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FTIAT: A Moment of Clarity

Byron MacLymont (The Byronic Man) has a gift for making people laugh. I base this not only on an official survey of millions–specifically, myself and my S.O., Ba.D.–but also other peoples’ comments on his blog.

As if inspiring laughter weren’t enough, Byron i’s also a brain surgeon, a former Olympic kick-boxer and bench-presser-of-adult-bulls. He modestly claims in his bio that he can bench-press only one, but I see right through this artifice, mostly because he bestowed upon his subscribers the gift of seeing through artifice.

Sadly, his other superpowers are non-transerable.

Byron’s greatest power of all is his ability to take time out from his busy schedule of crime-fighting and penning Cyrano de Bergerac to share beautiful, heartfelt truths in ways that fill a reader’s eyes with tears and heart with wonder. Like most awesome superpowers, this is one best used sparingly to emphasize just how powerful it is, and Byron uses it accordingly.

I am honored he has chosen, this time, to use it at TMiYC.

Recommended post: Life: The Yelp Reviews

A Moment of Clarity

Yesterday, October 27th, was my 10-year wedding anniversary.  It’s a little difficult to even comprehend that that is true.  In part because it doesn’t seem possible that it’s been 10 whole years, in part because it doesn’t seem possible that there was a time before her, and in part because nothing – I mean nothing – in my previous track record suggests that this would be a possibility.

The longest relationship I had before this one was six months.  I had several that lasted six months, but they all ended at that point, like clockwork.  I won’t go so far to say that I am totally responsible for the end of all of them, but I wouldn’t scoff or get immediately indignant at the suggestion, either.  I didn’t know much, but I knew I liked being the white knight; being adored.  I also, like many young men, loved the chase.  I also think that I was so unsure of who I was that I kind of panicked when someone was getting to know the actual me, instead of the version of me I tried to put forward.  The guy underneath the glistening armor, if you’ll pardon the hackneyed metaphor.  Whatever the impetus, it involved either bad choices, or choices handled badly.

When I met her I was in a time of transition, so maybe I was open to different things, but the fact is that she was really unlike anyone I’d dated before.  Unlike the people I’d pursued.  Yet I was immediately and totally drawn to her, like a magnet.  Something inside was ferociously saying HER.  THIS ONE.  I remember talking to my parents and saying that it seemed as if I was walking along and had come upon a large pile of gems and jewels, and I had to hurry and find a way to scoop them up, because surely someone was going to beat me to it.

I had always been very clear that I would never marry someone unless we’d dated for a year.  That I’d be very rational about something like that.  Within a week I knew this was it.  Within 3 months we were engaged.  Almost exactly a year after meeting we got married… so I guess, technically, we dated for a year before getting married.  But I don’t kid myself that it was rational and stoically planned.

She continues to be unlike anyone I’ve known.  She pushes me, challenges me, complements my weaknesses.

Marriage is everything they say it is, and nothing they say it is.  Marriage is about hardships I couldn’t have imagined, couldn’t believe we’d have the strength to face.  Sometimes I’ll joke with her about “the things they don’t tell you in the marital vows,” and you’ve sure never been mad until you’ve been mad at someone you love, but the fact remains that I am a more complete, stronger person than I ever was before I met her, or could have become without her.  I’ve also had more fun since meeting her than I ever had before that. Gone on more adventures.  Taken more risks.

It would be easy to say that I am thankful for her, and I am, but when Deborah asked me to write up a “for this I am thankful” what came to mind was whatever it was in the air, in my brain, whatever, that made me see she was the one to pursue.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, in my history suggested that I would make a smart relationship choice when the time came, but somehow I did.  I don’t know why, I don’t what in me clicked, but for that moment, that instant, I am thankful and mystified.

It would also be simple to say I’m thankful for that moment when we’re curled up watching a movie, or when she comes up with some impossible adventure to go on and makes it happen.  Because it’s easy to be thankful during the good parts.  But marriage isn’t just about the good parts – it’s about all of it.  All of yourself, all of your partner.

And so while I am thankful during these easy times, I’m also thankful when she insists we do the grocery shopping even though I’m exhausted.

When I’ve just screwed something up, and she can’t wait even a couple hours to tell me what I could have done differently, I’m thankful then.

When I say I’m sorry and she replies, “No, you’re not.  If you were sorry, you wouldn’t have done it in the first place,” somewhere deep down, I’m thankful.

