One Day at a Time

It took me a lot of courage, strength, and heart to write this post because this is basically opening my heart and soul about a disease that has changed my life forever. I know I will get a variety of reactions from friends and families after reading this and I pray for nothing but love and understanding during this very difficult time. Initially, I wanted to keep this to myself and to those very close to me because I know they won’t judge nor bash. But what the heck? I don’t care about the negativity in this world anymore and I’d rather talk about this disease as openly as possible because I know that in one way or another, I’d be able to open lines of communication, create awareness, and draw support from people who could understand and relate. I want to be as real, honest, and true as I share my story because I want to inspire others who are also fighting the same battle. If I can overcome this, so can you! Trust me when I say that there’s light at the end of the tunnel and that you’re not alone as you go through it. So, please bear with me. This is quite a lengthy post.

Lupus is a long-term autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissues. This disease is often called ‘the disease of 1,000 faces’ because it’s hard to detect and the symptoms vary from person to person. There are different types of lupus ranging from mild to severe. I got diagnosed with ‘mild’ Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) in January this year. As what my specialist explained, ‘mild’ lupus is non-life threatening BUT not to be taken for granted. This means that I have to double the efforts in keeping my body healthy.

A lot of you might be thinking, ‘Huh?! How come? You are one of the most health conscious persons I know!’ — the very same question I had after hearing the diagnosis from my doctor. ‘Why me?!?’ — then ugly cry right outside the doctor’s office. So, yeah, why me? My husband and I eat well and healthily, we exercise, we drink our vitamins regularly, and we get as much rest as we can.

When did it all begin? In October 2018. That was when I first started feeling mild joint pains from my arms all the way to my fingers and from my knees all the way to the soles of my feet. Back then, I thought I was just tired because of work. I didn’t pay much attention to it because the pains were bearable, and would be gone after a warm shower in the morning. They’d be back in the evening, I’ll just go to sleep, and they’ll be gone the next day. Repeat – until I got used to it. Not until that one day in October when I had my first flare up (though I think my very first flare up happened back in 2012 when we were vacationing in Mauban). I was in so much pain that I could barely walk. The next day, I went to see our family doctor and explained what I experienced. I was asked a couple of questions about the kind of work that I do and my family’s health history. Our family doctor thought the pains were related to my work and I was prescribed to take some pain killers. I didn’t take them (I am skeptical about pain killers and would rather take natural remedies). I’m stubborn like that and my husband hates it.

So, the pains didn’t really go away and they became even more painful to bear. I took the pains as they come and I would cry myself to sleep most nights because my whole body hurts and my joints were all swollen. I won’t lie but during times when I couldn’t take it anymore, I took some of the pain killers just so that I could sleep. So this went on and then came December, just before the holidays, I experienced my second flare up. My husband and I were doing our grocery shopping at that time and after paying for our groceries, I couldn’t walk nor carry any of our shopping bags. We had to take Uber home because I couldn’t walk anymore. I cried, cried, and cried because I was in so much pain and I have never felt so helpless in my entire life! Imagine, I couldn’t even tie my hair up nor lift a knife because my arms hurt. That’s the kind of pain I had to deal with every.single.day. I am just truly blessed to have a loving, caring, and understanding husband for he has always been by my side. I was in so much pain but I never felt alone and inadequate.

After my second flare up, I went back to our family doctor because I felt that this could be something serious. Our doctor said that he suspects it might be rheumatoid arthritis (RA). I thought, it could be as it runs in our family. I had to do some blood work to find out. Results came out the next day and our doctor ruled out RA. I was then referred to a specialist so that I could do another set of blood tests to determine if I have an autoimmune disease. I did my second blood test after the holidays and only found out on 17th January that I have SLE.

When my doctor broke the news to us, he was very nonchalant that I didn’t feel like I was about to die. He was very reassuring that I will get better plus the fact that mine is a ‘mild’ case. Though I really don’t know how they are able to differentiate between a mild or severe case because to me, the pains are very debilitating. We were also told that this disease is partly genetic so there’s really no escaping it. I was prescribed a medication to suppress my immune system. I have been pain-free for a month now and my lab results are A-Okay. I’d like to think that I’m on way to recovery or remission, rather.

It took me a while to get to this point where I am strong enough (literally and figuratively) to talk about this disease. I had to work extremely hard to get better- physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, socially, and most importantly, spiritually. If I were given a chance to re-write my life story, I don’t want this part to be re-written because as much as it feels like a curse, it’s more of a blessing as it has transformed my relationships with the people I love especially my marriage. My husband and I have come out of this stronger and it feels like we can take on anything that life gives us. I’m blessed to have the best team of doctors looking after me and I don’t fear anything for I know the Lord is with me- that this is all part of His plans for me. At this point in my life, I just had to stop guessing what will tomorrow bring and just learn how to appreciate every new day and that God is with me through this entire ordeal. By living with this mindset every day, I realized that faith is that simple. It’s not having faith in our own faith but rather, ‘I have faith that even when I can’t anymore- physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally- the Lord can still do what He has willed to do.

