Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Right Yeses

I started this month with this goal: say no to all invitations. The last few months have been quite stressful and I was feeling as if I was being pulled in different directions. I longed for some time to recluse myself from everything and everyone. I just wanted to sleep all day, read all day and watch television all day, for several days, all by myself. But, I also needed to catch up on work, on writing and organizing my life. So, I was going to say no to everything and everyone.

But, only a few days into the month, a friend asked if I'd drive with her to Napa. She promised a weekend of unplanned events and time for me to write while she studied. It took me less than five minutes to say yes.

And last Friday, we went on our road trip.

We stopped by Cayucos for the best grilled fish tacos and brown butter cookies.
Although a part of me felt that I couldn't really afford to take a weekend off or a weekend away, there was a louder part of me that said I needed to. And the moment we got on the road, I knew that louder part of me was right.

I had forgotten how beautiful the drive is to Northern California. Plus, the weather was warm, the sky blue and a lot of green everywhere. There were moments I forgot that I was in California or the United States because the scenery around me just seemed like a worlds away from where I came from. I was reminded of how much I loved road trips, how being on the road, leaving everything behind can do wonders to a stressed mind. Leaving Cayucos, we took this winding road amid mountains and large beautifully aged canopy trees that had perfectly crooked branches. Seeing them I realized that it was not a matter of learning to say no that makes a difference, but learning to choose the right yeses.

Last weekend, I chose the right yes.

The Riverfront in Downtown Napa.
The view from where we had dinner at The Pear Southern Bistro.
A nice cold beer to unwind after an afternoon of writing.
An intimate, sit-down wine tasting experience was the best way to end the weekend.
Ladybugs make me happy.

Napa was just what I needed. I came back more inspired to write. The weighed down feeling I had before I left for the trip was gone. Sometimes, all it takes is allowing yourself to step away for a few days to get your bearings back. We all need a rejuvenation break once in a while. It reminds me of what my aunt said to me a long time ago: like a car, our minds and bodies also need regular tune-ups for maintenance and better performance. Napa was my tune-up.

Also, I can't believe how time flies but Skylights Magazine finally launches this Friday. I'm beyond excited and nervous at the same time. You can sign up here for a notification. I'd love to see you there!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Skylights

I know I haven't written a post in a few weeks. Sorry for being in absentia again. But I have good reason. There's a project that I've been busily working on with Kari, and it has taken up a lot of my free time, including the time that I usually reserved for blogging.

But, I'm really excited about this project. It has been an idea that had been lurking around in my mind for, honestly, years. And more so in the last two. Then, in the last three months, in fact, since Kari became my NaNoWriMo buddy, I had a feeling that she would be the perfect person to work on this with. And I was right. Because this project wouldn't be the same without her, the same way Sherlock Holmes would not be Sherlock Holmes without Dr. Watson and Tom & Jerry would not be Tom & Jerry without the other. I know, I'm sounding a little dramatic here, but again, I'm excited and grateful!

Without further ado, here's a little peek of our project:


Skylights Magazine is a digital publication about embracing the unexpected in a city of a billion lights. The publication stems out of love for our two big cities - NYC and LA - known for its bright lights and allure of big dreams. But with all that glitter comes high expectations that can leave one feeling lost and disenchanted when life as planned or dreamed does not deliver. So, in Skylights, we hope to offer inspiration to embrace the unexpected that big city life, or life in general, throws our way. To embrace the unexpected in ourselves. That part of us that doesn't usually hold top rank title of lawyer, doctor, mother, performer. It is the profound moments in the simplest of things that Skylights aims to recognize and celebrate.

The magazine will officially launch on March 20th. I know that is a few weeks away but I'm really excited about this. In the meantime, you can sign up for the launch notification at skylightsmagazine.com. It's just a reminder about the launch. (Note: Your email address won't be kept on file after the notification, so no worries about receiving spam emails!)
 
Anyhow, I hope you check out our site. And I'm not abandoning this blog. I'm keeping this space of mine and will continue to blog periodically. Thanks for being awesome readers!


Monday, February 16, 2015

We wander, we return, where our hearts remain.


The summer after my first year of law school, I hiked this trail almost every morning. Instead of going to Starbucks or Noah's Bagels at 6:00 a.m. with a backpack filled with law books, I headed for this trail with only a notebook, a couple of pens, and my portable CD player. (It was the days before iPods and smartphones.) So, with music from Enya's Watermark or The Memory of Trees album to keep me company, I walked this cracked, uneven road to a bench underneath a big tree, where I would write.


It was here where I contemplated dropping out of law school. The first year was really hard. As much as I wanted to be a lawyer, I also wanted to be a writer. But law consumed my life, leaving no room for the creative arts that satisfied my soul. So, that summer, I walked. And I wrote.

It was here where I realized that law school was where I belonged. And where I also realized that writing will always be a part of who I am. I promised never to stop.


Almost fourteen years later, I'm hiking this trail again. I'm a different person, but also the same. Now I know that staying didn't only make sense, but was the right choice. I can't leave this place. My heart is here. 


Wilacre Park
(also known as Fryman Canyon trail)
Studio City, CA 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

DTLA | The Last Bookstore

Two weeks ago, I had to be in downtown L.A. for a seminar. And instead of driving over an hour to travel less than 15 miles, and then, scramble around one way streets for another thirty minutes to look for parking, I decided to take the train. There's a certain kind of freedom that comes with taking the train and roaming around the busy city streets. It felt good not to be confined inside my car. It felt even better not to be locked in traffic. I got to sit back, read my book and made it to downtown in thirty minutes.  

And since I was feeling especially adventurous that day, after the seminar, I walked several blocks to The Last Bookstore, while ignoring the tiny raindrops that had started to kiss my face. The moment I walked in, I knew I was in book heaven.

  





The Last Bookstore is not your ordinary bookstore. It's like a book museum, art gallery and reading nook all in one place. You could get lost in time browsing through the thousands of titles in the multi-level store until you finally settle on several books that you can sit down with in a comfy chair. Unfortunately, I didn't stay too long because the sky outside was threatening rain and I still had a mile to walk from the train station to home. But, I promised to return. 

And if you're in the area, you should definitely check it out.


The Last Bookstore
453 South Spring Street
(entrance on 4th) 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

A taste of Italy in L.A.

I've lived in L.A. for most of my life, but there are so many places I'm yet to see and experience. So, after my "realization" (not-so-long-ago) that I'm not moving anytime (soon), I made it as one of my goals to explore this place that I call home. One of the places that I've been wanting to explore is the Venice Canals Walkway. This morning, I finally did it. And it didn't disappoint. 










As you can see from the photographs, the place was just serene and beautiful. A hidden gem, less than a mile away from the busy Venice Beach boardwalk. Although the canals did make me a bit nostalgic for Italy, it actually reminded me a lot more of Amsterdam. I hope that doesn't disappoint those who long to visit this beautiful place. Or, I hope that doesn't disappoint the memory of the late-Abbott Kinney, who developed this canal walkway more than one hundred years ago because he wanted to bring a taste of Venice, Italy to Southern California. I think that idea was genius, and from reading reviews of the place, many tourists and locals think so, too. I believe every big, busy city needs an oasis like this place. Somewhere you can escape to for a little while. 

