Life is Like Waiting for Water to Boil

The kids and I stopped by a friend’s house last week, and she marveled at how tall they had gotten. I replied in an uncertain voice, “Oh yeah? I guess so.”

Considering we hadn’t seen each other for over six months, I figured she was probably right. Definitely right, however, was more like it. E’s pants which I had recently hemmed now looked unseasonably short as they skimmed his ankle bones. And C just mentioned that a shirt she had worn a few months ago no longer covered her tummy well. Even with this evidence of growth though, I had a hard time recognizing it.

I wondered why, and realized it’s because my perspective is so limited.

I see the munchkins day in and day out – that’s 365 days out of 365 days! And as any parent knows, every one of those days can feel long (though the years are short!). Trying to capture the kids’ daily growth is like waiting for water to boil. You stare and stare at the pot on the stove, even lifting the lid every ten seconds to look inside, but it still feels like it’s taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r for anything to happen. It’s hard to notice the tiny bubbles forming on the side of the pot as the water heats up. It’s also easy to discount the role of those bubbles because they appear so insignificant. But it’s that slow and easy simmering action that eventually produces bigger and bigger bubbles, ones so powerful that they “cannot be disturbed or disrupted by stirring or by dropping ingredients into the water” (thank you, www.wisegeek.org!).

That’s what it’s like for me waiting for my kids to “boil” (aka. mature). I witness their daily sibling wars, hangry meltdowns and homework struggles. I make them the same cheese quesadillas for lunch and the same pasta or fried rice dish for dinner. It’s like I’m running in a hamster wheel trying to keep up with them, and I see the same view of them every day. But the view is a lot bigger from outside the “cage”, and even bigger over the course of time.

Thinking about the kids’ growth shed some light for me when a good friend asked me the other day, “Do you feel like you accomplished what you wanted to this year?”

My immediate reaction was to answer, “No, not at all!” If I could have, I would have wanted to write more and publish more books. And, of course, to sell more. It’s easy for me to list all the “mores” that I wish I had accomplished this year. But when I proceeded to tell this to my friend, she shook her head and exclaimed, “You did a lot!”

Hmm?! Her words made me step back for a moment. Maybe, similar to the situation with the kids, my being too close to the action makes it hard to recognize and remember the progress.

With today being the last day of 2015, it’s natural to want to reflect on the past year. What did you accomplish? What did you wish you had accomplished? Are you closer to, or farther from, doing or getting or becoming _____?

What about regrets? I’ve been seeing a lot of posts and memes about forgetting the past and starting over. I’m sure these were written to encourage and motivate us to do better and more in the new year, but reading them just leaves a bitter taste of disappointment in my mouth.

What if when we reflect on 2015, we reevaluate the year through a wider and deeper lens? How about celebrating the baby steps of faith you took to do something out of your comfort zone (even if you were pushed out of it)? Or being thankful for the challenges you faced, and even those you failed at miserably, because you learned more about yourself through them?

And how about looking at the past year through someone else’s lens? Like that of a gracious and kind friend who doesn’t hold the same set of high expectations that you hold for yourself. Or that of a spouse who witnesses all your ups and downs, and still has faith in you. Or a parent who supports you in doing what you love and encourages you to keep going.

The great thing about a new year is the fresh start it offers. But let’s not forget or dismiss the days and years that brought us to today. All the life lessons God so patiently taught us in order to help us grow up. Those are the small bubbles simmering in us that will someday soon produce a rolling boil.

Image courtesy of khunaspix/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of khunaspix/freedigitalphotos.net

And if there’s more that we want for this new year, let’s make that “more” count. Let’s strive for more faith, more hope and more love. 🙂

Cheers to a wonderful 2015! Thank YOU for walking along with me in this strange and amazing journey called life. 😉 I look forward to more blogging fun in 2016.

Take a listen to this cool song by Pentatonix, appropriately called, “New Year’s Day”.

What did you learn in 2015? What do you want more of in 2016?

Christmas: Bringing Dignity and Joy to People

This past Saturday I had the great privilege of witnessing some makeovers of the heart and mind. After debating whether I was willing to wake up early (I am so not a morning person! :P), I signed up to help with our church’s first ever Christmas pop-up shop. In a nutshell, the church set up a store at a local middle school with toys marked down by 80-90% so that parents who weren’t able to afford to buy their kids presents could do so.