When she looks at the back of my head and says, “Hey, your hair is thinning” for no other reason than because she knows it’ll make me crazy with paranoia, I’m still thankful.

When I’m mad and fed up and think, Oh, screw this, life was easier when I was on my own, I’m thankful.

When she insists that she needs, needs, another dog, or cat, or a pig, or God knows what else, I’m thankful.

When I just can’t believe how complicated everything has to be all the time, I’m thankful.

When I ask if she’s ready to go, and she says yes despite the fact that she is very definitely not ready, and I’m going to be late for work, again… I’m thankful.

I’m thankful when she wants to pester me and draw on my arms when I just really, really want to go to sleep.

I’m thankful, even now, knowing she’ll read this and use it as ammunition to pester me even when I’m telling her to knock it off.

When I’m so mad I can’t even speak, there is that part of me that is thankful.

Basic ideas of cause & effect suggest that that moment, that transformation, should not have happened.  It was an anomaly, an unpredictable occurrence.  Yet, it did happen.  And 10 years later here we are, and we still love each other, still have fun together, still face challenges together.  And for the spark that made me see in her what could be, and what I could be with her, I am truly, deeply, thankful.

last : What I Didn’t Realize | Seven Days (11/4/11) : next

FTIAT: What I Didn’t Realize

Crystal (Can you hear me now?) and I first exchanged tweets about author Sonya Sones, who was then very new to me but had long been dear to her. Our Twitter conversations continue, but they’re supplemented by blog and email discussions as well.  Through these I have been given glimpses into a mind whose great–and utilized–capacities are equalled by its bearer’s heart.

I long believed that wisdom could only come with age. Crystal is an excellent reminder that the truth might perhaps be better stated as, “Greater wisdom may come with greater age.”

Recommended post: STARBURST.

What I Didn’t Realize

I know that TMiYC has a lot of parent readers and bloggers, so I’ve decided to share my parents with you.

My parents were of the “tiger mom” type. They immigrated here from Asia (I won’t say any more lest I get in trouble with my computer tech dad), so were brought up in very strict households. As such, they had many expectations of us. My brother and I were expected to become successful doctors, fluent in the three dialects of Chinese that our family knows, get our Grade 10 Piano certifications, be consistent honour students, get into university and maybe go for a second degree, learn the violin, become black belts in taekwondo, be good kids… just short of being child prodigies. On top of that, being the oldest meant that I was expected to be a role model for my little brother.

I resented all of that. It’s true that I am fluent in three dialects of Chinese. It is true that I am now attending the “Harvard of Canada.” It’s also true that I know how to play the piano, violin, and trumpet. I was a consistent A student in high school, and was at the top of my game when it came to interacting and networking with people, as I was the head of the debate club. I never got my black belt, but my physical skills were never that high a priority to me or my parents after a couple accidents over the years. I fell short of being a child prodigy because I never really excelled in anything, but in my head something told me that I should try to be one because it’s the right thing to do. Being good at everything wasn’t enough. I needed to be excellent, maybe even perfect. It’s the thing to do, if not to ensure my future success, then to make my parents proud of me. And I resented it. I resented learning Chinese when I didn’t want to learn it in school. I didn’t want to go to piano lessons, and I absolutely hated taekwondo, even if it was for the exercise. The only thing I truly enjoyed doing were the things I chose to do for myself, which were joining band class, debate club and learning the violin. Even when I was good, above average, they still pushed and pushed and pushed. They were strict. They were tough. They believed that it was the only way to make it easier for me in the future. My mom kept telling me and my brother that they were pushing us because it’s for our own good, and over the years I’ve come to accept it. I didn’t quite understand it, but I took it to heart every time I felt like crap when my dad told me my best wasn’t good enough.

(In some ways, the last paragraph isn’t the best representation of my parents. I remember the controversy that was Tiger Mom, and I would like to make it clear that my parents, and Tiger Mom herself, are not cold-hearted beings. In many ways it’s a cultural thing, but I won’t go into it here. I did have fun times growing up. My parents did let me play, but only after I was done homework and practice, which is what every teacher and educator have been telling us to do.)

Eventually it became clear that I wasn’t going to be valedictorian or debate champion. My parents became satisfied that I am trying my best, so my grades went from being “not good enough” to “just what I expect from you.” I was active and constantly talking about things (my dad and I would sit and watch PBS science programs or the news and talk about it), so it’s not because I wasn’t smart, I just didn’t show it in my grades. It was with that acceptance that I entered university. I was hoping that I would finally be able to shine and accomplish something, pave a road for myself. My parents had the same hopes and it was with those sentiments that they sent me across the country to university.