Lastly, I want to take the time to thank all of you- families and friends- who have been very patient, supportive, sensitive and yet full of faith, who have reached out and constantly check and pray for us. Your love, prayers, and words of encouragement truly make a difference because most days, that’s all we really need to know. That we have friends and families who truly love and remind us that we are not alone in this journey. Please continue to pray for us as we still have a long way to go. We appreciate and love you all.

God is good.

Zero Plastic Use, Happier Nemo

As I see more and more videos being uploaded online about how much garbage is in our oceans, I couldn’t help but feel sad. I feel sad for the marine animals. If they could only speak of their unhappiness – for they have no choice but to adapt to the damages we’ve done to their home. I feel sad for us, humans. Is this really how irresponsible we’ve become? I feel sad for myself thinking that I am part of all this- that in one way or another, I have contributed to this atrocity. Should this continue, will our future children ever have the chance to appreciate these sea creatures? Will I be able to experience eating fresh seafood with my bare hands ever again? Maybe not. And that’s sad and scary at the same time.

So, I’ve started asking myself, how can we help solve this problem in our own little ways? A little act of kindness goes a long way for sure.

My husband and I have started assessing our habits and re-calibrating our behavior towards the use of plastic. We strongly oppose single plastic use. Here are some of the small steps we’ve taken to help keep Nemo and his friends happy.

Lately, when Alberto and I would eat out, we make it a conscious effort to inform the servers not to put plastic straws in our drinks. Imagine? One plastic straw can take up to 200 years to decompose! Oh my gulay! How many future generations is that?! Plus, whenever I see someone using plastic straws, I couldn’t help but imagine one turtle in so much pain because of a plastic straw stuck in its nose.

When I go to coffee shops, I bring my own cup so that they don’t serve my drinks in plastic cups anymore. We have also started recycling plastic bags whenever we do our grocery shopping by bringing used plastic bags to the supermarket so that we don’t get new plastic bags each week. I have also stopped using cling wraps to store our leftovers in the fridge. We have purchased these silicone stretch lids online and I must say that this is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life! Hehe.

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Not only that, two weeks ago, I asked my husband to get us these bamboo toothbrushes from Amazon:

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There’s still so much work to be done when it comes to saving our oceans but by sharing what we do to help address the problem, we are creating awareness. Start telling people what’s going on with the world’s oceans and what they can do to help and make a difference. How about you? What have you done to help?

Homemade Kale Chips: A Healthier Option

My husband and I love snacking! We never fail to make trips around the snacks section of the supermarket whenever we do our grocery shopping. Can you blame us? The perfect ‘home cinema’ experience will never be complete without snacks on the side paired with some beer or vino on Friday nights! The usual suspects that go in our shopping cart will have to be potato chips, chicharon (the husband’s favorite), and chocolates. I know.. I know.. salty, fatty, and sweet- not a healthy combination. So, we slowly started ditching potato chips and chicharon. Ang hirap, man! It’s like getting rid of your favourite pair of running shoes! But then again, it’s not the end of the world if we don’t eat it. Plus it really helps us towards our goal to live a healthy lifestyle.

What replaced potato chips and chicharon you ask? The husband researched and we started making our homemade popcorn. We just bought some corn kernels from the supermarket and popped it at home. That’s a step closer to a healthier diet because the ready made popcorn packs that are available in the supermarket contain lots of salt and butter. At least when we do it from scratch, we can control the amount of oil and salt that goes in it and it tastes better! But we need to find other alternatives since we don’t want to stuff ourselves with too much corn either!

As I was writing my grocery list this week, I thought why not make homemade kale chips? I bought some fresh kale leaves and gave it a try last night. It was perfect! 29102000_10212898178063347_2442851555423027200_n

You only need these ingredients:

1 medium-sized bunch of kale- washed and dried very well

2 tsp olive oil

a pinch or two of salt

a pinch of garlic powder

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
  2.  Wash and dry one bunch of kale, making sure the leaves are completely dry. If there’s any moisture left on the leaves you’ll end up with soggy kale chips.
  3. Rip the leaves off the stems and away from the chewy veins of the kale and into chip-sized pieces.
  4. Arrange the pieces of kale on an unlined baking sheet. I used parchment paper.
  5. Drizzle the olive oil as evenly over the kale as possible. Using your hands, gently massage the oil well into all the folds and onto the entire surface of each of the kale leaves. At first it may not seem that 2 tsps. of oil will be enough but adding more oil will only add too much moisture. If you need a tiny bit more oil, add it one drop at a time.
  6. Once you’ve finished massaging the kale, sprinkle a pinch or two of sea salt and a pinch of garlic powder over the kale. Massage the kale leaves so that the salt and garlic powder are evenly distributed. Place the pan in the oven.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan, flipping any pieces that are starting to look crispy and bake for another 10-15 minutes, watching the pan closely for the last 7-8 minutes to prevent over browning.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven and leave the kale chips on the pan for 305 minutes before serving so they can crisp up even more.

