Filipina, thirtysomething. Public servant by day, grad student at night. Blueberry cheesecake and cat enthusiast. Loves a good caramel milk tea with egg pudding.

All posts by Layla

Of COVID-19, quarantine, and other disasters.

Hello! Yes, it’s been ages, and things have been so topsy turvy.

The COVID-19 virus is now wreaking havoc, and when I say havoc, I can safely tell you that I should spell it in capitals.

HAVOC.

The greater Manila area, as well as the island of Luzon, is on lockdown. Classes (online and onsite) are suspended and save for a skeletal staff, work is also suspended. Read More

I’m depressed, employed, and I go to grad school: How I (try to) make it work

NB: This blog post waited for a long time to be written. I wanted to see how well I would do in my first semester of graduate school. Admittedly, I expected to fail. But through hard work and loads of perseverance, and with loads of familial support, I did better than I expected. This entry is inspired by a Girlboss article I read over two years ago; it has helped me to become productive.

I have decided to put my own spin with regard to the aforementioned article, and at the same time, I would still like to integrate it to the things I have learned from it. I also suggest that the reader take the time to read the original article first before reading this one.


More than three years ago, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. It was, in some odd way, a relief that I had that closure; for a long time since I was a teenager (and probably as far as my childhood), I knew that there was something wrong with me; everyone, including my family told me that it was just “all in my head”. But of course, I couldn’t really criticise family about something they couldn’t understand at the time. Like I said, it was a relief to put a name on how I felt for all those years–my academic performance was erratic: astronomical one academic year, and catastrophic the next.

As well, I’ve picked up odd habits over the years–constant biting on to something, and yes, thumbsucking (sorry not sorry, please don’t judge). I’ve thumbsucked my way at night through stress and anxiety. I’m working on stopping that habit and make my thumbs smooth and soft again–but that’s a discussion for another day.

Fast forward to law school and employment–it all came into a head eventually, plus dealing with the illness of a very close and well-loved family member.  I went on a downward spiral; my work performance dropped, literally. I just couldn’t perform–documents were routed out late; I just couldn’t deal with it—let’s put it like that. I went to the doctor, as mentioned earlier, and I thought I was okay, and went back to law school. That didn’t pan out so well, either.

2018 saw me recovering and considering saying goodbye to law school and starting graduate school instead. While I was excited at the thought, a little nagging thought pestered me. “What if I fail, like I did in law school?” But I thought, I don’t want that to happen. I want to do well. I was determined to do well. So I read the Girlboss article again. And I am willing to give her tips/advice on becoming productive another go. And as they worked for me, I am happy to share them, with some inputs from myself, especially where coping with school is concerned.

