You Don’t Listen!

lis ten

 1. to pay attention to sound <listen to music>

2. to hear something with thoughtful attention: give consideration <listen to a plea>

3. to be alert to catch an expected sound <listen for his step>

 

“You don’t listen!”

One minute my dear friend/college roommate had been trying to give me pointers on how to cook and the next minute she had turned and walked out of the kitchen.

I continued pushing the rice cakes around on the frying pan with a spatula the only way (and best way, in my opinion) that I knew how and let out a deep breath.

Me, don’t listen? I wondered. Okay, I admit I could have tried flipping the rice cakes the way she had suggested, but why would I want to do that? I had been fine all my life doing things the way I wanted to do them, why change now?

Yes, I was a stubborn one. And yes, my friend was right.

For someone who prides herself on having good listening skills (that’s part of the reason I wanted to become a counselor), the truth is this: I don’t listen very well. Not in the sense that I don’t hear what people tell me about themselves (I could listen to people’s stories all day long), but in the sense that I don’t take into consideration the things they say about me. When it comes to hearing about my shortcomings and the areas in which I could improve upon, my ears are quick to close up shop and put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign.

Image courtesy of photostock/freedigitalphotos.net

The incident with my friend happened over fifteen years ago and I still think about it today. Back then I was shocked and taken aback at her admonishment; now I just shake my head and cringe when I think about how impossible I must have been – all because of a spatula!

I could blame my poor listening skills on a decade of “only child syndrome” or on my controlling tendencies; either way, there really is no good excuse for being so hard headed.

What I’ve learned since then is that God gave us two ears for a reason. Listening is important. Heeding other people’s advice is crucial. Receiving input is necessary for personal growth.

For much of my life I lived based on my own (limited) perception of reality. Then I met some trustworthy friends and learned other people have good opinions, too. Then I met hubby and endured an ultimate boot camp in keeping my ears (and heart) receptive to another person on a daily basis. It’s required a lot of humbling on my part – and a lot of patience on my friends’ and hubby’s parts! – but it’s been worth it. I think it’s safe to say my ears take fewer siestas these days than they used to. 🙂

I decided to put my listening skills to the test recently by joining an online writer’s critique group. I really hesitated at first to put my work (and my fragile ego) out there, but decided that if I want to become a better writer, I need to get feedback. The first time I submitted an essay to the group, it took me half a day to get the courage to read the emails I received back. Thankfully, the ladies are all very gracious and encouraging in their critiques, which makes my part as a listener so much easier. I know they have my best intentions in mind when they correct my grammar and suggest ways I can use stronger verbs to bring a story to life. I now look forward to sharing my work with them and reading their feedback because what they say makes a positive impact on my writing.

I’m proof that stubborn people can change and that we all need a little help from our friends!

Here’s the perfect song for this post – “With a Little Help From My Friends” – sung here by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

What makes it easier for you to swallow other people’s feedback? 

Monday Mentionables: Braided Necklaces, Faces of America, No-Carve Pumpkins & The Beatles

Welcome to the last week of October! I hope you had a wonderful weekend and are ready to tackle today.

Here are today’s mentionables…

1. Braided T-shirt Necklace. After being inspired to make a T-shirt scarf last week, I decided to try my hands (plural because both are necessary for the task!) at making braided necklaces from old T-shirts. This four strand braid was my first attempt; I used the directions found here for a T-shirt belt. 

The two colors work well together, don’t they?
The outfit I wore it with this weekend.

Here are two other tutorials I’d like to try: this one uses regular three strand braids and this one incorporates a sailors knot with four strand braids. If you want to get even more complicated, you can try a five strand braid (I never knew they existed before)! The cool thing about upcycling T-shirts this way is that you can easily make a necklace, bracelet, belt or headband, depending on the length of fabric you have – and how long you want to keep on braiding! 

2. Faces of America. I happened upon this article on National Geographic’s website about the changing faces of America. The accompanying pictures are beautiful and speak of the melting pot that this nation is becoming. I am fortunate to live in a very diverse area of California where I am exposed to people (and food!) of all backgrounds every day. It just makes me appreciate the beauty that diversity brings and how creative God is!    

3. No-Carve Pumpkins. Halloween’s around the corner! For those of you who don’t want to deal with cleaning out a pumpkin’s innards, check out these 18 no-carve pumpkin ideas. My favorites are #4 (Thumbtack Pumpkins) and #7 (Candy Corn Pumpkins). Which do you like?

