I have lupus

The fever started Wednesday. By Thursday, I had to leave for Boracay, something I have been dreading since I never liked the beach, the sand, nor the sun. I pretty much stayed put in the hotel until Friday because of my fever, which I tried to relieve with rest & paracetamol. By Saturday, my fever was gone, although I still had joint pains which lasted until Sunday.

I was back to work on Monday and was actually quite energetic.

On Tuesday, at around 10AM, I asked one of my teammates for water. I already felt something funny happening in my body. The water never arrived, and my chest started tightening. I haven’t had an asthma attack in almost 5 years, so this was quite unusual.

Barely 10 minutes later, I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt I needed a Ventolin puff. I left the meeting, hurried to the clinic and plopped on the sofa. The receptionist saw my white face and didn’t bother to make me fill up any form. She quickly pulled me to the doctor’s office.

I mumbled “Ventolin, can’t breathe.” But barely a minute after the words were out of my mouth, my body started shaking. I felt cold.

I could feel my muscles & joints becoming painful real fast. I couldn’t move.

I could hear people scrambling around me. I closed my eyes, and concentrated on relaxing my body so I could control the chills. People were starting to arrive, panicking – my husband, our secretary, my brother, etc.

I felt myself being carried & placed on a stretcher. I could hear commotion on which car would bring me to the hospital, about the 5F parking doors being locked, etc.

The company doctor insisted on coming along. I mumbled “no.” I knew she was pregnant. But she was strong willed. Loyda, the nurse of SMART who has always been there for us, also came along.

Before I knew it, I was already in the ER of Makati Medical Center, but things move slowly. Too slowly.

There were a lot of questions, forms, staring, fumbling. I was begging for pain killers. It was unbearable. For the first time, I wished I could die. It was *that* painful.

They said they can’t give me anything. They first need to know that I wasn’t pregnant. Was I sure I wasn’t? Last time I checked, I didn’t come with a built-in pregancy kit in my body. Of course I’m *not* sure.

The nurses would check up on me every 30 minutes to ask if I already urinated. I couldn’t, and I didn’t know why. I was drinking *a lot* of water. Why the hell was I not urinating? Was this dehydration?

After more than an hour, I snapped, said something probably mean, because they finally gave me some meds. They said I was wheeled to xray later on, but have no memory about it.

I knew there was a lot waiting, maybe 3 to 5 hours. Something about a room not being available. It was all so weird. A room?

Finally, I was in a private room, and gone are inefficiencies of the ER. I was suddenly surrouned by 10 to 15 doctors, all screaming my lab test results, debating over my body.

My husband asked if I was going to make it. Noone answered.

I was injected with more morphine. I heared the words stroke, heart attack, blood clot, my kidneys failing, my organs shutting down.

I was strangely calm. I was looking at my doctors faces. I knew they were going to save me.

“Lupus!” Someone shouted. They knew what to do.

I was immediately transferred to the ICU. I don’t remember a lot of things about my stay there. I knew there were a lot of tubes. There was even a tube sewn in and out of my stomach. I remembered going thru dialysis, and a lot more painful things. I also remember a lot of vomiting, and not being able to eat more than a spoonful of broth.

Only family members were allowed, and even then, they were to wear a mask at all times and to take a pill before entering my room. My brothers knew the drill – my mom is not to know anything until we were sure I was going to be okay.

On my 4th or 5th day in the ICU, I could tell I was feeling better. I gave the go signal for my brothers to tell my mom (who practically ran to the hospital as soon as she found out).

It is now Day 16. I am already in a regular room, and have been allowed to accept a few visitors. There are still a barage of tests, ultrasounds, and biopsies. But I am feeling a lot better.

My kidneys, sadly, have already been damaged. There will be maintenance meds, lifestyle changes, avoiding the sun, maybe even chemotherapy. As of the moment, only bits & pieces of information are available.

