Slow Living: Slow Decision-Making on Having Children, or Not

It’s a funny thing, being married and not having children. Typically, the first question past somebody’s lips are, “Are you pregnant yet?”, regardless of their relationship to you, or lack thereof. “Yet” being the most offensive word in the entire inquiry. “Yet” as in, implying it was expected years ago. “Yet”, as in reminding every female of a biological clock ticking away in the distance. “Yet”, as if securing child-bearing as a factual part of every woman’s life, so as to rob her of freedom of choice.

We’ve had grandparents come up to us and tell us, “I want to have great-grandkids already (some of them already do, and still, their eyes turn to us)”, and our own parents saying “I want grandkids too!”. How noble of you to volunteer us for such an intensive endeavor. Sometimes I just want to tell them, in a very matter-of-fact way, that my purpose in life is not to serve them forever (oh, master), just as their calling in life is to not live through me forever (your highness).

Having children is a decision that I’ve tossed around, mulled over, succumbed to, and fought against. It’s a discussion that I’ve spilled out on the table to Mikey, and that we’ve shoved back into a closet. I have always been a very deliberate, and intentional person, who strives to have my actions reflect my values, although I was never able to recognize that before in my youth. My thinking has always been of a psychological nature. I was attracted to books that taught me more about the human nature than all my human interactions combined. Maybe that’s why I am deeply attracted to psychological thrillers, and equally, as deeply affected. I used to consider myself a secret rebel, because I had an urge to initially resist and go against whatever I was taught, with the assumption that what the world feeds me is not necessarily right. “A girl who thinks too much”, they said. I don’t think too much, I simply think. Whether that’s a short-coming on my part is debatable, one that I’d heatedly deny. Regardless, I continue to dissect my actions, my thoughts, my feelings to unfathomable depths until I reach some form of inner peace. This is just a small look into my extremely complicated, weirdo mind.

Child bearing is a concept whose importance is so heavily ingrained in a multitude of cultures, since the beginning of man-kind. There is a large part of myself that feels a resistance to the idea, despite being raised with the notion that this was my future written in stone. There was always this timeline that was assumed and impressioned on me, as I am sure it was impressioned on you. One that entails schooling, a career, marriage, a home, a new car, the first child or pet, a renovation of the home, the second child or pet, forty years of servitude to the man, and retirement on a Caribbean island. It’s a cycle that so many have lived through and wrongly romanticized, but we all don’t fit in the same shaped box that the world wishes to conform us to, do we now?

For many people, after marrying, they have this expectation of having kids as the next step. Whether they are aware of the puppet strings manipulating their decision to do that or not, it just “naturally” happens (tongue in cheek). It’s such a common assumption, that any random stranger meeting you for the first time and learning that you’re married will probably ask about your children within the first five minutes. This would occur in almost every part of the world.

It isn’t to say that having kids doesn’t turn out well. A majority of the time, it turns out wonderfully. It’s something that happens that many do not express regret over. It is, after all, a gift. Unfortunately, this does not mean that it was a decision that many people felt completely in control of. In fact, I would wager that a majority of people cannot completely explain why they chose to have kids in the first place. Answers I would typically hear include, “I wanted to experience the joys of motherhood”, “I wanted to embark on a journey with my husband”, “I want to learn from my children”, and “I wanted the challenge of raising a child right”. But these all sound like reiterations of extremely vague explanations-past that have no depth and crumble right after I ask the question, “Why?”

Some mothers immediately recognize their lack of control over the decision making process AFTER giving birth to their child. There is a line that is crossed wherein a person loses their singularity once a child is born. The unexpectedness of this loss, or the unpreparedness to understand that part of yourself (and your life) is now shared by someone else can be very depressing.

Post partum depression is increasing in occurrence among women in the United States. CDC research reports that nationally, 1 in 9 women experience post partum depression, and that some states, 1 in 5 women experience post partum depression. The cause is yet unknown and some would like to attribute it to hormonal changes, but there is no definitive truth. I took a Women’s Course once in college and I vividly remember research that argued that hormonal changes during menstruation and post partum actually cause women to have a heightened sense of awareness and a deeper connection spiritually and intuitively. In some indigenous cultures, these awakened abilities of women are so highly valued that women actually leave in groups once a month to go to the top of the mountains or in isolation somewhere to have the space to fully tap into this awareness. The class compares that to first world countries’ explanation of PMS, which could be the result of a woman’s awareness of their position or role in society, and the rage they feel at the injustice of it all. Likewise, post partum depression could be the sudden realization that they have just sacrificed a part of their lives for society. And while some may argue that hormonal changes could be the cause of depression, it is interesting to me that the risk factors and symptoms are non-hormonal at all, but rather societal.

Risk factors for Post Partum Depression Include

  • Difficulty getting pregnant.
  • Low social support.
  • Being a mom to multiples, like twins, or triplets.
  • Being a teen mom.
  • Preterm (before 37 weeks) labor and delivery.
  • Pregnancy and birth complications.
  • Having a baby who has been hospitalized.