  1. Linea Johnson, the author of the article I mentioned earlier, suggested a morning routine.  However, she forgot to mention one important part: breakfast. I try as much as possible to eat breakfast; the more filling, the better. There’s no better start to a day than being fueled by a healthy, nutritious meal. No, seriously.
  2. My input: After I get up from bed, I try to make sure I get myself a bit of exercise. Not only does it get the blood flowing, the endorphins do help. When I started classes in graduate school, it kept me alert and focused on my readings during the times I needed to stay awake, especially during the early mornings. I also take time to meditate/pray/read a devotional. It calms my mind.
  3. Like Linea, I also make a list of things to do: it keeps me on track, and it keeps me from getting too distracted from other things to do. If there is something else I needed to do, like a request from a section head, for instance, I just add it on my to-do list, so I would not forget. I make to-do lists twice during my workday. The first list is the one I make at the start of the work-day. I make another at the end of the work-day and before I leave for class or home. I do this, especially if there’s a major task that I needed to do the moment I arrive at work the next day, and shouldn’t forget.
    UPDATE: I have changed the way I make my to-do list; the traditional things-to-do list still sends me into a tizzy, so I create sub-tasks. For example, if I include “Reorganise NSD filing”, I would be lost. But if I add little tasks connected to it, like “print labels”, “stick on index tabs”, “add files to folders” as subtasks into a more general task heading, I feel less overwhelmed. And the chances of having an anxiety attack are lowered.
  4. Letting your boss know that you’re having a health struggle is an important step, and I agree with the author of the article. Thankfully, my boss already knows, and she knows that I am trying to work with the best of my ability. Eventually, she had proposed that an additional staff member be hired to be part of our office, and one was hired during the second half of 2018.
  5. My input: If you know you can’t do a certain task immediately, delegate, or swap tasks with a colleague, if one is available. I’m lucky that I have a good working relationship with my new colleague. Not only I was able to train him about how the routine work at the office works, he now knows instinctively if he should double check for missing attachments, in case of submitted reports or overseas training recommendations. I could also delegate work to him, or swap, giving him an option to choose what is doable, or more easily accomplished if he were to do it. For instance, if there’s a meeting, I’d offer to swap with him–I would deal with the routing out and other paperwork,  or he could make arrangements for the meeting our boss announced—making phone calls: calling the persons involved, making reservations for meeting venues, or food reservations.
  6. My input: If possible, space your classes in such a way you’ll have time to study. When I was in law school, I had classes everyday, except Saturday. It was the only time I could study. So you could imagine the mess I was in. Fortunately, in graduate school, we were allowed to enroll in only two subjects. For the first semester, I had two classes, one on Tuesday, and one on Thursday. I thought that having only one day in between was good enough. Boy, was I wrong. So, for the second semester, I’ve wised up, and spaced my classes three days apart. I’ll tell you how that will pan out at the end of the semester!
  7. Getting yourself ready for the next day is something the Girlboss article recommends, and it is indeed helpful. Not only does it save you from panicking, and running around like a chicken with its head cut off, it saves time, too! To save even more time, make a checklist of the things you will need to bring the next day. This is where tomorrow’s to-do list [also] comes in handy, because you will have an idea about what you will need to bring the next day—do I need to bring the laptop? or do I just leave it at home?
  8. Sleep is not for the weak. Sleep is very much needed. If there, is one thing I wish I did when I was in law school, it would be to sleep more and listen to my body when it was literally crying for help. I honestly would. It would have saved me from being a wreck. I can’t stress enough how important it is that you catch at least six to seven hours’ sleep. Not one, not two, not three, and not four. Your body needs to recharge, and so does your brain. If you hit a rut in your readings, it’s because your brain is tired. Go to sleep and give your brain its much needed rest–then wake up early to study.

For now, this will be the advice I can share. Please know that what I have just shared is not one size fits all–what may work for me may not jive well with you. Just it give it a try and see what works for you, and you can make your own system from there. 🙂

PS. If you have a doctor/therapist, go see one regularly. If you haven’t yet, and you know something is really wrong, please set that appointment. It will really help. There is nothing wrong in asking for help, I assure you. 🙂

Cutting back on processed food: Lunchbox treats that use less or no processed food items

Personally, the thought of eating delicious food for lunch at the middle of the work day makes me look forward to lunchtime. Especially if so much care and thought was put in in preparing them.

While I do occasionally enjoy cafeteria fare, I tend to make my own lunch meals. This started when the old office cafeteria served greasy (and expensive) fare. This resulted in a massive weight gain for me and a massive hole in the pocket. Haha. So, after careful evaluation, I decided on two remedies.

  1. Lose weight
  2. Make my own lunch, as often as possible.

Hence, this blog post. I am by no means a pro in the kitchen, but I believe I have a reasonable ability to make tasty and nutritious meals. And speaking of tasty meals, I am happy to share three of them to all of you! A caveat though: for vegan readers of this blog, feel free to look scroll away! I do apologise that ALL of the meals being shared here CONTAIN MEAT, as I am a meat eater.

This post is written so I can share recipes to everyone, and to comply with a promise made to my sorority sister, haha. 🙂

  1. Breakfast steak

In the Philippines, this breakfast staple is also good as an all-around meal! If you’re buying the meat in the grocery, you can ask for a sirloin, cut thinly.

What you will need:

Beef (as mentioned earlier, I use sirloin cut, sliced thinly), around a half kilo or kilo

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup soy sauce

Juice of 2 lemons

2 tablespoons garlic powder, or eight cloves of garlic, crushed.

