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First Day Blues 2014/06/03

Posted by Leah Guarin in Baby Milestones, Run Lucas Run.
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It’s that time of year again. June spells the beginning of the academic year in my home country. Yes, the academic year in the Philippines is patterned after its wet/cool and dry/hot seasons. The wet season starts in June and so is the beginning of the first day of school. Summer breaks however are scheduled during the hottest months from March to May.

As a mother to a 5-year old, first day of school can be action-packed, I must say. While some kids are ready to jump out of the nest – some are glued to the knees of their mothers. Either way, it is often a heart-wrenching, gut-turning moment for most of us.

Lucas started attending playschool when he was two. My decision to enroll him in a playschool was primarily to create an environment for him to make friends, to play and to talk to other toddlers his age. Being the only kid at home, I feel like his days were mainly spent watching cartoons on TV and playing with his toys — which, by my mothering standards (hehe) isn’t acceptable. There’s so much out there for him to discover.

How I wish he was one of those ready to jump out of the nest little kid, but he wasn’t. From his Toddler, Nursery and Kinder I years — crying profusely has become a yearly ritual for us during the first day of school. With him, all glued to my knees if not, smothering me with tight embrace — not wanting to let go.

Prior to June, I have already started filling the cargo box containing Lucas’ school needs from bags, shoes, school supplies etc. This year, he is moving up to Kinder II — with a new school, new teachers and new classmates. Being a long distance working mother, I am concerned about quite a number of things. Aside from the fact that I won’t be physically present to be with him, I also worry if he can adjust well under a totally new environment. Although I am 100% sure his Lola (my mother) can guide him better than I do, I guess the mother inside me cannot be faulted when mommy blues start kicking in.

After office, I hurriedly called my mother to ask how Lucas did in school. Did he cry? I have prepared myself to hear the expected, him crying unconsolably. But to my surprise, my mother said, no. He didn’t cry, not a single tear. And much to my delight, my mother told me that Lucas was well-behaved — leaving me totally speechless and proud.

Time really passes by so quickly. He’s growing up so fast at a pace more than I want to. But I am hopeful, that despite the distance that separates us right now, the promise of tomorrow will shine brighter than ever — for us to make up for all the time losts.


An Open Letter to a Certain You… 2014/05/21

Posted by Leah Guarin in Mailbox for Letters.
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It’s hard to remember the time before I loved you. It exists all in some kind of vague, dull haze — a primeval soup of half-feelings and tired complacency. I know that my life is good that time, seemingly happy and content.

I must say that I felt the peaks and valleys of happiness just as acutely as I do now, but I can’t remember any episodes of it. It seemed like the life I had before I met you was painted black-and-white — that every edge was dulled, not knowing that color was an option. It was perfectly acceptable to go through life in this cloudy facsimile of what life could actually be, unaware that so much could change with the addition of a certain kind of love. How could I have known that the grass could be this Technicolor green, that morning coffee could be so deep and rich and sweet, that clouds could stand out so perfectly puffy-white against a sky too blue to look at? I wish I didn’t know this world, the world you have shown me — because there’s only one thing I know, I can’t ever go back to the muted one I once lived in.

I wish I did not constantly struggle to remind myself that I am good, too, that I don’t need anyone to complete me or to make things okay — that I am not a puzzle with a jagged piece missing in the center. But I must often be talked back from the ledge of consumption, of feeling as though life is distinctly less worth living if this love does not exist within it. I often tell myself that such a position is incredibly risky, that it is like taking a jump without a parachute and hoping that I will land on something soft — but being the person that I am — I never listen at all. I am so much happier to let the undertow take me out far, far past the shore, to a distance I could not swim back from, rather than spend my days fighting against this wonderful, comforting current.

Have I totally forgotten who I am without you? What is the ultimate emotional toll of seeing yourself more as half of a whole than an entity to be cultivated and loved and improved on its own? Does one fade further and further into dependency and compromise, a copy of a copy of a copy of the full person they used to be? I wish I didn’t worry that I was suppressing some incredible life of personal agency and freedom, but I am.

