Rediscovering my passion

Overall, 2018 was a rough year for our family and we concentrated on surviving and then finding our new normal. Towards the end of 2018, I started to feel more like myself and very slowly started finding motivation to move from merely surviving to thriving. I wish I knew what jump-started this motivation, but I don’t. Even if I can’t pinpoint the cause, it’s time to start moving forward.

In December, I listened to a podcast about compound interest. Normally, compound interest is a phrase used when discussing personal finance. But in this podcast, the phrase was being used to describe any actions taken on a regular basis to work toward a desired result. For example, cleaning one’s house for a few minutes a day will create a compound effect toward having an overall cleaner home. Skipping dessert today and then again tomorrow will create a compound effect that will later result in a more healthy body.

As 2019 started, I decided that it was time to ease myself back into my Chinese studies. A thought often discussed on language forums is that you don’t want to look back to a year ago and think of how much closer you would be to fluency if only you had taken the time to study a few minutes each day. This is a fantastic example of compound interest. It takes a regular, ongoing effort to become fluent in a language.

At the beginning of the month, I started out only studying a couple of minutes a day. My only goal was to catch up on my flashcard backlog, which consisted of roughly 100 vocabulary words and phrases and another 500 hanzi characters. As I started studying, I found that I craved more. As odd as it sounds, I missed studying Chinese.

Then I dug up a travel channel on YouTube about a guy who toured Taiwan in order to enjoy the local cuisine. That led to browsing Pinterest and adding pins to my travel board for our 2020 trip to Taiwan. Then I found another travel blogger who is a polyglot, someone who learns multiple languages.

Now, just two weeks after making a decision to embrace that compound effect of studying, I am thirsting for more language studies. I had forgotten how much I love learning languages. Suddenly, it hit me – languages are my passion. Either I’ve never given myself permission to embrace language learning as a passion or I’ve forgotten how much I have always loved studying languages.

In high school, I spent a year learning Latin and two years learning Spanish. After getting married, thanks to the influence of my husband, I spent a few years learning Japanese. When we decided to adopt our daughter from Taiwan, I switched to learning Chinese. And I have loved my time spent with each of these languages!

I don’t know where my language efforts will lead me. All I can do is make a daily effort and keep reminding myself that it’s ok to be passionate about learning languages. It’s not selfish and it’s not useless. There must be a reason I love the challenge. For now, I’ll continue with Chinese. Eventually, I hope to revisit Japanese and maybe I’ll start a new language as well. There are so many options and I’m excited about all of the possibilities.

Deadly Proof – A book review


Deadly Proof
Rachel Dylan

As far as modern Christian fiction is concerned, this is one of the better novels I’ve read. Kate is a fairly realistic character, a woman lawyer who struggles with depression. She obsesses over her career, immersing herself in her work for long days to cope with the emotions that rise when she has downtime. Kate genuinely cares about her clients and works hard to ensure they receive the justice they deserve.

I did struggle with Kate’s attitude toward her clients. It came across as if Kate would only accept clients who she believed were genuinely innocent of any wrongdoing. I don’t know enough about the law industry to know if it’s possible for lawyers to only accept certain clients, especially when they work in a firm and have other lawyers above them in the pecking order. Kate switched from defense to prosecution because she wanted to protect those who had been wronged. But what about those individuals who had been wrongly accused of a crime? Don’t they deserve a lawyer who believes in them?

The legal aspects of this novel were extremely well explained. The author took care to explain various laws and court procedure but was able to explain things without talking down to the reader. This is difficult to do well! I appreciated that. I have read a few legal thrillers and have watched a LOT of legal thriller television and movies. So the novel didn’t teach me anything new in that area but I also didn’t feel as if I was wasting my time reading legal explanations for the lay person.

The romantic relationship was a bit… sappy. Landon’s character was slightly girly. He is a former Army Ranger and yet his internal thoughts were not very manly. He came across more like a romcom lead than an ex-military private investigator. This made the relationship development seem cheesy and unbelievable. It felt more like how a woman daydreams about a man’s thoughts toward her rather than how a man actually thinks.

Overall, Deadly Proof was a great read! I just put the second book on hold at the library and can’t wait to read other novels by the same author.

Thank you to Bethany House for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

The Nephilim Virus – A Book Review

First of all, I owe a huge apology to both the author and the publisher of this book. Life got crazy, I wrote down the wrong date for the blog tour, and now I’m late in getting my review published. But I wanted to make sure I honor my commitment, though it’s late, so here goes.

The Nephilim Virus, written by John T. Prather, is not my normal choice of reading material. I generally gravitate to historical fiction, Christian contemporary romance, or nonfiction. However, I’ve really been wanting to branch out in my reading, choosing other genres in hopes of finding some new favorites. When I saw this book available as a review copy, I decided that it was a good choice in my attempts to branch out.

Nick Reese wakes from a three-year coma to find the world he once knew is gone. An ancient virus has infected two-thirds of the world’s population, turning humans into either incredibly intelligent super-humans or large and indestructible animalistic creatures. For the survivors, there is no government, no antidote, and no safety. With the help of a beautiful hematologist named Faith and a man they call the Commander, Nick must survive long enough to discover the origin of the virus and learn how his blood could hold the key to a cure. But he has to do it while being hunted by the infected. And failure means the extinction of the human race. (description from Prather’s website)

The Nephilim Virus is an intense book! It is entirely plot driven and the action never stops. I’m a mom to two teens (demanding and time intensive parenting for sure!) and yet I could barely put the book down. It was suspenseful! I had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next. Was Nick going to find the other virus survivors? Was he going to be able to save the human race or was life hopeless? Events kept happening, never a dull moment in Nick’s life. I felt the novel sacrificed character development for constant plot development, but that may be more common in the thriller genre.