In previous years, our church had asked these families for their wish lists, then bought and delivered the gifts to them. But in doing so, we had inadvertently taken away the parents’ dignity and joy in being able to provide for their children. So this year, as in the words of our fearless leader Christine S., we took something good and made it better.

And boy, was it better! Take a look for yourself. 🙂

Here's one half of the store!

Here’s one part of the store!

At one end of the large room were tables full of legos, princess-y stuff, superhero stuff, clothes, arts and crafts, and the latest fad, kendamas. At the other end was the cashier, followed by several tables with rolls and rolls of wrapping paper and ribbons. Once the parents had purchased their toys, they were able to wrap them up and take them home. Oh, and I forgot to mention they were able to shop in peace because their kids were in another room being fed and entertained. 😉

The best part of the event was seeing the looks on the faces of the parents after they were done shopping. One mom’s beaming smile said it all. She walked out with her arms full of wrapped presents and her head held high. I can still see her in my mind, and the image touches me so much. It was one bit of confirmation that the shop had offered these parents dignity and joy.

A quote on a friend’s Facebook page affirms this:

“When you are referring to serving a community, the words To vs. With, coupled with action, make a huge difference in the impact. ‘To’ creates a lack of the ability for ownership, although intentions may be accepted and received by the community initially. ‘With’ joins forces with community, and impact happens in both the interaction and reaction.” (Kristen B.)

Sure, it might be easier and more convenient to engage the parents from a distance – go out and buy the toys, wrap them and drop them off at their homes – instead of taking the time and effort to set up a store and offering childcare on a Saturday, but coming alongside people and interacting with them is where the magic happens.

The word “with” is what Christmas is all about. God coming to earth and taking the form of a human, a baby no less, in order to engage with mankind. No other belief system has a deity who humbled and inconvenienced himself – out of Love – to make himself more accessible to people. To bring dignity and joy to us through His life, death and resurrection. But Jesus did. That’s why His name is Emmanuel – God with us. And what a beautiful name it is.

On this Christmas Eve, I pray you may experience the wonder of Christmas and remember that, truly, God is with us.

Enjoy this beautiful song, “God with Us”, by All Sons & Daughters and have a Merry Christmas! 🙂

How have you experienced God’s presence in your life?

Getting Christmas Off My Mind (and Into My Heart)

It’s 8 days till Christmas, and I’ve officially gotten into the holiday spirit! In other words, I finally started shopping for gifts and making lists and checking them twice (or thrice – isn’t that a funny word?). I tend to be an organized person and can usually find whatever thing hubby or C misplaced (E’s anal like me, haha), but I don’t normally make to-do lists. Which is why it was very odd for me to actually write one this week. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I turned 40 last month, and the ‘ole brain cells aren’t workin’ as well these days. Or maybe it’s just the result of having too many things to do and too many places to go in such a short amount of time.

Anyone else feel like a chicken about to lose its head? 😛

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Image courtesy of bandrat/freedigitalphotos.net

I was at Target earlier when I heard Christmas music playing overhead, and I had to remind myself, Yes, this is the most wonderful time of the year! But with the way I was rushing around and stressing about all the things I still needed to buy and all the places I still needed to go, I was so not feeling the wonder.

Maybe you’re having a hard time, too.

It might not be the busyness of the season that’s locked up your Christmas spirit; it could be a struggle with finances or loneliness. Maybe it’s a battle with sickness or a broken relationship. It could be the loss of someone you love. Whatever the situation may be, it’s time to remember the Hope of this season. The Hope given to this dark world when God chose to limit Himself to become one of us in order to show us His limitless love.

That’s what I’m going to focus on in the next 8 days. Presents, good food and gatherings are nice and fun. But even after the gifts are unwrapped, the meals are digested and the company is gone, we have the Hope of Jesus to hold on to. And ultimately, it’s this Hope that makes life worth living and celebrating.

Take a listen to the new winner of the Voice, Jordan Smith’s rendition of “Mary, Did You Know” – it’s sure to get Christmas off your mind and into your heart. 🙂

How do you get into the Christmas spirit?