I wish that I could say that life is still being lived entirely on my terms, that I didn’t consider my future and my decisions as things to be made by consensus of two, but I do. There is always the possibility, no matter how deep and consuming this love is right now, that it could all come to an even more excited — at the prospect of taking your life and your desires into mine. I think about your plans, and wonder first if they coincide with mine. I wonder where they will take me, how they will twist and tangle with the plans I see, and what it will end up doing to the both of us. There is so much to love about the life lived totally for oneself, that considers only the dreams and aspirations and pleasures of one, in which life is a limitless hallway of open doors. I wish I didn’t care so deeply about what you think, but I do.

Somewhere in between all these, fear encases me. For I know the connection that we have emotionally invested so deeply in could be taken away too abruptly to prepare for. Like someone switching off a light as they walk out of a room, I fear there would come a moment when you or I wake up and feel markedly less passionate than we did the day before, when our love turns into a vague kind of discomfort, when we realize that we have fallen out of whatever this was and need to immediately begin looking for the exit sign.

I have had nightmares of confronting this reality, of accepting that so much of my happiness was constructed on something so fragile, so impossible to guarantee. What then? Do I just put one foot in front of the other and pretend as though this whole passage of my life never occurred?

Taking a step back, my life would have been so simple without this love, without the fear and complexity and consideration of another impossible-to-understand human that it brings. I could live every day secure in the knowledge that I couldn’t be hurt, that I was in control of my destiny, and that nothing was stopping me from living in a perfect, selfish playground I created for myself. But it is not what I want — not what I would die for in order to live.

I could be free. But I can’t pretend that I want that life — no matter how appealing it might have been before I met you — could ever appeal to me now. There is a part of me that, no matter how terrifying such love is, I have become fully addicted to the feeling of symbiotic need that gets a contact high from every sentence that starts with “we.”

I wish I didn’t love you in such a precarious, unfiltered way; but I do.

The Joys of Motherhood 2014/05/07

Posted by Leah Guarin in Random Thoughts.
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Raising a child on my own doesn’t mean I am special, I have repeatedly told families and friends. It is probably true that single moms have a lot more difficult responsibilities as we take on roles of both mother and father. But does it make us twice special? I don’t think so.

Over the years, I have learned to rise to situations and found myself to new heights while stretching myself beyond any and all limits. I never realized that by becoming a parent, I will become preoccupied with the well-being of someone other than myself and yet somehow more in tune with the person that I truly am.

Back in the Philippines, when I was still juggling my time as a full-time mom and as a corporate employee, there were wonderful days when I feel my cup run over. There were days when I want to run away and question every decision I have ever made. Feeling it all, good or bad, I have come to realize now that those experiences gave my life purpose, a sense of direction. Being a mother I must say is like walking around with all of your nerve endings raw and exposed — days when you feel like everything doesn’t make complete sense anymore. All these feelings multiply it to a hundred is the most extreme measure of being alive.

Motherhood is feeling joy, even while experiencing the hardest trials of life. With rarely a dull moment, I have experienced more adventure in mothering Lucas more than I could ever imagine. Motherhood gives me an excuse to stay young forever, kicking off my shoes and letting down my hair while enjoying love beyond measure. Of all the things that I have worked hard for, motherhood, I must say is my greatest achievement.

I love that at thirty something, I can still fly a kite, ride a bike, blow bubbles, act like a pirate, look forward with childish excitement to almost anything, cut in front of lines with long queues, sing-along with Mickey Mouse while stopped at traffic lights, run through public sprinkler systems, eat cake at children’s birthday parties, observe ants, play tag, build cities in a sandbox, order a McDonald’s happy meal and laugh hysterically without looking stupid. All of these and so much more because I have allowed myself to experience life, the way I want Lucas to.

In the arsenal of things I am proudest to have accomplished, it is the life I lead raising Lucas. Despite the uphill path that led me to being the person that I am today, I am still thankful because without the hike, I won’t have Lucas — my reason for breathing, my everything.

I don’t pretend to be perfect, I’m just a parent. And like most parents, I am learning every single day. And that’s the most important part of the experience – learning.

To everyone who shares the joy of motherhood, Happy Mother’s Day!

