Hiatus

The site reminds me each time I’m on it that it’s been two years since my last post, one that was just a string of a few words that barely made a sentence. Two years. Life can change dramatically in a span of 730 days. What drove me to stop blogging here is not nearly irrelevant but needs its own entire section, so I’ll get to that when the time is right. I didn’t stop writing. I wrote mostly for work purposes, and I still managed to find some joy in it despite the lull that surrounded me. I’m slowly getting to a point where I can find balance in my life again.

As delicate as it may be, life gives us so many reasons to be bold and empowered in the way we live it. I’ve come to realize in the last year or so what it means to live each day exactly the way you want to, with your own purpose and vision to realize. I’ve learned not to be scared to say no, and I’ve also learned it’s okay to say yes. I’ve learned that I have just as many strengths as weaknesses, and I’ve also learned that I’m not completely robotic and cold. Man, can these eyes cry.

With so many things to say, I’ll leave it at this: the hiatus is finally over. Time to get up and get moving, or we’ll miss the train. It was like a balloon popping. One day I couldn’t, and the next day I could. I’m looking forward to finishing up the site update and beginning to write again about our adventures and failures, discoveries, and dreams as a family.

I hope to reach some of you, as many of you inspire me everyday.

Go eat a live frog.

xo
Jenn


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A Darker Shade of Pale

An examination of our cultural obsession with skin color.

I grew up in the Philippines, a country whose colorful history is evident in the very faces of its people and the richness of its traditions.  The original indigenous Filipino population, characterized closely by native tribes that still occupy the northern and southern main islands of the country, are very distinct physically compared to the current mix of the population’s physical attributes.  These tribes are known to be descendants from the indigenous people of the prehistoric Malay Archipelago.  The present day Filipinos commonly associated with the country are a mix of different cultures.  With an outstanding historical influence from the neighboring trade partners in China and Japan to the colonizing nations of Spain and Portugal, the territorial acquisition by the United States of America and all other relative relations with approximate Asian countries, the Philippines has truly become an archipelago mold of different nations.  What does this mean?

This simply means that Filipinos these days may look like some variation of this:
(Both are television and film celebrities.)

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And the aboriginal Filipinos may look like some variation of this:

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They go by different names depending on where they naturally reside in the country: Aeta or Ayta or Dumagat or Igorot or as a whole, Negritos.

I opted to use photos of famous actors to draw the reality of extremes.  The physical differences are quite stark, and it’s important to point out because there’s a real problem that exists not only in this country but also in other parts of the world.  In addition, it’s pertinent to look at these comparisons without malice and subjection.  I’m merely addressing an issue that is deep-rooted in the nation.

Indigenous Filipino traits include a wider jawline, wider nose and flatter profile, thick and curly hair, and most obvious of all, dark-colored skin.  This is besides the shorter stature and smaller frame altogether.

With the mix of evolution and colonization, these Filipino traits have transformed the look of the nation completely.  Many Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian cultures have always considered the Philippines home.  When the Spanish colonized the archipelago for 300 or so years, intermarriage was normal and expected.  Much of the current culture is owed to this Hispanic influence.  The same happened when the Philippines became America’s territory for 50 or so years.  All of these scattered events became the introduction of new traits and new genes.  Better genes, apparently.

Growing up back there, I was always considered average in the subject of beauty.  Coming from a mixture of a somewhat Indo-Japanese-Spanish mother and a predominantly Spanish father, I was pretty much just above the line.  My great grandfather was Spanish, so I had mostly Spanish features.  As a kid, my hair was black and straight; my nose was small and tall, and my eyes were big and round.  I was born with pale, almost transparent skin, but this changed as I got older.  By the time I was eight, my skin was darker than what the normal beauty standards preferred, and this is when it became troublesome.

Most people will tell me now how much they envy my skin color.  I have that natural tan, so they say.  Back then as a kid, I was considered dark.  This meant that I was less attractive compared to my fairer-skinned friends.  Even though my features were beautiful, my skin color made me less desirable.  Did it bother me then?  I’m not so sure I remember.  I know I couldn’t try out for the majorette team because I didn’t have the mestiza look.  Mestiza literally just means light and fair and all the features that come along with that, and basically not the opposite Morena, which just means brown-skinned but okay.  Then people added malice to the word Negrito and used that to describe someone with predominantly indigenous features, negatively.

51KhkZhYQQL._SY355_I remember having to bathe with soap that was supposed to make your skin lighter.  My brother even bathed in milk one time, thinking that it will make his skin lighter as well.  We weren’t allowed to play in the hot sun, as it would cause our skins to burn and get darker.  And if we walked home from school, we always had to use an umbrella not because it would protect us from dangerous rays, but rather it would help us keep our skins fair.  Even to this day, (no offense Ma) my mother still disapproves of me going to the beach for so long that my skin looks so dark.  She tells me to look at myself and see how much I look like an Ayta or Igorot.

It’s a cultural problem and a really big one at that.

