I unexpectedly (and reluctantly) moved back to my hometown. I unexpectedly fell for an old high school classmate, and he unexpectedly proposed to me. We unexpectedly found out I was pregnant, and we got married sooner than expected. Now, we're experiencing the unexpected daily...the good, the bad, the funny, the frustrating. Read all about it...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"But How Are You Two Doing?"

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the night my husband proposed. Thinking about this past year,  I've been reflecting on the outside factors of our relationship - our families, friends, exes, and money.

I've come to realize that the outside factors are a heavy influence on how we get along as a couple. During the past year, and the first few months of our relationship prior to our engagement, we've hit some major bumps on the road. We've encountered and tackled numerous obstacles. We've had arguments about our past relationships because they've somehow influenced us as a couple. We were raised very differently, and so we've argued over different values, beliefs, and even the way we do laundry and handle money. Our friends are different, so there has also been conflict over how we spend our time away from each other. No matter what, nothing has broken us (so far!). We're living testaments of the overly used cliche, "What does not kill you makes you stronger."

Our parents are still very much involved in our lives. After all, we live in my parents' basement and they are helping us buy a house. Both sides of our family tell us how we should handle certain situations, how we should make time for each other, and how we should raise our son.

My point is, a couple can hear everyone else's opinion on their relationship and their growing family. Money is hands down one of the hardest things to communicate about, which explains why it is the cause of most divorces. I think that couples should always listen to the advice of other people, but ultimately go with what they believe is best for them.

It is so easy to be overwhelmed by how other people, especially parents, expect you to do things the way they want you to. Sometimes we try to meet those expectations because we've grown up trying to appease and please our parents. However, it can be hard to fulfill those expectations while trying to learn and grow as a couple and/or a family. It's also hard to ignore those expectations when they are constantly being brought up and...well, expected to happen. It can become a struggle of how to make everyone in your world happy and satisfied.

The way you were raised does not necessarily have to be the way you raise your children. The way your parents handle their marriage does not necessarily have to be the way you handle yours. Life is not about "copying and pasting" others' ways of life. It is about molding your SELF.

So, when other people tell us their opinion of how to argue, how to manage our finances (okay, we actually do need help with this!), how to take care of our kid, how to do pretty much anything they think we need to learn...I try so hard not to be annoyed or frustrated. Instead, I think about how the two of us are doing. Despite a financial blow and the need to move out of our apartment, we are taking everything in stride, rebuilding our life together, and trying to keep levelheaded. Because of this (rather large) obstacle, we are being criticized, analyzed, and publicized (which is the worst of all - my dad is quick to tell everyone how much he's been helping us).  We feel inadequate, unreliable, irresponsible, untrustworthy, and most of all - like leeches. We do not want to be any of that, and we are fighting and working hard toward the goal of standing on our own. We will always need (and always appreciate) guidance, but we want to rely on others as little as possible.

Sometimes I feel like a big disappointment in the eyes of my parents and my in-laws. However, sometimes I need to forget how they feel and remember how my husband feels. In the end, he's the one I am going to live with for the rest of my life. He's the one who will be affected the most by my opinions and decisions. He's the one to whom I'm married. 

Above all obstacles, we have to remember that we're dedicated to each other and our son before anyone else. We have to think about how we are doing as a couple, despite everything happening around us and to us, and despite what everyone else is saying, thinking, and trying to make us do. As long as we continue to love and respect each other, we will always be happy no mater what.

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's Fat Talk Free Week!!

I am famous for staring at the mirror (or a car window, a glass door, my cell phone...anything that shows a reflection of me) and checking myself. Some people think it's because I'm full of myself, but it's actually the opposite. More times than not I point out things I don't like about myself rather than the good things. I am pretty self-conscious about my body. My upper arms have always been an issue for me. I get bloated any time I swallow any piece of food, so it seems like I have an ugly beer belly. I know I can tone my body a whole lot better with more dedication to working out. And it doesn't help that I just had a baby two and a half months ago. My body is all out of whack because of it -- my face is chubby, my stomach still makes me feel like I swallowed a watermelon, and my legs are ginormous.

BUT WAIT. It's Fat Talk Free Week, a full week dedicated to preventing people from talking themselves down, critiquing every part of their body that sags, and asking the questions, "Does this make me look fat?" or "Have you lost a few pounds?"

Therefore, I cannot look at myself and think negatively about my body. I cannot ask my husband if my arms look huge in the tank top I'm wearing. I cannot stare at my belly and hate myself for not starting my workout routine sooner after having my son. I cannot look at another girl wearing a skintight dress and measure my body against hers.

I have never heard of Fat Talk Free Week until I read about it on Time.com (the article is the link I provided above). I think it is an awesome way to help people make a conscious effort of looking at themselves in a different, more positive way, avoiding any talk about weight. In the same manner, it helps people talk to others without mentioning weight gain or loss (for instance, it is better to say something like, "You look great in that top!" instead of, "Wow, it looks like you've lost some weight!").

