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The Inspiration Series

Seven blog posts that warm the heart and inspire.

The Cosmo Series

16 blog posts from my guest-blogging stint at the new and improved Cosmo.ph.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Finding Your Passion

Posted by Mariel on Monday, October 26, 2009 0 comments
I once read before that what you were when you were 7 is what you’re likely to turn out to be when you’re a grownup.

Looking back, the things I did during playtime and countless afternoons were activities I eventually made careers out of.

If you’re hitting some on-the-job roadblocks and feel like it’s time to branch out, perhaps all you have to do is look back on those summers you spent as a child. What appealed to you the most? What made you look forward to those days without school? Or what subject in school was your ultimate favorite throughout your academic life? You’ll be surprised to put two and two together and come up with a promising and potentially perfect career mix.

Here’s my own trip down memory lane, plus some realizations along the way.

Makeup and Playing Dress-up

When I was little, maybe around 3, my mom gave me a small green shoebox filled with old lipsticks and other makeup she no longer used. Around that time, I’d also successfully bitten my aunt’s strawberry Chapstick and discovered that how it smelled and lingered on one’s lips wasn’t necessarily how it tasted once you’ve chewed a chunk of it.

Eventually, at 7 or 8, when my parents were out working, I spent afternoons rummaging through my mom’s closet trying out her Splash Cucumber astringent and Mary Quant mascara. I also wore her high heels and oftentimes wrapped a blanket around me pretending to be a Miss Universe contestant. (My cousin and I loved doing this. That year, Miss Thailand won, and we both wanted to be her. So in our version of the pageant, the commentator would say, “And the winners are, Miss Thailand 1 and Miss Thailand 2!”)

Working in magazines was not unlike all of that. I got to wear a lot of makeup—and also put it on other people—and play dress-up, and got paid for it(!).Who would’ve thought?

Cooking and Baking

In the 80s, my aunt had a flourishing baking business wherein she made beautiful birthday cakes and formed them into famous cartoon characters like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and all those cool caricatures from that time. She was also known for her araro [cornstarch cookies] and Sans Rival, and at some point, she sold egg pan de sal from her home bakery.

I used to spend plenty of summers and weekends in her shop. In retrospect, I’m surprised at how generous she was that she just let me tinker about. I had free reign on the sheet pans, candy thermometer, and powdered sugar, and I even made my own frosting using Anchor Butter, like there was an unending supply of it. I also learned early on the difference between butter and shortening, a.k.a., vegetable lard (the latter is gross).

Fast-forward 20+ years and I’m wielding my own electric mixer, sifting flour, and making my own sweet treats in the kitchen—going through sticks and sticks of good butter. It’s a delightfully decadent example of history repeating itself.


Reading and Writing

Growing up, I was only allowed to watch TV on Thursdays—that was when Okey Ka Fairy Ko aired—and on weekends. So I spent many quiet nights reading and going through children’s encyclopedias and fairy tale books to my heart’s content (my dad also owned bookstores back then).

With all that reading came writing. My earliest memory of being ‘published’ was in second grade, when I wrote a poem(?) for Mother’s Day that came out in the school paper. I still vividly remember because that was the only time I didn’t spend my 10-peso allowance for a day (or two) so I could buy my mom this red-orange lipstick from the store beside my school.

As the years went by, writing and reading have been mainstays in my chosen career path. When I got a copy editing job at a famous fashion retailer in New York, I was stoked: What could be better than reading all day while getting to look at beautiful clothes in the process? When I had that job, I also did my writing projects at night. To me that was the perfect work balance doing both the things I loved to do.

These days, I still try to maintain that equilibrium of doing the things I enjoy and, even if it’s sometimes literally just pennies, earn an income in the process. Like my dad said (and that I always repeat), “Do something you love to do and the money will follow.”


Drawing and the Arts

Now, I’ve never really fancied myself a drawer. I’ve carried what I call ‘drawing guilt’ ever since that summer when I was about 8 and my mother got me a portrait sketching book. I got impatient following the steps, so I traced the faces. When my parents got home that day, my mother kept on raving about how talented I was and how marvelous my drawings were. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I cheated.