Symptoms of Post Partum Depression Include

  • Feelings of anger.
  • Withdrawing from loved ones.
  • Feeling numb or disconnected from your baby.
  • Worrying that you will hurt the baby.
  • Feeling guilty about not being a good mom or doubting your ability to care for the baby.

This indicates to me that there is more to the depression than a scientific explanation of excessive neurochemicals floating around in one’s bloodstream. Whether it’s natural to feel our own humanness, or it’s due to a realization of an incomplete understanding of our undertaking, post partum depression at times happens but many are able to conquer it and move on to being fantastic and wonderful parents.

What I am going to say next may offend people because of my lack of experience in parenting and my statements regarding the task, but this is what I’ve observed and learned from deep discussions with current parents. Being a parent is romanticized as being a joy in life. A correction to that statement would be that it is a joy in life, at times. It cannot be denied that there are moments in parenting that are frustrating, infuriating, annoying, tiring, and downright unbearable. Raising a little human is much more difficult than raising a little fish. It requires more of ourselves than we would like to admit. It’s nice to pin on social media the good moments, the perfect family photo, the tenth photo you took that captures that “one moment” of child-like goodness, but it could also be extremely misleading to young would-be-parents to paint an image of perfection.

There is a devotion to being there for another human being that is required from all parents that I think really conflicts with my ambition to serve society with the aim of reaching a higher good. These two things are completely incompatible ends. There is going to come a point in my life, where my would-be child would likely ask me to play a game of hide-and-seek in the exact moment that I should be rushing out the door to get to work. I would have to either make a choice to play hide-and-seek without reserve or distraction for that child and be late to my first patient of the day, or to deny my child the game to see my first patient as promised. When I brought this up to Mike, he had the insight to say it could also be detrimental to both. Maybe you start the game of hide-and-seek which ends in frustration of being late and the need to end it early, thus resulting in you being a few minutes late for another human being. Now you’ve failed both the child and the patient. Which is why I am so angered by this idea of Life Work Balance that is being glamorized by the media. It’s this false lifestyle that can be really damaging to the human psyche. It’s an expectation that we have created, not only for women, but men and fathers too, that sets them up for failure. We pretend as if this can be transcended, when it can’t. It would be impossible for any human being to equally service everyone and everything at all times, day-to-day.

With that said, and with the knowledge of the human limitations for achieving SuperMom status, any devotion that I give to a fictitious child would hamper my strive to give to my community. Some might argue that you will be improving the community by raising a child right, with valued morals and principles, thus giving them the ability to contribute to THEIR community when they grow older. But isn’t that thinking a bit too much on the small-scale of things? I think I would have a greater effect on society if I could somehow touch multiple parents with my work. Whether that’s dentistry or my writing or my lifestyle. If I could influence a whole community of parents, whose child-rearing thinking, techniques and habits shift to raise a whole generation of better children, does that not make up for the one child I choose not to have? Instead of giving to one child, why not give to an entire world of children? I am not so egotistical as to think I would have this world-changing effect on society, but maybe I can change one or two or ten people through my work, who then pass it on to THEIR children, and is that not better already?

I was reading Ashlee Vance’s book on Elon Musk and an interview with Elon revealed to me that he was a huge proponent of procreation. Specifically, he reprimands smarter women for not procreating more. He notes the correlation between highly educated, career-driven, “successful and intellectual” women, and decreased child-bearing. He states that “smarter women” should have children, as an evolutionary responsibility to our race’s future. At first I was floored by this very influential and highly-educated man’s insistence on highly-educated women having children. For a second I was convinced. But then I had flashbacks from my evolutionary biology courses. Evolution is not generational. Evolution occurs over extremely long periods of time. It depends more on a mutational change that can permeate throughout the species and survive over numerous generations. Unless there is a mutational change that would make a smart woman’s child smarter than a regular human being, there is an unlikelihood that her having children will have an impact in the evolutionary progression of intelligence. Additionally, even if an intelligent woman has a child who is also more intelligent than his peers, there has to be the guarantee that that child will procreate with an equally intelligent human being. If the child procreates with someone with a lower IQ score, then there is no progress. There are other factors that could affect evolutionary intelligence. The technology which we are creating, at an increasingly rapid speed, is causing us as a species to access less and less of our brains. Atrophy of certain aspects of the brain due to an easier lifestyle can affect evolutionary intelligence more than the decision of one woman to have a child. Even something as simple as reading books, which was invented way before computers, is considered a fairly recent advancement in our society that arguably require us to draw less from niches in our brains that deal with imagination or memory.

Lastly, I would like to challenge the idea that intelligence is measured solely by biological factors. It has been discovered that IQ tests do not test intelligence alone, but rather motivation as well, which I would argue can be taught. Environmental factors can greatly shape a person’s motivation to learn. It would be wrongly assuming of anyone to think that a highly educated woman’s child will be born smarter than a child born in a third world country to two parents who work in factories. It has been shown time and time again that people from third world countries tend to tap into their potentials more than people from first world countries, given the same resources. Perhaps it is the survival-of-the-fittest in us all and an early introduction to how pressing the survival call actually is during our childhood years that help to shape this. Regardless, I think to myself at times, that maybe the smarter thing to do would be to not have children, but to give a child in need the resources and the ability to be able to reach their hidden potential.

