Tuesday, February 16, 2010

being committed, ex-style

How to peacefully co-exist and co-parent with your ex? Gina Abuyuan gives three ways

I received word of my annulment on July 7 of last year. I sat at my desk at home, crying and saying “oh my God” over and over again. I was sobbing and laughing and thanking God at the same time. My kids looked at me with worry and fear in their eyes and asked if I was ok.

“Are you sad, Mommy?” my daughter asked.

“No anak, I’m actually very, very happy.”

Like little suns, their eyes brightened, and they skipped out of the room, leaving me to revel in my new, legal, technical, single-blessedness.

After that, I told people it surpassed the happiness I felt when my ex-husband asked me to marry him.

Funny then, that he—my ex-husband—was the one who broke to me the news that we were no longer married. “Hoy, hindi ka na Llanes!” he texted.

How’s that for coming full circle?

Take the high road

Many people find it strange that Mardy and I are still friends. Some are amazed. Some dont just believe it. I dont blame them. Finding something salvageable in a person after he or she had given you unimaginable (well, until you actually go through it) trauma isnt easy. In fact, it can be the hardest thing in the world to do. In some cases, murder would probably be easier to commit.

As many of you may have read in HIPPs September issue, Mardy and I separated on and off for three years. It wasnt until a particularly huge fight in 2005 did we really split up, not want to have anything to do with the other (save for the kids), and not speak to each other for almost a year.

So how did we do it? How did we get to this level of being able to speak again, even joke with each other again, help each other out againwithout stabbing each other?

As Brooke Burke of ModernMom.com says of her relationship with her ex, We decided to take the high road for the kids. To his credit, Mardy did come to me and try to explain and apologizeit was I who approached our initial contact after the fight with a businesslike coldness. After all, it was his responsibility and obligation to take care of the kids needswhat could be more obvious than that? But I also didnt want my children growing up not knowing their father, and it took another year before we finally got talking comfortably again.

Step One-Two-Three

How do you start?

Get outside help. This does not include nightly carousings with San Miguel and friends just as embittered as you. Sure, that was part of the process, but at some point you have to take a different mindset. See a shrink, a therapist, a counselor, or join a self-development workshop or seminar. The Landmark Forums basic course worked for me (www.landmarkeducation.com). See what comes your way to best fit your personality and path to healing, too.

The RCW Foundation also has short courses on re-grouping and getting clear on where you want to take your life to the next level. Call (2) 436-0710 or 426-6832 or visit www.rcwfi.org for more details.

Annulment lawyer Sheila Bazar recommends that her clients see counselors even before the annulment process. This is to gird them with a healthy psychological and emotional attitude for the grueling course of interviews and hearings. Things can get extremely tough, trust me. I even skipped a couple of hearings, much to the consternation of my lawyer, because I felt I could not face the judge and take yet another public cross examination.

An outside perspective and an educated approach to psychological and emotional counseling will also help you interact with your ex-spouse in an appropriate manner. No drama, no blaming, no accusations. And most important: no more romantic illusions of you ever getting together again!

Be accountable for the transformation. Outside help can work just as much as youll allow it. The transformation has to come from within you. I know youre probably rolling your eyes, but its true. What you are nowyour thoughts, your feelings, your expectations of a relationship and the way you view rearing your childrenhave changed. Again, take the higher road andif you should be so luckydevelop with your ex-spouse a new relationship that works for your kids. Not for either of you, but for the kids.

I admit, Mardy and I had several blow-ups before we got to this relatively peaceful co-parenting co-existence. We had to repeatedly reassure the other one that we were still on one side with regard to the kids. We had to back off, or firmly tell the other one, if either of us were over-stepping communication boundaries. Be pro-active with setting ground rules, and sharing important issues about your children. List down the things you have to both tackle as co-parents: expenses, schooling, time / holidays spent with the kids. Learn to negotiate nicely. Learn to be flexible too.

Find a common commitment. Time may heal all wounds, but it may not help in making us forget. Im not going to go all fuzzy and esoteric and tell you to release all hurt into the ethers and let the good vibes settle, because that may not work for you. Maybe focusing on your job or your kids or your hobbies will work you; maybe a sabbatical in Sagada. The ways of healing, of getting to know ourselves and expanding our hearts to accommodate new relationships and people in our lives are infinite. It all stems from one thing, though: commitment.