University was nothing like the place I imagined. I had questionable roommates, and even more questionable grades. But I took it all with a grin because, hey, it’s college. Crazy things happen freshman year, right? I’ll just try harder. And I did. I tried harder and harder and harder until I couldn’t take it anymore. I was getting sick with flu, from stress, humid weather, and too many people around me. I still pushed through, and managed not to completely drop out of school, though the dismal GPA was enough to make me consider it. First year flew by, and second year rolled along with even more trouble than the first. My would-be roommate ditched me, with no apartment, a week before school started. I was running around trying to find a place while school was piling on lecture after lecture, all the while commuting an three hours a day to get to and from school from my grandma’s house, with unaccommodating night labs to boot. I was sick again, this time with terrible colds that kept me from classes for a week. I became homesick. I felt lonely.

On a cold October night, I broke down and wondered why the world sucked so much with as much teenage vigour I could muster. When I finally let the dam break, I couldn’t stop. It was a rush defeat, shame and disappointment that came out, but just from me. From my parents came concern, worry, and unconditional love that I had never realized my stoic parents could show before that moment.

Not once did my parents push me. They would only sit quietly while I cried over Skype, tell me it will be alright soon, and that they are always there for me. My dad didn’t say that my best wasn’t good enough. My mom didn’t tell me that the whole shebang was all for my own good. They never once told me to be better because I have to be; instead they told me to be better because they know I can be. I just need to hold on.

In the 19 (at the time) years I’ve been alive, never once had I broken down in front my parents because I’ve always been afraid that they wouldn’t like it. Maybe I was afraid that it would show them that I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not talented enough, not gifted enough. It was only after that night that I realize that they never once believed that. My parents have always believed that we have the potential to be better than what we are now. My dad’s motto of “Each generation is better and stronger than the last” is really the fuel that spurs my parents to keep trying, keep pushing. Now that motto is helping me get through my hard times.

This guest blog is supposed to be about being thankful. I am thankful to my parents. Not just for raising me and taking care of me, but for pushing me when I was young, and believing that I am, can and will be better. I want to thank them for being naggy and annoying. I want to thank them for sending me an overnight care package of homemade curry and laksa, my favourite foods, for Thanksgiving, because I have midterms right after and can’t go visiting my extended over the long weekend. I want to thank them for always treating me like an adult-child, asking for my opinions in politics and household finances, while still worrying if I have enough money to spend, enough food to eat. I want to thank them for listening while I cried, and keeping the “I told you so” comments to a minimum. I want to thank them for being frugal, just so my brother and I can each have a Gameboy so we can play Pokémon to our hearts’ content. I want them to know just how important they are to me. This long read isn’t enough to justify how much I want to thank them and how much I truly love them.

Through this post, I wanted to share how I grew up, and help parents out there know that it’s okay to push their kids once in a while. They’ll eventually realize that it isn’t because you’re trying to be mean and old-fashioned, but because you truly believe that your kids are better people and you’re just trying to get them to see that. I’ve started to unknowingly push myself to be better, to set goals, and make myself fulfill them. I think we have to go through the terrible teens (which may be even worse than terrible twos) in order to see how important our parents are.

It may be twenty, thirty years before I have my own set of teenagers to argue with, but I will make sure they know that everything I do, from grounding them to making them practice piano, is for their own good. It may be traumatizing. It will be hard. There will probably be lasting aftereffects, but as parents and kids, the only thing we can do is try our best to accommodate and understand that at the end of the day, we all want the best.

It’s been two years since I’ve left high school, left home, left life as I knew it, and since then, I’ve come to realize just how important my parents are. It took me 20 years, but I don’t think it’s too late.

last The Thankful Writer: A Guest Blog About Gratitude | A Moment of Claritynext

An open letter to “Grammar Nazis”

From an old (inadvertently) deleted post

Dear Grammar Nazi,

Next time you’re tempted to proudly proclaim yourself a “Grammar Nazi” after smacking down someone’s bad grammar in conversation, please consider asking yourself, “Would I rather win at grammar or life?”

When you choose the latter and act accordingly, everyone wins!

