14 Days with baby, with only a carry-on luggage

For those who have been following my Instagram and Instagram Stories, I hinted on writing about this trip and how I managed it with only a carry-on luggage (I know!!! haha). I LOVE packing and packing with intention – yes everything must be intentional – because it is a little systems challenge that has immediate results. But aside from that nerdy reason, I love packing this way because I get more peace of mind for my trip, I am more mobile, and I have less risk of losing my luggage (since no need to check in)! So many wins!

We just arrived a few weeks ago from a 14 day New Zealand trip for the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s YBLI (Young Business Leaders Initiative) program. But I also brought baby Miguel with me and of course, my husband Mark so he can take care of baby while I work and then we can go on to a mini vacation / road trip to Queenstown! I was so excited for this trip but I was also quite nervous because it was baby’s first plane ride (more than 10 hours of flying one way!) and Mark will be taking care of the baby alone most of the time.

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and in all fairness, Mark did an amazing job taking care of Miguel!!! Consider me SHOOKT and impressed!

So to calm my nerves, I decided to be a bit more obsessive about packing. haha I have awesome coping skills and I’m sharing my weirdness with all of you! Here are my 9 tips on packing light for a relatively more relaxed and a bit less backbreaking (literally) trip!

  1. Luggage and bags – I brought one carry-on luggage (that could be placed on the overhead compartment) with all my stuff, one R2R Maricel baby bag that fits under the seat in front of us for all of my pump stuff, Miguel’s food, change of clothes, vitamins, and bottles, and one small (but super roomy) R2R bag (more on that for number 5) for all my phones, chargers, make-up, and others.

    Bags!

    The little orange luggage is a carry-on, the black bag is the R2R Maricel Mommy bag, the Pack-it cooler folds and can fit inside the front pocket of the Mommy bag, and the bag to the right is my purse for the entire trip!

  2. Clothes! – Determine how many outfits you would actually need (considering the occassions, events, weather, etc.) for your trip and then divide the days by 2-4 (depending on the total number of days) to get the number of tops you would need and divide the days by 2-6 to get the number of bottoms. Okay, it is not as mathematical as that actually, but if you want to pack light, be very intentional and quite ruthless with cutting down on the “maybe I’ll need this” or “this is too cute to leave” piles. Since I have 14 full days and 7 of which are more business casual, I decided to bring 7 tops that can be dressed up or down as needed, and 3 pairs of pants (jeans + wide-legged trousers that can be dressed up or down too).
  3. Combinations of Clothes – Make sure that all your tops look great with all your bottoms. I LOVE this part because I really try out all the combinations!

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    Top from Pink Manila and bottom from Uniqlo

  4. Shoes – shoes are the most bulky and most delicate items to pack so I’m very particular about what shoes to bring and to only bring those that I will absolutely need and use. For this trip, since we have a baby on board (that’s another packing story for next time), I was extra ruthless with cutting down on my own things so I decided to choose only one pair of shoes for the entire trip, for all occassions. This part was HARD because the pair must be: comfy, casual, business-appropriate, weather resistant, pretty, and must match all the combinations of my clothes. Fortunately, a few days before our trip, we visited Dr. Kong in the 30th to get our feet assessed (my assessment was really dismal) and get some pairs of comfy shoes for the family. I honestly did not expect that the pair I saw and got would check all my boxes but it did! I expected Dr. Kong shoes to be comfy but not stylish because comfy and stylish don’t usually go together. But looook!!! Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
  5. Bags – another potentially bulky item unless you just want to go around in canvass bags. For this trip, I decided to bring just ONE bag that fits the shoes and fits all the combinations of clothes I brought. And this one bag (which is part of our Artefino collection called the Flora crossbody bag) is like a gift from Mary Poppins, it fits a LOT of stuff. Like here in this photo, this bag had a small notebook, pens, money, credit cards, keys, 2 lipsticks (Happy Skin of course!), hand sanitiser (Messy Bessy), 2 phone chargers, 2 phones, 1 power bank, sunglasses, and an extra t-shirt I got from the event. IMG_20170930_165059_592
  6. Toiletries – Transfer your toiletries to clear little 100ml bottles and put them all inside a zip bag. That’s pretty standard especially if you want to have no checked in bags (I don’t like checking in bags)
  7. Gifts – Choose gifts (to people you are visiting / people back home) that are flat, compact, or easy to shoot into the little cracks and slips between your clothes
  8. Another clothing tip – Choose clothes with fabrics that are easy to wash, dry, and wear, and won’t need to be ironed. This saved me a lot of time!
  9. Laundry – no judgement if you don’t plan to do laundry at all, but in case you want your clothes to be fresh again, plan for a laundry stop in the middle of your trip. Depending on the country you are visiting, chances are you can find laundry shops with washers and dryers you can use.

So there!!! I really had fun in this trip and the time I took to plan my packing was so worth it. I got to spend more time learning in the conferences and was able to spend time with family more!

What are your hacks and tips for packing light?

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I have an extra 90 minutes a day and this is how I spend them (my top 10 podcasts)

Well, not really “extra” as in I have 90 minutes more than others. I just realized, roughly 7 months ago when I started breastfeeding and pumping milk that when I was not looking at my baby’s sleeping face while breastfeeding/pumping, I was scrolling mindlessly though social media. That’s a LOT of unproductive time on social media. I don’t know about you but every time I spend waaay too much time on social media, I feel woozy and a bit empty. It is very much like the feeling I get when I eat too much junk food. So what if I could use the same amount of time to learn something new and feed my brain some healthier content? I have been a podcast geek for a few years now so I decided that I should fit useful, inspiring, and intentional content into my life.

Here is my list in case you have some time for extra learning and knowledge too – let’s be real here, traffic wastes a lot of our time so might as well use it for learning right?

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1) How I Built This

What it is about: Amazing entrepreneurs, how they started, and the backstories that we don’t get to usually read. These entrepreneurs are interviewed by Guy Raz, who is an awesome interviewer! He asks the questions I would have LOVED to ask the entrepreneurs.

Listen when: You need some inspiration – when you feel that literally everyone is waaaay ahead of you in life (hint: they are figuring things out too). This podcast helps you understand really successful and famous entrepreneurs as human beings who went through difficulties, challenges, lucky breaks (that they embraced ready or not), successes, and more challenges. Some of them started early, some started later in life, but all of them prove that we all have our own journeys and stories.

