Category Archives: Health

Those Brown Spots Aren’t Freckles

If I had known early on that having one’s place repainted would be emotionally, and not just physically, draining, I would’ve better prepared myself.

I had long wanted to have my unit renovated because molds had taken over many of the walls and other surfaces inside a home that you can think of. Molds look innocuously like brown spots until you realize they’re on that wall here, on that wall over there, on the ceiling, and . . . are those molds on the surface of the fridge?

When you see something similar in your residence – or even where you work – be slightly wary. If for some reason you develop an unexplained bout of colds or rash on your skin that won’t go away, chances are they’re caused by these small but offending organisms. Thinking of scraping them off the walls with a solution of soap, water, and bleach? It won’t work. Molds are hardy; once they grow on surfaces, especially those that attract moisture, the only way to remove them is to sand them away.

It actually took me several months since last year to find someone who’ll do the job, and the first thing he said when he saw my place was, “What happened here?” It sounds funny now, but in hindsight, it meant the situation was bad and needed remedy as soon as possible.

It took only a few days thereafter for the sanding and repainting job to begin. This is the start of the emotionally draining journey I mentioned earlier because what was once an orderly home instantly turned into disarray: pieces of furniture covered with newspapers or wraps were moved to the middle of the room or from room to room; there was masking tape everywhere; there was dust everywhere. “War zone” is a good description. For five days or so, I also had to supervise the painter, monitor (the quality of) his work, prepare his meals, and pay his daily wages. Oh, let’s not forget the trips to the hardware store to buy the paint and other materials we needed.

One would think that after all has been said and done, things will turn out “beautifully” or at least “great.” Not quite. You see, one has to let the paint dry thoroughly before all the covers and the tapes can be removed. And even then, brace yourself for some ‘surprises.’ In my case, I discovered areas that weren’t painted over properly, so guess what? I took the remaining paint and retouched those spots, hidden or not-so-hidden from plain view. It’s actually quite therapeutic, much like applying make-up on walls. Don’t rush the process, and you just might find yourself looking forward to doing a paint job yourself in the future!

This minor renovation project ended last week, but I’m still in the process of moving things back to where they were. I still espy paint drippings here and there (frustrating, I know), and there are still dust on some shelves. Overall, my place looks near normal again and should be fully ‘operational’ soon. I can’t wait to hit the home section of stores and shops to buy new accessories!

And what of the molds that triggered this roller coaster of a journey in the first place? I’m happy to report they’re gone, and so are my colds. And now that the walls are much more pleasant to look at, will it surprise you if I say I find more and more reasons to stay at home as the days go by?

Do you have a similar repainting project and experience? Please feel free to share.


Of Plants, Endings, and Beginnings

This is what the "Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow" looks like. It's lovely, isn't it? (Source:

This is what the “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” looks like. It’s lovely, isn’t it? (Source:

I have a potted plant that I talked about in this blog last year. Called “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” I had specifically chosen it because I was told it’s a hardy shrub. It can withstand being left alone, can put up with natural elements, and it doesn’t mind having its branches trimmed every so often.

That plant and I have been ‘together’ for a little over three years now. We’ve been through sunshiny days and, worse, through rainy days, and fortunately, we’re still together.

Taking care of a “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” has taught me a lot of lessons, too. Last year, when it nearly died because I neglected to water it for a few days, I noticed that growing plants and nurturing a career share similarities. The right elements and conditions should be present for the plant or career to flourish properly.

This year, it happened again. One morning, I saw that though the plant’s leaves were still green, they were falling from the branches! This baffled me because I’m sure I’ve learned from experience. In fact, I water the plant every day: in the morning and at night. I do the latter because, just in case I forget my duties the following day, the plant will have enough moisture to it keep it nourished.

It turned out, the soil was too moist, said a friend who’s really into gardening. If the leaves are still green, but they’re falling off, it means you over-watered the roots.

“That explains it,” I said. “What do I do now?” “Leave it alone,” she recommended. “Don’t water the soil further until it has had the chance to dry up a bit.”

This year’s take-away: don’t be overzealous. Or if I were to apply this insight in my personal and professional life: don’t run yourself ragged. Leave enough time to relax and have a bit of fun. If you keep going forward and neglecting your health, you just might find yourself like the leaves: supposedly healthy-looking on the outside, but too choked to do anything else inside.

There’s a bonus lesson from this ‘ordeal’ (yes, the fight to survive is not yet over). I noticed that while some leaves have already given up, a lot more, though wilted, remained stuck to the branches. When I tried shaking the plant to make them fall away, they wouldn’t. When I tried to pluck out the leaves on purpose because I couldn’t stand how sick they look, they stubbornly held on. This made me realize plants are like people too: tenacious and focused even when the going gets tough!

My formerly leafy friend is looking a little bare lately, but it seems to be saying, “Don’t give up easily in the face of challenges.” And don’t underestimate what something – or someone – looks like from the outside. My plant may look like it’s dying because the branches are currently a mix of brown and green. But look closely: there are three new leaves growing out of one of them.