But one thing’s for sure: It does feel great to be alive.

To my family, my dearest friends, former & current officemates, classmates, colleagues, online friends: Thank you for all your healing thoughts & prayers. I couldn’t have made it without you.

Curly tops

Kikay-wise, one of the best things I probably ever did was to stop all hair straightening treatments.

I inherited thick and curly hair from my mother side of the family. During my teen years, it became unruly, and the curls just seem to get tighter and tigher. Thus, as with my other cousins, I would religiously straighten my hair every 4 to 6 months. Rebond, relax, straight … you name it, I’ve done it.

And it wasn’t just a 5-year thing – I did it for more than a decade. I even forgot know how curly/straight my real hair actually was, because I would go to the salon the moment I see a hint of curl at my roots.

The eyeopener came in 2011 when my then-boyfriend said in passing “Your hair pricks my face sometimes.”

It hit close to home. I knew how “hard” my hair felt like, because even I felt it on my neck. It also took handfuls of conditioner just to soften it, and yet it still wasn’t enough.

I knew what to do. I had to outgrow all these heavily treated hair.

It was time to embrace my curls.

And so I immediately stopped all hair-straightening treatments. And, like what I usually do when I embark on a change, I browsed thru Amazon and I got myself a copy of the book Curly Girl: The Handbook.

The book told me that curly hair can be beautiful. It had pictures of all these girls with beautiful curly hair, and I knew there was hope.

It also contained tips on how to care for my naturally curly hair:

  • Don’t use the heat setting on the blow dryer
  • Don’t brush your hair. Just use your fingers (I don’t follow this to the letter. I still use a wide tooth comb, but sparingly.)
  • Get regular trims to make my hair “breathe”
  • Use hair products that don’t have alcohol, silicone, or sulfate (I used to follow this to the letter. Although now I’m wondering how sustainable this is, given the limited options here in the Philippines).

By the end of 2012, my hair was officially “virgin.” And it was amazing. My hair was soft, bouncy, and shiny. And for the first time in my life, I receive compliments about my hair.

My only regret is not doing this sooner. It would’ve saved me a lot of time and money, not to mention self-esteem.

And oh, I love my curls :)

Taking the plunge with a new task management system (Teambox)

Prior to using Asana, the team have gone thru Basecamp, ActiveCollab, and GoPlan. We’ve been changing task/project-management systems so much that we just got used to it. At the back of my mind, I welcomed it, because it allowed me to start from zero and review tasks that are still worth pursuing.

Asana, however, was the longest one we’ve ever used. We’ve been using it for more than 6 months, I believe. We loved its email integration – just send/forward an email to a specific address, and it will automatically be created as a task, and include the email attachments. And since we work in a company heavily reliant on email, this was a big plus.

Asana was also very fast. I can see almost in real-time what tasks were updated by others. We also love, although never really maximized the potential, of its integration with Dropbox.

We’ve always wanted to upgrade, especially since we know we need about 50++ users, but there was something about Asana that was just never right.

  • The user interface was just very overwhelming. This was our biggest problem. Our team simply hated using it. We have more than 50 projects and lot of tasks under each project. We have done everything to make it look simpler (dummy projects and dummy tasks to segregate), but we just couldn’t make it work.
  • Tasks lists interface is too linear. It was a pain grouping them together, the groupings are not too distinct, and the tasks at the bottom always end up being neglected.
  • Calendar is not integrated within the UI. In order to to view the tasks in calendar form, we need to integrate with 3rd party calendars. We need to do this for every single new project that comes along. And that is a lot.
  • We were happy when they implemented subtask, but they made it too complicated. The subtasks were not even assigned to the parent project automatically. Each subtasks were treated independent of their container project.
  • Asana was great in reminding us of our tasks, but it does not aid us in planning them. Everything just looks too cluttered.

As more of our team started adopting Asana (we already maximized the free allocation of 30 users), we knew it was time to upgrade. But do we stick with Asana, or go with something else?

