Monday, February 18, 2013

Showing Up

'Ole!’ to you, just for having the sheer human love 
and stubbornness to keep showing up. 
- Elizabeth Gilbert

That's one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite TED talks on the creative process. Sadly, I've not been very good at showing up. That was one of my biggest realizations at last year's Asian Festival for Children's Content. It was like stepping back into a wonderful world I once knew so well, yet had lost touch with because I didn't keep working at it. I felt a little out-of-place, much like my Yellow Paperclip... which is not an unfamiliar (though not exactly the most welcome) feeling. I felt like a new kid on the block when I really shouldn't, right? 

But "Ole!" to that realization and more so to the resolve of changing things this year. Not only will I show up at the AFCC again but also at more gatherings of our local SCBWI (Society for Children's Books Writers and Illustrators) group as much as my crazy work travel schedule allows me. I will also show up on this simple writer's table in the little nook I've created for myself in my humble home-for-now apartment. I will stop ignoring my poor journal which has been running on empty since December 21. I will start blogging again because the adventure never stops and there is still so much back(b)log to catch up on. I will show up and write a little bit more than I did yesterday.

And if not on this writer's desk, then I can also write in bed propped up with pillows, as I learned last Saturday night when I finally wrote out my story for Sofia (after letting it simmer for two months and leaving my first draft on a worn brown envelope that made its way to San Francisco and back to Singapore - but that's for another blogpost!). I have shared my draft for our SCBWI meet-up and critique session this week and I am excited and anxious to get constructive feedback from the group. 

The more I show up, perhaps the more willing my elusive genius will be to "let some wonderment be glimpsed, for just one moment, through [my] efforts". If not, I still need to show up anyhow.

Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert. Ole!

Friday, February 08, 2013

Paperclips. More Fun in the Philippines.

I saw not one but TWO paperclips... and both were not silver. Just like our catchy Department of Tourism campaign, I'll argue that paperclips are definitely more fun in the Philippines.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Courage = Coeur = Heart = Love

Note: A friend reminded me of Brene Brown's definition of courage, my One Word for 2013. "To tell the story of who you are with your whole heart." This post took a lot of courage to write and more so to share. Perhaps it is through many more acts of courage, of sharing my truest stories, that I will find my coeur ("heart" in French) again, and eventually, love.

The romantic idealist in me continues to dream of my Mr. Right-for-Me. He must be somewhere on this earth as I type... possibly dreaming of me as well. I hope beyond hope (and beyond anyone who tells me otherwise) and strive to regain the faith in this deep desire in my heart... and in my aching, empty hand waiting for his. Surely a truly, madly, deeply blissful kind of love must exist beyond the movies, right? Surely my prayer will be answered at the perfect time - as it always is - though it has been easy to forget and easier to feel jaded, and be in a constant state of blah.

Until we meet and my hand fits snugly in his, I am on a different kind of Cloud 9 tonight after a man said he was amazed not by me, but by my story. A young man, most likely in his tweens, sent me this message on Facebook yesterday:

Warm greetings, ma'am! I love your book "The Yellow Paperclip With Bright Purple Spots". It's got vivid colors and drawings. The story really amazes me of [sic]... the story goes back and forth. I was really amazed when the paperclip asks by the end of the story: "The next time you need a paperclip, I hope you choose me -- the strange, out-of-place, yellow paperclip with bright purple spots. I'm excited to start my next great adventure. Where will you take me?" If I found him, I would keep him for my important documents. I was already reading the story you wrote since I was grade 4 and got the book before grade 5. Your story is a great masterpiece!

Wow. I'm still blushing and happy and humbled. And amused that my Paperclip is a "him"! :-) I immediately sent him a reply to thank him for inspiring me to write again. 

His message could not have come at a better time, ie. NOW. A few weeks ago, I asked my inner critic to stand in the corner (I may soon have to show her the way to the door). Sometime last week, I started a diet in an attempt to eat healthier and lose my extra flab and bulges. Three nights ago, I shared tears with a friend and it helped to lighten a somewhat heavy heart. Tonight, I chose to show up at my writer's table instead of packing for a trip (I still have tomorrow evening before my 6 a.m. flight!). Tomorrow, I welcome a new month and continue counting down to when I can place big fat check marks on my Life's Wish List: visit India, take a creative writing course, and experience Paris like a local. Now is the perfect time because I feel the veil of blah-ness has finally lifted and I am re-energized by a spirit of trust and hope and yes, of courage.

This unexpected Facebook message also reminds me that yes, I do have good (even amazing to some people!) stories to write and share with others - we all do. I am as unique as The Yellow Paperclip, with my own bright purple (or red) spots, with my own experiences of being lost and getting found - as we all do - so I should create and put it out there, if not for them, then definitely for me. "Don't write about what you know; write about who you are," shared children's author Candy Gourlay at last year's Asian Festival for Children's Content.

In a deeper way, his message is a reminder for me to listen and trust in my heart's desires because "our deepest desires, those desires that lead us to become who we are, are God's desires for us," writes Fr. James Martin, SJ in his article What Do You Want? "[Desires] are ways that God speaks to you directly." So whether it's the desire to write more children's stories, or to find Mr. Right-for-Me, I need to trust that those desires were placed in my heart by the God of Love who knows what I need to be fully myself, and exactly when I need them best. (Of course, this all comes with the gift of hindsight.)