So all my life, I simply assumed that ‘art’ wasn’t really my thing or calling. After all, I’d worked with so many amazingly talented artists and art directors and there was no way my stick drawings could have been up to par with what they produced.

When I got into makeup artistry, I did wonder why I was able to shade people’s faces, but was still ultimately clueless when it came to sketching and drawing. I figured, I probably just had to take up an art class to learn technical skills.

It wasn’t until years after that I would find out from a ‘real’ artist that tracing was actually a start, and that it was perfectly okay! So instead of feeling guilty about tracing those portraits, I could’ve persisted and become really good at drawing. Oh well.

My mother recently cleared her storage room and unearthed some ‘paintings’ (I really am uncomfortable with the whole artsy-fartsy thing in relation to myself) I did when my little brother was younger and had this kid easel set up in the living room. When I saw them, I was surprised: They actually looked better than what I remembered. So maybe I could pick up ‘drawing’ and ‘painting’ as sensible hobbies after all, without being embarrassed or feeling pretentious, and maybe someday, no longer underestimate my art skills.

I’m not saying I’m going to ditch everything and live in the woods to take up painting full-time, or anything extreme like that. What I do want to do is get to know other tools—I am now absolutely curious about Adobe Illustrator—that could further hone any skill I may (or may not) have. If I now draw like a 5-year-old, maybe 10 years from now I’ll start drawing like a 20-year-old, and so forth.

My ‘art’ skills may never catch up to my real age, but I’m only happy to explore.

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, 16th of 16 posts also published at Cosmo.ph.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Seven Easy Ways to Stay Slim

Posted by Mariel on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 0 comments
No pressure: Find an easy, breezy food and fitness combo that works for you.

Ever since that year I’d uncannily gained 15 extra pounds (it took a year to shed them), I thought I’d completely resolved my body issues and have learned to be happy with what I weighed. Because when I did get fat, only then did I realize I was thin before after all.

Except that from time to time, I still get bothered by superficial concerns like how my belly spills over my jeans, or how my already chubby cheeks have become more pronounced in the last few years.

I understand with women, it’s a constant struggle to accept and appreciate—or even love—what we were born with, all the physiological facets and contours that make each form unique.

I’ve picked up some strategies throughout the years to help combat the body blahs, whether it’s that puson [paunch] that makes you look pregnant, or those stubborn five pounds that seem more noticeable during that time of the month. I’ve learned to turn to them whenever I need a nudge or just overall accept the present and, as much as I would like to look (and weigh) like my 22-year-old self, my priority these days should be to be healthy and enjoy life and its multitude of culinary delights. And if you’re lazy like me, scanning—and following—these tips should be a piece of cake.

1. Start Small

I was a former athlete and I now live a sedentary life. And the thought of exercising just makes me want to be even more sedentary. I bet this is a common dilemma. My solution is to start really small: as in something so miniscule and seemingly irrelevant that it doesn’t put pressure on you to charge full steam ahead in terms of going to the gym and getting on the fitness bandwagon.

The other day I decided to get on a treadmill for exactly five minutes. That's right: five minutes of leisurely walking, no more, no less. I was literally still in my sleepwear and just slipped on my rubber shoes.

It doesn't even have to be a treadmill: you could grab a jump rope, do one push-up here, a crunch there. As the days go by and at your own pace, add little increments to your routine of choice. Before you know it, five minutes on the treadmill becomes seven, and then 10; one crunch and push-up becomes a set of 12. And surprise! You're actually…working out!

But if you’re still not ready to get off the couch just yet, skip to the next step…

2. Make Like The French

I had a Parisian colleague who stayed thin throughout the time I’d worked with her. And no, she didn’t obsess about what she ate or how often she exercised. In fact, she signed up for the company gym but only ended up going once a month. She would eat a croissant for breakfast at her desk daily, and almost everyday, she and I went to the same lunch buffet line in the cafeteria. One time, she even invited me to her apartment to dinner where she made pasta with cream and salad, which we enjoyed with glasses of wine and hunks of bread.

