August 2, 2017

Adieu, summer

Summer's waning, what's next?

Right around August 1st, my Spidey sense starts tingling.

It’s Lammas, the first harvest.

For those of us who don’t live by the agricultural calendar, the beginning of the end of summer. Our leaves don’t turn until late September, so the change is just a scent in the air. The heat starts to taper off, with a few days of heat spikes to remind us of summer’s punch, a memory for next year.

Labor Day approacheth! Mingled anticipation and dread! I wouldn’t mind the slide into fall, but for 12 years, saying good-bye to summer was immediately followed by the start of a new school year.

Despite having been out of school well over a decade, a little knot the size of a peach pit still forms in my stomach, leavened only with my love for back to school sales. My peach pit bounces around to the time of “new packs of college ruled paper! New colorful paper folders for a penny!”

Back in the day, my summers weren’t any great shakes, just great long stretches of being out of school. Most were spent at work with Mom, being tutored or running the cash register at their business. One unusual summer, there was summer school which was both incredibly scary and great fun. On the one hand, I hated having to meet new people for a short class. On the other hand, in our science class, we learned to make ice cream with just salt, milk, and ice. Who doesn’t get excited over practical science? #nerd

That enrichment was short-lived, though. We didn’t have money for real summer camp and our school district couldn’t afford real summer programs.

My working-summer theme continued into high school, the more fool me. I worked minimum wage jobs to save for extracurriculars. I was so proud to pay for all my own expenses in senior year. In hindsight, it’s a shame I didn’t ever take advantage of that summer time to be frivolous because there weren’t many of those worry-free summers left for me. As a fully fledged working adult, summer sneaks right on past.

Summers during college were full of overtime. It was also the only time I got a bit of sleep since my reward for working 60+ hours a week was not taking classes for that one quarter of the year.

Summer now? We hardly notice when it starts, except when my teacher friends start attending graduations and then we have Comic Con each year.

I don’t want our summers, and years, to slip through our fingers unnoticed. Most of the time we do well enough staying present in the moment but it’s too easy to take it all for granted as we’re preoccupied with work, school, and growing up.

In a few very short years, JuggerBaby will start school. We’ll have to start making arrangements for JuggerBaby when school is out. Maybe one of my shorter term goals needs to be setting myself up for having half days in the summers so ze and I can enjoy the summer time together. My work is more flexible than PiC’s in that way but who knows, maybe he can arrange something like that too.

It’s never too soon to start brainstorming for that future.

Do we aim to take summers off and do long road trips? That could be hard with an aging Seamus. Right now, he’s usually game for a couple of trips. I can’t tell where JB’s patience levels would be with long stretches in the car.

Do we put zir in day camp and tutoring for half the summer? That’s definitely expensive and time consuming (tuition, commuting), but if there are good educational and fun programs, it could be worth it.

Do I tutor zir in languages and spend our free time playing at the park? (Mother, exercise your patience.)

These are all possibilities.

I’m curious what PiC will want our summers to look like as we go on. I’m guessing it’ll include more home improvement projects than either of us are fully committed to, though.

:: What were your childhood summers like? What do you do now to enjoy summer? Do you love the onset of fall or summer best?


July 18, 2017

The Malayan Series, Book 2: A review and giveaway

When the Future Comes Too Soon (The Malayan Series Book 2)
by Selina Siak Chin Yoke

I had the pleasure of reading Selina Siak Chin Yoke’s first book in this series several months ago: The Women Who Breathed Two Worlds.

She invited me to read her second book in anticipation of the book’s release today. It was wonderful to be able to squeeze that in some of my rare good moments, and arrange a review and giveaway.

She was gracious enough to give us a bit of an interview, and a giveaway. We’re all winners, here!

Selina Siak Chin Yoke's Malayan Series

Her first novel, The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds, followed the the life of Chye Hoon, an incredible woman who built a business to support her family, embracing her heritage, and trying to pass that on to her own children.

This second novel picks up after Chye Hoon passes, and evoked an entirely different set of feelings as we followed a woman from the next generation, Mei Foong, through the political and cultural changes wrought by the Japanese occupation.

Selina grew up listening to family stories and ancient legends, like I did, speaking four languages, double my childhood repertoire. She always knew that some day she would write but it wasn’t until after she’d spent time as a physicist, banker and trader in London that Selina received the message loud and clear to get on with it. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. As she beat the cancer, she realized it was time to start writing.

I’m so glad she didn’t wait. Her first novel was nothing but an inspiration. Well, an inspiration and a touch intimidating – I’m not sure if I can do my family’s legends justice as she did hers.

Raised in Ipoh, Petaling Jaya (near Kuala Lumpur), Malaysia, Selina later went to school in Kent, England. I had some personal questions to ask her:

Q: Who was your childhood family storyteller?
A: My maternal grandmother, to whom I dedicated When the Future Comes Too Soon. She lived in another town; each time she visited I would pester her for stories. She told me a huge amount and I forgot most of the details – I have an awful memory. Fortunately, I wrote some of it down. On my last visit to my parents’ house, my mother found sheets of handwritten notes that I had made while talking to my grandmother. She told me an astonishing amount! I really wish she were alive – I think she would enjoy my books.