I only have twelve major items on my Wish List for Life, and I have six items checked off. They were all answered prayers at God's perfect time. The answer is not no, just not now, or not yet. Why did I allow myself to forget this and doubt and get bitter? Six out of twelve is halfway there. That's pretty amazing and a powerful wake-up call: I have absolutely no right to feel jaded or frustrated after all the blessings and graces so willingly provided. I'm sorry for being so childish and ungrateful. Call it the Law of Attraction or an exercise in visualization or the stars aligning across the Universe, but I need to refocus on my favorite Psalm 37:4 or on Matthew 7:7. Delight in the Lord and He will grant you all your heart's desires. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 

Here was one more recent wake-up call: A friend challenged me and suggested that I stop dreaming of Mr. Right because it wasn't doing me any good. When I stop thinking about him, only then will he find me. I couldn't quite articulate what I was feeling then, but I felt misunderstood, and I felt my heart squirm in confusion, completely rejecting the idea. It felt like she was asking me to drop one of my deepest desires and focus instead on living a "well-storied" life just for me. I attempted to explain myself but could not find the words so instead I clammed up and shut her out (which was a bad idea and I have since apologized). I know that she meant well and that she would have understood if I had opened up. Here's what I should have said as we sat by the beach and watched a meteor shower: You can stop me from feeling jaded, but please don't stop me from being my romantic idealist self. I need to trust my heart's desires, and I know that my God of Surprises knows what's best for me - He always has. Last I checked, my life is pretty well-storied as it is, but I believe life can be far richer with a hand to hold and a heart and life to share. Please don't tell me otherwise; please don't ask me to stop dreaming. And yes, I'd rather be with an Other than alone on this beach. It has been weeks since my silence and the words have only come spilling out now. It's only tonight that I'm finding the courage to tell the story of who I really am with my whole heart. (For a risk-averse, approval-dependent, typically overachieving-but-insecure middle kid like me, that's pretty amazing, don't you think?)

But what is more amazing is how much of a jolt-me-up wake-up call this has all been; actually, it was more like a whack on the head that I so badly needed. Realizing that I was feeling the way I did (and seeing how I responded to my friend the way that I did) confirmed that I had indeed stopped dreaming and praying the way I used to, and my bliss had slowly, gradually turned into blah. It felt like one of those crazy alarm clocks or ice-cold water being dumped over your head: you just have to jump out of bed and get going with the day. In this case, I just have to get back on track and get going with living and dreaming, with a lot of love to share and with a heck of a lot more courage than what I've shown in recent years.

Bon courage to me!

PS. You know what else is amazing? I spotted a lost paperclip today. It's always my sign from the Universe to keep it together when things sort of feels like they're falling apart. Better yet, I think it's God's way of reminding me that He holds it all together, even when I fall apart. Thank You.

In the office elevator

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A New Year, A New Word

It's my first post for the new year and I feel terrible that I didn't quite finish the #reverb12 project last month. I was off to a good start but then I let the momentum slip. Should I even try to catch up? Kat did say we didn't need to beat ourselves up if we don't complete it.

But I'm glad I tried - because it gave me a a breath of fresh air again, however little. After a long dry spell, I was writing again and I saw words on a page and letters on the screen. I was no longer afraid of my voice and what might come out. I had forgotten how much fun it is to scribble and blog, so I'm glad I had the opportunity to get back to it, however brief.

A new year heralds a lot of new beginnings. "But only say the Word and my soul shall be healed," we always say at Mass. For me, it's my favorite line, and it's about finding that elusive word for the year; the one word that will keep me focused, growing, and thankful for yet another year. I had amazing years for Hawak (2008) and Bulaga! (2009)... and somewhat of a slow start with Halikayo (2012)... and some years just seemed quiet and wordless, which was worrying.

I was exchanging messages with a dear friend over Facebook and she said the word, and it just felt right for 2013. Courage.


 [kur-ij, kuhr-]
the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear;bravery.
Obsoletethe heart as the source of emotion.

have the courage of one's convictions, to act in accordance with one's beliefs, especially in spite of criticism.

I need the courage to write again.
I need to have the courage to let go of fears.
I need the courage to go after my dreams.
I need courage to lead me to who and where I want to be.

Bon courage!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Blank Pages

Day 7: What will you take with you?

I will take my bright red Moleskine journal with me into 2013. I bought it back in 2008 as a welcome-to-Singapore gift for myself; more than four years later, it's still not full and it's starting to get frustrating... and embarrassing. There's a lot that needs to be written, more stories waiting to be told in the new year.

Thursday, December 06, 2012


Day 6: What did you learn?

Random lessons learned this year...
  • how to make fresh pasta
  • loving a new CRM system at work
  • too much collaboration can be a bad thing
  • talking to my seatmates on the plane
  • procrastination can eat away pieces of you
  • I should have joined SCBWI much sooner

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Palawan Paradise

Day 5: What was your dream destination?

One of the places I had on my Travel Wish List is Palawan - and specifically to see the limestone cliffs of Coron that I kept seeing on postcards and Facebook posts. So I love that I got to take my own touristy shot of beautiful Kayangan Lake.

What I love more is the fact that I saw a lot more than what I was expecting. The entire length of Coron island is practically made up of limestone cliffs and a good half-hour of the 2-hour boat ride to Culion was sailing past the rocky facade. It was amazing!

As if that wasn't enough, I woke up every day of my week on Culion to the sunrise. My corner room had an awesome view: Coron island was standing guard over the horizon.

Pure bliss.