Sexist and you don’t know it

You’ve heard of how sexism is prevalent in our society, but it’s different when you experience or hear it firsthand. Other people are intentionally sexist, but I think it’s sadder when someone doesn’t even realize he or she is being a sexist. I think that goes to show how sexism is deeply ingrained in us.

Sample scenario: While talking about a future sibling for Isla, someone says he hopes it’s a boy so that he can learn (insert sport involving a ball, like basketball or tennis).

My immediate reaction: Hey, Isla can learn that, too.

Well. It’s true! Whatever she wants to learn, she can. She’s a human being with a functioning brain and, as far as I can tell, a strong physique. She can certainly learn anything she puts her mind and heart into, and she can excel in them.

I admit, I’m guilty of sexism at times, too. And I beat myself up when I catch myself stereotyping women or men. But I do hope that our daughter (and our other kids in the future) understand that their gender will never define what they can do.

“Remember who you are”

That was what Mufasa said to grown-up Simba, who ran away from home when he was a cub. It may have taken a baboon and some “strange weather” to help Simba remember who he is, but I don’t have those.

In 2012, left everything and everyone I knew in the Philippines and moved to New York City to be with the man I love. Instantly, I became a wife in a new country. I had to adjust to the four seasons and to my new role as wife. Fast forward three years later, I became a mother.

While these two roles are just that – roles – I realized that they have started to define who I am. Don’t get me wrong. Being a wife and a mother are the two most important roles I play in my life, and I don’t mind being identified as a wife and a mother. But, somehow, along the way, I lost who I am.

My recent trip to our Motherland helped me remember who I am. Or was. Being with my rambunctious family, hearing them speak our dialect – These reminded me that I am a woman who loved to have fun (with or without alcohol), who loved spending time with family while sharing a delicious meal, who loved relaxing by the beach. It reminded me that I am a daughter, a sister, a cousin, an aunt. While those are roles in themselves, those roles reminded me that it’s ok to ask for help from time to time; that, while I’m growing up, my parents are growing old and spending as much time as I can with them is the most precious gift I can give them; that the most loyal and dependable people around me (besides my husband) are my siblings and cousins. Being with my family in our Motherland reminded me that I am strong, dependable, resourceful, patient, fun, ambitious, humble.

Trying to emulate this image of a Superwoman/Wonder Woman Mom is not only damaging to my psyche, but also EXHAUSTING. It also makes me too proud to ask for help when I need it the most. Being with my family reminded me that I can still be the Wonder Mom even if I ask for help, or accept help when offered, and no one will judge/curse me for that.

It was refreshing to be back in our Motherland. It felt like a reset to my whole being. I feel like I can be a better wife and mother now that I remembered who I am before assuming those roles. I’m so glad I took that trip before the end of 2016.

Isla’s first trip to the Motherland

Our little girl was asked to be a flower girl in my cousin’s wedding. In the Philippines. And Ed didn’t have enough vacation hours to make the trip.

So, on Dec 7, 2016, Isla and I took the more-than-half-a-day trip in a glorified tin can by ourselves FOR THE FIRST TIME.

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Our LÍLLÉbaby Complete carrier with its lumbar support was a life-saver! (not sponsored)

I had to make sure I packed only one suitcase for both of us. With her stroller on top of the suitcase, I wheeled the whole thing through airport check-in while she was strapped in front of me and her diaper bag on my back. It would have been nice if a stranger offered help, but I was able to manage (the people in Davao City, Philippines are different, though. They don’t ask you if you need help. They just immediately help you with your stuff! Bless them.)

I had these visions (or nightmares, if you will) of Isla’s first intercontinental trip – tantrums thrown while on the plane; food getting thrown and landing on people’s heads; diaper blowouts; missing our connecting flight. Those kinds of stuff. I was pleasantly surprised that none of those visions came true! Isla was such a darling during the flight. She didn’t scream (except for that one time before takeoff from JFK when she needed to nurse and I had to stow our stuff in the overhead bin), and she didn’t throw any tantrum. She just watched her favorite nursery rhyme videos on my iPad or watched an in-flight movie. If you didn’t pass by our seat, you wouldn’t even know I had a toddler with me. Hihi! I was lucky! And I’m so proud of how behaved she was during our flights.

