5 Keys to Taking Care of Yourself

This aging thing is—excuse the pun—getting old. 😉 Hubby and I were commiserating about how short youth is. I came to the conclusion that the most carefree time of your life is (or should be) your childhood, your 20s and possibly your early 30s. Those are the years when you have enough energy to function after pulling an all-nighter and you can eat almost as much as you want to without paying for the consequences. And most of all, your body can better handle stress.

Once you outgrow youth and start blowing out number candles instead of regular birthday candles on your cake, you know the best gift you can give yourself is the gift of self-care.

What is self-care? Basically, the idea of caring for yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. I’d add in spiritually, too.

The older I get, the more I realize that self-care needs to be near—if not at—the top of my to-do list. Whenever I find myself feeling down or anxious or impatient, I know I’ve reached my limit and neglected to take care of my needs. If you work in a helping profession (all you folks who care for human beings on a daily basis), you’ve probably discovered this, too. And for anyone who is a parent, you definitely need some TLC on a regular basis. And who better to teach your kids about self-care than you? But of course that means you need to master it first.

What does self-care look like? Here are 5 keys to taking care of yourself.

1) Downtime. Make time for yourself. Even if it’s just 5-10 minutes a day, spend some time by yourself without any distractions. Switch off the phone. Go for a walk. Hide out in the bathroom or closet or garage. Take the moment to breathe and to feel.

2) Direction. Think about your priorities or what you want to make a priority. Switch things around on your to-do list so your schedule isn’t so tight or packed. Know why you agreed to do the things on that list. Be mindful of how much and what you add to the list.

3) Drama-free. Say no. Especially if your plate is full. Even if your plate is (for the moment) half-full, you can still say no to a request if it will add stress to your life.

4) Delight. Do things that bring peace and joy to your everyday. Eat healthy and eat yummy. Sleep more. Take advantage of sunny days. Connect with people. Pray often. Give thanks.

5) Dream. If you feel stuck, unproductive, overwhelmed and stressed out, start dreaming. Give yourself permission to think outside the box. Take some chances, make plans, and look forward to living out your dreams.

If you’ve ever taken a plane somewhere, I’m sure you’ve heard the safety spiel they give you before you take off. I love the oxygen mask part of the presentation, not because I ever want to be in a situation where I’ll need to use one, but because of the self-care reminder it provides.

Image courtesy of Barry Schwartz/https://www.flickr.com/photos/rustybrick/5243973465

Image courtesy of Barry Schwartz/https://www.flickr.com/photos/rustybrick/5243973465

Always put on your oxygen mask first before you help others with theirs. That’s also how it is with life. We can only help others when we ourselves are healthy. So let’s start taking care of ourselves.

Speaking of flying, here’s a totally creative and fun video hubby saw on one of his business trips. Yup, it mentions oxygen masks. 😉

What do you do for self-care?

What is Marriage Good For?

Our church started a new sermon series titled “The Vow”, and the first message was about the hardships of marriage. A friend and I were talking about it and she mused that most of the sermons she’s heard on the topic make marriage sound challenging, difficult and just plain depressing. Yikes.

Well, to be fair, any interaction you have with another human being on a consistent basis (ie. at work, school or home) will face hardships from time to time. People are imperfect and needy and broken, so yep, relationships are hard. And when you have two people committed to building a life together through marriage, you’ve got plenty of ammunition on your hands for WWIII. What’s the lesson here? Get a dog or cat if you want to avoid hardships. Kidding (kind of)! 😉 The real question I’ve been thinking about is this: What is marriage good for?

Married or single, I’m sure you have your ideas of what marriage is like or should be like. When I turned 18, I remember telling my mom I was old enough to be married (in other words, I was old enough that I didn’t need to listen to her anymore, haha), but I had NO idea what being married involved. When I did get married at 25, I started learning exactly what marriage was and what it wasn’t.

Marriage isn’t a free pass to do or say whatever you want and expect your spouse to put up with it. It’s also not the right to expect your wife or husband to fulfill all your needs and make you happy. If that’s your idea of marriage, you’re in for a rude awakening—like a bucket of ice water poured over your head kind of wake-up-call!

So what is marriage good for? Essentially, the husband and wife relationship is THE training ground to learning how to love another person better.

We may say we love the people in our lives, such as our friends and family (and especially cute, cuddly kittens or puppies), but until that love has been stretched and pulled and twisted and knotted, we don’t truly know the heights and depths of our love. That’s why marriage, with all its crazy, real-life, day-to-day opportunities for you and your spouse to be authentic—to show the real YOU—gives you endless chances to love (and be loved) over and over again.