I think this humanitarian ideal calls more to me now than ever before. There are plenty of children in this world already. I am one of those children who was born in a third world country. I have done outreach programs to third world countries multiple times in my life. I know that there is a need for help. Nicole Kidman’s role as Sue Brierly in Lion captured it best.

“Having a child, couldn’t guarantee it will make anything better. But to take a child that’s suffering like you boys were. Give you a chance in the world. That’s something.

I think about this quote all the time. I wonder about whether wanting children is a selfish thing. Historically, having children came from a selfish need to increase the number of hands on a farm, or a need to carry the family name that we so wear with pride. The more modern reasons for wanting children that I touched on above all insinuate a sense of selfish pleasure out of the entire experience. It would be wrong of me to say that having children is just yet another social status symbol that we portray to the world, saying we are successful and happy, although partially, I believe that is true. Congratulations, yet another box you’ve checked off on your to-do list! Off course, I wouldn’t deny in the same breath that there is more to it than that. But the reasons that I hear always center around “I”. “I wanted to experience the joys of motherhood”. “I wanted to embark on a journey with my husband”. “I want to learn from my children”. “I wanted the challenge of raising a child right”.

But what is it that we want to give? And can we do that with what we already have?

The game plan for me was always to have children of my own. But it’s on pause right now, while I try to riddle through past influences and determine whether that choice was really made by me, or by someone else. This is just the transitional phase, and as with any transitional phase, it involves some heavy soul-searching, unearthing, and re-configuring. Undoubtedly, it would be insane of me, and completely degrading, if I decide to have children simply because someone else wants me to. Then again, people will call me insane for digging this deeply on a decision that some would unwittingly make in a heartbeat. There is a sense of “Hurry up already!” that we feel, like a scent seeping into a room. But as with everything else … slow and intentional, mindful and true.

Less Waste: When Dining Out

Dining out is sparingly done in our household, for multiple reasons, but even more so, is thoroughly enjoyed. We treat dining out as a privilege, and not a day-to-day occurrence. This awareness makes us more appreciative whenever we step out to eat, not just of the service and of the food itself, but also of our lifestyle and our current situation. We do not want this privilege to be the source of something that dumps on the life that we love, which includes the planet that we live on. Because of this, we have adopted some habits and policies that we try to follow during our experiences.

First and foremost, we avoid take-out and fast food restaurants as much as we can. The benefits of this is multi-fold, with regards to the environment as well as to our health. The initial reasoning behind it, though, was entirely environmental. I try to hide a reflexive cringe whenever food is served to me in a single-use container, which most times occur due to a lack of foresight, on my part. As punishment: my loss of appetite and a barrage of internal reprimands. To avoid, the avoidance of any form of single use containers. Even if a slice of pizza was handed to me in a recyclable or compostable cardboard box, I still can’t help but think to myself, “I could do better”. Consequently, we find ourselves dining out in sit-down restaurants more frequently.

Sometimes, we will go to a sit-down place that serves the food in a re-usable dish, but the utensils are for single time use. Case in point, our beloved ramen or sushi. In such instances, I whip out my Ambatalia utensil holder from inside my Sseko bag, and pull out a pair of chopsticks. It also holds a spoon, fork, and a metal straw – for those situations when a straw facilitates the drinking process – aka malts and shakes at Ruby’s. However, most of the time, we let the waiter know that we are a no-straw table, and thank them when they bring our cups out sans straw. If you’d prefer a reusable bamboo set rather than carrying your own beloved silverware around town, I am a fan of this one, which is held stock at our local farmers market.

Wherever we go, I do carry around a reusable water bottle as well, in case I get thirsty and don’t have a nearby non-plastic alternative to replenishing parched lips. Without any boundaries, I have also been seen whipping out my own Tupperware which I bring from home and carry in my purse when I remember that we are going out to eat. Any leftovers that I have are stored safely in that instead of asking for a to-go box. Embarrassing for the faint of heart, but not so for those with a steely drive to make a difference for the sake of Mother Earth.

The two exceptions we have to sit-down restaurants are our coffee runs and ice cream dates. Coffee is easily purchased on the go with our Keep Cups, which we always have on hand in our car. The ice cream dates were initially made easier with ordering a cone to hold our ice cream in. Alas, not all ice cream places have cones. So we do also have this pint-size insulated Miir canister that keeps a pint of ice cream cold for multiple hours. We bring it to our local ice cream shop, which we can bike to in order to further reduce car emissions, re-fill the pint with the most delicious ice cream, and store in the fridge for a couple days indulgence.

How do you implement less waste when dining out?

