Appreciating the Value of Art

The family and I went to a nearby mall last weekend to window shop. This is one of the fancier malls around here, and when I say fancy, I mean expensive. ūüėČ You won’t¬†find a Target here,¬†although they do have my other favorite (aka. affordable) store, Old Navy. Walking around this mall is like entering a shopping haven; it’s beautiful, clean and somewhat glamorous (for this part of town at least, hehe).¬†Even the decor is fancy. While we were sipping our Jamba Juices in the food court, my eyes were drawn to these lights hanging from the ceiling. Apologies for the fuzzy picture, but these lights are really cool in person. They are like huge tear drops with cut outs on the lower halves that form an intricate latticework. Hubby said they would look even better at night, and I agree.

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I pointed the lights out to the munchkins and commented on how neat they were. After taking a quick look, E promptly replied, “What a waste.”

WHAT!¬†I picked my jaw off the ground and fired back, “But it’s art!”

He gave a half-hearted shrug and remained unmoved.

Aiya. ūüėȬ†I think what bothered¬†me the most about E’s lackluster response was how familiar is was to me. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had the exact same reaction before. Sometimes¬†it’s been in response to what I think are extravagant party decorations or fancy food. For example, why would a chef spend his time, money and effort on making something that will just get gobbled up and “disposed of” a day later? ūüėõ

Image courtesy of piyato/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of piyato/freedigitalphotos.net

Well, the reason is the one I gave E: it’s for the sake of art.¬†It’s for the purpose of taking an idea and bringing it to life. To see beyond the ordinary and boring and mundane. To express the hopes and dreams that exist in our hearts. To create beauty where there was no beauty before.

You’d think a writer would understand the value of art. I do, but there’s also the cheap,¬†square, not to mention, Asian(!) side of me that is a little too practical for my own good (and has obviously been passed down to E!). But this is a good reminder for myself to appreciate all forms of art. The ones that I may squint at and scratch my head over to the ones that resonate more naturally¬†in my heart.¬†The amazing thing is that there is so much art in this world. That’s one of the things I really thank God for‚ÄĒthe ability to create and the ability to appreciate creativity. Plus, the ability to inspire creativity in others, which is something¬†I obviously need¬†to do more of with my munchkins.

Because …

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Don’t you agree? ūüôā

Take a listen to this absolutely beautiful “Disney Love Medley”, featuring Kirstin Maldonado and Jeremy Michael Lewis, with Voctave.

What kind of art do you appreciate the most? What kind do you enjoy creating?

Cover Reveal Time!

Yay! My favorite part of writing a book (other than hitting the “publish” button) is working on the cover. I have a wonderful cover designer, Deborah Bradseth of Tugboat Designs, who works hard to accommodate my requests to change colors, add articles of clothing and change fonts‚ÄĒand does all of that with great patience and care, too. ¬†She comes through every time and I highly recommend her for all of your book cover design (and interior formatting) needs!

I’ve been working overtime on book 3 in my Taking Chances series to get it “just right”. With the support of some dear fellow reader and writer friends, I’ve finally finished the manuscript and am in the process of editing (joy! haha). The main reason why this novella¬†took so long to write was because the main characters are polar opposites in their personalities. This means they rarely¬†see eye to eye and they butt heads‚ÄĒa lot! I had to learn to be okay with conflicts and find believable and entertaining ways to create and resolve them for the characters. For an anti-conflict, non-confrontational introvert, this was not easy. ūüėČ But I was determined to do it because I love the characters too much to not give them a happily ever after. I think¬†you’ll adore them, too!

Without further ado, here’s the cover for Drawn To You!

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Wanted: A man who can handle his alter ego. Quick reflexes recommended.

Feisty and adventurous, art teacher Sam Koo is used to getting what she wants, including talking her way out of traffic tickets. When it comes to money matters though, she’s a lost cause. Her studio is in trouble, and there’s no way of charming herself out of this mess.

Police officer Lucas Choi is the last person she expects to rescue her. Handsome and rule-abiding, he was the best‚ÄĒand worst‚ÄĒpart of her high school experience. When they meet a decade later, he‚Äôs still on her case and quick to point out her flaws.

Their differences drive each other crazy, but also draw them closer. The attraction is tangible, yet so are Sam’s fears. Will she choose to protect her heart or trust the only man who ever rejected her?

I hope to release Drawn To You next month, so stay tuned! ūüôā

In the meantime, take a listen to Rachel Platten’s song, “Better Place”. I like to think of it as Lucas’s theme song after Sam shows up in his life.

Who has made your life a better place?

Lessons on Life and Love from Beauty and the Beast

I spent yesterday¬†morning chaperoning a field trip with both munchkins to watch “Beauty and the Beast” at our local community college. As expected for a Disney-related¬†play, it was equal parts scary and sweet. Poor C ended up sitting on my lap for most of the show because the Beast had some anger management issues after the enchanted castle spirits cast a¬†spell on him. Thankfully, Beauty entered the picture soon after and came to care for him, despite his hardened heart. She¬†agreed¬†to marry him, and he¬†turned back into a prince (and secretly stuffed his beastly mask into a bag as C informed me). ūüėČ

I came away from this play with two thoughts: one, Disney stories are not exactly kid-friendly, and two, what are kids supposed to learn from watching this?