So, if you're ever in the area, check it out. Grab a tea or coffee to go, and take a stroll down the walkways, over the various bridges, and dream about how it is to live in one of the many million-dollar homes that line the canals. They are quite dreamy!


NOTE: Since parking is always a concern in L.A., don't worry because there appears to be a lot of places to park around the area. You can either park in a lot on North Venice Boulevard or if you get there early in the morning, you'll most likely find street parking on one of the smaller streets.

Monday, January 19, 2015

I believe

I have always wanted to do one of these "I believe" posts, so when I saw that Megan was hosting a one-time link-up on the topic, I figured there's no better time to do it than now. 


I believe ...

... that some days, a large supply of cocoa and a good book can make all things right.

... that time does heal all wounds but how long involves a less definite statement.

... that not getting what we want can sometimes oftentimes be a blessing in disguise.

... that change is always somewhat scary but oh-so-necessary.

... that mending a broken heart starts with having both feet on the floor.

... that no matter how bad our day seems to be, there is still something to be grateful for.

... that it's okay to cry during every episode of Parenthood. It's good for the soul.

... that chocolate-covered blueberries has to be the best invention since M&Ms.

... that you can never go wrong when you choose good and act with kindness.

... that every single day is a new opportunity ... 


I Believe Link-Up

Saturday, January 17, 2015

How to Fit a Workout In Your Already Busy Day

Hike Malibu trails. (View from Los Liones trail)

If you're anything like me, you have every intention of waking up at 5:00 a.m. every morning, hike for an hour, and be on your way to the office by 7:00 a.m. But on most days, about 95% of the time, your intentions fail. Especially since it has been cold and dark in the morning, you have good reason to stay cuddled and warm in bed so when the alarm goes off at 5:00 a.m. (the only hour you can fit in a workout), you don't even hear it.

Lately, that has been my typical morning. And finally I had to accept that working out or going for a hike early in the morning during the week just didn't work for me (no pun intended). In fact, working out for an hour every day wasn't working for me. At least, not right now, when it's much cooler in the morning and my free time is limited juggling two jobs (I say two because having your own practice really is like having two jobs, one where you represent clients and get paid, the other where you manage the office and don't get paid, but oh-so-necessary all the same). Then, not to mention there's the novel I'm trying to finish, so my plate really is full.

But, despite the limited time, I knew that I still needed to make an intentional effort to include movement into my schedule.  Especially since I spend most of my day sitting in front of the computer, which studies have found are really, really bad due to the effects it can have on both our physical and mental health, I had to find a way to keep my body moving throughout the day. I realized that although I may not have a continuous hour to dedicate to a workout every day, it didn't mean I couldn't work out at all. So, here are some ways I fit a workout into my day:

1. Squats while brushing my teeth: I have found that this is where multitasking can have positive results. So, instead of just standing in front of the sink while brushing my teeth, I do squats. Afterwards, not only am I taking care of my teeth but I get to tone my thighs and glutes at the same time. Win, win!

2. Stairs instead of the elevator. My office is on the seventh floor, so as much as possible, I try to take the stairs instead of using the elevator. Although it's difficult for me to do so when I arrive in the morning because I'm usually carrying a heavy load of case files, I take a break during the day to do so. I set an alarm to remind myself to walk down the stairs to the lobby and walk right back up. It's not only good for my heart, but for my mind, too, as it forces me to step away from the computer and take a mental break.

3. The long way trip to the restroom.  Again, since my job requires me to sit in front of the computer for most of the day, I take advantage of any excuse to get up and move my body.  A trip to the restroom is a good way to increase the number of steps you take during the day. Sometimes, I go to the furthest restroom on our floor or sometimes, I even walk up or down one floor to another restroom. Remember that any movement, even for short period of time, can have a profound impact on your health.

4. Read and pace. When I have to review or read an actual document that I can hold in my hands, I get up from my chair and read while standing or pacing around the office.  Again, it's a good way to keep my body moving while working at the same time.

5.  10-minute (standing abs) break.  Youtube is a great resource of workout videos ranging from five minutes to over an hour. Lately, I've been obsessed with this ten-minute standing ab workout video (check it out here).  My favorite part is that it's only ten minutes, you do it while standing up, and you can practically do it at any time.  You can do it in the morning before leaving for the office or when you get home at night or even in the middle of the day. Ten minutes is not a long time.  If we're honest with ourselves, we probably spend more than ten minutes a day browsing through Facebook.  (In fact, in 2013, it was reported that the total daily average mobile time spent on Facebook is half an hour. And that's just the average for those using their smartphone to check on Facebook, not including the time spent in front of an actual computer checking Facebook.)  So, why not challenge yourself? Replace one of your Facebook-checking breaks with an abs workout. By summer, you might need to buy yourself some new pants or at least a belt or even pull out that bikini you threw in the back of the closet.

6. Stretch, stretch, stretch.  This you can do at anytime and anywhere.  I stretch in bed the moment I wake up, stretch when I step out of the car, and if you happen to walk by my office, I'm sure you'll catch me with my arms stretched out towards the ceiling while sitting in my chair reviewing documents or conducting research on the computer.  Although I'm by no means an expert, I've heard that stretching not only increases the circulation in our bodies but (and this I can attest to), I have found it helps me relax and alleviates any pressure I may feel in my lower back after sitting for a long period of time.  


Now, how do you fit a workout in your busy day? I'm always looking for other ideas and would love to hear from you.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

2015 Goals to Get My Behind Moving


It's only ten days into the new year so I think it's still okay to talk about resolutions and goals. Although I'm a firm believer that every day is an opportunity for change, for resolve, or to just get off our behinds and do whatever it is that we've always wanted to do, there is something about a new year that strongly inspires that. Even if the inspiration tends to lose its momentum after a few days or weeks, I believe that jolt, aspiration, for a new beginning, a better tomorrow, is a necessary step. And maybe just one day, you will make the physical step towards the life that had been burning inside your heart.

I had always been a resolutions person. During the last week of December, I would usually write down my resolutions, and year after year, by February, those resolutions would be forgotten. Then, in the last couple of years, I decided to do something different. Write out goals instead: goals for the year and goals for each month. At the end, I'm happy to report that I fared much better at accomplishing at least a quarter of my goals. I found that setting monthly goals forced me to focus and the shorter deadlines worked for the procrastinator in me. In the latter half of last year, I decided to start setting weekly goals. Again, I didn't accomplish most of them, most would move to the next week and the next. But, by the end of the month, I saw that the things that mattered or I deemed more important were done, and thus, although I didn't reach perfection, I made progress.

Then, about two months ago, I heard the buzz about Lara Casey's PowerSheets. I started looking into them, and thought, well, that's what I've been doing this last year, writing down my goals, and so, I must be doing something right since everyone on Instagram seemed to be hyped about these PowerSheets. I decided against purchasing them since I'm also on the thrifty side and didn't want to spend money on something I can write out in a $2.00 notebook.