4 Ways to Console Yourself After Being Dumped (By a Reader)

I ventured out with my sis and 4 girlfriends to my first concert in over a decade. We braved 3 hours of (round trip) traffic and 5 hours on our feet to see Pentatonix live. (Note to self: Even when the tickets have seat numbers, if it says General Admission Standing, it means NO SEATS!) But boy, was it worth it! 🙂

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The only downside was that their part of the concert was way too short because there were three other artists who performed before them. I didn’t mind seeing the other artists since I had heard their songs before and liked most of them. But several of my girlfriends hadn’t, along with many of the other attendees. As soon as the first act came on stage, I heard the gal behind me ask her friend, “Do you know who he is?”

Aw, poor guy. I felt so bad for him, although I probably shouldn’t have considering he’s currently #1 on the charts in the U.K. and, as he gleefully pointed out, ahead of Ed Sheeran (who signed him onto his record label). But here in the U.S., he’s a newbie and still opening for other people. (BTW, his name is Jamie Lawson and you should check out his song, “Wasn’t Expecting That”.)

As a newbie author, I totally understand what it’s like to be in that guy’s shoes, to be unknown. I’m the gal behind the computer screen who desperately wants to get my books into the hands of readers. I love what I do and hope others do, too. But it’s a big humongous ocean we authors are swimming in, and it’s hard to get noticed. The chances of someone discovering your book among the hundreds of thousands on Amazon.com is about as easy as finding the car rental keys your hubby may have dropped in the Pacific while on vacation (#truestory). But with prayer and patience and perseverance, you can witness the miracle of a sale (and find those keys!). 🙂

I am always so thankful when someone buys my books. I’m even more thankful when they leave a nice detailed review. Of course positive reviews are preferred, but I also welcome ones with constructive criticism. What I dread however is the 2 star rating with no explanation of why. Especially when the reviewer just created an account on Goodreads last month and the only book she has listed there is mine. It kinda makes me wonder if she got an account just to diss my book! (How’s that for thinking the world revolves around me, haha!) It’s not my first 2 star rating, but it’s the first one for what I believe is my best work so far. With no explanation of why. 🙁

So, here I am in the aftermath of being dumped by a reader, and learning four ways to console myself. 😉

1. Commiserate and cry. Misery loves company, right? Especially the company of other down and out writers. After getting the review, I immediately went to my Facebook writers group to share my frustrations, and was so encouraged by their comments. I heard from one gal who had the exact same situation (though with a 1 star rating) happen to her. How awesome is that? Not that we were in the same boat, but the fact that I knew I wasn’t alone.

2. Compare (in a good way). One of the group members told me whenever she gets a negative review she’ll go read the negative reviews of her favorite authors. Huh … now why didn’t I think of that?! I admit I got kind of excited that a bestselling, successful author could have something in common with lil ‘ole me. And amazingly enough, one of my favorite authors (Francine Rivers) who has the most poetically beautiful writing style has gotten some 1 and 2 star reviews.

3. Count my blessings. I took a walk around the neighborhood and listened to some soothing instrumental music. Once I got out of my head, I was able to calm down and count my blessings instead. And there are a lot of them, thank God. 🙂 Like the 5 star review I just got yesterday for the same book!

4. Cut loose! Lastly, I just gotta remember that there will always be people who like and dislike my work, and that’s life. So whenever I cross paths with the latter, I’m gonna face it, accept it and move on. As T-Swift says, “The haters gonna hate, hate, hate; Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake; Shake it off!”

And that’s the song we’ll end with today. 🙂

How do you console yourself after a rejection?

Lessons on Letting My Kids Face Challenges

When I met C outside school a few weeks ago, I noticed she wasn’t her usual peppy self. She dragged her feet along the sidewalk like she was trudging through mud, and plopped down on the concrete bench next to me with the weight of the world on her small shoulders. I tried to ask what was wrong, but she only answered me with a pout. It wasn’t until half an hour after we got home that she handed me a note detailing her woes:

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In case you aren’t familiar with first-gradernese, it reads: “I want to change schools before Thursday or skip Friday please. The jacket, it is bad because K said me and L are twins. Thanks, Mei (little sister).”

