Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dear Classroom Treats

Dear Classroom Treats,

You can make the life of a peanut allergy child's parent so full of worry.  People who don't know much about food allergies do not know that certain foods are poisonous to allergy sufferers It's not an allergy like sneezing and itchy eyes.  If they ingest the allergen, they can suffer from severe systemic reactions that can cause one to stop breathing.

I didn't know much about peanut allergy until we found out about Dear Son's.  We didn't know how severe it could be until we landed in the ER after he had accidentally ingested a cookie that had peanut butter in it.  He had vomited right away, but apparently he hadn't ejected all of it, so it went through his GI tract, and more hives, vomiting, and wheezing began, three whole hours later.  At which time I knew we had to go to the ER, which was only five minutes away.  The doctor later told me that I should have already given him the Epi-Pen--another fact that I learned and just have to live with now: just give him the shot if he ingests any peanut products.  It could be a life saver.

DS is now old enough to know about his peanut allergy, but one can never be too careful.  Anytime his kindergarten class has a birthday treat, he doesn't get to have one--just in case.  He gets to have a pack of fruit snacks instead.  I had sent in a bag of five at the beginning of the year, and he just told me today that I need to send in more.

DS:  Can you send more fruit snacks to my teacher because there's no more?
Me:  Sure.  Did you have the last one today?
DS:  Yes.  There was a birthday treat today.
Me (out of curiosity):  What was the birthday treat?
DS:  A cupcake.
Me:  What kind of cupcake?
DS:  I don't know.  I didn't get one.
Me (feeling a little bit sorry for him):  Oh.  Did you want to have one or were you okay with eating your fruit snacks?
DS (with a resigned smile):  I wanted a cupcake.
Me:  <Cue motherly heartache> Well, how about if I make you cupcakes to eat?
DS (beaming):  OKAY!

So, instead of my regularly scheduled kitchen cleaning, I made cupcakes this afternoon.  (No one even had to bend my arm to do so; after all, it makes so much more sense to bake, then clean, no?)

DS is a vanilla kind of guy, so I searched for a recipe with sour cream in it, since I know that kind of cake batter bakes to be fluffy, light, yet flavorful cakes (I've previously tried a chocolate version that was heavenly).   I found a sour cream pound cake recipe that I can use to bake cupcakes instead.  I was ready to go.

I creamed the sugar and butter.  I got out the eggs and vanilla extract.  I measured the flour and baking soda.  Then I sifted the flour.  And whaddaya know.  This is what I saw when I sifted half the flour, I kid you not:

Do you see it?  It brought a smile to my face!  I knew I was doing this for a reason!  A mother's love for her poor son who couldn't have a cupcake at school because of his peanut allergy.  Well, I was going to make the bestest cupcakes for my DS, with no trace of peanut products, freshly baked out of the oven.  I was going to knock his socks off with these cupcakes and he would be glad that he didn't have any at school so I would make these for him.

But, of course, Murphy's Law "takes the cake."  I realized it as soon as I set the cupcakes into the oven.

I had forgotten to add the vanilla.  Fother muckers.

Seriously?  Seriously.

How quickly I am humbled by my own self-righteousness gone-awry.  Blame it on age?  Or hastiness to feed my poor child who has already forgotten all about the cupcakes by now who felt left out from a classmate's birthday celebration because of his friggin' peanut allergy?

In the end, the cupcakes were not entirely inedible.  In fact, they were pretty okay, although I'll probably end up eating most of it because there's just something missing...  But better I forgot the vanilla than, say, sugar, right?  (Oh, yeah--I did that once, too.)

So, Dear Classroom Treats, you are the reason why I volunteer at every school party--to make sure that the foods DS is served has no chance of containing any peanut products.  Or else, he can only have his "standby" snack.  I could send in something else, but it's still just not quite the same.  And to our school and teachers' credit, everyone there is extremely careful with food allergies, so I am very grateful for that.  But a mom just tries to do what she can at home to "makeup" for this unforgiving allergy.

After all, it is what mothers do.  (A little bit of forgetfulness can be overlooked by a lot of love, right?)


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dear Small Things

Dear Small Things,

You are the parts in life that make it fulfilling.  Even though the big events and celebrations are the memorable ones, when we encounter you in our memories, what we experience is simple gratitude and peaceful joy.