Notable episode/s: Patagonia!!! I love the founder Yvon Chouinard’s philosophy about growth. After a business crises, they decided that they will listen to their customers for their growth so that they “grow strong, not grow fat” (I’m SO tempted to tag people & companies. haha). They are also moved by their sustainable philosophies and operate, decide, and live as if they will live for 100 years.

He believes in super high quality, responsible products that you can wear and use forever! Seriously, he is like the original Marie Kondo and practitioner of the capsule wardrobe.

I could go on and on about Patagonia, but it is so much more powerful when you listen to the founder. Patagonia is amazing!! They are 50 years old (I never knew!!) and have been doing progressive and inclusive practices for a long time already. Ultimate company peg!

Also notable: Sara Blakely of Spanx, Kendra Scott of Kendra Scott

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2) Planet Money 

What it is about: Economics made fun. Seriously! Okay, I am a bit of a nerd so this may be hard to believe but just give it a chance. Listen to one of my favorites and you’ll see what I mean.

Listen when: You want to learn something new but want to do so the fun way!

Notable Episodes: I actually have a long list but if I have to choose my top 3, these would be (in no particular order)… 1.) Bagging a Birkin – about the Birkin and why it always seems to be out of stock (dun dun – that’s suspense music BTW), 2.) Setting Up An Offshore Company In A Tax Haven – it is exactly about what the title says! This episode got me more than a little sad because it is so familiar to us in the Philippines. Curious? Listen to it and tell me what you think!, 3.) How To Hide A Million Dollars In Plain Sight – also sad and familiar, 4.) Finding The Fake-News King – haha it seems like I have a theme here… sad and familiar again, 5.) Hard Work is Irrelevant – interesting concept that Netflix is practicing as a company! A bit clickbait-y but a good intellectual exercise to think about and use to debate (in a friendly way of course) with yourself or others. So that’s my top 5! Wait, did I say 3? Oops.

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3) StartUp

What it is about: The gritty, exciting, discouraging, encouraging, REAL things that happen when starting up a business – it features super interesting companies that made it or became cautionary tales.

Listen when: You feel a bit (or a lot) discouraged about your enterprise / start up and you need grounding and a little assurance that you are not alone.

Notable Episodes: Friendster! I know. Remember Friendster? I know I do. Did you know that we (as in Filipinos) contributed to why Friendster no longer exists? To be fair, there were so many reasons. But we were mentioned quite a few times so it brought me back to the time when I thought the whole Philippine population was on Friendster. So. Many. Memories.

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4) Criminal

What it is about: A true crime podcast that goes beyond just the details of crimes. It analyses the context and even psychology behind them. You know what, I can’t give justice to it, so here’s what the New York Magazine has to say:

Criminal is a true­ crime podcast that understands crime as something sociological, historical, even anthropological — that crime is a function of people, time, and place. With incredible sound design, marvelous writing, and a boldness in the way it makes its choices, there are few shows that feel more alive.” -­ New York Magazine

Listen when: I’m not sure actually! I listen to it when I’m curious about the episode. haha I guess you can do the same. Unless you are in the business of crime solving (or crime – please stop, that’s bad), this podcast may not have a direct contribution to your learning. But it is intriguing and a good mental exercise especially when you are into sociology, history, and the like. Oh, and this podcast is beautifully made! The music, audio, and script are all on point.

Notable Episodes: In Plain Sight – while the podcast is called Criminal, this episode is sort of a love story. It is about two people of different races and classes falling in love with each other and surviving during a time when a love like theirs was illegal.

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5) The Purposeful Creative

What it is about: This podcast is designed to help creative individuals explore different ideas on how to build a career or business around purpose and passion – from the Purposeful Creative website

Listen when: You need inspiration and guidance for your life, side-hustle, or career. We all want to do purposeful work in some way, and while there are lots of inspiring podcasts and articles out there, the actual examples and step-by-step process to pursue this are few.

Notable Episodes: All of them! The podcast is hosted by Arriane Serafico, a good friend and inspiration, who creates thought provoking and action-inspiring episodes. She interviewed me for this podcast and it is the most fun, engaging, vulnerable, and honest out of all the interviews I have ever done. Ever.

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6) Science VS

What it is about: Science Vs takes on fads, trends, and the opinionated mob to find out what’s fact, what’s not, and what’s somewhere in between. Hosted by Wendy Zukerman – who by the way, is a highly engaging host! When you listen to her, you can almost see her talking directly to you and doing super animated hand gestures.

Listen when: You are stuck in traffic, bored, or curious, and you want to learn things the fun way. Oh, and an openness to science is important! Because science is… well, science.

Notable Episodes: The one about Ghosts (because helloooo, Ghosts are always interesting), the one about Zika, and the one about DNA and the smell of death. Actually, I love all the episodes! This is a fairly new podcast so it is still a pretty short list, but so far, I love them all!

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7) On Being with Krista Tippett 

What it is about: On Being is a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation and podcast, a Webby Award-winning website and online exploration, a publisher and public event convener. On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? We explore these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavours. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact. – from the On Being website 

Listen when: You want to reconnect with yourself and others, or you are going through something difficult or life-changing. It is always awesome and inspiring to listen to the experiences and perspectives of others.

Notable Episodes: Interview with Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant on Resilience After Unimaginable Loss – I’m not crying, you’re crying

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8) Startalk Radio 

What it is about: The StarTalk podcast network bridges the intersection between science, pop culture and comedy with clarity, humor and passion. Oh, and it is hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson! Hearing his voice already makes me feel smart. haha

Listen when: You love science, you are a geek, you are dating a geek (there are so many episodes that explores the science behind sci-fi movies), or you are just curious about the really cool topics they talk about.

Notable Episodes: Is Our Universe a Simulation? – see?? super cool!

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9) Reply All

What it is about: Reply All is a show about the internet and trained rats, time travel, celebrity dogs, lovelorn phone scammers, angry flower children, workplace iguanas, and more. It’s hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, who launched the show in 2014. –  from Reply All’s website 

Listen when: you are bored or looking for some new knowledge, interesting information, and additional things to talk about when networking with people

Notable Episodes: Speaking of trained rats, listen to Zardulu

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10) Freakonomics Radio 

What it is about: Yes that book! But a lot lot more. It is economics made fun too!!! Yeah, I love economics.

Listen when: You like learning but you hate boring

Notable Episodes: Is Income Inequality Inevitable?, How Safe Is Your Job?, Get Grit In Life! 

Others! (most of the blurbs copied from their websites)

HBR Idea Cast – A weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in business and management from Harvard Business Review.

