27 Memories of My Father – Happy 71st Birthday Daddy George!

My father passing away when I was 23 years old is a grudge that I don’t think I’ll ever let go of. It was when I was still in ways immature, selfish and only cared about what was going on in my head and in my life. I didn’t get the chance to fully realise all the things he did for me – big and small. I wasn’t mature enough to show him my gratitude, show him my utmost love and ask him about all the stories he cherished so much.

After their death you mourn, and then you begin to live life as normal, you learn to go by everyday without them – it’s almost as if you forget. But then there’s that one moment. You visit a new and exciting restaurant, you buy your first home or something as simple as you see a gorgeous necktie – and you think to yourself “F*ck, dad would’ve loved this!”. And that is the moment you realise someone is missing and will never return. I’m sure a lot of people who have lost someone so dear to them can relate to this.

Someone once said something to me on the day of my fathers passing, something that will always stick with me forever. “Don’t morn his death, instead celebrate the life he lived – because he lived a good one.” And since then I never liked to put attention towards my fathers death anniversary. It’s a day I don’t want to publicly acknowledge. But, I do love to celebrate his birthday. And just a few days ago we celebrated what would be his 71st Birthday.

Now I may not have been able to hear all the stories he had, or all the memories he treasured before his passing. But I do have my own memories of my father that always makes me smile, cry and laugh when I think of them. In celebration of my fathers 71st Birthday I decided to give a glimpse to you all of what an amazing man my father was and is.

  1. The reason why I think I believe so much in equality is because of my father. He never, ever said women were suppose to be a certain way. He believed instead a marriage should be about teamwork, especially when it came to the upkeep of a household. You would always see him folding clothes, ironing and moping. In fact, he was the one who taught me how to clean sneakers so that they always looked brand spanking new. He really raised the bar of standards I had for men in my life.
  2. He taught me road rage. My father was a very patient man. Rarely would he raise his voice. And you’d wonder how does he release his anger? I laugh now, but I really think he released his anger on the road. Beeping and calling bad drivers the “diablo”* was something my father usually did.
  3. My father hated smacking me. He couldn’t. How could you smack someone so adorable? But one time he did. I remember I told him I didn’t want to got to church. Instead I wanted to go late night shopping and buy toys. He then smacked me after I continually threw tantrums while he was trying to get me ready for church. 30 minutes later he guiltily came back to me with a peace offering – a hug in one hand and a McDonalds happy meal in the other… I still went to church service that night.
  4. He hated it when we spent money on him. I was in High School when I got my first job. Now, you should know my father was an outfit repeater. He would wear the shit out of his clothes until they were falling apart and super glue just wouldn’t stick them together again. He just didn’t like buying new things. So when I got my first pay check, I bought him a new pair of shoes. Instead of saying a simple thank you, he actually got angry. He asked me why would I waste money on him, instead I should save it and buy a property (yeah… at 16 years old, buying a property was on my priorities list… lol).
  5. He was always so proud of every accomplishment I made – big or small. From when I got my Provisional license to my very first car, he always made a huge commotion about it. My first car that I bought was a shitty Hyundai Exel. It had no power steering (don’t even ask how I was able to go around a roundabout in that thing) and the passenger side window wouldn’t open. It was literally a shit box. But my father was so proud. I would catch him, more than once always washing and wiping down my car when I wasn’t home. He even tried to make me love it by telling me it was a sport car because it had a spoiler (lol!)
  6. He had the biggest green thumb. If he wasn’t working, napping or mopping the floor he was outside tending to his babies (his garden). You know how there are those types of people who love their lawn so much they won’t even let anyone step on it? That was my father. He was what I would call a lawn enthusiast. It had to be green and it had to be a certain length. He wouldn’t let anyone near the lawn mower because he said “You might cut it too short.” Yes. That was my father.
  7. Majority of my childhood was me using Hilton Hotel pens to draw. My father use to work for the company and nearly every week he would take home a shit load of Hilton Hotel pens. (Is that stealing?)
  8. Being the youngest in the family, I was very much a daddy’s girl. I had the biggest separation anxiety whenever I wasn’t around him. There was a time he worked as a security guard, he use to work night shift guarding a cemetery. I would cry so hard when he left for work that he then started bringing me to work. I would spend the entire night sleeping in the car, assured that it didn’t matter because I was near my dad. However, when he would finish his shift I would make him take a shower before he could hug me because I was so scared that he took the dead people with him on his skin – trust me, I’m rolling in regret right now.
  9. Dad was far from being a culinary enthusiast or even an amateur chief. But he did make bomb ass sinangang* and fried egg. Every single morning, before he left for work he would always make sure we woke up to a fresh new batch on the kitchen bench. I am also convinced that he invented bread dipped in coffee and microwaved bananas.
  10. My father and I had our own little tradition. Every Sunday morning, before we would go to church together, we would have a little breakfast date at our local bakery. He would always buy me a warm croissant with strawberry milk. However, as I grew up, got my own car, traditions changed and I wanted to go to church separately.
    Dad helping me out of the car on mine and Tony’s wedding day – 2012.

    Randomly after church one day he showed up in front of me, a strawberry milk in one hand, a croissant in the other and a warm smile on his face. You know what makes me cry when I think about this story? Is that back then I didn’t see it as anything significant. I didn’t see it as him thinking of me and reaching out to me to spend time together. All I did was say “Thanks dad!” and walked away.

