Sunday, May 05, 2024

Tanglad tea is good for everybody

Let's make tanglad tea! For you Thai food aficionados, that's lemongrass tea!

So off I went to the market and bought some tanglad leaves. And here's a photo essay on how to make some:
Wash leaves. You can steep it in white vinegar if you like.

Cut leaves into 1-inch sections.

Bring water to a boil.

Oh, this is just a pretty shot. Love all those green hues!

Boil leaves for 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Then steep for
5 to 15 minutes. It depends on how strong you want the tea.

Serve with calamansi and honey!

Easy! Vince loves lemongrass tea. I should always remember to make pitchers of this! I strongly recommend that you brew this tea for your family, too. With all the health benefits, this is one refreshing drink you and your family will most definitely enjoy.

*This is a post from my now-unpublished blog, Topaz Mommy.

Monday, April 29, 2024

I have lived in the goodness of God

Wow, I blinked, and it's already the end of April! How did that happen? This year is going so fast, so before I blink again and find it's already Christmas, let me tell you about last year. 

My horrible year. My blessed year. 

Yes, it can be both things at once and I hope one day, when it doesn't feel like a fresh wound anymore, I will only see 2023 as blessed. 

Handa na ba kayo? I don't think I am. So I think this will be a rambling post. It's a year I'd rather forget, that's why I hardly blogged last year. That's also why I'm having a hard time telling you about it. I'm still processing.

Everything actually began months before, in 2022, when I had menorrhagia. I had to have all these checkups and tests and finally a D&C. All that was an unexpected expense so I realized I needed health insurance and a regular source of income. Then nung pandemic, nag-homeschooling kami but yung panganay ko, gustong bumalik sa school so we enrolled him na. He was happy to be back in school and medyo nainggit mga kapatid niya and so we all agreed that in 2023, babalik sila sa brick-and-mortar school. Kaso ang mahal ng tuition. Hindi na kaya ng income namin - my husband's job as editor and mine as freelance writer and editor for a content agency. I loved that job because our clients were fashion and home decor. So easy and so fun. Unfortunately, I was paid by the hour... and I worked fast. 

So I started applying. That was not a happy time for my ego. I kept getting rejected or offered a low salary, but I figured it was okay since I was still homeschooling my two younger sons. The plan was to finish the school year (that's May) and get a job in June. But then in December, an offer came along with a higher-than-average compensation package. I couldn't say no so I got the job, very exciting, and I started work in January.

My office desk

It was supposed to be a good thing, right? But I didn't anticipate the huge shock reemployment was going to be to my system. I've been a work-at-home mommy for 10 years and then quarantine meant I had my sons with me 24/7. Suddenly, I was away for 11-12 hours. I suffered from withdrawal like you cannot believe. I was crying every day of January. Literal na umiiyak ako sa MRT, sa office and then pagdating sa bahay, iyak ulit, then iyak bago matulog. In fact, I cried till September. No joke. Hindi na naman araw-araw, siguro weekly na lang. I was that miserable. It took me so long to get used to not being with my family.

That working-mom guilt? I now know what it feels like. I never felt it before because I worked from home. Now, I'm endlessly plagued by the thought I'm not a good mother. I'll tell you just one incident of several but this was the one that iniyakan ko talaga. Near the end of the school year last year, so in May, liniligpit ko yung school shoes ng anak ko when I noticed sira na shoes niya. I asked him kelan pa and he said mga one month na siguro. Sabi ko bakit di niya agad sinabi and he said, "Because you're busy, Mama."

Naiiyak na naman ako typing this. Hindi ko man lang napansin. For a whole month! And isn't that what makes us good mothers? Our ability to notice everything? To anticipate needs, to be alert to the slightest cough, to swoop in before disaster strikes. Hindi ko man lang napansin. 

Now I know some of you will say I don't have to do this. Well, my kids want to go to school. They don't want to be homeschooled anymore. So here we are. 

Anyway, new job, new life arrangements, new everything - that's what was happening outside me. I'm usually okay with external forces. Anyone who knows me knows I can be a bad bitch when it comes to challenges. I always have a "Bring it!" attitude. I call it my "invincible summer."

