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The Year of Living Brilliantly

By Jing Lejano

 

When we started the Smart Super Women blog exactly one year ago, we never thought that we’d play witness to daredevil feats of adventures. We wanted to hear inspiring stories of mothers, daughters, sisters, warriors, peacemakers, intellects, vamps, homemakers, career rats, readers, adventurers, and dreamers who were going through their everyday lives. But we didn’t think that they’d do so with such daring and gumption.

Take the case of Mari-An Santos, a cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines. We happily read about her trips to Thailand, when she suddenly revealed that she was packing her bags and moving to Romania! She had received a grant to pursue her Master’s degree in that European country. In her latest entry, she writes, “Studying in a foreign land has not only opened my eyes to the reality that I am a citizen of the world, it has made me appreciate my being Filipino all the more. Even as I learn about other peoples, cultures, and places, I have learned to value home even more.”

A collection of personal essays for and by women, the Smart Super Women blog was created to inspire its readers to tackle everyday challenges with courage and to work for the fulfillment of their dreams with conviction.

Most of the contributing writers are working mothers with school-aged children. They discuss such topics as careers and children, literacy and education, family and friends, and the quest for self-improvement. Because the writers contribute on a regular basis, readers have seen them tackle different challenges, resulting in a very interesting read.

There’s newspaper editor Gina Abuyuan, who never got around to traveling alone when she was single, but who finally had the nerve to roam the streets of Chiang Mai all by her lonesome now that she is “older, tougher, not afraid to tell someone off.” Her latest solo trip had her enjoying the sound of waves crashing at a beach side resort in the provinces. Oh, and may we add that she also recently opened a pub together with her life partner and some friends?

Of course, the adventures aren’t always of the adrenaline-pumping kind. Sometimes, we see these women finding epiphany in a cup of coffee shared with friends, in the few hours they sweat it out in the gym, or in the few minutes they spend with their children as they drive them to school.

But whether they’re raising their kids in the Philippines like writer Ruth Floresca, who’s a work-at-home mom to four boys, or juggling their time between career and home in Australia like editor Lyra Pore, who gets up at five in the morning to bring her daughters to the day care center, these women always find creative ways to make every opportunity a learning experience.

Ruth goes on date nights with her sons as a way of catching up with what’s going on in their lives. She writes, “It’s a continuous process, this getting to know one’s children because they grow up so fast and I don’t want to wake up one morning to find out that I don’t know anything about them anymore.”

Lyra Pore Villafana takes swimming lessons as a way of relaxing from the challenges of living an immigrant’s life. “Life overseas is so different to what we’ve all been used to… But doing something for oneself isn’t unique to Asian moms coping with the stresses of building a new life in a different country.”

Maridol Bismark bombards her sons with questions to learn her way in the digital world. She writes, “I work for an online entertainment portal. Every day, I am exposed to words and phrases that are just starting to make sense to me…I feel like a child lost in a newfangled world, groping for a hand to guide me. Fortunately, the hand belongs to the boy who appreciates everything that I’ve done and will still do for him.”

As these women continue on their journey to live, love, and learn in the modern age, Smart Super Women will be right alongside them, watching their every step, hoping to inspire others to live as fearlessly and as brilliantly as they do.

 

 

Love is Love

By Jing Lejano

Baby S wasn’t feeling well the other day. She woke up with a fever and slept the entire morning. When I visited her in the afternoon, all cuddled up in bed with a blanket, she held my arms and said, “Lula, sit.” And so, despite the fact that I was in the middle of deadlines, I sat with Baby S and eventually cuddled up to her until she fell asleep.

A couple of hours later, just before sunset, Baby S was feeling much better. She was able to eat, watch a little TV, and play with my son K. But when it was time for bed, she didn’t want to leave our house. She insisted on going upstairs with Lula. And so we climbed up the stairs to my room, she with her milk and her “pampin” (her nappies, which is her security blanket of sorts) and me with my book and a glass of water.

We lay on the bed together, she with her arms around a stuffed toy tiger and me with my arms around her. We were just in bed, enjoying each other’s silent company.