Ultimately, marriage should be a sanctuary. A safe place for messiness and mishaps. For growth and second (and more) chances. For appreciation and acceptance. For unconditional love.

I’m reminded of a conversation hubby and I had when he shared about some of his old memories and regrets. He brought something up to which I replied, “You already told me this a long time ago.” He stopped in surprise and said, “Wow, I must trust you.”

Yes, this is surely a sign that hubby has a bad memory (which we already were aware of), but it also confirmed the fact that we’ve come a long way in our marriage. Far over the dark valley of anger and resentment, through the rough terrain of disappointment and hurt, and up the steep mountain of forgiveness. We are now closer to the peak of trust, respect, and love that marriage is all about. Which is a testament of God’s abundant grace because marriage—as all the sermons out there say—is hard. But when it’s good, it’s oh-so good.

Isn't the view at the top grand and worth the journey?

Isn’t the view at the top grand and worth the journey?

So, the next time you hear a message about how difficult marriage is, nod in agreement, but also challenge that belief by doing the precious work of loving your spouse hard and deep and strong. Because that’s what marriage is good for.

Here’s a beautiful song by John Legend about the realities of love: “Ordinary People”.

What do you think marriage is good for?

The 4 F’s Every Good Romance Needs

Is anyone here a hopelessful romantic? 🙂

You know, the kind of gal (or guy) who prefers to watch sappy, predictable chick flicks, listen to boy bands from the ’90s, and daydream about that special someone with the blue/green/brown eyes that can light up your whole day?

Haha. Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m that person. I’ve always been drawn to love stories and still enjoy a good happily-ever-after. I just don’t get the same thrill from reading (or watching) a story where people point fingers, or things get blown up or are genetically altered—though there is a time and place for mystery, action, and science fiction (because certain folks don’t appreciate “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” as much as “Batman vs. Superman”—ahem, hubby). 😉

Since I love romance so much, I decided to write romance books. (Here’s my first completed series!)

Taking Chances_ad

And through my experiences, I’ve discovered there are 4 things every good romance needs (which all happen to have the letter F in them).

1) Flawed characters. Okay, let’s be honest, the flaws I’m talking about are not physical. The main characters don’t have to be model material, but they do need to have some physical traits that appeal to the reader. But they need to also have something internal—such as a past mistake, a fear or a loss—that makes them relatable and realistic. Because nobody’s perfect, even in a fictional world.

2) The Feels. I once heard that readers read romance because they are buying a “basket of feelings”. They want to experience the spark that comes with an initial attraction, the sweetness of new love, and even the angst of lost love. It sounds like an emotional roller coaster, doesn’t it? But one that we can experience vicariously without any real side effects (ie. drowning your sorrows in a tub of Cherry Garcia ice-cream). A good romance story should let readers into the characters’ minds and hearts enough that they feel for them and want to root for them.

3) The Fallout. As with real life, fictional stories should not always go according to plan. There needs to be some kind of conflict that drives the story. Sometimes the guy you like doesn’t like you, so you swear off all relationships … until you meet the one who’s different from all the rest. Or if he does like you back and everything is fine and dandy, one day you find out something about him that’s hard to swallow. Whatever the scenario is, every love story needs some kind of conflict or fallout. Because a good roller coaster ride takes you in all directions—up, down, over and under—before you arrive at the destination. Likewise, a good romance should keep you guessing and surprised.

4) The Grand Finish. I don’t know about you, but I prefer happy endings to not-so-happy ones. Real life is hard enough, so I’ll take all the happiness I can get, even if it’s fictional. 😉 But even if a love story turns “Nicholas Sparks” on me, I can still appreciate it as long as there’s a grand finish. The ending to a romance story is what a reader turns the pages for. It’s the payoff, the result of all the lovely and angsty emotions you experienced and pushed through to see the conflict(s) resolved. It’s knowing that the characters you fell in love with changed and grew during the course of the book, just as we learn to do in real life. Whatever the ending turns out to be, a good romance should leave you wanting more. To go back to page one and reread the story again, to renew your faith in love, to hug your spouse or child or friend … or maybe even to write a book of your own.