We proceeded to have a very long (according to E who was patiently waiting for me to help with homework) discussion about the two issues she wrote about. First, she didn’t want to go to school Friday because her class was having a Thanksgiving/Heritage Day potluck, and her teacher said the kids would need to introduce their dishes using the language of their cultural heritage. Keep in mind, C’s first language was Mandarin and she was speaking 11 word sentences by the time she was 18 months old. And I was only planning on making fried rice, which is only 2 words long. But, it’s been a while (sigh!) since either one of the munchkins have spoken Mandarin fluently, so she was pretty anxious about speaking it in front of her teacher, her classmates and their parents.

Now, the second issue involved a new fuzzy purple jacket I bought for her … which happened to be the same fuzzy purple jacket as another girl, L, in her class. As a result, one of her friends, K, started teasing her that she and L were twins, and refused to sit with C at lunch.

Aiya, right?

I thanked C for telling me what was on her mind, and we started troubleshooting the problems one by one. The first one was fairly simple; we practiced saying the words …

Chao Fan (aka. Fried Rice)

Chao Fan (aka. Fried Rice)

throughout the week until she was comfortable with them. It turned out, she didn’t even need to say the dish in Chinese, but it was a good mini lesson anyway. 😉

The latter issue, however, was much more troublesome and worrisome (or rather, trouble-most and worri-most because honestly, it troubled and worried me a lot!). When C told me about K (and also T) not wanting to sit with her, my heart fell. I could only think about the times I was bullied or felt left out as a kid. I absolutely did NOT want C to go through that. My initial reaction (and also hubby’s when I told him about this) was to say, “We’ll get you a new jacket!” Getting a new non-fuzzy non-purple jacket was sure to solve the problem, right? Actually, not right. It might make things better temporarily, but rescuing C from this conflict wouldn’t help her in the long run … especially when she faced another situation like this again.

Sigh. Double SIGH. (This was one of those times I wished some over-protective parent out there would invent a kid-sized bubble cause I’d be the first one to buy it.)

Even though I desperately wanted to take the easy way out to protect my little girl, I took a deep breath and put on my big girl pants. I told C to sit with her other friends for now, and that K would likely stop teasing her after a while. I tried going the logical route and said, “She’s being silly. Doesn’t she know you all wear the same clothes (uniforms) already?” She replied with an even more logical answer, “Yeah, how can we be twins? We don’t even look the same.” (No kidding, L is blonde!)

LOL. You go, girl! 🙂

This was when I knew she would be okay. Fuzzy purple jacket aside, C is learning how to think for herself and to stand strong in the face of  challenges. It’s definitely not pleasant for me to watch her experience these growing pains, but I’m thankful I can walk alongside her and help her through them. ‘Cause that’s what my job as her mom is about. I can’t put her in a bubble or prevent her from getting scraped and bruised. But I can be there to sit with her, tend to her wounds, and nudge her back into the world … loved and lifted up and stronger than before.

I love the passion in this song by Demi Lovato, “Skyscraper”. It’s all about rising above our circumstances and standing strong in the face of challenges.

Who or what has helped you stand strong in the face of challenges?

Shop in Your PJs at the Black Friday Book Sale (Over 70 Books to Choose From)!

ICB_FBAdIf you’re like me, you’re probably having a turkey hangover right now and staying far, far away from any stores on Black Friday. It’s not that I don’t like sales (I LOVE sales!), but I’ve learned it’s safer for me to stay at home where there’s no chances of me bumping into another car in the parking lot of Fry’s because I got a little too excited when I finally found a parking space (the worst part is we didn’t even buy anything when we realized the line was wrapped all the way around the store perimeter!).

That said, I’ve discovered the joys of online shopping. 😉 But why wait till Cyber Monday to start on your Christmas shopping when you can start today? If you have any bookworms to shop for, I have the perfect event for you.

From Nov 27 (that’s today!) through Nov 30th, more than 70 independent Christian books are on sale at Indie Christian Authors. They have free shipping, $0.99 ebooks, package deals, and more! And if your budget is a big, fat, happy zero, they even have some freebies for you!

If you think 70 books is a lot to browse through, you can narrow the list down and find the perfect books for you or someone on your list by using this quiz to generate a customized book list (it’s pretty nifty!). You’ll also find all 3 of my books there for only $0.99!