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My first attempt turned out perfectly crispy and crunchy! I’m happy to have found a healthy and guilt-free alternative! What about you? What’s your favourite no-guilt salty snack? Share them in the comments below.

Yoga-ta Take Care of Your Body!

…aaand I’m back from a writing hiatus! So many things have happened in my professional career that I have put blogging in the back burner. But, no matter how busy I got with work, I still found time (with the help of my husband’s constant nagging and encouragement. LOL) to a) run (we took advantage of the nice weather during summer and we ran at least 3x a week), and b) practice yoga.

My husband and I dedicated this year to keeping ourselves healthy which is one of the many things we need to do to make us ready for parenthood. This year, I’ve also heard and read a lot of  health issues and stories from friends and families. All these made me rethink of the way I take care of my own body-from what I eat, what I do, and how I think and feel.

Many times we all get busy trying to focus on financial and professional success, balancing life and work, and taking care of the people around us that we forget something as basic as taking care of our own bodies. Health should never be compromised, it should be a priority (at least for me because I would still like to see my children grow and succeed in life). So, enough of the excuses of not having time to spend at least a few minutes of your time exercising. If you have  time to surf the net everyday, well, you really have time to workout. So, what’s stopping you?

So for my comeback article (naks!), I thought of writing about yoga because to me, it’s more than an exercise. Yoga doesn’t make you feel like you need to drag yourself like when you have to go to the gym. Once you start practicing it, you feel the willingness to do it. The willingness to surrender to an energy that’s so powerful that after the practice, your whole body feels good, and that you’d want to do it again. This might not be the case when you do it the first few times (you’ll feel sore afterwards for sure) but believe me, your body will thank you for it.

I started my yoga practice when I was still in Singapore, fell in love with it, and vowed to keep practicing on my own. So, to help you get started, here are my favourite easy yoga poses for beginners.

  1. Mountain pose– Stand tall with feet together, shoulders relaxed, weight evenly distributed through your soles, arms at sides.Take a deep breath and raise your hands overhead, palms facing each other with arms straight. Reach up toward the sky with your fingertips.
  2. Downward Dog-Start on all fours with hands directly under shoulders, knees under hips. Walk hands a few inches forward and spread fingers wide, pressing palms into mat. Curl toes under and slowly press hips toward ceiling, bringing your body into an inverted V, pressing shoulders away from ears. Feet should be hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold for 3 full breaths.
  3. Warrior– Stand with legs 3 to 4 feet apart, turning right foot out 90 degrees and left foot in slightly. Bring your hands to your hips and relax your shoulders, then extend arms out to the sides, palms down. Bend right knee 90 degrees, keeping knee over ankle; gaze out over right hand. Stay for 1 minute. Switch sides and repeat.
  4. Bridge Pose– Lie on floor with knees bent and directly over heels. Place arms at sides, palms down. Exhale, then press feet into floor as you lift hips. Clasp hands under lower back and press arms down, lifting hips until thighs are parallel to floor, bringing chest toward chin. Hold for 1 minute.
  5. Seated Twist– Sit on the floor with your legs extended. Cross right foot over outside of left thigh; bend left knee. Keep right knee pointed toward ceiling. Place left elbow to the outside of right knee and right hand on the floor behind you. Twist right as far as you can, moving from your abdomen; keep both sides of your butt on the floor. Stay for 1 minute. Switch sides and repeat.
  6. Cobra– Lie facedown on the floor with thumbs directly under shoulders, legs extended with the tops of your feet on the floor. Tighten your pelvic floor, and tuck hips downward as you squeeze your glutes. Press shoulders down and away from ears. Push through your thumbs and index fingers as you raise your chest toward the wall in front of you. Relax and repeat.
  7. Child’s Pose– Sit up comfortably on your heels. Roll your torso forward, bringing your forehead to rest on the bed in front of you. Lower your chest as close to your knees as you comfortably can, extending your arms in front of you. Hold the pose and breathe.

There you go! I hope this article will inspire you to #startmoving today! Namaste!

