Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Big Pantry Organization for Less Than $100

I finally fully tackled a project that I've put off for quite some time. I was fired up, completely determined to get it to a level where I can say, "Now THAT's pretty!"

I organized my pantry...on the cheap!

For months, I have been watching a lot of YouTube and shopping at the Dollar Tree to get ideas and explore my options and now, all that effort has paid off. I was certain I wanted to save as much money as possible doing this project and of course that meant finding affordable containers that looked good, are durable and most of all, would make sense for our space. Let me put it this way—Pinterest was the standard I was aspiring for, but I also knew I didn't only want it to look great on photos. Most importantly, I needed it to be functional for our family.

I had to consider how we function and what available spaces we have. For instance, keeping our medicine in our pantry always made sense to us. We have multivitamins and other medications taken daily that need to be accessed easily by adults, and yet stored high enough to make it more difficult for children. I had to make sure I could accommodate that need while reorganizing. 

We also snack a lot and I had to assign an area for snacks that my son would be able to access by himself, at least for the healthier snacks. Not so much for the junk food which is why I placed those somewhere higher. 

Anyway, after spending approximately 6 hours, I think I could stop now and smile at what I've accomplished.

Here are my BEFORE photos, which admittedly don't look too messy to begin with. I have always had things sorted, contained and labeled, but somehow something was still not working for me.

I've stared at this space for a long time and just couldn't be happy with it. There was something that annoyed me but for the longest time, couldn't figure it out...until this past weekend.

My Previous Organizing Mistakes: 

1. A lot of the containers were overflowing. It didn't matter that everything had their own spaces and labels. It still looked messy to me because there was too much in most of my bins. 

2. I Initially thought that having see-through containers was the way to go but to me, it made it look messier than it really is. 

The Not-So-New, But Definitely Improved...

I sorted through all of the boxes, especially those that overflowed, like our 'Snacks' and 'Asian' (which also contained some Asian food snacks) bins. After going through expiration dates and figuring out what snacks had no hope of getting consumed because none of us liked the flavor (which makes you wonder why it got bought in the first place), I actually ended up with sub-categories of 'snacks': Crackers, Cookies, Nuts & Candy, and Applesauce and Fruit Juice Packs (school snacks). I couldn't believe that what was initially housed in one container now got split up into four. But it made more sense and gave the bins more breathing space.

Light blue totes (lower level) for my four snack sub-categories...The containers are also somewhat pliable so you can squeeze them against each other to save space. What a bonus!

Luckily, the multiple trips I've made to the Dollar Tree these past few months saved my day. I had already bought a lot of containers for different areas of the house and I still had a few extras on hand. I had to switch up some of the containers so that I can come up with several of the same type with the same color. 

The large, dark-blue bins toward the bottom of the shelves were bought from Aldi (3 for $12.99). They come with 4 casters too!

My Organizing Tips:

1. Take out contents from bulky boxes if you can. You can always cut out their product labels and nutrition information and transfer them to Ziploc or snack bags which occupy so much less space inside bins.

2. Make sure all your bins are properly labeled. You can only successfully do this if you take the time to sort and categorize correctly.

3. Purge ruthlessly. Be honest. If something no longer has a purpose, will never get consumed, get rid of it. Yes, you may feel a bit wasteful but take that lesson to heart for next time. Maybe it will make you shop wiser instead of just randomly spending on 'stuff'.

4. In organizing any space, uniformity is key. And as is true for designing any space, things don't necessarily have to be all the same. But if you have varying elements, there has to be some sort of repetition so that it looks intentional instead of just an eye-sore.

5. Use what you already have. Don't be afraid to repurpose containers just as I did for the Ikea Skubb boxes (which are wardrobe organizers, but now used as containers for our medication), and the free shipping boxes/crates that came from Costco. What matters is that they fit your space and the items fit perfectly in them. You can always make them pretty by covering them with paper, fabric, paint, or cute duct tape, which is what I did for my boxes. 

See that cylindrical container above with the red cap, wrapped in the zebra duct tape? That originally contained cotton candy which my husband bought for my son several months ago. Now it's the perfect container for our straws (100ct.)!