Freedom: Why I Choose to Stay Part Time

When I first graduated from dental school, I imagined myself working as many days as possible at multiple offices to lead a “successful” and rich lifestyle. The goals were like any other typical goals, pay down student debt, buy a huge house in Southern California, travel the world, buy nice things to fill the house, start a family and raise children, etc. I wasn’t quite as intentional back then with my lifestyle as I am now, as you can probably tell. But I was ready to enter the workforce and “getter done”. After so much schooling, I felt like I was behind everyone else and I needed some catching up to do.

So how did I end up here?

The first person who ever suggested I work part-time was my financial advisor. We had just met and we were delving into what our goals were for the future and what our ideal lifestyle model would be like. When I rushed headlong into my ideas of working 6 days a week at multiple offices, for the rest of my life until I retire at past 65, he stopped me then and there and asked me to consider an alternative. Burnout is a prevalent result in dentistry. Due to the high stresses of the job, a majority of dentists experience burnout at an earlier age than they would like, which causes them to either cut down significantly on the days they work or quit dentistry all-together. My financial advisor, who deals with mostly newly graduated dentists, have seen time and time again, young new grads quitting dentistry a few years out of school. Despite my whole-hearted belief that this could never happen to me, he highly recommended that I limit myself to only four or five days a week. Long-term, he says that that would be most conducive to the lifestyle that me and Mike were trying to live. Off course, with anything anyone says to me, I took it with a grain of salt, but was still slightly stubborn in my ways. I had barely started work at that time, and was really feeling professionally driven. To me, I have watched my parents before me, and my friends around me, work the usual 9-5, Monday to Friday every week, and I (arrogantly, pompously, and ignorantly) assumed that I was more capable than that. I felt like I could take on the whole world at that point in life. We all feel like superheroes when we are young and naive.

And maybe we could, but does it mean that we should? The second person who insisted I work part-time was my boss. A little back story on where I work and my relationship with my boss. I started working at an office five minutes from my house at the age of 19 years old. I was a volunteer at first, but the office manager (who happened to be the wife of the dentist who owned the practice), saw my drive and interest and decided to train me from scratch to be a dental assistant. She paid for my x-ray licensing exams, bought me scrubs, set up one-on-one training sessions with the dental assistants, etc., etc. She basically became my second mother and took me by the hand and showed me the ropes. She held a lot of belief in me and I grew confidence and independence under her wing. She saw my love for writing, and actually had me write the entire website for the office from scratch. Every single written word on that site was mine, and I became so proud of it. She was very trusting, patient, and just all-together generous with her time. Eventually, I started working as a dental assistant on the IV sedation team, which was being run by the owner of the practice. He, too, had the same generosity as his wife, and shared so much knowledge, tips, and advice. I knew I wanted to be a dentist since I was eight years old, but I did not come to love dentistry until I worked with them at this office. These two people became my second parents, and did as fantastic a job as my first (real) parents in raising me to find my self-worth, as well as instilling in me the core need to put others first when it comes to doing dental work. When I graduated dental school, I reached out to them and they made room for me in their two practices to start my journey. Again, they’ve trusted in my abilities, although I do not know what they ever see in me, but I hold a lot of respect and feel a lot of gratitude towards these two people. They are the type to hold the best interests of those around them to heart, and I trust them fully and hold their opinions quite highly.

So when I started working with my boss and he asked me how many days I hoped to work, again I said 6 days a week. He looked at me kind of funny, as if seeing his former, younger self with the same fire in my eyes, shook his head, and then said to me, “You don’t want to work six days a week. It’ll burn you out. You’ll feel too tired to think and then you will make mistakes, and then you will feel less and less confident. Plus it wouldn’t be giving your best standard of care to your patients. In fact, I don’t want you working six days a week.” I was kind of surprised, but at the same time, I recalled my financial advisor saying the same thing and I said, “Okay.”

Initially he gave me three days a week, and then he bumped it up to four days a week, and then five days every other week. But I think he saw that I was looking for more. When one of the doctors at one of the offices left to fulfill her own dental dreams, he had me cover for her until he hired a new doctor, which then had me working six days every other week, and five days every other week. I was so excited for the chance, I jumped at it and went to town. I worked so much, and though I loved my job and went to work every day with a smile on my face (and, more importantly, left work every day with a smile on my face), I started to see what he meant. Burn out is a real thing, and although you may not feel it, it IS reflected in one way or another. Perhaps it is in your work, or the way you treat others. I started to lose that time that I used to take with my patients, and I was practicing more of an in-and-out type dentistry. The Hi- Let’s get to work – Bye! It wasn’t just dentistry either. I started to bring that home with me, relishing the space that I needed for myself, and taking away from the time I should have given to Mike and my family and friends. It only lasted a month or two before we hired a new doctor that fit well with our practice. But I saw what I needed to see, which was this.

You cannot take care of other people if you do not take care of yourself first. My job is built around helping others, whether that’s helping them out of pain, helping them feel confident with their smile, helping them learn about hygiene techniques that will prevent future disease, or just helping them understand more about teeth. I entered dentistry for this aspect of it, and to detract from my ability to help others to a high level of standard is selfish and wrong, especially when the driving force is money. Luckily, I also found a shift in my “needs and wants” in life, and I realized that I don’t need the money as bad as I thought. Sure, I still have bills to pay and loans to be free from. But I also used to spend on things that were simply wasteful. I cut that out and found that I do have the time, and space, to give to myself, before I give unto others.

