Tackling Challenges One “File” at a Time

Sometimes I wish life was easier, that things could just magically fall into place. Take potty training for example. Wouldn’t it be great if toddlers understood the whole process and got it right on the first try? Imagine how glorious it would be if your child could tap you on the shoulder and inform you oh so calmly, “It’s potty time. Don’t feel the need to rush because I’m letting you know a whole two minutes in advance. Just point me to my porcelain throne so I can do my business.” That would sure be a lot easier than having to hover over him all day, waiting for him to make “that face” and then clutching him like a football and sprinting down the hall to the bathroom, wouldn’t it?

But alas, this is not how life works. Things rarely go the way you’d like them to, especially on the first try. It usually takes more than one job interview to get a job offer. More than one scraped knee to learn how to ride a bike. More than one rough draft to produce a novel. More than one heart to heart talk to strengthen a relationship.

It often takes more than one disappointment, one struggle, one failure to get you to where you want to be.

(Yes, now’s the time to sigh if you’re feeling discouraged.)

But (here’s where you can start feeling encouraged), there’s an upside to all this. When we push through our disappointments, our struggles and our failures, we develop something inside us that makes us stronger, more resilient and more hopeful.

Let me introduce you to that something. It’s called…

per·se·ver·ance

noun

1. steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

Perseverance is like a friend who doesn’t cheer you on from the sidelines but actually runs alongside you. It reminds you that distance is measured not only in miles but in steps. It teaches you to focus not only on the finish line but to also consider how far you’ve already come.

My first test of perseverance (the first one to really make an impact on me) happened years ago when I worked in Human Resources at a biotech company. I started out as a “paper pusher”, typing out offer letters and putting employee files together. I remember being given a task at one point that completely overwhelmed me and had me questioning, “How in the world am I ever going to get this done?!” My task was to audit each and every one of the employee files for the entire company, which included branches in the east coast and also the UK. The total number of files came out to be around 1,400.

I spent weeks in a freezing cold file room, shivering and groaning as I pulled out file by file… by file. I started out working on file #1, made it to #376, then #599, then #819… had a small party when I hit #1,000, and finally, finally arrived at #1,400. It was a happy day when I finished my task and emerged triumphantly from the file room. I may have come out a bit blue and frostbitten, but I was also a lot more confident in my ability to persevere.

Image courtesy of krishnan/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of krishnan/freedigitalphotos.net

Is there something you are currently struggling through? I hope you will continue to persevere through it. Whether you feel like you are stuck in your own “file room” working on file #101 or #1,101, take heart and know you are that much farther from #1. Just take it one “file” at a time. 🙂

Take a listen to Miley Cyrus’, “The Climb“, a great song about perseverance.

What situations have you persevered through in your life, and how did they change you? 

Monday Mentionables: Pomelos, Dad Confessions & Zachary Levi

Hello everyone and hello Monday! I hope you had a good weekend. I spent some of it writing and burning the 2AM oil, so my head’s a little fuzzy this morning. It brings me back to the days when the kids were younger… and I was younger… and makes me so thankful we all are older and better sleepers now. 😉

Here are today’s mentionables:

1. Pomelos. Do you like eating grapefruit or does the mere mention of the fruit make your mouth shrivel up in fear? If it’s the latter, then you’re in luck. Pomelos are similar to grapefruit, but they don’t leave you in a “sour sweat” (yes, I just made that up). I think they are in season because we keep seeing them everywhere or maybe C keeps seeing them everywhere because she loves round, yellow objects. She insisted on buying one and bringing it home to decorate as a chick. I kid you not.

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She gave it a picture so it wouldn’t be lonely in the fridge!

If you want to buy one and bring it home to eat, here are directions on how to cut and peel them.

2. Dad Confessions. This article on People.com was written by a “reluctant father” who learned over time how to love his daughter and love being a dad. I appreciate his honesty in sharing how his heart changed. Plus, the pictures that go along with his story are really cute.

3. Zachary Levi. Did you ever watch the TV show “Chuck”? Did you know Zachary Levi, the actor who played Chuck, can sing? I discovered his hidden talent in this video of his duet with Katharine McPhee. I’ve been listening to it on repeat this weekend as inspiration for my romance novel. 🙂 Here’s also an interesting Q&A with him about his faith.

Alrighty, have a great day!