If youre committed to making something work, and getting off and over those things that didnt make it work in the first place, then youre making progress. I say getting over but not forgetting; no one really totally forgets, and sometimes, we do need those little reminders to make us avoid the same mistakes. A zap in the head to pull us back and pivot us on the road to our commitment.

Mardy and I are committed to giving our kids the best education they can receive; that includes school and experiences that will help them grow into strong, intelligent, kind, healthy, well-rounded individuals. That means putting them in the best schools, tailoring their extra-curricular activities to help hone their talents, exposing them to places and experiences with which they can store in their love banks, and showing them that though Mommy and Tatay are not married, they are still magka-kampi when it comes to the three of them.

No one hurts them. No one harms them. No one f**cks them over.

Its a commitment thats worked for Mardy and I, given our personalities as individuals and the qualities that brought us together as a couple in the first place.

How about you?

HIPP Magazine was the first Filipino parenting magazine that tackled the issue of harmonious co-parenting between ex-es. If you'd like more stories or tips on how to successfully co-parent with an ex, please write directly to me, gina.abuyuan@gmail.com, since HIPP doesn't exist anymore. What a bummer.

That Loving Feeling

For this piece, I put on Afghan Whigs “Something Hot.”

“I wanna get you high
I wanna get next to you
I wanna feel everything about you (girl)
I wanna feel good
You make me feel good…”

An almost-finished box of Royce dark chocolates at my side, the coarse dusting sticking to my fingers. I brush them off my shorts and take a swig of San Mig Light. I have a Rhone aching to be opened, the newest addition to my partner’s formidable wine collection, but I’m not ready for it.


Contemporary blues with Royce and local beer? Sacre bleu, many of you will cry.

But this is a piece about sex, and that’s what sex is.

Sex has no rules. No patterns, no formulas. It can start off with a kiss as gentle and as light as a strawberry mochi bought fresh from the Yurakucho station, each bite a sigh, the confectioner’s powder puffing slightly with the pressure of teeth and lips, and end as abruptly as the guitar break on a Flogging Molly ditty. It can last as long as an MM Kaye novel, all adjectives and imagery and words that crowd the senses, and end with a crescent and a ballerina’s leap, as beautiful as burst of a 2007 Pinot Noir on the palette. It’s aching for more, like I do that Rhone.

Sex can be divine, sex can be dirty. It can be vanilla as vanilla can be, or it can be as colorful as halo-halo, as native as ube, as childlike as Choc-Nut, or as exotic as sesame seed. But to fully enjoy it, you have to remember one thing: Just. Let. Go.

Spread not only your legs, but your being. Don’t hold in your sighs. Be unashamed to explore. Be unashamed to let your partner explore. Look into each other’s eyes and touch each other’s faces, hair, back, arms, and all the nooks and crevices you never thought you’d touch before—and I don’t mean only with your hands.

Have fun. Laugh.

Discover each other’s imperfections. Your dimpled thighs. His assymetrical ears. That rough patch on his shoulder. The stretchmarks on your stomach.

Tell each other what makes you feel good. What sends shivers up your spine. Tell him again and again and again.

Men get turned on by visuals; women, by what they expect. Use this to your full advantage.

Divert from the tried and tested. Try on a new negligee, take the sex out of the bedroom, do it with the lights on, try out new toys, creams, music, scents. Experiment. Explore. Make it a game.

“No, I can’t do that,” some of you might say. “I’m not like that. What will he/she say?”

This is the beauty of long term, monogamous sex. You can do anything with and to each other, and not be judged by it. This is the same neck you kissed when it was firm and no baby’s forehead had ever rested on it; these are the same hands that once held yours timidly and victoriously, the first time you allowed them to; these are the same hips, once compact and tight, before the bones beneath expanded to make room for your children.

If you can’t enjoy uninhibited, swinging-from-the-rafters sex with the one you’re committed to, and whom you trust, then whom can you enjoy it with?

This is the glory of long-term relationships; this is what those who prefer casual sex and one night stands may not understand.