While we were in the Philippines, she mostly clung to me for security and comfort. The new environment and the many relatives who wanted to hug and kiss her were too overwhelming for her. She did play with some of our relatives, if you count holding hands with them while dancing to karaoke songs (while I carried her). We took her to two different zoos – The Philippine Eagle Foundation and Crocodile Park. We took her to the beach, which she absolutely loved! The best part of the trip is spending time with my parents and my two aunts whom I haven’t seen since 2012.

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I’m so glad I was able to bring Isla to our Motherland. Sure, she’s too young to remember anything, but we have many pictures to show her. And this definitely won’t be her last trip.

 

Stigma

Physical ailment is easy to understand. It’s relatively easy to gauge your physical health – blood pressure, weight, heart rate, among others. And there are a variety of tests to measure how healthy you are.

The reality: Most of us focus on our physical health only and often neglect that one other thing we need to take care of – our mental health. It’s not our fault, of course. I feel like there’s not enough resources on mental health available for everyone. Because of the lack of education, there’s a stigma on mental health/disorder that prevents people from admitting that they need help.

 

Believe it or not, even the strongest, the happiest, the most productive person in the world may suffer from anxiety and depression. No, they may not want to kill themselves. Yet. Those numerous days when you don’t feel like going out or doing something you used to enjoy (running, reading, watching a movie, whatever), that may be a sign that you’re going through something. You will never know unless you become more aware of your own thoughts. I think that self-awareness is a very important tool in navigating your way around mental health. Meditation and reflection are techniques that we can use to stay mentally healthy, the way working out in the gym or running outside keeps us physically healthy.

I hope that day comes when we’re able to talk about mental health the way we talk about physical health – no judgements, no stigma. Wouldn’t that be a happy world to live in.

 

For more information on mental health, please visit NAMI. (Disclaimer: No, this is not a paid ad, and I’m not a spokesperson for NAMI. I feel strongly about this topic. The more people know, the better their chances at admitting they need help and getting it. )

M&BATC: Mama & Baby and the City

Friends from Manila were in NYC for vacation, and we agreed to meet in Grand Central Terminal for dessert and gossip after Labor Day. I anticipated the long commute alone with our nearly-19-lb baby, so I put all the things she needed and my essentials in a backpack diaper bag (which was actually a gift for my sister who’ll give birth in January, and now I have to buy a new one for her LOL!), got her lightweight stroller, and strapped her in a hip-carry position in our baby carrier.

I FELT LIKE SUPERWOMAN. A puffing and panting Superwoman. HAHA!

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I wore her the moment we went out of the house until we got off the subway. That meant a lot of walking, climbing that one step into the bus headed to the subway station, going down flights of stairs to ride the subway train, and going up flights of stairs to exit the subway on Bryant Park. Oh, did I mention I wore the backpack diaper bag and carried the stroller, too? Well, I didn’t really carry it; it was more like dragging the stroller by letting the back tires roll along the pavement/ground as I walked.

Contrary to how most of the world perceive New Yorkers, there were people who offered to help me carry something (I declined politely). And one guy gave me directions even before I could ask. He probably heard me talking to Isla about why I needed to strap her in the stroller (“I can’t wear you while walking three avenues, darling.”) We took a detour in one of my favorite buildings, The New York Public Library, before heading to Grand Central Terminal. Even though I was panting from carrying everything for about an hour, I enjoyed taking her to Manhattan. She enjoyed the trip, too, seeing so many people and hearing so many different sounds. My husband met us after he got off work, and I’ve never felt so relieved that he was there. We took my friends to Times Square and window-shopped a bit (they did actual shopping), before parting ways with one of my friends in front of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon marquee. Before heading home, we took one friend to the LOVE sculpture and took lots of photos. Isla was awake the whole time, and only fell asleep when it was just me and her Papa with her in the bus that took us from the subway station to the stop near our home.

Going around Manhattan with a baby sounds easy but it isn’t. Just thinking about it makes me tired (LOL!), but that won’t stop me from taking her to the City every now and then. After all, this is her life.