40 before 40 2014/05/06

Posted by Leah Guarin in Random Thoughts.
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Found this in my external hard drive last night, I wrote it years back — I was 30 then and a first-time mom. I never had the chance to post it in my previous multiply blog so I am posting it now. It is still a work in progress, some have been accomplished — but most are still waiting to be realized.

  1. Go biking around Angkor Wat while watching the sunset from the temple towers
  2. Set foot in at least 5 of the 7 continents.
  3. Surf in any two (2) of the following surfing destinations — Siargao, Indonesia, Hawaii and Australia
  4. Be conversational in another language
  5. Hike the Inca Trail up to Machu Picchu
  6. Base jump – or at least skydive
  7. Swim with the gentle whale sharks in Sorsogon, Philippines
  8. Snorkel and dive in the Great Barrier Reef
  9. Witness the beauty of cherry blossoms in full bloom
  10. Learn to ride a motorbike
  11. Get mesmerized in Paris
  12. Climb a mountain 
  13. Get an article published as a travel journalist
  14. Run a marathon with Lucas
  15. Take a spontaneous road trip across the Philippines
  16. Dance the night away at the full moon Party in Koh Pangan, Thailand
  17. Walk barefoot under the Tuscan sun
  18. Learn how to make a sushi
  19. Get a tattoo
  20. Watch new born turtles swim to the ocean
  21. Write a short story
  22. Take Lucas to as many theme parks all over the world before he turns 10
  23. Get back in shape
  24. Volunteer for a greater cause
  25. Write a song
  26. Get lost in Vienna
  27. Climb the Great Wall of China
  28. Document everyday life experiences – complete a 365 days blog challenge
  29. Capture life in photographs  – complete a 365 days photo challenge
  30. Write a letter to my 50-year old self
  31. Watch as many sunrise and sunsets
  32. Do a zip line
  33. Experience Korea in Spring
  34. Read the Bible in its entirety
  35. Backpacking through Europe with Lucas
  36. Climb a lighthouse
  37. Ride a hot air balloon
  38. Visit a wine tasting vineyard
  39. Kiss under the pouring rain
  40. Fall in love all over again


Broken 2014/02/20

Posted by Leah Guarin in Random Thoughts.
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She was never one to bug friends and talk to them about her problems, whether big or small. Thinking that they have better things to do with their lives and she doesn’t want them to feel as though she was pulling them down.

So, she filled her journal with pages of miserable entries, most of them tear stained and illegible chicken scratches. Those were the days when she thought her life had ended.

She literally felt like her whole world had shattered into million tiny pieces and there was nothing she could do about it. All her dreams were shattered. That was also the time when she felt that her heart would burst from all the pain she was feeling. She thought that no one would be able to understand what she was going through.

But all the emotions became too much to bear, and she finally decided to seek help, from family and friends. She didn’t cry, because she wanted them to think that she was strong enough to deal with her problems on her own. But she wasn’t.

And that was the biggest mistake she made because her misery just doubled with the thought that no one was there for her. And every day, she would find herself crying over a broken heart, broken promises and a broken future.

Most of the time she was crying out of fear, not for her but for the one little being she loved the most. Can she do this alone? Can she become his strength when all else is broken inside? Will she be able to learn to trust and fall in love again?

*I never found the courage to publish this article until now. It was written in 2009 when everything about my life was falling apart.

Because you are 5… 2014/02/04

Posted by Leah Guarin in Mailbox for Letters, Run Lucas Run.
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My Dearest Lucas,

The challenges, inspiration and rewards of motherhood change over time and space. Leaving you is by far my biggest challenge as a mother. Please know that you are dearly missed by Mommy each and every waking morning that we are apart.

Someday, I pray that you will find it in your heart to understand my decision of leaving you in the care of your Lola even just for a while. In as much as leaving you break my heart into million pieces; sacrifices are to be made so that I can provide you a brighter future.

You are my angel, my breath of fresh air, and my inspiration. As much as a mother raises her son, so does a son raise his mother. Over the past 4 years, you have taught me so much about motherhood as it is about life as I watch you grow and discover the world around you. You have allowed me to see the world from a different height through your eyes.