That after every glowing night of sex, there is nothing that can equal the experience of waking up in the imperfect arms of someone who knows each and every inch of the imperfect you, and still want to make love to you over and over and over again. – Gina Abuyuan

sidebar: Get into it
Subhead: Step out of your comfort zones and into a brave new sexy world

1. Get out of your usual role. You’re usually the receiver, the passive one, the one who slips into missionary after, er, after whatever. Do something different next time. What would your alter ego do? Allow it to take over.
2. Get excited. Women are always told to “relax” to get into the mood—do the exact opposite! Get aroused! Get your heart pumping. Try sex after a workout—or pop in a sexually explicit movie on DVD nights.
3. Talk erotic. Take it outside the bedroom. Send each other random texts and emails throughout the day. Chat each other up (not a good idea if his/her office desk is facing his co-workers, though!). Get over your discomfort of using “dirty” words. Tell each other what you’d like to do to each other.
4. Get selfish. Women have also been told that they should put their partners’ needs ahead of their own. Duh, no. Try this role out for once. Take charge. Pleasure yourself. Return the favor another night.
5. Try out costumes and sex toys. There’s a shop on the corner of Nakpil and Orosa that sells such; there’s another one in Metrowalk. There are thousands of vendors online. Just remember to lock them up in a safe place out of kids’ reach! Good Lord.
6. Think about what else you haven’t done. Do it.

(for more sexy tips for committed partners, get this month's issue of HIPP Magazine)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

final editor's note for HIPP

This is HIPP’s last issue.

That’s the only way I can say it. Straight up, no drama. The only way fitting to an audience we respect and owe much to.

We were informed of the shut down last December. It was my parents’ 38th year anniversary, a day after my twins had turned six, and on that surreal Friday afternoon, I learned I had lost a magazine I had started from scratch.

Can’t blame anyone, though. Across the globe, print publications have been shutting down. “Elle Girl.” “Cookie” (on which I pegged HIPP). “Gourmet” (the oldest food title in the US). More. It was inevitable that the recession and sorry ad sales catch up with us.

Or maybe, just maybe, I thought as I let myself go and cry a few tears in front of my boss, the country just isn’t ready for a magazine like HIPP.

Readers who have followed us since day one know why and how this magazine came to be. I felt Filipino parents needed something new, a publication that spoke to them about the changing dynamics of Filipino families (single, expat, and in absentia parenthood; paradigm shifts in child-rearing, health, and education; the many more opportunities available for making an income). A publication for the Gen X parent—that curious and strongly opinionated mix of ex-punks and ex-yuppies who have the world at their fingertips, their parents’ values deeply rooted in their psyche, and who are equipped with the exposure (via books, dialogue, and travel) and manner of critical thinking that empower them to go against tradition, if called for.

For the birth of HIPP in March 2009, I have to thank Sesame Seed Creatives’ publisher, Marbee Go, the first person I thought of calling when pitching the idea. Her support and generosity as both colleague and friend will remain unmatched anywhere I go—and that’s no bulls**t.

For my team, I chose only the best: Em Guevara, a colleague from way back (“The Business Daily”-way back, that’s how far we go), to act as managing editor. I wouldn’t have been able to survive the past year if it weren’t for her persistence, attention to detail, almost maternal concern for our staff, and never-ending good humor to balance out my quick temper.

With her, she brought Tricia, Irene, and Angelo. We’re very proud of Tricia, who we’ve seen blossom from a writer, to someone confident enough to plan out her own pages and handle even the most difficult of contributors. Irene’s gained some bite, too, having to deal with both internal and external suppliers, and by doing so has amassed a network that I’m certain will be valuable outside HIPP. It’s likewise been a gift to see Angelo grow. From an artist uncertain of his work, he’s learned swiftly—from layout to directing visuals to being adept with the production process. He moves on to sister publication “Garage” as its artist beginning this month.

And what of me, Em, Tricia, and Irene? We’ll be busy packing up things in the office, keeping lovely memories in boxes, chucking unneeded ones in the trash. The question of going online is still, well, up in the air. Time and budget permitting, we’ll be able to put the site up in a month or so.