  11. He literally believed that a Big Mac from McDonalds was healthy because it had lettuce in it.
  12. He was the one in our family who never slept until a fight was resolved.
  13. He believed every single one of my 18 year old lies. There was a time where I borrowed his car to go out and decided to have a cigarette in it. The next day he confronted me asking me why his car smelt like yoss*. I then made the biggest bizarre lie and said “that the window had been down while a group of people were smoking next to it. The smoke must’ve gotten into the car.” He believed me.
  14. When Tony and I started dating my dad decided to implement a 10pm curfew. Of course, we never really followed it. But every night when I came home my dad would be waiting in the formal lounge room reading the bible. And it wasn’t ever an angry wait. He wouldn’t say anything except “Oh! You’re home.” It was an unconfirmed way of him just waiting to make sure I got home safely, because as soon as I went into my bedroom, he would go straight to bed.
  15. Dad loved rice. He ate everything with rice. Pizza and rice. Banana and rice. Mangoes? Can’t have mangoes without rice – even better when he used his hands.
  16. I was about 8 years old or so and every night he would take me to pick up my mum from work. He would also sneakingly buy me a McDonalds apple pie and tell me “not to tell my mum or sisters.”
  17. Dad was an avid Tennis match enthusiast. You know how usually when people watch rugby or soccer they yell at the TV? Dad did that… but with tennis. You knew the Wimbledon was on because dad would be yelling “NOOOO!” in the kitchen.
  18. He loved Justin Timberlake. He thought JT was a musical genius, especially with the song “Senorita”.
  19. Dad and I watched the movie “Troy” together in cinema. A mortifying experience out of my entire adolescent life. Imagine this – we are both at the edge of our seats with all the action scenes, then BAM! Brad Pitts bare ass and sex scene is smothered in both yours and your fathers faces. Awkward right? To make matters worse my father got the popcorn box and covered my eyes with it.
  20. Dad didn’t like Britney Spears – because she cheated on Justin Timberlake.
  21. He could’ve won “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”. He knew every trivial knowledge there is to know. He absorbed information like a sponge. He knew where every single country and state in the entire world was. Don’t believe me? One time Tony and I bought him a globe to test his knowledge out. The most random locations Tony and I questioned him on, he was able to point out on the globe. It was f*cken insane.
  22. I once took my parents to watch “The Pursuit of Happyness”. That was the first time I saw my father cry so hard because of a movie. I was distracted from the end scene because of my fathers sobbing, he just blew into a handkerchief and said to me “I believe in Will Smith.”
  23. Dad never really kissed us. He would just pat our heads and smell our hair – I miss that.
  24. He was always so concerned when he noticed us losing weight. He hated it when we thought we were fat. Up until I was 12 years old he would literally hand feed me if I didn’t want to eat.
  25. Dad spent a lot of time in the toilet. It was pretty much his library. He actually read our entire Encyclopedia collection on the toilet. That’s probably why he knew so much about space, robots and safari animals.
  26. He was a realestate expert. He knew what the going rate of a property was, the trends and what was on the market. Before the internet and the realestate app, there was realestate catalogues. He would drive by every single realestate around our home and make me and my sisters get the magazine for him. Back then it was embarrassing for us. He wouldn’t even park the car. He would just turn on the hazard lights and make us run in and out. In fact his ideal day would be a morning spent at church, a lunch at McDonalds (eating a “healthy” big mac of course) and the rest of the afternoon looking at display homes.
  27. He was the loudest person at my High School graduation. I thought I was a loud cheerer. I wasn’t. When I went on stage to collect my certificate, my father made everyones ears bleed.

To be honest, there is so many more memories, so many more wonderful stories I could share with everyone. These are just the 27 that came to mind the second I thought of writing this post. Funny enough I now realise how much they have to do with McDonalds.

Thank you to everyone who read this blog post. I wish everyone was able to know and see my father in the light that I saw him, because he is an amazing man, a wonderful human and to this day, Tony and I always say he would’ve been the greatest grandparent to our children.

I love my daddy.

xo/Vanessa

*diablo – Tagalog term for the Devil

*sinangang – Filipino garlic fried rice

*yoss – slang term for cigarette

What I Love About Being A Mother

Yes, like every other parent, I have my off parenting days. Days where I literally feel like I’ve completed no tasks but yelling till my throat is tired. I could vent for hours upon hours on how my son James laid on the floor of our local Kmart screaming, because he didn’t want to leave ( I felt his pain, I never want to leave Kmart either). Or how my daughter Maddy told me I “broke her heart into two” when I told her she can’t have an ice block for breakfast – true story.

Honestly I’ve had the moments where I’ve been so frustrated I actually yelled “FUCK” to the ceiling (as if someone was actually going to bust through the roof and save me) and yes I’ve had minutes where I day dream and make a mental note of all things I’m going to do when the kids finally hit primary school (6 hours of complete silence – heck yeah!). All mothers do that. It doesn’t mean we hate motherhood, or that we regret having babies. I love being mother. Hands down has got to be the greatest thing that has ever happened in my life. Apart from discovering Korean Dramas – have you ever watched an episode? It’s a drug I tell you!

You know what beats the thing’s that my kids do that drive me insane? The things they do that make me love being a mother! To celebrate our special day – Mothers Day. I have listed a few things that I love about being a mother.



1. The Lessons They’ve Taught Me

My kids have taught me more lessons than I could have ever learnt in my years of studying, reading books and pinning on Pinterest. All us mothers can agree that our kids have enlightened us, taught us things about ourselves, about the world and about empathy.

As annoying as the constant “why?” our kids ask us can be, it really opens up our minds.

“Mum, why is the sky blue?” Had to google that one.

“Mum, why does everything cost money?”

“Mum, if you and daddy are true loves first kiss then why are you yelling at each other?” 

There was even a time when I explained to Maddy what poverty is and she asked me “Why don’t people who have money share it with the poor people?” Yes, my four year old asked me that. Trying to explain an answer to what seemed like a simple question made me just sit still and think “far out, ay.”

I’ve always been a person with a lot of empathy, but never to the level that I have now. Our kids have so much innocence. They haven’t been jaded like we have. They don’t see things as complicated as we do. They have a fresh new set of eyes that makes me look at things and learn lessons that I’ve never realised before.

2. Forgiveness

Kids are all about forgiving. One minute they are literally fist fighting with each other, the next they are both holding hands and playing like nothing ever happened. Kids forgive so easily, they never carry a grudge.

No good parent loves spanking or yelling at their children. Yes we do it, because it’s our job to teach them the difference between right and wrong, and sometimes yes we do it out of frustration, but the second we do it we feel guilt and sorry.

I can’t even count the amount of times I secretly cried in my room after I’ve spanked James on the arse for drawing on the walls. I spank him, he cries, I cry and then he forgives me.

No matter how much I’ve yelled, “broken my kids hearts into two” or made my kids cry, they will always come to back to me, hug me and love me. And that’s one thing I will never forget. Your kids will always forgive you.

3. Purpose & Strength

When I went through morning sickness for three months, I felt like giving up.

When I pushed and got 2nd degree tears during birth, I felt like giving up.

When I had sleepless nights because I was rocking a crying baby, I felt like giving up.