It is so much easier said than done. As a matter of fact, just while writing this post, I looked in the mirror and straight at my protruding tummy thinking, "I gotta get on my ab routine!" It is such a subconscious and natural act for me to critique myself in a negative way rather than point out the good parts about myself. It is just as natural for me to size up other girls. 

Then and Now
It's hard for me to even share these before-and-after shots! While I was pregnant, I refused to take belly pics, but honestly, I didn't have a huge, huge belly. In the latter part of my pregnancy, people could not believe that I was as far along as I told them. But, being self-conscious, I figured they were only being polite. Recently, however, I stopped untagging "fat pics" of me on Facebook because I think being pregnant is a good excuse for why my body isn't in the best of shape yet. I guess that's a step in the right direction?

My body in August 2009, about three months before I conceived my son

My body two months after Jamari's birth

By substituting negative thinking with positive, we automatically start feeling better about ourselves and start believing the positive thoughts over the negative ones. I am definitely going make an effort to shift my focus in the way Fat Talk Free Week encourages. The article I've shared shows examples of what "fat talk" is and how it affects a person's body image. I think this is a phenomonal step toward alleviating poor self-esteem and encouraging self-praise.


Instead of saying "Eww, how'd I get so fat??" I want to be able to look at myself and say, "For someone who had a baby just two and a half months ago, I could look a whole lot worse than this!"

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Past's Influence on the Present

Ohhhh, the dreaded questions...


How many girlfriends/boyfriends have you had?
Did you ever cheat on any of them?
How many serious relationships have you been in?
What was your longest relationship?
Were you ever in true love?
Ever have a one-night stand?
How many people have you had sex with?

If you delve too deeply too soon, you're a creep.
If you constantly ask your significant other about his or her past, you're obsessive.
If you don't ask anything at all, you're sketch and might be hiding something about your previous relationships.

It's like we're looking for trouble by asking! But really, can anyone say they can go into a relationship without wanting to know the answers to any of the above?

Yes, it's important to know about the history behind the person you're dating. Yes, it's perfectly fine to ask questions. No, it's not okay to hang over a guy's head the fact that he has cheated before. No, it's not okay to assume a girl is undateable based on her "number" (so apparently "undateable" isn't a really word, but I'm using it anyway).


AND NO, it's not okay to base your current relationship on another one from your own past. Uh duh, there is a reason why that one ended. So, don't go around saying, "My ex did this, that, and the other thing," because your current man or woman does not want to be compared to someone else you might have loved once.If you cannot shake the memories, maybe there's a reason. Some people go into relationships wanting to still be with their former significant other. No one wants to be the rebound, so try to spare a heart from breaking.


Also, some people have done naughty, naughty things when they were younger, and they probably didn't think about how their decisions could affect their lives in the long run. I mean, think about it...say you know a boy from high school who liked streaking through backyards back in the day. You think that, at 24 years old, it's still his favorite pasttime?


Some people DO mature.
Some people DO change.


We've all heard the phrase, "You can't turn a whore into a housewife," but we shouldn't generalize. 


Besides, everyone could use a little redemption in their lives. If God can be forgiving, can't you??


Seriously, people really do grow up to realize that what they did when they were younger won't fly if they were to do it now. They realize that they should take relationships and themselves more seriously if they ever expect to settle down and have a meaningful connection with someone else.


If you made one mistake in your life, would you like it if everyone judged you for it forever and ever, never giving you a chance to prove that it's not something you'll do again?


Trusting someone else with your heart takes a lot of guts, a large dose of faith, and a willingness to get over what's been said and done.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Kind of Mother I Hope to Be

Jamari is two months today, and so this has prompted me to think about the kind of mother I hope to be when he gets older.

I want to be a parent with whom Jamari can relate. Meaning, I would never pretend that I hadn't made mistakes Jamari might eventually make. I would never make him feel like I don't understand what he is going through, if he is going through a difficult time, whether it be with a girlfriend, school, or friends. I want to teach him lessons by relating his experiences to my own. I think that, by being relatable, Jamari will know that he can talk to me about anything because I will talk to him about anything.

I grew up not knowing very much at all about my parents' experiences when they were younger. I'm not sure if they are hiding anything, or if they just don't feel comfortable talking to me about their lives prior to being married. My dad has little stories he shares about his 22 1/2 years serving in the US Navy. My mom has never spoken about her life as a nursing student. The  three of us and my brother all lived in the same house but hardly know each other. I do not want to be like this with Jamari because if I am uncomfortable talking to him, then he will be uncomfortable talking to me.

I will never make Jamari feel like a failure, even if he has failed. If he were to come home with a failing grade, of course I will let him know that I am disappointed. However, instead of punishing him, I would offer my help or suggest ways he can improve his grades. Trust me, he may not get punished for an F, but I'm sure there will be many, many other reasons he will be on punishment! I just personally don't believe it makes sense to punish someone who failed a class or a test, unless outside factors, like hanging out with friends when he should be studying, influenced the grade.