A week after the news, I suddenly felt like everything I know had been pulled out from under me (a delayed reaction, I know). We love this magazine; we love putting it together for you. As my good friend Red Constantino says, leaving stings, but you can throw some mint and sugar in it and mix it like a mojito.

With that, I raise my glass to you, dear reader, for being with us these past nine issues. For one last time, I invite you to turn the page, and see this love leap up to you from every word and image.

Till our next reincarnation.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Raising grateful kids by Mary Joy Canon-Abaquin, Ed.M.

This month's issue focuses on Giving Back. Don't you love the cover? It's Karen Davila and son Lucas sitting amidst the relief goods from World Vision. So fitting for the theme and a post-Ondoy/Pepeng issue. One of my favorite articles in this issue is the one written by Joy Abaquin, founding directress of Multiple Intelligence International School, where my daughter will go (back) to for high school. (I had to pull her out for a couple of years because I had to save up for the tuition. Even then, Teacher Joy and I remained in touch, and MI is welcoming Sim back with open arms.)
I met Teacher Joy eight years ago, when I was looking for a "big" school for Simone. I didn't want her to attend a traditional school; I wanted her to go to one more aligned with my values, and how I wanted to raise her, and how I saw her adapting to these not-so-traditional times. I remember Joy sitting at the very first desk in the school office. Both of us seemed nervous and a little stand-offish with each other; two women unsure of the wonderful, caring partnership they would embark as mothers and as co-advocates for progressive education and parenting.
As years passed, Joy became privy to my, er, private life. She knew I underwent a separation, an annulment, financial troubles. She supported me and Simone all throughout, in any way she could, as principal of the school and as an educator. In return, I "worked" for MI, writing their press kits and helping them with their school programs. It was a sweet deal -- one I would have never gotten from other schools, I'm sure. Joy writes for me for the very first time in this issue of HIPP. It's about teaching kids gratitude. Gratitude is more than saying "thank you." It's a whole attitude and approach to life. You can immediately sense the warmth and sincerity of the woman whilst reading her words. Enjoy :)

Gratitude makes a great attitude—teaching kids the value of thanksgiving enables them to appreciate life’s little pleasures more

By Mary Joy Canon-Abaquin, Ed.M.

It was a long weekend and we were headed to the beach. My eight-year-old daughter gives me a big hug and says “Thank you for bringing us to the beach! You’re the best mom in the world!” My 12-year-old chirps in, “God is good! Life is good! Thank you God!” I too, say I silent prayer, “Thank you God for giving me such wonderful daughters!”
As an educator, I recognize how challenging it is to teach children the act of being grateful in a money-centered and material world. I hear teens complain all the time that their phones or iPods are not the latest models. Unconsciously, parents overindulge children with their whims as an expression of love, failing to teach them an attitude of gratitude. It is perfectly normal for children to come into this world as egocentric but our relationship with them shapes their attitudes and understanding of themselves and others. It is never too early to teach children how to be grateful.
At age two or three, children can talk about being thankful for a toy, pet or people in their lives. A toddler can hold their favorite toy, kiss it and say “thank you mommy for doggie.” At age four and five, children begin to understand that being thankful does not only extend to material things like toys and rewards, but for love, caring and acts of kindness as well. How we model gratitude in our own lives show children what they can be thankful for.

Teaching gratitude: A lifelong skill
Tom Batalla, a psychologist and cranio-sacral therapist, explains the importance of teaching children gratitude. “Gratitude makes us kinder and more generous to others, less materialistic, more forgiving, better able to deal with stress, and less prone to envy, resentment or greed. Taking all these good things together, studies show that it can add 6.9 years to your life.” Research by Dr. Robert Emmons in their Gratitude Research Project of University of California Davis (Trish, may nawala bang words dito?-em) showed that people who are grateful report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. If we could teach our children to be grateful, we are helping them to be more positive and better able to cope with life.