Photo courtesy of melaniesykes.com

Love Letter to the BIG GUY

Dear Lord,

I don’t even know where to begin because saying thanks isn’t enough. I know I always talk to you in my prayers and this should be easy because it should just be like praying. But my heart is so overwhelmed that I don’t even know where to start. I just want to let the whole world know (and my not-so-many readers) of your goodness. I feel like shouting at the top of my lungs just to glorify you and use up all my voice just singing praises all day. Now, as I type this, I can’t help but cry because I feel so undeserving of all the blessings you’ve been showering me with, particularly the recent one you gave me. It is so overwhelming to feel that amazing kind of love, so complete and comforting, that it makes me so content.

Even before we came here in Canada, you heard my fears but your love reassured me a billion times that things will be okay. It wasn’t easy to adjust to all the changes but you took my hand and led me to where you know is BEST for me. I gladly followed because I know you will not put me where I’ll be harmed. The road you made me tread was bumpy at times but you were so ready to pick me up whenever I’d fall (both literally and figuratively). You made me walk on that road for me to learn valuable life lessons and even more so, not to lose hope and to just remain faithful to YOU. There were times I felt hopeless, tired, and broken but you reminded me of how great your love is in the little and simple blessings everyday. You kept mending my heart again and again. Once in a while, I would feel impatient, wanting to fast-forward everything so that I could accomplish my goals. I keep forgetting that you are also busy running the universe, that it might take a while for you to hear me out. But that’s okay, Lord. Everything happens in YOUR time, not mine. I have kept this Bible verse close to my heart, Lord, and it comes handy when I become impatient.

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Thank you, Lord, for always reminding me that YOU are all I need and that all these, in this world, is fleeting. You are my rock and my soul shall remain anchored in your great love. I am blessed and I will tell the world of your greatness. Use me as an instrument, Lord, to help those who are in need that we may all glorify only your name.

Salamat sa lahat lahat, Panginoon. Si iyo ang lahat ng papuri!

Love,

Abe

Shrimp Boil Foil Packets

Seafood enthusiasts, rejoice! Seafood, sausage, veggies cooked in less than an hour! This recipe is heaven-sent for people on the go and calorie-conscious!

Here’s what you’ll need: 

  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 (12.8-ounce) package smoked andouille sausage, thinly sliced or any spicy sausage is fine
  • 2 ears corn, each cut crosswise into 4 pieces
  • 1 pound baby potatoes
  • 4 heads of red onions (whole)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons cajun seasoning
  • chili flakes (depends on how spicy you want it to be)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill over high heat.
  2. Cut four sheets of foil, about 12-inches long. Divide shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes into 4 equal portions and add to the center of each foil in a single layer.
  3. Fold up all 4 sides of each foil packet. Add olive oil, cajun seasoning, salt and pepper, chili flakes, chili powder to taste; gently toss to combine. Fold the sides of the foil over the shrimp, covering completely and sealing the packets closed.
  4. Place foil packets on the grill and cook until just cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.*
  5. Served immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.

Now that it’s winter time on this side of the world, I used my oven and baked this for 22 minutes at 425 degrees F.

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Bacon and Chicken Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes in Garlic Cream Sauce

If you are tired of the usual Filipino-style spaghetti and carbonara, this pasta recipe is a must-try! It’s a complete dish for it has meat, carbohydrates, and veggies! Making this dish also saves you a lot of time in the kitchen too!

 

What you need: (this is good for 4 servings)

6 bacon strips

1 lb chicken (I used chicken breast)

6 garlic cloves (minced)

1 cup spinach

20 pieces of cherry tomatoes (whole)

penne pasta

Italian seasoning

paprika

olive oil

1 1/3 cups half and half milk; I used lactose-free fresh milk for my recipe and added some evaporated milk

1 3/4 cups parmesan

1/2 tsp chili flakes

How To Cook: 

Cook the penne pasta, drain, then set aside after cooking.

In a large skillet, on high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil until hot. Add chicken and cook on one side on high heat for 1 minute. While it cooks, sprinkle the uncooked sides of the chicken with paprika and Italian seasoning. Flip the chicken over, and cook on the other side for 1 minute on high heat. Reduce heat to medium, flip chicken over again and cook, covered, for several minutes until no longer pink in the center. Remove chicken from the pan and keep chicken warm. Slice chicken into strips.

To the same pan (but without chicken), add tomatoes, spinach, garlic, 1/3 of the chicken (sliced into small strips) and half the bacon (it should be already cooked and drained of fat). Mix everything.

Add half and half (milk) and bring to boil. Only after cream starts boiling, add grated Parmesan cheese

Immediately reduce to simmer and stir, while simmering, until the cheese melts and makes the sauce creamy, only about 1 minute (at most 2 minutes). Then, immediately remove from heat. Season with more chili flakes and salt, if needed.

To serve, top the pasta with chicken strips, grated Parmesan cheese, half of the bacon, and more chili flakes depending on how spicy you want it to be. 🙂

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Perfect with vino! Enjoy!