This year, we had several momentous occasions including the birth of my niece, my kiddos' birthday celebrations, my re-acquaintance with the teaching profession as a Chinese School teacher, and more recently, having become a substitute teacher in our school district.  While these are the events that will make Year 2012 stand out, it's the mundane, everyday events that fill my days and nights with the comfort of knowing that everything is okay.  Here is my #TopTen list of Thanks-Giving in Small Things:

10.  I take pride in having learned to sing the song "Stella-Ella-Ola" from my kiddos.  At my ripe old age, it took me a good few days to learn it.  Dear Daughter learned it from Music Class in school and taught it to her little brother.  But hearing Dear Son sing it with his Signature Lisp always brings a big smile to my face.  In case you're not familiar with the song, here are the words: Stella ella ola quack quack quack singing es tiga tiga, tiga tiga shack shack.  Es tiga tiga velo, velo, velo lo lo lo, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!  #LispingNightmare

9.  I honestly never tire of hearing the kiddos exclaim, "I finished another book!"  DD kicks our butts with her reading list every year.  The number of books that she goes through is simply amazing.  DS is right on track with her, as he is now an emergent reader who both reads independently and demands to be read to at night.  It gives me so much joy to know that they love to read and truly treasure the possibilities books can bring to their minds.  #MyKidsPutMeToShame

8.  Some of my happiest moments are watching DS play with his toys.  He likes to line up his toy pieces and make his Superhero Sounds: whoosh, bam, ka-pow!  Kids play differently; DD always preferred having a playmate.  Seeing DS have the ability to use his imagination and play all by himself is like having a peek into his little world of fun.  From the sidelines, of course.  #DucksInARow

7.  My kiddos still hold my hands.  Not so surprising for DS, but as she approaches her tween years, I am thankful for any number of days that DD is still willing to walk hand-in-hand with me in public. #ProudMamaKeepsOnHolding

6.  Receiving smiles along with eye contact from anyone is one of the most comforting human interactions to experience.  During this holiday season, it's so wonderful to see happy faces and eyes to match them.  It doesn't cost anything to wear a smile--it may even buy some peeps a few moments of happiness.  #HappyHolidays

5.  Having the support of my family for me to write has been one of the most reward things of late.  Being able to put thoughts into words, contemplations into black and white, and reflections into writing are what I look forward to doing for me.  The time I carve our of my days to spend in front of a computer is sweet and relished.  #BuggerOffImWriting

4.  Hot tea on a cold night.  Chocolates for a sweet tooth.  Music for all moods.  Puckered lips to kiss me goodnight.  Lemonade on a hot, muggy day.  A favorite wine on a Friday night.  A great book to read anytime.  A beautiful sky on a brand new day.  #ItsTheLittleThings

3.  I am grateful for the fact that I can always count on a few things to happen over and over again.  That the four seasons of the year come and go, always in order and in their own rhythms.  That my orchids will always bloom for most months of the year, wilt, and magically grow new shoots again and repeat the cycle.  That no matter how much I think I will never get over an anxiety attack, I always do.  That the sun will always come out, tomorrow, or the next day.  #YouAreTheSunYouAreTheRain

2.  In the midst of our busy lives, there are times when--unbeknownst to Dear Husband--I suddenly catch a look in his eyes that makes me see the young boy I fell in love with over twenty years ago.  The boy with whom I imagined spending the rest of my life, the boy that would one day be the father of my children, the boy that would one day hold my wrinkly, bony hands when I'm old and gray.  These tiny moments of stolen glances sprinkled over the years are the small gifts that remind me to carry gratitude close to my heart.  #TheDaysOfYore

And the bestest, bestest Small Thing of all:

1.  I've only recently realized that I am once again able to sleep through the night.  It's been about a decade.  Need I say more?  #SleepIsNotOverrated

So, Dear Small Things, on this day of Thanksgiving, I pay tribute to you to show how large a role you play in my daily life.  "Don't take what you have for granted, and always live with a heart full of gratitude" is certainly a good mantra by which to live.  This is what tell myself to remember: it's not what you want, but what you already have.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Dear "Remember When"

Dear "Remember When,"

You are a term of nostalgia, a walk down memory lane, and even possibly a sigh of relief.  With all the advancements with technology in the last several decades, I find myself quoting you quite often these days.

