Monday, February 2, 2009

Stressed Out With Work & School?

And so am I! Help!

I told myself- the best person who can help me most is nobody else but me. Am I making sense here? I figured, after observing myself for years and people all around me, that we truly do create most of our own stresses, joys and heartaches. What makes me uptight or happy is how I perceive and respond to situations.

For instance, these past few days, I have tons of things to do - work deadlines and four papers to complete this month so I'll graduate next month.

Here's how I tried to help myself...

Exercise: I exercised this morning (did leg and arm stretches) and this afternoon (light aerobics). It cleared my head so I could think more coherently and come up with a better itinerary for my new boss. The light aerobics this afternoon courtesy of eased the minor aches in my shoulders for doing computer work all day. I tried Spark People's 15 minute desk workout and I felt much better. Go try it sometime; it's fairly easy.

Delegate: There are so many nitty gritties to this itinerary - coordinating with people in 3 countries in such a short time-that I can't do it and still have time for my other work deadlines and make some headway on my school papers. So I was compelled to think of who can possibly help me with the coordination when I have no staff? Well, I realized that if I think hard enough, there are people in each country whom I can request to take care of certain things. I did that this afternoon-requested help in completing various details.

Essential vs Urgent: It's a daily battle with the "urgent" screaming for attention. Hey Abby, sit up and think! Take time to differentiate between what's essential and what's urgent. Taking time for solitude and exercise is essential. Washing clothes, sweeping the floor and fixing the clutter in the cupboard are "urgent." They can wait till the weekend.

Hugs, sunsets and kittens: Take a break from work and let someone give me hugs - my hubby or friends. This afternoon I opened the front door and caught glimpses of the setting sun. Before those glimpses, I watched our kitten play. And pretty soon the hugs will come...

Saturday, January 31, 2009

What Parenting Is Not

There was so much more that I learned from Amy, the stay at home mom, I met at the 8-hour queue last Thursday. I did ask for her permission to share on my blog some of the things she confided to me.

For Amy, parenting is not, asking older children in the family to be responsible for their younger siblings. Amy came from a family of 13 children in an impoverished village; she was the 7th child. She was responsible for taking care of one younger sibling. She also helped with household chores. She sadly recalled her particular chore as a grade schooler: "As soon as I got home, I would quickly set aside my school bag and take off my uniform, change my clothes and feed the pigs. I did not have much time to play. I never really experienced what it was to be a 'child.'

For Amy, parenting is not, letting the kids fend for themselves. Unlike her two boys who are experiencing what it's like to have a mother who prepares their lunch box, tutors them, and joins them in their field trips, Amy studied on her own. Her mother had to earn a living and there were other children to take care of. Yet, Amy did quite well in school that a medal awaited her at graduation day. Unfortunately, both her parents could not make it.

"Perhaps that was my destiny," Amy said. "I promised myself that when I had my own family, things would be different."

Despite a meager income, Amy makes sure that her sons get to join their school's field trips. She helps them out with their lessons, plays with them, assigns them light chores like washing the dishes, and ensures that they only watch TV one hour each day.

Amy believes that her concerns should extend beyond her family. So she volunteers at the city government's feeding program and bring her boys along once in a while. "I want them to realize that they are better off than other children, even if we are also poor. And I think they are catching on. Once my younger boy, shared his lunch with his schoolmate who had no food."

How many Amys are there in this country?

I don't know, but for sure her story lifted my spirit. It renewed my faith in God and in the resilience of the Filipinos amidst the widespread poverty and helplessness.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What's So Hard About Being a Stay-at-Home Mom?

Can something remotely meaningful emerge out of a 8-hour queue?

Lining up for two successive days at the Social Security System office is not my idea of a meaningful day. But it had to be done. Yesterday I was in line for 3 hours and today it was 8 hours.

Today I met Amy (not her real name), a stay-at-home mom with two boys in grade school - a 10 year old and an eight year old.

Amy recalled how her husband told her that being a housewife is easy. She can do household chores and rest when she needs to. Budgeting is not that difficult as she makes it out to be. Though she vehemently disagreed, Amy kept mum.

Then some months later, her husband lost his job, so Amy had to work, while her hubby stayed at home. He took care of the kids and did the household chores. He also took charge of the budgeting. After a few weeks of being a stay-at-home dad Amy's husband said, "It's so hard staying at home and taking care of the kids. How about resigning from your job and let me work instead?"

What were Amy's thoughts about all these?

"The experience was good for my husband. It gave him a better understanding of what wives do when they're at home...Wives must attend to a lot of things; they have to learn to multitask. Men tend to focus on a single thing- their job."