Sigh. 🙂

All this talk of romance has gotten me in the mood to get back to work on my WIP (work-in-progress). Stay tuned for more details about it! My deadline to finish it is July and the publication date is the end of September. I can’t wait to share these new characters with you all. 🙂

In the meantime, enjoy Pentatonix’s beautiful and sweet cover of “Valentine” by Jessie Ware and Sampha.

What is your favorite genre to read or watch? Why?

The Things You Do For Your Kids

Several years ago, our family (along with my lil sis) ventured down to Southern California to visit my relatives. Since they live about an hour away from Anaheim, we decided to stop by Disneyland. When I say “stop by”, that was about as much as we could do with a clingy toddler and a waddling pregnant woman (moi!) in tow. E had also brought along his beloved Winnie the Pooh plush toy that he loved with all the heartfelt affection of a two year old (translation: it never left his side).

Isn't he cute? He's even carrying a backpack.

Isn’t he cute? He’s even carrying a backpack.

We hit up a couple of the calm rides (ie. It’s a Small World) and then got in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean. Hubby had reservations about how our highly sensitive munchkin would react to the one-eyed buccaneers, but I was determined (aka. stubborn) to go on my favorite ride, which I hadn’t been on since high school. When we finally made it to the front of the line, we hopped aboard our little boat and set off for the great unknown.

Great unknown was right.

Thirty seconds into the ride, I started regretting my stubbornness. Poor E was huddled next to hubby, his little body cringing at all the strange sights and scary sounds around him. Those fun plunges down the waterfalls that I’d been looking forward to didn’t seem so fun anymore, especially when 7 months pregnant (hm, maybe that’s why C is so feisty?)! We were all more than relieved when the ride ended, and we quickly got off, with not even a backward glance.

It wasn’t until we were a good thirty feet away did E realize we’d forgotten something back in the Caribbean. Yup, we’d left Pooh with the pirates!

Poor E was distraught, his big brown eyes filling up with tears. Hubby ran back to the ride as we waddled after him, but before we made it, he met us with a sad, weary look on his face. We spent the rest of the evening at the Lost and Found, hoping someone would find E’s toy and turn it in. Suffice it to say, Disneyland was not the happiest place on earth for us that day.

After E went to sleep that night, hubby and I racked our brains for some way to console our dear son. If we could have, we’d have rushed out to buy him another Pooh Bear (maybe 2!). But as life would have it, his Pooh Bear had been a gift from a friend who lives in Europe and didn’t exist on our continent. So, I did what any desperate parent would do, I turned to eBay.

Thank you, eBay!

Amazingly, we found the ONLY listing with the EXACT SAME Pooh Bear being sold by someone in the UK. The catch? They would only ship to UK buyers. So, I did what any stubborn parent would do at one o’clock in the morning, I sent the seller a message of our epic, tragic tale. I even offered to pay extra for them to ship it to the US. They replied with a gracious message agreeing to the transaction and voila—we were the proud owners of E’s Pooh Bear (again).

A week later when we were back at home, a package arrived in the mail from the UK. I promptly brought it to E and opened it with him. When he took Pooh Bear out of the brown paper bag, he eyed it carefully, then eyed me, waiting for a reasonable explanation as to how we managed to find his toy.

“Mickey Mouse found him and mailed him to us!” I declared with what I hoped was enough conviction and enthusiasm.

E seemed to buy my story, but to be honest, he didn’t treat that Pooh Bear the same way he treated the first one. 🙁

Just last week I was cleaning out C’s room and stumbled upon Pooh Bear (the second) whom she had inherited from E and couldn’t bear (pun intended, heehee) to give it away. I turned to E and asked him, “Remember this? You used to love him.”

In his no-nonsense way, he replied, “Didn’t you say someone found it, but you bought it?”

Yes, dear son, that is the simple explanation of the story. But it leaves out all the emotions we as your parents experienced that night. Guilt for dragging you on a ride you weren’t ready for. Angst at the sight of your sweet, sad face when you realized your prized possession was gone. Determination to make things right again in your world. And finally, joy when we found the elusive pirate’s booty (obtained in our case by legal means) and presented it to you.

Even if neither you nor C treasure Pooh Bear anymore, I think I’ll hold onto it. It helps remind me of all the crazy, roll-your-eyes things that parents do for their kids. Why? Because we love them.

Hm. Maybe it is a simple explanation after all. 🙂

I couldn’t find a song to go with this post, but I did find a funny, very stereotypical video by Wong Fu Productions about the things Asian parents say to show they love their kids. 😉

What are some crazy or cool things you’ve done to show your love to your kids (or your parents did for you)?