For about 50 containers to organize our entire pantry, I spent less than $100. Here's a BEFORE and AFTER side-by-side photo...

Now every time I open our pantry door, I take a deep breath and smile! 

Does organizing make you happy too? What organizing ideas have worked for you?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Welcoming Spring

Last week was a busy, yet happy, time. My son was on his spring break and so we took advantage and visited family in the Midwest. Later during the week, we found ourselves back home but not for long. The very next day upon returning home, we decided to do a quick trip to Atlanta, GA to maximize our vacation time. 

We visited Stone Mountain, "the world's largest granite monolith", and the park is said to be Georgia's most popular attraction. We've visited the park last year but at that time, the park was so busy that we never got the chance to see the top of the mountain via the cable car. This time around though, we had a mission in mind and went as early as we could. I'm happy to report we made it to the top, although there wasn't much scenery to enjoy given the thick fog that day.


It was like walking on the moon up there, hiking as much as our feet and my elderly joints allowed, enjoying our limited view 1,600 feet above mean sea level. 

It's amazing how these trees can still survive atop this rock.

The first signs of spring were clearly upon us, and no fog can cover this beauty up...

So what existential thoughts did I have while exploring the top of this giant rock? 

First, that life is persistent, resilient and that it always finds a way. 

And second, hiking and bad knees don't go well together. Make sure you have someone who cares enough about you to hold your hand and serve as your human cane. Just sayin'.....


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Life in Between

The first time I became intimate with the word 'limbo' was with with my ex-boyfriend. A couple of months after we had broken up, we found ourselves in contact again, reconciled but not completely back together as a couple. There was so much to heal that he didn't feel ready to get back on track just yet. But given our intense relationship and affection for each other, we agreed to both wait it out. For years I was neither here nor there, more than a friend, not quite the lover, and it was agonizing. It was then that I realized how limbo might as well had been hell.

Despite being fully acquainted with the reality of limbo, oddly I still continued to find myself in this space in various aspects of my life, though not always by choice. And this feeling that I don't quite belong, that I'm always somewhere in between, all the more solidified when I migrated here to the U.S.

Searching for new friends has always been a challenge. In certain groups that I've attempted joining, I was either 'too ethnic'/'not American enough' or even sadder, I've also found myself on the other end of the spectrum where I didn't feel 'Filipino/Asian enough'. At some point, I just stopped trying and told myself that if not for my desperation, these are people that I wouldn't really choose to hang out with anyway. I didn't feel like we had much in common and I felt too old to try too hard and play games. I knew I was fine in my in-between space even solitarily. 

I suppose it doesn't help that I'm an introvert and prefer smaller groups and deeper conversations. That's just not everyone's cup of tea. The strange thing is, some people I've met wouldn't even believe that I'm a shy introvert. They all say I seem friendly. Well, I am! But it's a lot of effort for me and it's only because I force myself to step it up when I know it's necessary in social situations. I guess you could say I'm an in-between shy introvert.

Physically, there's also a lot about me that seems to belong in the heart of 'in-betweenville'. I'm Asian and yet because of my mixed heritage, I don't look typically Asian. When it comes to my size and body frame, I'm again neither here nor fully there. I refuse to wear, (nor would I fit into) anything fitted and yet when I go to plus size stores, they tell me I'm too skinny. 

And my hair. Oh my hair! I'm afraid it has reached the worst limbo ever, closer to hell really. I love short hair but have been afraid to cut it really short because of my round face. So instead, I've opted for a longish version of short, a coward's pixie cut that doesn't really look like one. It's a hybrid. I'm in between. And I hate it.

It's with all this in-between baggage that I showed up for my first blogging conference this past weekend. I went to the Bloggers at Midlife (BAM) conference right here in Nashville, filled with anxiety and of course the sense of resignation that it probably won't turn out differently for me. I have accepted that I would feel lost, insignificant, and of course, in limbo, amidst the sea of confident women who probably won't care about me.

Why should they? We don't really know each other. I've only related to some of them virtually and so we only 'semi' know each other. We're in between.

