December: A month without too much “stuff”

(Part of A Year of Living Without)

The Challenge: Mindfully staying away from excess, and putting a stop to hoarding stuff  bought from malls

Planned replacement habits: Recycle. Reuse. Reduce waste. Ask myself if I *really* need something before buying it. Raid my closet and dispose/give away unused things first before acquiring anything new.


Shirts galore

Month-end Report: For my Christmas gift-wrapping tasks, I recycled used board papers into gift cards and fashioned old calendars into wrapping papers and gift bags.


Before: the wall calendar


After: the gift bag


Colorful calendars as wrapping paper for gifts

I’m also cleaning out my closet. In fact, I already gave away old clothes and started redesigning some of the t-shirts that I kept. A lovely DIY blog called Wobisobi inspired me to cut up my shirts.

Aaaaand it’s a wrap! That was a year of living without. Thanks to Leo Babauta of Zen Habits for the inspiration.

It’s empowering to find out what’s really necessary so I can simplify my life and give up some things that might be taking up space, weighing me down or making me unhealthy in some way physically, emotionally, or mentally. I learned that living without some things may mean making room for some better things, so I’m all for it.

Cheers to 2014, and the awesome year to come! Hello and welcome to my life, 2015!

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November: A month of living without red meat, processed or not

(Part of A Year of Living Without)


The Challenge: To go meatless, but not necessarily tasteless.

Planned replacement habits: Vegetables, fruits, chicken, and fish

Month-end Report: I’m not much of a beef eater and can definitely go without steaks and burgers anytime. Pork is a different story. It’s just that pork is…love. Hahah. I tried to limit my meat consumption, but I’m defenseless against tocino. The good news is, yes, I ate more vegetables (ate them with pork).

Up next in December: Minimalism during the grandest time of the year: Christmas!

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When to use it’s and its

Dang. This made me smile. :) It’s not as amusing though when I see this in the work that I edit. This is one of the most annoying grammar mistakes ever.

Once and for all:

It’s – short for it is or it has
Its – shows possession like his or her

To expound:

Better yet, don’t write “it’s.” Write the full version. If you cannot use “it is” because the sentence does not make sense, then use “its.” :)


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Oh, you tonsils you!

I was attending a seminar and on the first day, the instructor made each participant introduce himself/herself to the group using this icebreaker:

Fill in the blank: “I belive I’m the only one in this room who _______________.”

We were not asked to explain or qualify our answers. We just needed to fill in the blank. Classic getting-to-know-you game.

Hmm. I had to think hard about what makes me different from my classmates who are mostly maintenance and testing engineers and IT people.

Someone said she’s the only one in the room who can speak Arabic. Someone else said she’s the only one who has 11 tattoos. Someone’s the only one who’s getting married soon. Someone’s the only one who’s still  rushing reports that morning.

Off the top of my head, I considered saying, “I’m the only one in this room who writes for a living,” but decided against it because it sounded pretentious and would actually put too much pressure on me. Because by the way, it’s a business and technical writing class, and in all honestly, I was there to learn so much more. Yikes! Grammar! Sentence construction!

I thought of saying, “I’m the only one here who has a blog,” but hesitated when I saw another person who probably blogs considering the way she actively posts/muses on Facebook. In my mind, most people active on social media now are also the ones who started blogs. Not accurate, I know, but yeaaah, she’s probably another insufferable blogger like me who writes kilometric posts.

“I’m the only one here who has intimacy and personal space issues.” No. Gaaah, no. Too personal. Note to self: Control yourself.

“I’m the only one here who thinks buying and putting on new lipstick is a relaxing activity.” Okay, but unique? Most women dig this.

So, in a state of panic because it was already my turn to speak, I blurted out:

“I belive I’m the only one in this room who does not have tonsils.”


There. It came out so naturally it was laughable.

My tonsils have gone to heaven. No, actually, they were extracted and put in a jar like pink prunes floating in saltwater.  Yum.

And now for the backstory.

When I was much much younger, I had what my EENT doctor called “kissing tonsils” – tonsils so viciously diseased and swollen that they’re almost touching or “kissing” at the back of my throat. I could still remember how difficult it was to do simple things like eating, drinking, talking, singing, breathing.