I’ve done this very thing, maybe a million times before—with my daughter E, when her playmate pushed her on the balustrade and had to have a head wound stitched; with my son F, when he had another bout with bronchitis; with my son S, when he was generous enough to give his vacation slot to his younger brother; and with my youngest son K, when he had another one of his scary dreams.

When my daughter E just had Baby S, I remember telling her that I don’t want to do anymore of the taking-care-of-baby stuff. I don’t want to change the diapers. I don’t want to play peek-a-boo. And I don’t want to take care of another sick baby.

Well, guess what? I’ve been doing exactly that. I can’t help it! I’m a mom. I’m a Lula. And I just wouldn’t be true to myself if I don’t cuddle up to dear Baby S. Love is love.

Sunday Shutdown

By Jing Lejano

Sometimes, six days is just not enough to finish all the things that I need to do for the week.

Apart from my usual writing and editing chores, which I do in the comfort of my bedroom, there are interviews to be done and shoots to be attended, sometimes in places not so very near. There are bills to be paid, mail to be answered, errands to be done, and papers to be sorted out.

There are dishes to be cooked, which will go straight to the freezer for the kids to reheat during the week. There are clothes to have laundered, water to have delivered, grass to have cut, and the kitchen roof that needs to have some sealant plastered over because of the incessant rain. There is my bedroom to be cleaned, which I always never do, unless I absolutely have to.

There are the four kids to take care of and looked after—although these days, they don’t need much taking care of as they could very well take care of themselves. There is the granddaughter to embrace, cuddle, and play with. There are family and friends to have lunch with, to chat with, to joke with, to cry out your heart with, and to laugh with all your might.

There are books to be read, movies to be seen, and music to listen and dance to. There are words to be written, pictures to be painted, and baubles to be made. There are my nails to be done, my hair to be colored, and my body to be kneaded into something like soft spaghetti.

Six days just ain’t enough to do all that, and so, on some Sundays, I have tried to my very best to cheat. I’ve tried tinkering with my desktop to see if I can get a little work done. But no matter how hard I try, no matter how great my resolve, I never accomplish anything substantive. It’s like my brain is wired to shut down on Sundays. And so, after a couple of hours of trying, I give up. I give in to the sacred rule of Sunday to relax and get some rest.

The Lord rested on the seventh day, who am I to argue with that?!

Saturday

By Jing Lejano

For several Saturdays now, I’ve found myself by my lonesome at home. Actually, I have not been so lonely for my granddaughter S has kept me good company. We’ve been playing with her doll house, eating ice cream, and watching cartoon movies.

As for my own kids, well, they’re off with their own lives. My two kids in college, E and F, have classes on Saturdays. My second son S, who’s in high school, has Citizen’s Army Training on Saturday mornings. However, he only comes home around dinner time as he usually spends the afternoons with his friends. My youngest son K also has stuff to do on Saturdays. He’s either off to a classmate’s house finishing a project or at the mall hanging out with his friends.

This is new territory for me. My kids and I usually spend Saturdays at home. Well, at least some of them or most of them, but never not all of them. We usually get up late in the morning and I’ll cook something nice for lunch. This would be followed by marathon sessions in front of the tube, watching the latest batch of movies.

My kids and I, we’re movie freaks. The boys and I, we love action and sci-fi adventures, usually those involving some journey to a galaxy far away. My daughter E loves gory horror movies, usually those involving somebody getting hacked to a million pieces. Sometimes, I can get them to watch cheesy romantic comedies, but not too often. We would watch and we would eat, and every so often, somebody would make a joke or two. Of course, we’re not always together. On some Saturdays, each of us would be occupied with our own projects, but we’d still all be home.

I suppose I am at the beginning of what’s popularly called the empty nest syndrome. You have these wonderful babies, bring them up into well-behaved children, and hopefully raise them into individuals with passion and purpose.

Raising these four kids has been one hell of an adventure filled with comedy, drama, romance, and yes, even action—the very same things that we used to enjoy on the tube every Saturday. Looking at them, I could only hope that I did right by them. I could only hope that I was able to teach them something about living and loving as they go off into their own adventures.

Mapping Me

Mapping Me

By Jing Lejano

 

The other week, I attended a mind mapping workshop with my friends from AHEAD Tutorial & Review Center. I’ve always been fascinated with this thinking tool, which challenges the user to think in a more free form manner.