I wonder what men have to say to Amy's observation, and what other women have to say.

What do you think: Are women more inclined to multitask than men?

Monday, January 26, 2009

This Way to Burma...

Water puddles, muddy side roads, sidewalks stained by red betel nut juice. This too is Burma (Myanmar)to me.

But what I treasure is memories of the children of Burma. Kids with organic cooling tanaka on their faces. Kids for whom wood and plastic blocks are a novelty. Kids whose parents can only afford to put steamed rice in their lunch boxes, so the school takes care of their meat or veggie dish.

Many of Burma's children are undernourished, so it's fairly common to see children who are stunted and underweight.Nutritious meals are beyond the reach of many poor families who subsist on rice porridge, and so is safe water. In the community where these photos were taken, water must be boiled. Cooking gas is too expensive for many families and firewood is a scarce resource, so the poor must make do with unboiled, unsafe water.

Despite these limitations, these kids' parents strive to send them to school because they value education. More than half however of the 80% of children who are enrolled do not complete primary school.

My friends and I do what little we can and personally I am grateful for the chance to help. Yet I feel like I'm standing on the shore of an endless sea of needs. Feelings of helplessness and inadequacy do set in. Many times. Far too often than I prefer. But because we are part of a big community of people and organizations helping the people of Burma, we refuse to lose hope.

We keep on.."one child at a time."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Surviving Trips Abroad: From Neophyte Me

To this day it still amuses me no end that I ended up with jobs that require me to travel. For one, I have no sense of direction. Also, there's not a drop of wanderlust in me:I could stay inside the house for 2 weeks and enjoy it.

I like helping people, however, and I find such pleasure in meeting people from other cultures. After several years of lugging my suitcase through airports, I am a little more adventurous than I used to be. But only 3 of those years have been spent traveling overseas, so I'm still new at this.

That's why I still resort to some kind of self-deception to make it through several days of being away from home and speaking English from morning till night. My first language is Filipino so speaking English for many days turns me a bit claustrophobic!

I flew to Burma (Myanmar) recently and that trip compelled me to hone my survival skills again. How did I do it?

Confession time!

Here's what I did...

Rearranged hotel room: Draped the bedside table with a cream cloth (the hotel's laundry bag);placed the orchid from Thai Airways on a black ceramic ash tray (the hotel's too)- my idea of a floral arrangement. Voila! It felt a little more like home.

Celebrated with the local people: The nationals I work with did such a fine job on our joint project so we went out and had a sumptuous dinner, snapped pictures,shared some laughs.

Brought pictures of those I love: Tucked into my wallet were pictures of my hubby, my kid sister and her daughter. It seemed like they were in Burma too.

Drafted my next blog what I did on January 11th. I eagerly waited for the next chance to visit an internet cafe or the next time there would be electric power in a city plagued by frequent power failures so I could publish my post. But I had to wait till I was home and had some rest. So here...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Why Blog Indeed! They Said...

Seven people have graciously taken the effort to reply to my probe: "Why blog?"

Here's a quick rundown of the answers that were given. Check this out if what prods you to blog is in this list; if not, let me hear from you too:

  • Meet friends, interact (most frequently mentioned)
  • Self examination
  • Vent out frustrations
  • Spread awareness on health issues
  • For fun
  • Chance to write
  • Earn money
  • Track financial goals
  • Make people aware of one's country
To all those who have responded to my query, "Thanks a lot!"

It's been almost two weeks since my last post. I sorely missed blogging but there was so much work to do, I had no time to make my posts. Even then I manage to make drafts and turn over some ideas in my mind which you will be reading about in the coming days.

I am back at blogging with a vengeance ha ha

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Why Blog???? Or Why Not?!

Being a newbie with blogging and wondering if I am making wise use of my precious time, I did some soul searching: Why do I blog?

Well, I like to write but having a full time job limits my writing to technical writing - reports, project proposals, letters. So blogging stirs have my repressed creativity. Writing anonymously gives me the courage to articulate ideas, convictions, impressions that I would not dare share with strangers one on one. I feel some exhilaration as well in taking this risk like in yesterday's blog when I dared to make some political statement. Quite tepid but a step away from political apathy.

And of course, I get a thrill from having my blogs read and commented on! Who doesn't?! Maybe there are- those who are much more self-contained than the average lot like me.

And lastly, I never realized how enriching blogging can be in terms of getting information in a more personal way, seeing life and the world through a myriad of perspectives and cross-culturally at that!

I wonder about other bloggers, why do they blog? What kind of motivation would prod someone to wrack his brains, bare her soul and expend precious hours blogging? Is there a downside to this?