There were tough days I thought I’d never get through and I’d think “Shit, I can’t do this.” But somehow I did. I got through them all. And that was because of my children. They gave and showed a strength in me that I didn’t even know I had.

And this is the reason why I think parenthood is probably the most challenging thing you will ever go through in your entire life. Because when you become a parent, you will forever have the responsibility of being a parent. You can’t give up and say “I quit this job, it sucks, I don’t want it.” You force yourself to get through the tough times. And you do it, every-fucken-day.

I remember it took me about 2 years to realise my fathers death, 2 fricken years from his funeral to realise he was actually gone and wasn’t on a long vacation. Boy, was I a mess. I didn’t want to get out of bed, I didn’t want to eat or get ready for the day. I wanted to stay in bed for a month, not change my underwear and just cry. But I didn’t. I had a purpose to wake up for, I had my children waiting for their mum to come and get them out of bed.

On my lowest of lows my kids always remained to give me a purpose, a purpose to get up out of bed every single morning, a purpose to take care of my health and myself. They are your reason to keep on going and stand up tall during the hardest of times.

4. Laughter

As much as my kids drive me up the wall with their antics, they also use those antics to have me rolling on the floor laughing (literally, ROFL).

I could spend the entire day chasing my kids, yelling at them, putting them in the naughty corner over something ridiculous that they’ve done. But, no matter what, at the end of every single day, I find myself reflecting and I start laughing. It’s the exact same ridiculous things my kids did which drove me up the wall, that also had me laughing in bed that very moment.

There was a time when Maddy was just under 2 years old and she kept running away from me every time I tried giving her her medicine. She would bolt and I would have to chase after her. She tried running and hiding from me so many times that she ended up getting stuck under the dining table – don’t ask me how. At the time I was so upset and frustrated, but later on that night I was in tears from laughing at the exact same situation.

Children will make you experience a time of laughter you’ve never had before, and they will guarantee to give you that every single day, for the rest of your life. It’s amazing.

5. Love

I’ve loved many before my children. I loved hard. But then my kids were introduced into my life and I experienced a whole new level of love. It’s really a different kind of love. It’s different to the love you have for your own parents, for your friends or your partner. I don’t know if this will make any kind of sense but the love a mother has for her children is like this warm, pure, light, unconditional glow of love.

I remember when I had my first born Maddy, I was head over heels in love with her. My whole universe revolved around her. Then I got pregnant with James. I had this fear before he came. I was worried and thought “No way could I have enough love to give him, I’ve used it all up on Maddy.” But I was wrong. As soon as I held James in my arms for the first time, I felt it. I felt that warm, pure, light, unconditional glow of love for him. It was like the love just poured out and kept refilling. I didn’t run out of it like I thought I would. It was an outpour of love.

Children give you this sense and type of love that you will never experience any other way. It’s just beautiful.

There are so many more things I love about being a mother. Like seeing my kids satisfied faces after they eat a home made meal I’ve prepared, dancing like crazy with them to Kpop or the late night cuddles I get when they sneak into our bedroom at 2 o’clock in the morning. Motherhood has a lot of perks and I would never exchange it for anything in this world.

Happy Mothers Day to my fellow warriors out there. Please never forget everything we do as Mothers. We are strong, amazing women, who always gets shit done, juggles tasks, has a permanent memo in our heads and continuously wipes spilt milk. We are the bravest and strongest out there and no one could ever replace our position – because only we can do, what we do, for our own. Happy Mothers Day!

xo Vanessa



Dear Maddy Ava,

To My Dearest Daughter Maddy,

You, only a few hours old. My precious little girl. So new to this world.

As I am writing you this letter I am watching you play with your baby brother James in the park. You are both currently pretending to serve invisible cupcakes and pizza to invisible customers. You always had such an imagination. Ever so often I am hearing James call out for you to help him climb something. You’re such a good Ate*.

I am writing this letter to you in hopes that you will read this in the distant future. Hopefully as you are reading this myself and other women before you have made the world a more hopeful place. A place where you can fulfil your dreams and have more opportunities.

Mum isn’t the wisest person you will ever come across – Well, I certainly hope not. But as I’ve lived my life thus this far, there are a few things I’ve learnt along the way. A few secrets to a happier life. Shh… don’t tell anyone. It’ll be our little secret.

1. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should live your life – even dad and I.

This is your life, you are the only person living it, you are the only person dealing with the struggles, the thoughts and the results, so live it on your own accord.

I spent a lot of my years wasted by following other peoples rules, other peoples labels and expectations. I thought I had to be a certain way or else I was living life wrong. It was mentally and physically exhausting. It made me often cry and feel like I was never good enough.

You were always so eccentric with your fashion.

People would tell me “You’re a mother, you can’t have a career, your only obligations are cooking and cleaning” or “You’re a Christian, you’re not allowed to associate with gay people and others belonging to different religions”. It wasn’t what I believed in, but it was what I was expected to live by.

People will tell you ‘You’re a girl, you’re a mother, you’re a wife, so you’re suppose to only do this and you can’t do that’. Honey, it’s all a bunch of bullsh*t.

Do not let other people define you. Whether it be a religion, a culture, a clique or society. No one tells you how you should be or what you’re expected to do. Follow your own set of rules – just don’t break the law. You know the difference between being a good person and being a bad person and that is all that matters. The sooner you free yourself from other peoples expectations and rules, the sooner you will be able to live your life for yourself.

2. Relationships.

19th November 2012 – The date you were brought into this world.

In your lifetime you will go through many different types of relationships whether it be friendship or love. People will always come and go. I just want you to know the difference between someone who’s only meant to pass by and someone who’s meant to stay.

When I was younger your grandma and grandpa use to tell me “Vanessa I don’t like so and so as your friend, they don’t really care about you.” I use to snub their opinions and I ended up getting hurt. It’s true when they say you’re parents can tell when you’ve got a good person in your life and when you don’t. I was stubborn and blind, so I learnt the hard way.

You will have “friends” who only talk to you seasonally, who only approach you when they want something or need something. Those aren’t friends.

You will also have “friends” who only care about social status and climbing the social ladder – those aren’t friends. They have issues they need to deal with on their own.

Then you will also meet the people that only want to have fun. That is what they are there for. To have fun. So have fun with them. Just remember gossiping is not a way to have fun, hurting others is not a way to have fun.   