So stay cozy and comfy in your PJs and head on over to Indie Christian Authors to start shopping today.

A note on the EBooks Only page. All books are listed as “Sold Out.” This only refers to paperback copies of these titles. Please click onto the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Leah E. Good for her work organizing this sale, Gloria Repp for completing the time consuming job of uploading book info to the sale website, and Hannah Mills for her fantastic design work on the website graphics. Hannah can be contacted at hmills(at)omorecollege(dot)edu for more information about her design services.

Giving Thanks with a Grumbling and Grateful Heart

Back in college, my roomie/best bud had a cool idea to write down one thing we were thankful for each day. Keep in mind, this was in the dark ages of the mid-90s, so there were no online articles touting the health benefits of gratitude or gratitude apps (I randomly did a Google search and actually found one!) to inspire her. Nope, she thought of it all on her own. 🙂

I wish I had kept the journal I used for the exercise so I could remember what I had recorded, but I’m guessing it was pretty ordinary stuff.

Monday – Good friends

Tuesday – Passed a test/finished a paper

Wednesday – Good church

Thursday – Food (even dorm food)

Friday/Saturday/Sunday – repeat, repeat, repeat

As a college kid I had a pretty easy life; my parents paid for all my expenses and my only “job” was to study and pass my classes (and have some fun in between). I don’t remember it being too hard for me to be thankful on a daily basis.

Now enter real life (AKA adulthood). My life two decades later is pretty different from my college days. There are a lot more responsibilities to handle, more challenges to face, and let’s be honest, more complaints to list. Those days of jotting down a reason to be thankful every day are long gone, along with my youthful optimism and energy. Instead, I often find myself giving thanks out of guilt and through gritted teeth, like when I saw this image on Facebook this week:

Grateful

Now I’m sure the mom who put this list together truly is grateful for her life. When I read the list, I was even encouraged to be thankful for all those things. But I’ll admit, I groaned a little, too (okay, a lot). 😉

It’s not that I’m not thankful. I’m constantly in awe of how gracious God is to me and my family. But maybe once in a while, I want to acknowledge the struggles of life, even – and especially – the small ones, instead of glossing over them. I want to admit I have a hard time keeping the house clean. I don’t like doing the mundane tasks of changing the sheets or vacuuming or cooking. I struggle every day with being patient and loving toward the kids. I feel and look tired when I go to bed and often times when I wake up in the morning. And I suspect life only gets busier and more challenging the older I get.

Groan, groan, groan. Mutter, mutter, mutter.

Ahh… okay, now that I’m done acknowledging all the hard stuff, I feel more authentic and a lot less like I’m lying to myself. 😉 Ironically enough, I can understand the image above better. When I first saw the equal signs in the phrases, I read them as “but …” in an effort to keep a glass half-full mentality, however, now I see them as “and …” in an effort to be real. And I suppose that’s what the mom who wrote them meant, too.

I’m learning it’s a matter of embracing that life is full of hard stuff and good stuff … all at the same time. It’s not an either/or thing; it’s all-inclusive. It’s about doing the hard work of being responsible and patient, and knowing that your heart and character are being shaped and molded during the process. It’s about persevering through the hard moments, and believing that the more you do, the more mature you’ll become and the fewer complaints you’ll have. Because sometimes a lot of the time, the hard stuff makes us appreciate the good stuff even more than if we only had the good stuff by itself.

So here’s to celebrating Thanksgiving with a grumbling and grateful heart, and thanking God for all the hard and the good stuff.

Here is a beautiful song by Pam Thum, “Life is Hard (God is Good)”. I love the truth of these lyrics: “Sometimes living takes the life out of you, and sometimes living is all you can do.” May this song bring encouragement and comfort to your heart through whatever hard stuff you’re facing today.

What hard stuff do you give thanks for, or hope to give thanks for one day?

Interview with Teen/YA Romance Author Ines Bautista-Yao

Calling all warm-fuzzy romance lovers, have I got a treat for you! 🙂

I’m excited to introduce you to teen/young adult romance author Ines Bautista-Yao. I met Ines through a Facebook writers group, and I’ll admit I was thrilled to meet another Asian author (’cause there aren’t many of us out there – I wonder why, haha). 😉 I got hooked on her sweet and upbeat writing style after winning a copy of her book Only A Kiss (which I loved), and wanted to help her spread the word about her new release Just A Little Bit Of Love (which I also loved!).