99 % Invisible – 99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.

Strangers – Each episode is an empathy shot in your arm, featuring true stories about the people we meet, the connections we make, the heartbreaks we suffer, the kindnesses we encounter, and those frightful moments when we discover that WE aren’t even who we thought we were. 

Hidden Brain – The Hidden Brain helps curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain’s host Shankar Vedantam reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behaviour, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships.

Stuff You Missed in History Class – precisely stuff you missed in history class! So history retold with context and other details

The Pitch – Like Shark Tank, but in a podcast

Lore – History behind the folklores! Super super interesting!

32 Lessons, 32 Years

I have waited 20+ years to say this… I am 32 flavours and then some. Gah! Do you remember that song? I do!

I feel so old but at the same time feel like I still know nothing. Well, not nothing. But also not at the stage I thought I would be at 32, that I imagined when I was 12. I thought 32 was so old. SO. OLD. But now that I’m here, I am realising more and more that age is really just a number. It is not an indicator of wisdom or even meaningful experience. You earn wisdom and meaningful experience when you go through the years with an open and curious mind, ready to process the lessons that life throws at you!

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Looking back, 2016 (31 years old) was not too bad!

Speaking of lessons, I decided to “celebrate” my birthday yesterday with a list (I LOVE lists!) of 32 things I have learned in 32 years. Of course, I probably learned a lot more than 32 lessons. haha At least I hope I did! But I was so sleepy when I was typing this on my phone the night before my birthday so I just listed the first 32 lessons that I thought of. Which probably means something right? Right!

32 lessons, 32 years:

1) Progress, not perfection
2) Moisturise!!!
3) When people disagree with you freely but respectfully, it is a good thing. It means you have created a safe space for discourse
4) You can be firm and strict and still be compassionate
5) Being compassionate is not equal to being complicit
6) Back up all your files and photos on the cloud
7) When you don’t know something, it is a good chance to learn something
8) Don’t read the comments section. Ever.
9) You don’t need to be a conformist or non-conformist. You like what you like and that’s okay

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UM. HELLO!

10) Always choose zero % sugar when ordering milk tea
11) Huwag tanungin kung mahirap, tanungin kung mahalaga – Fr. Roque Ferriols S.J.
12) “Accept me for who I am” is not an excuse to continue or justify a bad attitude
13) Always write things down. You tell yourself you don’t have to because your memory is excellent but it is not, and you will forget! haha
14) Fear and Anger will creep up on you. Acknowledge them, work on them, but don’t feed them
15) Be honest and upfront, and yet kind and considerate
16) Don’t wear light flow-y skirts or dresses in Rockwell
17) Listen to podcasts (currently making a list and will publish this here soon!) & read articles, while stuck in traffic. That way, only your car is stuck in traffic, not you

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GUYS!!! One of the best podcasts about business!

18) While you strived to give great answers when you were younger, strive this time to ask enlightening questions
19) Make difficult decisions with love and compassion. But make them.
20) Saying sorry is not proof of weakness. It is one of the most raw and vulnerable kind of bravery
21) Empathy is messy and complicated. Empathize anyway.
22) You won’t be great at some things (accounting, etc) but that does not mean you can’t learn them
23) Most of the time, the most elegant and high-impact solution is the simplest one
24) Write on your journal as often as possible even when you don’t feel like it, even if you don’t feel articulate
25) Your imagination is not the limit, your confidence is
26) The mustard thing beside your Katsu meal, is not mustard

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27) Having a baby is not like how it looks like in commercials/shows. It is crazy (esp. the first weeks!), messy, and disorienting. But it is a different kind of joy and meaning – the kind you rediscover every single day

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I mean, look at him!!!!

28) There really are things outside your control. And that’s okay. Breathe! Seriously, that’s okay. haha
29) Character is built when you decide to keep your values, good attitude, and good outlook even through difficult and disheartening times
30) Character is more important than intelligence
31) Practice thinking 5-10 consequences ahead of a decision
32) You will make mistakes and at times, compromise values. The way forward is not to justify them but to admit that they are wrong, learn from them, and move forward

Okay, this won’t be a yearly tradition of X things I learned in my X years on earth. haha But truly grateful for this life full of adventure, experiences, moments, and yes, lessons. While I’m always hungry (breastfeeding mom problems), my heart is full. 

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Resolution Hack: New Year, 12 New Beginnings

Last 2015, I used a resolution tracker that worked so well for me! It helped me get stuff done, read the books I really wanted to read, listen to more podcasts, limit social media, and drink more water. I made this tracker because 1) I was so tired of making resolutions every year, failing to keep them after quarter one, and losing interest because I lost confidence that I could keep my own word to myself, 2) I wanted to change some habits and help myself do so through visual and positive reinforcement, and 3) My major goal last 2015 was to be more forgiving of myself and try again.

So in the spirit of this, I designed this tracker so that I could start fresh every month (and even every day!) and be encouraged to pick up from where I left off.

This 2017, I want to try this again. I designed this for myself, so it works well for me. I am curious though if it can work for some of you! If it is something you would like to explore, go ahead! If this somehow inspires you to design something for yourself, that would be awesome!

So here it is!

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What you need: 

  • An index card/thick paper that is as big or slightly smaller than the notebook you use every day (if you use notebooks, if not, make something that you can bring along with you and that you’ll see often). The idea is to use this card as a bookmark so that you get to see it every day.
  • A ruler – you’ll use to draw your rows and columns
  • Pencil
  • Your favorite pen!
  • Optional: colouring materials to decorate your tracker

The principles behind this: 

  • We all have more than one area in our lives and it is easy to take that fact for granted. Some of us make goals only for one aspect (mostly career) and that’s okay, but being intentional about the other areas in your life as well, can make a huge difference! The different areas in your life such as family, love, career, spirituality, health, and others, influence each other.
  • Habits are hard to establish! But once they are, they make life richer, more meaningful, and more productive. In fulfilling goals, forming habits are important!
  • We are not always the best decision makers and we don’t always have self-discipline. But during the beginning of the year, some of us have the best motivations and disposition to plan and implement resolutions we can keep (at least for the first quarter). Because this is usually the case, why not take advantage of your “New Year Self” and let it create a system that your “Rest of the year self” can work with?

The Steps! 

Step 1: Identify your major theme for the year! There is an awesome podcast called The Purposeful Creative hosted by Arriane Serafico you can listen to for guidance on how to identify a theme (and really, other topics and stories that will inspire you!) that is specific to you and compelling enough for you. If you are on IOS, you can subscribe through the Podcast app, if Android, you can do so through Stitcher.