We're not even that old yet.  I'll hit the big 4-0 next year.  When I first learned about the "birds and the bees" way back in my little naive mind, I used to think that people stopped having sex at age 40 because they were too old.  Either 40 is no longer old, or I grew up to be a very happy old woman.  But not only inexperienced projections of age have changed; everything around us has changed.  I realized that my own kiddos do not and would not recognize many of the technological advances we had growing up.  Here is my Top Ten list of Things My Kiddos Will Likely Never Experience:

10.  Rotary dial phone.  Remember when phones had rotary dial plates?  How it took forever and a day to make a phone call?  Remember how not so long ago we used to hear the automated message: "For rotary phones, press 0."  Even that's gone.  Nowadays, we have push-button phones, cordless phones, and all our handy-dandy touchscreen smartphones.  What on earth is a "finger stop" anyway?  If you showed a rotary dial phone to my kiddos, they would probably think it came from "ancient times," if they even knew what it was at all.  #FisherPriceChatterTelephoneToyRocks

9.  Typewriter.  Remember the days before word processors?  Remember how we used to fill out our college applications?  Insert sheet of paper.  Release lever.  Line up paper.  Lock lever.  Turn knob.  Begin typing.  Make a mistake.  LIQUID PAPER.  Blow/sigh/wait.  Finish form an hour later, nearly passing out from whiteout fume.  Curse the typewriter.  Rinse and repeat for next application.  We've come a long way from the early days of mechanical typewriting.  At least I used electronic ones and didn't have to deal with the kind where the typebars became tangled from malfunctioning.  I think my kiddos would only ever see a real type writer in a museum.  #SmithCoronaRocks

8.  TV dial.  Remember when you had to get up to change the TV channel?  When you had to use your hand to manually turn the dial?  Dear Husband loves to tell the story of he and his brother fighting for the TV dial.  You see, theirs could be pulled off the TV.  So whoever had possession of the dial had Channel Power.  Kind of like having a remote, if you will.  Those TVs weighed about 50 tons, had the most unreliable antennas, and always had a maximum of four channels if you were lucky.  But those things stayed alive for years.  Dinosaurs, but well-made, well-built, and lasted until you wanted to throw it away BUT IT STILL WORKS.  Ironically, my kiddos are too high-functioning with the TV remote to know what to do with something as simple as a TV dial.  #ZenithRocks

7.  Snail mail.  Remember when we wrote letters?  Remember writing your friends or pen pals?  Not so much?  When I first came to the US, I would write my friend in Taiwan a letter, send it via air mail to arrive a week later, wait for her to write back, and another week for it to get appear in my mailbox.  Whatever news we had to tell each other was always old news.  But the anticipation of waiting for a personal letter was exciting, and receiving an actual letter was phenomenal.  All this has been replaced by not only email, but now, texting and messaging.  Everything can be real time, up to the minute news.  The art of letter writing will soon be a lost craft.  I can already see my kiddos ask, "why write a letter?  Send an email or JUST TEXT HER."  #AerogramStickersRock

6.  Mixed tapes.  Remember when those were the ultimate declaration of love?  When someone would sit by the radio and record just the right songs by pressing the record and play button simultaneously just when Dick Clark finishes announcing the title of the next song that you already know by the first few notes of the introduction?  How one has to wait forever a good minute to rewind a side if one wanted to hear it again instead of the other side?  How it was such a symbol of status to walk around with a Sony Walkman and its ginormous headphones in high school?  Foreign.  A cassette tape and a cassette tape player would be foreign objects to my children, who operate their own MP3 players and playlists as efficiently as eating their favorite desserts.  #90MinuteTapesRock

5.  VCR.  Remember the steps to setting a timer on a VCR?  How you took great care to press all those tiny buttons on the godforsaken machine and it didn't record because it was AM instead of PM?  How the show somehow recorded OVER your favorite show because THE TIMER IS POSSESSED?  Remember when you'd rather not watch a movie because it wasn't already rewound to the beginning?  The digital age has completely wiped out such dinosaurs.  My kiddos are bewildered when there is no DVR in hotel rooms when we travel.  Why won't the TV fast forward, Daddy?  Little do they know the patience we had to have growing up.  #VHSRewindersRock