But, two weeks into December, I was still stalking Lara Casey's online shop, and reading up on everyone's comments on Instagram about how wonderful these PowerSheets were. On a slow December workday, I made a hasty decision and ordered them. I was amazed how they arrived in two days, but I still waited more than a week to actually look at them. In fact, aside from buying and putting them into a fancy notebook, I didn't look at the sheets until December 31st, the day I always reserve for reflection and planning.

I went to a cafe I had always been meaning to go to, fell in love with the place, and sat there for three hours working through the PowerSheets. That hasty decision I made a few weeks earlier turned out to be a great one. I know it's too early to say whether I actually accomplish any of the ten goals I set, but whether I do or not, the process that the PowerSheets took me through made me realize why certain goals were important to me, and why I had not accomplished some of the same goals year after year. I learned quite a bit about myself going through those sheets, and thus, even if I don't accomplish half the things I wrote, I know that at the very least my I'm acting and living a life with more intention.


So, how about those goals for this year? Well, here are a few:

1. Saturate myself in Scripture. I kept telling myself every year for the last few that I will read the Bible. And every year, I only opened it when I was in church or Bible study. This year, I started a Bible reading plan to read the entire Bible in a year. And so far, so good. No matter how tired I feel or busy I think I am, I open up my Bible and I read. I've already learned so much in just nine days.

2. Organize my finances and be in a better financial state. This is a work in progress. But, I have been more mindful and intentional with my spending. I'm being more consistent with tracking my profit and loss, and knowing that I can control my finances rather than have it control me feels liberating. I paid off a credit card two days and that felt especially great.

3. Finish and edit my novel / immerse myself in writing consistently.  Another work in progress, but I am writing more. I set a daily goal of writing at least an hour a day - using writing prompts or just journal writing or simply novel scribbling (where I just purge novel scene ideas onto the page). I have yet to reach the hour a day, but I have been writing at least 15-20 minutes, and each time I sit down to write the words seem to flow more easily out of me. I feel that my creative side has come to life. I woke up at 2:00 this morning, and this sentence I thought I should add to my novel just kept nagging at me that I got up, picked up my notebook and pen, and wrote for half an hour. I was so excited that I wanted to keep writing but I had a hike scheduled for 7:00 a.m., so I forced myself to go back to sleep.

4. Organize the back end of my practice. This means filing things away and keeping my desk tidy. The goal is to spend time working and not scrambling for documents and files that are either in the back seat of my car or buried under a stack of mail. I also needed to make sure that I wasn't always overwhelmed with busy work that I didn't take the time to evaluate my business, network to make sure I had consistent work flow coming in, and continue to update myself on the law and learn something new. Those were important things for the growth of my practice. And so, I'm working on being more organized not only with my space but my time.

5. Learn something new every day. This is one of my daily goals each month. I believe it's important to learn something new every day. It not only exercises our brain but for me, it makes me feel more alive and young and fulfilled. Young children are curious and learning every day, so I thought, why not continue to be like that? The other day I learned different chess strategies so that hopefully one day this year, I will beat my nine-year-old nephew. Then, the next day I read up on expungements as a refresher, and I learned something new. The Bible teaches me something new everyday, so this goal has been successful so far.    


What are your goals for 2015? Do you go through a specific ritual of reflecting and goal setting? I'd love to hear your ideas!


Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 insta-moments


I've been thinking about doing a 2014 recap posts for the last couple of weeks, and after looking through my Instagram photos I decided that these photos would be the best way to express what this year has meant to me. These photos are not necessarily my favorite, or the most popular ones, and yes, they don't capture my bad moments because of course, there were many of those, too, but I believe they do encapsulate what this year has meant to me. So, here it goes, starting from top left to right:

1. Books. One of my goals this year was to read more books and that I did. In the beginning of the year, I joined a book club to keep me motivated and accountable. At the same time, I thought it would be nice to meet other women who shared my passion for a good story. In the course of ten months, I did not only read great books that I would not have picked up or known otherwise, but made new friends with some amazing women. For an introvert, joining a book club with strangers, where heated and emotional discussions will most likely take place at some point, was a big move away from my comfort zone. But it was a much needed move that opened my eyes. For one, it taught me that I'm not alone: there are many others out there that talk about book characters like they're old friends to weep and laugh with. I've had so much fun with my book club ladies and I can't wait for all the wonderful books we'll be reading in 2015.

2. Home. For a very long time, I had this love and hate relationship with L.A. (I wrote a post about it here.) I felt disconnected to the city, and as the years went by, it felt less and less like home. But again, I knew I was not going to leave. At least not for good and not any time soon. So, I thought I should once again become reacquainted with the place I grew up in. I took this photo of the fountain in downtown L.A. after taking the train to the courthouse one day in early February. I remember sitting by the fountain, watching men and women in suits engrossed in their cell phones while standing in the long line at Starbucks. It was a chilly morning, but there was a young couple in T-shirts and shorts sprawled by the fountain, taking turns posing for pictures. A few feet away from them, there was a woman in a coat and scarf with her face buried in a book. I just sat there for awhile, taking it all in. And I remember this distinct feeling of affection and gratitude came over me. Affection for this city that not only holds many memories but the people that mean the world to me. And gratitude for this place that grounds me. This place that hasn't given me any reason to leave. Since then, I've done a little more exploring of the city and I realized that sometimes, quality time is what is needed to reconnect an old, strained relationship.

3. Solitude. In late February/early March, I went to Sacramento for a seminar. While there, I visited the capitol museum and something about this room appealed to me. There was not that much traffic while I was there, and I got to enjoy the stillness, the quiet. This year, more than ever, I've appreciated my moments of solitude. The time I had to read, to write and most of all, to fix some of the messy fringes left over from some bad habits and choices. Although I was upset and worried at first when work was slow, that extra time I had did give me time to fix the things in my life that I had neglected, i.e. my finances. I know it seems paradoxical that not having enough work helped me fix my finances, but it did because I finally had the time to look at the big picture. For years I was just working like a madwoman, paying bills on a monthly basis without really looking at my total expenses and debt, and how to manage them so that I can be financially secure later in life. I've learned that although the idea of living in the moment sounds appealing, it can also have its drawbacks especially when it comes to money.

4. Priorities. This year, I spent most of my Monday afternoons with my nephew, and on one such Monday, I took him to his first trip to Ben and Jerry's. One of the things I struggled with in having my own practice was setting a disciplined schedule for myself. I usually found myself working at scattered hours 'round the clock and so, it felt like I was just working all the time. But because of those Monday afternoons with my nephew, I learned to set a schedule for work, and a time to really stop working and just pay attention to what and who was in front of me. Of course, it also helped that work was slow at times, but nonetheless, having someone depend on my time forced me to focus, and reinforced the importance of setting priorities. Mondays became my favorite day of the week because I knew that I'd see my nephew and that I'd learn something new about a book he was reading or a story he was writing. I think kids are so much smarter and wiser these days. My nephew read a birthday poem that I wrote for his dad when I was ten years old and he corrected my grammar on it. He is nine.