My brother once asked me why I did not work more if I was so concerned about paying off my student loans really quickly. Fair question, since that’s all I seemingly preach. My answer is this. The reason why I want to pay off student debt quickly is not so I can be rich quicker. It’s so I can be free. If working more days now is required to get rid of the debt quicker, then all I am doing is trading freedom now for freedom later. The result of that trade would be a worn down, energetically deprived me, who would get less out of life in my earlier years than if I were to continue at a more moderate pace. The truth is, I just don’t think the trade is worth it. If freedom is what you seek, then there is no need to get more freedom in exchange for freedom. I think it all comes down to the question, “What do you value?” To be able to answer that question requires a lot of deep soul searching that I am not completely sure is even complete yet. But so far, I’ve come to the conclusion that things I value include aspects of life that cannot be found in the workplace. I value space – for a reset, to be mindful, to be open and to think clearly. I value health, which is prolonged by the avoidance of stressors and physical ailments via static postures. Speaking of stasis, I value trying to avoid stasis in all aspects, by always learning something new. I find that if I was at work all the time, I would not have the space or time to learn new things, which would be a shame, since I also value creativity and self-expression. Lastly, I value taking care of people, and it’s easy to forget that we are people too.

In 2017, I worked an average of 3 days a week. It’s almost laughable, that a young, arguably driven dentist, would work less than half of the year. Even though I worked alternating 4 and 5 day weeks, and a few months of 5 and 6 day weeks, I took multiple long vacations, some as long as 2-3 weeks. I no longer seek to fill my time solely with work. I am more mindful about drawing boundaries and really saying no in order to have the space to increase my own self-worth. I aim to learn new things about the world, and where my place lies in it. The time off has given me a better understanding as to why I do things the way I do and how I could live life in a way that is better for the planet and for the people. More importantly, I am able to implement that change. It’s not just all talk, but I actually get to experiment with different lifestyles and really DO. I spend a majority of my weekends solely with family members and friends, because I have my own weekdays off where I can spend it on myself. I like that I don’t have to detract from other people’s time. Time is like any other resource we have. Like money, if you have an excess amount of time, you are more likely to be liberal in giving it away to others. If you have little time, then you will be more stingy with it, wanting to keep it for yourself. Now I know that time is a better thing to earn than money. Off course, I could go out there and find other offices to work at on my days off, but honestly, I have come to realize the value of working part time. What started as a recommendation by my financial planner and a command by my boss has become an autonomous choice to choose freedom above all else. I wouldn’t trade the peace and happiness that I’ve found for a house, or a new car. Would you?

Minimalist Make Up Routine

If you know me at all, you would know that I am not a make-up person. Flashbacks to nightmarish beauty pageants in the Philippines and getting poked in the eyes with liner pencils at the age of 5 probably shaped my current stance on wearing makeup. That stance being, the less make-up the better. I remember family photo shoots and birthday parties, going to beauty salons to get completely done up. I am talking foundation, eyeliner, mascara, eye shadow, blush, lipstick, the whole nine yards. Eyes burning from the mascara when I momentarily forgot that rubbing my eyes was not smart. Tasting lipstick when I licked my lips in preparation for my birthday cake. It makes you not want to eat cake. In fact, my entire face felt like cake.

Exposure to this type of make-up experience would make any teen happy to live without. I entered the make-up scene late, compared to my peers. I started wearing eye-liner in 11th grade, when I was sixteen years old. And I am talking eye-liner in the most modest sense, a wooden pencil that traced the inside of my lower lid. I wore lip gloss because it was cool, but quickly swapped it for chap stick, which was much more comfortable. I did not start wearing mascara regularly until my third year of college, around when I was 20 years old. Everyday, I wore only eye liner and mascara, with lip balm. Granted, on special occasions, I dabbled in foundation and whatever eye shadow my aunts would gift me (typically going for neutral colors over, well, colors). Please note that I have never in my life bought foundation or eye-shadow, let alone blush or that glimmery stuff that makes you look bronze? I only happen across them as people gifted them to me, probably thinking that I was in need of it. I would occasionally wear lipstick too (a few of which I’ve bought myself), and while I love the look, it usually resulted in chapped lips. By the end of the night, I would have switched back to my trusty lip balm, all thoughts of glamour discarded, put on the shelf for another night out.

On such occasions deemed special, I look at myself in the mirror and and can’t help but feel clownish, at best, and a fraud, at worst. Overall, there’s a level of discomfort associated with putting my face on, as some would do everyday. Luckily for me, I look almost exactly the same with make-up as I do without make-up. My sister has that Belle ability to transform her image whenever she applies makeup. For some people, the effects are dramatic. For myself, minimal, as with all other aspects of my life. My husband literally cannot tell the difference between when I have make-up on or when I don’t. The only time he has been able to note the difference was when I placed so much on that I myself felt like I was part of a circus. He called me alien, which was the most perfect  description I have ever heard for what it feels like to wear make-up. It doesn’t mean I refuse make-up all together. Just that my comfort zone falls between eye-liner, and maybe a dash of mascara. On days off, I feel just as comfortable going bare.