Maybe it was the colonial influence.  Maybe it was the false truth established as governing rule by the Spaniards that came and conquered the little island nation and its men and women.  Maybe these men and women were forced to believe that everything colonial was just better.  Even the way they looked.  Maybe.  I don’t know.

Maybe it was the American influence.  Maybe it was the western notion of beauty that changed the way this small nation looked at itself.  If you were an actress in the Philippines, I guarantee you have light skin and a fair face.  If you don’t, then you must be a comedian.  Or a really talented singer.  I really don’t know.

For us expats, it’s a totally different ballgame.  Here in the United States, if we are ever ridiculed, it’s mostly for our slanted eyes or mongoloid-shaped heads.  We get the yellow skin stigma here and there, but that really translates to gray.  We could be brown, red, yellow, green, or pink, but the skin issue in this country is mostly black or white.  The more black people talk about white skin and the more white people talk about black skin, the more we are teaching our children that there is a negative distinction.  Much like how skin color in the Philippines falsely equates a person’s beauty and desirability, skin color here in the United States falsely equates a person’s complete being.  The tint of your skin should not tell me anything about your mental capacity or socioeconomic status.  The shade of your skin should not tell me anything about your capacity for violence or your musical preference.  True, it’s very easy to succumb to the prejudices and unquestioned traditions that history has almost forcefully engrained in the back of our brains.  But history is made in the future.

History is made in the future, not the past.  Maybe we should stop watering deep-rooted negative traditions of cultural hatred and separatism.  Maybe we should stop cultivating old, ugly notions of genetic supremacy and start learning how to really look at each other as equals in all manners of physical, mental, and emotional attributes.  Maybe we should start believing that we are all equal citizens of one beautifully diverse world.  Each one unique in its own pattern.  Each one with a solid purpose of positive nature.  Maybe it isn’t so difficult to do, to just simply get along and see past what light is reflecting back into our eyes.

Here’s a picture of our children.  I want to show you how beautiful diversity truly is.  Listed below it are all the different genes running through these three children alone.

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  • Mexican
  • French
  • Irish
  • German
  • Colombian
  • Spanish
  • Japanese
  • Filipino
  • American

A concoction wonderfully imagined and mixed together in varying amounts by God himself!

Let’s all stop limiting ourselves to one dimension.  You might actually just be more than what you think you are.

 

Tackling the To-Do

I like lists.  I make at least three everyday.  At the very least.  Lesson plan for my toddlers.  A chore route for our meek 1000 sq. ft. apartment.  Things needing to be picked up at the store.  Creative projects for the day.  Household logistics that need to be taken care of.  What to do tomorrow or next week.  Community events for the month.  Wedding guest list.  Bills.  Etc.  Etc.  Etc.  I laugh at myself.  I use Notepad and Stickies.  Word, Excel, Wunderlist.  My iPhone. My iPad.  My iMac.  My Macbook.  Multiple pads of paper in different colors of varying sizes scattered all over my house…in the kitchen, in our bedroom, the living room, in my purse, on my work table.  I HAVE LISTS EVERYWHERE!!!

I suppose I write more bullet points than I can actually cross out.  Am I setting myself up for failure, or is it okay to dream large?

Here’s my solution for the obsessive and equally unsuccessful lister such as myself: just pick one.

One list to rule it all.

For the techie, list-taking apps might work best since the same lists may be accessible to most forms of technological device.  I can access all my lists via Wunderlist: on my phone, my computers, and my tablet.  I haven’t tried any other list apps out there, but the one I have works fine.

For the old-fashioned, try finding the best planner/organizer you can find for what you need.  I’ve been using Punctuate now for a few years, but it really lacks some things I’ve begun to need in my planning such as a budgeting section or meal planning calendar.  I’m on the course to designing and creating my own.  I’m listing all I would need in it!

Lastly, when writing daily to-do’s, try limiting lists to fewer tasks.  It’ll feel better having accomplished all out of your 10 to-do’s rather than 5 out of your 20.  And when you’ve finished your 10 and feel the urge to do more than what you’ve done, by all means, go ahead and be awesome at what you do!

Remember, trying to squeeze so much out of a day is great.  Just don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.

photo: jessicasimien.com
photo: jessicasimien.com

On Change, Part 2

It’s crippling.  And it definitely takes a lot for me to admit.  But it’s true.  I have an uncanny disability to stick to something.  I can’t stay on track.  I can’t finish many of the things I start.  I can’t deliver on personal endeavors.  I can’t give myself what I want.  How else can I say it?

The word Everything on a To-Do list on a dry erase board to remiLet’s extrapolate.  First off, I say most because that’s what I meant.  Most.  Not all.  Just many.  I also say personal endeavors because for some reason, if it’s for someone else, I have no problem producing.

I can’t finish that class I keep taking.  I can’t finish that family photo album I keep buying materials for.  I can’t finish that book I keep picking up only to put down.  I can’t finish that song I started to write so long ago.  I can’t finish sewing that dress I was supposed to wear for a special occasion last year.  I can’t finish so many things I think of that I haven’t even begun to produce.  I almost feel like I can’t finish even before I start.