5. Surrendering. This photo was taken in Los Olivos on my 40th birthday. My two girlfriends took the day off to celebrate with me. We had a picnic at a winery, and then, went to Solvang for dessert. It was the first time I actually took a day off from work for my birthday, and although it took some convincing, I think I may make it a yearly tradition. I love this photo not only because of the beautiful open road, the cloud patches and that grand tree, but what I remember feeling when I look at it. Surrender. You see, the anticipation of turning 40 was long winded and stressful. I wasn't in the place in my life that I had planned to be. That I had wanted to be. And that often made me feel disappointed. But finally, I realized that I was exactly where God intended me to be. I finally surrendered to God's plans, which are much greater and smarter than my own. Doing that has taken the burden off me. All I have to do is follow. Take His guided steps to get through this amazing gift of life that I had been given.

6. Brave faith. You may be wondering how this picture can mean that. Well, it was the photo with the blog post I shared on Facebook about turning 40. (You can read it here.) Although I've shared a few blog posts on Facebook throughout the years, this was the first time I shared with people I knew without censoring myself. Writing was always personal for me, and for some reason, I was fine sharing my thoughts and heart with strangers who read my blog, but sharing with people I knew was frightening. Then, I turned 40, and it was less scary. I owe it to brave faith.

7. Risks. I'm not much of a risk taker. At least I didn't think so. I tread more on the side of caution, where I'm comfortable. Then, around spring, around the time I was struggling with facing a new decade, I found this opportunity to take a hiking trip to Zion National Park with a group of strangers. And I signed up without really thinking too much about the details. As the date of the trip neared, I started getting anxious about spending a whole weekend in a different state, at a national park, with people I didn't know at all. There were messages going back and forth about carpooling and rooming together. All I could think about was how I hated sharing rooms with people I knew, how much more with people I didn't know. I didn't like being a passenger in a car for hours, and stressed about having to make small talk with people I may not even like. But as all these thoughts went through my head, there was a stronger feeling inside of me that said I needed to go on this trip. That I was going to be okay. So, although the trip had been planned for months, I bought all my equipment and gear only two weeks before. Then, three days before the trip, I was about to cancel. Or just drive out to Utah by myself so I didn't have to sit in a car with strangers. But, of course, I didn't do either. Despite my hesitation, I carpooled with three strangers and roomed with two. And despite my fear of heights, despite cramps and over-a-hundred-degree weather, I hiked to the top of Angels Landing. (You can read my post about that experience here.) It was an experience that taught me that when you draw on faith for courage, you can accomplish the things you set out to do because you're no longer crippled by fear. And that is liberating.

8. Perspective. In September, I participated in this Sunrise/Sunset Challenge, where you simply take a picture of the sunrise and sunset from wherever you are and post it on Facebook. It was to raise money for Paul Walker's organization, ROWW (Reach Out Worldwide). So, on Friday, September 12th, I woke up early in the morning and drove to Runyon Canyon to watch the sunrise. On my way, I stopped at the Mulholland lookout point and watched the city before it woke up. I had passed by that lookout point many, many times but that was the first time I had ever stopped and stepped down to see the view for myself. What I saw was this view of the city, still and quiet, except for the lights and for the sun that was starting to come up. It felt so peaceful up there, and a sense of calmness just settled in my chest. A calmness that has remained. This year has been quite eventful, and such is life, has had its many ups and downs. But with the perspective of distance came peace with the choices I had made. And peace with the knowledge that as long as I choose good, I'll be okay.

9. Writing. This year I wrote. I wrote short stories, an essay and a novel for National Novel Writing Month. Looking back at all of that has made me realize that I was the only hindrance to my dream of writing. Now that I know I can get out of my way, I think know that I'll be writing more. I'm excited for what 2015 will bring now that I finally figured out how to include writing - consistent writing - into my life.


How was your 2014? 


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

... so I'm doing this

I started blogging consistently again. Participated in blogging challenges that I didn't quite finish. And then, I disappeared because well, now I'm doing this ...


If you're not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it happens every November. The goal is to write 50,000 words of a new novel in 30 days. Pretty much, the goal is to finish the first draft of a novel. What I've learned so far in the last five days is that it's TOUGH. It's incredibly hard. And I respect, even more, any writer who has written a book. 

As for me, I don't seem to learn from putting too much on my plate. Between trying to finish those blogging challenges, training for the half marathon, and working, I got a bad cold and was sick for a few days. It pushed me way back in training and now, I don't even know if I'll be able to run because of course, there is always something else ...

... this time, it's my back, which may have a lot to do with sitting for long hours working, writing and in traffic. Yesterday, I left the office early because the pain in my lower back had traveled to my upper back/shoulder area and well, let's just say that it hurt too much that I couldn't push it out of my mind. I got home, cooked dinner and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in bed, uncomfortably. I couldn't move without letting out a scream. 

I woke up this morning and thought of going to yoga class, but my bed pulled me back in, scolding me about not getting enough sleep in the last couple of weeks. What I needed was sleep because well, waking up at 4:00 a.m. the last couple of days was wearing my body out. And, as much as I hate to admit it, my bed was right. An extra hour of sleep didn't make my pain completely go away, but my body felt rested and stronger that I can fight it. And now, I can lift the coffee mug without letting out a scream.  

Now, that I've vented, what do I do? What other lessons have I learned? 

Well, I really want to finish this novel. And I will. This month. Because I've completely lost my mind. No, but seriously, I've realized more than ever that I'm a writer. It's the part of me I fight all the time because there are all of these other roles that take or need priority: lawyer, daughter, sister, aunt, friend. So, I keep writer me on a shelf, hidden away, and I take her out only once in awhile, and when I do it's usually at the end of the day when I'm exhausted. But the last few weeks, I've taken her out more and even shared her with others, and despite getting sick and now with this excruciating back pain, I've never felt more like me. Complete. Whole. 

So, I'm going to keep on writing. Despite back pain and no time at all, I'm going to write. 

I'll check in here at least once a week, twice if I'm really insane, during this month of novel writing. Wish me luck! And if you're participating in NaNoWriMo, leave me a message and/or add me as a buddy here. I'd love to hear from you.


Friday, October 24, 2014

When 24 hours a day is not enough


 It has been a rough couple of days. In fact, the last week and a half has been quite a struggle as I tried to accomplish everything on my to-do list while at the same time fighting a cold and a bout of exhaustion.

In the beginning of this month, I signed myself up for several blogging and writing challenges (the write 31 days challenge, the 500 words a day challenge, and Intentional Blogging challenge), as well as, a half marathon that is scheduled for next month, when I'm supposed to be participating in NaNoWriMo (write 50,000 words in 30 days). Not to mention I do have to work and manage my business, which takes up a good chunk of my time. And sleep. I do need sleep, and an hour and a half of Gilmore Girls before I'm tucked in.