And then my age. The group is for women 40 and above, the midlifers. Though I certainly qualify in terms of my age, I knew that I'd probably be one of the youngest and I anticipated that this would further alienate me. When I got to the conference, everyone kept doubting and joking that I was probably just 27, or 18, who knows, and I wondered if my youthful looks made it more difficult for people to take me seriously. I hoped not.

When I spoke and revealed to some of them my background, the attention went to my speech, my accent, but in a good way. I was told that they couldn't detect a foreign accent at all and found it surprising that I've only been here in the U.S. for close to 11 years. I still think I do have a slight accent, maybe at least with some words, I don't know. I'm in between, I guess.

But the worst fear I had showing up at the conference had to do with my blog's identity. Can I just say it's a personal blog?...that I blog about parenting but not just about parenting?...that I blog about social life from the perspective of a migrant?...and that I also blog about romance, marriage, social media, culture and everything in between? 

Apparently I can. And apparently none of my baggage mattered when I met the midlife bloggers! Everyone was so welcoming and the warmth of these new friends I met made it easy for me to want to swim out from the depths of my in-between and simply show up just as I am---tainted with my imperfections, insecurities and all the limbo that defines me. I could sense that everyone was authentic and that gave me a safe spot to plant my feet on and keep walking forward.

I survived my first blogging conference. More than that, I actually genuinely enjoyed getting to know these fellow bloggers / writers who were all full of wisdom and generosity. There was no sense of competition, only camaraderie. There was no judgment, only acceptance.

I may not always be easy to figure out. Maybe my in-between-ness makes it far too complicated for some to want to get to know me. But this is who I am and if there's anything I learned from the wise and self-assured midlife women I met this past weekend, it's that we all have gifts within us. We can all make a difference with our distinct voices, whether we're speaking from the top of the mountain, a valley, or somewhere else in between.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Candy and the Cankersaur: A Book Review

*All opinions expressed in this post are my own. I was provided with a PDF and Amazon Kindle copy of the book for the purpose of this review, and was not financially compensated. This post also includes an affiliate link (Amazon Services LLC Associates Program) which means a commission may be credited to this site when a purchase is made through that link.*


Last week, I was pleasantly surprised to have received an email from Jason Sandberg, the author and illustrator, of this children's book "Candy and the Cankersaur". Though I never claimed to be an expert on reviewing children's books, I was intrigued by the author's approach and humility in asking for an honest review. To quote him, he wrote "If it's a dud you've only invested 10 minutes, if it's a gem you've got a fun review to post!Fair enough!

I admit that I also agreed because I was curious to learn more about publishing one's own children's book. I've fantasized about being able to do this and so any opportunity for me to learn would be truly welcome. 

"Candy and the Cankersaur" is the story of Candace Courtney Wellesley Wellington (or Candy) who receives a Cankersaurus Rex as a gift. Candy is the daughter of a wealthy man who is far too busy to spend time with her for play and therefore only showers her with the best toys (or pets) around. Candy also has a neighbor, a boy named Chucky, who likes getting Candy's attention by competing with her, always wanting bigger and better versions of the toys Candy owns.

When Candy first got Cank, she immediately started training him, emphasizing that the first rule is 'no biting'. Cank quickly became a good pet and it didn't take long for the neighbor Chucky to take notice and feel extremely jealous. Since he couldn't get a dinosaur for himself, he decided that Candy shouldn't have one either and so he ended up kidnapping Cank.

The adventure further continues from here and since all children deserve happy endings, this book certainly does not disappoint.

The first thing I noticed about this book is the colorful illustration that gave me a nostalgic feel. In this sense, Sandberg is successful in categorizing this book as an homage to cartoonist and author Syd Hoff.

Sandberg also describes the book as an appropriate bedtime picture book for children ages 3-6 , and as a read-alone picture book for those ages 6-9. As such, I decided to let my son, aged 7, read it. Suffice to say that he enjoyed it. I asked him what he thought about it in general terms and he said that he found it exciting, that there was enough adventure in it to keep him interested. He particularly noted how attractive the pictures were. 