With age comes wisdom, or at least a better understanding as to what I like and what I don’t like. Right on the heels of that thought, there comes the courage to do solely what works for me. On my days off, I’ve made an effort to go without. Some would say it wouldn’t be fair for me to project this on everyone, since we’ve all got different needs, and that’s fine. I’ve had people tell me I could “get away with it” because I was lucky enough to have fairly decent skin and doe eyes and a small face, or whatever. For the record, there was a long time when I felt like it was not okay to go without. To be honest, the way I see myself is completely different from the way others see me. I consider myself having a boyish face with bulldog cheeks and a large forehead. But hearing others compliment me on certain features made me realize that we as a society are way too harsh on our own reflections. Due to societal standards and peer influences, going bare makes one wonder if everyone else sees them as the ugly duckling they think they are. I had my own share of minor freak out moments when I realized I stepped out the door without a drop of make-up on me. It takes a lot to let it go. Even now, there are certain times when I feel uncomfortable going somewhere without at least a dash of eyeliner, work being the most common example, but also get-togethers and parties. We must all remember that this is nothing but a social construct, ingrained in our cultures way back when indigenous people painted themselves with all sorts of berry juice and seed mulch. Once I strengthened my resolve and embraced that fact, I’ve found the courage to step through that door, head held high. I’d like to think that the cliche of a genuine smile is enough to carry me through the day.  I recently went through my make-up collection, mostly consisting of expired goods that I hardly touched, and got rid of everything that I did not use. I came across the following items to purge:

2 foundations, 2 blush, 3 lipsticks, 4 eye-shadow palettes, 2 bronzers, and 2 primers.

While I don’t know how to properly apply half of that stuff, I do know how useless they’ve been sitting in my drawer for an embarrassing number of years, waiting for those just-in-case occasions that never came. The only make up that I kept are:

1 eyebrow pencil, 1 eyeliner, 1 mascara, 1 lipstick, and lip balms Galore, which may or may not count.

Related to my issue with the lack of benefits of make-up products are the cringe-worthy moments when I see that a majority of these make-up products are packaged in plastic. Single-use plastic containers, and always sold in small packaging, which further increases plastic waste. Arguably the make-up industry has a far ways to go to improve their packaging of cosmetic goods. Even after much research, I have found it difficult to find alternative products that I am actually satisfied with. Luckily, with my minimal stash of cosmetics, I am already diminishing my effects on the environment. However, the whole thing still leaves much to be desired.

Here are a few essentials that are environmentally friendly (-er). It would be ideal to have products that are cruelty-free, produced with all natural ingredients, and come in recyclable packaging. These are not perfect, but we try.

What I Already Have

  1. Chanel Crayon Sourcils Sculpting Eye Brow Pencil – Only to be worn when I roll out of bed feeling a bit more sophisticated, or diva. Maybe once every week. I still have the same pencil that I bought two years ago, and there’s enough to last another half a year perhaps. I prefer this over eyebrow pencils in plastic containers. Just a traditional pencil that could be sharpened the good old way. Yes, the bristly end could be improved. In all honesty, it could be discarded all together.
  2. Chanel Le Crayon Kohl Intense Eye Pencil – Eyeliner is the one thing I am picky about because it’s the one thing I wear pretty much on the daily, and not all eye-liners are created equal. Due to minimal use, it can also last me close to a full year, which makes my decisions even more important. Just like the eyebrow pencil, I traded in my favorite eyeliners packaged in plastic tubes for a plain old pencil. It took me a long time to find what I liked, with the first few (cheaper) pencils that I’ve tried feeling similar to sharpened colored pencils that poked at my eyes. This is soft enough to easily apply and does not irritate my lids. It shares a sharpener with its friend, the eyebrow pencil.

What I Want

  1. Meow Meow Tweet Vegan Lip Balm – Lip Balm is a standard item in my purse or pocket. Packaged in a 1oz compostable paper tube instead of plastic cartridges, these address that plastic issue. They are made of pure organic essential oils and comes in three scents, Coconut Cacao, Sweet Orange Tangerine, and my preferred scent, Rosemary Eucalyptus.
  2. Vapour Organic Beauty Siren Lipstick – A natural, non-toxic, cruelty free lipstick that could be used for those rare special occasions. Even rarer for this product is the 100% recyclable outer packaging.

Unfortunately, mascara is the item in my collection that I can’t find a non-plastic solution to. And yes, Chanel has not actually released whether or not they test their products cruelty free, so I feel short of satisfied using their products, but for now, it’s what I’ve got. For those wondering about my beauty clean-up routine at night, bar soap and water is all I use. Zero waste for the win!

Anyone out there want to share their ethical and waste free go-to beauty products? Please do.

For those who have much left to be desired with this post, check out the following for your other make-up routine needs. Unfortunately, I can’t give much advice on how to use them.