As simple as 1-2-3
1. Model gratitude
Model thanks. Kids do what they see their parents do. The best way to teach your child to be grateful is to model it. Thank your child for their hugs. Thank your helpers when they serve you. Thank the cashier when you receive your change. Look out for the smallest thing to be grateful for. When they hear you say things like, “Thank you for a sunny day!” or “How lucky I am to have yummy dessert today!” they too will learn to be grateful for the little things in their lives.
Establish rituals. Parents at the Multiple Intelligence International School share how they encourage gratefulness in their children. Herald Cruz, a father of four, blesses his children before they go to sleep and thanks God for each child. In our family, each of us says thank you for a blessing we received for the day before we sleep. Claudine and Raymart Santiago are hands-on parents who want to raise Godly children. They go out of their way to make their preschoolers, Sabina, 5, and Santino, 2, feel that they are special by going out on individual dates with them. This Saturday routine makes the children feel appreciated, and as parents, you can be grateful for your children because you get to really know them. According to Claudine, “Dates should not be about spending money on the kids, it should be about spending time with them. It doesn’t have to be expensive at all!” Family rituals are powerful in modeling gratitude in our homes.
2. The Language of Gratitude
Saying “thank you” in many ways. Encourage your child to say “thank you” to people they come in contact with—yaya, store clerks, janitors, friends, parents of a classmate hosting a party, etc. Ask children to write thank you notes for gifts they receive. Preschoolers can scribble and draw while children in grade school can already express their thanks in writing. Thank you notes do not just have to be for receiving gifts. Show your children that you care about them by writing positive notes for them. I received my child’s report card and to my pleasant surprise, there was a short note from my 3rd grader Anica saying, “Thank you for always being there for me and loving me and caring for me, but not only me but for everyone in our family.”
3. Gratitude in Action
Encourage generosity. According to child psychologist Batalla, “Gratitude is a concrete way of acknowledging and appreciating the good that we have received and giving something back to the source of the gift.” It is as important for children to see gratitude in action. Tess Gecijo, a 2nd grade teacher at the Multiple Intelligence International School, in her lesson on heroism, has been encouraging children for the past seven years to help less fortunate children through a White Elephant Sale of their old toys and clothes. “When children have an attitude of gratefulness, it is easier for them to want to share.”

Make kids help. The best way for children not to take things for granted is to realize the effort that others put into their lives to make it easier for them. Assign them chores at home. Make them pack away their toys, sweep their rooms during weekends, feed the dog, help prepare a snack or even wash the dishes they use. They will realize that all these take effort. It helps them empathize with others who do these things for them and encourages them to be grateful for the things given to them.
Claudine shares that it’s important to be grateful even in times of distress. She says that a grateful heart allows you to see the good side of things. She proudly shares that Sabina has learned this from her because when her brother was sick, she did not want to leave his side. Even if Claudine and Raymart can’t be with their children 24/7, they believe that when you teach your children to be grateful, you know that you are able to address their “heart issues.”
Gratitude teaches our children that life is good. More than polite manners and positive thinking, teaching children gratitude helps them to be happier and more resilient individuals. According to self-help writer Melody Beattie, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.” My sixth-grader, Chiara, reminds me, “Mom, God is good to us, we should be good to others, too.” It is a way of life we can adapt as a family and a wonderful legacy to leave to our children.
(for the full article, get a copy of HIPP Magazine Nov 09, at leading bookstores and newsstands)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Geeks: You’ll not have my daughter 
 (By En-Lai Yeoh

One thing I love about our magazine is that we get to have daddy contributors on a regular basis. I've had really cool fathers write for our HIP Daddy section (amazing writers like Red Constantino, Scott Garceau (oh wait, he wrote for our Shooting From The Hip section), Myke Santos, Ramil Digal Gulle and poet Joel Toledo); for October we had the privilege of having En-Lai Yeoh, a deskman for Dow Jones Newswires and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, write about his little girl, Sophie.
I know En-Lai on a gchat/beer-or-two-when-he's-in-Manila kinda basis, and have always thought of him as a smart, straight, no-nonsense kind of guy, but I never knew how tender he could be toward his daughter. This piece brought a little lump to my throat. Just a little. Heehee. And reading something not-hardcore-news by En-Lai was an awesome treat, too.