I was also curious to know if he picked up any good lessons from the story and he said, "Yes! It's important to know how to share what you have and not be jealous and never take what's not yours."

I agree with my son. However, there is one point that I feel could have been further explored or explained in the story. In the beginning, it was said that Candy's father was a busy man who only knew how to shower her with material things and didn't spend enough time with her. I felt this point was emphasized in the beginning that I was expecting it to have a clear resolution for readers in the end. I'm not too sure this was addressed, at least certainly not explicitly for young minds to clearly pick up on, if it was indeed even implied. 

Other than this, I think the book was an enjoyable read and has solid elements of fun and adventure to sustain children's attention. I also appreciate the fact that it's relatable for both boys and girls. I think that it would especially appeal to dinosaur lovers, although that certainly isn't a prerequisite. 

Overall, my son and I both give this book 4 out of 5 stars! Check it out and you could purchase a Kindle edition of this book via Amazon.com below!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Am I Really Doing This?

I can't believe that Daylight Saving Time starts this Sunday, March 8. Of course this only means one thingthat Spring is almost here. Plus of course the fact that I will most likely be grouchy on Sunday as we let our clocks 'spring forward' forcing me to lose one precious hour of sleep. *sigh*

In honor of Spring and everything new and fresh, I'd like to share some exciting (or is it anxiety-inducing?) news! No, I'm not pregnant although the amount of nausea I'm feeling might make you think that. 

I'm attending my very first blogging conference this weekend! It's the Bloggers At Midlife (BAM) Conference 2015 and it'll be held right here in Nashville, at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel to be exact.


It's my first time attending a blogging conference, hence the nauseating anxiety. It's also the BAM's very first time hosting a conference so in a way it's great that I'm not the only 'virgin' when it comes to these things. 

I had promised myself since mid-2014 that I will dare myself to push some of my boundaries. It started with joining a few more bloggers'/writers' groups to challenge myself more in the area of writing. And then the biggest leap of all last year was my contacting Arianna Huffington directly to pitch a blog post which then opened the door for me as far as being a Huffington Post contributor (note: not 'employee'). At that point, it truly became clear to me that it pays to take risks and push oneself if you want growth. 

So, here I am daring myself once more to be in a big room full of 'strangers'. I've only met some of the other attendees virtually, none physically and I am terrified of looking stupid, feeling stupid, isolated and lost. These are my fears and though I know they will surely accompany me this weekend, I am hoping they will be balanced by my optimism that these women all seem friendly, down to earth and that some of them are just like meintroverted, slightly awkward and are over-thinkers. I've been told those are fairly common qualities among writers. 

So, wish me luck! Keep me in your prayers and kindly send me all the good vibes you can! Better yet, if you've attended blogging conferences before, how about sharing with me some survival tips! I surely need them.

I promise to give you the scoop on my next blog post, that is, if I survive the whole thing without blacking out.  


Friday, February 27, 2015

Fifty Strands of Grey

They're not sexy. But trust me, there's absolutely no shortage of gasps on my part every time I lay eyes on them. Thanks to this sense of horror, I'm also probably beating Anastasia Steele with the amount of "Oh my", "Jeez", "Crap" and "Holy Sh*t" that escape my mouth every time I take a good look at my head in the mirror. Though it's said that there's a thin line between pleasure and pain, I guarantee that mine all come from displeasure and the painful realization that these suckers are multiplying at an unbelievably fast rate and there's nothing much I can do to stop them. My hands are tied and unfortunately not in a naughty way. 

Fortunately though, these silvery-grey strands haven't quite invaded my entire head yet. For the most part, I can still pretend they don't exist as long as I keep my hair parted strategically. However, you have to agree that they're getting noticeably out of control and having Asian black hair doesn't help at all in concealing them. 

When I was in elementary school, I remember having a school assignment where we were asked to note how old our parents were. I asked my folks and at the time, my Mom was 35. For many, many years that followed, my Mom stayed 35 in my eyes. Nothing about her made me change my mind about her being perpetually 35 until I saw her hair strands change color. Bit by bit they surfaced and since my mother was never a fan of dyeing her hair, I had to stand back and watch these silver-grey strands populate larger areas of her head. As this happened, I was forced to adjust my perception and move her from 35 to somewhere 40ish, which was probably her real age at the time after all.

