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Friday, December 30, 2016

Reflections on December and 2016

It being the second last day of 2016, it's now or never that I finally get to writing my reflections, I guess. Like any other year, there has been ups and downs and sometimes, things start to look better in retrospect.

Family Life
After a couple of years of trying, I'm finally going to have a baby! I was pretty down in the first half of the year when the first try didn't work out but later on, it did and now I'm expecting to pop in March! I would admit that I have had slightly mixed feelings, loss of personal freedoms vs family life after hearing from so many people about how "it changes your whole life". 

But then I realized a couple of things from some mothers I follow on social media:

1. There are a lot of mothers who have continued doing what they love while having children. I follow a couple of bloggers and Instagrammers who do great writing and art and I used to think they could only do all these because they were childless. I was slightly surprised when I read that some of them had kids, 2 or more in some cases! And they could still update their blog or Instagram account or run their businesses on a regular basis! This taught me that passion helps you find a way. I may have to cut back on some personal goals (no more recitals!) or become a scheduling wizard as long as I can find some small way to do what I love. Which leads me to the next...

2. Be kind to yourself. It's ok if I screw up. It's ok if I don't reach my goals. It's ok if I don't write a new e-book every month, play the violin at Carnegie Hall, become an award-winning artist, become a famous blogger, speak fluently in French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese, raise a successful kid who can do all the above and more, and maintain a full-time job. Even if I make small steps towards just one of my goals, it's ok. No one is judging me except myself and mistakes are acceptable for anyone who is not perfect. (Preferably my mistakes should not involve death or injury though...)

3. For all the complaints I read from new mothers, no one has ever wished they never had their child. And you do hear plenty of complaints, from leaky diapers to full out explosions, screaming tantrums, nights in the hospital. Despite all this, I've not read about a single mother who would give up her child to take back her single life. This gives me hope, that while there will be plenty of crap to clean up, in the end, it's not a rose-coloured vision that everything really does work out in the end. 

So I'm going to follow no.2 when it comes to my kid and take it easy on myself and my future child. He may not become the next President's Scholar but as long as he turns out to be a kind, wise human being, (not a serial killer) that would be all I would ask for.

Blogging Life
Looking back at the posts from January till now, I'm pretty proud that I managed to revive my old blog and I did a lot more writing than I thought I was capable of. This is something new I've learned about myself. Funny thing is that I always thought I had a flair for art more than writing because I was such a visually-oriented person, but in the process of writing, I learned that actually I had more of a flair for writing. Given the right prompts, the ideas flowed more easily on the keyboard than on the drawing pad. 

I'm a bit hesitant to make plans for 2017 because of the kid coming but if there's one thing, I would like to continue blogging as much as I can. The focus may change and I may write a lot more about life with a baby, but I would still want to keep this blog alive to remind me of the writing I completed in 2016 and to spur me on to other creative projects in the future. 

Creative Life
I'm also pretty proud that I dabbled a lot more creatively this year. I did a lot more journalling and in December, I even managed to organize some material into my own e-book. I also managed to do some watercolour painting and make some journals. I also take pride in performing on stage in my first violin recital! Although I played terribly off-key, (-_-!) I take pride in actually mustering the guts to go up and do it, something I'm not sure many 5-month pregnant ladies can claim to do! In some months, I also managed to up my French by learning some grammar. I probably can't order a cup of water in France, but it's still a bit of progress from knowing nothing to knowing something.

When you read the paragraph above, it all seems pretty random but I've come to accept that that's the kind of person I am. I like a certain degree of novelty and variety so I tried several different things each month. What worked for me was listing down all the activities I wanted to try and then making some goals each month, plus making myself accountable by blogging as much as I could about the steps I made. Being a Jack of all trades seems to work better for me than being a Master of one. 

(These techniques I learned from 7 habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin.)

I also read, read and read. I had a personal goal at the start of the year to read at least one non-fiction book each month, which according to my Goodreads account, I've achieved, so yay! I didn't hit the upgraded goal I set for myself, which was 48 books, but on average, I've completed 3 books each month. I think with the baby, this could be the easier goal for me to reach next year......

With all I've done this year, I think in 2017, I would take a creative break and concentrate on how to take care of my kid. I might still do some light reading and a little bit of doodling here and there but I also think it's prudent that I don't set major goals for myself until I've settled the domestic arrangements with my in-laws and my kid. I also suspect that I may have to resume my fitness goals next year to lose all the postnatal weight! So in 2017, the focus here might be to take it easy and do it for fun till family life becomes more stable. 

In a nutshell...
I guess 2016 wasn't too bad and in retrospect, some of the things that seemed really bad at the time now look very far away. I suppose with distance and reflection, life on the whole really has a lot that we can be grateful for if we choose to see it that way. If there's anything to hope for in 2017, I can only hope that by December 2017, I can look back and see all the good stuff and be filled with the same hope for 2018! Happy new year, everyone and here's to a great 2017! 

Junk Journals Tutorial 1a: An alternative to bookbinding staplers

It's been a great break during Christmas, hope everyone had a good time because I'm back with an extension of the previous tutorial!

I realized that for many people, the bookbinding stapler may be difficult to find. Today's tutorial may then be helpful, because I'm going to show you how to achieve the same effect with ordinary stationery you can find anywhere. 

Before I found the stapler, I was experimenting with other methods, eg, using tape, but they didn't produce the nice clean result I wanted. Then one day, I was stapling posters to a notice board and it hit me: I could use this to staple pages together as well!

Tutorial 1a: Rough and Dirty Journal - Alternative Stapling Method

You will need:
- A stapler (Find one which can open, eg the type you would use to staple posters to a wall)
- An eraser
- Paper clips or binder clips (Optional, but I find it much easier to do it with clips)

And here I've also used the following for this tutorial:
- Scissors
- Paper
- Cardboard (for the cover)

Step 1: Get the pages of the journal ready. (Here, I've had to cut the pages to size) Then position the pages on top of the cardboard and fold the edges of the cardboard down to size.

Tip: Leave some cardboard around the edges so that your pages will fit nicely inside the journal and will not stick out.

Tip: Use the handle of your scissors to press the cardboard down and create a neat fold.

Step 2: Prepare the pages and cover for stapling. Open the blank pages to the centre and clip the left and right side pages to the cover with the paper clips. Open the stapler as shown.

Place the eraser directly under the centre fold of the journal. If you can't notice it well in the picture, I'm pointing to the part of the centre fold where the eraser is. 

Place the top part of the stapler so that the pages will be stapled exactly (or as best as you can) on the centre fold. Press the stapler.

If you got it right, the result should look like this from the top. Your pages will now be stapled to the eraser.

Step 3: Do the finishing touches. Flip the journal over and remove the eraser. You should see the staples sticking out. Don't prick yourself!

Use the stapler to press down the staples.

Once you are done, your pages will look like this! (Oops, I didn't quite fold the pages correctly...)

Now repeat on the other side and your journal is done!

Here's what it looks like from the outside:

So there you are! A simple hack that anyone can do with some ordinary stationery and your journals will look like professional zines! Try it today!