Our requirements were:

  • 50 to 75 users with a maximum budget of $300/month
  • Calendar view of tasks
  • Ability to create tasks and attach files via email
  • A user-interface we can work with in all stages of our process – brainstorming, strategizing, planning, and executing.

Initially, Asana was still on the list. We’ve  been using it for such a long time, and I was secretly trying to find a reason to stick with it. I wanted proof that the things we needed were at least planned, and that all we had to do was wait.

But I couldn’t find those reasons anywhere. Not even in their monthly newsletter when they mention their roadmap. The only things I saw were words like memory retrieval, workflow, big teams, growth, etc.

After a week of researching the likes of Do.com, Mavenlink, PivotalTracker, Producteev, Teambox, Teamly, Trello, and Wrike, we shortlisted it to two: Teambox and Trello.

You could tell how I discovered and fell immediately in love with the vertical view of tasks. It was being used by Teambox & Trello as a kanban system, but I knew we could use it to segregate subprojects. And that was a big thing for us, as we have a lot of adhoc one-week projects that suddely come up.

We almost went with Trello. We fell in love with its simplicity, speed, and their mobile apps. The deal breaker was not being able to mark anything as resolved — it forces us to use it as kanban instead.

Teambox was the sweet spot. It’s not perfect though. They have a big problem with speed, I don’t like the fact that you can’t create private projects that absolutely noone can see, and we really need subtasks support. But I like the capability to switch views of tasks (vertical/horizontal) and the integrated calendar & gantt chart.

Weirdly enough, what finally sealed the deal was their Help site. I was able to find out what exact feature they have included in their roadmap. Nothing vague. Only specifics.

I hope & I pray that we will be sticking with Teambox for a long time. Will let you guys know.

Mr. No

I have worked with someone who, without fail, will always make it a point to say no or contradict something – anything – at every single meeting. Without exaggeration, I’ve never had a conversation with her when she didn’t — even at the most trivial issues.

It gets crazier: Sometimes she will contradict facts or practices already known to mankind, and when corrected, will make up an excuse on why her contradiction is valid. It has gotten so bad that (s)he has been labeled as a a power-tripper, a bitch, a know-it-all. Across the entire company. And that’s saying a lot.

Her team would usually agree to everything she says (to avoid a debate), do things without question even if they know it is the wrong way of doing it, avoid her at all cost, or withhold information that has the slightest chance of being questioned.

Is she a power-tripper? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t think it’s fair to put a label on these kinds of personalities. But I have encountered others like her who believe that contradiction goes hand-in-hand with leadership. Meaning, they feel they have to say no in order to exert their authority. More often than not, they are the my-way-or-the-highway kind, have no problems with confrontations, do not believe in the expertise of others, and most of all, must always be right.

How then do you persuade these kinds of people?

You need to make them appear that a decision is good for them.

You could also make it appear that what you’re discussing with them is their idea all along. Sometimes all you have to do is changing the words you use in explaining a situation.

Remember, the important thing for her is that she needs to right. You need to make her believe it, at the very least.

Vegan food delivery services

I am now aware of 4 vegan food delivery services which deliver to Makati:

  • Edgy Veggy
  • Corner Tree Cafe
  • Pipino
  • The Sexy Chef

Unfortunately, the first 3 are not sustainable for “daily sustenance,” with their required minimum order of P500 (I think P300 is about the amount that I can take).

The Sexy Chef has a more affordable delivery arrangement, although their vegetarian food in general is not as palatable as Edgy Veggy’s or Corner Tree’s.

I used to order from Edgy Veggy regularly, but I don’t have that much time lately to cook & bring my own brown rice (they don’t include it in the order). I have yet to try Pipino; but, it also has that dreaded minimum order of P500, and the Makati branch is still not yet reflecting in the Delivery21 website.