Unfortunately, internal forces were at play, too. I was going through perimenopause (let's do a whole 'nother post on that!) and I had begun a hormone treatment for my menorrhagia. I was in hormone hell. Still am actually but my treatment is over so I'm feeling lots better. That invincible summer? Gone. I was suffering anxiety and crazy mood changes. I was worried all the time. Afraid, stressed out. And did I tell you I cried all the time? Baka kasi di ko nasabi na umiiyak ako for 9 months.

It was so illogical and very unlike me. I have been through worse things in my life. An unsafe childhood. An abusive relationship in college. Job losses. Theft. The deaths of my parents. But I was never this deeply unhappy. For what??? If you take away my feelings, ang ganda kaya ng buhay ko. Good job, good home, great family, getting-better health. 

Some days I was happy. Most days I was sad. Some days I was fun. Most days I was a miserable mess. So it was a tough year for me and my family because we never quite knew which me they'd get on any given day. 

Then just for fun, I took this online test and... SURPRISE!

And here I thought I was just going mad and being ungrateful. 

I talked to a few friends about this. My sister recommended her therapist. My husband knew, too, of course. But he was also going through a bad time. Not my story to tell but it was hard for us because we were both drowning and we couldn't rescue each other. 

On top of all that, I got ugly. My hormone treatment made me break out into huge pimples. Chin, jaw, cheeks, nose, temples, eyebrows. Stress made me gain 12 lbs. Perimenopause made my hair frizzy and my skin itchy. My cholesterol skyrocketed and xanthelasma appeared under my eyes. It was bad enough I felt ugly inside, but ugly outside, too? 

Without makeup. This was in December when I actually looked better!

Like I said, it was a bad year.

And yet, I don't want to think too badly of 2023. 

It was my youngest boy's first time in a big school. He started going to chess club, too. My eldest boy graduated from grade school and then he entered high school. I started seeing friends and family again. We went to Manila Zoo, Dreamplay, Manila Ocean Park. I finally got Covid but I didn't die - it was just a bad headache and a loss of smell and taste. I've suffered worse with ordinary coughs and colds. Lean In Manila had its first face-to-face event. And despite my husband and I struggling with our separate issues, together we were fine.  

So 2024, I believe you'll be better! I already feel better so that's a start. With my hormone treatment done, my pimples have subsided so I look better, too. I'm getting my cholesterol and asthma under control. I'm not crying at work anymore because I really do like my job. I just couldn't appreciate it last year with everything else going on. 

So what got me through 2023? Listening to these songs on repeat:

My co-workers hear me singing this all the time. And when I get to this part, nagdadasal talaga ako for deliverance:

I just want to speak the name of Jesus
Over fear and all anxiety
To every soul held captive by depression
I speak Jesus

'Cause Your name is power
Your name is healing
Your name is life
Break every stronghold
Shine through the shadows
Burn like a fire

I lived through 2023. I am alive and getting better. My family and my friends helped, but most of all, it truly was God who saw me through. I don't think I've ever prayed so much and so often in my life in a year that was, in all appearances, a wonderfully blessed year that I couldn't appreciate because of my hormones. My hormones are still there, wreaking havoc on my body and mind, but I'm taking it one day at a time. I really really hope I've gone through the worst of this perimenopause, but please pray for me anyway. I want to keep living in the goodness of God because He should be my invincible summer, the something stronger and better pushing right back at all the darkness.  

P. S. 
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression or other mental health conditions, please seek the advice of a qualified mental health professional. That's another reason I hesitated to tell you this story because my faith and these worship songs, while they helped me, are not a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Empowerment Alert for Moms and Kids: Join the Self-Defense Workshop to Bond and Become Unstoppable!

Lean In Network Manila, in collaboration with Origins Athletics, is excited to announce a groundbreaking event designed exclusively for moms and their children: The Moms and Kids Self-Defense Workshop. Set to take place on Saturday, May 18, 2024, at 3 PM at Origins Athletics San Juan, this event promises to be an unforgettable adventure of strength, solidarity, and empowerment.

About Lean In Network Manila and Origins Athletics:

Lean In Network Manila is part of the global Lean In community, inspired by Sheryl Sandberg's book "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead." It's dedicated to encouraging women to pursue their ambitions and offering them the support and resources to help achieve their goals. 