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Here’s the blurb:

Three short stories about three young girls: Anita, Ina, and Carla. Each one finding their lives disrupted by a boy. Maybe it’s because he wanders into the coffee shop where she works after school every Tuesday. Maybe it’s because he won’t leave her alone even if she has made it clear that she is crushing on his football teammate. Or maybe it’s because she’s spent one unforgettable afternoon with him—despite being oh-so-forgetful. Three small doses of love that serve up a whole lot of feels.

Don’t you just love the cover? It’s definitely a “what you see is what you get” image that perfectly encapsulates the sweetness and innocence of the stories inside. Even though the three stories are short, they are each complete in their own way, and more importantly, super big on feelings. Ines does a superb job of writing teenage characters. She has a knack for giving the characters realistic and relatable dialogue, thoughts and behaviors that reflect the wonderful awkwardness and earnestness of youth. This book will certainly satisfy any teen reader, as well as the teen inside all of us. 😉

Now that you’ve gotten a preview of this sweet collection of stories, let’s go behind the scenes and get to know its author. So, pull up a bean bag chair, grab some chocolate, and say hello to Ines Bautista-Yao.

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Me: Please introduce yourself and tell us about your background and daily life.

Ines: Hi, Liwen! First of all, thank you for having me on your blog. This is so awesome!

My name is Ines Bautista-Yao. I live in the Philippines and I am a wife and mom of two girls, a shy seven-year-old and a tornado of a two-year-old—polar opposites. I used to teach English but was lured into publishing, so I edited a teen magazine called Candy and a kids’ magazine called K-Zone. It was a really fun stint. I met wonderful friends, I learned a lot, and I got loads of freebies haha! But I wanted to go back to teaching. The problem was, I got pregnant so I stopped teaching (although I did go back for a few months till pregnancy complications made me stop) and I decided to edit and write freelance so I could take care of my family.

It was while my eldest daughter (then an only child) was napping for three hours that I wrote my first book. Now, it’s harder to write because I have two girls, but I try to squeeze it in every chance I get. In fact, the second story I wrote in Just A Little Bit Of Love, I wrote on my smart phone because my toddler pushes the screen of my laptop closed when she sees me writing!

Me: How did you get started as a writer? What genre(s) do you enjoy writing and/or reading?

Ines: I’ve been writing ever since I was small. I had notebooks filled with stories and I would read them out loud to my classmates underneath a huge, leafy tree. I guess it started with a love for reading then a need to come up with my own tales as well. I think it’s that way for almost all writers. I’ve yet to meet a writer who doesn’t love to read.

The genre I love is romance. Sweet, young, with lots of feels. I love writing it and reading it. I also love reading fantasy and mystery but I have yet to write stories like that. I hope to one day.

Me: What was your inspiration for Just A Little Bit Of Love and the characters in the stories?

Ines: Because I wanted the stories to happen simultaneously with events in Only A Kiss, I entered the world I created and thought of scenes or characters I wanted to revisit. These were the stories that came about. I asked myself, who else could have been there when they were in the coffee shop talking about Chris’s love life? Or who else could have been obsessed with Ethan besides Katie? And then there was Carla. I thought she was so adorable, she just had to have a love story of her own.

(Side note: You do not have to have read Only A Kiss to appreciate the stories from Just A Little Bit Of Love, but do yourself a favor and read it, too!)

Me: Is there one character in the book that you relate to the most?

Ines: I think I can relate to all of them a little bit. But the one I can relate to the most at this point in my life is Carla. Ever since I became a mom, all of a sudden, I can’t seem to remember anything! My life is such a mess – I have to write down reminders all over the place: in notebooks, on my phone, on my computer. I don’t have sticky notes tacked everywhere but that’s something I used to do when I was in school and when I was employed. I wish I had a Jacob who had perfect memory—but my husband is just as forgetful as I am! Haha!

Me: What was the most difficult part of writing this book? The easiest?

Ines: It was really easy to write all three stories but I think what was hard for me was writing On the Sidelines in the present tense. I usually write using the past tense, so I wanted to try something new. Using the present tense intrigued and challenged me. I hope I was able to pull it off! The easiest part was writing about when boy meets girl. Maybe because I enjoy it so much.