You have taught me about courage. At a very young age, you have shown me strength. You have navigated this whole ‘long-distance’ parenting set-up in your life with so much audacity and courage. More than being my source of inspiration, you are my strength.

Of all the things that make motherhood rewarding — it is those shared moments and experiences we have that tops my book. From discovering new songs to learning new game apps, traveling to different places, feeding you ‘healthy foods’ (that you do not like) … these and more has been the greatest reward motherhood has offered me.

Days from now, you will be turning 5. Oh how I wish I could be there to celebrate it with you like how we always do. Despite my absence, I want you to enjoy your birthday as much as you can. Blow your candles and make a wish! Always remember that you are never too far away from Mommy’s thoughts.

I love you my dearest Lucas, happy 5th birthday!



Forever and Always,

Discovering Armenia 2014/02/03

Posted by Leah Guarin in Travels.
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Traveling and discovering a world different from my own is an ultimate adventure and learning experience, so backpacking on a whim was never a problem.

In a surprising bout of spontaneity last October, I took an unplanned trip to Armenia along with my sister and two friends.  Unplanned — because it wasn’t really mapped out in our travel plans. But for lack of anything to do during the Eid Al-Adha break, we decided to pack our bags and head to a land unknown to most of us — Armenia. Good thing, visa application can be done online. The perks of living in the Middle East, the world it seems is just within your reach.

Where exactly is Armenia and why go to Armenia? Those were the common questions I have been asked while getting ready for the trip. With my very little knowledge about Armenia, the ever reliable Mr. Google came to rescue — the wonders of technology.

In a nutshell, Armenia is a mountainous region located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran to the south.

For some reason, traveling to unlikely places excite me. On the day of my flight, I barely had sleep which almost made me miss the alarm. Thankfully, I managed to pull myself up with only 15-minutes to spare before the car lift that will take me to the airport arrives. Imagine the chaos I went through, leaving my room in such a huge mess.

From Doha, I had to take a 1-hour flight to Dubai (where I will meet my sister) for a connecting flight to Yerevan. It wasn’t my first time at Dubai Airport but it was my first time catching a connecting flight from there. Not knowing which stop to board off, I got off at the first stop (after seeing almost all passengers getting off). Big mistake! It was too late when I realized that I was at the wrong gate. The customer service lady told me that I should have boarded off at the 2nd stop. Yeah, I get that now.

My sister was already half frantic where I was and started calling me nonstop. I have decided to ignore her calls and went on to finding the correct gate, which I did. My sister greeted me in a daze carrying a Siopao (steamed buns). She must have gotten hungry not knowing where I was moments ago. Although she won’t admit it, I knew she was glad seeing me.

The flight from Dubai to Yerevan lasted for three hours, the entire flight I was in between naps. I was just a little bit distracted with the lady sitting beside me. She was incredibly beautiful, her nose perfectly contoured, lashes curled and unbelievably skinny figure. Is she even human? Does she even eat at all? How perfect can she get? Well, this was me appreciating beauty at its finest.

At exactly 10:30 A.M. our flight landed to Yerevan Zvartnots Airport. Since we already had our visa printed, we hurriedly proceeded to immigration and got out of there in less than a minute or two.

Outside the airport, the weather was very welcoming at 21 degrees. To make the trip more convenient, our pre-arranged transport from Hyur Service was already outside the airport waiting. The drive from the airport to our hotel took us approximately 40 minutes.

Yerevan, on first impression looks like a city in Eastern Europe. Not that I have been to one, but the built and architecture of buildings and monuments that I see in magazines, at least resembles to one. There were big public statues and square buildings lining the sides of avenues. From what I have been reading about the city, Yerevan is slowly transforming itself from a run-down city into a vibrant, modern capital. The downtown boasts of Western boutiques, expensive restaurants and young people in trendy outfits.

That same afternoon, we headed on foot to explore the city. We walked and took tons of pictures in almost every corner of the Cascade, the Opera House and the Republic Square. It wasn’t only the air that was refreshing but even the locals addedto the whole gamut of warm welcome Armenia had to offer.