Don’t be friends with people who make you question yourself as a human being, who make you cry or feel awful. Don’t associate with people who enjoy hurting others and gossip. If they can do it to other people, how do you know they don’t do it to you?

Find a partner that cherishes you and loves you as you do them. There has to be a balance. No they love me more than I love them. I don’t want you to be in that kind of toxic relationship. Find someone that is gentle, caring, loving and passionate. Find someone just like your father. I struck gold with him  there aren’t many men as wonderful as your father is.

Your partner needs to be present. Your partner needs to notice when you are struggling and they need know when to help you. Never settle for someone who only has their own feelings in mind.

Remember, relationships need a strong foundation and hard work from both ends. It is a a two way street. If you don’t find the right person, then don’t be in a relationship. Don’t fear the word single.

3. Work your ass off.

You always snuck into mummy’s make up drawers.

You can be anything you want to be in this world. Anything.

You want to build an empire? You can do it.

You want to teach primary school? You can do it.

If what you want to do isn’t even a job title… make it one.

You can do absolutely anything this world has to offer. BUT. You need to work your ass off. The world owes you absolutely nothing. You will never get what you want by just sitting down and expecting it to happen. You have to go out there and do what you can, with all you can, to get what you want.

Have passion for life and work hard. If you work hard, you put in the time, the effort and the focus – you can do anything you want in life.

4. Be strong and stand up.

Your love for music started at a very early age.

It’s hard to know who you are as a person. It’s taken mum this long and I’m still unsure on days. Some people live their whole life not knowing who they are until they’re last five minutes of life. But know your values, know what you believe in and don’t be afraid to stand up and argue.

Live your life with passion, be offended. Because I want you too be a strong woman who’s not afraid to speak up. Don’t sit on the side lines while you watch someone get bullied or hurt. Don’t just sit on the side lines when someone tells you you can’t do something. You shut them up and let them know they can’t make that same mistake again.

Don’t be afraid to be who you are and act like how you want to. This is your life, your body, your personality. Don’t change yourself to “fit in”. Right now there are far too many women who look like a Kardashian – it’s ridiculous.

5. Don’t judge. Always be kind.

You would always sneak into your baby brothers cot whenever he cried.

Be kind. Princess please be kind to people. Stay as kind hearted as you are now. Share. Give what you can to those who are less fortunate. Mum and Dad didn’t work hard so that the world could suffer.

 

Never ever hurt someone on purpose. The last thing I want is to receive a call from school to find out that you’ve been a bully.

Treat everyone with respect and stand up for those who have no voice. We are lucky and fortunate enough to live in a country where our voice is heard and I want you to share that blessing with the world.

Don’t be afraid to apologise – when you’ve done something wrong.

Don’t judge. Be open minded. The sooner you realise there is diversity in the world, the sooner you will lose your fear of the unknown and instead become curious and happier. Not everyone will live their life like you, and you won’t live your life like everyone else.

Mummy pregnant with you. You and your brother made being a mother the best job in the world.

As much as I’d like to trust that your father and I have raised you with enough knowledge to battle everything that comes at you in your adults life, I’m never sure. And in all honesty, that terrifies me. It terrifies every mother.

I never want to see you suffer, hurt or experience any moments in your life of self doubt.

There’s a quote by Peggy O’mara and she said “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” And I am doing everything in my might to instil in your mind that you are a beautiful, loving, strong woman who can do anything and everything she wants to in life. Please never think otherwise.

I love you so much.

Love mummy.

Ps. Make your brother read this, if you can… he’s always been a stubborn little bugger.

*Ate – a filipino term added to females older than you as a sign of respect.

The Power Of Woman – Maria Gallardo Goddard

This is an article about one woman’s courage. A story about finding yourself in the darkest moments of your life and finding that inner courage, the inner strength and will to stand up and fight towards the path of happiness. 

Meet Maria Gallardo Goddard, also known to many as Maricel. She is a mother, a cancer survivor and a fighter. She is a woman who has fought her battles, struggled with her demons and traveled from depression and anxiety, to a home of happiness and contentment.

Picture This… 

It was a Thursday morning, the sun was peaking through the clouds and the sound of silence filled the room. The kind of silence that tells you the kids are at school and everyone else is away at work.
It was during this silence that Maricel and I were seated on her back porch, the still water of her pool and vegetable garden in view. 

“You look so nervous!” She teased, a cup of fresh coffee in one hand and a cigarette lit in the other. 

“I am,” I admitted. It was my first interview and I had an excited feeling that this experience was going to exceed my expectations. It did. 

My hands trembled as I pressed the record button on my voice recorder. This was one interview, one story that forever changed my perspective and my life. 

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” This is a quote from Confucius that has resonated with Maricel’s life. It is the best way to describe what she has been through, to where her life is now. 

As I look at where she is now, how happy she is, her family, her beautiful children and supportive husband, I can’t help but feel empowered at what a strong woman she is. All the stones she moved, to move her own mountain.


“I was blinded by my fears…” 

“Depression back in my days was looked at as a sickness. It wasn’t known or
spoken about, as it is now. People were afraid that it was sickness that was not accepted… I felt alone…” Maricel began to describe to me her battle with depression and anxiety. 

“When you feel like you’re alone you have a different mindset. I felt like I had no one there, when really I had everyone there. I just felt like I couldn’t turn to them. Instead, I ran away from them – the people that cared about me the most. Instead, I turned to drugs and alcohol…”

She took a drag from her cigarette. “I had all this built up anger and resentment… I hurt people. I wouldn’t care about the consequences of my words, I wouldn’t care if what I said would hurt someone… I was blinded by my fears.”

Escaping from reality

I asked her about her darkest moment, her brows furrowed as she remembered the day. “… I’ve tried to commit suicide. I was on suicide watch. There was also a moment where I nearly over dosed on drugs. I was found passed out on the floor of an RSL club. My mum was concerned, she started yelling at me and I just clicked it. I remember pushing her so hard that she fell to the gutter. But her eyes, I looked at her eyes, even though she was angry, her eyes were filled with tears of hurt and disappointment. I remember just thinking to myself ‘what have I done?’…”

That’s when Maricel decided to escape from her reality and buy a one-way ticket to the Philippines. “Now that I think about it, now that I have more clarity, I think my parents let me go to wake up. Let me experience it all in hopes that they would get their daughter back.” And she was thankful. Living in the Philippines for seven months changed her life. “At the time I was involved with the wrong people… If it wasn’t for my experience in the Philippines, if it wasn’t for what I had gone through, I’d probably be 6 feet under right now.”

