The Bliss of Doing Nothing Together

The Bliss of Doing Nothing Together

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By Toni Tiu of Wifely Steps

It’s been tough for us lately. My husband and I have been working like crazy. In between multiple work commitments, we would have to see to household tasks. There’s laundry to sort, a grocery list to tick off, the occasional broken toy of our son’s that needs to be repaired. We’ve been kicking our days off pre-occupied with the tasks for the day ahead. It’s a shame to admit it, but the first thing we seem to do in the morning is check our own mobile phones. What should we accomplish today? By when should we do it? It’s become a crazy cycle, one that has taken a toll on spending quality time together.

So when joint free time comes up, like a rare Saturday morning when our son is sleeping in or our son spending a day at the mall with his grandparents, we seize it. What do we do? Where should we go? How long do we have? We begin cramming that precious free time with an activity outside the home, eager to make up for lost time. Let’s go watch this movie! Let’s visit that date place we haven’t gone back to in ages! Let’s paint a masterpiece together!

Some dates were successful (eating in places we like but we know our son dislikes). Some weren’t (We couldn’t agree on what movie to watch so we ended up roaming the mall… separately). Overall though, it got tiring. We got tired chasing time. We got tired trying to cram things we could do together in a limited amount of time. We got tired arguing about where we could go together — each of us had our own idea of quality free time which the other didn’t agree with. So most times, we ended up at home.

Tired with no agenda. Tired with the need to breathe separately, but together.

That’s when things began to look up.

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Finding Joy in Quiet Togetherness

We realized we could still spend time together without doing anything together. Being together was enough. That was what mattered the most.

We would be in the bedroom together – I would be reading a book while he would be putting a model figure together. There was no joint activity, and that was okay. There was love in the air even if we weren’t holding hands. We quietly revelled in each other’s presence. We were grateful for the quiet time we both needed to recharge individually, but still with each other.

On cool afternoons, we would walk around the neighborhood. There would be no need to fill in the quiet with conversations. Walking down the street, hand in hand, doing nothing else — that was enough.

When driving to the grocery or to the laundromat, we would sometimes just be quiet in the car. He would be concentrating on the road. I would be gazing out the window. But our hands would be together – his right hand on my left, and that would be enough. We knew we were headed to a place where chores would be our priority for that time. But at that very moment in the car, we were grateful to be together. We found joy in our quiet togetherness, made even more blissful knowing we were headed in the same direction together.

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Bliss can be found in doing nothing together, in simply enjoying the moment of quiet togetherness. Have you also experienced this kind of quiet joy in your relationships? Come share your thoughts and stories in the comments!

A day in our lives.

A day in our lives.

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I get some flak for my Instagram feed for some reason. I’ve heard of people saying it’s too nice to be real, that the photos aren’t realistic, that the whole #makeitblissful effort is just a fluffy, feel-good movement and nothing really important. Of course, it’s hurtful to hear comments like that, and to be written off as superficial and fake, when all I’m doing on Instagram is, really, just playing around with the way I take photos and what I take pictures of. Nothing more.

But I guess these reactions from some people are very telling of how we can be judged, simply from what we post online, especially photos. Photographs can tell you so many things about what a person is really like. With this in mind, photographer Lianne Bacorro and I found ourselves chatting over Instagram and on email about her latest photography offering, her “Day in The Life” photoshoot service.

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I loved the concept from the get-go. Lianne would go over the client’s location — usually their home, the preferable location — and just take photos of the family going about their day-to-day routine. There would be no styling, no props, no themes or anything. Whatever would be captured on the lens would be the subject’s real-life stories.

“By default, I’ve done a lot of “A Day in the Life” shoots whenever I travel with my family (esp. with my young nephews and nieces), so this is nothing new to me,” said Lianne when I asked her about this service. “I also love shooting candids so I’m very comfortable with this style. I’ve seen a lot of foreign blogs featuring “A Day in the Life” sessions, but I noticed there aren’t too many doing this locally, so I wanted to give it a try. I want to show that there is beauty in the everyday, that each seemingly ordinary day is special and beautiful in its own right.

“There is beauty in the everyday.” This is super-aligned with our belief here in Make it Blissful! I appreciate this approach to family photography, in particular. We’re often bombarded with heavily styled images of photoshoots that are planned from prop to hair accessory. Since our family isn’t fond of themes that are too flowery, frilly and fancy, we were totally on board with Lianne’s concept. We scheduled an afternoon shoot at our home and garden for sometime early February.