Indeed, every end is a new beginning.

What I Learned from a Noisy Neighbor

Getting a good night’s sleep is a result of understanding your neighbor and yourself.

“Shh. Do not disturb.” (Source:

“Shh. Do not disturb.” (Source:

I have a neighbor who likes to play his music loud. He loves it even more when the bass level is way up, and one can feel the vibrations coming through the wall and the floor. We’ve talked to him several times in the past about keeping it down, especially during nighttime when everyone’s asleep. And while he’d comply from time to time, there are moments he can’t help himself and plays music even in the wee hours of the morning. Like 3:00 in the morning!

There goes my ‘beauty rest.’ Unfortunately, too, I find it hard to fall asleep once I’ve been awakened.

One time, when I couldn’t stand it anymore, I decided to write a letter to the owner of this neighbor’s condo unit. I didn’t want to confront the neighbor, not because it’s not my style, but it’s the proper way to address issues like these. I think the letter (and an accompanying memo) worked because thereafter, the neighbor seemed to keep it low. I don’t know for how long he can keep things that way, but I’m not very optimistic.

Nonetheless, the whole situation got me thinking: sometimes, it’s easier to focus on what others are not doing right. But maybe I’m also doing something to sabotage my attempts to get a good night’s sleep. True enough, after reading some online articles, I discovered personal habits that are keeping me awake, too. Working out late, having late dinner or snacks, surfing online till I feel drowsy are absolute no-no’s if one would like to experience almost uninterrupted sleep.

Shortly after these realizations, I decided to change my habits posthaste! Initially, I found the very idea of getting into bed early (try 9:30 p.m.) when everyone else was still awake amusing, if not absurd. I’m an adult; I should’ve been done with this practice when I left high school! “You’re also an adult who has to get up early tomorrow because of work,” my brain reasoned out. End of conversation.

I’ve only been a few days into my new p.m. schedule, and I admit I already feel great! It helps that I’ve been off coffee for years now (five, to be exact) and that I don’t indulge in sugary drinks, both of which could deeply affect our sleeping routine, especially at night. I can almost hear protests from aficionados of both beverages, but studies do back up this claim.

Like the neighbor who likes his music loud and pulsating, I don’t know for how long I can keep from not staying up late, especially during weekends and holidays! But since I’m experiencing immediate results, I think this new habit is a keeper. After all, who doesn’t want to wake up early and ready for whatever the day brings? I do!

What Swimming Taught Me About Letting Go

I can’t swim very well. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I like going to the pool as often as I can: to improve my freestyle. It’s simply awful.

Like everyone else, I start on a horizontal position, but after a few strokes, I notice my body gradually shifts to a near diagonal position. Initially, I thought paddling harder and swinging my arms higher might move me back to default. They should help, but these strategies don’t seem to have any effect on me.

When things are not going my way in the water, I often stop and simply float with my face down. In short, I let go. I probably look like a piece of driftwood when I do that, but it feels good! I don’t feel tired, and I don’t feel that my efforts to get from point A to B are useless.

At the pool (Source:

At the pool (Source:

I think that’s what people mean when they say, stop struggling and let go – of problems, of toxic relationships, of situations you can’t control. When you’re in a more relaxed frame of mind:

  • It’s easier to accept the fact that what you’re doing isn’t getting the results you want. Try another approach then.
  • You can think better. Options come to mind more freely: should I continue floating or should I just break into a breaststroke to get to the other side of the pool more quickly?
  • You learn to enjoy what you’re doing. It ceases to be a chore.

I think the most important lesson is that when you let go or at least, loosen up a bit, you realize life has so much more to offer than just self-imposed goals. If I had stuck to my original agenda of improving my strokes every time I go swimming, I never would’ve noticed the friendly people around me. Now I have a new pool buddy!

So go on, allow yourself to let go, even if it’s just for an hour. Thirty minutes? It doesn’t matter; just see what happens next. Enjoy!

Make Time for Health

Very recently, I fell ill. I woke up one morning feeling like a porcupine had taken residence in my throat, and my eyes had turned to burning coals when I was asleep.

A visit to the doctor confirmed the symptoms were indicative of flu-in-the-making. If I had insisted on working that day – instead of calling-in sick – my condition could’ve worsened.

In hindsight, I think I know why I became sick, but first, a little back-story. I like getting a lot of things done. In fact before 2012 ended, I already knew what my New Year’s goals were going to be. “I came up with three,” I proudly shared with a friend, “because I want to make sure I’ll be able to achieve all of them in 2013!”

Unfortunately, none of the three goals were related to staying healthy. In fact, pulling off all three would mean I have to be on my toes (figuratively) almost all the time. But the human body is not like a machine that was built to operate 24-7. Even machines have days off.

The threat of flu that morning was clearly a wake-up call to slow down. It’s only January, after all. Goals, whether they are personal or work-related, should be accomplished one at a time, if possible.

It bears repeating: take good care of yourself. You won’t only have the energy to do everything you’ve dreamed of doing, but you’ll also be able to savor the wins and share lessons learned with loved ones.

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