4.  Blockbuster.  Remember when every Friday your local Blockbuster would be jam packed?  When you'd go as soon as you can after work and all the newest movies are ALL GONE?  Remember when you'd drive out just before midnight to return a movie to avoid a penalty charge?  Now, nary a Blockbuster anywhere.  In ten years, probably nary a Netflix red envelope anywhere.  My kiddos will probably never have to go anywhere to get a movie to watch in the comfort of home, or heck, in the car, even.  #BlockbusterMembershipsRock

3.  Reheating leftovers.  Remember when we had to reheat leftovers on the stovetop before microwave ovens came about?  Can you imagine not being able to eat a meal from the freezer in less than five minutes?  Me, neither.  I realized how much we depended on our microwave when I broke our last one and it took a week to repair.  Everything had to be heated via another method that took ten times longer than it would take my handy-dandy microwave.  Note: never press "cook" when you mean to press "kitchen timer."  #MicrowaveTurntablesRock

2.  Video games.  Remember when the world shook when video games first came out?  Those clunky game cartridges and ginormous consoles and joysticks of Atari and Commodor 64?  I can't say much about video games since I was not into them much, but what the kiddos have these days are a world of difference.  From DS to Wii to phone apps.  Gaming technology now is incredible.  As for me, I evolved from my Speak 'N Spell to Wordfeud and Scramble on my phone.  Cuz that's how the geek in me rolls.  #TexasInstrumentsRock

1.  Film camera.  Remember when we'd take "blind" photos?  How we'd take out the film and drop it off at a developing store and oh-my-gosh-WAIT-for-five-whole-days?  How then we'd curse at how half the roll was wasted because the pictures turned out poorly?  The digital era has certainly erased all that.  We can go from click to print in a matter of seconds.  My kiddos have never even seen a roll of film, much less know what it's like to have to wait to see the pictures they took.  Their time of anticipation is the mere second the digital camera takes to process the still photo for viewing.  So. Not. Fair.  #AutoFilmWinderFunctionRocks

All of these technological advances just means one thing: people's desire for instant gratification is boundless.  But what may seem like great inventions now will still become a forgotten past some time down the line.  I wonder where they will take us in another generation or two.  I really can't criticize, since I am right on top of the bandwagon taking full advantage of all this technology myself.  It is just quite humbling to take a look at the past to see how far we've come. 

So, Dear Remember When, I hope that one day my kiddos can look back and walk down memory lane with you, and think about all the lame outdated things they had to endure experience, such as their cumbersome DVRs and oversized telephones.  At the least, we have stayed with real books and have not gone digital for the kids.  They still enjoy the feel of a book, the turning of the pages, and the pleasure of closing the end cover of a finished book.  I hope they they will one day look back on that experience with fond memories. 


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dear Old Things

Dear Old Things,

Even though you reside in my closet and my house, I think am neither a pack rat or a tosser.  I'd like to think I am somewhere in between, depending on the items in question. 

Take clothing for example.  I have clothes from back in college.  Do I still wear them?  Yes.  Those old college sweatshirts that are so comfy you do not want to get out of them?  Have.  But I do not have pants from college, since they would not be comfy nor could I still fit into them or still in style.  So my rule is: can wear--keep; cannot wear--toss (or donate).

Keep digging in my closet, and you'll find many items from my pre-children days, which means they are over a decade old.  A favorite fleece jacket.  Some all-purpose T-shirts.  All sorts of shoes.  Handbags.  Scarves.  You get the point.  And the reason they are still around is because they are still in great condition and still wearable/usable.  Um, so there are holes in the cuffs of my sweatshirts BUT THEY'RE COMFY.

Which brings me to the point of why they are still in good condition when they are over a decade old.  Well, I tend to buy things that are well-made.  I may spend a few extra bucks on quality (though not splurge on high end name brands) for things that last a long time.  And I only buy said things if I really, truly love them a whole lot (as you might already be familiar with my alter ego--Miss Bea Stingy). 

So I have this pair of favorite black mules--pictured above.  I love these shoes.  They are comfy; they go with everything; they have a great heel height; and they can look nice without being too dressy, or look everyday without being too casual.  As you may know, this brand is pricey, but reasonable for leather shoes.  I loved them at first sight and after much consideration, I forked out the dough.