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“I’ve covered a lot of families/prenups that are into elaborately styled sessions. While I still love shooting styled sessions, I would also like to shoot sessions that focus more on the real emotions and unique personalities of the subjects and how the family members interact. Sometimes, the fancy outfits and the props would take away the attention from the subjects. These sessions also draw out more authentic expressions from the clients, since they are more relaxed and not pressured to smile for the camera. I think, years from now, clients would appreciate looking at these photos more since it is a more accurate representation of their family life.” — Lianne Bacorro

Lianne arrived, and I hadn’t even sorted out the house yet, nor had I showered or put on any makeup or gotten the kids ready. And I loved it! After sitting down to some drinks to talk things over, I just let Lianne start shooting whenever and wherever she felt like it. There were no planned areas, which means that everywhere you looked there was some little chaos going on: some spilled food here, a pile of boxes and random things there; magazines on the floor (on top of which was our electric fan); dishes in the kitchen sink and the dining room table. It was literally just a day in our crazy, working-from-home-with-two-kids lives in all its unglory.

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Looking at these photos makes me grateful all over again for our silly little family, our tiny simple home, and our little life together. There really isn’t much else I’d add to our lives (well, maybe some more travel, when we can afford to!). But when it comes to being “picture perfect,” for me it’s not about dressing up and styling our home for a photo shoot. It’s moments like these when we’re in our element that our best qualities are captured. So thank you, Lianne Bacorro Photography, for spending that afternoon with us. It really was some of the best fun we’ve had as a family! And these photos will last us forever, which is the best part of all.

Liann Bacorro is a Manila-based photographer specializing in a variety of lifestyle photography concepts. Connect with her via www.liannebacorro.com and her Instagram @photographybylianne

And then, I blinked.

And then, I blinked.

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Krista turned a year old two weeks ago. We celebrated simply, with a pizza lunch and cupcake candle-blowing with just her cousins, her aunts, uncles and grandparents. This isn’t a sappy birthday post as an ode to my daughter. It is, however, a post about the lessons she taught me this year and why I will forever be grateful for her. She has made me realize what a different woman I am from the woman I was before she came into my life. A better woman, I’d like to think, too.

The truth is, last year was one of the best years of my life as a mom, but one of the worst as a working woman. I had a rough time managing two kids, work, and our home. Since Krista isn’t the easiest baby to care for, being a high-need child, the way I did things went totally haywire. Before she was born, I was a working machine. I had it down pat; I was all making sure my family had homecooked and healthy meals each day, and that my clients were all content and taken care of. It was a source of pride for me to be able to juggle it all.

Oh, how smug, proud and pathetic was I! Haha! **I got reminded of this post from Sanctimommy on Facebook the other day, and how I used to think exactly the same way, before I had my second child. Shame, shame on me!**
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I had it in control up to Krista’s “sleepy days.” I’d gone through the magic of her gentle birth (an amazing and unforgettable experience), and I spent two weeks on a self-imposed maternity leave from work. When I felt rested and adjusted enough — about a week, I’d say —, I went back to work. I thought, “Well, she sleeps most of the time; feeding’s easy… I got this!”

God, I’d give anything to take back that naive declaration! Haha! Because at that moment, I began to see that I didn’t have things all together anymore. There were no more clockwork days for me. The machinery of a seamless work-from-home-and-anywhere day encountered hiccup after hiccup: hours on end of carrying and breastfeeding; sleepless nights, because the baby girl was a light sleeper and “nuzzler” who needed me beside her; interrupted or postponed Skype meetings and consultations because I had a crying, weepy baby attached to me like a roo.

I became hard on myself. I fell into the trap of “doing it all” when Krista was at one of her most needy stages, during her 9th to 10th month marks. I botched some projects, and totally screwed up my work life. I mentally tormented myself over these failures, and blamed myself for not being more vigilant, more concerned for the health of my work life.

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The proverbial cherry on top of a challenging year was my husband Ton having to force-resign from his job of 8 years, at the same time we decided to move out of our rental home of five years. (Incidentally, these events marked Krista’s 10th month.)

Whew. Reliving all that through this blog post is still tough. Sometimes I can still feel the burden of those few months haunting me. What a humbling year 2015 was. Full of endings that became new beginnings, thankfully! We’re still ambling through this new lifestyle of me being the one who is regularly working, and Ton pursuing his long-time desire to put up a coffee brand. I realize that years ago, I prayed that I would be able to earn enough income for Ton to quit his job and pursue entrepreneurship.