I know genetics plays a big part in how our body morphs (or dismorphs), but what I noticed with the French (at least from this one person I’d befriended) is that they eat in moderation and enjoy exquisite things and aren’t likely to binge on them. They have cheese with every meal, but not slabs of it. They have dessert with lunch, but not the whole cake. Realizing—and then copying—this manner of eating, I noticed that I rarely feel deprived (or worse: guilty) for indulging.

So if you’re craving for ice cream and cake, don’t skimp by going low-fat or diet. Get the real thing and don’t torture yourself into thinking that you’re never ever going to have more of it afterwards. Just feel welcome and entitled to the food you love to eat. You’ll be surprised that this tactic actually makes you eat less.

3. Take It From Chin-Chin

I met the actress, Chin-Chin Gutierrez, at a shoot a few years ago. Both vegetarians at the time (I now eat chicken; I think she’s still vegetarian), we got to talking about food and nutrition. She mentioned a particular sequence of eating and a theory that made sense and to this day I still try to follow: She said to start a meal with something raw, like fresh fruit or a crisp salad. Since these are natural products, our bodies recognize them easily and our stomachs produce enzymes that help digest food and whatever comes next in the meal.

That versus the usual way of eating something hot and cooked, and having fruit for dessert. From what I remember, this is how she explained it: “The hot meal has already been processed so it ‘surprises’ your belly. So by the time you introduce fruit for dessert, the enzymes go into overdrive and that’s when you get gas.

Again, this is just a theory, but I like the idea of prepping your belly to digest food more efficiently (and well, yes, have less gas in the process).

4. A Little Green Tea (Goes A Long Way)

I’ve heard before that Oprah was a staunch believer in the metabolism-boosting benefits of green tea. And I’ve seen people lose weight from taking concentrated green tea supplements. Now, I’m averse to anything in pill form unless it’s Claritin, Tempra, or Vitamin C, so freshly-brewed green tea is fine by me.

I actually started drinking tea not because of Oprah or those people who have lost weight, but rather, I quit going to Starbucks that year I started paying rent. I had to improvise and budget my money strategically, so home- (or office) made green tea it was for me.

Since I also happen to love dessert, I try to make it a point to wash it all down with tea—hot or cold, with little or no sugar especially when I’m already eating something sweet. I go as far as carry my own packets for when I’m being a cheapskate and just order hot water in restaurants.

5. Look Up!

Just like those ballerinas and dancers: It’s all about posture and form. Standing tall gives the illusion of a leaner, longer body. So if you find yourself staring at your belly, that means you’re not holding your head up high and you’re most likely slouching. Remember: It’s also about confidence. And the neatest part about confidence is that you can "fake it ’til you make it."

6. The Abs Diet

Some people have found fitness success in the South Beach Diet, or even Atkins. Personally, these programs have failed for me for the sole reason that they require one to give up sugar (and carbohydrates) for the first two weeks.

Now, I live and breathe sugar. Not a day goes by when I don't have a piece of chocolate or anything sweet. During previous Lenten Seasons, I chose to abstain from dessert or chocolate on Fridays, only to find myself waiting for midnight to have a piece of chocolate. I know it defeats the whole purpose of sacrificing and abstaining from something. But you get the drift.

Anyway, what worked for me that year I gained all that weight (that I still try to follow to this day) was the Abs Diet [Rodale] by US Men's Health editor, David Zinczenko. I went straight for the spin-off book, Eat Right Every Time Guide, because it was so small and undaunting. But boy, was it a treasure trove of easy, practical information that has helped keep the weight off, give or take a few pounds.

What I love about the Abs Diet is that it isn't really a ‘diet,’ but more of a lifestyle program that tells you what you have to eat MORE of, not the other way around, as in the case of other eating plans. The core of the program is the ABS DIET POWER 12, which stands for:

Almonds and other nuts
Beans and legumes
Spinach and other green vegetables

D
airy (fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese)
Instant oatmeal (unsweetened, unflavored)
Eggs
Turkey and other lean meats

Peanut butter
Olive oil
Whole grain breads and cereals
Extra-protein (whey) powder
Raspberries and other berries

You only read the book once and you're pretty much set. No need to count calories or remember certain carbohydrates that are allowed or not allowed. Just eat often (Zinczenko recommends six times a day) and sensibly from the list above. Easy, right?