4. The Beatles. Who doesn’t like The Beatles? I love boy bands and they were pretty much the original one, way before ‘N Sync or One Direction were born (literally). They had so many great hits, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think “Here Comes the Sun” is the perfect one to start us off on this Monday. I found this acoustic cover of it by The Moon Loungers (funny that they should be singing about the sun). Enjoy the beautiful guitar strumming! 🙂

Have a lovely week everyone!

Lovin’ Your In-Laws

If you’ve ever watched a Chinese soap opera, you would know there is always a cross-generational battle going on between family members, more specifically between the mother-in-law (MIL) and daughter-in-law (DIL) – and the poor son gets stuck in the middle. This story line is so popular probably because it’s based on reality and like they say, fact is sometimes stranger (and more entertaining) than fiction. I would venture to say that regardless of what culture or background you are from, you have experienced or heard of such conflicts occurring in your family, too.

With this in mind, I was having lunch with some fellow moms the other week and we happened upon the topic of in-laws. We were actually talking about our kids getting married (crazy I know, considering our kids are ages 7 and under!) and one day becoming a MIL ourselves. One mom said, “Yeah, that’s why I started praying that I would love her (her future DIL) more than I love him (her son).”

Image courtesy of 10incheslab/freedigitalphotos.net

What?!?!?!?! I had to pick my jaw off the floor for that one! I looked at her and saw that she was totally serious. And I was humbled. Wow. What a prayer to pray! She was basically asking God to help her NOT be one of those dreaded MIL’s on TV. More than that, she is already opening up her heart to accepting and treasuring her son’s future wife. She even wants to love her more than she loves her own flesh and blood!

Yes, it’s been weeks and I’m still trying to wrap my head around what she said.

Now, I have been blessed with a saint of a MIL. I can honestly say I feel like she loves me as much as she loves my hubby. She happily cooks for us twice a week, cleans our bathroom and fridge when she stays over, and has never said a mean word about me to me or behind my back. So I know it’s possible to have a good MIL-DIL relationship. But even still, it’s hard for me to imagine getting to know some stranger that your son (or daughter) met and loves and inviting that person into your family and ultimately, your heart.

But I am willing to try. I want to break all the MIL stereotypes that society and the media (ever heard of the movie Monster-in-Law?) have ingrained in our minds. I want to make life easier for whoever marries my son and daughter – cause marriage is already hard enough as it is! I want to pass on a legacy of love for my kids, grandkids and the generations to come.

Because if fact is stranger than fiction, I want to make our family’s reality, and my role as a MIL, mind-boggling – in a good way! 🙂

P.S. The mama friend who blew my mind is 8 years younger than me – more proof that young’uns can really inspire us!

Here’s Carrie Underwood’s song, “Mama’s Song”, to get you thinking about that big day in the future when you will gain a son or a daughter in law. (Get the tissues out!)

What are your hopes for your child and his/her future spouse?

Monday Mentionables: MomLife Today, Egg & Pancake Molds and T-shirt Scarf

Happy Monday everyone! I’m getting a bit of a slow start to this day (and the cloudy weather doesn’t help!), but here we go… 🙂

Here are today’s mentionables:

1. MomLife Today. For all you moms out there, MomLife Today is a one-stop shop for moms. I discovered it just this year and I appreciate all the articles they have on parenting (of course), relationships and faith. What’s especially cool is that you can sort the articles by your “season” – whether you have babies, teens, adult children or even grandchildren. There are also craft and cooking ideas, such as a “Book of Me” for kids and snowflake cocoa for those cold winter days. 

P.S. I’m also happy and honored to have had one of my articles published there last week. 🙂

2. Egg & Pancake Molds. I bought this set from a friend’s daughter’s school fundraiser and tried them out this weekend. If you can’t tell what animals they are, the top one goes “oink” and the bottom one goes “moooo!” (Can you tell I read a lot of farm animal books to my kids?) The eggs didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped, but they looked cute while they cooked! Next time I’ll fill in the molds more so the shapes will hold better. 

If you want to make your breakfasts more oink-tastic and moo-vahlous, you can look online for similar molds.  🙂

 

3. T-shirt to Scarf. I did some fall cleaning of my side of the closet this week and found tons of shirts that are ready to retire (ie. worn out and starting to pill up). I decided to try to upcycle them and found this very easy tutorial for a cool scarf. It took four shirts and about half an hour to make (depending on how anal you are!). My son had fun helping too – he stretched out the rings and made them into loops. 