So yeah.  It’s pretty crippling.  Am I juggling too many balls?  Wearing too many hats?

I guess it calls for some type of change, first of which should be learning how to say no.

Step 1: Say no.

Then, I suppose I can pick a project and not do any others until that one is done.

Step 2: Pick one.

Should I give myself a time limit as well?  Yeah.  I suppose I should.

Step 3: Set a time.

What next?  The hardest part then.  I suppose I should just stick to it.

Step 4: Stick to it, but don’t get stuck.

Let’s see how this one works out.  I’m trying to be as optimistic as I could, but there is a looming feeling of defeat and total laxness about it.  If I lose to myself, then it’s my loss.  Totally horrible sentence, but it’s true.  So…

Step 5: Be accountable.

I’ll tell you my personal projects as I go.  Maybe it’s easier to succeed if there’s an audience around.  I won’t add Step 6 on here just yet.  At least not until I finish one project.

 

Guard Your Manhood

It makes me chuckle a little bit.  The notion of “manhood.”  Tough.  Unbreakable.  Very…..manly, I suppose.

I’ve only seen the commercial once.  I didn’t even know it was really an issue for men.  Apparently, bladder leakage affects roughly “23 million men, including one in five men over 60,” according to adage.com.  If you’re a female at least in your 20s or if you’ve delivered a baby naturally at some point, you know how much of an issue this could be.  I don’t mean to gross you out, but females do have to worry about all sorts of leakages: blood, mucus, urine, and whatever else.  I’m just saying.

images-1There’s so much riding heavily on our men ‘being or acting like men‘ that even medical matters become embarrassment details that really shouldn’t be.  Having an issue like, say a bladder leakage, doesn’t make someone feel less of a man, does it?  I can’t say.  I really don’t know how men feel about these things.  So here goes the question.

Why do men ever feel like they have to “guard” their manhood?  What takes “manhood” away?  As a woman, I’ve never felt like I had to defend my femininity in any situation.  I’m sure there are others who’ve felt the opposite.  But I’m curious, what is it about men in our society needing to assert their manhood…all the time?

So man up!  Answer me, if you may, you man of all men.  I’d like to know how you feel about your “manhood.”

If you haven’t seen the commercial, watch it here.  Enjoy as I did!

In the World of Success

The intimidation I felt today was innocent, almost childlike.  Palms damp from overactive pores.  Body tingly from rabid nerve endings.  Pulse rate just a tad elevated from the anticipation.  I have to admit I was nervous in a way that I hadn’t felt in a while.

I was invited by a friend to attend her monthly business networking meeting.  I wasn’t sure what to expect as I’d never associated myself with anything “business,” at least not until I started my own not too long ago.  I constantly have to tell my brain, “You’re a business woman now, so start being business-savvy.”  The group’s morning chatter was all work and no play; it was deliberate and surprisingly light-hearted.  People were damn serious about what they did and genuinely interested in what I had to offer.  I was expected to stand and deliver a quick overview of my business, and as each well-dressed person spoke their spiel, I started growing smaller and smaller by the minute.  It was literally the round table of successful and established women, and somehow, I found myself in the middle surrounded by attorneys and health care professionals and financial advisors.

freelance_writer_during_the_day_tshirt-r4d61dac4c449472f843e94550102df59_8nhm8_324I sucked it up as I usually do.  “Hi.  My name is Jennifer, and I’m a freelance writer.”

I think it was pretty much met with equal awe and nonchalance, if that makes any sense.  Never mind dabbling into the web market bit of my business; I sat next to a pretty made web designer.  Goodness.  I don’t even have a writing degree.  Yeah.  I laughed at myself on the inside for a second.

Then I allowed myself to revel at the fact that I was there, surrounded by success.  Maybe success intimidates me a little.  Fear of success.  It boggles my mind.  Humbles me to the very core.  It was inspiring, motivating.  When you find yourself shadowed by the greats, take as much from it as you can.  Learn.  Allow yourself to be small.  All great things start that way.

So next month, I might find myself in the same meeting with a better sense of how much I can offer, which is really quite a bit.  I may have taken twenty business cards today, but I gave away just as much.  Who knows?  Maybe I made a lasting impression.  I guess I’ll find out when I get that phone call.

Photo courtesy of zazzle.com & brainleadersandlearners.com

On Change, Part 1

Do people change?

Not from wanting a certain type of car or switching a career in medicine to that of music.  I’m talking about a deep-rooted change, one that sits beneath the psyche.  A change that resonates and rattles the bones of one’s being.  Morals.  Values.  Core personal beliefs.  Your internal being.  Your inner self.  Can you really change?

Here’s to a journey in self-exploration in hopes of becoming a better person.  Stay tuned for Part 2.

 

Photo courtesy of callcentrehelper.com