I hated it. Not because it made her less beautiful but because I had to then face the reality that my parents were aging. It seems silly, right? Of course everyone ages! But maybe constancy is a childhood necessity. Maybe deep down I had to believe that my parents will always be there, stay the same, stay young, healthy and simply ageless. 

Now that I'm on the other side, playing the part of the 40ish parent with aging hair (among other things), I'm a bit concerned about how my son feels.

When I asked him what he thinks about my grey strands, he said, "I'm kinda sad". When asked why, his response was, "Well, 'cos you're getting old. I kinda want you to stay young, you know".

This is definitely pain for me of a different kind. It's painful for any parent to see worries on their children's faces and especially so if it's of an existential kind. My son is 7. He really should only be worried about whether or not he'd be able to build his fancy house on Minecraft, or if I'd give him enough YouTube time the next day so he can watch his favorite toy reviewer. I was much older when I started feeling bothered by my parents' greying hair, but then again I was also much older by the time I became a parent, thus giving my son a much shorter period of time to enjoy my completely black crown.

Ah, the joys of being an older parent to a young child! I truly owe it to my son to stay as 'young' as I can, even if this means standing at the hair color aisle at the supermarket for a ridiculous amount of time just so I can choose the perfect hair dye shade that will cover my greys. No pain, no gain. So let me bust out the latex (gloves, that is), let the juices flow (or foam up from the can to the palm of my hand), and let me lose myself in the intoxicating scent of ammonia as I declare war against my fifty or so strands of grey.

Friday, February 20, 2015


I often find myself saying that word under my breath more than I would prefer, to be honest. Since I've never been a confrontational person and choosing my battles is a skill I've internalized very early on in my marriage, I'd have to say that this word is possibly a relationship game-changer and sanity savior. 

I suppose this word is my verbal equivalent of an eye roll but it suits me better since too much eye rolling generally gives me a headache. I summon the word like a true drama queen when I need to express frustration over little annoyances that are not worth nagging about but to a minimum are definitely worth whining over.

...when I see an empty toilet paper roll left on the holder and a fresh roll is within arm's reach

...when dirty clothes are on the floor, just ALMOST making it to the laundry hamper which stands two inches away

...when the snoring is in surround sound just when I'm beyond exhausted and would kill for two hours of sleep

...when dirty dishes are left on the counter top and the dishwasher sits right below it

...when the bathroom mirror is bathed in toothpaste splatter and I've just cleaned it yesterday


Yes, seriously these things happen to me on a regular basis. 

And seriously, I'm certainly not perfect too and I'm sure my husband puts up with a whole lot of things I do that don't make much sense to him either (e.g. fear and avoidance of driving on the interstate, social anxiety, and tendency to over-think, among other things). But seriously, all these are not serious enough to outweigh the things that really count.

In the grand scheme of things, I still seriously think our marriage is seriously solid, having two seriously flawed people dead serious about seriously making it all work, taking it simply one step at a time. Seriously.

Friday, February 13, 2015

My Fair Share of Blind Dates

Blind dates are possibly one of the scariest things ever invented. Broaching the topic to another could send that person sprinting in the opposite direction at lightning speed and you won't even have enough time to finish uttering the term. Believe me, I get it. I've agreed to do it one too many times.

The truth is that I just wasn't meeting enough people and I was getting close to 30—lethal combination to the brains of most single people. At the time, I was teaching in university and everyone I found even just remotely interesting or attractive were either married or gay. Well, that or they were clearly pining for someone else. So, I let friends and relatives take matters into their own hands and announced to the Universe, "What the hell, let's do this!"

The first one was through one of my closest friends, M. She said her female boss highly recommended a male friend...single guy, smart, funny and comes from a good family. The guy called me a couple of times before our date, (which, by the way, was to be a group date with my friend and the boss). He sounded okay over the phone, not impressive by my standards, but I promised the Universe I'd keep an open mind. 