I may need to accept the fact that if I am to eat healthier, I would have to find the time to brown bag my food. At least until we have more flexible ordering options.

Goodbye Le Domaine


We said our goodbyes to our unit in Le Domaine, Salcedo Village — the place where a lot of good memories were formed.

There are no words to describe the feelings of leaving the unit we have called home for so many years. The lump in my throat was real as I relived the time we first brought Booger home, when the iHubby was still recovering from his stroke, the joy of simply living together, the problems we sorted within those walls, our guests who graced us with their presence, the parties in the roof deck …

Will especially miss the security and maintenance staff who have done their best to make our stay as comfortable and as safe as possible.

I hope our unit grace the hearts and memories of its next inhabitants as it did ours.



Chameleon penmanship

Spencerian Penmanship

Spencerian Penmanship / $20.99 / Amazon.com

“Your handwriting looks exactly like <insert name of friend here>,” my friends would exclaim.

I recently realized that all these years, I’ve been unconsciously channeling the handwriting of other people (usually one of my closest friends). Some may call it a skill, but I got pretty disturbed. How can I not have a handwriting I could call my own?

In Highschool, I did notice I already had a knack of adapting to others’ handwriting, whether it was Angel’s, Melissa’s, etc. Now that I think about it, I derived my signature from a classmate’s who had the same last name — I just changed the initial to that of mine.

And so the quest for my penmanship began, and I decided to go as far back as Gradeschool, when my handwriting was basically consistent year after year. I was one of the few ones who could write in “Paulinian handwriting” — which, apparently, is referred to as “Spencerian penmanship” by the rest of the world.

Amazon had the books, and I have the drive. Spencerian Penmanship is my attempt to bring back that Paulinian in me. Not that I had fond memories during my stay in that school, but it’s what I started with — and maybe it’s what I can end with.

Fifteen minutes a day. Every single day.

Let’s do it.

Why Draw Something lost its users

You just can’t help but feel sad for OMGPOP and ZYNGA. When App Data released the data showing the sudden slide on Draw Something’s user base, all the bloggers practically jumped on it — calling it a fad, a hype.

But was it? I don’t think so. I believe the main reason why Draw Something lost its users its because they failed to give users what they needed, when they needed it.

OMGPOP did attempt to give users what they said they needed. The updates to the app did contain fixes & features that were frequently mentioned in Draw Something’s over 20,000 reviews in the App Store (undo, send comments, retina display, etc.).

But OMGPOP were not able to give what the users didn’t say they needed. And this is the key difference between being good and being great – the skill that separated Steve Jobs from the rest.

Henry Ford was (mis)quoted that if he asked his customers what they wanted, they would’ve said “A faster horse.”

And that is exactly the same with mobile games. Ask users what they want, and more often than not, they will only tell you features that they have already seen.

OMGPOP then had a bigger challenge to know what was unsaid. And to do this, they needed to understand the nature of the game. Which I believed they never did.

Draw Something, at a glance, was a drawing game. Which means its users usually have a longer attention span — they would take the time to draw, to carefully pick out pens and colors, and meticulously erase little mistakes that the other party would otherwise not notice.

But Draw Something was more than a drawing game — it was also a guessing game. And this is when it becomes tricky, because this time, users would have a shorter attention span than usual.

The game then had two sets of users: One who is taking his time, and one who just can’t take any more waiting time. There was no skip or fast forward button to the other player. He was being expected to patiently wait for his “teammate.”

But there is still one crucial factor in all this: Timing. Giving the users what they need when they needed them.

Versions are already crunched as it is with the mobile apps industry. But Draw Something’s users were more volatile. Because, again, of the nature of the game: The game needed additional equipment to be played “properly” – a stylus and a tablet.

Draw Something’s users found it easier to just stop playing the game altogether – because it also removes them of the discomfort of having those equipment all the time. Or to just jump to the next big app. Which, unfortunately, is just $0.99 away.