Well, it happened! It happened when Krista arrived. She was our answered prayer because we prayed to have a baby girl, but she also preluded the paradigm shift that happened. We’re a single income family now, living in a much smaller home, with much less stuff, and yet we’ve never been happier. We saved up enough to (1) still keep an emergency fund, (2) continue investing in our mutual funds, and (3) put capital into our new business, Shophouse Coffee Co. and KENDO Creative studio. So it wasn’t a setback, really, that Ton needed to force-resign! It was my prayer being answered! How mind-boggling is that?!

I have Krista to thank for this. She taught us that all we need is a big bed, a comfy couch where we could all cuddle up each day, a small kitchen filled with the food we like, and a way of life that is stripped of everything but the essentials.

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As I write this, work projects have been picking up again, after months of me needing to lay low for a while. During my time away from work, I was able to improve on a number of things, like my client modules and consulting workflow.I took stock of the mistakes I made with clients last year and adjusted the way I worked so that I can still be effective, even though I have two children to care for.

(By the way: I have a new workshop, too, my first-ever full day “writing intensive for bloggers.” If you’re interested in that, visit my Event page on Facebook: Write Blissfully.)

So, this is why I’d like to think that Krista’s first year on earth changed me for the better. Having a new baby and learning to love her more each day made me crave for a simpler, lesser way of life. I’ve never been busier as a mom, but Krista’s presence compelled me to slow down in the other parts of my life so that I could enjoy the blessing of having two kids. I’m taking on less work than I used to, but I don’t feel robbed of opportunities.  She made me — all of us — realize that what makes our work blissful is that we can design it to fit our lifestyle… and now, that means making our work work for us as a family of four.

I think that’s something to celebrate, don’t you?

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Happy birthday to my baby girl, Krista Valentina!

All is well.

All is well.

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Well, that year went by quickly, didn’t it? Which won’t be the case for this upcoming blog post. It will be looooong because I’m going to compound a “what-the-heck-I’ve-been-up-to” post and a “thank-you-2015” post. ‘Won’t blame you if you don’t stick around though, haha! No hard feelings!

Ok. So I haven’t been back to the blog since the beginning of December, which is by my standards a mortal sin. But the fact is, I just couldn’t manage to blog during the holidays.

Yesterday, I was at a meeting with my very good friends and fellow bloggers Frances and Ginger, and I admitted that I had let my blogging fall by the wayside this year. Make that blogging and work, since my work comes from my being a blogger. After a slew of teaching stints, workshops, collaborations and gatherings this mid- to late 2015, I was officially tired. That, and I was also completely rapt in motherhood and making a home.

It’s been a rough last part of 2015. Midway through the year (around July, I think), I started to feel different about everything: family, work, blogging, connecting. A lot of it had to two with being a mom of two, which is something I thought I could manage but clearly I could not, even if I tried to make things work. I discovered that my baby is a high-need child, which caught me completely off guard and sent me from a semi-type A-put-together personality into a hapless wreck. Seriously, everything pretty much got sidetracked because I couldn’t handle everything. It reached a point where I wasn’t delivering the results I should have for my clients, because I was trying to motherhood and work, well, work out.

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This year was an adjustment for me. I was humbled to the core by things not going the way I planned, by people losing their faith in me because I had let things go, by family situations that were beyond mine or Ton’s control.

*Takes a deep breath* It’s tiring just remembering it all!

Remember how I had great plans for 2015? How launching the Blissmakerie in late 2014 was so exciting? How building up the blog community would mean more opportunities for Make it Blissful to grow and touch others? Well, it all had to take a back seat to my biggest project, of course: my kids and my husband.

2015 was the year I wasn’t the blogger. I was MOM. Not mom blogger! Just “mom.” I can’t tell you how many days I lived (and still do) in yesterday’s house clothes or stretchy pants. I must have missed out on more toothbrushes and long showers than I ever have in my entire life. I learned how to write client projects and blog posts on my mobile phone, with a nursing baby on one arm (whose little frisky fat fingers would fiddle with my nipples). I lived in nursing clothes (thanks, Elin.ph!) and I maybe hit the salon twice in a span of ten months. I haven’t had a proper facial, body scrub, heck even a shower that’s lasted more than five minutes. On days when I can, I get a home service massage by my mom’s very able masseuse, and each time I do I need to tune out the baby’s cries for me with some spa music streaming from Spotify.

Goodbye, old home and blissful workspace! I still haven't set up my new one, huhu!
Goodbye, old home and blissful workspace! I still haven’t set up my new one, huhu!

