able to throw questions at them. 

L-R: Mommies Michelle Aventejado, Bianca Gonzalez-Intal, me

Bianca sat and ate her lunch beside me—I know her from my magazine days when she was a Candy Girl and then a Preview Girl—so I was able to whisper personal questions to her, too. Not revealing those! But anyway, Bianca told us how she valued her career so much and that she and her husband, JC, are working so hard now so that they can send their kids to their alma mater, Ateneo. Why? Because by the time their baby girl gets to college, P3,000,000 na ang tuition! That's the total for a 4-year course naman. Let's not panic. 

THREE MILLION PESOSES! Panic!!!

Bianca said she loved how the app was so easy to use and when we saw a demo, it really is so easy to use! Check it out: 


You can get a Manulife GradMaker policy on your phone! You can pay your premiums on your phone! You can see how much your investment is growing in real time on your phone! What! I love it!

To start an investment, you need at least P10,000. You don't have to pay every month or even every quarter. Just every time you have 10K extra, you can put it on your policy and see your money grow. Syempre, the more P10,000 you put in, the faster your college worries will disappear!

I don't have money right now to actually get three policies, but I downloaded the app anyway so that when I do have an extra P30,000 lying around, I can put it towards my kids' college education. To be honest, I'm not aiming for Ateneo. I studied in UP Diliman and I am so very proud of our legacy of free thinking, resistance, and uprising. I want my kids to be steeped in that culture of defiance, too. In 10 years, a UP education will cost just P800,000 (vs Ateneo's P3M yo!) so that's a big plus. But I guess it's a good idea to save up for a pricier school anyway. Just in case my boys would rather go to the AreNEyo (my husband is from ADMU so this is me teasing him).


To learn more about this fantastic financial tool, visit the Manulife website. I highly recommend you check out the Manulife GradMaker app, mamas. You can download it from the App Store or from Google Play.


*GradMaker is a Variable Life Product. This post is brought to you by Manulife.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

You know your life is complete when...

Vince and I are super enjoying Netflix's shelter show, "World's Most Extraordinary Homes." I 'grammed it as we were watching it because I needed to tell you all about it. If you have Netflix and don't know what to watch, I'm sure you'll like this. I don't know any mommy who doesn't like looking at other people's houses!

Husband and I are enjoying our new favorite @netflixph show, World's Most Extraordinary Homes. It's fun seeing other people's dream homes and judging if these people have taste or not hahaha 😂😂😂 One thing they do have is lotsa money. These houses are crazy! 😄 And yes, the show inspired me to blog about it. And yes, I'm having a heavy midnight snack of pansit canton from @harvest.ph 😄😄😄 Ya know, my home may not be huge and my bank account may not be awe-inspiring but I do love my life. It's very happy and full. Messy and chaotic at the moment because of the kids, and a little worrisome sometimes because of all the bills, but it is full of love and joy. And that makes my very ordinary life extraordinary ❤️❤️❤️ #netflix #netflixandchill #streamteam #FrancesFinds
A post shared by Frances Amper Sales (@topazhorizonblog) on


I hope you read my IG caption because it's true. I don't have everything I want but I have everything I need. Sometimes I even think that if I ask for more, then I'll be greedy and greed is a sin. To paraphrase an old country song, I have four walls, three kids, two hearts, one love. What more do I need? My life is complete.

Of course, I still have dreams, but my dreams now revolve around the happiness and success of my husband and our three boys. I work now because I want to support them. There is a certain peace that comes with just working for others. If you had told a younger me that I'd come to think this way in my 40s, that younger me will scream in fright or anger or despair. I don't know. I'm a different person now. My career dreams already came true more than a decade ago. It was fantastic while it lasted. It ended and I loved it. I had my chance at career happiness and I'm grateful. So now I just want to devote myself to work that puts food on our table and sends my kids to school. There is a nobility to that, a simplicity, a different kind of joy that brings me so much fulfilment. Growing up I was always told, "Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life." And yes, that was true. But this, at this stage in my life, is also so true: "Work every day of your life so you can give everything to the people you love." It's beautiful, this selflessness that I finally finally (and never thought I would) have.

Anyway, thanks for sharing my journey with me! If you've been around since the start of this blog, you know I've always been selfishly devoted to my career. I love working! I love earning money! So I hope you're proud of me that I'm changing. I still love working and I still love earning money but now I do it for love of others. 

Here's a guest post about how you'll know your life is complete, mamas. Enjoy!

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There are many people who struggle when it comes to knowing when to relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor. For instance, think about how many individuals you know who keep moving through the ranks at their workplace and gain extra qualifications until the day they retire. Those folks never have time to enjoy their achievements because they’re always looking to succeed at something else. However, money and job progression isn’t everything in life, and sometimes you need to put things in perspective. Regardless of what else is happening at the moment, you know your life is complete when… 
They make my life not just complete but so extra!

You’ve found someone who loves you.
Human beings are needy creatures, and they continually seek the approval and reassurance of their peers. However, humans also have a sincere desire to feel love and affection from others. You know your life is complete when you find someone who’s willing to spend a couple of months salary with specialists like 77 Diamonds, pop the question, and then spend the rest of their lives making you happy. Be aware that some people go through life without ever meeting that special someone, and that could happen to any of us. So, think yourself lucky for what you have. 

You have an excellent group of friends.
What are the most important things in life? While some people might argue they are fame and fortune, others know that it’s friends according to the guys at the Huffington Post. If you don’t have a fantastic group of friends around you at the moment, that is something you need to change as soon as possible. If you’re one of those lucky people who’s had the same mates since they were young’ your life is near to being complete. Those people will be around when you need them most, and so you will always have support or a shoulder on which to place your head. 

You live in your dream home.
While it’s slightly materialistic, most people would agree that buying a comfortable home in the right location is one of the most critical milestones in their lives. If you live in a suitable property at the moment and you plan to stay there indefinitely; there is a decent chance your life is near to being complete. Your dream home should contain all the elements you imagined when you were young. Maybe you used to dream of having an indoor pool or something similar? Perhaps you wanted to live in a bustling city like London or somewhere like that? When you achieve all those goals, you know your life is complete. 

As you can see from the information on this page, lots of people have different ideas about what the perfect life involves. However, if you have somewhere warm and safe to live, someone who loves you, and lots of friends to call on the telephone whenever you need a chat; you’re richer than some of the most wealthy people in the world. So, consider yourself lucky, and make sure you never mope about your situation again. 

Enjoy your life!

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I like that: "If you have somewhere warm and safe to live, someone who loves you, and lots of friends to call on the telephone whenever you need a chat; you’re richer than some of the most wealthy people in the world."

Truer words were never spoken!

But if you do feel like looking at how the 1% live, turn on Netflix and watch this fantabulous show!


*This is a guest post, with my edits. To place a guest post, email frances@topazhorizon.com for my rates.