I want to be able hang out with Jamari without him thinking it's uncool. There may come a time when he'll feel like a loser hanging out with his mom at the mall, but until then (hopefully that won't ever happen!), I will take advantage of spending time with him.  I doubt he'll ever be embarrassed hanging out with me because most likely we'll spend our time together playing sports or going to the gym or watching movies at home.

I don't want Jamari to think I am too old to do anything with him or for him. I tried getting my mom to do things that I thought would be cool, but she pulled the "old age" card even when she wasn't that old. She still isn't old, but she aged herself mentally.

If Jamari wants to stay out late at night a couple of weekends, I'll let him. As long as my husband and I teach him right from wrong, I know I can never monitor his every move, and coming home at a reasonable time never prevents a kid from doing something he shouldn't. Besides, I do not want to rob him of what could potentially be the best memories of his life.

Today, Jamari is two months, and I am so grateful God has given me a chance to be a mother, and to see this face every day:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"When You're Down to Nothing, God is Up to Something"

I don't know where that quote originated, but it was definitely timely for me to find it in an e-mail.

I am a firm believer that God's mysterious ways always work in our favor. I also believe the quote above. Therefore,
  • I will try harder not to make the lives around me any more difficult than they already are...
  • I will be grateful instead of distraught that I just had to move my family into my parents' basement last week...
  • I will not be hard on myself for destroying my Galant this past Monday...
  • I will help my husband get through this trying time...
... And I will leave it up to God to guide us to where we belong spiritually, emotionally, physically, and financially.

I may no longer have my only operating car.
I might have had to swallow my pride and ask my parents to help us.
I might have had to sacrifice privacy in order to save money.

But,

At least I was not injured and no one else was in the car, especially my son.
At least I have my parents, who are always willing to help me as best as they can.
At least we have a means to save for a better and more secure financial future.

For every negative there is a brighter positive. My husband and I are living our vows of being there for each other for "poorer" and "worse," and God willing, we will get through to the "richer" and "better" side. 

I'm over feeling sorry for our situation, knowing that God has a plan for us; we just have to put up with the rain until the sun shines again.

Friday, October 1, 2010

So You Want to Marry Outside of Your Race?

I am not against it, obviously, because I am in an interracial marriage and as a result, we have created one gorgeous mixed baby boy. In case you're curious, this is what a Filipino-Panamanian-Brazilian baby looks like (really, I don't care if you  happen to be wondering what one looks like; I just like showing him off):


Anyway, I totally get why people, especially older generations, want their sons and daughters to marry within their race or religion. It ensures that the heritage stays alive and well throughout time. However, in a world that is ever shrinking thanks to technology, and due to immigration, especially in the United States, that brings together diverse cultures, it seems less important to marry someone of the same race or religion because we're not restricted to living with just one race or religion.

In my case, even if I wanted to marry a Filipino, my options were limited. I live in a town where, although there is diversity, Filipino guys my age are few and far between. I think that access, so to speak, is also a factor as to why it just seems improbable for people to marry others of the same background. 

I understand that there are many pros to marrying within your race or religion - the compatibility of both families, the continuation of traditions, shared language and beliefs, and even the aspect of avoiding criticism from the community or racist remarks from the less open minded. I also think that there are many pros to marrying outside of your background. For instance, there is a fusion of cultures and traditions; thus, people can learn from each other and experience things of which they otherwise would not have had the chance. 

I am pretty excited for the future because the percentage of interracial marriages is increasing. That means there are going to be more and more people like my son. Hopefully that means there will be less and less ignorance and more understanding of different cultures. The link I've shared is from a CNN article from this past June. It mentions how interracial marriages were illegal back in the day (approximately 50 years ago). I cannot fathom the idea of such law, and I am grateful that we no longer have to live by that rule. It also mentions that men and women in my age range (aka - the future leaders of society) are more accepting of interracial relationships.

We are at a time when generations are colliding when it comes to tradition. Older generations, especially those who immigrated to the US, hope that their kids find someone of the same background for whatever reason they may have. So bringing a guy or girl home who is unlike you can cause a rift between you and your family (think about "Our Family Wedding" or "Guess Who," which are comedies that bring to light very real issues on interracial relationships).  

If you happen to be in the same situation I was in - wanting to marry someone of a different background but having parents who prefer you to marry within your race - think about all aspects, understand where your family is coming from, and ultimately make the right decision for yourself, and be prepared to live with that decision for the rest of your life. I think it's important not to assume your parents are racist or ignorant (unless they actually are, which is a whole different issue); they want you to marry within your race or religion because they want continuity in the family, and they don't want your culture to be forgotten or lost in history. It's along the same lines as a man hoping that his pregnant wife has a son so that his last name can be passed down.

I don't think one race or religion could be forgotten over the other as long as a couple upholds both of their traditions, does not forget where they come from, and raises their children to appreciate and practice these traditions.

Having a population full of people like my son, whose blood flows with more than one race, could perhaps mean a more educated population, a population more open to learning about different cultures, traditions, religions, etc. This could mean people like my son could feel more accepted by their peers because they'll have more people with whom they can relate.