I started this month with a lot of energy and determination. I was running every other day at 6:30 a.m. and then, writing every night until way past midnight. I was publishing posts on a consistent basis, almost daily. Work had picked up again and I was gratefully cranking on those billable hours.

Then, the two-week mark hit. I woke up feeling like I had just ran two marathons. I had the chills, but not the kind that happens after a long run. My head was stuffy, my eyes were burning, and my nose was running. I was sick. I was exhausted.

It's a problem I have. I try to do so much all at once until my body begins to protest and eventually forces me to stop, take a break. But, even when I do, there's a noisy nagging in my head that scolds my guilty conscience for giving up. I have a hard time accepting that sometimes I can't do it all: work full-time and a half and also be able to consistently publish decent (at the very least, mildly interesting) material on my blog. Run and increase my mileage every week. Read my book club's pick of the month. Have my weekly Mondates with my nephew and Sunday bible study with my family. (And of course, there's my nightly dates with the Gilmore Girls.)

There's a lot to do in a day, in a week. And I want to do it all. 100%.

But, it's tough. Time is something I struggle with. 24 hours seem like a lot, and yet, I still can't finish everything on my to-do list. A few weeks ago I saw a mug that said, "You have the same hours in the day as Beyonce." I assumed the message was that Beyonce does a lot (or can do it all), and so, why can't we? Why couldn't I?

I know Beyonce may not be a fair example or comparison. And this post is not about comparing myself to her. I don't know how Beyonce uses or manages her time. But I know how I use mine. And sometimes, I just don't manage it well. I try to cramp too much in a day because I want to do it all. And all at once. But, sometimes, that just isn't possible. And in reality, I just end up not getting much done at all because I'm exhausted.

So, what do I do? What do we do when reality interferes with our dreams? When 24 hours in a day are just not enough but it's what we have?

Well, for starters, I listened to my body and took a break. A quiet break to work on silencing the critical nagging in my head. I do this by praying and meditating. That's what works for me.

Once all the noise has subsided, I then go over my to-do list again, but this time, I have a calmer, less exhausted, mind, so that I can evaluate the importance of each item. Do I really need to do all 1001 things on Monday or can 500 wait until Tuesday? Do these items affect anyone? What are the consequences if I don't accomplish what's on my list that day? That week? Or even that month?

This is what I came up with: One, I need to work and so, a good chunk of time, a minimum of eight hours a day, has to be dedicated to that. Monday afternoon dates with my nephew are important, and so, on Mondays, I just have to get up at least an hour earlier, so that I can still accomplish a full day of work and even fit a half hour of writing in the morning.

I don't have to run everyday to train. Three or four times a week is sufficient, and on the days I do run, I just can't expect myself to also publish a new post on my blog. Two posts (or three on some weeks) is all I can dedicate right now, and I shouldn't beat myself up for it.

Because I do want to finish my novel. And at least one hour of writing a day, even if that hour is broken in fifteen-minute increments, is better than nothing. I'll be at least one hour closer to finishing my novel.

And this brings me to some of the sacrifices I need to make: I need to cut out my nightly bonding with the Gilmore Girls. (Hey, maybe it's the key to Beyonce's ability to do it all.) I know nestling on the couch, watching Gilmore Girls, is my "way of unwinding," but I need to be honest with myself. Sometimes we have too much fun and they keep me up later at night, cuts in on the sleep I need to get, and I have a hard time waking up to run or write in the morning.

Sometimes, to accomplish all we want or need to do requires saying no, or maybe later, to some dates. But, when you think about it, we maybe saying "no" to something or someone, but we're also saying "yes" to what's pressing, what we need to do, our dream.

Besides, I can catch up with the Gilmore Girls on Friday nights.

Friday, October 17, 2014

7 Essential Lessons About Being Self-Employed That I Wish I Knew 10 Years Ago


Before I went to law school, it was my dream that one day I'd have my own firm. I imagined a big window office in downtown L.A., with fancy furniture and beautiful artwork to fill the white spaces between the bookcases that lined the walls. I thought that maybe I'd have at least two associate attorneys, a secretary, a bookkeeper, and several law clerks that worked at various periods during the year. It was a realistic dream, I thought, since there were a lot of large law firms, some with over one hundred employees, and all I wanted was at most five. I can handle a firm with five employees. All I needed to do was be someone else's associate for ten years, earn enough money to pay off at least half of my debt, and of course, learn the skills needed to be my own boss.

Life did not turn out as I planned. When I graduated, jobs were scarce in the specific area of law that I wanted to practice. Fortunately, I knew enough attorneys who were willing to give me assignments to work on, appearances to make, and even got me appointed to assist on some serious (meaning death-penalty serious) cases.  So, I was busy, working 60-to-80-hour weeks. And before I knew it, one year, then, two, three, four years had passed, and I was a self-employed attorney. I have been for over ten years.

But, I didn't intend to be self-employed so early on in my career. There were student loans to be paid, not to mention, rent, food, insurance, and on occasion, I like to travel. And because I didn't really "plan" on being self-employed, I wasn't prepared for all the not-so-pleasant mechanics it entailed.

(1) Taxes, taxes, and some more taxes. Just to let you know upfront, I'm not by any means a tax protester. I do not mind paying taxes. I actually believe it's a necessary part of our government, our society. But, aside from filing my yearly tax return, taxes was not something I thought about very much. Not until the April after my first full year of being self-employed. That was when I realized that the numbers that appeared on my vendors' checks didn't all belong to me. About 40% belonged to Uncle Sam because when you're self-employed, which means no one takes money of your paychecks, you also have to pay what is called self-employment tax. So, basically, you'll owe a lot more in taxes, and I wasn't prepared for that. It has been a very painful lesson. 

(2) You'll no longer be just you, but several different versions of you. Remember my dream of having two associates, a secretary and a bookkeeper? Well, unless you had also prepared yourself financially to employ those people, unlike myself, you'll end up doing all the work that was meant for them. So, in my case, on top of being a lawyer, I have to be a secretary, receptionist, bookkeeper, filer, messenger, and all the other important roles that make an office function. This leads to the next item.

(3) Unpaid overtime is something you need to get used to. When I tell people I'm self-employed, the first thing they usually say is how lucky I am to never have to clock in. I can work anytime I feel like it. And it's true. The flexibility with being self-employed is great. I'm not going to deny that. But, if you want to be able to pay your rent or mortgage every month, you do need to put in the hours, and the hours are long. Because like I said, you're usually working several jobs in running your office or business, and usually, only one (or two) of those jobs really pay. As a lawyer, I only get paid for the hours I'm actually working on a case. The two or three hours a day I spend managing my business, i.e. organizing files, bookkeeping, along with the hours I spend staying updated on the law (studying), all those I do for no compensation. Thus, the hours can be very long.