Step 2: With your theme as your guide, identify your 1-3 major goals for the year. Are there monthly milestones that would help you get to the major goal?

Step 3: Guided by your theme, identify the areas in your life (Life Areas) you want to focus on and improve for 2017. To be more effective, choose 2 to 6 areas. The more areas you identify, the harder to track and to follow through.

So by now you should have: 1.) Theme for the year, 2.) 1-3 Goals for the year, 3.) Milestones for each goal – ideally with corresponding months you want to fulfil them, 4.) Your Life Areas. Some examples are Health & Fitness, Learning, Finances, Family, etc. 

Step 4: Draw the table for your monthly tracker and fill it up with the following row headers (your column headers are the months): 1) Goal – this could be one major thing/milestone you want to accomplish for the month connected to your goal for the year or just something you want to work on, 2) Project – this is just something small, something to keep you going. For example, if you are an artist who wants to paint frequently, you can make your project one big painting (and specify how big!), 3) Challenge/Dare – this will encourage you to frequently get out of your comfort zone. It could be something that is simple enough to accomplish but uncomfortable / difficult enough to qualify as a challenge/dare. You can add more row headers if you want! Mine last 2015 included “book of the month” too so I could focus on and finish one book instead of jumping from one book to another but never really finishing one.

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Every beginning of the month (or end of previous month), identify your specific Goal, Project, Dare, etc. for the month! You can also assign points for each if you want to.

Every end of the month, you can evaluate if you were able to fulfil your goals, projects, and challenges and “score” yourself (optional). For easier computation, use 100 and allocate this to the goals, projects, and challenges based on priority.

Step 5: At the back of your card, draw the table for your habits per area. If you decide to put points, an easy way to do it is to divide 100 points and assign numbers to the different areas. Remember that the value you assign to each area does not indicate that one area is more important than another! You can assign based on what area you think needs the most focus for the year. You can also equally divide 100 per area if you want to. Identify habits per area and assign points per habit that add up to the total points allocated per area (example below).

When you indicate habits, make sure that they are habits and not necessarily big goals. Habits are small things that you do every day almost automatically. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you get to exercise, drink more water, read 10 pages, and others, every single day? And the great thing is, when you fail to do any of these today, tomorrow is another day. Every day can be like New Year. =)

Every beginning of the day, evaluate the previous day and score yourself.

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How to compute your score if you decide to use a scoring system (this is how I do mine, feel free to modify): 

To get your daily score, add all the points. If you were able fulfil some habits partially or not up to the level you want to, you could assign lower points. Sum of all the points / 10 = your score for the day. For example, if your total score for the day is 80 (out of 100), divide 80/10 to get 8 (I’m soooo good at math like that)! So 8 is your score for the day!

To get your monthly score, get the average of all the daily scores. Then get the sum of your monthly score divide by 10. Get the average of the two to get your monthly score. For example, your average daily score is 7 and your monthly score is 6 (let’s say you got a total of 60, then divide by 10). Then your monthly score is (7 + 6)/2 = 6.5. Your score for the month is 6.5

To get your yearly score, get the average of all the monthly scores! You can also assign points for your goals for the year (also totals to 100), and divide by 10. Get the average of the two scores to get your yearly score.

Your target score is up to you! You can even assign “rewards” if you reach or exceed your targets. You can do this on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis.

If you decide to do this, you should really try to commit to the theme and the principles behind the system, but not necessarily the same index card/card you made at the beginning of the year. Priorities change, things change, habits are formed, and new habits need to be formed. So revise as needed and don’t let the system constrain you. It is not supposed to! It is merely a guide and a tool to help you make and keep commitments to yourself.

So there! Hope you are all pumped up for 2017!

The Productivity Tool that has worked for me for the past 4 years

I juggle so many things, departments, thoughts, and personal errands. And because I wanted to organise my life and make sure that nothing falls through the cracks, I have tried EVERYTHING: apps (lots of apps!), notebooks, journaling techniques, and perhaps every to-do list technique out there. Name it, I have probably tried it. But none of them stuck or worked for me. Don’t get me wrong though, I think we all have different productivity tools that work for our learning and working styles. The other tools might be working for you right now and of course, stick to what works! But if you are still searching for your productivity tool, this article may help.

I’m sharing my Productivity Tool but it does not mean that this is THE ultimate productivity tool that could work for you too. No big promises here, just a simple sharing of the tool that worked for me! Here is the link to the Google Sheet template. Feel free to download and play!

So how would you know if this is for you?

  • You work with a computer/laptop everyday or frequent enough
  • You love organising every single aspect of your life but don’t know how (yet)
  • You have several projects going on at once
  • You want to see everything in one place and have the flexibility to move schedules without getting too confused or overwhelmed
  • Your to-do list keeps on piling up and some of the tasks are important but not (yet) urgent (but will one day be!)
  • You are comfortable with excel

Ready? Here it is!

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It maaaay look overwhelming at first, but give it a go. It’s just an excel file and it’s free!

Okay, let’s break it down (cue the music)!

STEP 1: Identify your column names. This is a super important step as the columns organise your individual to-dos and give them meaning (really!) and details. The screenshot (above) of my excel to-do list shows the columns that I chose and why I use them.

STEP 2: Create new excel file, start populating your columns! For each column, determine if you want to  have a drop down menu or you want to freely input data. Also determine your lists (the list that will appear in your drop down menu).

Having a drop down menu is helpful when you eventually sort your tasks according to priority, category, etc. (if you are not super familiar with excel, there is a step-by-step tutorial here and here on how to create drop-down lists in excel. If you get a copy of my template, I already fixed this for you)

For my own To-do list, I have several drop down menus. The one below shows the “Priority” column and the list I can choose from, when I log my to-dos. This way, I can sort the Urgent-Important, Important, Not Critical/Nice to Have, Not Important, and Urgent. In case you are wondering why I have a “Not Important” option, I use this for random things I think of that I’m not too precious about (like: watch Stranger Things again) anyway. Your list really depends on you!

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STEP 3: Start populating your To-do list! You can start with a few to-dos to practice. And trust me, if and when you get the hang of this, your to-do list will grow but won’t feel too overwhelming (hopefully!).

STEP 4: Use your To-do list! I organise my To-Do excel through sorting the “Target Date” column in ascending order (A to Z). This way, I can see all the tasks that are for the same day and could also see the other upcoming tasks.