There’s his hand in the upper right corner. This is the “during” photo.
And voila – here’s the finished product!

Alrighty, off we go now! Time to face a new week. Till next time… 🙂

From Strangers to Family

We’ve been doing some home renovations for the past few months. Most recently, the whole family was involved in painting the kitchen cabinets. Hubby and I painted the upper cabinet doors, while the kids did the lower ones. While we were working, I remarked to hubby that we (he and I) have done quite a lot of painting together, starting from when we were dating. He looked at me with an amused expression and said, “Yeah, you surprised me. I didn’t know you very well back then.” I grinned and replied, “I didn’t know you well back then either!”

Our first painting experience together took place almost fifteen years ago when I helped his family paint their house; since then we have come a verrry long way. We went from “Oh, I think he/she’s cute and I want to know him/her better” to getting married to showing our true selves to each other on a daily basis. It’s almost funny to think that as newlyweds, we were embarrassed to fart in front of the other person! That however has totally changed and we’ve seen, heard and smelled more of the other person than we ever imagined we would. HAHA

Isn’t it strange how two people go from being complete strangers to becoming family? It’s a comforting and scary thought all at the same time. Comforting because when you are able to be that comfortable with your spouse, you get to experience a deeper kind of love.

It’s the kind of love that drives someone to…
~ kiss you when you have morning breath
~ buy you chocolate for your next PMS attack
~ allow you to squeeze the life out of his hand during a contraction

It’s also the kind of love that motivates someone to…
~ not nag when you leave your socks in the middle of the floor
~ listen to you complain about your stressful day at work
~ let you buy that new electronic gadget you’ve been drooling over

However, when you are that close to your spouse, things can get a little scary, too. There are plenty of chances to rant and complain and blame and belittle. There are more than enough opportunities to show that side of you that you would never, EVER think of showing to your coworkers, friends or neighbors. But if you have a good foundation of that deeper kind of love to sustain you, you learn to apologize, forgive and try again.

Now, how do you keep the love flowing in your marriage so you not only don’t kill each other, but you actually like one another?

I don’t have any profound answers, but I think it helps to go back in time and think about what worked before. Back to a time when you and your spouse tried to impress one another with the things you said and did. Back to the days when that one Facebook message, text, email, phone call or snail mail letter (depending on how far back you need to go!) from your spouse made your whole day.

Image courtesy of stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net

When all else fails, you can always go back to these three timeless basics of a relationship:

1. Practice your manners. Smile at your spouse every day, so it looks like you’re happy to see him/her. 🙂 Say “please” and “thank you”, even for things you think he/she was supposed to do or should have done last week. It not only makes him/her feel treasured, it helps you to have a grateful attitude.

2. Be courteous. Treat your spouse like the person you once so desperately wanted to get to know. Make eye contact and ask about their day (and put your phone down). Listen attentively and nod once in a while (and resist the urge to peek at your phone). Make him/her feel like you care about their concerns – cause you do! Ask for their opinion when making decisions. Be a team player and make your partner feel needed and appreciated.

3. Go beyond yourself. Do something you used to do when you were trying to win your spouse over. Maybe you used to buy her that dessert she likes or leave work early just to surprise her? Or maybe you used to watch basketball with him or compliment him on how hard he works? Go above and beyond yourself and invest a little time and energy into making your spouse feel important.

Marriage is like our bodies. What goes into our body and how we treat it determines how healthy, strong and energetic we feel. Similarly, what we put into our marriages determines if our homes are happy and healthy sanctuaries… or if they feel like suffocating and depressing traps. The choice is up to you. The good news is that every little positive thought and action counts – you just need to start. You, your spouse and family are worth it.

To help you remember what it was like to date your spouse and why you wanted to marry him/her in the first place, listen to Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran’s song, “Everything Has Changed“.

What drew you to your spouse when you first met as strangers? What do you appreciate about him/her now that you are one family?

Monday Mentionables: Pumpkin desserts, Yoga meltdown & Christian Woman mag

Happy Columbus Day! No one in our family has the day off, but here’s hoping some of you do!
 