Taking Chances

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Being the cautious, timid person that I am, I hate taking chances. Anything that involves speed, pointy objects, dirt, strangers or, generally speaking, the unknown are pretty much no-no’s in my book. Why? Because being around those things involves risk and risky business has the word vulnerable written all over it. Let me rephrase that because it should really be written in bold and all caps: Risky business has the word VULNERABLE written all over it. Ahh, that’s better. 🙂

You should have seen me at the doctor’s a month ago while I was waiting to get some lab work done. I had been putting the blood test off for years. The initial request my doctor placed had expired because I had waited too long, so she had to put in another one. That’s how much I dreaded getting my blood drawn. (I’m shuddering even now as I type the “b” word). There’s a great sense of vulnerability I experience when I expose the crook of my arm to a long, sharp needle. But I knew I needed to put on my big girl pants and (insert unintended Nike commercial) just do it. So there I sat in a room full of people waiting for my name to be called, all the while practicing my deep breathing and reading Psalm 23. (Yes, desperate times call for desperate measures!) When they finally called me up, I walked into the room, sat down, rolled up my sleeve and closed my eyes. I warned the phlebotomist, “I get kind of nervous about this” to which she responded, “Do you want to lie down?” I eagerly nodded, thankful I could stall the inevitable poking for another minute or two. She led me to a room with a bed and got me settled in it. Then she got out her equipment and went to work. Okay, I’m going to spare you the rest of the details, but let’s just say I survived to tell the tale.

When I got home and showed the kids my battle scar, I told them the whole story of how I triumphantly made it out of my dark valley. C asked me, “Did anyone else have to lie on the bed?” I answered, “No.” Then she proclaimed, “You’re weird, mom!”

Thanks a lot. 😛

Sure, maybe I am being a bit overly dramatic about getting my blood drawn, but I think it’s safe to say that most people don’t like doing things that make them feel out of control.

Hmm, I feel like I blog about this topic a lot. Or maybe I just think about it often. Which is not a bad thing I suppose because I am constantly reminding myself to not be so controlling. To be comfortable with being uncomfortable (this is a line from one of my yoga DVD’s that makes me groan whenever I hear it). To take risks. To be vulnerable.

I decided recently to take a chance and do something I said I would never do – write fiction. I have nothing against fiction; I love reading novels, especially romantic ones. But the thing with fiction books is that they require a lot of words and a lot of imagination. I like writing pieces that are brief (under 1000 words) and truthful (based on real life). To do otherwise is completely out of my comfort zone. But guess what? I’m starting to enjoy it. I’ve written a story with over 22,000 words so far. I like thinking up characters and bringing them to life. I find satisfaction in planning out the story line and having it go wherever I want it to go.

The best part is this: There are no rules or directions, but plenty of chances for freedom and creativity.

And that’s exactly what this square gal needs. 🙂

Here’s Kara DioGuardi and Dave Stewart’s song, “Taking Chances“. It’s a romantic song, but the chorus still applies. 😉

What do you want to take a chance on?

Monday Mentionables: Legos, Louis Zamperini & Daily Bible Blast

Hi and happy President’s Day! It’s been a family day for us with everyone at home, which is why I’m lagging behind a bit today. But better late than never. 😉

Here are today’s mentionables:

1. Legos. We spent the morning using our creative brains and playing legos. Speaking of legos, we are planning on taking the kids to the theater for their first time to watch – what else – The Lego Movie. I’ve heard and read some good reviews for it, so hopefully it will be a good experience for them. And FYI, here’s a good site, Common Sense Media, to check out for movie reviews.

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This is the village C and I made. 🙂

2. Louis Zamperini. I heard about this man a few months ago from a feature story on Yahoo. He is a former Olympian who went on to fight in WWII and not only survived a trying ordeal as a POW, but eventually forgave his captors and shared the gospel with them. His story is truly one of courage, persistence and grace. Here’s a short version of his story in this video.

3. Daily Bible Blast. I’m honored to have a guest post up at Daily Bible Blast, a daily devotional blog. Today’s passage is on Acts 9:32-35.

Have a good week everyone! 🙂

Lasting Love

My kids surprise me with how mature they are at times. They respond to various situations in ways that would put many adults, including myself, to shame. Like the time I forgot it was early pick up day for E and showed up at his school an hour late (!) and he gave me an unexpected, but very sweet, kiss on the lips as a gesture of his forgiveness. And the times I see C treating her old chicky just as well, if not better than its new counterpart, show me signs of her faithfulness.