(4) "Sick" and "vacation" will be lost from your vocabulary. When  you're self-employed, you start thinking that you must always be open for business because otherwise, you won't get paid, or worst, not have a business to return to. So, even if you're sick, you show up. Since the idea of taking two weeks off is terrifying, you don't do it. But, this is where I tell you that you must. Take at least a one-week vacation once a year. Two weeks is even better. It took me many years, but I finally learned the art of vacationing while being self-employed. But that will have to be another post.

(5) There will be slump time. In the beginning of my self-employment, I was so busy that I didn't think of applying for jobs or seeking out more work. I was fortunate that assignments and cases were just handed to me from my small network of attorneys that I was working almost the equivalent of two full-time jobs. So, I wasn't prepared when the slump happened. But, they do happen to most businesses and industries. Times and circumstances change, and just like there are highs, there will be lows, and you need to be prepared for those lows. When it happened to me, I was terrified because I couldn't afford not getting a certain amount of money every month. I needed money in the pipeline. And it was during those desperate times that I realized the importance of marketing, networking, and having several sources of income. Yes, they added to my list of job titles and positions, but they were necessary if I wanted to stay self-employed and survive through another slump.

(6) No one will take you seriously until you take yourself seriously. Being self-employed requires a certain mindset, i.e. discipline, especially when your office is at your home. Something about working from home makes others think you're not really working. Suddenly you become the person friends or family call during their breaks or midday drive from a doctor's appointment. You become the first person they think about when they need a ride to the airport in the middle of the day, or need to pick something up from the store, or need someone to review their resume right before they send it off. And you start feeling that you can do all those things because there's no one telling you not to. In fact, you had just put in two loads of laundry into the washer before logging on to your computer. But, you can't do those things, at least not all the time, because you need to work and you need to pay your bills. So, what I found useful in making others take me seriously even though I'm working in my PJs (they don't have to know that) is actually starting my work day at the same time the majority of people I know start their work day. Yes, I can sleep in until 10:00 a.m. and start work at 12:00 p.m., but I don't. I get up early as if I need to be in the office by 8:00 a.m., and I try to start working no later than 9:00 a.m. Once I implemented this, and my friends and family saw that I was serious, they took me seriously, too. But, that first year was tough.

(7) Which is why you need to be your toughest and most demanding boss. Because being self-employed means your business rises and falls with you. There will be days you don't want to show up, and since no one is there to check up and reprimand you for being late or absent, it's easy not to. It's one of the best parts of being self-employed - having control of your time, the flexibility. But, a good boss is a tough boss who looks out for the well-being of not only the company but also its employees. To ensure that the employees continue to be compensated the company must continue to make money. When you're self-employed, the boss, company, and employee is you. So, you need to be tough. You need to show up and do the best work you can. And you'll never be unemployed. (You may experience a slump from time to time, but never unemployed. Unless, of course, you fire yourself.)

And I'll end on this note, being self-employed is hard work, but it has been worth it. If you didn't get this from my post, I love what I do, despite not having the fancy furniture and expensive artwork and a staff. It takes a lot of discipline, not only in working to make money but in spending money, because there will be weeks and months that you may not get an income or make any profit, but it's doable. You just also have to know that it may take a few years until you actually feel like you've made it, but it's possible.


Disclaimer: These lessons come from my personal experiences as a self-employed attorney in a one-income household. So, your experiences may be different depending on what industry or life circumstances you're in. Whatever the case, I hope it has given you insight or at the very least, some things to ponder on, if you're thinking of branching out on your own.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

5 reasons not to give up on L.A.

I've had a love and hate relationship with Los Angeles (L.A.) for a very long time. Since high school (which was a long, long time ago), I've been dreaming about leaving her (she's a female, by the way).

First, it was go to college in Virginia, Connecticut or New York. I had spent a summer in Virginia and was convinced the east coast was where I belonged. But, when it came to applying for colleges I never applied to any schools in those places. I went to college in L.A.

Then, it was go to grad school, get an MFA, in New York. I went to law school instead. Again, in Los Angeles.

After I passed the California bar exam, the plan was to take the New York bar or Pennsylvania's (because I heard they had reciprocity with more states), so I can finally move to the east coast, where I wanted to raise my children. I never took another bar exam again. I don't have children. I still live in Los Angeles.

I couldn't leave. I never made an attempt to leave even if it was for a short while: college for four years, law school for three. The longest I'd been away from L.A. since I became a financially independent adult was the month I spent in Europe after taking the bar exam. Yet, this churning desire to live elsewhere consumed me, especially during the days I'd commute to the office. While I marinaded in frustration in my car during an hour and a half long commute on the 405 freeway (to travel less than 25 miles, I should mention), I'd berate myself for not being a risk taker, a go-getter, aggressive and all the other things that I think people who move away are.

Then, after hearing news reports after new reports about the polar vortex last winter, I thought that maybe I should try to fall in love with L.A. because I don't do too well with extremely cold weather. Low 50s is cold enough for me. I'm happy with low 50s. And it was decided, I'm never going to move.

But, how do you fall in love with a place when you already know all its flaws and have been so turned off by it?

First, I decided to let go of the past and the idea that there is some place better out there that I can call home. I made a conscious effort to look past the endless freeways filled with angry commuters and seek out the good things L.A. has to offer. I learned quite a few things and got to see new places. The best part is that I was reminded of why I shouldn't give up on L.A., why it's worth staying (aside from my family and friends - I can finally take the burden off of them):

(1) L.A. is known for its cars - the wrath of its jammed freeways. In fact, traffic is a common word in any conversation (social, business) with anyone (boss, security guard, stranger in Starbucks) you come across to in L.A. It's a part of our vocabulary. Sometimes Oftentimes, it's the first thing that we talk about. It has become the perfect, and acceptable, excuse for being late. Just blame it on traffic. However, L.A. does have a subway system, and one day, I decided to take it to downtown L.A. rather than cursing with all the other 101 commuters. I found it was quite easy and it took me from North Hollywood to downtown Civic Center in half an hour. An extra perk is that the North Hollywood station is actually quite beautiful with artwork that tourists (and non-tourists like me) can take pictures of.



(2) They are not Central Park, but downtown L.A. has beautiful, charming parks where you can read a book, drink coffee while staring at a great fountain, or just enjoy the beautiful view of the skyline.

Grand Park
Vista Hermosa Park
(3) You can hike year-round in L.A. at the many, many trails you'll find in whatever area or direction you're headed. Although L.A. is known for its seemingly endless freeways that connects its different neighborhoods and sub-cities, its hiking trails also do just that and they have the most amazing views. (If you're not much for hiking, then there's yoga. You can do yoga outdoors in L.A. year-round, as well.)

View from Runyon Canyon
(4) You don't have to travel very far (you just have to bear the traffic) or spend a lot of money to experience another country.

Just go to the Getty Villa in Malibu and pretend you spent a day in Italy.
Drive to Solvang and you can say you just spent a day in Denmark.
And, the next one on my list is to visit Venice (in Venice, California). Check out this great post on the Venice Canals: Walk Europe in Southern California.

(5)  The ocean. I don't go to the beach often enough, I'm not really a fan of sand and all, but looking at the water does wonders to my soul.