Origins Athletics is renowned for its commitment to fostering a community of strength, health, and empowerment through fitness training and martial arts like jujitsu, judo, and kickboxing. As a pioneer in promoting physical well-being and self-defense skills among all age groups, Origins Athletics creates a supportive environment where individuals can learn, grow, and thrive.

Together, these organizations are joining forces to empower mothers and children with the skills, confidence, and bond that will serve them in every aspect of life.

Why You Should Join:

Learn Vital Self-Defense Skills! 

In a world where safety has become a paramount concern for everyone, especially children, learning how to protect oneself is a valuable skill. This workshop offers practical self-defense techniques in a fun and supportive environment.

Strengthen Bonds! 

What better way to strengthen the unbreakable bond between mother and child than through learning and growing together? This workshop is designed to enhance your connection with your child, while both of you gain confidence and empowerment.

Join a Community Movement! 

By participating, you and your child become part of a larger movement toward safety and empowerment within the community. It's an opportunity to be influencers of safety in your circles and champions of your own stories.

Who Can Join:

Lean In Manila and Origins Athletics are calling on 15-20 dynamic pairs of moms and kids (ages 5-12) to join this empowering activity. If you're looking for a unique opportunity to bond with your child and learn essential skills that could one day protect you and your loved ones, this workshop is for you.

More than just a class, it's part of a movement towards a safer, empowered future for our community. It's a chance to stand with us, learn with us, and grow with us. Be part of this life-changing experience!

Event Details:

Date: May 18, 2024, Saturday  

Time: 3:00 PM  

Location: Origins Athletics San Juan | 606 General S. De Jesus, San Juan, Metro Manila  

Registration fee: Php 1200 for a pair (Mom & Kid) via Gcash and BPI 

(Session is free for past attendees of Lean In events!)

Sign up here!

Spots are limited, so secure your place in this transformative journey today. Let’s embrace empowerment and make safety a shared adventure!

Join us at The Moms and Kids Self-Defense Workshop and take a significant step towards creating a safer, empowered future for yourself and your child. We can't wait to welcome you into our community of strong, empowered families.

For more information, join the Lean In Manila Facebook community and visit Origins Athletics.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Our wedding anniversary through the years

Yesterday was our 17th wedding anniversary. It was also our 25th first kiss anniversary. Vince cooked 3 slabs of steak. medium rare, which is how we like it. I would've made mashed potatoes and roasted some vegetables but I had had a long day at work and so we and our three boys just ate the juicy steaks, had ice cream after, then plopped in front of the TV and had chips and chocolate-covered raisins while we watched 3 Body Problem.

And that's how we celebrated our anniversary. I think we're still planning to go out this weekend. So if you see us out and about (which we do so rarely!), please yell, "Happy anniversary, Vince and Frances!" 

One thing I enjoy every year is when Facebook Memories reminds me of the stuff I posted years prior on this special day. So lemme share with you all of them!


Well, this surprised me because I only joined Facebook in 2010! Then I realized it was a Life Event. But I need to edit it because the wedding was on April 18! Never believe everything you see on Facebook, even apparently your own Life Events haha


Aww, I wish I had taken pictures. I don't remember what I cooked! Well, it was the early days of social media when we didn't have a camera with us 24/7. Now it's "pictures or it didn't happen." 


Me, being makulit and Vince having a sense of humor. I think it's a testament to his fortitude that he's stayed married and in love with me for so long. I'm quite a handful!

Aww, Vito! First mention of a child on my anniversary posts! Gosh, what a joy Vito was. That's why we decided to have even more babies because he was just so precocious! The perfect gift to a happy couple.

And this is also the perfect gift to a couple who've been together a long time! Gotta keep the spark alive.

Sigh. Youth. And to think everyone said we were so old when we got married (he was 33, I was 30). Looking at this, though, with my 47-year-old eyes, we looked so young!

Nothing on Facebook, just here on the blog!

I love flowers. I am a huge sucker for flowers! Vince usually gives me flowers on anniversaries and Mother's Days. But my golly gulay, they're so frikkin' expensive these days! 

None this year??? What happened??? Oh, it's because I blogged instead! 