Q: Which stories stuck the most with you, and why, did any of them resonate enough to guide your life choices?
A: My great grandmother’s life story – that of an uneducated woman who started a business and raised children with her earnings – was fascinating because it was so unusual. She was also such a larger-than-life character: people remember being terrified of her even after seventy years! Her story did not guide my life choices, but the protagonist in my first novel is drawn from what I heard about her.

Q: What was your and your family’s relationship with money as you were growing up, a young adult, a fully fledged adult?
A: My attitudes to money and business were, in many ways, formed when I was a child. The Chinese diaspora in South-East Asia is known for its entrepreneurialism. I grew up hearing business being discussed, and I was taught the importance of both earning money and saving it. I was given a piggy bank at the age of three! But I also understood that risks presented opportunities. Many people start business in Malaysia and also invest in stocks. Because our immigrant ancestors began afresh with very little, we celebrate those who have made successes of their lives through hard work and risk-taking.

Q: I said in my first review of The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds that this was the story I have always wanted to write but wasn’t sure how. I’ve saved several unfinished drafts. My grandmother was the woman who raised ten children, supported her village through the war, and met her grandchildren from America only a few times late in life. But her life story that I grew up hearing is part of my soul and the undisputed source of my grit. She and I lived thousands of miles apart but we had similar tempers, similar determination, and similar love of useful containers.

Was there any person in particular that, in writing the Malayan series, you felt that kind of connection to?
A: I have felt a connection to all the strong women in my family. Fortunately, there have been many and they’ve provided me with role models on which I’ve been able to base wonderful stories!

Q: In this second book, you move the lens from one strong woman boldly facing the changes in the world over to a woman of the next generation, learning her strength as she faces a changing world but, it seems she doesn’t quite grasp it until perhaps the very end. I felt so much sadness at the close of When The Future Comes Too Soon. Perhaps I would have felt them even before having children of my own, because I’d come to understand the love my mother bore for her children and how she suffered with that love. Truth be told, that sadness was the biggest reason I needed more time to write this review – I had to sit with it for some time!

Often, authors say that may have intended to take their characters one direction and find them headed in another. Did you have that sense with Mei Foong at all, or was her character consistent in your mind and the story?
A: I’m always touched when I hear how much readers are moved by the stories I’ve written. It’s absolutely true that sometimes, my characters have insisted on doing things I’d never envisaged for them! I anchor my stories on milestone events, and then I write outlines for every chapter. When a character just goes against the grain of my outline no matter what I do, I have no choice but change it. With Mei Foong, this did not happen; she stayed more or less consistent.

While you can read Book 2 without having read Book 1, I do highly recommend you try both.

Now for a chance to read it yourself – please enter to win a copy of Selina’s latest book!

WAYS TO ENTER – Please leave a comment for each item.

1. Add the book to your Want to Read shelf on GoodReads.
2. Please leave a comment sharing who your childhood storyteller was, or who you most admired in your family when growing up. Make sure that you include your name and email address with your comment so we can reach the winner.
3. Bonus! Please share this with your friends who are interested in awesome books and have them include your name with their comment as an extra entry.

Who knows, if we have enough entrants, we’ll see if we can’t negotiate a second winner. 😉

The Fine Print: The winner will be picked by a random number generator on Thursday July 27th. Entries are accepted until Wednesday July 26th, 11:59 pm PST. Open to US readers only this time, sorry international friends!

March 20, 2017

Currently, and currency

Foreign currency in my pockets, and current events on my mind Everything is quite unsettled right now.

  • We haven’t found any suitable place to make an offer on yet. And the possibly-apocryphal (but I doubt it) tale is that it’s taking upwards of ten offers to get one accepted.
  • We are in selling limbo until we buy.
  • I’ve got several moving pieces at work that needs 150% of me and my attention but as Dr. Temperance Brennan would point out – that’s not possible.
  • One of those moving parts may shake out to be quite bad for me, potentially ruining a big and expensive summer plan, and there’s absolutely nothing I can ethically do to affect the result. I’ve briefly considered the non-ethical options but nooo. I can’t be that person.

It’s a little weird that the not moving part of life bothers me so much, considering I quite like our home right now, and we’re only moving under duress. It’s less weird when you consider that I’m both a Type A personality (very little of the home buying process is under my control), and that I’m a homebody, so feeling like my home is going to shift at some random unknown point in time is incredibly unsettling.

All this adds up to a pit in my stomach the size of a watermelon.

I’ve gone from stress-cleaning to stress-cooking to stress-feeling frazzled and frozen. Back to stress cleaning this week, if I can muster the energy.

One of the benefits of stress-cleaning is that you go deep. And deep de-cluttering turns up gems. Like the discovery that your comic collection is pushing 100 lbs. Or a huge pile of cash.

(Except it’s not huge, and it’s not American dollars but other than that…BOUNTY!)