Three years ago, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist. Ex-girlfriends, and even the news, were much harder to track down and weren’t a mere mouse click away.
Back then, at 33, I thought I had it all mapped out. Laura Fygi. Lechon. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I knew what I wanted, what I believed in, who my friends were, where our next dive trip would be. Then, she arrived.
As much planning as Jemie and I did, I don’t think we were ever prepared for Sophie. We bought tons of books, we surfed the Net day and night looking for the right items. We bought and bought. Preparation was the key, we said. Right.
She was born in May 2006, a typhoon in a sea of predictability. I don’t think I ever did attempt to run away from the storm, but I sought it. Three years on, I am a proud father who just can’t get enough of her. It’s because of her that I’m no longer clinging on to the past.
From the day she was born, I plotted ways to impart my own version of right and wrong to her, as she does when she feels like its time for ice cream. I felt it was my duty because I’ve seen right and wrong happen right before me. I’ve seen suffering, I knew what extremists were like. How destructive extreme weather can be. Yeah, it’s up to me.
As I write this, a dear friend and former colleague lies in a Dubai hospital bed, a victim of yet more violence in Afghanistan. Andi, my thoughts go out to you. You’re one of the best and I miss working with you. Still, I don’t know if I can go back to what I was and I don’t mind being mostly desk-bound these days, which leaves me more time for home—and Sophie. It’s where I’d rather be anyway.
I’d introduce her to the coolest authors, politicians who defined my generation, music, movies. That would set her up for life, I thought. She’d know things that other kids won’t. She’d understand suffering, and count her blessings. She’d know why she should be left-leaning. Set for life? You betcha.
But did knowing all that prepare me for life’s biggest challenge? Probably not. Even if it did, it took place at a different time, with different people and in a different generation.
Those who defined my generation (“X”) are beginning to go to better places. Michael Jackson, Cory Aquino, John Hughes are among those who have recently left us. As I approach 40, I’m pretty sure a few more I grew up admiring or reading about will pass on. The ’80s and ’90s will soon be a distant memory. Retro is me.
Back then, we didn’t know what globalization was or even begin to understand its concept. The Internet was barely in its infancy and to travel, visas were a must and no flight was cheap. The mobile phone was but a dream and even then, growing up, holding onto a clunker was something to be proud of.
We marveled at technology. Owning a fax machine was then a luxury. Windows 98 was so 21st century, and upgrades were expensive, therefore we looked at pirated software. Cellphones, too, were a big budget item, and seeing a friend whip out a new model was like, wow. Those were my battles with technology back then.
Ahhh, the good old days.
These days, I am humbled by Sophie’s ability to digest ( «Daddy, Barney said you have to share.»). Humbled by her ability to work a mouse when we’re on the Net (“Daddy, I know. Let me press.”). Humbled by her savvy consumerism at shopping malls (“But Mommy, we’re customers.”).
I await the day she shies away from us, and spends more time in school, with her mates, on the computer and texting her friends. It appears inevitable. I guess we’ll just have to provide her more opportunities to be outdoors, and even then, that brings peril as she grows.
It’s only a matter of time before she’ll “add” me or when I see her “comment” on her page about how uncool Daddy was at the school today. Whoa, maybe Facebook won’t even be around in the near future and she’d be on some other super-connected platform. Who knows, maybe Facebook will end up like the Friendster of today.
She’ll probably ask, and receive, her first cellphone about two decades before I first did. As much as I’d like to say no, a cellphone has become somewhat of a necessity, as has a computer. My guess is she may ask for both a pink laptop and BlackBerry with a pinkish hue.
So, we’ll have to get her wired up. Adjust. Rethink. Forget. Change. Yes, we can.
What then can I pass down to my daughter? Will I even leave a lasting impression on her? Will she know everything she needs to know about Daddy from Googling me or sifting through my Facebook profile? I wish I knew.
All I know is that I have to try and stay relevant. I’ll just have to keep on believing that I’ve left more of an impression on Sophie than Barney or Dora the Explorer or the educational games she now plays with me on the computer. That’s my technological challenge now—to stay one step ahead of the gazillion software engineers, toy designers, and Playhouse Disney scriptwriters hankering for my daughter’s attention.
I will defeat you, Pixar. The same goes for you, www.cuteoverload.com. Still, it doesn’t mean we can’t be Facebook buddies.