Somehow I managed to shop for gifts for my immediate family, wrap them, even set up our Christmas tree. Prior to that, Ton and I managed to move out of our flat of five years into a new (though temporary) home, here in my family’s compound. It was a move prompted by common sense more than anything: My husband had force-resigned from his work at home job of eight years, and we would be a one-income household now. Paying rent didn’t make sense anymore! We had to act fast, think practically, live on less while setting up a small business we’d been wanting to launch this year but hadn’t. And so, the end of October/early November saw the launch of my husband’s new cold brew coffee business, Shophouse Coffee. Every time I think of Shophouse, I think about what pushed us to start it and I feel humbled, too. More than practicality, starting a business meant starting something from the ground up and making it thrive — nothing easy about this at all!

 

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Shophouse Coffee Co. is my husband’s new business. Please support it!

New, clingy but super cute and chubby baby. Two-kid situation. Unable to work efficiently for a straight hour. Unhappy clients. Sick days. Husband who lost job. Moving homes. A new business still finding its way. And peppered over all that, blog events, gatherings and workshops that I produced, one-on-one blog clients I mentored.

When I look back and reflect on all these — the things that made up my 2015 — I feel exhausted. I am also happy, but mostly humbled, sometimes sad, and always tired! The apparent setbacks, however, I’ve come to see as lessons: difficult ones, yes, but they have pruned me and have changed me for the better. I may not have fulfilled my intended projects and plans for 2015, but I gained experience through failures, obstacles, and trials of faith.

I still hold 2015 as one of my best years, even though it was filled with adjustments and changes, even losses and regrets. I needed them, even if I don’t understand why they had to happen. I’ll just begin again in 2016, right? New year, new hope. (Sorry for the Star Wars reference, haha! And yay, I got to watch the movie even if I paid for Krista’s ticket, hahaha!)

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Vito turned 6 and we had a Marvel-themed party, just a week into moving to our new home.

I’ll write again about 2016’s plans and intentions, but I just had to give you an update on what’s been going on. You can be sure I’ll write what I’ve been learning lately, especially about the move, the new business, the new things in store for the blog. Until then, I just wanted to wish you a happy Christmas and new year! (Yes, for Catholics like me, Christmas season is until Candlemas on February 2! I’m keeping my tree up, lol!)

I want to say a huge thank you to all of you who read the blog, attend the workshops, post to our #makeitblissful community on Instagram, leave comments after blog posts, write in emails of encouragement and thanks… You really are the best, and I am blessed over and over because of you.

I wanna thank those who make MiB possible: The Blissmakers who contribute articles here; my assistant Rikka, who makes sure the Facebook page is running smoothly; my tech partners Jenn and Marge, whom I can always go to for help when the site freaks out; Pat, my collaborator and partner at work; all the collaborators this year who partnered with the Blissmakerie events; the #makeitblissful_Mods, who moderate and curate the content for our Instagram community.

We had a great 2015. Happy old year!

Here’s hoping 2016 will show us new things, new friendships, new collaborations and communities! Happy New Year!

“Behold, I make all things new.” 

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Do you believe that play is cool?

Do you believe that play is cool?

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I still remember the times we’d come home for summer vacation here in Manila, especially while we were still living in Hong Kong. We’d go over to my cousin’s place in Quezon City and play “Patintero” after the afternoon prayer meetings in their house. I wish I could find photos of us playing those legendary lines! Truly we had many happy memories!

One of my wishes as a parent is to teach my own children those forgotten sidewalk and “driveway” games we used to play. It’s not even about nostalgia or wanting to recall memories alone. As a parent, I know that play is much more than a game. It’s an important part of any child’s development, and overall happiness.

This is why Make it Blissful supports play as a learning avenue, because we in our homeschool believe this to be true. That’s why we support Mondelez Philippines’ Joy Schools program and the inclusion of their “Play is Cool” challenge. Read more about it below:

“Play is cool”

Joy Schools is a three-year adoption program of Mondelez Philippines, the company formerly named Kraft Foods. As a maker of delicious snack products like Tang, Eden Cheese, Cheez Whiz and Oreo, the Company is dedicated to helping promote balanced nutrition and active play among its six adopted public elementary schools. The Joy Schools is implemented together with partner the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).

To complement its ongoing daily feeding program for 1,200 undernourished students, the Company has been similarly helping them become stronger and more active through play. The World Health Organization cites the benefits of doing physical activity such as play to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. In fact children aged 5-17 years old are recommended to have at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity everyday (WHO. 2015). Together with a balanced diet comprised of a variety of foods to provide nutritional needs, physical activity is one of the keys to a healthy and active lifestyle.