People say tonsil-less people have weaker immune system and are more susceptible to cough and colds and other viral and bacterial infections.

See, tonsils have a purpose.


Sometimes, when I’m feeling ill, I’d think my ghost tonsils are haunting me and using pharyngitis, laryngitis, or some other inflammation to torment me. The tonsils I’ve had taken out years ago are probably coming back to avenge their death by tonsillectomy.

Just thinking about it now faintly brings back the pain of swallowing my own saliva. I remember, not with fondness, my childhood bout with tonsillitis.

I had scandalously romantic, kissing tonsils so I regularly suffered from 40 plus-degree rheumatic fevers every single month of the first 13 years of my life. I was delirious and had constant dreams about a pink elephant suffocating me.

I couldn’t eat properly, couldn’t walk too because of the rheumatic pain in my legs. I eventually found some relief in antibiotics called Penadur, but I was already a serious candidate for rheumatic heart disease that time so per doctor’s advice, I had my tonsils taken out when I was 13.

After the operation, the doctor proudly showed me my pink prunes, I mean, tonsils in a jar. I resisted the urge to coo, “Awww, you tonsils you!”

I’m happily tonsil-less now and free from the threat of a rheumatic heart disease.

Apparently, streptococcus bacterial infections in the throat also target the valves of the heart. I was already having chest pains then. I’m so relieved and thankful I got past that disease.

And thank goodness, I could freely eat ice cream now. There’s that old wives’ tale, you know, about how eating ice cream supposedly causes or induces tonsillitis. Not true, folks! I was duped by my mother, denying me ice cream all those years. :)

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Writing as a value-producing activity


“In this knowledge economy, writing is the chief value-producing activity.”

Heard this at a business and technical writing seminar I “semi-attended” today. (I was out of the training venue for the most part of the day doing…something else.)

Something to chew on: that I actually produce something of value. Yay! Sometimes, I feel I just churn out trash. But hey, that’s what editors are for. :)

October: A month and forever without …

(Part of A Year of Living Without)


The original zen habits challenge was to go on vacation without feeling guilty.

Planned replacement habits: Actually enjoy the time off. Breathe. Unplug for at least three days.

Month-end Report: I did go on vacation (five days to boot). It was a guilt-free time off for me, alright, but far from enjoyable. I missed a major activity at the office, and I didn’t care. Unfortunately, it was an “emergency leave,” bereavement leave to be exact.

It’s October 30 as I’m as I’m writing this, exactly a month since my father passed on. It’s been a month without drugstore errands  and hospital stays.

It’s been a month without Papa.

I was at Mercury Drug two weekends ago, and an overwhelming sense of sadness came over me as I realized I was actually there buying meds for myself (antacid and paracetamol)…and not the usual loot I had to buy almost daily for Papa (albumin, antibiotics, and a lot more).

It was a routine I took seriously, almost solemnly. First, I would check my own excel file masterlist of meds (oh yes, complete with generic names, brand names, dosage strength, and the comparative prices of four drugstores), then I’d go to the drugstore hoping the less expensive albumin would be available there. I’d hand the doctor’s prescription and Papa’s senior citizen ID card and booklet to the pharmacist then get the meds and the ice pack that usually goes with those meds.

But he’s gone now.

I felt so empty and lost standing like an idiot there at the drugstore before finally asking for my own Kremil S and Biogesic.

I miss my father. Although I always tell myself he’s in a much better place now, well- rested, ‘breathing” easier, and free from earthly pain and hardships, it would probably take a long time before I could enter a drugstore or a hospital without a tinge of sadness or emptiness. I still offer a silent prayer for Papa whenever my cab passes by the Lung Center on my way to work.

So there.

When I started this personal experiment called “A Year of Living Without” in January, I wanted to simplify my life and give up some habits. I didn’t expect to lose someone I so dearly love and respect with all my heart.

I will try my best to let go of the pain and the sadness of losing Papa, but I will keep the happy memories our family had with him for as long as I live.

Quote: A story is like a house


“A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows.

And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished.

You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time.

It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.” (2013 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Alice Munro)

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