+To Create The Foundation

+A Refillable Blush

+A Face Mask

+This Face Oil

+Protection Against the Sun

+Reusable Cosmetic Poufs

+Facial Cleanser

+Facial Cloths

+This  article for more.

Finance: When NOT to consolidate student loans

There was a day last year when Mike, two co-workers, and I all took the day off of work, just because. I remember it vividly. It was a Tuesday and the weather was sunny, and somewhere in the low eighties. Mike and his co-workers came over to our place to work one of his motorcycles. The goal was to change the engine, but I think the boys really just wanted to take it apart and put it back together like a box of legos. Such are the interests of engineers who design electric cars all day. I did my own thing, cooking and writing, and biking, etc. The usual. Once in a while, I popped my head in the garage to watch them tinker, to observe the progress. There were times where they struggled, muscling their way into making pieces fit. Other times, they laughed, at some overlooked rookie mistake of theirs. Most of the time they were either marveling at the mechanics of it all, or otherwise criticizing some faulty housing of electric wires. I guess inefficiencies of mechanical parts are laughable, to some. Overall, they did good. The bike ran, after twelve hours of work, sweat, and metaphorical tears.

At the end of the day, we ate a much deserved dinner of Mediterranean food. As we were talking about who knows what, the topic of student loans came up. It was actually brought up by one of Mike’s co-workers who happened to be dating a pharmacist. He was the one who inspired me to write the previous blog post, and it is because of stories like these that I am determined to share whatever little knowledge I have of finances with the rest of the world.

His girlfriend was pursuing an alternative loan forgiveness program to pay her student loans from pharmacy school. As part of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, she has been working for the past two years at a VA hospital in LA county. The program states that after ten years of service at a government or not-for-profit organization, the loans will be wiped, TAX FREE (compared to the IBR, PAYE and REPAYE options which considers forgiven amounts as part of your income and is therefore taxed). She has been working here for a few years and was warned against consolidating her loans by her co-workers. Why?

She had some co-workers who have been working at the hospital for a few years. The hospital started to convince them to consolidate their loans. They said consolidating multiple loans into one will be more convenient and easier to track. Some of them went ahead and did just that, after listening to the hospital’s advice. Unfortunately, there is a clause that states that after consolidation of student loans, previous payments do not count towards the loan repayment program. In other words, despite having worked for 2 out of the required 10 years, after consolidation of the loans, the previous 2 years no longer counted towards the 10 year loan repayment. The consolidated loan is now considered a completely different loan, and in order to have that loan forgiven, they will have to work for an additional ten years. It was a story enough to make one cry. Imagine working your way towards freedom, only to have that freedom taken away and prolonged. The past two years of hard work went towards nothing. The worst part? They were advised to do this! Off course, it is not the hospital’s responsibility to be aware of the clauses associated with every loan program, so we can’t entirely blame the hospital. I just wish there was a positive end result from the decision to consolidate, which there wasn’t. All for “convenience” of having one lump sum, instead of keeping track of a few different loans.

Moral of the story: Do not consolidate your loans if you have already started a Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. If you would like to consolidate your loans, please do this right out of school, prior to working for your not-for-profit or government organization. My heart seriously goes out to those who have discovered this clause the difficult way. I am just glad that our friend’s girlfriend learned of it before she herself was convinced to do the same.

In line with all other aspects of this blog, freedom supersedes convenience in my book, always. Freedom to call your own schedule. Freedom to take the day off with your friends whenever you want. Freedom to enjoy hobbies, learn new things, and work on motorcycles. Even if it means avoiding the conveniences. 

It’s all in the details

Channeling Annie Banks Mackenzie on this one. Kate Spade meets TOMS meets a whole bunch of pink glitter on one particular New Year’s Eve.
My furry little companion kept me company throughout the evening. Also carried all the backup lipsticks, keys, and most importantly, checks. 
The dress was pink…


