What are the odds that this could happen?
Our wedding anniversary (Tony’s and mine) falls on the same day as that of the anniversary of the laws of son #2, who lives in the US with his wife and son. His wife posted this on her FB wall:
"In a world of coincidences, this is the best! My and my husband's parents share the same wedding anniversary. How cool is that? It is also convenient for us because we can’t forget saying Happy Anniversary to our parents! Here’s to more anniversaries!"
Yeah, how cool is that?
We had five and a half fruitful years, Pinky and I. Together we travelled, rushed to beat deadlines, received both good news and bad news from the Internet, researched, prepared over a dozen syllabi, wrote over 500 blogs, and worked on eight books.
And now, Pinky, my tiny but trusty laptop, is gone.
Every year, son #1 (a techie and therefore my in-house IT) would tell me, “Looks like your laptop is still going strong. It’s over five years old.”
A blessing Pinky was.
Two month’s ago, old Pinky’s screen was going, going—then totally gone.
And finally on the 13th of July, Pinky signed off. While I was typing a sentence, it went blank. And then, zippo.
I panicked, not having saved almost two chapters of the book I am writing. I have the habit of saving, but somehow, I was on a roll the past month—just writing, writing, writing, and doing nothing else.
So when finally Pinky went into a coma, I cried aloud to the Lord, “Please, give me grace to retrieve my files.” I called up son #1 at work, narrating my problem.
“That’s it, you need to buy a new laptop.” Then he instructed me to take photos of the different parts of my big monitor, bottom and rear. In my effort to take clear shots, I turned the monitor upside down.
Then, like a second coming—after I had taken the photos—Pinky came alive and stayed alive! Immediately, I saved all my drafts into my external hard drive. After everything had been saved, Pinky shut off. Just like that. And it was gone for good.
Such is one of the miracles I experience when writing a book. Problems arise, but in time, the Lord solves them for me.
Believe in miracles. Believe in the Savior Who makes them happen. And someday, we will rest in eternal peace in His presence—computer glitches and anguish all gone. We’ll simply enjoy forever life with the Miracle Worker.
Meet Silvee, my new partner.
I have tried everything to solve my grasping-toes problem: four doctors—specialist in bones, in muscles, in wellness, and in nerves. I also went through countless therapy sessions. I wore two left flip-flops. I bought exercise gadgets, prescribed by my therapist, and an expensive brace. When someone mentioned Apak-Apak, a magnetic stepping-mat invented by an enterprising man to ease aches and pains, I bought that too.
So, my last card really was Marikina. The two pairs that I ordered (one formal and one casual) are made of the finest kid leather. They are so soft they pamper your feet when you put them on. But once I start walking, my toes, as usual, scream!
Walking cane. I knew this would help, but I am not prepared to use them—yet. Vanity gets in the way sometimes. Then Ggie told me there are canes that masquerade as umbrellas available in Divisoria (a Metro Manila district where goods are sold wholesale and therefore cheap).
Reluctantly, I said, okay. I'd buy them in all colors to match my outfits.
Before I could go to Divisoria, Ggie sends me four, tied in a red bow and with a birthday card. It wasn't yet my birthday, but hey, with a gift like this, who needs birthdays?
I call my new umbrella canes camouflage because, confidentially, they are unwanted at this point in my life (they stereotype ageing), but they are the grace that I need so I could walk a little better after two years, since this malady encroached upon my active life and put a stop to my daily walks at dawn.
Last cards are never the last.
Barrettes are hair accessories that were in vogue when I was a little girl. My mom would always clip onto my hair a barrette that matched my dress.
Now they’re back! And I see them not just on little girls’ hair but on young ladies’, too.
While in the mall one day, I saw beautiful ones in all shapes and colors displayed on a sale rack. I had in mind to buy a dozen, but got distracted by other items.
That night, Ricky, a dear friend and former colleague—funny and religiously irreverent—in the workplace, posted on his FB wall in huge fonts: "Te, there is an age limit to barrettes!" (Te is short for Ate, an honorific for older women.)
I quickly typed in my reply, “Whew, am I glad I didn’t buy them.”
His comeback, “You’re just 35, aren’t you Grace?”
Another friend replied, “Oh, no! I have so many of those. Should I just throw them away?”
His retort, “You’re a few years younger than Grace, keep them.”
Yet another friend wrote, “How about me? Am I beyond the age limit?”
His riposte: “The age limit is 95, you still have some years to go.”