  • Singaporean dollars, and I don’t remember when I was ever in Singapore.
  • Hong Kong dollars, I do remember when I was there (briefly).
  • A small handful of Thai Baht. Boy do I ever miss authentic Thai food.
  • Some Taiwan dollars, when did I lay over in Formosa?
  • Way too many expensive GBP, obtained at the worst possible exchange rate – go me.
  • An absurd number of Canadian dollars considering I haven’t been there in at least a decade.

I’m working on finding my Zen again. The discomfort of needing to move shouldn’t overshadow the comfort of loving the home we are in right now, especially since there’s so much about it we do love.

There’s nothing I can do to change that possible-summer-ruiner but I can work on mitigating the ruination.

There’s very little I can do about the fact that my pain is at an all time high this week except take medication earlier and make the most of the few minutes’ break when JuggerBaby has a nap.

Ultra high pain also means that depression is nibbling around the edges of my brain again. I can’t just ignore it, but I can’t tell it to go away again. I can try to only see the good in front of me, or focus on what I need to do, and most optimistically, try to fit in a massage this week. It’s been put off because of this darn congestion. There’s nothing less relaxing than being hyper aware of your mucosal state while trying not to gross out your massage therapist.

If 300% of Vitamin C a day doesn’t do the trick this week, I welcome other cold-busting suggestions!

UPDATE: That bad work thing? It’s happening. And the effects won’t be in the summer, it’ll be now through summer, and walloping my personal calendar something fierce.

:: Where in the world have you gone? How do you deal with uncertainty or the unknown?

May 25, 2016

30 mostly free ways to say I love you

I caught this question on Twitter and loved it. Without saying those three words, how do you tell your loved ones that they’re loved?

Bonus points if it’s free!  Well, ok, most of mine are free in the sense they don’t cost money but they cost time and often expertise.

Love: there are so many ways to tell your family and friends you love them. How I tell PiC I love him

  • I finished our tax return.
  • The baby’s down for a nap, hit the gym if you want to.
  • [midday text] Dinner will be on the table in 30 minutes.
  • Save room for dessert!
  • You have fresh bath towels and clean underwear in the drawer.
  • Booked our tickets for Hawaii/vacation for $35 out of pocket!
  • Seamus and I already went on long walks.
  • We’ll go out AFTER you take a nap.
  • Merry Christmas, we own more stock.
  • I bought us an investment property.

How PiC tells me he loves me

  • I’ll walk the dog, just relax. Also, here’s your tea and a couple of biscuits.
  • I’m going to the gym, back in 1.5 hours.
  • Thanks for raising the kid today.
  • I’ve got the baby, go back to sleep.
  • LB and I went to Costco.
  • Did you want to do some writing? We can go for a walk.
  • There’s a cookie for you in that box.
  • Want to go to NY and see Hamilton?
  • Menu planning is not just your job. I can plan too.
  • All the dumplings / sashimi is for you.

How I tell friends I love them

  • Check your mailbox.
  • Check your inbox, I edited that thing for you.
  • Tell me when you’re in town, I’ll take time off.
  • I’ll be over in fifteen minutes to change your bandages.
  • No gluten? No sugar, dairy, meat? No problem.
  • You can have the last brownie.
  • Angry Cat’s ears are clean now. So are Grouchy Dog’s.
  • I still have to work but I’ll come over and work so we can talk.
  • I’m lending you this awesome comic book.
  • Go do your thing, I’ll watch the kids / walk the dog.

:: What are your ways to tell people you love them? Are you a splash-out indulgent sort or is that only for special occasions?

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March 25, 2016

Unfinished business: things weighing on my mind

For some things, I'm still waiting

If there’s something I need more of in this life, it’s quite likely more patience.

I’ve no shortage of things to be patient about but surprise surprise, I really suck at it.

The need to resolve things itches

The mortgage refinance is creeping along at a snail’s pace. Two and a half weeks ago, they said it’d be approved two weeks ago. Yet, still no idea if they’ll approve it yet. Cross your fingers, please?

We need to schedule a signing of our estate plan with the lawyer, just as soon as I quit being a disgusting, racking-cough, sneezy sniffly snotty mess.

Oh right, this cold brought by an emissary from the lower depths of Hades? Still here.

Even better, it turns out that flu-like fever and chills can also be a fibro symptom which is just awesome. I discovered this over a 24-hour period of misery. My only solace is that I didn’t manage to pick up the flu in addition to this cough thing.

Car #2 remains a figment of our fevered imaginations so we’re still a one-car family, and Seamus doesn’t fit in that car so I can get him to the vet for his overdue nail trimming. I did try it myself and got as far as three nails before I quicked him. Sorry, pup.

My phone is still creaking along, but it’s just getting worse, and really needs to be replaced. This has got to happen before it totally craps out in the worst possible situation.

Keeping my chin up (or at least above water)

Before I get too sunk in the melancholy of what’s NOT going right, I will keep in mind that:

We’re still all alive and kicking. In this, the most disease ridden season ever, that’s no mean feat.

Even if I’m scraping the dregs of my energy barrel, I’m still getting my work done and still managing to do a little writing here.

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