Archive | December, 2012

Looking Back At My 2012

29 Dec

I am not a fan of the term, New Year’s resolutions. Rather, I use the term goals when looking ahead to a new year. When I was in college I set the goal to cut out sugar soda from my diet for a year. I met that goal and many years later I prefer the diet stuff to the sugary pop.

Before 2012 I made a list of goals I wanted to work toward and pinned it up so it was visible at all times. This blog post serves as a reflection of my past year and an outlook for my 2013.

Last year’s list was titled “Who I Want To Be in 2012.” Here is what I wrote:

1. Having just one well paying career.
2. A good friend.
3. Cooking more.
4. Pregnant.
5. On time/non procrastinator.
6. A better listener.
7. Reduce debt.
8. The best wife in the world.
9. Closer to God.

Let’s see how I did:

1. This time last year I had my current job as well as a media relations contract position. In February the funding for my contract was cut and I lost my part-time position I had had for two years. To supplement our income I started to freelance more and found success with it.

2. I am so grateful for being able to mend a broken friendship with someone who has been a life-long friend. Long distance and lack of contact had created a rift in our friendship but our relationship has thankfully been restored.

3. For the first few months of the year I tried a new recipe every week. We had some interesting dishes that we really liked as well as some dishes we couldn’t finish. The husband was always kind when telling me something tasted weird. Thanks to Pinterest and my Better Homes and Gardens magazine I discovered a lot of fun recipes.

4. Unfortunately there is no bun in the oven…yet.

5. I admit I am still working on not procrastinating so much! I get in trouble because of my books. When I start reading it’s hard for me to stop!

6. I received a couple comments about how good of a listener I am, so I feel this was a success!

7. I am so proud of how well we did financially this year. While we lost a third of our income when I lost my contract position we made smart money choices that has still allowed us to pay down our debt. My car will soon be paid off and we just closed on a home refinance this week.

8. Last June marked our second wedding anniversary. I feel our relationship is stronger every year we pass. My husband is my best friend and he makes me such a better person.

9. I am still not consistent in my daily bible readings and journaling, but this year was definitely a year of growth for me spiritually. I led two small groups, a Pinterest as well as a Faith and Film group this year. I was challenged as a leader but out of it my own personal relationship with God grew stronger.

Not too shabby for a year’s worth of life. As I start to think ahead to 2013 I have a few goals in mind:

1. Travel more. There is so much to see.
2. Write more. Yes I write for a living, but there are so many more stories to tell.
3. Stay away from the library. I have so many books in my own personal library I need to read!
4. Baby. It’s still on the list!
5. Love more. Spend more time with the people who are important to me.
6. Serve more.

What’s on your list? How was 2012 for you?

What I’m Reading Wednesday

19 Dec

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My sister-in-law gave me the book, “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh for my birthday last year. When reading the book sleeve I instantly thought of Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence,” because of how flowers were used to communicate during the Victorian era.

The Language of Flowers is a powerful read about family (whether blood related or not) and love. It tells the story of Victoria, an 18-year-old who grew up in the foster care system and was never adopted. She eventually aged out only to have no where to go and lived in a city park. The story weaves back and forth between present day of her finding work in a floral shop and when she was a child, living with a foster parent she desperately wanted to adopt her.

Throughout the story I was on edge just waiting for something tragic to happen. There are definitely more downs than ups, but it definitely gives an intimate look from the perspective of a foster child. Victoria deems herself unworthy and unforgivably flawed, and it just breaks your heart that she can’t snap out of her own self-loathing.

Here is an excerpt from page 195. Victoria is speaking about her boyfriend whom she knew as a child and was reunited with as an adult:

“If I had known how I would have joined Grant in prayer. I would have prayed for him, for his goodness, his loyalty, and his improbable love. I would have prayed for him to give up, to let go, and to start over. I might have even prayed for forgiveness. But I don’t know how to pray.”

The author has three children including a former foster child. She launched the Camellia Network to support youth making the transition from foster care to independence.

At the end of the book is a Q and A interview with the author. One of the questions asked what her inspiration was for the novel. Her response:

“With Victoria, I wanted to create a character that people could connect with on an emotional level — at her best and at her worst — which I hoped would give readers a deeper understanding of the challenges of growing up in foster care.”