View from Sara Wan Trail.

Of course, there are a great many other things about L.A. that makes it worth staying here. But, I've been sick the  last two days. My head is stuffy. My feet are cold. So, all that comes to mind is how grateful I am that even in my sick state, I can sit outside (albeit in fuzzy socks) and work in the balcony, because even though it's mid-October (and usually I'd wish for more fall-like weather), but the sun is out, the air is calm, and the breeze is just right. Now, that sounds like I'm bragging a little. But, people move to L.A. for its weather all the time (either that or Hollywood), so let's brag away.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

In the moment: new fall stories

NYC October 2012
As I walked out into my living room this morning, I was greeted with the smell of fall. I had left the window open the night before, allowing the crisp air and a cool breeze to enter and settle into the room. The sky looked gray but that feeling of newness that fall brings, that feeling I had been longing for, finally arrived.

I'm a summer baby, born at the end of July, but fall is my season. It is when I come alive. When the leaves change colors, a sense of urgency to start anew emerges inside of me, and suddenly I, too, want a change.

This year has been rough. Financially. For the first half, I was discouraged, confused, and lost about where I wanted to go with my career. I questioned whether all the choices I had made up to this point were wrong.

The start of summer kicked me in the butt with barely any work coming in, which meant no money in the pipeline. At the same time, I had all of these pre-planned trips (of course, made before the work/money slump). July came and I was a stress-case. I thought it would be really irresponsible if I went on all of those trips when I didn't know when paychecks would start coming in again. I fretted, contemplated, then declared war against my calculator. It was telling me not to go, and I so wanted to go.

I went.

But, not without giving it a lot of thought. And not without a financial plan to ensure I didn't end up homeless by September. So, I wasn't completely irresponsible.

Then, what I did was I took the work slump and turned it into an opportunity to re-evaluate my career. Time that I didn't have much of before to take a close look at my mistakes and map out what I needed to do to make some needed changes. Since I had several trips planned out, it was also an opportunity to vacation without the burden of deadlines hanging over me. I got to immerse myself in the experience of wine tasting in Napa, learning the culture of New Orleans, and hiking in Zion.

What could have been a bad summer turned into a really good one with just a little change in perspective. Instead of telling a story of failure and stress, I get to tell the story of the summer I moved out of my comfort zone and had an amazing time.

Now, it's fall, the earth's open invitation for change and new beginnings. A perfect time to start another story. And I'm ready for one. At this point I'm not quite sure yet what the plot or theme will be, but I know it involves my career and writing moving into another direction. The details are still in its preliminary draft, but at least I'm writing it. And that's a start.
  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

This moment: a writer's rant to find her voice


I've tried to write a post for the last two hours, but halfway through, I hit a wall. The words seemed force. They didn't come naturally. They didn't sound like me. They didn't sound like me because I was making them sound like someone else's voice. I tend to do that when I find a voice that I like, a voice that pulls me in. I start thinking I want to write like that. I like that person's voice and I want to sound just like that person. Maybe if my voice was like that person's I'd have more readers or I'd finally get something published. So, I try to mimic, and it never works.

Because it's not my voice.

I once heard someone say that copying someone else's voice not only cheats you out of getting your's heard but it also deprives the world from hearing what you have to say. Since most written subjects are universal, what makes each story unique is the voice of the writer. And that was why my college poetry professor and adviser kept telling me to find my voice and once I did, to not be afraid to let it out.  

But I struggle with that. Being a writer we bare our souls with our words, our voice. And that can be terrifying because it makes us vulnerable, craving for acceptance of our work, our stories. I've been reading a lot of posts on the 31-Dayer Facebook page about concerns that the challenge has not brought much traffic to the blogs. And I'm guilty of that concern, as well. We're writers and we want readers. We write to be read. It goes hand in hand.

Yet, I also believe that writing is a personal journey, where there's a lot to be gained and those are not lost just because the experience was not shared with others. That's what I tell myself to keep me writing. We need to practice our skill. And that's what this writing challenge is all about, right? To push us to write.

And boy, it's pushing me. It's kicking my arse.

Because it has been a challenge. For one, there's the commitment. It takes a lot of time to write everyday. It takes even more time when you know you're going to publish it for all of blog world to read. It takes time that I don't have.

But again, I'm doing it. I'm doing it because I'm tired of hearing myself talk about how I want to be a writer but I don't spend nearly enough time writing (outside of what I write for work, that is). I don't spend the time necessary to finish my novel and the collection of short stories I've started. I'm just tired of starting something and not finishing it. So, even if this post has become a rant of some sort, I'm writing. And I'm writing in my voice.

Sometimes, if going on a rant is what it takes to find your voice, do it. Just write.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Paying attention to now: my brushing teeth exercise

If you're anything like me, your mind will probably start to wander off after this sentence. Maybe you have the television on and the commercial for the new season of American Horror Story came on. You can't help but look up just as the two-headed woman appears on the screen. You wonder what her story line will be although you have never seen an episode of American Horror Story before, and you don't have any intention of watching the new season so you'll never find out. This new season seems to be about the circus and you start thinking about how the circus is freaky and how clowns are scarier than that doll Annabelle. You have no intention of watching Annabelle either. Although you don't want to admit it, dolls have frightened you your entire life, so you wonder why you're even thinking about them right now. Then you remember that you were reading a blog post, so your eyes return to the computer screen.

Our minds constantly wander. True or false?

For me, it's true and false. When I am working, researching some legal issue or writing a brief, my mind becomes so focused on what I'm doing that I forget to eat or drink until my stomach starts complaining from starvation and my head starts pounding from dehydration. There had been many occasions when I've been so fixated on what I was working on that I didn't even notice the secretary enter my office and drop off mail on my desk.

But, again, I've also been equally guilty of doing something while thinking about ten million other things except what I was doing. As I mentioned before, I do a lot of story or blog crafting in my car while I'm stuck in traffic. I'm usually thinking about my to-do list for the day's work while I'm making the bed, packing my lunch, and throwing out the trash. Sometimes, I get in my car and forget whether I turned off the stove or the lights or even locked the door because while doing those things I was contemplating about whether I should take the 405 to the office or a different route. Many times my mind is 3 steps or 5 hours ahead, and after awhile, that takes its toll.

So, a few months ago, I took a series of mindfulness classes based on the book Mindfulness, An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penmann. The book came with eight mindful meditations that we practiced during the weekly hour session. Then, during the rest of the week, we had meditation homework to help us continue with the practice.  

One morning, after three weeks into the meditation exercises, while applying mascara on I heard a soft rustling sound. At first I didn't know what it was. I stopped what I was doing so I can listen more closely. When I didn't hear the sound again, I continued to apply mascara. The rustling sound became louder. That was when I realized the sound was the mascara brush stroking my lashes. It was a sound I had never heard before. It made me giddy with excitement I started laughing. I realized, then, that when you pay attention to the mundane tasks, you may hear, see, smell, feel and experience them in a completely new and different way, making them rather extraordinary.