I’m a writer and when I think, I do so in a linear fashion: one line after the next. In my planner, you’d see all sorts of lists, written neatly one bullet after another. Whenever I’d get one task done, I’d just put a little check beside the bullet and feel all good.

Whenever I’d see these mind maps that go every which way, I get a little intimidated. I ask myself, could I possibly think every which way like that as well?

But as Teacher Y explained mind mapping more clearly, I calmed down. Draw pictures. Use colors. Make the map that makes sense to you, she told us. It’s your map, she says, and you’re free wherever you want to go.

After the lecture, she asked each of us to make a mind map of who we are. At first, I didn’t know what to do but once I started drawing and doodling, there was no stopping me. It was like a whole new world opened up in that blank piece of paper. And it was liberating.

My map, which showed all the different roles that I play in my everyday life, looked a little cluttered and crazy, but it also seemed like a lot of fun. But more importantly, I realized that it was I who drew the map of my own life, and I am happy to be living it.

10 Things I Learned from Breastfeeding 4 Kids

By Jing Lejano

I breastfed all of my children. Yes, all four of them.

At the time, breastfeeding wasn’t the big thing that it is today. Still, I knew that I had to do it—something in my gut told me that breastfeeding was the way to go.

And so, in a span of six or seven years (I had my kids about two years apart), I always had a little babe suckling on my teat. And here’s what I learned from all those seemingly endless days and nights…

  1. Breastfeeding is still the best—and fastest—way to lose post-pregnancy weight. Forget about going on a diet. Breastfeeding your babe will help you shed those unwanted pounds. P.S. I was stick thin for most of those six or seven years.
  2. In the case of breastfeeding, size doesn’t matter. Just because you have big boobs doesn’t mean you’ll have lots of milk—and vice versa. I think milk production has more to do with supply and demand than anything else. Your breasts will produce as much milk as your baby needs, so it’s best to keep your baby suckling. If you do it less frequently, it’s sort of a signal to your body to produce less milk as well.
  3. Don’t ever forget to put on those nursing pads! When I started working, I’d sometimes forget to put on nursing pads. Lo and behold, I’d be in a meeting and I’d start feeling my milk come out, and I’d have to excuse myself and hurry to the bathroom. Boo!
  4. Gear up! When I say gear up, I mean get the proper underwear support. Your breasts are going to bloom like crazy. You have to give them proper support or else, it’s going to be such a pain.
  5. Yes, malunggay (moringa) helps! One of the first meals that my mom prepared for me after I gave birth was clam soup with lots of malunggay leaves. She told me that it would help increase my milk supply, and I believe it did. I also remember drinking lots of water then—I was always thirsty.
  6. Find the position that best suits you and your baby. Whether you’re sitting on your sofa or lying on the bed, you have to find that one position where you and your baby are most comfortable with—or else, it wouldn’t work.
  7. Make sure your baby feeds on both breasts. Otherwise, you’ll find the breast which hasn’t been completely drained aching. Ouchie!
  8. Your experience will be different with every child. Just because it was easy with your first child doesn’t mean it would be the same with the next. Every child is different; every breastfeeding experience is different. Don’t feel guilty if you’re having a hard time with your third child when everything went smoothly with the first two. That’s just the way it is.
  9. Some babies are just lazy. What can I say? Some babies just don’t like the experience all that much. OK, I might get some hate mail from fierce breastfeeding advocates, but when you’ve tried and tried for many days and many nights, and you could only make your baby suckle for a few minutes or so, don’t beat yourself up. Try pumping, putting your breast milk in a bottle, and then feeding baby. It’s the same thing.
  10. Don’t worry about how your breasts would eventually look like. When I was single, my breasts were firm and perky. When I got pregnant, they got big. When I started breastfeeding, the size of them just went crazy. But after breastfeeding my fourth child, I found my breasts, well, kind of depleted, and for a year or two, I felt like a flat-chested teenager. Today, I’m somewhere between my single and first pregnancy breasts—not so big, not so small, not as perky true, but just the size and shape I like. Coolness!

August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month.