Out little Filipina New Yorker.

Bullet Journal: How it’s saving my ass

I first heard about Bullet Journal from one of my friends’ Instagram post. I thought it took too much work. But after reading about this technique, I realized that I can use it without a lot of colored pens. LOL!

I started doing it in the first week of September, utilizing the Future Log, Monthly Log, and Daily Log modules. I won’t tell you how to do it because you may read all about the Bullet Journal system in bulletjournal.com. But trust me when I tell you that it is saving my ass from constantly feeling overwhelmed, and cranky (resulting from feeling that I didn’t accomplish anything throughout the day).

Less than a week after using the Bullet Journal system, I realized that my head has been cluttered with so many tasks that I needed to complete, not knowing that most of them were tasks that I didn’t need to worry about right away. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed multiple times by things that I felt I needed to do, and it turned out that what I needed was to learn to prioritize. Sounds easy, right? For someone like me, I realized it was difficult to prioritize if I didn’t see everything laid out in front of me. This system enabled me to see the whole picture without the clutter of regular journaling. Now in my third week of using the system, my daily tasks have dwindled from at least 10 to up to 5. Writing down things that I thought of doing and prioritizing them also helped me fall asleep quicker and better. Tossing and turning before bed has significantly decreased. It has kept me happier and sane. LOL!

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PS: This is not a sponsored post.

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 2016

I did it! I completed my first fun run on September 10th after nearly 10 years!

I don’t run with a buddy or with a pack, but I wanted to feel part of a group before and after the race. So I joined Team Accenture (with a whopping 150+ members!).

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I really didn’t know what to expect, especially before the start of the race. I’m bad at small talks, so I wasn’t surprised that I felt out of place when I stood in the meeting area with the team. All the runners (as far as I could tell at that time) were with at least one person they knew. Thankfully, I started a conversation with a lady named Christine, who may have sensed that I needed company. She introduced me to her colleague, Juan, so the three of us managed to form our own trio to pass the time while waiting for the start of the race. I also met a fellow witch, Angela, a Slytherin. I was SO EXCITED to finally meet a #wizardinthewild that I exclaimed “Expelliarmus” when I approached her. HAHA I can be such a geek! (I’m a Ravenclaw, if you were wondering.)

The race itself was a bit of a struggle for me. I’m not used to running under 9:30 AM sunlight. Fall hasn’t really kicked in yet. Although it wasn’t as hot as July and early August, it was still pretty warm for a 5K run (at least for me). There were also A LOT of runners! I forgot how crowded fun runs/races can get. I didn’t bring my iPod to help me drown out any conversations (I no longer listen to anything when I run), so I truly struggled at staying focused on my own pace and drowning out comments like “I can’t run anymore!” or “My feet are dying!” The humor of other runners, the cute tutus, the kids who ran the 5k, the lone fireman wearing his gear, and the cheerers along the race route (especially those stationed less than 0.5mi from the Finish Line) helped boost my morale and kept me going. I didn’t achieve my goal of completing the race within 30 minutes, and I didn’t achieve a new PR (I was slower by 2 seconds!) But I completed the race!

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The Expo had lots of booths, but I didn’t have enough time to go through them all. I promised a dimsum lunch, so after the race, I stayed for a bit to partake of some of the refreshments at Team Accenture tent, chat a bit with Christine and Juan (who finished a about 3 minutes before me), and got a free 5-minute back massage. Christine was great enough to walk and talk with me while at the Expo, and we went our separate ways after the massage. I didn’t see Angela again after the race, but there’s always Facebook and the Hogwarts Running Club.

All in all, my first fun run here in NYC was unforgettable. I got a mean workout. I was able to raise $135 for charity (thanks to those who donated in my name!) And I met new people. I am proud to be part of the race aiming to end breast cancer. I will certainly do it again next year. This is a worthy cause.

 

Even though the race event is done, you can still donate to help raise funds for breast cancer screening and treatment for women who can’t afford them. Please visit   http://www.komennyc.org/goto/RizzaGutierrez.