“…I went through the worst parts of my life…”

Maricel described her lifestyle in the Philippines. “I had no money, no work. I gambled, drank and spent it all on drugs. I went through the worst parts of my life there. I was kicked out of my families home in Manila.” 

She then fled from the city of Manila to her family in the province of Zambales. A place where poverty and struggle is real, where there were only hard working farmers and her own thoughts to keep her company. 

“When I was there that’s where I felt the loneliest. My aunt was a pig farmer. There was no running water. There was no one around. I’d spend my days learning how to raise pigs – from the moment the pig fell pregnant, sleeping next to her days before she gave birth, to helping deliver the piglets, I learnt it all. It was my family’s livelihood. I did it because they did it.” 

She began to smile. “There was no running water. Only a well. A well that could only draw water once it reached to a certain level. I would use that well as my exercise. ‘How many buckets of water can I draw today?’ I would use that time to meditate, pray, gather my thoughts and reflect on life. That’s when I found my spiritual side.”

Her moment of clarity…

“My aunt and uncle had a family of five kids, plus our grandmother and I. That was 9 people living in that house. Everyone was in hardship and yet they were still so accommodating and kind.” 

She began telling me the page-turner; the moment that snapped her out of her mind set and made her want to make a change.

“Papa would send me money every fortnight, I would put that money towards my aunt, my cigarettes, and coffee. On this particular day, it would be a week before I’d get that money. My aunt had no money; we couldn’t even afford to buy any food. They ended up borrowing a can of sardines from the corner store; we weren’t even able to pay for it. That small can of sardines was to feed the 9 of us that night.” She took a pause and lent forward. “They told me to eat first. I looked at my aunt and I just couldn’t… Yes, I was hungry, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t take away what little they had between themselves.” 

She altered her future.

It was at that significant moment that Maricel found herself. She began comparing what happened to her in Manila; being kicked out of her families home, the money she had wasted on drugs and alcohol, things she didn’t need, to what had unfolded right before her eyes. “I had my family, my own flesh and blood, who were barely surviving. They were doing everything they could to survive. The kids would wake up at 3 o’clock every morning just to take the long travel to school.” 

It was then and there that Maricel made a promise to herself. “I can do better. I can do something to help people. I can do something to make life easier for them. I am so blessed with the opportunity in Australia to work hard… so that they would never have to share a small can of sardines again… I can turn my life around.”

 She then returned to Australia to attend her brother’s wedding. She had no job, no money, nothing to offer her brother and his wife as a wedding gift. All she had was a $10 note in her pocket and her handmade card. “It wasn’t much, but it was all I could give at the time. I wanted them to know it’s not much now, but in the future, I want to provide for them with all that I can. It was a symbolic moment in my life where I knew I was heading to better things.” 

Family gave her strength, purpose, and support. They gave her courage to see past her depression and anxiety, to see past the negative and fight for life.

“Depression happens to everyone for different reasons, it doesn’t mean that you are weak. The more that people acknowledge depression, the more that you as an individual acknowledge it, means the sooner we can accept it and work through it. That is when you start to heal in ways that you could never imagine. Never tell someone that they’ll get over it. Never ignore and dismiss it. People need to hear encouragement. People need to hear ‘are you okay?’ They need to know they are not alone, that they have someone to turn to – someone to talk to.”

Maricel changed her life. She took control and changed the direction her life was taking. “When you can manifest an idea and you can take the first step, you are already on the way to success.” 

Faith & Love

She then met Kenneth, the apple of her eye, her number one supporter and husband. They fell madly in love and cherished the idea of one day having a family. But as I stated before, Maricel lived her life moving stones. 

 They tried. They tried everything for a long time to have children of their own. Disappointment would hit them, month after month, negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test. 

I, as a mother myself couldn’t even imagine wanting to have children so badly, being ready physically and mentally to have children, and yet to find it so hard to fall pregnant.

But they never gave up.

One beautiful day, Kenneth and Maria got the news they had been waiting for, they were going to be parents to a beautiful little girl. 

Her war with cancer

On her 30th birthday, just before the news of her pregnancy, Maricel noticed her voice had disappeared. A month went by, she fell pregnant with their first born, but she still knew that something wasn’t right; this couldn’t be just a regular cold. Countless visits to the doctor told her that there was a possibility she had cancer. The doctor advised her that being pregnant, you’re not in a position to take the tests, the radiation and chemotherapy that you would normally undergo due to the risks to the baby. So she waited. 

It was on the 10th of July 2009 that their beautiful daughter Lotus was welcomed to the world. Maricel and Kenneth were now a family of three.

It would be six months until Maricel would go under examination. That’s when she was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer. She underwent radiation therapy. She fought hard so that she could spend her life with the family that Kenneth and her had fought so hard to create. “I remember when I was under radiation no one was allowed near me. I couldn’t see Lotus. Kenneth had to wear a protective suit when he saw me.” It was heartbreaking. But she conquered and fought. Now she is cancer free, has a happy home and has not one, but two beautiful children.

My own moment of clarity…

Maricel did not let the things that happened in her life define her; she did not let these events control her. Instead, she chose to rise above it all and learn from it. She overcame obstacles that make me question whether I would have been strong enough, if I were in the same situation.

“I didn’t surrender, at any given time I could have, but I didn’t. And that in itself made me realise how strong of a woman I really am.” 

“Embrace everything that comes to you. Life will give you things you never asked for. It will give you things you never wanted, but that’s no reason to run away. People always assume they know their life’s outcome before they’ve even tried to live it, so they get scared and they run away. Face your fears, learn from your fears and keep trying. Losing could be the greatest lesson you’d ever get before you try again and actually win.” 

That night I went to bed with a perspective I didn’t wake up with that morning – with a lesson I didn’t learn until that interview. I remember watching her talking to her children, snuggling with her husband in front of the television and I just thought to myself – If she had given up so many years ago, if she had been successful with her suicide attempts so many years ago, then she wouldn’t be where she is today. She wouldn’t have met Kenneth, she wouldn’t have had her children, she wouldn’t have shown me a different outlook on life. And I thank god, I thank every being and greater existence out there that she didn’t give up. That she fought and showed the world how powerful she is. 