The small book also discusses fastfood options for when you’re on the go, plus easy MICROWAVEABLE breakfasts you can take with you to work or for those hectic days when the last thing you want to think about is your diet. After all, diet culprits are triggered by those hunger pangs when you can't think straight that you just reach for the next sugar bomb or grease grenade to quell the hunger…or mindlessly chow down lunch in front of the computer.

Zinczenko also addresses the issue of belly fat in the book (as the title suggests). “[This] is the most dangerous kind of fat. That’s because belly fat often comprises both subcutaneous fat (fat that’s under your skin) and visceral fat (fat that lies beneath your stomach muscles, snug up against your internal organs). It’s this second type, visceral fat, which can cause some long-term harm,” he explains.

“In one report, researchers concluded that visceral fat is the single-best predictor of diabetes.” Other studies also link that extra fat on your midsection as an indicator for high cholesterol and heart problems down the line. “Shedding fat from your frame is essential to living long and healthy,” says Zinczenko. So beware.

Anyway, if that doesn’t get you picking up the Abs Diet, just know that on it, you get to eat ice cream(!) AND lose weight at the same time! Not kidding.

7. Celebrate The Non-negotiables

Now, back to genetics: there are some things you can’t change unless you’re willing to go through the hassle of plastic surgery. In my case, I’ve always had a belly and paunch, even way back in high school when I only weighed as much Nicole Richie. The puson is just in the family.

It has crossed my mind several times to get liposuction (or mesotherapy injections), even on my cheeks or arms. But then again, I know that after lipo, the fat you do accumulate could show up in really odd places—like the armpits. I don’t think I’m ready to hop on that roller coaster. Plus, over the summer I’ve had some lumps on my breasts surgically removed; it wasn’t the most delightful experience and I promised I’d never ever go through surgery for the sake of vanity: It’s just not worth the pain and stress for me.

Besides, understanding your own unique contours and lovely lady parts makes fashion a more enjoyable undertaking full of promising surprises. Can you imagine what fun it is to find the perfect floral dress that accentuates your curves, or that skirt that emphasizes your behind in the most flattering of ways? If you’re considering cosmetic surgery, I suggest splurging on a new wardrobe instead and a night on the town with your best girlfriends. (And don’t forget the cake!)

Disclaimer: Before trying any new diet, eating plan, or exercise regimen, consult with your physician.

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, 15th of 16 posts also published at Cosmo.ph.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Posted by Mariel on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 0 comments
Easy, cheesy goodness

Over at my blog, NyMinuteNow.com, at least half of my posts are food-related. I can't help it: While I've never gone to chef school or anything fabulous like that (it's still a distant dream of mine to be able to attend the French Culinary Institute in New York City...on full scholarship), food—and the creation of food—is very close to my heart. Ever since I'd put two and two together that it's cheaper and immensely enjoyable to go to the supermarket and whip up my own fare, the kitchen has been one of my favorite places to be in.

When I’m not watching Giada de Laurentiis or Ina Garten whip yummy, yummy things—I, of course, am only too happy to copy—on Food Network, I'm online checking out Alton Brown's Good Eats episodes.

I got the perfect grilled cheese recipe from one of these YouTube uploads. Basically, it shows you how to spread dijon mustard on a slice of bread (just on one side), grate cheese over it, add salt and pepper, cover it with another slice, and then press onto two hot, lightly-buttered pans.

If you happen to own a panini press, I suggest we become friends.

I've made mine using a sandok, pressing the sandwich down as flat as I could with a big peppermill on top of the utensil (you can also use a big can of corn to do this) and flipping the sandwich back and forth—like that scene in The Devil Wears Prada wherein Adrian Grenier’s character is standing by the stove, making a Jarlsberg cheese sandwich.

I usually accompany my sandwiches with a big pile of Nacho Cheese Doritos, but this time, I've 'kicked it up a notch' by lightly oiling a small bowl, grating fresh parmesan cheese over the bottom—forming a circle of cheese—and microwaving it for about a minute. You'll know it's done when the kitchen smells funky. What you end up with is this crispy, delicious, knock-your-socks-off accompaniment to a classic, comforting grilled cheese sandwich.