STEP 5: Save your To-do excel using the tool that you are most comfortable with! If you love google sheets, use that. If you use Dropbox, use that. I personally use Dropbox to store my To-do excel. I also back-up frequently. Yup, do that too!

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On an unrelated note, find the penguin!

How to use and maintain:

  • How to populate regularly: when I have access to my computer, I populate the excel file directly and I back up and save the file frequently. If I’m outside the house/office or in traffic, I email myself with the details of the task and when I get access to my computer, I log the task in the excel file. After I do, I could (temporarily) forget about it until I need to get back to it again.
  • How it could work with a notebook: so this excel file is my master list! I used to just use a notebook for my to-dos but found it hard to track because some tasks are due in a few weeks or months or the to-do list piles up until it becomes unmanageable. But somehow, using paper is still so so satisfying. So this is what I do: I still log everything in my excel file but I write down the tasks that are due for the day on my notebook. I close the excel file and just monitor my progress through ticking off the boxes for the day’s tasks I wrote on my notebook (so satisfying!). By the end of the day, I open the file and update what was done and I reschedule the other tasks that were not done. I could then take my mind off the tasks, and call it a day!

Some tips and hacks:

  • Don’t feel bad if you don’t get the hang of it the first time. It happened to me too. I designed it for myself and yet I was inconsistently using it for several months before finally deciding to stick to it!
  • You can also use this tool to monitor emails that you need to send, emails you need to reply to, emails you sent that you have to follow up on. When I log the emails here, I mark the emails as “read” and I could get back to them on the date I scheduled for them. I have maintained a zero unread messages every end of the week because of this system! I need closure in a lot of aspects in my life, so “zero unread messages” by the end of the week makes me happy!
  • You can design your own based on what you need and what you feel is important!

So there you go! Do let me know if you have any questions or builds! I’m interested to know about the productivity tool that works for you too. And if ever this works for you, please do share stories of how you are able to build it and stick to it! Even if I’m already using this for about 4 years now, I’m still tweaking it and thinking of new ways to make it better. I have been talking to myself about it for years, so new thoughts and ideas from other people are certainly welcome!

 

One of the Forgotten Things About Starting a Start-Up

When R2R was starting, it was kind of a side hustle for me and for our other co-founders. Jumping into entrepreneurship is exciting and nowadays, romantic. People will tell you to just go for it, just do it, jump and make the parachute on the way down. And to some extent, those are true. 

But there is another truth that is not as emphasised (or known) by our well-meaning cheering squad. 

One of the most common questions I get asked when I give talks in provinces or schools is “how can I be an entrepreneur and support my family?”. Most of the young people who ask this are breadwinners of their families. They would love to jump into building an enterprise they are passionate about, but don’t have the bandwidth, capital, or even free time, to do so. Most of them have to get jobs with regular income straight out of college to help support their families and younger siblings. Our responsibilities may be different, but the concerns are somewhere along those lines too. How can I start an enterprise while making a living/supporting my family/paying for rent/paying for the bills/saving for the future/etc.?

Yes, jumping all-in into entrepreneurship is not as easy when you are “adulting” in life.

So here is one of the things that don’t get talked about or emphasised as often when people talk about entrepreneurship: If you want to eventually start your own, one of the best jump off points will be organizations (that you believe in of course!) with bosses that support side hustles and entrepreneurship. You can work part time or full time, learn on the job, and contribute, while still having some time and flexibility to start something you are passionate about. 

I was super fortunate because my bosses during my first job (Program Assistant for the Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Program of Ateneo School of Government) were so supportive when we were starting R2R at the same time. 

I still showed up for work every single day and even during the weekends when needed. I commuted like crazy rain or shine, and showed up in the office (mostly) on time (those were the days when traffic was not yet as bad as it is now, but it was still stressful). But even if I kept full-time hours, I did not feel censored or stuck. 

My bosses talked to me about career options, social entrepreneurship, R2R, and they even indulged my once-a-quarter (or maybe even more frequent than that) soul-searching consultations. I worked on R2R stuff right after work, during the night, and some weekends. I got my full Millennial on with my bosses, but they remained patient, kind, and encouraging. When I decided to leave after about a year to go full time in R2R, they were not just happy for me, they became our advocates too.:) 

I got my full Millennial on with my bosses, but they remained patient, kind, and encouraging

Without their support and guidance, it would have been extra challenging for me to work full-time on R2R with our co-founders. I would have also starved in the process – or lived exclusively on cup noodles (well, not the entire time because some of my friends adopted me – that’s another story for another day!). 

But of course, while my bosses were super kind and supportive, I also had to do my share. Here are some of the lessons I have learned when keeping a full-time job + starting a side hustle that you eventually want to transition to a full-time thing: 

1) Don’t shortchange the company/organization that supports you and provides you with the flexibility to do your side hustle/passion project. While there may be times when your mind will be filled with possibilities for your side hustle, always be present (physically and mentally), responsive, and give your 100%. A good work ethic does not just apply to your side hustle/passion project.

2) Maintain good relationships with the people you have worked with. 

3) Inform your bosses and the people you work with, about your side hustle especially if you expect it to take more time to do. Supportive bosses will help you figure out a good schedule that works for both of you. Stick to this schedule! 

4) When it’s time to leave your job, be decisive so that the company you are working for could immediately move forward, and do a proper turn-over

5) If there are things that your previous job would need from you weeks, even months after your resignation, be generous with your time and talent. Generosity goes a long way and will definitely be remembered and appreciated! 

6) Before you start your own company, figure out how you can build a great culture and a supportive environment that enables others to pursue their passions too! It will not be the easiest thing, especially when you have critical priorities and your company needs focus. But it could be done in baby steps, starting with flexible hours, creativity days, one-on-one sessions with your team members, and other small initiatives that could enrich your company and encourage your team. 

Starting something is not just dependent on the entrepreneur’s grit or hustle.

I have read hundreds of pages of books and blogs about being an entrepreneur. There are tips about hustling, being gritty, not giving up, focusing on the mission, and other really sound advice. But starting something is not just dependent on the entrepreneur’s grit or hustle. New things, including start ups, are nourished by an enabling environment with nurturing mentors and leaders. It is important to identify them, seek them out, and engage with them.

I would not be here without them. 

So here is a shoutout, a long-overdue thank you, to the mentors and leaders who made it possible for us to get this far.:) Thank you Fr Ben Nebres, Dean Tony La Vina, Arnel Casanova, and Harvey Keh! 