Thank you Maria. Thank you for teaching me so much and for having such a kind heart. Thank you for trusting me with your story. I only hope I could bring your great worth justice. You are a strong woman, a role model to many and I hope you see that you give women everywhere the power and the strength to fight through the struggles they meet in life – no matter how big or small they may be. 

To end this post I will leave you with a Chinese proverb that inspires Maricel and humbles my heart:

“There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same.”  

Take your own path, work through your own struggles and know that you will get to the peak of that mountain – your happiness. 

xoxo Vanessa

Five Things I’ve Learnt In My First Five Years Of Marriage

Life. I look through my life and I remember everything through moments. Significant moments. Moments that play and leave a permanent beat in my very own musical.

With each scene that is played, with each compelling moment that has passed, it is always partnered with a song. And when I hear that song play on the radio, when I hear that number play on my soundtrack, I am reminded. I feel the feelings I felt through that moment, I see the things I saw through that moment. Nostalgia – The combination of all five senses.

When I hear 50 cent I cringe as I remember my days in High School. Red dyed hair straight from the box and bootleg pants, partnered with a bad attitude.

Trey Songz brings me back to the beginning of my relationship with Tony when we spent hours on end talking, holding hands and then rushing to come home in time for my dads strict 10pm curfew.

The road is long, with many a winding turn…” That heart wrenching beginning to the beautiful song by The Hollies. Always bringing me to back to the cold, winter day that we had to say goodbye to my father.

Luther Vandross always brings a smile to my face as I remember my father walking me down the aisle, placing my hand into the hands of the man that is now my husband, Tony.

Tony. He is a song on his own. When I hear his beat play I am reminded of our marriage and our wedding day. Even though we had been together for three years before it, our wedding day marked the beginning. The beginning to what is now our beautiful family. Our home. Our lives.

I look back and I see that our marriage has made so many beautiful moments. We have two amazing children. One who claims her first job will be her transforming into Ariel – The Little Mermaid. The other claims that our leather sofa needs to be redecorated with crumbs, sticky fingers and toy trains.

Through my husbands support I discovered my passion for film, my love for writing and my crush with photography. We’ve travelled, although we haven’t seen all corners of the world – we’re on our way there.

Recently Tony and I celebrated our Wedding Anniversary. We spent the night away from the kids. It was peaceful. It was wonderful. It was needed – boy was it needed!

We talked and talked and talked. We talked about the kids, the past, the future. Our dreams, our goals, what we miss and what we are looking forward to. We ate under the stars light, with the oceans view. We laughed, we held hands, we cuddled and just flourished in each others uninterrupted company.

The next morning we woke up with a hangover and the hot Australian Summer – but that’s another story.

I am no veteran when it comes to marriage, I am no expert. But I am experience. And what do you do with experience? You learn from it. Here are Five Things I’ve Learnt In Our First Five Years Of Marriage.

Goals & Dreams – Marriage is not the end of your life.

Tony and I got married when I was in my early 20s. I remember the day we announced our engagement we had more people asking if I was pregnant than actually congratulating us. A lot of people were questioning our decision.

‘Why on earth would they want to get married so young? There has to be a reason.’ Is love not reason enough?

‘I bet you she’s pregnant’. I wasn’t.

‘Are you sure?’ I’ve never been more so.

‘Aren’t there things you want to achieve?’ Absolutely.

Well there goes your life!’ Or the beginning of it…

I don’t know what it is, but most people are implanted with the thought that marriage means you have to give up all your aspiration and that you can’t accomplish or see the things you’ve always wanted to. I’ll tell you the truth? It’s complete bullshit. Unless you’re marrying a couch potato. Please never marry a couch potato.

What I’ve learnt in being married to a man like Tony is that you don’t lose your dreams, you don’t lose your ambition or your career. Marriage becomes a partnership. My goals became his goals, his dreams became my dreams and we both worked hard to accomplish all of it.

I don’t feel like it made my life stop. I feel like it made my life begin.

I’m getting closer to what I want to accomplish because I have a partner there pushing me, ready to catch me if I fall. And if I do fall, I have someone there to dust my right shoulder, as I dust my left and try again.

And it goes the same for him. If you love someone. Truly someone, you will do what it takes to make them happy. And if making them happy is to become the worlds next top vlogger or travel the globe to see the worlds biggest cake – then you will do it. Their happiness is your happiness.

Don’t Lose Yourself – Have Your Own Thing

I don’t know if I learnt this through becoming a parent or through marriage, either way I learnt it.

I remember there was a moment where I completely lost myself. I was so in love and focused on my children and my marriage, that without me even realising it – I lost myself.

Because I lost myself I had turned into this crabby, clingy wife and mother. I had nothing to focus my spare time on. I had nothing to soothe my wondering mind. I would actually get angry at my husband when he went into the garage to work on his car.

“Why don’t you want to spend time with me?!” Oh God I was clingy.

My husband was never at fault with me losing myself, I let it happen. Tony was the one who actually pointed it out.

“You use to paint. Why don’t you paint anymore?”

“Why don’t you go for a run to spend some time for yourself?”

I was just so focused on playing this role of what a mother and a wife “should be” that I completely forgot who I was and the things I loved to do.

That’s when Tony and I invested in a DSLR. I got into film. I got into capturing my life. I was addicted. Soon I found this passion, a sort’ve fire was ignited inside of me. I captured and edited anything and everything. I found this creative outlet to draw out all of my negative energy and release this self satisfaction that not even a dedicated partner could provide.

You need your own thing. You’re so busy in giving all of you to your marriage and your children that you forget that you need something for yourself, something that you could call all yours. Find it, immerse yourself into it, learn it at every possible angle and be f*cken selfish with it. Have your own thing.

Filming, writing, photography, painting – that’s all mine.

Don’t Get Use To Things – The Little Things Matter

I remember the first months of dating we would go above and beyond each other romantically. Leave love notes for each other every day, fall asleep talking to each other on the phone, scrap book memories for each other. It was the same during our first months of marriage as well. Then of course we had children – 24 hours just didn’t seem enough. The sun would set before dinner was even close to being cooked. There were clothes that needed to be ironed and a mortgage that needed to be paid for – the above and beyond soon seemed impossible.

Admittedly, I would frequently complain to Tony.