Here’s today’s mentionables…
 
1. Pumpkin Desserts. I think it’s officially fall when pumpkins start replacing watermelons at the grocery store. Not only did Trader Joe’s have a whole crate of them outside the store recently, they had a whole section of pumpkin desserts in the frozen section! I just had to take a picture of all the goodies: pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin bread pudding, pumpkin pie, pumpkin macaroons, mini pumpkin pies and pumpkin chocolate mousse cake! The fudge sauce at the top looks pretty yummy, too. If you’re a pumpkin lover, you gotta go and try these out. I actually had some will power and didn’t buy any cause we still had some dessert at home, but I will definitely get one next time (I’m leaning toward the macaroons). Which do you want to try?
Thank you Trader Joe’s!
2. Yoga Meltdown. I made the decision to start exercising regularly, thanks to a pair of pants I wore the other day which seem to have “shrunk” since last fall. 😉 (By the way, your metabolism really starts slowing down in your mid 30’s – sigh!) I had heard good things about Jillian Michaels’s workouts from a friend, so I bought her “Yoga Meltdown” DVD from Target. So far, I’ve done each routine once and I am SORE (even hubby was sore after trying it and he’s way more buff than I am!). The routines are fairly easy to follow and target the whole body – abs, back, arms, legs and bum – so you get a complete workout. I also like how Jillian Michaels emphasizes trying and improving over time instead of doing the poses perfectly. If you’re looking for a fun and effective way to exercise at home, this is a good one to check out.
 
3. Christian Woman Magazine. This is a print magazine based in Australia. Their website also features many down-to-earth and encouraging articles on parenting, relationships and faith. I’m honored to have had my work published there; check out these links here and here to read them.   
 
Here’s hoping you have a wonderful start to a wonderful week!

Protecting Our Kids

The other day as we were driving home from school, C told me, “Ellie asked why one eye is smaller.”

I grimaced, glad that she couldn’t see my expression from the backseat. I tried to steal a glance at hers in the rearview mirror. She looked like her usual happy self. “What did you say?”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Well, you can tell her it’s because that eye’s muscle is not as strong,” I replied. “But everyone’s different. God made everyone differently.”

She seemed to take my word for it and moved on to another conversation with her brother. Meanwhile, I couldn’t help but think if this topic would be coming up a lot more often from now on. 

Soon after C was born, we noticed she had trouble opening her left eye. The doctor said it was a plugged tear duct and treated it accordingly. Then a few months later, she referred us to see an ophthalmologist (for those of you who’ve read the Fancy Nancy books before, that’s fancy for eye doctor) who diagnosed her with congenital ptosis. Ptosis is basically a drooping of the eyelid, which in C case, causes her left eye to be a little smaller than her right. Thankfully, her ptosis is not severe enough to hinder her vision; it’s more of a cosmetic issue at this point if we decide to pursue eyelid surgery for her. The ophthalmologist had warned us that once she started school, the other kids would notice it and make comments. Now that day has come…

This is the second time she has mentioned a classmate asking her about her smaller eye. I know these preschoolers are bringing it up out of curiosity and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, I can imagine the tone of the comments and questions changing as the kids grow older. And the mama lion in me wants to protect C from ever being teased or feeling unaccepted by her peers. 

There seems to be a fine line that we parents need to tread between protecting our kids and letting them experience the bad stuff (ie. hurt, loneliness, rejection). Let me say first that this is not the same as letting our kids face the logical consequences of their actions; for example, failing a test because they chose not to study. I’m referring more to the things that are out of their control, like being different and getting teased because of it. 

This got me thinking. Should parents buy their kids name brand clothes so they can fit in better socially? Should parents allow their kids to have cosmetic surgery so they don’t get teased by their peers? I used to think the clearcut answers to both of these questions was NO. Now, I’m not so sure.

Hear me out. I think it really depends on the child. For some kids who may be more introverted, cautious and self-conscious (like our son), they could benefit from wearing a cool T-shirt to school. This is why I am willing to pay a little more for a Batman shirt for our son (versus a plain tee), in hopes that a classmate will notice it and strike up a conversation with him (which has happened). A few bucks is totally worth it to help him feel more confident and sociable.

As for kids who are already more sociable, brave and fun-loving (like C)? They likely don’t need the “extra stuff” to make friends. And should they face setbacks, they bounce back from them faster and don’t take them as personally. They also have no problems talking to their parents and friends about their struggles and asking for help. This has all been true for our dear spunky daughter; she is a talker and knows how to express her feelings and needs. 

Here’s our adventurous daughter taking out her big brother’s scooter for a ride!

Maybe a few years down the line, we’ll need to consider eye surgery for C should it become an issue for her at school. Or maybe she’ll continue to blossom socially, even with the ptosis, and we won’t need to. Regardless, we will do our best to make sure she knows she is loved and is perfect just the way she is.