There were some good lessons in the play, such as commitment to your family and keeping your word. But¬†of course the moral of the story was: Don’t judge a guy by¬†his looks or wealth or status. In a culture that values all of the above, however, that’s a hard¬†lesson to swallow.

That was the belief I grew up with. Both my parents went to college, I went to college and grad school, and multiple people in my extended family have Ph.D.’s. The majority of my friends at school and church existed in similar bubbles. As an Asian, you’re expected to work hard in school and get straight A’s so you can go to a good college and graduate with a degree (or two). So imagine my surprise when I met and fell for a Chinese guy who (at the time) had done none¬†of the above.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net

Good thing hubby was cute. (I kid!) But it wasn’t just his infectious smile that caught my attention.¬†I was also drawn to his enthusiasm for life (he reminded me of a chinchilla bouncing off the walls) and the kind way he treated people. When I found out he hadn’t followed the typical path of every other Asian I knew, I was shocked. But not shocked enough that his education (or lack thereof) became a deal breaker (thankfully, it wasn’t¬†for my parents either).

Because there’s more to a person than the abbreviations following¬†their last name, the size of their house or the car they drive. Neither is one’s worth measured by their dress size or by how many friends they have on Facebook. The true value¬†of a person can only be found in their heart.

That’s what Beauty believed¬†when she fell in love with the Beast. And what I believed when I fell for hubby.

Nevertheless, this is a lesson I’m still learning. For instance, when E told me he doesn’t want to go to college, I was a liiitle upset. ūüėõ Sure, he’s years away from seriously thinking about it, but in my mind, the decision¬†to go to college is a no brainer. Good thing hubby is more open-minded. Maybe given some time, I will be, too. ūüėČ

For now I will do my best to rest in this truth¬†from 1 Samuel 16:7: “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.‚ÄĚ

Here’s the song, “Something There” from the Beauty and the Beast, which describes the moment Belle saw the Beast’s heart for the first time. ūüôā

What outward things about a person do you value? What inward things would you like to value instead?

Conversations with My Nine Year Old About Puberty

Aiya.

That’s the first word that popped into my head when I typed the title to this blog post. Now let me show you how I felt when I had the actual conversation with E about this oh-so-crazy topic.

Image courtesy of think4photop/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of think4photop/freedigitalphotos.net

Take away the rhinoceros and imagine¬†me swimming in the¬†murky¬†waters¬†of De Nile (denial, get it?) River. ¬†Better yet, picture me with my head under the goo with mud clogging up my eyes and ears so I don’t have to see or hear anything related to (gulp!) puberty.

Sigh.¬†It’s a little late for that though. ūüėõ

I was helping E with something the other night when he remarked out of the blue, “K has a mustache. It’s kind of like one hair sticking up.”

Now, mind you, this¬†is a¬†3rd grader he’s referring to, so when he says his baby-faced friend has a mustache, it’s more like a 5 second shadow. Still, it’s dark¬†enough that¬†I spotted it one day from a distance as the kids were walking to car line.

E¬†then proceeded to ask, “I wonder why he has it?”

Hm… good question. (The more important question was:¬†Why do I always get stuck with the hard questions?!)

My mind raced, trying to think of all the different tactics I could use to educate E on the ins and outs of¬†the “p” word. Finally, I decided to tackle it head on. “It’s part of puberty. Everybody’s different. K’s dad is not Asian (his mom is though) so he probably will grow a mustache earlier (no offense to all the Asian men out there!). We have hormones in our bodies that make it happen.” (Looking back,¬†I realize¬†my train of thought was all over the place and about to jump the track and derail.)

E asked, “What are hormones?”

“Uh, they’re the chemicals in your body that make you a guy or a girl …,” I replied slowly, trying to remember everything I forgot from biology class. At seeing E nod (and thinking that I might as well take advantage of the awkward opportunity), I opened my mouth to elaborate some more. I didn’t get a chance to though because he promptly started talking about¬†his favorite game “Plants vs. Zombies”.

Eh?! :O

Wait, I was on a roll! I didn’t even get to talk about testosterone yet! ūüėČ

Believe me, part of me was relieved to be let off the hook so quickly, but the other part was surprised at how¬†short (and uninformative) our conversation was. Which likely means it wasn’t our last one.

Aiya.

The fact of the matter is kids do grow up. And growing up can be weird and awkward and scary. But we as parents are supposed to walk them through it somehow cause we know how weird and awkward and scary it was for us. Wouldn’t it be great if we could make it a little less so for them?

So, till our next crazy¬†convo, I’m going to do some homework on this topic (and get hubby involved too cause I know he wouldn’t¬†want to miss out on the fun!). If you have any suggestions on how to tackle talking about puberty¬†with kids, send them my way! Even better, if you can make up a video game with¬†plants and zombies and puberty¬†facts, I’ll be your first customer. ūüėČ

I thought the perfect song for this post would be Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road”, sung here by the Huang family on the TV show “Fresh Off the Boat”. It addresses another part of puberty I am NOT¬†looking forward to – teenage heartbreak. :p

How did you learn about puberty? How would you have liked to learn about it?