Now, I'm by no means an expert on mindfulness. My mind is still constantly racing through one thought after another. I don't always hear the mascara brush stroking my lashes. On most days, I don't even remember putting on mascara.

But, when I start feeling burnt out, when my brain starts feeling like it's going to explode, I try to slow it down by paying attention to the now. If in my car, I read the license plates of the cars in front of me. I pay attention to the color and model of the car, and whether there appears to be one or more occupants inside. While washing the dishes, I pay attention to the water running through my hands, the sensation of the wet and slippery glass on my fingers. While making the bed, I pay attention to the wrinkles on the sheets and the sound of the cotton as I straighten them out with my hands. But, the best mindfulness exercise I give myself is while I'm brushing my teeth. There are so many senses going on at once and I practice paying attention to each one by acknowledging them: the sound of the electric toothbrush and the sight of the foam that builds up as I move the brush up and down, side to side; the feel of the spinning brushes against my teeth; the minty smell and taste of the toothpaste, and the cold sensation it leaves in my mouth. This two-minute exercise of mindfulness while brushing my teeth helps me become present and I've found that on the mornings that I do it, my brain feels more organized and rejuvenated.

What do you do to practice mindfulness? 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The importance in looking back

It was not until I got home at almost eleven last night that I remembered I was supposed to write everyday and I had completely missed writing for Day 4. I thought then that I had an hour to whip something up and I should just write about anything that came to mind. Write it quick and at least I did my writing for the day. 

But I was exhausted. I had been out of the house since 6:00 a.m. only to return for about an hour to shower and change after my run. I really didn't feel like writing. Sleep was what my body craved since I've only had a total of eight hours of it in the last two days.

I made the decision not to write, and for a moment I felt like a failure. It was Day 4 and I had already failed. Then, I took a step back and reminded myself that I just had a full day with people I loved - a full day of being present, being in the moment - so I shouldn't end it with feeling like a failure. There are days we can't do it all. I couldn't write yesterday. We make choices on how we spend our time. Yesterday, I made good choices.  

And today, I hope to make good choices, as well. I'm starting it with writing about looking back - how sometimes it's important to look back at where you came from to see how far you've come. Sometimes, in looking back you catch a different, but absolutely beautiful, view of the sunset sky that you would not have otherwise noticed if you kept your eyes fixated ahead.


The idea of living "in the moment" usually imply never looking back at what had past. But, I don't think so. It's important to look back. The danger comes when you dwell on it and you forget where you're at. Otherwise, glance at what you left behind for it carries the lessons that move you ahead.

Last night my friend and I talked about old relationships and what we learned from them. I've found that the end of any relationship, even when it was bad and unhealthy, is always sad and painful. But, what I've also found is that with every ending comes a new beginning. It's cliche, I know. But, it's a cliche that's true.

It's difficult to see that there's a tomorrow, albeit a better tomorrow, when you're in the midst of heartache. It feels like your pain will kill you because your whole body hurts. A year ago I finally realized the end of a long and very trying friendship. I remember crying all night as I mourned this loss. There were moments I couldn't breathe and couldn't see through my tears. I felt like my tears would never stop running. My eyes were so sore and swollen I didn't think I could step out of the house for a week.

But, I got through that night. In the morning, I got up, washed my face, and as I looked in the mirror at my tired eyes, I knew I was going to be okay. I had cried in the same way over another relationship ten years before, and I thought back then that my pain was literally going to kill me. It didn't. So, I knew that the pain I was feeling that night, that morning, would also pass.

Now, a year later, that pain is only a memory that I can talk about without it cutting me inside. What I realized last night in looking back and talking about it was how the end of that relationship, and the incredible pain it caused, paved the way to where I am right now: happy.

It took pushing through the pain until I was beyond it. But, I knew that I could because I knew, I learned, that God doesn't give us trials we cannot handle. I did it ten years ago. Slowly and horribly because I didn't have that lesson. I didn't know then. But last year, when I was going through my heartbreak, I knew. And from looking back, I told myself I was going to do better this time around. I told myself this time I was going to push harder because although it felt like the pain was going to kill me, it didn't. It didn't kill me ten years ago, and it wasn't going to kill me this time.

It has been an amazing year - a year filled with beautiful new beginnings. And although there has been trials, and there will continue to be trials, I'll be okay. Because I know better now. And as the words of Maya Angelou, when you know better, you do better.
  

Friday, October 3, 2014

"Snow globe" moments

I really didn't know what I was going to write about for today's post. Some days words don't come very easily. It may have a lot to do with the lack of sleep I got last night, and then, the stress of having to file a brief this morning. No matter how many times I re-read my arguments and double-check my spelling, grammar, and that I put the correct client's name on it, I still always get this anxious feeling when I file briefs. It's the perfectionist in me.

Anyhow, even though I really didn't plan for what this post would be about, I knew that it wasn't going to be about my job. So, let's move along ...

... to this moment ...


I left the office early with the intention of going home just to do some more work. I thought that at least it would be in the comfort of my home, where I can sit on the couch in my PJs while I read and analyzed reports. But, the moment I stepped inside I had this aching need to grab one of my favorite books - "One Day." 

Then, I headed to my balcony with book and coffee in hand. I took a photo of my unplanned and spontaneous Friday afternoon coffee date with Emma and Dex, and posted it on Instagram. Then, I thought I would use it as my photo for today's post. Maybe it would inspire some words to come to me.

As I stared at the computer screen, pondering on what to write and at the same time stressing that I would completely fail this challenge on the third day and that I should really be working because I still had tons of reports to review, not to mention the two volumes of transcripts I needed to finish by Sunday, I finally took a deep breath and looked up. That was when I saw the changing colors of the sky behind my laptop, smelled the vanilla scented candle that was reflecting on my book, and all of a sudden, the hassles and stress just faded away. Suddenly I was overcome with this feeling of joy and gratitude, and I couldn't help but smile. 

Then, I took a picture of it, the beautiful setting in front of me, that is. And I found the words to write today's post.  

Sometimes moments just come to us in the midst of chaos, and it's up to us to notice it. And when I say moments, I mean that split second when you're overcome with this feeling that makes you just stop whatever it was you were doing, whatever it was you were thinking, and just be. I call those moments "snow globe" moments - a time you want to stand still, take a snapshot of and preserve in this beautiful snow globe because in that single second you were changed. 

That moment can be as simple as looking up from all the ruckus in your head to noticing the beautiful sunset sky and realizing how blessed you are that you get to see that sky, smell the sweet burning candle and work from your cozy balcony. Or it could be as eye-opening as that moment when your nephew tells you that he auditioned for a play and as you listen to him gush about it you realize that God's perfect plan included you to have time for those special Mondates with your amazing nephew. Or that moment can be as sweet as the time a smile between you and the boy you had been crushing on said everything and more than words could ever describe. 

I found that being present allows us to notice those moments. And in noticing those moments, we're reminded that there's a lot to be grateful for. 

What are some of your "snow globe" moments? How did they change you?


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