DIRECTIONS: In a large mixing bowl, place beef, and pour in soy sauce, oil and lemon juice, a little at a time (around three tablespoons at a time). Mix together until oil, juice and soy sauce and lemon are well distributed. Add in garlic powder or crushed garlic, and repeat same process with oil, lemon juice and soy sauce until all flavours are well distributed. Store marinated meat overnight for better results. Fry in oil or butter and serve with rice or potatoes (or whatever you prefer! 😉 )

Number of processed food used: 0. Win!

2. Lemon Paprika drumsticks

This one’s easily my favourite lunch meal to prepare to date. I love how good it is on its own–no need to coat in breading.

What you will need:

Half kilo of chicken drumsticks (approximately six to seven pieces)

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon salt (NOT heaping, mind!)

2 tablespoons paprika

DIRECTIONS: Place drumsticks in a large mixing bowl. Mix in lemon juice, oil, salt and paprika until flavours are well distributed. Store marinated chicken overnight–I promise the wait would be worth it.

A wee suggestion: Bake the chicken at 175 degrees Celsius in a well-greased pan. I use butter to grease the pan instead of just oil. Add in a sprig of basil for extra boost of flavour and fragrance. I baked the chicken with potatoes–sprinkling the potatoes with the same ingredients I’ve used in the marinade.

Number of processed food used: 0

3. Homemade burger patties

This one’s a trip down the memory lane–with a twist. As a little girl, I would help my mum prepare burger patties for breakfast the next day. They taste nowhere like the commercially prepared beef patties, but they’re every bit as flavourful. I asked my mum what did she usually put in the burger patties, she only remembers putting in the basics: salt, egg, carrots and onions. So, I decided to add in a twist to this family favourite and made these beef patties my way.

What you will need:

1 kilo ground beef

2 cups bread crumbs

1 carrot, diced

1 onion, diced

2 tablespoons salt

1 Chinese parsley (kinchay), chopped finely

2 tablespoons black pepper

2 tablespoons paprika

2 cups grated parmesan cheese (optional)

NOTE: To ensure proper distribution of ingredients and flavours, it is recommended that the ground meat be split into two batches. The same procedure, however will still be followed in the second batch. Also, it is better that you use your hands in mixing–so, wash your hands thoroughly before handling food!

DIRECTIONS: Mix the following in a large mixing bowl: ground beef, salt, chopped carrots and onions*. Once ingredients are properly distributed, add in one egg, breadcrumbs and cheese*. Again, mix until ingredients are well distributed. Form thick three inch patties* and store in a container and freeze.

*If you’re pressed for time, you can roll them into huge balls and then flatten them out when you need to fry them. The balls should look like this. If bigger patties are preferred, you can adjust the size of the ground meat balls into bigger sizes. 🙂

Number of processed food used: 1 (Yes, cheese IS processed food)

And that’s a wrap! Will be happy to share more recipes in the future, just keep tuned! 🙂

 

A few of my favourite apps to help me study

Here I am, making an effort to be a little more active in this blog. 🙂

I’m back after preparing and slogging through midterms, and speaking of midterms–a lot of revising and swotting went on for the past two weeks. My birthday came and went without much notice, except a trip to this paper convention I’ve planned to go to since it was announced around March or April.

Anyway, I’ve veered away from the subject matter! These apps have helped my study experience easier. From Dropbox to good ol’ Microsoft Word, I’m going to share it! 🙂

    1. Dropbox. While I still print out some of my school readings, this app keeps me from having to lug around a lot of books. Who needs to carry them anyway, when you can store files in Dropbox? Granted that you have to pay more for extra storage, but it’s still worth its weight in gold.
    2. Scribd. This site is a gold mine, I swear.  I find books that I need for uni. Again, if you want to get access to loads of books they have on offer, you have to pay for the service. I do, and it’s totally worth your $9. I have found many of my required readings in Scribd.
    3. Forest. I have, admittedly, a love-hate relationship with Forest. I do get easily distracted, and I (occasionally) end up having my tree killed.HOW IT WORKS: Forest, in a nutshell, is a productivity app, which helps one become less addicted to their devices, eg. phones, or tablets, or whatnot. You get to successfully “plant” a tree when you don’t close the app before the set time of 25 minutes. You do, however, get a five minute break, which is similar to the Pomodoro timer system.The best bit: The Forest app team teamed up (no pun intended) with tree planting organisations. So far, the app has helped plant 585, 134 trees as per the app’s website. How amazing is that?
    4. Microsoft Word/One Note- I switch between these two apps whenever I make my notes for classes. Microsoft Word for me is a clear winner, as it lets me format my notes as simply but as organised as I want, which I cannot do with One Note.