Me: What theme(s) do you like to include in your love stories? (ie. opposites attract, love at first sight)

Ines: I’ve realized that I like using the best friends/good-friends-to-something-more trope. I’ve used it twice already in two different books. But when I look at all the stories I’ve written, I’ve noticed that my guy characters are usually so smitten with the girls and the girls need to wake up and realize how wonderful these boys are. Maybe my next story should be the other way around. I like to try different things but sometimes, what comes out isn’t what I planned!

Me: What are you working on next?

Ines: Right now, I’m writing a prequel of sorts to Only A Kiss. It’s the love story of Ben and Regina. I’ve been working on it since last year and I need to finish it already! I’m also writing three short stories for three different anthologies (the reason Ben and Regina’s story still isn’t finished!). I seem to have too many ideas but not enough time to write them all down! I just pray the inspiration doesn’t go away!

Me: Thank you Ines for taking the time to visit with us! I can’t wait to read the prequel!

You can connect with Ines and her books at the following links:

Amazon: https://goo.gl/7dEUUh

Instagram: https://instagram.com/inesbyao/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/inesbyao

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/inesbautistayao/

In light of the teenage vibes coming off of this post (haha), I’ll sign off with One Direction’s teeny-bopper tune, “One Thing”. 🙂

What fun, emotional or regrettable memories do you have from your teenage years?

Faking it till You Make It (as an Author)

I saw this image on one of my favorite author’s Facebook page this week and had to smile.

Yeah, baby!

Yeah, baby!

I liked how such a successful author like her (we’re talking about the NY Times and USA Today bestseller status) could relate to the struggles of a way lesser-known, indie author like me.

In the four years since I started pursuing a writing “career” (I added quotes around the word career to show you how seriously I take it, haha), I have learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned how fragile my ego is, how much I base my self-confidence on what other people think, and how I do have what it takes to be an author.

Wait a minute, how did that last comment sneak in there? 😉 More importantly, is it true or is it just a lie I tell myself as I tend to my wounded ego?

The thing is, to be a writer (especially a fiction writer), you constantly need to make things real and believable (things you tell your readers and yourself). You create characters and settings and a plot line out of scratch. You add descriptions and dialogue and drama to give flavor and texture to the story. And you top it all off with a happy-ever-after, or some sort of meaningful ending, so the reader feels satisfied and fulfilled until their next meal, I mean, book. 🙂

If you were to condense my short time as a writer into a novel, it would be one of those “thrill of victory, agony of defeat” type of stories. The kind where the soldier rushes off into war with a youthful spirit and all the best intentions, only to emerge from the fight bruised and scarred and weary. But then, thanks to the pep talks of his loved ones, he goes into battle again with renewed hope and a belief that he can do it(!), and he comes out a winner.

Yep, like that soldier, I’ve been beaten down by rejection emails, gotten stuck in the trenches of writer’s doubt and considered giving up. But through the process, I’ve picked up lots of great tips from other writers, tried new techniques and developed literary muscles. And I’ve had to give myself one pep talk after another, talks that include just enough truth to keep me fighting.

Truth such as: “There was a lot good about this book, especially the life and faith lessons, but there were some problems, too. Head hopping was a major issue, because it went back and forth between different points of view so often. So much time was skipped in places it left the reader feeling as if they were missing out on too much of the story. For the first 60% of my kindle edition, there was a lot of thinking and second-guessing but little to no conflict. The tension picked up between 60% and 75% but then fell off again, and everything was resolved. The last part just tied everything up. I did like the book, but it could have been much better with just a little more work.”

That was a review left by a reader of my first book. When I saw it, I took a deep breath and swallowed the lump in my throat. Then I read it again and found myself nodding … because every criticism she gave was true. And because of her honesty (and those of my critique partners and beta readers), I know how to improve and what it takes to be an author.

The journey to becoming a writer is a bit like faking it till you make it. Faking it not by lying to yourself about how good you are, but by being truthful about the areas that could be better. It’s about showing up each day to do the hard work of a writer because that’s what you are. It’s about believing you have it in you to be a regal, strong and impressive white striped tiger, even when all you feel like is a tiny, clumsy kitty.