Finish this off with an icy glass of iced green tea or lemonade. And for dessert, a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate syrup and topped with sliced almonds sweetly caps a truly delightful meal (or midnight snack)!

Tell me: What’s your favorite comfort food? What ultimately makes you salivate?

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, 14th of 16 posts also published at Cosmo.ph.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Why I plan on being a dishwasher

Posted by Mariel on Saturday, October 17, 2009 0 comments
Stylish dishwashing, anyone?

As much as I have big dreams and fantasies of being a prolific writer and novelist who works from home—"home" being either a lavish apartment in an NYC high-rise or a cozy, modern home in the Hamptons, a la my "friend" Ina Garten—I still have to make a living to sustain the lifestyle I want (I have an expensive chocolate habit).

So when my head isn’t above the clouds, my practical side emerges. I am aware that down the line, I might have to take on a second (or third) job that is non-writing-related. Right now, I’m at a comfortable place in terms of reaping some seeds I’ve planted in New York and working on blogging projects. I keep thinking, though, that if I were to apply for another job, it would be that of a dishwasher in a restaurant.

Shocked? Let me explain.

A few years ago, I was talking to a prolific photographer in Manila who specializes in lifestyle, travel, food, and still-life assignments. If you knew him, you would find his demeanor very mild and steady—making him a joy to work with because not only is he a great photographer equipped with tip-top technical skills, he’s also 100% drama-free.

One time, as he was quietly shooting beauty products in the conference room, somebody (was it me?) asked: “[Name of photographer], how come you like shooting products?” This is in light of several shutterbugs opting to do more location-centric fashion and beauty shoots.

“I like shooting products because they don’t talk,” was his answer. “They’re just there.”

I am guessing he meant this literally: Unlike models, stills didn’t require to be tediously prepped, and one needn’t engage in small talk. I liked this line of reasoning.

In relation to my dishwashing dreams, that is the same logic and point applied to this seemingly silly endeavor of mine.

When I first moved to New York and while waiting for my ‘dream job,’ I worked for three months in a Japanese restaurant as a hostess/maitre ’d, ushering hungry patrons to their tables. If I had better dexterity I probably would’ve also applied as a waitress—servers earn way more than hostesses—but I constantly feared breaking glasses or spilling food on the floor, or worse, on people.

Being in the front lines of the resto scene was okay for those months, but I wouldn’t go back again. Nothing against the job (it kept me afloat back then), but I believe I’ve had my fill of hungry, irate people who needed a table NOW!

I figure, if I were a dishwasher at the very back of the kitchen…

  1. I wouldn’t have to talk to anybody other than my boss, who will just probably ask me about my shift schedule.

  2. I don’t think one would have to deal with office politics in the business of dishwashing. It’s a clearly autonomous job description with simple job requirements.

  3. I wouldn’t have to dress up for work. I can roll out of bed, wear whatever, and be ready in no time.

  4. It’s going to be like a multi-hour facial. Have you seen those industrial-type dishwashing stations? They’re steaming hot! (I’ll just have to make sure to bring a face mask, as I don’t want to inhale all the toxic detergent fumes.)

  5. Most importantly: I’ll still be able to write when I get home. After all, many of my articles have been borne out of times I had been staring out the window, doing the dishes, and tinkering about in the kitchen.

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, 13th of 16 posts also published at Cosmo.ph.
(Image courtesy of CasaSugar.com)

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Working Happy: To Each Her Own

Posted by Mariel on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 0 comments
What's your work forecast?

My college (and early work life) ex who remains a good friend once used to find it funny and amusing that I wanted to be a journalist...but only for happy news. We used to joke that, in the event I became a broadcaster, my segment would start like this:

"And now, for the good news..."

Little did I know then that I would eventually work as a beauty editor—a job which was as close as I could get to being a bearer of sparkly-happy updates. What better way can one be positively entertained and willingly distracted than by perusing beautiful baubles of perfume bottles or marvelous palettes of face paint?