Love,
Deb

p.s. Grammar enthusiasts, never fear! Everyone wins when you spread your grammar love while riding over rainbows on your sparkly unicorns.

Note:
This was among posts accidentally deleted from this blog.
(See here for delightful original comments.)
Reposted 9/3/15

FTIAT: The Thankful Writer: A Guest Blog About Gratitude

Rusty Fischer (Zombies Don’t Blog) first caught my attention with his free YA author’s guide to social media. The care he took to help others avoid pitfalls to which he’s fallen prey touched me not only as a writer, but also as hippie, kindness-loving Deb.

While Rusty runs on the busy side, that busyness hasn’t once yet stopped him from offering his thoughtful, enthusiastic voice of encouragement. For this I am deeply and personally grateful.

Recommended post: The Limits of Advice, Or: Giving Yourself Permission to Forge Your Own Path

The Thankful Writer: A Guest Blog About Gratitude by Rusty Fischer

I joined a new forum recently and one of the posters was asking for advice in advance of her first ever author interview. Having just done a few of my own and, of course, written a blog AND FREE Ebook about it (‘cause that’s how I roll) I posted a dozen or so tips on the forum and wished her luck and went about my day.

Never thought twice about it. Then, since I had joined this forum to find book reviewers in the first place, I hopped back on the site an hour or two later to check my messages and, wow. Just… wow.

A fellow author had weighed in on my earlier post to dispute several of my things “to do” for a great YA interview. Most of those things had to do with, you know, making it easier for the interviewer.

It was this author’s opinion, apparently, that authors were “putting it all on the line” by “doing the hard work” of being interviewed and that, basically, the interviewers should “come to us.”

Okay, well, I’m more than happy when I wake up in the morning, check my email and find a few dozen interviewers lined up begging to ask me questions, but… that just hasn’t happened yet. How about you?

I’m not being snarky. (Wait, I totally am.) What I mean is, I’m not trying to be snarky. (Okay, just a little.) The fact is, I just flat-out disagree with authors who act this way. If you’re Stephen King or Stephanie Meyers, yeah, okay, I think your days of requesting interviews are pretty much over. But the rest of us? Come on.

Now, I don’t personally go running down interviews either. Not specifically. But every few weeks or so I feel like I’m not doing enough to promote my books so I’ll dust off a pitch letter and approach half-a-dozen or so bloggers about receiving a review copy of one of my books and possibly doing a giveaway, guest post OR interview as part of the promotion.

It’s my way of saying, “Here, I’d love to give you a FREE book and, if you have the time, the space or the inclination, I’d love to say a few words on your blog. BUT, if not, it’s all good. Please take the book and review it fairly, or don’t review it at all. I’m just glad to have reached out and made a connection…”

No harm, no foul. It takes, what? An hour or two? Not everybody bites, but those who do are usually up for just about anything. Sometimes these pitches result in a review, a guest post, an interview AND a giveaway. Even better, lots of them result in loyal, supportive and friendly online relationships that I cherish to this day.

And I guess that’s my point. When I was asked to write this guest post about “gratitude,” I immediately leapt at the chance because if there are two things I’m grateful for it’s 1.) the chance to write a good book and 2.) the opportunity for others to be able to read it.

The first of those is up to me; the second is up to others. And so anytime anybody says a kind word about one of my YA books, or spreads the word, or reviews it, or rates it, or “likes” it, or shares it or tweets it or just mentions it let alone recommends it, I am absolutely, eternally and usually pretty vocally grateful for it.

I make it a point to respond to everyone who comments on my blog. I Google the titles of my books every day and if there is a new post or review or mention or blurb, I try to reach out to that person and thank them.

If someone requests a review copy, I’m on it; ASAP! A guest post? Let me do it in the next 48-hours so I don’t forget about it. An interview? You? Want to interview ME? Well, absolutely. Why wouldn’t I do everything possible to make that easier for the person doing the interviewing?!?!

I know, I know; everyone’s unique. There are big tippers, little tippers, stingy tippers and NO tippers. Why should authors be any different? I guess, I dunno, it’s such a simple thing: to thank someone for commenting, or reviewing, or mentioning, or sharing or tweeting.

Maybe I’m just lucky right now in that my day job allows me the time to do these things. I know not every author is so lucky and, yes, it can be work keeping up with emails and obsessively Googling your book titles and writing guest posts, but… I enjoy it.