As the novel progresses Victoria finds a passion for and personal healing in flowers and their meanings. The novel also includes a flower dictionary at the back of the book to help the reader keep track. You will definitely put extra thought in picking out your next bouquet.

What is your favorite flower?

Celebrate with a Book Exchange Party

12 Dec
Books wrapped and ready to be exchanged!

Books wrapped and ready to be exchanged!

In the spirit of the holidays and the many parties that are happening in the next few weeks, I’m skipping my usual “What I’m Reading Wednesday” to talk about parties. And books. And parties with books.

Tonight I’m going as a guest to a book exchange party thrown by the book club my sister-in-law is involved in. It’s about an hour drive away from where I live but I love books and hanging out with people who love books as much as I do that it’s totally worth it! Spoiler alert!: I’ve wrapped the latest book I read, “Girl in Translation.” Not only was it a great read, but I had recommended a lot of my favorite books to the book club when they first got started so they have already read them.

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When it comes time to exchange we will all share why we chose the book we did.

When my friend Blaire turned 28 this summer she requested a book exchange party. Everyone brought a wrapped book of their choice and I put together a trivia game all about Blaire. The person with the highest score got to pick their book first and it went down the line. We also had the option to exchange if we wanted to.

This party had a wide variety of genres from romance to historical fiction to young adult. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this but in the end I ended up trading for the book I brought! I know! For shame! My sister-in-law introduced me to Kate Morton, and her novel “The House at Riverton” because it’s during the same time era as Downton Abbey. I totally procrastinated in shopping for my book and the day of the party I could not find “The House at Riverton” anywhere! Feeling pressured I picked up another Morton book, “The Forgotten Garden.” I hadn’t read it yet but Morton is a crazy good writer and thought it would be a good read.

I took home “The House at Riverton” which remains in my ever-growing books-still-to-read list!

The party host can dictate the guidelines for their book exchange party. For the party I’m attending tonight the book can be new, used or autographed. It just has to be wrapped! It’s a great way for everyone to leave with something and to share the good reads we all find!

Happy book parties everyone!

“What I’m Reading Wednesday” will resume next week!

What book would you bring to a book exchange party and why?

What I’m Reading Wednesday

5 Dec

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I’ve been trying to stay away from the library. My bookshelf at home is overflowing with books, many of which I have yet to read, including one my husband bought me for Christmas LAST year. At the time when he was doing online shopping I was reading Lisa See’s “Shanghai Girls.” He did some investigative research and bought me the book’s sequel, “Dreams of Joy” and another book “Girl in Translation.”

I finally stayed away from the library long enough to read “Girl in Translation” by Jean Kwok a couple of weeks ago. Props to my husband for picking not one, but two really good reads for me!

My grandmother was born in Japan and immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s when she married my grandfather, an American. She hardly spoke any English and was a mother of four children.

Me and my grandmother on my left with the gold obi.

Me and my grandmother on my left with the gold obi.

I am always fascinated by stories of immigration, especially during the days of Ellis Island. Girl in Translation tells an semi-autobiographical story of a 12-year-old girl, Kimberly, who immigrates to New York from Hong Kong with her mother. Both of them hardly speak a word of English. Her mom finds work at a sweatshop in Chinatown, barely making enough money for them to live off of.

The book is a work of fiction, but includes parts of what the author lived through when she herself immigrated from China and her family worked in a sweatshop. Jean writes a fascinating story of a world that was so real to her but unknown to many.

One element of this novel that really stood out to me is the dialogue with the main character, Kimberly. When she first arrives to the U.S. she can’t really communicate in English and the author writes the dialogue according to what it sounds like to Kimberly. As a reader it’s difficult to understand what people are saying to Kimberly, so I can only imagine trying to communicate in a foreign language every day!

I will admit the ending was a little bit of a disappointment in that I’m always a fan of the good guy gets the girl in the end, but it’s a powerful novel that really makes you grateful for what you have and makes you aware of injustices.

The story is a true rags to riches tale that follows the determined Kimberly as she pursues an Ivy League education to get her mom out of the sweatshop.

I’m not sure when it comes out, but Kwok is working on another novel set in Chinatown and involves some of her experience spent in the professional ballroom dance world.