While working in a magazine was stressful especially during tight, back-to-back deadlines—and when it comes to the nitty-gritty, an editor’s life isn’t as 100% glamorous as it seems (fashion editors are expert plantsadoras behind the scenes)—it was a unique career path. For many years, I had a hard time explaining what exactly I did because it was a bit challenging to discuss the minute details of what goes on behind the pages, and not to mention incredibly boring once you get past the sparkle (we got used to disappointed interns).

But overall, I did get what I wanted: I had a HAPPY job. I reckoned, my way of being charitable, helping people, and contributing to the common good was by providing readers with a beautiful, glossy escape. I did tackle (and still do) some not so peppy subjects in my beauty pages and articles like "Breakup Makeup" or "How to Look Pretty After You've Cried Your Eyes Out."

On a drive back from out of town with my cousin-in-law, a neurosurgeon, he and I talked about our work. My memory of the whole conversation is hazy, but I most probably regaled him with stories about how I lugged shampoo bottles to and from shoots, interviewed dermatologists, decoded complicated ‘breakthrough’ ingredients of new skincare products, etc.

But what I do remember is this: at some point, he said, "I understand now that what you do isn't necessarily 'less' than what a doctor or engineer does. Same goes for janitors and other blue collar employees. Each one has to do their job, because all these jobs contribute to the whole of society.”

Not verbatim, but in essence: “When one does a good job, it propels everyone forward.”


Part of this month's Cosmo Series, 12th of 16 posts also published at Cosmo.ph.
(Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Animation and Columbia Pictures)

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Clutter-free Life

Posted by Mariel on Tuesday, October 13, 2009 0 comments
When I decided to finally move abroad, I had to tackle eight years’ worth of belongings back at my old apartment. This included trinkets and mementos from high school, stacked notebooks from college, and paper calendars, photos, and cards collected over time. Not included here are shoes, clothes, handbags, and accessories amassed from working all those years as a magazine editor.

It also didn’t help that I was a classic hoarder and easily found sentimental value in anything and everything.

A few months before I’d planned to leave, I was walking out of Mall of Asia from a lunch event and passed through National Bookstore to get to the exit. And then this book called out to me: It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh [FREE PRESS/Simon & Schuster]. In bright tangerine, its cover wasn’t hard to miss. Immediately I picked it up and impulse-bought into “An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff.”

And boy-oh-boy was this book life-changing! (It’s also one of my favorite books to date.) Not only did it help make sense out of letting go of things I’ve collected, it also de-mystified my age-long struggle with hoarding. Walsh, a professional organizer and host of TLC’s Clean Sweep, shares a systematic approach to getting rid of emotional and physical clutter so that one can create a happier, more stress-free home and life.

Clutter stops us from living in the present,” says Walsh. “The future is important. But you have to consider the quality of your life today and strike a balance between the life you are living today and the multitude of possible paths your life may take in the future.”

This means, say, you find a little black dress you love but doesn’t fit, don’t buy just because you may (or may not) lose weight in the future. Same goes for those jeans you’ve had in first year college that you’re still hoping to fit into “someday.”

The clutter somehow becomes a life raft for all the ‘just in cases’ we can imagine,” explains Walsh.

Other than the I-might-need-it-one-day excuse, the book lists other excuses we make for keeping things we don’t need around in our homes, work desks, and anywhere there is space. Walsh also walks the reader through each room, sharing tips and strategies for establishing zones, determining function, and dealing with sentimental objects you do want to keep: giving them places of honor in your home and not somewhere gathering dust.

For example, if you’ve inherited heirloom pieces from a loved one, don’t keep them stashed, forgotten in boxes. Instead, start using them already or put them up in display shelves. “You can’t own everything so you have to pick and choose,” says Walsh. The value you say an item holds for you must be reflected in the place you give that item in your life, otherwise your words have no meaning and the object is little more than clutter.”