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Play is not Laru-Laro Lang. The Ateneo Center for Educational Development (ACED) has long been a partner of the Joy Schools program and Mondelez Philippines by providing valuable learning to teachers of the adopted schools. This time they’ve used their experience in promoting excellence in education by facilitating the “Play is Cool” challenge.

Shares ACED Executive Director Carmela Oracion: “We have seen the benefits of both academic learning and those that come from interaction, including play. Having regular active play opportunities does not only help promote strong bodies. Regular active play also helps develop the students’ brains and contributes positively to a child’s ability to learn. Additionally, it also teaches children the value of fair play and team work. We’re very happy to be working with Mondelez Philippines in this endeavor to help children love play more and as an added benefit, re-learn seemingly forgotten Filipino games.”

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Kadang Kadang and Iring-iring. “Play is Cool” was a play competition among five adopted Joy Schools in Manila held last October 1, 2015 at the Padre Zamora Elementary School in Pasay – one of the adopted Joy Schools. Students re-learned the Filipino games of their parents’ youth and at the end engaged in a friendly competition against each other. “This does not stop with the event though,” adds PBSP Executive Director Rafael Lopa. “The Joy Schools is a sustainability program to empower students, teachers and even parents to avoid future barriers to nutrition, education and a better life. Thus we have asked for the commitment of the schools to ensure the games continue to be played even after the event, to become part of their daily academic and physical education.”

Here’s an educational rundown of the games the students played – which even adults could benefit from re-learning. There was “Kadang Kadang” a relay game where competitors try to complete the race first while wearing coconut shell stilts. “Iring-iring” is a game where a circle is formed and a “Taya” or “It” is chosen. The “Taya” goes around the circle and drops a handkerchief behind one person. That person must pick up the handkerchief and tag the “Taya”before the latter is able to sit in his vacated spot in the circle. Otherwise he becomes the new “Taya.”

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The intriguing and hilarious “Bulong Pari” and the more commonly known Agawan ng Buko, Tumbang Preso, Sipa, Pabitin and Basag an ng Palayok were re-learned and played as well.

What a great cause. I’m all for this and Mondelez Philippines’ many other initiatives to create joyful centers of learning for the students. Where their nutrition, education, well-being and future are being taken care of. For more information on Mondelez Philippines’ Joy Schools program, visit Mondelez International’s website.

Cycles.

Cycles.

 

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Every time I small Krista’s baby smell, I’m reminded of when Vito was a baby. Funny, right? They look nothing alike, and yet so much about her reminds me of those days five years ago when I first became a mother. I had no clue what I was doing, despite the many books I’d read and websites I’d scoured. I only knew that I would provide the best possible for Vito: care, clothing, food, products, anything.

Now that Krista is here, I find myself at the starting line of motherhood again. She is very much like her older brother in her general cuteness, but she’s a lot different in temperament. I remember Vito being a very good natured and satisfied baby, no matter who carried him. But Krista is a high need baby. She prefers me over anyone else, and often cries when I leave her sight. A day with her is a seemingly endless cycle of hugs, kisses, cuddles, nursing, napping, carrying, and more hugs, cuddles… you get it.

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I struggled with this as her temperament became more obvious, perhaps around her 4th month. It was exhausting to be needed. The endless cycle of carrying her, entertaining her, feeding her, nursing her, and being there for her has had me — at some point — in tears. (In fact I kind of lost it the other day; she’s been teething and grumpy and clingy, you see.)

Times like these, I’m often tempted to compare my two kids. Why can’t she be more like her brother when he was this age? It’s a mental struggle I’m dealing with, and every time I fall into the comparison trap, I stop and remind myself to stop comparing… to be sensitive instead, to appreciate the cycles of her neediness.

My friends remind me to enjoy her clingy-ness. Lately I’ve been looking at it with more positivity (#makeitblissful, Martine!). I think I’m much better, and even while she’s crying out beckoning for me to return, I see it as something I need from her more than what she needs from me. I need her appetite for affection, her need to be touched, cuddled, embraced and nurtured. I need her seemingly endless cycles of hugs, kisses, cuddles, nursing, napping, carrying, and more hugs, cuddles… (lather, rinse, repeat — it kind of has that rhythm to it, haha!)

I need it so that I can be the mom she needs me to be.

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This essay is inspired by Cycles, Cycles Sensitive and Cradle Natural. I used Cycles and Cradle for my first baby’s needs, and have begun a new cycle of utmost love and care as I use them for baby Krista. Cycles is celebrating 10 years of uncompromised, natural baby care. For more information, visit cyclesbaby.com