On the night we were all meeting up, M and myself arrived first at the restaurant. I wanted it this way so that I can give myself enough time to breathe and calm down before I saw my date. While waiting, my friend and I spotted a few grammatical errors on the menu and killed time making fun of those silly mistakes. I should've taken that as a sign at that point and just called it a night. When M's boss came, she stood by our table, greeted us, and I saw that there was a guy standing behind her. I think at this point I should tell you how much this 'boss' built up her friend so much that M and I were convinced we were going to meet someone with a showbiz-worthy face. No such face showed up. As a matter of fact, when my friend and I saw the guy standing by our table, we were both thinking the same thing..."Where's THE guy? Is there someone else showing up?!"

But, no I didn't walk out. I'm not that superficial. I stayed, had dinner, did my best to have fun, and even let the guy drop me off at my apartment. But I knew I didn't want to see him again. He was completely conceited, shallow and uninteresting and all he seemed perfectly capable of was to brag about his family's textile business and how much money they make. Unimpressive. Simply not my cup of tea, so...moving on....

Blind date #2 was one arranged by a cousin of mine. They said the guy was a bit older than me, definitely mature, successful and looking at finally settling down. I had just come out of a very intense and consuming relationship and wanted to see what else could be out there for me, and so again I said, "Bring it on!"

He was a gentleman. Picked me up from the apartment, made sure to open doors for me, mild-mannered and seemed completely good on paper. He wasn't my usual type but at that point, I was so heartbroken that it probably didn't matter anymore if he looked like Kermit the Frog. He took me to a nice restaurant and I thought it was a good sign that we were having good conversations and I was feeling comfortable. Too comfortable, as a matter of fact, that I crossed over to being verbally incontinent, sans alcohol. There was nothing or no one else to blame but me. I committed the worst first date mistake—over the top self-disclosure. I think I talked about my ex and then I'm pretty sure I used the words 'psychotic' and 'neurotic' quite often to describe myself. Suffice to say that after our meal, I was pretty sure I scared him off badly enough that I wouldn't see nor hear from him again. 

And then of course there was Guy #3 who didn't even give me the chance. We spoke on the phone, another one who's totally great on paper and then NOTHING. No follow through. The friend who tried to fix us up said the guy chickened out. I was upset and mainly only because it felt as if I was weeded out so early that I didn't even get thrown into the lottery drum! What's up with that?!

But as cliche as this may sound, I'm actually grateful that none of those blind dates worked. If they had, then I wouldn't have had the chance to go on another blind date where I finally met my husband. By that point, I just cared enough to show up and look presentable, but didn't care too much to try too hard to stay too focused on results. I showed up as me and thought, "Take it or leave it. I'm way too old and too exhausted to play these games."

Fortunately, it worked. It wasn't instant. It took almost a year after my husband and I first met on that blind date for us to really reconnect and acknowledge that 'we' might be a possibility worth exploring. Yes, our attraction was instant. But we were both not emotionally prepared when we first met and there were way too many loose ends in my life at the time for me to seriously consider having a relationship with him. The delay was needed and ended up being worth it. 

So my point is this. You have to want something badly enough to get it. This includes Love. You have to make the effort to put yourself out there and make your declaration to the Universe as clear as you possibly can that you want THIS. You won't know exactly what will show up, but if you are clear about what you are looking for and know what you deserve, then you'll recognize it when it finally shows up.

You have to be willing to experiment, try new things if you want different results.

Most of all, in your quest for love, you have to value yourself and know that no matter how it all turns out, you will be fine. This is YOUR story, YOUR journey. And every one else you meet, date, fall in love or end up with, are cast members with supporting roles. Your focus should be on how you will evolve as your story unfolds. 

Waiting to see if the frog's just a frog or if it'll turn into a prince is not where the excitement lies. It's in wondering what the princess is willing to do or how far she's willing to go to find what she's looking for and seeing how it's all transforming her as well. To me that's the more interesting story!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Romance is Relative

"Mama, I'm so glad I'm not a girl", my seven-year-old tells me while waiting for me to finish putting my make-up on. I wondered if it was because he thought there was too much pressure on females to be attractive and all 'made-up'.