Life Hack: My 5 Question Guide to Shopping with Intention

A few years ago (maybe about 4 years ago?), I decided that even if my work is fashion-related, I won’t be too fashion conscious to the point of stressing over what to wear every day (and obsessing over not repeating clothes ever). I did not want to spend my life, or at least my mornings, looking through a closet full of clothes but still conclude that I have nothing to wear. This meant that every single piece I own should be intentional. So I told myself that I won’t buy trendy and flaky fashion on a whim, I’ll be more conscious of where I buy and why, and I’ll have clothes that I could repeat over and over again (and mix and match with each other) with pride and joy!

It was not easy.

It was not easy partly because I don’t like shopping. I usually know what I want in a store, I make a beeline to where it is, then buy it if I like it. I never liked browsing around. I do that in bookstores. Because shopping was (still is) such a chore for me, there were times when I got too lazy to fit clothes (which is a mistake!) and end up getting stuff that don’t fit well. So I do end up with a few pieces of clothes and shoes that I bought without much thought (or without fitting) or I got as gifts, but are not really my style (or don’t fit well too).

After a few years of trying (selling clothes, selecting only the pieces I love, sticking to a colour palette, etc.), I finally found a formula that works for me. I wrote this in my personal journal a while back and keep a copy of it in my Notes so I could use it as a guide every time I shop.

Before formulating my 5 questions, I identified the following first:

  • Where do I spend the most time in my life? My answer: R2R office, events, meetings, family gatherings 
  • What styles of clothes will fit these appropriately? My answer: business casual, smart casual, casual, some dressy outfits but not a lot 
  • What’s my colour palette? My answer: neutrals, stripes, and a few pastels (I made a Pinterest board for this that I can refer to when I need to shop) 
  • Most recent question: Is there anything I would like to try or experience in the next few months that would need a few more items in my wardrobe or I should consider for my current capsule wardrobe? My answer: I’m pregnant and I would like to do pre-natal Pilates/Yoga! I won’t buy any maternity dresses so my wardrobe should fit me until after I give birth AND I also need some work-out clothes/shoes 

So here are my 5 questions before buying that dress/top/bottom/shoes:

  1. Is it in my colour palette? If it’s not, will it fit my colour palette? 
  2. Will it match at least 5 things I already own? – this is a tough one! I usually imagine 5 of my favorite tops or bottoms before buying another top or bottom to make sure that the one I’m about to buy will look great with most if not all of them. I also imagine the bags + shoes I already own with the whole configuration.  
  3. Can it be dressed up or down? – a defining criteria for me because I need the clothes to be as flexible as possible! 
  4. Is it of great quality and fabric? – I check the stitch count and quality of fabric 
  5. Is it made in a sustainable way? – As much as possible, I choose brands that are known for more ethical practices and higher quality fabrics (so they are not disposable)  
  6. Can I use it for the new experience I’m going through? In my case, pregnancy! 

Do you have more tips and questions you ask yourselves before buying something? I would love to learn from you too! =) 

9 Reasons Why I Started Blogging Again

1) I have finally recovered from my previous blog trauma called Multiply – guess what my username was? PAXANGELUS. WHY. 

I used to have a Multiply blog that is so well updated with all kinds of random ramblings. I talked about politics, love, life, religion, movie reviews, and everything in between. But my favorite (NOT) parts of this blog were my “blind items” and passive aggressive posts about my crushes and some people I know. CRINGE. Before Multiply closed down (THANK GOODNESS), I saved all of these entries and secured them in a multiple password protected and authenticated place that I alone could access and read, in case I just want to beat myself up or laugh at my younger self. And no, I am not yet ready to share all of them again. hahaha 

So yes, I was traumatised with my own younger voice. I feel like a Tita cringing at the status messages and posts of her teenage niece. I did not want to write in public again because I was afraid that I will go back to these after a few years and find out that I was not as smart as I thought I was. 

Like this particular passive-aggressive entry:

PaxangelusMultiply

Before I saved this, I edited all of the blog entries to be private (thus, the “for you” note) because I just could not risk anyone else copying them for future blackmailing purposes! And to my three friends who commented, why didn’t you tell me this was a bad idea?!


But recently, I realised that even if I still cringe every time I read my past entries, I should accept them as part of who I am and what made me who I am today. We all have pasts that we are not entirely proud of (right? right? Come on!), but these should not keep us from moving forward and being better.

OH! and I also realised that my past blog entries were meant to be just cathartic. And to a certain extent, personal blogs that are written for catharsis could provide insight and value for others. But I thought that I should expand beyond unintentionally providing value. So now, instead of just having this blog for cathartic reasons (that is still part of it!), my intention is to also learn, contribute, and create valuable and useful content. I have lined up a lot of entries for the next few weeks and even months and proud to say that none of them are blind items or passive aggressive entries! I’m so proud of myself. haha 

2) My twice a month personal emails to R2R advocates

So recently, I have been writing personal emails to our R2R advocates. When we first started doing this, I was kind of hesitant because I thought I would run out of things to say or share. But we are a few months into this now and my mind is still overflowing with stories and new ideas! I’m sure there will be times when I’ll experience some blocks, but as long as there are people, little things to be thankful for everyday, and small victories to celebrate, we’ll not run out of inspiring stories. 

3) Traffic and erratic internet access 

Cheers to finding silver linings! Because of our terrible traffic situation, I find myself on the road longer. And because of erratic mobile internet, I could not answer emails/work/get on calls efficiently while stuck in traffic. Luckily (?), I have audio books and podcasts (all downloaded for offline listening) and my journaling app works great even when offline! So lots of time on the road + erratic mobile internet = lots of time staring out the window, listening to books and podcasts, and getting hit by lots of ideas that I could immediately record in my journal (Day One).

4) My Day One Journal 

Thanks (?) to traffic and erratic internet connection, my Day One is filled with random thoughts, status messages that I wanted to post but did not, and some pretty cool insights that surprise me too when I read them again. I realised that I could be really weird & incoherent, but at times, I make sense. haha

5) Mocha Unson Blog

I know, I know! Okay, hear me out. I have never read her blog thoroughly and I would not repost her blog entries as “credible news” and examples of “authentic journalism”. But like it or not, she has a voice. And she’s not shy about reminding anyone who would listen. And so I thought, if Mocha Unson could blog, anyone should be able to. In fact, more people should! I know a lot of amazing people who are smart, insightful, thorough, and objective, who could make some noise too. If we have people who contribute to the chaos, we need more people to contribute to the clarity.