 

 

5. Remember the Milk. My older sister recommended this to me and I have been using it ever since. But I need more features such as integration with my Gmail, and Google drive. So I’m on the lookout for a new to-do list app. Any recommendations? 🙂

And that’s the lot for now! Are there any study or productivity apps you think I should follow? 🙂

Productive Fridays, satisfying car door slams, and much, much more.

 

Image credit here

 

Eurgh. Probably the best way to describe how I feel today is that I’m tired. Bone tired.

Today’s been a long day at work. But I’m pretty satisfied about how it turned out. I did three out of five tasks in my to-do list, I managed to study/prepare for my report that’s due after midterms, and I was able to get what I needed. #hellopaydaythankyou

I’m actually trying to keep this post a little more serious–at this moment, I’m taking stock of where I am emotionally and mentally.

Last year, I was a wreck. This year, medications notwithstanding, I could say that I’m in a better place. Oh yes, there are still days of agitation, stress, and dealing with toxic people, but I was able to cope. Without going into pieces, that is. I now have someone helping me with the minutiae of work, and I get along well with that colleague. Hopefully next year, I will have the confidence to apply for a promotion–and I will close my ears so as not to hear comments from naysayers. But not without training that colleague. I do hope he will be able to cope. Read More

Life update number 2: A month into grad school, and a few important takeaways

 

Hi! Here I am, writing this post whilst sick. No worries, I’m feeling slightly better, but not yet in perfect working condition. So, I have taken the time to write this little update.

And tonight, whilst writing this entry, I realised that it’s been a month since I started graduate school. To use a cliche–time really does fly. And with that realisation, there are other things I have learned, too. Read More

A little life update + current favourites

Hola! Hope you are all doing well.

Here I am, a few weeks into graduate school. And to be honest, I felt a bit lost.

But here’s the tea–graduate school is a different ballgame from law school. For years, I’ve gotten used to having insults hurled by professors whenever they do not like my answer, or whenever I gave a wrong one. While the professor seemed dissatisfied, he didn’t say anything more and asked the same question to a classmate. Read More

A letter to the law school freshman.

I didn’t just study in coffee shops–sometimes I study at home, especially when I am skint!

Dear Law School Freshie,

I’m sitting here writing a letter to you, the law school freshman. There was a bit of mental see-sawing before I started to write this post.

First things first–I am not a law student.

Hear me out–I used to be one. Leaving law school was a difficult decision to make, yet, at the same time, the best one. It isn’t because the passion isn’t there anymore, but I needed to take that breather.

Anyway, here’s the tea: law school is a rollercoaster. Having been in it for years has helped me become a stronger person emotionally. I’m not scaring you off, but there are a few points I need to make. Read More

Lost in UP: An adventure story

I have always come to the University of the Philippines to get my additional readings photocopied/springbound, because the print/bind shops there do it so well. There are only two places I know like the back of my hand: the Shopping Centre and the college I [now] belong to.

The Shopping Centre burnt down last year, so that’s one less place I remember. Anyway, I digress.

It was a grey July day that I went to the university’s campus on a mission. My to-do list:

  1. Drop a letter at the Institute of Environmental Science (an errand for my boss)-done
  2. -Submit physical and dental exam forms and x-ray film at the Health Services-done
  3. Submit medical certificate to SOLAIR-done

Read More

My July–catching up with you all

Hello! Hope you are all well.

July sped by, and it took my breath away–literally!

For some reason, this month had the record of me calling in sick a lot because of–you guessed it, asthma attacks. Oh, and high blood pressure, which shocked me. It’s a wake up call for me to eat more healthily and to exercise more!

This month was also a flurry of preparations–having those medical check-ups as part of a pre-enrolment requirement for uni–graduate school, that is (there will be more of that in a separate post); and getting my [messy] bedroom ready–making it conducive for studying.

And what a challenge that was! My room was in a bit of a mess (an understatement), and a lot of cleaning had to be done. Below are the Before pictures–look at them, absolute carnage! Read More