“You don’t love me like you use to.”

“You don’t do the sweet things you once did.”

Unconsciously the bar had been set up so high that anything less was unacceptable. I never took into account all the other details that had entered our lives after marriage (kids, work, a mortgage…) that may have contributed to the lack of “above and beyond”. Sounds bratty? I know. Trust me, I know.

Tony and I would be arguing and I would just spit it out “You don’t do the sweet things you once did for me!” That’s when he said it. He said it and it clicked. “Why do you always see the things I don’t do and never the things I actually do.”

He was right. I completely ignored the fact that after he worked a full 12 hour day in the sweltering heat, he still managed to vacuum the floor as soon as he got home – just so I wouldn’t have to look at it. That he always makes sure that there’s a hot cup of coffee on the kitchen bench to greet me as soon as I finished my morning shower. That he would always give me the last piece of dessert, or that he’ll pick me up a frozen coke on his way home from work.

The thing is, he does those things, everyday. I just got use to it. I got use to the small stuff that I didn’t even acknowledge it. I stopped acknowledging the fact that he would fold the clothes (terribly, I’ll admit, but nonetheless) and pack them away even though he’s got a migraine. The fact that he would give me all three pillows and he just has the one when we slept.

When you’re about to judge your partner on not doing their part, not being sweet, not loving you. Take a closer look, never over look. Acknowledge and be thankful. The small things are what makes your day come together – my day would never end if he didn’t do the small stuff.

Hold High Respect For Each Other – Never Hang Your Dirty Laundry Online

Todays technology is so easy for us to vent and click publish for the world to see our frustrations. Personally, I’ve never done this to Tony – but I have witnessed it.

I get it, frustrations in marriage can be overwhelming. You feel disrespected, unheard and unappreciated. Tell your partner, not the internet.

Rather than gaining compassion and sympathy from your followers, you’re gaining hate, controversy and disrespecting your life partner in public.

It’s nobodies business. Especially mine and your social media following.

Communication Is Key – They Can’t Read Minds

It’s cliche and known – but we hardly do it. I can’t even begin to count the amount of times Tony and I have had misunderstandings because I never opened my mouth and he never opened his.

Tony: Hun, what’s wrong?

Me: Nothing… *slams and bangs everything*

Tony: I’m sorry if I did something wrong.

Me: Why apologise if you don’t know what you did wrong.

Tony: I know I did something wrong to upset you. Tell me what it is, you know I can’t read minds.

And surprise surprise. He really can’t read minds. He doesn’t know the fact that I wanted to watch Miss Congeniality and not Fast & The Furious. He doesn’t know that I wanted Pepperoni pizza and not Supreme. Why? Because I didn’t tell him.

There should never be secrets in a marriage, especially secrets of how you feel. Communication always cuts a lot of bullshit out of the day and creates solutions rather than hours of arguing over what movie to watch, what to eat for dinner or who’s side of the family will we be celebrating Christmas with this year.

There are so many other things I’ve learnt in my first five years of marriage, for instance, Tony loves aiming his farts at me, or that men hate the Allen Key and never actually follow directions. All of which I’m sure many of you already know or will soon discover.

To my husband Tony. Thank you. Really, thank you. I may not be the most patient woman on the planet, but you are the most patient and compassionate man in my universe. You are my strength, you are weakness. You know my strengths and you know my weaknesses and you make up for every single one. I love you and all that you do. I will always be here next to you, to tell you that that bolt doesn’t go into that shelf, that that’s the salt not the sugar and that you are amazing and together we do amazing things.

xoxo Vanessa

 

 

 

 

 

Discovering Family. Uncovering History.

In all my life, my father still stands as one of the most sincere, the most gentle and the most kindest man that I have ever encountered in my life.

If an enemy were to hit you, naturally you would hit back. My father was anything but natural. Instead in mid fight he would try to find a similar ground and befriend the enemy – true story.

Rarely would you see him frown. Rarely would you hear him raise his voice. Being the only male in a household of four temperamental females you could see where that would be close to impossible for a man. But nope. It would take a lot of fussing, cursing and crossing the line to make my father budge from happiness. And if he ever did (which he did on occasion), us girls knew we did something really, really bad.

My father was a joker, not a good one (dad jokes), but a joker he was. He was a goof ball. A comforter, a worrier, a hard worker and a nice cuddle after a bad day. He was also a man who passed away early in life from cancer – but I don’t want to concentrate too much on that in this post.


As upbeat as my father was, he wasn’t exactly always this happy, strong, family man. Like most first generation immigrants – he had a past. It wasn’t dark. But he was never fed with a silver spoon.

Being a half cast in the Philippines, my father grew up labelled as a ‘war child’ and still to this day, many people still describe him as a ‘war child’. Now for those unfamiliar with that term, it was often used during and after World War II to label a child born to a native parent and a parent belonging to a foreign military force.

My fathers mother was a Filipina who nursed a lot of the US soldiers during their military service in the Philippines. My grandfather was one of those US soldiers… and that’s pretty much all we ever knew about my grandparents.

With his father being sent back to the US before he was born and with his mother dying from pneumonia when my father was an infant, he grew up most of his childhood floating from house to house, from orphanages to streets. He polished rich mens shoes for food and sold balut from a cart for shelter.  It was a grim and hard beginning, but he proudly said it shaped him into the man who became my gentle, loving and providing father.

All my dads life he wondered about his father (my grandfather). He wondered about where he came from, what kind’ve man he was, did my dad have any siblings? He wondered that until his very last breath. In ways I wondered the same. Wouldn’t you?

You may also be thinking, why didn’t he ever come back for your dad? How could he just abandon his son? This is where it gets a little bit more grim.

When my dads father got transferred back to the US he lost all contact with my grandmother. He had no idea my father even existed. Now this story is in no way unique because I know it happened so much with military soldiers. But I’d like to think and imagine that if he had ever found out that he had a son, that my dad was his little boy – he would’ve gone on the next flight to Australia and he would’ve given my dad the biggest hug a father could ever give to his son.

I’m not going to lie, my family and I did contemplate several times as to whether or not we should try and track down my grandfather. Whether a visit to ancestry.com would give us any closure. If googling my grandfathers surname would give us any answers. It didn’t. And we, in ways ‘gave up’.