…and the suit was burgundy.
We wrote pamphlets to be handed out at the beginning of the ceremony. It had notes on how the ceremony was going to go down, with a few jokes thrown in for good measure. Written by us, and designed by our friend, Cindy Gonzalez, who also provided the balloom animals during cocktail hour, for kids and adults alike!
All signage was written by my cousin Karen, and all flower arrangements were made by my aunt Joji. Instead of vases, we collected over 200 empty alcohol bottles from our friends and family, whom we do not judge.
My mom hand-made each wand and tied a bell to it so that the guests could wave them in the air as I walked down the aisle. The guests were also provided with bags of different flavored popcorn during the ceremony.
Part of the fun of getting married in a warehouse is being able to fill the space. Witty Rentals did a fantastic job with that. My only regret was that I did not have a chance to sit my bum down on one of those poufs!
This “LOVE” light was given to us from one of my closest cousins as a wedding shower gift. It hung in our living room all holiday season, and still hangs over a couch in our bedroom today. Around it, we posted photographs of each married guest on their own wedding days.
The wall hanging was made by me and doubly served as a backdrop for when the appetizers were cleared and the photobooth arrived.
Everyone had a party hat, even the kids! And beads and horns and noise makers galore.
My wedding ring was purchased from a Consignment Center. I could not fathom the idea of spending tons and tons of money on a brand new ring which has been marked up significantly just to exploit future brides. I searched for months for the perfect ring. The day I almost gave up, I was ready to leave when this one caught my eye and on a whim, I asked to try it on. It was made in the 1950s and has never been owned. Two brothers were goldsmiths and made tons of jewelry. This one in particular has little lines etched into the gold which was hand-drawn by the maker. It reflects light in such a way that it looks rose gold, even though it is actually yellow gold. He kept a box of rings after he retired, and when he passed away his daughter inherited the box of jewelry, which she dropped off at the Consignment Center. And which I now wear on my finger. Total asking price: $150, 18k yellow gold, 3 mini diamonds. Story behind it: priceless.
My voice teacher and Mike’s guitar teacher are a married couple who provided live music prior to the ceremony. When Mike was walking down the aisle, I sang “Come What May” from Moulin Rouge while hidden behind a wall. It was a surprise and he had no idea until I started singing.
Wedding was set in an empty warehouse. 
It didn’t feel right to have anyone up there with us except our siblings and Mike’s best man. So we had our brother ordained and he married us. Our sisters were my girls and his best man Ivan stood up there to share the moment with us. The entire ceremony was written by us and my little brother, who is quite the jokester and he made us laugh throughout the entire ceremony. Both readings were read by our sisters. We also wrote our own vows and shared them with each other for the first time in front of everyone.
We did not want to kiss in front of the audience. So instead, we celebrated the joining of our marriage by taking a celebratory shot with our siblings up on stage.
Confetti was chucked at us as we left the ceremony. It was everywhere. No use cleaning it up though, because the party just began.
We had someone cutting out caricature profiles of our guests. One went into our guestbook for them to sign and another went to our guest to take home as a souvenir. We also had Cindy Gonzalez making balloon animals for all the party guests.
The wine bottles and beer bottles that acted as vases were collected from dear friends and family. My aunt made all the flower arrangements. 
We created these handouts for our guests, and placed a horn at each place setting. The cutlery and plates were bio-degradable, recyclable, and compostable. 
Our cake was a partially naked cake with gold foil. The flowers were added on by my aunt. Our guests also had a donut bar to go with their meal.
Lots and lots of donuts…
We had a choreographed modern dance for our first dance. And he didn’t drop me once! It was choreographed by my sister’s best friend, and she spent so many weekends trying to teach us this. The 2017 marquee that you see behind us is a two foot marquee made by one of my best friends from high school who happens to be an architect. I requested this in lieu of a wedding present.
This set up is one of the seating arrangements that Witty Rentals designed for us. Instead of going table to table, our guests were asked to go up on stage with us and take group pictures in this cute seating area. Then they could go on their merry way to the taco stations!
What’s NYE without Sparklers?! We had Sparklers on our cake, as well as after midnight. Every guest was handed a sparkler that was 3 feet long and we lit them up along the street right outside the venue. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful evening.



25 Beautiful Things

25 beautiful things

I went to the most fabulous workshop I have ever been to. First of all, if you know anything about me, it is that I am obsessed with this new adult coloring book trend. Ever since I was a kid, I loved coloring books! It was my gateway into the artistic world and I hold it very dear to my heart. I signed up for this workshop hosted by the local LA artist Anne-Louise Ewen. It was a workshop that featured her second coloring book, 25 more Beautiful Things.Included comes a copy of her giant, poster sized coloring book, some paintbrushes, and a water-color set. Not to mention wine and snacks as provided by the ever amazing Gum Tree Cafe, one of my favorite cafes in Hermosa Beach. I came in with very high expectations, totally ill-prepared for what was to come.

Prior to the paint session, Ewen made a little introductory speech to coloring. She addressed some of my very own thoughts about society and it’s hand in instilling fear into people to prevent them from being creative. From a young age, we are taught by authoritative figures such as our parents and teachers how we are supposed to do things. Even things as simple as coloring. We are taught to color within the lines and when we failed to do so (or at least when I did), we were told that we were doing it wrong. We were told that our artwork is not beautiful. That it is a failure in the world’s eyes. Even I myself was a part of this movement. I remember one of the first times Mike and I colored with each other. He was definitely not making it in the lines, and I remembered giving him tips on how to do it right. He was the first person to ever tell me that just because it isn’t in the lines does not mean it does not look good.

Creativity is the biggest form of rebellion. To be creative means to think outside the box. But not only think, but also to act outside the normal realm of what is commonly accepted. So many people want to try new things, but stop themselves from doing so, because they are afraid that they will fail, or at least, they are afraid that the world will consider them as a failure. But the only failure in life is to not try at all. The reaffirmation of my thoughts and feelings from this very wonderful person really reminded me to let go of control. My whole life, I was formed and shaped to believe that everything needs a plan and a purpose. But that isn’t true. Sometimes, things just need to be. And in so being, it is inherently beautiful.