State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre in Armenia

State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre in Armenia

Our first night in Yerevan was capped with a dinner at the Paulaner Grill House located at the center of the Cascade Complex, 5 minutes (or less) away on foot from our hotel. We feasted over grilled pork ribs and chops to satisfy our cravings and a glass (or two) of Paulaner’s best German beer. Hmmm, cravings satisfied!The second day of our tour was a day tour to other parts of Armenia. Much to our excitement, we almost missed the tour bus due to some confusion in our supposed transport arrangement. But thankfully, all was sorted out before hell breaks loose. Thanks to our very nice tour guide, Maria. She was amazing and restless having to translate almost everything in three different languages (Armenian, Russian and English).

Aboard the tour bus, the four of us were seated apart — the price we have to pay for being late. Contrary to what I first thought was a setback, turned out to be one of those fateful day. This was the part where I’ve met, David. He offered the seat next to him so we became seatmates. In between the tour, we managed to exchange so many funny and insightful stories about our past travels. He was visiting Armenia on a business trip all the way from China. The conversations we had were refreshing which made the long bus ride bearable to a certain extent.

Our first stop was a visit to the Sevanavank Monastery, located in Gegharkunik region along LakeSevan. According to Maria, Sevanavank Monastery has played a crucial role in Armenian history as it has served as a place for battle. To get to the church, we need to do a 5-10 minute hike up on a hill. The view from above was mesmerizing overlooking Lake Sevan.

At Sevanavank Monastery with Leah Rose and my sister Leslie

At Sevanavank Monastery with Leah Rose and my sister Leslie

After 40-minutes, the guided tour drove to another hour en route Dilijan where we are set to see Goshavank and Haghartsin Monasteries. The town of Dilijan is located in Northern part of Armenia. The view outside the bus window was surrounded by lush forests and mountains.

The Goshavank Monastery

The Goshavank Monastery

Something that noticeably stood out to me was the ever-lingering effect of the Soviet Era on Armenia, complete with cars from that time filling the streets, signs in both Armenian and Russian, and close cultural qualities with that of Russians.The interplay of sunlight and shadow across the land greeted us with the peaks of Mt. Ararat in the distance on the third day of our trip. I could not begin to describe how I felt at that particular moment, it was more than amazing, in a way, transcendental. The mountain actually lies within the modern borders of Turkey, but such enormity made it visible from most parts of Yerevan. Maria noted that ownership of Ararat is just one of several issues that strain relations between Armenia and Turkey.

We visited yet another famous monastery in Armenia, the Geghard Monastery.  The monastery was carved out of the side of a mountain and was situated at the head of the Azat valley, surrounded by towering cliffs.  Maria mentioned that the monastery was famous because of the relics that it housed and the most celebrated of these was the spear which had wounded Christ on the Cross.

At the Geghard Monastery

At the Geghard Monastery

We also visited the Garni Temple, Greco-Roman in style and used as a center of worship for the ancient religion of Armenia.

Garni Temple

Garni Temple

I never liked history as a subject in school, but traveling to different countries with different culture changed that. I am now easily captivated by the richness of one’s culture, or history for that matter.

The remaining hours of our fateful encounter with Armenia was spent on the streets endless walking, dining at restaurants, conversing with locals, shopping-on-sale, and getting lost on the streets.

For small and little-known destinations, it is the people that totally spell the difference. The Armenians I had the chance to meet were warm and friendly — some kind of experience I will never forget about Armenia.

Ode to a Certain You 2013/12/03

Posted by Leah Guarin in Poetry 101.
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I wish is a magical place I find often
When my thoughts search for you
And when my heart longs for you

I wish cleanses my mind awash
When my day grows tiring
And my spirit stop soaring

I wish is a captivating journey less traveled
When silence becomes so deafening
Of the passion that my heart is echoing

I wish are two words that caresses my thoughts
With images painted by the illusions of my desire
Mesmerizing a feeling burning on fire

I wish I am not dreaming foolishly
Of a love coined by the magic of destiny
For you alone dictates the colors of the morning
My sunshine, you alone completes my yearning



My first attempt in poetry after so many years.
Inspired by a twisted sunshine.

2/12/2013 Al Khor