"Why do you say that?", I muttered while rushing to finish putting some mascara on, being careful not to take my eyes off the mirror.

"Well...It's just too hard! I don't want to get pregnant or give birth. And most of all, I don't want to have any of the pokey!"

It was a good thing I was already done with my eye make-up at that point because I'm pretty sure I would have ended up shaking with laughter and poking my eyes in the process. In our family, we say 'pokey' to refer to anything that refers to injections or poking yourself with the needle. Apparently, my son has heard our conception story often enough to remember that I had to go through A LOT to have him in our lives.

"Oh, honey. Not everyone goes through that just to get pregnant. It's just that my body has a hard time making babies so I needed all that stuff". 

It was all I could say to remind my son that that what I had to go through was not the natural way that most people experience. It was as far as I was willing to go in order not to say too much about sex and the whole reproductive process. I didn't think he, nor I, was ready for that kind of conversation yet.

Whenever I share some details with my son on how he was conceived, I always find myself trying to be really careful that I don't make it seem overly-scientific. I don't ever want him to think that the route his father and I took was completely 'sterile', matter-of-fact, and unromantic.

Though on the surface it may seem that way to some, the truth is that our experience was quite romantic, really.

My husband and I had several appointments where we were both around and knew it took solid commitment, dedication and sacrifice from both of us to make it work.

My husband was always around to assist me with the most difficult and most painful shots in order to give me the hormones I needed to trick my body into thinking that it was getting ready for pregnancy. It didn't matter whether we were home or out at a banquet hall attending a wedding. He knew that when it was time for my injections, he had to show up to help me.

My husband had to comfort me during those painful injections when all I could do was lay on my stomach and cry in pain as I felt the fat needle and the viscous fluid being injected through my flesh.

Both of us worried when I had some spotting after my embryo transfer.

We held hands, cried and prayed together while on our drive to the hospital, rushing through intersections that early November morning as I bled at almost 20 weeks of gestation, terrified that I'd lost my baby, this baby we've worked so hard for and hoped for.

Aren't all those romantic? 

In spite of relying heavily on predictability and timing, our incessant monitoring of numbers and obsessing over the slightest of symptoms felt, we never felt more bonded and I wouldn't trade any of it for a more traditional route.

Romance shows up differently for different couples. Most of all, sometimes looking too hard for romance the way you expect it might make you miss the real things when they show up. 

Having someone stay with you in uncertain times...

Having someone strong enough to cry and grieve with you in moments of pain...

Having someone embrace you for all that you are, with all your sense of inadequacy and guilt...

All of that are romantic AND more. They are real things that not only make your heart leap and melt, but most of all, break it wide open so beautifully to flood your life with hope.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

'My Big Fat Fabulous Life' and Lessons in Pursuing Your (Writing) Passion

One of my recent guilty pleasures is the TLC show My Big Fat Fabulous Life. The show follows the life of Whitney Thore, a self-proclaimed 'fat ass and bad ass'. She has always been passionate about dancing but after gaining 200 pounds in just one yearpartially due to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)she realized that she must now deal with a new normal. This means loving her body the way it is and not being constrained by it in spite of what social norms dictate. The show also highlights the tension between Whitney's desire to love the body she has now and her acknowledgement that she needs to strive for a healthier weight.

My Big Fat Fabulous Life
Image by: tvequals

I admit that I was drawn to this show because I have had a long and deep history of body hate and poor self-image. For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with weight. Though I was never extremely obese, even as a child I was 'round', 'chubby', slightly 'fuller' compared to my peers. Nine years ago, I was also diagnosed with PCOS, though not as severe as what's talked about in the show. Fortunately, I don't have too high of a testosterone level to make me grow a beard, although in my teens up until before getting pregnant, I dealt with highly irregular menstruation, and of course, infertility. 