Last month, I looked down at these shoes and saw this.  Gasp!  My jaw dropped and my heart sank.  My favorite black slides are falling apart!  Upon quick calculation, however, I realized that these shoes are about ten years old.  I remember wearing them when I was pregnant with Dear Daughter, because the heels made me think twice about wearing them when I was as large as a hippo.  Ten years.  This is when you think OMG-how-can-it-be-ten-years-already?  First I'm surprised at how long I've had these shoes.  Then I'm surprised at how well these shoes held up.

Now comes the difficult decision: do I repair it or do I toss them?  Upon a closer look, I see that a strip on the side of the shoe has broken off, exposing the inside padding of the shoe.  Many scenarios flashed through my head, including: super glue, shoe repair shop, or caulk.  Needless to say, I didn't toss that broken strip.  It is sitting safely on the bench by our door, waiting to hear its sentencing.  When I showed Dear Husband my poor shoe, he easily proclaimed the wise mantra, "out with the old, in with the new."  But it's not so easy for me; just like the Britax car seat that the kiddos outgrew that I had a hard time letting go that is still sitting in my garage because I'm too lazy to deal with it.

I think about all the years these shoes have been with me.  I think about the fact that they they have been around even longer than my own DD.  I think about all the places they've taken me and all the miles I've walked in them.  I just don't want to let them go so easily.

Okay, I take it back.  I AM a pack rat.  

So now they sit under the bench, their fate undetermined.  I suppose in the meantime I keep my eyes out for similar shoes or a shoe repair shop... 

Speaking of quality over bargains, I am still learning.  If the items in question are not things that I like to use, then I am more likely to spend less.  Ahem.  When we moved into our house five years ago, I sent DH out to buy some home essentials.  He came home with two toilet scrubbers and a garbage can that cost so much money I am embarrassed to say how much they were.  Plus a bunch of other things that he paid way too much for.  Five years later, I realized how well these items held up.  The nice toilet scrubbers not only looked nicer than cheap plastic ones, they lasted until now without needing to be replaced (while I have already replaced the other two plastic ones I bought, more than once).  The beautiful stainless steel garbage can is not only attractive but works really well (hides garbage bag completely and keeps odors in superbly).  My lessons learned.  I take back all the ranting at DH for purchasing those items. Sorry, hon.

Moral of this story?  If I can wear a pair of shoes for ten years, then DH can buy expensive toilet scrubbers and garbage cans.  And a new pair of shoes for me.  Ba-da-dum!

In all seriousness, DH has shoes just as old as mine.  We sort of have to be frugal since our lucky kiddos get to buy new shoes and clothes and accessories and essentials every season and every year.  At least they haven't gotten into name brand things yet.  I'm not really looking forward to their teenage years, as they can both get Daddy to fetch them the moon if they wanted it.

(What would you do with my pair of shoes?  Fix it?  Toss it?  Do you have antiquated things that you still use or wear?  Have you broken my record of clothing/shoe-wearing?) 

So, Dear Old Things, as long as I like you, I'll keep you around.  But you need to keep up your end of the bargain and stay whole and durable.  Deal?


P.S.  Speaking of ten years, I wrote a poem titled "Ten Years" for my #NaBloPoMo Challenge (man, the post-a-day writing is killing me!).  Instead of thinking back about the last ten years, click over to see what inspired me to write about ten years into the future. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dear Labor and Delivery

Dear Labor and Delivery,

My only encounters with you were for the births of my own kiddos... until a few days ago when a whole new perspective unexpectedly crash landed on my existence as an auntie.

Last Friday, my sister-in-law went to the hospital in the morning to be induced for labor due to symptoms of preeclampsia.  Upon hearing word of this, I went about my day planning to go visit her after the kiddos came home from school.  During the day, I went to the Asian market to buy groceries to bring over; I went to the craft store to buy a huge pink ribbon for the Gigantor Teddy Bear we had bought for the new baby; I made a huge "welcome home" sign to go with the bear; and we packed up an entire cooler of food for the one hour drive over to see my SIL. 

Little did I know.

