When Taking Care of Others Means Taking Care of Yourself

If you can’t tell from reading the title of this post, I’ve been feeling a little burned out. No, actually, let’s make that an extra crispy, black-as-charcoal kind of burned out. Like these poor pieces of toast.

Image courtesy of flickr.

Image courtesy of flickr.

Between getting the munchkins ready to go back to school and the release of 2 books, it’s been one crazy, busy month! And September’s not even over yet. Aiya. :O I’m not complaining though; I am very, very thankful (especially about school starting again, haha). But I have to admit that I’m tired … and when mama’s tired, she can get a bit grouchy. Okay, make that very grouchy.

I found myself getting impatient and frustrated with the kids more often recently and had to ask myself, Is it them or is it me? Sure, there are plenty of situations when they push all the wrong buttons and squeeze out every last drop of long-suffering juice I have left in me, but lately it’s been more a matter of me already feeling dried up with nothing to give. Especially last week when I was overseeing an all-day Facebook party and discovered that due to some technical glitches I couldn’t leave the computer for more than a few minutes at a time. Which meant I even had to bring my laptop with me when I went to pick up the munchkins from school (don’t try that at home, folks!). When we got home, I was running around like a mad woman trying to cook dinner for ourselves and my in-laws (the tables have turned ’cause my mother-in-law had knee replacement surgery) and check Facebook and help the kids with whatever they needed help with. Whew, I’m tired just remembering that day. 😉 Thankfully, the party went well and everyone was fed and in one piece by the end of the night. 🙂 But boy, was I pooped the next day … and the next and the next. And because I was pooped, I was not feeling my best or being my best. So yes, it was definitely me.

Lesson learned: I need to take care of myself in order to take care of those around me.

A friend commented recently that she realized she needs to drop one of the balls she’s been juggling. When I read that, I was like, Wow, I wish I could do that! But the truth is, I can. And I should. For the sake of my family, but also for my own sake. ‘Cause no matter how amazing a juggler I think I am, my arms need to rest once in a while. And most of all, my heart needs to recharge and refuel so I can be the best juggler wife, mama, sister, daughter and friend that I can be.

Here’s a verse I take comfort in when I’m weary.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

And here’s a beautiful, calming song for you when you’re feeling weary: “All is Well” by Voctave.

How do you know when you’re juggling too many balls?

Release Day! (+ The “Woe is Me” Tale Behind this Story)

It’s release day for A Spoonful Of Spice! I may get tired of writing sometimes, but I never get tired of hitting the “publish” button on a story. 😀 So yay, please celebrate this momentous occasion with me! Here’s a pumpkin spice latte for you and one for me, too. Cheers!

coffee-1282683_1280

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, A Spoonful of Spice is the autumn story in my “Seasons of Love” series. When I was brainstorming for this book, the first thing that popped into my head was the word “pumpkin”. Then the words “chai latte” because I love putting those two together when I go to my favorite cafe, Peet’s (sorry, Starbucks lovers!). But since pumpkin spice lattes are more popular drinks, I decided to include them in this story. Oh, and also an IT guy and an IT girl because it’s a love story between the guy and the girl (and possibly, the girl and her pumpkin spice latte). 😉

So that’s how this office romance started … but the finished product is actually a major revision of my original story. Like a total rewrite of half of it (something I’ve never done before!). Yes, that’s when I had a “woe is me” moment as a writer. 😉 Looking back, however, I’m more than grateful that one of my early beta readers (a trusted author friend) gave me some honest and insightful feedback on the story. After picking myself up off the ground, I took a good look at it and tried my hardest to make it better. And to my delight, I like the story a lot more now after rewriting half of it. I think I keep repeating that I rewrote half of it because I still can’t believe I rewrote half of it! Oh, but rewriting half of it was only the first part of my “woe is me” story with this book. I also had to redo the cover after I already did the cover reveal (you can read about that in this post here).

Oh, I almost forgot—there’s a part 3, too. 😉 This was the first book I formatted myself (aka. turning a MS Word file into a .mobi file for Kindle) and that in itself was an adventure. It took 8+ hours to figure it all out, but I did save $80, and hopefully next time it’ll be a lot easier and faster.

So, yes, for a 10,000-word story, there was a lot of work involved. Let me repeat that—A LOT of work. 😉 But it’s all good. All the rewriting and redoing made me appreciate how stubborn I am (haha!) and how any good thing involves perseverance.

Anyhow, you can buy A Spoonful Of Spice for $0.99 or read it for free with Kindle Unlimited on Amazon.com here. I hope you’ll enjoy it, especially with a cup of pumpkin spice latte! 🙂

ASOSFinal

And here’s my favorite song from the YouTube playlist I made for this book, Voctave’s cover of “Someone Like You”, featuring Jody McBrayer.

Taking the “Chinese” Out Of Parenting

So … don’t you hate it when someone speaks the truth in love to you? 😉 Especially when said truth is kinda true? Yup, well, I had one of these moments recently when hubby said, “You sounded kind of harsh when you were talking to E. Like a Chinese parent.”

Argh. Okay, let me back up and explain the scenario. We were at Lowe’s looking at outdoor patio-type chairs. One of our family’s favorite pastimes is sitting on our front porch together eating snacks while playing Plants vs. Zombies 2, watching the hummingbirds come eat at our feeder, and meowing at stray cats.

Here’s our newest feline friend. 🙂

To do so though requires us to drag 4 of our dining room chairs outside, which then get left in the living room when we’re done, unintentionally creating an obstacle course. That’s why I had the brilliant idea of buying either a bench or foldable chairs for us to use outside. But as any parent knows, most kiddos don’t have the same definition of “brilliant” as their parents. So, there we were at Lowe’s browsing around when 5 minutes in, E started saying he was bored and could we leave, like 5 minutes ago? To which I replied in a frustrated tone, “There are times in life when you have to do things you don’t want to do. How are you going to survive if you’re not patient?”

E’s response? He flopped down in a chair and said, “I won’t! It’s okay if I don’t!”

Dramatic, much? 😉

Okay. So, maybe hubby was right. I did kinda have a “tiger mom” moment there. In hindsight, I realized I was playing the wrong hand or choosing the wrong strategy, however you’d like to call it. Instead, I should’ve said something that appealed to E’s relational nature, such as “I know you don’t want to be here, but it makes me very happy to see you trying to be patient. We’ll be done in ten minutes” and topped it off with a side hug (’cause kissing a 10-year old in public is not allowed!). I’m sure that would have been more effective, don’t you?

Sigh. So, lesson learned. Even though I am Chinese, I’m going to try to take the “Chinese” out of my parenting. That means saying no to being prickly, growly, and mean. And saying yes to being gracious, kind, and long-suffering (emphasis on the long!). 🙂

I’ve been obsessed with the singing group Voctave and their covers of songs. This one, “You Have More Friends Than You Know”, is just beautiful … except that there was one part that confused me until today. It’s the phrase, “Those who love you the most may need more time to grow”. I think that sums up my role as a parent perfectly. I do love my munchkins oh-so much, but I still have so much more growing to do as their mama. I don’t think I’ll ever be done growing this side of heaven, but I’m thankful God is not done with me yet.

What ways do you still need to grow?

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. 😉 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.

IMG_4336

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. 😉 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? 😛

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—the 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 …

4cdd628dceb65188a6d8c89d189f1d10

 

Don’t you agree? 🙂

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?