As for unused ‘special’ plates and kubyertos sitting pretty in dining room cabinets, here’s what Walsh has to say on the subject (you might want to clue Mom in on this):

“If you have formal china, do you guard it as if it were a national treasure? China can be expensive and beautiful, but what’s the point of owning it if you never use it? This is not to say that you should serve your three-year-old hot dogs on a Royal Copenhagen platter, but please try to use and enjoy it.”

One of the memorable sections in the book is the quiz, “How Clutter Free Are You?” When I first took it more than two years ago, I turned out to be a “Hard-core Hoarder.” Yikes.

While writing this blog post I went through the questions again. And I’m happy to say that I’m now in between “Clutter Victim” and “Clutter Free”—a huge leap from the hoarder that I was years ago.

True, even if I still hold on to precious trinkets, gadgets, and mementos here and there, and haven’t followed Walsh’s advice to the letter, plenty of the things I’d picked up from his book have afforded me a more mobile lifestyle mostly free of useless clutter to lug around.

(And just so all of you know, I’m never ever going to get rid of my seven-year-old iBook in the event that it finally conks out for real in the future. I reckon, it would still make for a lovely, shiny white paper weight.)

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, 11th of 16 posts also published at Cosmo.ph.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

On Blooming Late

Posted by Mariel on Monday, October 12, 2009 0 comments
I’ve accepted that I’m one of those people who experience things at a slower pace and learn via a more languid approach. I tend to take my time growing into things, and getting familiar with my situation and surroundings. It doesn’t help that I’m slow to move in the morning. That’s why I find it very convenient that I no longer have to make a mad dash for the train doors before they close, and that I have, for the time being, traded my stilettos for fluffy bedroom slippers. My “office” is now wherever I can connect to the internet.

In terms of being a late bloomer, I can list so many examples showing why I’ve taken this description to heart, and here are a few:

I got my first kiss and first boyfriend at 20, an age where most girls are touching bases and hitting homeruns in the XOXO department.

Of the seven girls in my high school barkada, all have gotten married ahead of me, and my own nuptials are about two years away from the last girl’s I do’s. She now has two babies. I reckon I am going to be the last to bear children as well; probably when my friends’ kids’ are in high school is my wild guess.

Back when I did Taekwondo, most of my teammates got their black belts within two years. I (finally) got mine by the fourth year.

• In terms of writing, my former boss gave herself a deadline of one year to finish her second novel. I’ve been working on my own manuscript for years, with plenty of pit stops along the way. And just when I thought I’d finished, it turns out I need to overhaul the whole thing. So far, I’ve spent the past couple of months paying closer attention to the delicate and intricate mix of plot, conflict, and resolution, and making sure I have a better understanding of how to incorporate the three to make for a compelling story. Ask me where I am now in terms of editing and rewriting? Chapter 3.

Sometimes I get frustrated with myself. But most of the time, honestly, I’m okay with it. If stretching things out over time is the best way for me to learn and understand life, slow be it.

I was reading O, The Oprah Magazine wherein the famous talk show host had recently interviewed Jay-Z (The O Interview; “Oprah Talks to Jay-Z”; October 2009; p.184). In it, the rapper, entrepreneur, and music producer listed his favorite books. Among them was Outliers by Malcom Gladwell.

“This book is about the principles of timing and repetition—about preparing yourself for luck, really,” Jay-Z shares. “[The author] talks about a hockey team, and how the players born in January had a year up on the guys born in December.”

At this point, I cringe and get a bit worried: My birthday is in December. I think to myself, So is Jay-Z saying I’ll never really be successful simply because of my birth month? I keep reading. “They were fortunate that their birthday was early, but they also practiced—they put the work in.”

Whew! Reading further, I discover Jay-Z’s birthday is also in December. Double whew!

So the point, after all, is the amount and quality of work one puts in. I now realize, I may be slow, but I get a kick out of being productive. True, I make a ‘Today to-do’ checklist for Monday and actually end up ticking everything off by Thursday, but at least when I look back on the sheet after some time, I know I’ve crossed everything out—I’ve done what had to be done and have tangible results to show for my efforts.

And by then, the pace by which I’d finished, experienced, and accomplished something no longer matters.

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, 10th of 16 posts also published at Cosmo.ph.
(Image courtesy of stock.xchng®)

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