When we got there, my brother-in-law, mother-in-law, and niece had just left to grab some dinner.  My SIL had painless contractions throughout the day with no further progression of the labor.  Within twenty minutes of our arrival, however, her contractions began to hurt exponentially.  I could tell that her labor was going fast, but little did I know.

Little did I know that I was going to be the only family member person in the room with her during her delivery.  That I was going to be in a movie-like emergency scene with crashing carts and splattering fluids.  That I had to hold myself together to help her through this delivery.

I know what it feels like--those full blown contractions--because I've been there.  She was in the worst of it--her stiff body, her flushed cheeks, her death grip on the bed rail, and her tears told me so--when she had to bear the pain and wait for the doctor to come.  The baby was coming, fast.  Every second seemed like forever.  I wanted to talk to her and distract her from feeling like she was being swallowed by a black hole of pain, and the only logical thing that came to mind was the time.  I told her, "It's now 7:05 PM, and she'll be here very soon."

Little did I know that I was going to step over all the red liquid on the floor to the other side of the bed to be her delivery partner.  That I was going to squeeze her hand until the pain subsided.  That I would witness her baby girl enter this world all in her nakedness and tiny cries, in shock of the air and light and noise and space.  And that her official time of delivery was 7:06 PM.

Little did I know that I would feel that incredible surge of emotion watching the doctor catch the baby.  My nose soured and my eyes blinked from disbelief.  I heard my SIL ask me if the baby was big.  No words came out of my mouth.  I don't know, I thought.  I don't know.  She asked me if the baby looked like her big sister.  Again, my mouth opened and only air came out.  I don't know.  The doctor gently put the baby on my SIL and clipped her umbilical cord.  Little did I know that he would hand me the scissors. 

Little did I know I was going to have the honor of cutting my Dear Niece's cord.  With a steady hand and a trembling heart, I disconnected the baby from her mother, and forever connected my heart with hers. 

Finally, several blinks and many more breaths shook me back to reality.  My job wasn't over: I went to the baby warming table to take pictures.  These moments are so sacred--capture them now or they're gone forever. 

Humbling is an understatement to how I felt moments afterwards.  It was a life-changing experience.  I had the privilege to take part in the birth of a baby into this world as a bystander.  And now I know the perspective of dads in the delivery room.  How different it is from what little I knew.

When you are the mom in labor, there is nothing on your mind other than getting through the pain and getting the baby out.  When you're in that much pain, you don't think about What-Ifs or Something-Wrongs.  You just focus on those contractions and pushes, because the faster you follow directions and get the pushing done, the faster you can end the Worst Pain of Your Life. 

As a bystander, however, you are completely and utterly helpless.  Looking on to someone you love go through that kind of pain is incredibly difficult.  And since you're not in pain, you have all kinds of room in your helpless brain to think about all the What-Ifs and What's-Wrongs.  

Inside my head before birth: Can't you see how much pain she's in?  Don't you know that you can't hold in a baby when it's clearly descending the birth canal and about to come out?  She's ready to freakin' deliver the baby!  What if the doctor doesn't make it here in time?  

Inside my head after birth: What if the nurse drops the baby?  Why did the nurse ask if the mom had any medication during the delivery?  Why did she look so determined as she listened to the baby's chest with her stethoscope?  Why on earth is she being so quiet with that frown up there on her brows?  
I found myself scared silly waiting for word on how the baby was doing.  I worried about my SIL's blood pressure and stitches and swelling and pain.  I fretted about the baby's tiny size and the tube stuck down her throat to suction out liquid.  I wondered about her Apgar Scores and that oxygen mask shoved onto her tiny face.  Yet all I could do was stand there, completely powerless and unable to answer any of those questions.

I glanced over at my SIL, who was now past all the labor pain, and she was calm and glowing.  Smile and color returned to her face.  Longing eyes peeked over at the baby warming bed.  The adventures of a new mom has begun, already.

And as the auntie on the sideline, all I could think of was the lifetime of worries ahead carried by the burden of parents for this tiny little being, this fragile body, and this beautiful niece of mine.  This new journey, experienced by all parents, all starts now. 