I was also struck by one episode where Whitney's dad talked to her about not being able to find a man to marry because of her weight. I remember having a similar talk with my father when I was in college where, during a 'moment of weakness' (let's just put it that way), he told me that unless I lose weight and become 'slim', no 'quality' man would fall in love with me and take me seriously. It left me angry, hurt and scarred for life.

I admire Whitney for being comfortable in her body and truly wish I could have the same attitude about mine. While being inspired by her story and her attitude as portrayed on the show, it dawned on me that how she lives her life can be applied to my writing as well. As a matter of fact, anyone who's pursuing a passion can apply these same lessons, regardless of what that passion is. 

1. Whitney has the courage to show who she really is, regardless of what others think of her or whether or not she measures up to others' expectations. 

She lives her life authentically by pursuing her passion for dance and she shows up with no shame. When she dances, it's not her size that strikes you, but the joy and dedication she exude. This is possibly why students continue to show up at her classes, learning from her and finding inspiration.

Having an authentic voice is something all writers should continuously apply and strive for. It's not always easy. Ideas don't always magically show up but I know that discipline is an integral part of the equation if we want to keep doing what we love and do it with love. You may not be as good or as well-known as other writers out there, but finding your own voice and writing about things you truly believe make you relevant. Keep showing up as YOU with all that you have now instead of being defeated by a sense of lack.

2. Her focus is not on being liked but rather on living her life to the fullest, refusing to be constrained by possible criticism or unpopularity.

Whitney knows that when she goes out, there's always a risk that someone will call her names, stare at her with disdain, and spew poisonous words all because of how she looks. She doesn't let this keep her from going out and doing what she wants to do, whether it be dancing, modelling, or wearing a two-piece bathing suit in public.  

As a writer, there's always the temptation to focus on getting more readers or followers on social media, and you may end up retreating from certain topics that you feel may not make you as likable, or as popular. Sometimes we also don't dare to go beyond our comfort zone for fear of being criticized or attacked for expressing our genuine views. But allowing ourselves to be held hostage by such fears only stunt our growth and certainly diminish our authenticity. Let's take in Deepak Chopra's wise words: 
"...in all my research, the greatest leaders looked inward and were able to tell a good story with authenticity and passion."

3. Yes, she gets affected, and sometimes hurt by strangers unfairly judging her based solely on her weight; people making assumptions about the kind of person she is when they know nothing about her health issues and lifestyle. But I haven't seen her stoop to their level and instead does her best to stay calm and take the high road.

As a writer/blogger, it's not uncommon to encounter haters online. Instead of being able to constructively criticize and diplomatically disagree, some people would rather leave nasty comments that aim to attack not only your ideas but your personhood. In such situations, it's wiser to brush it off and walk away. You can't make everyone happy anyway, neither is it your job to do so as a writer. 

4.  On a recent episode, Whitney was trying to work out with a trainer and was challenged to do the burpee. She started out thinking she couldn't do it but eventually decided to take little steps until she could accomplish the task. Instead of focusing on executing the routine perfectly (which in effect would have kept her from even trying), she poured her energy on simply trying, taking it one step at a time.

Each writing piece, or any end result you are trying to produce, doesn't have to be brilliant and perfect all the time. What's important is that you show up, take the first step and keep at it. Don't get overwhelmed by the idea of a grand and perfect end result. Break it down into manageable steps and give yourself credit for all the accomplishments, no matter how small. That's the only way to build confidence which will motivate you to keep going.

5. Her goals are clear to her—to keep dancing, which is her passion, and at the same time reach a healthier weightand she surrounds herself with people who love and support her, and most of all, push her when she gets derailed or discouraged.

The truth is, it's challenging to keep pursuing something we love and sustains us when we don't have a support system. No matter who you are or what aspirations you have, it's essential that you have someone who anchors you, someone who genuinely loves you and will have the courage to tell you honestly when you are failing and also have the capacity to celebrate your successes with you.

So what does having a positive body image have in common with pursuing your passion, and in this case, blogging/writing? It's confidence! I understand it's easier said than done but it's a mental practice and takes consistency. Just don't give up!

Have you seen the show? What lessons have inspired you?