Writing isn’t about just the book, or just the reviews or just the cover art or just the royalties. It’s about connecting with people; first as readers, oftentimes as bloggers, occasionally as reviewers and, ultimately, as friends.

I have met so many wonderful, generous, kind, loyal and avid readers since Zombies Don’t Cry came out. It would take pages and eons to list them all here, but if you visit my blog or check out my reviews on Amazon.com or Goodreads.com, you’ll see them there; bright and smiley faces and generous and positive words and a true love of reading and, I think, writing as well.

I just think we’re all in this together. How can we not be grateful for each other?

Yours in YA,

Rusty

About the author: Rusty Fischer is the author of several YA supernatural novels, including Zombies Don’t Cry, Ushers, Inc., Vamplayers, I Heart Zombie and Panty Raid @ Zombie High. Visit his blog, http://www.zombiesdontblog.blogspot.com, for news, reviews, cover leaks, writing and publishing advice, book excerpts and more!

last : Grateful | What I Didn’t Realizenext

If editing were weight-lifting, I’d be benching 3 ounces.

For months, I told myself I’d start editing the second book in the Glass Ball trilogy (begun by The Monster’s Daughter) just as soon as I finished drafting Elelu. You know, that book I joyfully proclaimed drafted, oh, five weeks ago?

I figured I’d take a week or two to celebrate having hit a milestone. Except, whoops! “A week or two” turned into chillaxin’ until the end of September.

We’re now five days into October. I’ve diligently set aside a portion of each morning for editing.

So far, editing is going swimmingly! I’ve created some graphics reflective of my October morning editing so far to help you feel like you, too, are a part of my editing experience.

As you can see, I mean that in only the most literal of ways.

5:18 a.m.

5:24 a.m.

5:37 a.m.

Ba.D. is unceasingly impressed by my editing skills. I’ve created a graphic representation of this for you, too:

(c) 2011 Deborah Bryan. All rights reserved.
Duplication in whole or substantial portion is explicitly forbidden.

This sorta fairytale

Once upon a time, there was a rebellious girl who could do little right by her parents. This girl watched the adoration showered upon her younger sister and vowed that she would someday love each of her children equally, be they rowdy or be they respectful.

When she became a parent, she lived true to her vow. There were many things she didn’t do perfectly or could have done better, but each of her three sons knew how truly they were loved.

As they grew, she would look upon them fondly and reflect aloud on her old age to come. “When I am elderly,” she would say, “Middle, you will be the one to take care of me. You will be here in body and in spirit. Oldest, you will be here in spirit, but not in body. Youngest, you will be here in body, but not in spirit.”

Middle would hug her and cry, “Please don’t ever get sick or go away, Mother!”

She would hug Middle and say, “I cannot prevent these things, sweetheart, but I will be with you as long as I can.”

Oldest would protest, “But, Mother, I love you too!”

She would pat Oldest’s knee and say, “I know you do, sweetheart! But you are a wanderer, and you will go all the places your heart leads you.”

Youngest would protest, “But, Mom, I love you too!”

She would stroke Youngest’s hair and say, “I know you do, sweetheart! But you dream so many beautiful things, it will be hard for you to forsake those for this world.”

Many years later, when her sons had grown, she fell ill. As her body dwindled, each of her sons loved her in the ways they knew how.

When her body could no longer fight the cancer that had spread throughout her body, she died.

Oldest was there in spirit, but far away in body.

Middle was there in body and spirit.

Youngest was there in body.

Often in the days and months that followed his mother’s death, Oldest would curse himself for not being there to hold his mom as she died. He would feel unworthy of forgiveness and unforgivable.

But sometimes, he would remember his mother’s gentle words: You will be here in spirit, but not in body. In these moments, he would whisper a “thank you” to his mom for her wisdom in sharing the future she foresaw. It was as if she’d not only anticipated Oldest’s sorrow but bestowed upon him the grace he’d need to know she wouldn’t forgive him if she were alive.

Why, indeed, would she dream of forgiving him for being who he was? Who she’d encouraged him to be? She’d be far more likely to throw her head back and laugh before saying, “Should I forgive you for breathing, too?”

In these moments of thanks, Oldest renews his mother’s childhood vow. He will love each of his own children fiercely and equally, so that his love for his children also endures long after he is able to whisper it to them in the present

(c) 2011 Deborah Bryan. All rights reserved.
Duplication in whole or substantial portion is explicitly forbidden.

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