Ooh, this is an odd post. For our 10th/18th, we went to Baguio (where we met and fell in love) with the kids. But why is this my post and not photos of our trip? Well, no worries because I have a lovely blog post about our anniversary trip to Baguio!

This dinner was at Amare in Kapitolyo. The year previous, we celebrated at Amare Baguio so this year, we continued the tradition but in Manila. 

This was at Mango Tree in BGC. The food was sooo good. And the company was great, too. We should do this again. Maybe we'll go eat there this weekend...

Ooh my favorite photos! Gosh. So happy and carefree! We're still happy, okay? But life threw us a few punches through the years. And we also have been so tremendously blessed. There's a general feeling of exhaustion (kids, old age, bills) but also a quiet enjoyment and appreciation for everything. 

I have no memory of this hahahaha Did I get drunk???

So thankful I still get to laugh with my husband. By this time, the world was recovering from the pandemic. We made it through. Alive. Still together. Still happy. We can't take that for granted.   

Who are these kids??? I don't know how old we were here or even where we were. Goshness, we've been together for so long, I don't remember things anymore! Must've been pretty early on because I still have my buck teeth. I had braces when I was 27. Or 26? 

And this is this year's post! Another blast from the past! To my kid, the distant past hahaha

Memory Lane is a fun place to stroll through when you're still happily together. It's not perfect, our marriage. But there are very few things to complain about and after 25 years, that's pretty wild. We've seen dreams come true. We've had dreams crushed. We've had plenty, we've had barely enough. Always we've had each other. 

We're very lucky. One day, this will all be gone and it will just be memories. So I'm grateful, so very grateful, for every day I'm still loved and get to love. 

Sunday, March 31, 2024

My Nana Mouskouri playlist

Do you know Nana Mouskouri? I grew up listening to this Greek singer and actually wanting to look like her. Hence, my penchant for black-rimmed glasses. Anyway, she has the most interesting voice. This is a list of my favorite songs sung by her. I arranged them in order of my favorites ever, top to bottom. Listen, listen.

"Both Sides Now"

This is a song I sang to Vince when we were coming home from the writers workshop in Bagiuo way back in 1999. I sang it because I was thinking of Ferris wheels because that's where we fell in love. He said he's never heard of this song before. I said it was Nana Mouskouri. He never heard of her either. Then I realized everyone knows this to be Joni Mitchell's song. But I love this version best.

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale 'comes real
I've looked at love that way
But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

"Song for a Winter's Night"

I was so obsessed with this song when I was kid! Silly 14-year-old me had just read Wuthering Heights and then I heard this song and I would cry for an imaginary love who was far away from me, with only a letter, a lamp to read it by, a glass of wine, and the snow outside to mourn and hope with me. 

If I could only have you near 
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
And to be once again with you

"Scarborough Fair"

This is another song I sang to Vince on that fateful bus ride. For me, this and Simon & Garfunkel's covers are the very best ones. 

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine

"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"

I think this is the most beautiful cover, even better than Roberta Flack's. Josh Groban did a cover a few years ago but nothing compares to Nana's version.

The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the empty skies, my love
To the dark and the empty skies

"Love is Like a Butterfly"

This song made me excited to feel love for the first time! I really did wonder if I would feel butterflies. Thing is I had boyfriends and I didn't feel any butterflies anywhere. So I was kinda disappointed but decided that, well, creative license and all. So imagine my joy when I finally felt butterflies when Vince and I started going out! So, yes, kids, love is like a butterfly!

Love makes your heart feel strange inside
It flutters like soft wings in flight
Love is like a butterfly, a rare and gentle thing

"Yesterday's Dreams"

I remember listening to this song for the first time and being so sad that dreams and hearts can be shattered and broken. But then it makes a complete about-face in the chorus! It's a lovely song of hope after despair.

You are my harbor
My dream of tomorrow
My promise of sunshine
My shield from the storm
"Your Love, My Love"

She sings this so tenderly. I just remember listening to this and hoping I would find a love like this - so sure, so true, so constant - one day. And I did!

When our castles crumble, when our dreams take flight
And we sometimes find it hard to face the morning light
There is one thing that will see us through the darkest night
Your love, my love

Isn't Nana amazing?