Then. A couple of months ago, just after my 27th birthday, one of my sisters suddenly started bombarding me with a bunch of Whatsapp msgs, along side a bunch of screen capture shots and hysteria.

“Vanessa, I think we found dad’s family.”

No freaken way.

“A man named Ron just viewed my profile on linkedin… and he has the same surname as us!”

Bullsh*t

Now ok. You may be thinking, come on Vanessa! The world has a population of over 7 billion, surely people will coincidently have the same surname as you. No. If you knew my fathers surname you would know it’s not common at all. But I am human and it is the 21st century – ensues doubt.

Then I saw the photos. That’s where I really couldn’t believe my eyes.

I was staring at a man’s photo who resembled my dad in so many ways. My dads pensive eyes, his narrow nose and his cheeky grin. Except it wasn’t my dad. It was this man named Ron.

“Should I make contact?”

YES. F*CK YES. DO IT.

Emails and photos were exchanged. Stories and confirmation was made. Fate, god, buddha, the universe (what ever you want to call it) brought us together.

Something we assumed ceased to exist was living on the other side of the world in sunny Florida and making contact with us.

Through email Ron then introduced us to Joan, his older sister, a beautiful, wonderful soul and my cousin. Yes. MY.COUSIN! One of many apparently. Ron is my cousin and a comedian as well (apparently dad jokes run in the family).

A few emails, Facebook friending and commenting later – we scheduled a Skype Video Call.


Shit. Should I wear makeup? Does this shirt look skypable? I didn’t even iron it. What if they don’t like me? I hope they like me. Yes. These were the thoughts going through my mind minutes before our scheduled video chat. Talk about first world problems.

After a bunch of “did you get my skype invite?” “I can’t see you. Can you see me?” commotion, we finally connected – talk about connection. Immediately I felt it. I laughed till my tummy hurt. I cursed Trump until my throat felt inflamed. Tears were shed and a family was found.

We talked about my grandfather, how much of a rock he was in the family. Did you know my grandfather was an engineer? I didn’t! Apparently he was a very smart man (Obviously I take after him).

We clicked instantly. I fell in love instantly. Questions were answered. Closure was made. But most importantly – friends became family.

Do you ever meet someone for the first time and instantly become captivated by every word they say? Every tale and story they’ve had? Did you ever meet someone for the first time and actually lost track of time? That’s exactly what happened. There was no awkward silence that had to be filled. There was no small talk about the weather. Remove the seas and land between us, remove the fact that it was hosted on Skype and you will have what felt like a loud, joyous family reunion – catching up after being departed for so long.

Our Skype call with the wonderful Joan & Ron.

It’s absolutely unbelievable all the history, the ancestry, the background I’m finding out. Here I was, in humid Sydney thinking my dad had zero family. Only to find out, not only did my dad have relatives – he had them all over the world!

Did you know we are part Jewish? Or that we originated from Romania and have family in Brazil and Canada? Cause I sure didn’t! I’m horrible with money, I’m petrified of Dracula, I suck at soccer and don’t get me started on hockey. Haha! Stereotypes aside – Unbelievable!

As a message to all the readers out there. I want you all to know, life throws a lot of surprises. Some may be good, some may be bad. You never know how life will turn out for you. I as an adult thought I had already met all the people in the world that would transform and make a resonance in my life. I was wrong. Thank god I was wrong.

Last year I said goodbye to a lot of people. I wasn’t expecting to say hello to anyone. I thought I was made – I wasn’t. Now I have a wonderful family living on the other side of the world who have made such a positive impact in so many ways. Lesson learnt.

To Ron, Joan and Steve. Thank you. You’ve all been incredibly welcoming. Incredibly warm. You have made my year all the more better (and it’s only the beginning!). I can’t wait for the day I finally meet you all and give you all giant teddy bear hugs! Beers, wine and bagels all round!

xoxo. Vanessa


Dear 2016.

Hey 2016!

It’s me. Your girl Vanessa.

‘Mesmerising. Fulfilling. Understanding.’

If there were words to describe you, those would be it.

Picture this. I was sitting down, brainstorming ideas for my first blog post for 2017, when within seconds I found myself reflecting, then I found myself smiling… soon with each bullet point I wrote down I was there filled with laughter. I found myself radiating with pride. Pride for all the thing’s I had set out for myself to do and actually did them. I-actually-did-them! (Bravo Vanessa!)

In the years before you I would always find myself passing through them. I would sit around waiting. Waiting for what? I have no idea… for the year to end I guess. Always proclaiming that I will give it another shot when the next year rolls around. What-a-waste-of-time.

I found myself being happy and dreaming… Yes, I’m a dreamer and yes, I dreamt so much during 2016, but the amazing thing is I had made those dreams happen.

During your span, I had started creating my own happiness, realising my own aspirations and hitting every-f*cken-one. I learnt to push myself to heights I never thought I could ever reach. So much so that the things I once thought were absolutely impossible in my life span, now seems so tangible, so real that I could actually feel it within my finger tips.

2016 you were definitely an eye opener. You’ve taught me lessons that the previous 27 years of my life had never done.

You taught me to have the strength to say goodbye to the bad relationships (the meaningless, the emotionally draining..) and instead use that once wasted energy on nurturing and loving the good ones (You guys know who you are).

You’ve taught me that not everyone is meant to be in your life forever, that yes they may know your history, they may have played a huge part in your past – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they hold a place in your future.

You’ve taught me that not everyone is willing to be happy for your success, not everyone has the same ideals of reality as you, and the fact that that doesn’t even really matter – because I created my own success, I took responsibility for my own happiness and because of that I have complete control over it.

If I just grab my happiness with both hands, instead of hoping someone else will give it to me, instead of hoping that it will miraculously fall onto my lap, then that happiness – it’s mine. All mine – no one can take away something that I continuously provide for myself.

You’ve taught me to have passion, to thrive and live. To invest in myself, for myself. To love, to work hard, to be open minded – don’t judge. To care, and on occasion, not care at all – not all battles are mine. And those battles that are mine is because I chose it to be.

2016, you were one year I will never regret playing. If I could have you on repeat, I would. You’ve prepared me in so many ways to meet your friend 2017 the best way possible. Thank You.

To 2017, I can’t wait to see our plans unfold. I can’t wait to see where the path will lead us, in what direction we will take and the milestones we will hit.

I am pumped. I am excited. I am determined.

xoxo. Vanessa.