The next day, we went back to visit with Gigantor Teddy Bear.  It was literally more than ten times the size of the newborn baby.  I held the baby, marveled at her smallness--all less than five pounds of life in my arms--and gazed at her peaceful sleep.  I relived some of the crazy minutes from the day before, and gave thanks from my heart to be in this moment, holding my DN2, everyone safe and sound, and all our lives carrying on.  DN1 and my DD and DS played and laughed around us.  I can't wait for DN2 to join them one day.

So, Dear Labor and Delivery, I really was not anticipating encountering you again until I would become a grandma.  But I am so grateful that I was able to accompany my SIL to bring a new life into this world.  Now I have a beautiful story to tell, and will have this amazing experience etched into my memory.  My life is just that much richer and meaningful because of it.

Happy Birth Day, DN2!


Friday, November 2, 2012

Dear Comfort Zone

Dear Comfort Zone,

You are our big, soft, squishy teddy bear that keep us feeling safe and secure.  It's no wonder that people want to cling on to you and resist any outlying areas.  It is so much easier to stay put in a well-lighted, familiar place than dark and unexplored territory.

I am a creature of habit.  I like routines and schedules.  I order the same dishes at respective restaurants.  I thrive on familiarity.  Similarly, I don't like unexpected happenings, unplanned events, or any big surprises.  Nicely put, I like things the just the way I like them.  Not-so-nicely-put, I am an inflexible, stubborn old croak who can't always enjoy many spurt-of-the-moment delights. 

Which is why I am easily anxious about anything and everything.  What you may not know is all the anxiety that came with this entire blog--yes, this one that you have been reading.  I first started this blog because I felt a very strong urge to write, to express thoughts longer than a Facebook status update, and to hopefully reach peeps who could tell me, "you are not alone."

I did not tell anyone about this blog initially, and I had a very hard time sharing it even after I got into a routine.  I feared Murphy's Law: that as soon as I would tell someone about it, I would lose the ability to keep coming up with topics to write and things to discuss.  It took me a long time to feel comfortable in my writing shoes and begin to share my blog.  Even then, each time I finished a post, I still questioned: "Is this good enough?"  The anxiety that came with publishing each post was undeniably overwhelming and hard to shake off.

This summer, I joined an online writers group, Studio30 Plus.  I felt that it would be helpful to join a community to read other writers' work and learn more about the craft.  The community staff then approached me to be a Featured Writer and submit a piece to the community blog.  Like a turtle fearing danger, I tucked my head into my shell faster than you can say "no."  I kindly took a rain check.  But when I was asked a second time, I knew it was time to face that challenge.  The topic could be anything related to writing, blogging, or publishing, and I thought: what better topic is there to tackle than my own blogging anxiety!? 

So I wrote Blogging Anxiety 101.  (Go ahead, click on that link to read it, please.)

I turned my blogging anxiety into a set of constructive advice for anyone hesitant to blog, write, or share thoughts with the public.  Way out of my comfort zone. 

I consider myself an expert in very few areas, and I have never written anything like this before.  So not only did I step out of my comfort zone to write and publish something for "new eyes," I also wrote about a topic like I know something about it. 

Well, it turns out that I did know something about it.  And it was "good enough" for me to "publish."  I know that I would have never written this piece if I had not opted to go outside of my comfort zone and tried it.  It was a challenge for me, and one that produced something that gave me more confidence as a writer and made me someone who can give some decent advice.

Huh.  Who'd have ever known.

(If you clicked over to read it, thank you!  You must be a community member in order to comment at S30P, so if you're inclined to leave a comment, please do so here.)

So, Dear Comfort Zone, I have come to a deeper understanding--as a writer--of how nurturing you can be.  Children hang on to their lovies for the very same reason--comfort and security.  But if there's ever a reason to walk beyond the familiar, it would be to stretch, reach, and learn.  It can't hurt every once in a while.  Plus, it makes me able to use the term "pleasantly surprised" more often, much needed by my Old Inflexible Muscles.   

So who's in for some stretching with me?


P.S.  In related news, I am participating in #NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), which is a challenge to write a blog post every single day in the month of November.  I will not be posting them here, but on my other blog at Promptly I Write.  This is partly in effort to do more creative writing, partly to lessen blogging anxiety for myself (as I will have far less time to scrutinize over each and every post), and partly because I'm a little crazy.  Join me?  Click on the badge below for more information.

NaBloPoMo November 2012