Not only are barrettes back, the grace of kinship we enjoyed in the workplace is back as well. In fact, it visits me now and then as I approach my sunset years. I hope Ricky and the rest of the “smart alecks” keep it going.
Barrettes may have an age limit, but friendship lives on, defying age.
(Scene: at the drinking fountain, where a student waits for her turn.)
Student: “Hmmm, hot water, Ms. Grace! For your coffee fix?”
Me: You know me so well.
Student: Hahaha. I’ve always meant to ask you—how many times do you rewrite a story?
Me: Before or after I send it to my publisher?
Me: Countless times. Back and forth, forth and back. There’s always a better word, a better turn of phrase, a better paragraph.
Student: (Shocked) What?! Me, after writing a story, I don’t want to go back to it anymore.
Me. Why not?
Student: Because that’s the best I could do. I already gave my all. Besides, if I rewrote the story, it might change and go off tangent from my original intent.
Me. You have absolute control over how your story would go. You could stay put, or stray, or totally turn around.
Student: If I rewrite, what happens to my original story?
Me: Like I said, you could do either one of three ways: 1) stay—just tweak it here and there to improve the language or syntax, making it more interesting; 2) stray—adding new facts, new voices, new sounds here and there, giving the original storyline added dimensions; 3) spin—write the story in a totally different style or format, but retaining the essence.
Student: See, I was right, rewriting is tricky!
Me. It is in the rewriting, or revising, that you win or lose your reader. When you finish a story, that’s called the first draft, where you use your heart. Then when you look at it again, that’s when you use your head—how to make it worth the readers’ while. And that requires rewriting and rewriting and rewriting until it sings!
Student: I guess I need to look at my story again.
Me: Yes, please. You’ll be surprised at how much rewriting you want to do.
Student: “Good morning, Ms. Grace! Do you have a minute?”
Student: I am almost finished with my first novel. I just don’t know how to end it yet. Can you give me tips on how to do it?
Me: Your genre?
Me: Ooooh. In your outline, how did you end your story?
Student: Outline? Do I need an outline to write a story?
Me: Well, beginning writers, including me, always need one so we don’t get lost along the way.
Student: But I read an author who said a good story writes itself—no outline necessary.
Me: Well, there are no absolutes in creative writing. For instance, if your novel is a deep character portrait, where the narrative is driven by psychological and emotional forces rather than events, then you only need to jot down their character traits—so you know how they react to a situation. However, if your story is plot-oriented, then an outline clearly shows you where the conflicts are, big or small—and how they are resolved in the end, like putting together a puzzle.
Student: (Furrowing her brows) Mmmm . . .
Me: So is your novel character heavy or plot heavy?
Student: A little bit of both.
Me. Hmmm, it’s difficult to straddle in between. Your reader might get confused. Make a decision where you want to go, then rewrite to arrive at an ending—traditionally, where you resolve the conflict.
Me: Yup, the struggle between opposing forces. Usually, the main character struggles against a force, internal or external. You know of course that conflict is what drives a story. Without it, your story would have no point.
Student: (Murmuring) Conflict . . .
Me: (Teasing) Your two minutes are up!
Student: Oh, yes, of course. Thank you, Ms. Grace!
“Ms. Grace, Ms. Grace!” one student called out from behind me. He was brandishing sheets of paper.
Student: May I ask you a big, big favor?
Me: Okay, ask away!
Student: I printed out one of my plays. I am a playwright, you see—unpublished as yet. But one of my plays has already been staged during our clan reunion. Can you please read it, and tell what you think? I am sure I will learn a lot from you.
Me: (To myself) I used to write plays in college because I was taking up drama, but I have not written one in eons. (To him) Sure, let me read through it. I will give it back to you, with my comments, on my next teaching day—three days from now.
Student: Ohhh, thank you so much, Ms. I really appreciate it.
Three days later . . .
Me: (Handing him back his script) I sure did.
Student: What do you think?
Me: Well, I have questions and wrote them down on the margins.
Student: Questions like what?
Me: Well, your language is bold—a lot of cursing—and your sex scenes are explicit. Who is your audience? I mean, for whom did you write this play?
Student: (Gesturing wildly and proudly) Everybody!
Me: Anybody at all?
Me: Including pastors, priests, and nuns?
Student: Uh . . .
Me: How about an 80-year-old grandma, would she relate to it?
Student: Uh . . .
Me: And kids, grade school kids, would they understand it?
Student: Uh . . .
Me: Think through those questions and get back to me. After you've answered them, I will give you my comments.
Student: (Perplexed) Uh . . . Uh . . .
Me: See you around!