This latter example with C really got me thinking about its analogy to marriage. Now that hubby and I have been married for about a third of our lives, I think it’s safe to say we don’t look the same as we did when we met. We’re a little more round in the middle and a lot more wrinkled and grey around the edges. We no longer sound the same either; our backs and knees creak a lot more and our voices are less energetic. We’ve become like C’s old chicky, worn down and not so appealing on the outside. If you compared us with our engagement glamour shots taken 14 years ago, you would see a noticeable difference. That’s how it is with C’s two chick toys. When you see them side by side, you can tell right off the bat which one is the new one.

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The old chicky shrunk in size, too!

I had initially assumed C would like the newer, brighter, cleaner chicky more than her old one. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like to have new things (kids and adults alike)? That’s why we like to buy new clothes, new toys, new gadgets, etc. But for some reason, C still adores her original chicky. She loves it even though its yellow fur is now matted and sparse and its white tummy is not so white. She loves it so much that sometimes she only wants to play or sleep with it. It doesn’t seem logical that she would choose the older toy over the newer one. But love doesn’t always make sense, does it?

Nope. If I have learned anything from my four year old’s love for chicky, it’s these two aspects of love.

First, love is blind. When we love, we choose to look past the external, past the temporary things. Qualities like smooth skin, a full head of hair or flat abs can be attractive, but they are very fleeting. Sooner or (hopefully!) later, we will all walk a little slower and sag a little lower. If our affection for our spouses was based on appearances, our relationships would definitely be on shaky ground after a decade or two.

Second, love remembers. When we love, we choose to remember the lasting things, namely the memories you have made over the years. The amazingly great or stressful day of your wedding. The first place you made into a home. The job offer you both prayed so hard for. The nights you spent deciphering the meaning behind Lost. The moments you waited together for the result of a pregnancy test. The secret smiles you exchanged across the room. The days you held hands in comfortable silence. The times you finished each other’s thoughts. These memories are lasting and the stuff that real life is made of. And the best part is that these shared experiences will not fall out or fade or grow grey with time. In fact, the longer you are married, the more you will build upon your memories and the stronger your bond will be.

So on this Valentine’s Day, may we be reminded to look at our spouses with new eyes (behind the contacts or bifocals you may be wearing). Eyes that focus and see their inner beauty and worth. Eyes that remember the highs and lows you have come through as a couple. Eyes that say, “I’m still into you.” 🙂

The song for this post is Paramore’s “Still Into You“. Take a good listen to the lyrics (when you’re not dancin’!) cause they speak of lasting love.

How do you see your spouse/significant other? 

Monday Mentionables: Hasselback Sweet Potatoes, Fudge Babies & Jason Chen

Hi everyone! Hope you had a good weekend. This pretty much sums up mine:

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Haha. At least I can laugh about it now. A Saturday Costco trip (never realized how many manners-challenged, hungry, eager people go there for samples) and too many kiddie meltdowns had me grumbling and praying for patience one too many times. I am so glad it’s Monday and I have a moment of peace to myself. 🙂

Here are today’s mentionables:

1. Hasselback Sweet Potatoes. I have grown to like sweet potatoes because they are healthier and sweeter than regular potatoes and they come in pretty colors (the purple ones are yummy). I saw a recipe going around on Facebook for fancy baked sweet potatoes and gave it a try. The trick to getting the sweet potato sliced evenly is to place a pair of wooden chopsticks next to it to act as a buffer so you don’t cut it all the way through. This method worked pretty well except for the fact that my chopsticks were round and kept rolling around on the cutting board. Maybe this square gal needs to invest in some square chopsticks instead? 😉

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They taste the yummiest right out of the oven!

2. Fudge Babies. Another new recipe I tried out recently was for these yummy, healthy walnut-cocoa-date balls. The kids even liked them momentarily (the first day), which meant I ended up eating the rest (which was fine by me!). Mine didn’t turn out quite so pretty or round as the picture in the recipe because I used a Magic Bullet instead of a food processor. I think next time I’ll crush the walnuts with a hammer first – good way to get stress out, too. 🙂

3. Jason Chen. I am a softie when it comes to romantic movies, books and songs (even though in real life hubby is the more romantic one, haha). I stumbled upon this guy on YouTube and his song “Best Friend“. It’s very cliche and cheesy, but cute. I also think it’s cool to see an Asian guy going after his dreams of becoming a singer instead of the stereotypical engineer or doctor. Yay for non-square people!

Have a wonderful week!

Measuring Love

Recently, E asked me, “Who do you love more, me or C?”