6) Mar Roxas, the travel and food blogger

His blog is seriously adorable. And he’s a Tito, with Tito jokes and all.

While I was overthinking and second guessing myself and everything I put out into the world, he was confidently incorporating corny puns and jokes into his captions and sentences. I don’t want to be a boring Tita when Mar Roxas is a funny Tito. Please.

7) Arriane Serafico 

I still sometimes can’t believe that we’ve been friends for less than 5 years (according to Facebook though, we have been Facebook friends since May 2010! What?!)! This woman inspired me, ate with me (but like, 10x faster), listened to me, and planted crazy ideas inside my head (the good kinds, sometimes). We have been through a LOT, traveled together, slept on one Hello Kitty bed for a few nights, and shared personal stories of hardships and hope.

And now, she’s venturing into something she has always been great at: teaching and empowering others to achieve their personal goals! I could attest to how great she is when it comes to this and would recommend her class to anyone who would like to set meaningful goals and design their lives!

Being her friend has been very inspiring and her go-getter vibe is infectious! So here I am, go-getting (if there is such a term – there should be)! 

Arriane_Serafico

Screen grabbed from: arrianeserafico.com

8.) Our R2R Team & Artisans

Working with a group of inspiring people with amazing stories is just rejuvenating! We talk about weird and mundane things too, but a lot of our conversations are also enriching and thought-provoking. We talk about our artisans, advocates, positive impact, sustainable design ideas, love (yes!), politics (oh, you should hear us!), creativity, innovations, and many more. Some of my Day One entries are based on our conversations too. So in a way, I’ll be sharing the behind-the-scenes of a social enterprise with a group of passionate people talking about world-changing ideas!

9) And finally, my conversations with my husband


My husband Mark is pretty smart. That’s an understatement actually. He has this natural curiosity & interest in others that I wish I have too! I’m learning!

Fortunately for me, I get to talk to him a lot. We are almost always together every single day, and we have the same values and hopes for ourselves, our family, and our country. I am always learning when I’m with him, which means that I’m always learning.

A lot of the things I log on my Day One came from my conversations with him. We talk about philosophy, ideas, innovations, theology, psychology, the best Tonkatsu place, super heroes, Rags2Riches, Hapinoy, inequality, politics, lyrics of songs that he always messes up, travel, our upcoming baby, and anything and everything we can think of (and we have really itchy minds)! 

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Hihihi #Kilig 

So there! Because of all my “influences”, here are some of the topics to expect from my blog:

  • Ideas – I’ll “give away” some ideas that I hope to see in the world one day
  • Travel stories
  • Life Hacks – mommy stuff that I’ll learn as I go along, productivity hacks I have tried (and worked for me),  and other tips that I could not think of right now but I’ll learn in the future
  • Art stuff – art that inspire me, art I made, etc.
  • Behind-the-scenes of R2R
  • Insights on life, love, some politics, philosophy, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, and more!

6 Preggy Tips for the first 6 Months

I sometimes still can’t believe that I’m 6 months pregnant! This is my first time so I’m definitely not an expert in anything. Being the control freak that I am (yes, I admit it), I was very uncomfortable with not knowing things. HUHUBELLS.

I am thankful to my mommy friends who messaged me, answered my weird questions, and just supported me through this very confusing yet exciting time in my life.

So compiling the tips from my mommy friends + my measly 6 months experience, I have put together 6 things I have learned so far so that 1.) I don’t forget for my next pregnancy, 2.) I could possibly help other moms-to-be who are as clueless as I am (or as I was), 3.) My son could read this in the future and appreciate me even more (haha Hi Miguel Joaquin!)

1.) Choosing an OB GYN – this was more tricky for me than I expected. I have NEVER visited an OB in my life. It was part of my “challenge list” last year especially when we started planning for a baby towards the end of last year but I never got to it because a.) I was scared, b.) I was scared so I made myself believe I was too busy.

See, I’m not afraid of many things. I am not afraid of heights, snakes, spiders, the dark, cramped spaces, repeating patterns, eating alone, strangers, public speaking, etc. But I have (had! More on that next time) a debilitating (and borderline irrational) fear of needles and medical procedures.

So when I was looking around for an OB, I asked my friends these very specific questions: “Will she inject me?”, “Will she do pap smear right away?”, “Do I really need trans vaginal ultrasound?”. I did say my fears were irrational!

When I met my first OB, she was a bit dismissive of my fears and was really no-nonsense. I’m sure that works for a lot of people, but it did not make me feel at ease. My second OB was the complete opposite! She acknowledged my fears but thoroughly explained why I needed to go through all the medical procedures for my baby. She was patient, kind, but also very direct. I found my OB soulmate!

When choosing an OB, I realised how important it is to be confident and comfortable with the doctor, and not just to have an OB for the sake of needing one. Pregnancy and giving birth, especially for first time moms, could be overwhelming and scary. It really helps that the doctor you see every month is someone you look forward to seeing, who can answer your questions, acknowledge your fears, and could patiently explain things to you.

2.) To Maternity Clothes or not to Maternity Clothes – thanks to Bianca Gonzalez-Intal’s blog post on Pregnancy Must-Haves, I was a bit more informed and confident about my choice to not get any Maternity clothes. I also arrived at that decision because I really really dislike waste and things that don’t last a long time (like maternity clothes that I’ll only be wearing for a few months in my life – yes, even through multiple pregnancies if ever). Even before pregnancy, I maintained a very streamlined closet of pieces I absolutely love. I only have a few pieces on rotation and they all come together well. I don’t waste time staring at a closet full of clothes and say “I have nothing to wear”.

But the reality was that my tummy was growing, so of course, not all of those clothes (um, like crop tops) could stand the test of the next few months. I had to set aside budget and strategically shop for clothes that will fit my growing belly and will still fit and look great after giving birth.

Luckily, I found great brands that I LOVE! My criteria – 1.) I could dress them up or down, 2.) They are comfy and could fit and even flatter my baby bump, 3.) They could be used when breastfeeding, 4.) I could still wear them with joy and pride after giving birth and getting back in shape, 5.) Great quality and workmanship, 6.) BONUS (we need more options!) if they are made using sustainable materials, support causes, adheres to fair trade standards.

A few of the brands I love (price range for most of the blouses and dresses PHP 900 – PHP 4000):

Elin.ph – they specialise in Maternity and Nursing clothes that are stylish and flexible enough to be worn even after pregnancy! My must-have here is the foldover leggings. I got them and wore them during my first trimester (so hardly any bump yet) and they really look like your ordinary leggings. Now that my bump has grown, these leggings are still my best friends (I got a few pairs). I could wear them with tunics or long blouses without looking frumpy.