Here’s the perfect song for this post: “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars. 🙂

What are your thoughts about our role as parents in protecting our kids from teasing and helping them fit in?

P.S. Thought I’d add that in terms of cosmetic surgery, I am not advocating chest enhancements for teen girls. There is really no good reason for any girl to be flaunting her “accessories” around!  :p

Monday Mentionables: MasterChef Junior, Purple Walls, Target Tips & U2

Good day, everyone! I am actually excited this day has arrived; I’ve been waiting for this particular Monday to come for a few months now. Why? Because I’m honored and thrilled that Literary Mama’s blog published my guest post today! 

(Let’s take time for a dance break now, shall we?)  😀

Ok, now that I’ve contained my excitement a little, let’s head on over to today’s mentionables:

1. MasterChef Junior. This show is a spin-off of MasterChef (for grown-ups) and is hosted by Gordon Ramsey, who speaks with a cool Scottish accent. The contestants are all between the ages of 8-13 and let me tell you, they can COOK. I am blown away by their chopping skills, creativity and plating designs. I also love how some of them need a step stool to reach the counter. This show is very enjoyable – but make sure you don’t watch on an empty stomach cause all the dishes they whip up will have you drooling!

2. Purple Walls. We finally finished painting our upstairs bathroom a lovely shade of purple (“Rapture” to be exact). My sister was the one who suggested this color, probably because it is her favorite (she even liked Barney the purple dinosaur once upon a time). 🙂 People say purple induces a calming effect, so maybe this will be a good room to have time-outs in (for the kids and for myself, haha). The decorations on this wall totaled $6 (the wall decal poster, as well as the set of butterfly decals were on sale for $3 each at Target!). 

I painted as much as I could reach before hubby filled in the rest.

 

Isn’t it amazing to know that there has and never will be anyone exactly like you?!

3. Target Tips. Speaking of Target, isn’t it like the best store? They have so many different items ranging from food to household products to clothes and shoes! It’s pretty much a one-stop shopping experience with fairly reasonable prices, too. For you “Tar-jay” lovers, here’s a good blog to check out with tips on how to get your money’s worth on your next visit there.

4. Beautiful Day. Being an aspiring writer is such a roller coaster ride. Hubby’s been looking at me with one eyebrow raised cause last week I was feeling so down after receiving a rejection, but now I’m on cloud 900. 😉 There’s a time for everything as Ecclesiastes 3 says, so for today let’s celebrate with this song from U2.

This is one happy camper who’s hoping you have a happy Monday, too! 🙂

Getting Punched

Yesterday, I got punched in the gut. Not literally, thank God (cause I’m no Rocky Balboa), but most definitely in a way I could feel in my heart.

Image courtesy of hin255/freedigitalphotos.net

The source of the punch? This email…

“We appreciated the opportunity to read your work and found much to enjoy in this essay. However, we are currently receiving more high-quality submissions than we are able to publish, and we are afraid we decided to pass on this one.”

Sigh. 🙁

Although this was not my first rejection letter from a publishing company (and I know it won’t be my last one either), it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. It’s times like these when I wish there was truth in the childhood saying, “I’m rubber and you’re glue; whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you”. But the reality is that I’m human and each “No” I get has the power to pierce through my flesh and draw blood.

Okay, maybe I need to look on the bright side and stop being so melodramatic. 🙂 I know there are always two ways to look at a situation: positively or negatively. If I choose the former, I can tell myself there are other opportunities out there and I have heard “Yes” a couple of times, so don’t give up. If I choose the latter, I can stop writing and just drown my sorrows in Cherry Garcia ice-cream – which is a tempting thought considering how much I love the combination of cherries and chocolate!

But what keeps me going is the fact that I love to write and the belief that anything worth doing takes perseverance. And a reminder from hubby that J.K. Rowling (as did many successful writers) faced rejection numerous times, too.

So, I choose to keep on trying. I got back on the proverbial horse (or in my case, my laptop) last night and contacted another publisher. Sure, I risk facing rejection again, but I also may have opened the door to a potential acceptance.

A side note: Right after I received the rejection email and was feeling down, C took my hand and said, “Mom, sing with me. Things are going to get better.” She had made up the little tune on her own, not knowing how discouraged I was feeling at the time. I sang along with her, squeezing the words out past the lump in my throat, and thanked God for reminding me that things are going to get better.

Here is Pink’s song, “Try“, which is all about getting up and trying again.

What has helped you bounce back from rejection?