Not this again! Didn’t C just ask me this question the other day, too? My eyes opened wide in exasperation and I, like any other smart parent in the world, replied, “I love you bloth!” (Bloth is how the kids pronounce “both”, don’t ask me why.)

Why is it that kids like to make us squirm with their probing questions? If it’s not about the birds and the bees, it’s about equality and justice. I for one think the former topic might be easier to address than the latter. It’s easier to remain objective when discussing facts (ie. “Well, God took a part from me and a part from Baba and put them together to make you”), especially when you can still remain vague about the details (whew!), but it’s much more difficult to talk about the ambiguous stuff.

Like stuff you can’t quite measure with a yard stick or a scale. Stuff you never thought you’d have to justify, especially to your kids.

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/freedigitalphotos.net

Stuff like love.

Even though this four letter word can be hard to quantify, I thought I knew the answer to E’s million dollar question (in my head of course, not out loud). My initial response was: The kid I love more is the one who is more cooperative, obedient, easy to manage – really, the one who makes my life easier. Makes sense, right? But then I realized there are several ways to answer his question. Merely giving that first answer only trivializes the true meaning of love.

To love someone means more than just accepting them on their good days. To love your child means not giving up on them when they are having their fourth meltdown in a day; deciding to stay calm when their whiny voices grate on your nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard; choosing to not yell when your child screams that the parking space you chose at the library was too sunny and the next space you chose was too far away (true story, by the way). If you are talking about that kind of love, then my answer would be: The kid I love more is the one who teaches me to be more patient, forgiving, unselfish – in essence, the one who pushes me to my limits and deepens my understanding of love.

However the more I thought about E’s question, the more I realized neither of these answers were true. Who do I love more, E or C? Well, to be honest, I love myself more.

How do I know this? Because often times I value my needs more than theirs. I love myself more when I’d rather check Facebook than play with them; when I don’t accept them for who they are and want to change them; when I choose not to empathize and understand the reason behind their actions; when I hold them to standards they cannot meet.

Yikes.

This realization has been very humbling and challenging for me. I know there is no perfect parent, but I still struggle with guilt over how far I fall short in loving my children. There’s the perfectionist side of me that keeps count of the number of times I sigh in annoyance or speak harshly to them. I even find myself hesitant to say “I love you” to E and C because I feel like my actions don’t match up to those three weighty words.

But I’m trying not to get stuck in the negatives because guilt is the last thing I need yelling at me on the sidelines of this marathon I’m running (which is what parenting feels like at times). So I remind myself to focus on progress, not perfection. To put my phone down more often than pick it up. To make eye contact and listen, really listen to my kids when they talk. To put myself in their place and imagine how scary it must be to have someone twice their size yelling at them. To appreciate their unique personalities, including the strong willed parts. To enjoy their presence each and every day because they are growing up so fast.

The bottom line is this: I’m learning to love myself less in order to love them more because they are so precious and worth it.

The song for this post is Katy Perry’s, “Unconditionally”. I like this lyric: “I’ll take your bad days along with the good.”

In what ways have you learned to love yourself less for the sake of loving your loved ones better?

Monday Mentionables: Sports Edition

I thought since it’s the Monday after the Super Bowl, I’d share about sports. Now, I’m not a big sports fan (I didn’t even know who won yesterday’s game until I checked Facebook today – which is how I get most of my news these days, haha), but here are some sporty things even I can get into.

1. Super Bowl Ads. Whoever comes up with these million dollar ads are pretty creative and out of the box thinkers. These two commercials are very sweet and have a puppy theme – come on, who can resist a puppy? This one is for Budweiser and this one is for Cheerios.

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat/freedigitalphotos.net

2. Linsanity. So I finally bought the recent movie out about Jeremy Lin from Walmart. When I was picking it up from the Walmart.com register (it’s $12.99 online compared to $20 in the store), the cashier had a funny smile on his face when he saw what movie I had bought. He was probably amused to see this Asian non-sporty looking lady buying a movie about an Asian basketball player, but yes, I am a big fan. Not only because of his race (you can’t deny it is pretty amazing to see an Asian guy dunk!), but of his faith in God, too. It’s a great movie, very inspirational and appropriate for the whole family. After we finished watching it, C asked, “Can we watch it again?” 🙂

3.  Coconut Water. Coconut water is great for rehydrating after any physical activity. It is packed full of electrolytes like Gatorade, but without any added sugar or artificial colors or flavors. We’ve tried a few brands and I personally like the one from Trader Joe’s the best. You can look at a review of different brands here.

Alrighty, have a good Monday everyone!