Anika – this talented young designer (Anika Martirez) designs and makes clothes that are easy, breezy, and light. She does not specifically design for pregnant women but this pregnant woman (and the baby) LOVES her pieces!

Uniqlo – I love the straight cut dresses with pockets and the midi dresses that I could wear with or without a belt depending on my bump!

Harlan + Holden – So I just recently found out that this is a Filipino company! If I knew that earlier, I would have shopped there already! At least I know now. Their pieces are easy to match, easy to wear, and still very stylish. And it seems like a lot of their pieces could fit the bump too!

3.) Mommy Snacks – I love snacking. When I got pregnant though, snacking was no longer just a nice-to-have, it became a requirement. And because I kind of grew up eating a lot of the bad stuff (cup noodles, high MSG snacks, dirty ice cream, street food), I found it really hard to eat the healthier stuff. As in I feel deprived and sad every time I choose a banana over cup noodles. But I choose the healthier alternatives anyway because of my baby. So when I got introduced to Mommy Treats through The Parenting Emporium, I felt like I won the lottery! Their snacks are REALLY good, and not the “It tastes good for a healthy product” token kind of good. They are really delicious! AND, they are calorie controlled and have ingredients that could help increase milk supply.

If you have more tips and brands for healthy (but delicious, please consider delicious) snacks for moms and moms-to-be, do comment below or message me through social media (any, except Twitter, I still can’t get the hang of that).

4.) Traveling while pregnant – I am really lucky to have a relatively easy pregnancy. No recurring morning sickness, no cravings, no headaches, and no dizziness. Even before we found out that we were having a baby, I already had 2 US trips scheduled. Mark and I were very cautious so we visited our OB to get clearance for the trips. Both OBs we visited were not concerned about the trips after examining me and the location of the baby in my womb (among other things that I can’t explain as well as they did).

The first US trip was okay because I was with Mark and a few other entrepreneurs, thanks to our PLDT Be the Boss Award (R2R was a finalist for social entrepreneurship). But the second trip was a bit concerning as I was going to travel alone.

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No jumping for me!

I gathered all the tips I could from mommy friends like Patty Laurel-Filart, who I bombarded with lots of travel questions (thanks Patty!). Here are a few tips for those who plan to travel while pregnant:

  • Get clearance from your doctor! Better be safe especially when you have a more delicate pregnancy
  • Wear comfy clothes and comfy shoes that you could easily move around in
  • Choose an aisle seat – very important since you’ll be making frequent trips to the restroom
  • Bring snacks! If you don’t like airline snacks, bring comfort snacks that are healthy and delicious (yup, very important to me)
  • Ask for help, especially when traveling alone. Even when my bump was not yet too obvious then, I would ask strangers to help me with my bags. People are generally more protective and caring when they find out you are pregnant. =)
  • Don’t forget to bring all your vitamins + just-in-case prescription from your OB in case you get sick abroad

5.) Eating for two – Don’t eat for 2 full sized human beings! haha I know it goes without saying but lots of people around you might remind you that it’s okay to eat more (a lot more) because you are eating for 2! My OB reminded me that while it’s true that I’m eating for two, the other one I’m eating for is very small. My son does not need that extra rice. I also don’t need that extra rice. You don’t want a super big baby that is hard to push out and you don’t want to gain the extra pounds that will be harder to lose after the baby comes out (not to mention the other health considerations when gaining too much)

6.) Handling advice (solicited and unsolicited) – Another tough one! Lots of well-meaning people will be giving you advice once they find out that you are expecting. It means that they care for you and there were things that worked for them that they want to share with you. It is easy to get overwhelmed, guilty, and anxious with the deluge of well-meaning tips (like this blog entry for example!). But when all is said and done, it is still your pregnancy, your journey. You could listen to advice, read all the books, attend all the seminars, and google everything (another tip: google does not have all the answers), but if you feel inadequate or anxious because of all the standards you feel you have to reach as a new mom, your journey will be a tougher one. And it may not be good for you or your baby. So make sure that you follow the advice that makes you feel at peace, happy, and at ease! Listen to your body and your baby! You guys are in this together after all. =)

Good luck to all of us!

On Creative Insecurities

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Have you MET Monet?


I have always been an artist. But I have rarely owned the title, term, profession, vocation, or identity. I make art but I did not identify myself as an artist. And why? You might be familiar with the reasons: 

  1. I am not good enough. Every time I make something, I look around me and there is something better, deeper, more profound (and this, incidentally, is also one of the reasons why I did not pursue singing or writing either – because there is someone out there who is just better)
  2. I am not technically skilled in art
  3. I don’t have a story to tell with my creations
  4. I feel like a fake. I look online and offline for inspiration, but really, I feel like I’m just copying
  5. I end up not liking most of my creations

A few months ago, I started painting like crazy again. I drew my inspiration from unusual places, from personal stories, and from in-the-moment feelings. And also! I got reminded of the many many museums I have visited or researched – the pieces that fascinated me the most, aside from the well-made ones, are the ones that told strange and real stories. Art is not just about technical skill. Art pieces are pieces of souls and stories that fascinate us and stir us in some way.

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Okay fine, this is a Monet! But look at that big chunk of yellow paint. Was that intentional? I’m not sure (I would like to believe no). But it makes the piece so much more interesting and human!


Not good enough? Not technically skilled? Not creative enough? Create anyway. Create for yourself first. Create to tell the story inside you that you may not yet be aware of. Every mistake, every wrong colour combination, every single piece, is a story of you, where you are, your learning, your journey. If you end up not liking what you have created, keep it anyway. Write a little note about it. Put it in a drawer. And one day, go back to it. Read what you wrote, look at your creation. THAT is part of your story.

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I was not sure what I was painting when I started. I just used a palette knife and tried to channel my inner Monet. It is not quite Monet and it does not have to be. It is my own story and that is good enough. 🙂


Others may make better art or technically better. But they are not you. They are telling their stories. You can tell yours too. And it is yours. Uniquely yours.

This has helped me SO MUCH in creating art again, singing again, writing again, starting things again. It is tough to be tough on myself and aim for perfection all the time. I think there is such a thing as perfection paralysis when you would rather not do anything than do something imperfect. 

Great things are not made that way. In fact, great things do not happen at all when things don’t get started in the first place.