So, cheers to all of us kitty cats working on growing into big ‘ole tigers. Believe it, own it, and go for it.

I think the perfect song for this post is Katy Perry’s “Roar”, which I’ve shared before, but this time I’m sharing a cover of it by Olivia, a pint-sized contestant on The Voice Kids Australia (we need a US version!) who has one fierce roar.

What have you tried your hand at “faking it till you make it”? What did you learn from the experience?

 

The Secret Life of an IT Wife

Sometimes I feel like I’m married to a firefighter. Hubby may not drive around town in a big red truck putting out raging fires, but as an IT guy, he’s the one who comes running whenever something technical goes up in flames in the corporate world. He’s the guy who might have received a phone call during his honeymoon because rolling blackouts at home shut all the company’s servers down. He’s the one who may have gotten a call on Thanksgiving from an employee working in Singapore who forgot it was a national holiday in the States that day. He’s also likely the one who missed dinner with his family on his wife’s birthday because he was stuck at work trying to resolve yet another issue (but to put things into perspective, he was hours late for his own birthday dinner a few years ago due to work). 😛

Suffice it to say, being married to an IT guy can be challenging at times.

Image courtesy of dan/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of dan/freedigitalphotos.net

I don’t share all this to complain about hubby’s job, although I’m sure life would be different if he were in a calmer line of work. I also don’t share this to brag about how understanding and patient and supportive I am because if I had all those awesome qualities, I would be polishing my halo right now instead of trying to find it. 😉 The reason I’m giving you a sneak peak into the secret life of an IT wife is because I know there are couples struggling in their marriages right now with whatever issues they are going through, and the struggle is real.

I wish I had some great insight into how to better communicate with your spouse or how to keep your love burning strong, but I’m still learning “on the job”, too. But one thing I did realize this week while hubby was dealing with a company phone issue and later on, an email issue, was that I didn’t truly understand what work was like for him on a daily basis. It didn’t hit me until one afternoon during one of C’s massive meltdowns over a homework assignment. Thanks to E (and the power of sibling rivalry), she had gotten thrown off while counting for a math problem, and promptly began wailing at the top of her lungs in frustration. As if to prove she might one day consider a career as an opera singer, she raised her volume up two notches and her range another octave. By the time her cantata was over, my ears were ringing and my blood pressure was off the charts.

That evening when hubby was venting about the issues he had faced at work that day and feeling the pain of an oncoming migraine, I suddenly got a peek into his world. For a moment I understood what it was like to walk in his shoes. The overwhelming level of frustration, anger and anxiety I experienced during C’s “performance” gave me a glimpse of the emotional stuff he faces at work EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I told him, “I get it now. It’s like you’re constantly dealing with tantrums and meltdowns at work.”

He smirked and joked back, “Yes, I have a lot of kids to deal with.”

Boy, he sure does, and those “kids” aren’t even half as cute as ours are (even when they’re singing opera).

Sigh. Poor hubby. The struggle out there in the working world is real. So real, that it sometimes a lot of the times follows him home and places a strain on us, our family life and our marriage. But instead of letting the stress and busyness divide us, I’m learning to choose empathy. I’m finding ways to better support hubby as he fights fires. I try to make his life sweeter, even if it means spending half an hour with wrinkly hands submerged in a bowl of water in order to deseed four pomegranates, hubby’s favorite winter fruit (FYI, some people prefer the spoon method). We’re both learning to lean on God more and to rest in His saving grace. And we sneak in as much time as possible whenever we can to catch up and support each other throughout the day with a text message or two.

IMG_3867

All this yummy goodness, and hubby gobbled it up in like 2 days! 😛

The secret life of an IT wife may not be a glamorous one, but it’s the one I have and the one I’ll make the best out of … because the IT guy I’m married to is worth it.

Lastly, I want to give a shout-out to all the amazing wives of those in uniform who fight literal fires, chase real bad guys and put their lives on the line each day to protect others. You ladies have my deepest respect, admiration and gratitude.

Take a listen to Beyonce’s song, “Halo”, a reminder that we can all wear a “halo” and show grace to the people in our lives.

Who has been a source of strength and support for you? Who have you been there for?