My only real criticism about the novel is that the ending felt entirely too rushed. Until the last 25 or so pages, I thought for sure that this was going to be a series. Then all of a sudden, the novel ended and everything was wrapped up. A sequel might have been a good idea to help the ending feel more realistic. I’m also curious if this book was written with the intent to bring it to film. The chapters were short, quick scenes that advanced the plot. Dialog was short and snappy. Since the author is also an actor, I can easily see how he could write the book intending it to someday be on the big screen.

I am definitely glad that I read this book. While supernatural thriller will never be my favorite genre, The Nephilim Virus was definitely worth the read. It’s an adventure story that kept me at the edge of my seat.

Minimalism – Day 7

Today my husband and I returned a couple items to Nordstrom. I love their customer service! I was able to return a shirt that I had bought 2.5 years ago, never wore, and still had the tags on it. Due to the length of time since purchase, they were not able to give me a refund but they did give me a gift certificate.

I have a new personal policy – return all unwanted online orders within a week of receipt. One of the items returned was too big for me; they had since transferred that line to Nordstrom Rack and could not exchange it for me, instead offering me a refund. One of the items was too small. That one was “limited stock” but the cashier was able to find it at another Nordstrom store and ordered it to be shipped to our home. If I had been more on top of exchanges, I could have gotten the correct sizes for all returns instead of refunds.

And it took awhile, but I finally figured out why I’m having such a hard time decluttering my clothes. If I follow all three of my guidelines…

1 – Does it fit properly at my current weight?
2 – Does it look good on me, a good color, a good fit, etc?
3 – Do I like it?

… then there won’t be much left in my closet. My very last sweater is worn and is now too small for me but I wear it because it’s my last one. I have a couple long sleeved shirts that I love. Several of my t-shirts are pretty worn and should probably be replaced soon. But my wardrobe funds are limited so I am slow in replacing things. I know I could shop somewhere other than Nordstrom’s clearance racks but I love their clothes. I grew up wearing secondhand clothes and would rather have a limited wardrobe that I love than have a bunch of clothes I just tolerate. It’s a trade-off. I’m slowly moving toward a wardrobe I love but have to replace things slowly due to funds.

In the meantime, I can probably cull a few things I never wear but everything else has to stay. I may not love it. It may be worn out. But it’s all I have.

Items decluttered (to-date) – 14

Minimalism – Day 4

I’m still working on my minimalism project. Woohoo!

But I’m having a really hard time letting go of a few things and cannot pinpoint exactly why. My husband said it’s emotional attachment, which is why I cannot find an actual reason.

For example…

I started collecting jeans for this quilt years ago, I think even before I met my husband. I saw a denim quilt on HGTV and instantly fell in love.

However, when I started working on the quilt, I made a mistake in choosing to include pockets. At first I thought it would be a really cute addition. But when I started the actual quilting, I found that it was almost impossible to quilt around the pockets or through them. Quilting through them ruined the ability to use the pockets but quilting around them looked really bad on the cat side of the quilt.

Now, at 35 years of age, this is not really my style of quilt. But I think the sentimentality makes it impossible to get rid of it. I’ve been working on the quilt, either collecting the jeans, sewing together the jean patches, or working on the quilting itself, for over a decade. Obviously I don’t love the project. So why can’t I let it go?

Items decluttered (to-date) – 7

Writers block

I want to start writing on my blog again. But when I pull up the page to start writing, I freeze. This blog was started just so that I could reach out to and make friends with other Christian women. Then I adopted a couple years ago, so I thought I would write about older child adoption and parenting.

Now I’m not sure where I should go with it. I’m not driven by reader statistics, though it’s nice to know people visit once and then return. Most of my day to day updates are on Facebook. But I miss writing.

My challenge is to treat writing as self-care, not to turn it into a chore or a to-do list item. During my last therapy session, we talked a lot about self-care, about what qualifies as self-care and what is actually an obligation. My blog can turn into an obligation but it doesn’t have to be.

So to combat the writers block, I’m putting this out there just to say hi to whoever comes across it. Leave me a comment and say hi, maybe tell me something interesting about your day. Hopefully writing this one post will get the creative juices flowing again. It’s a very dry well but there’s hope.

Reading Goals

In all the everyday demands of life, my reading has taken a backseat. It’s so hard for me to balance everything that I want to accomplish. This week I logged into Goodreads to update my reading and found this:

13 books behind schedule! I’m not sure that I can, nor do I want to try to, catch up with my reading goal. However, I would like to reduce some of my time wasters *ahem, Panda Pop and mindless Facebook browsing* in order to add in some meaningful reading. This week I am tackling these three books.

These Is My Words – A random selection from my enormous to-read list. I’m about 30 pages in and overwhelmed at the sheer number of tragedies this girl endured. I can’t tell if this will be a motivational read or a depressing one. I would like to finish within a week or two.

The Count of Monte Cristo – I have a reading buddy with whom I am going to try to complete the novel. I’m trying to nudge my best friend into joining me as well! This will be a slow but steady read. We set a pace of three chapters a week and we’ll see if it’s the right pace and adjust as necessary.

Guns, Germs, and Steel – This one has been on my shelf for at least a year. I started reading it, completed the first third, and stalled due to life. It’s actually a really interesting book so I’ve committed myself to reading 3-5 pages a day. That way I can continue to make progress and eventually finish it.

There are so many books out there and not enough time. Must read more!

Forgotten passion

I rediscovered this passion last summer but between then and now, completely forgot.

I. Love. Hiking!

This weekend I’m at my church’s women’s retreat. I’m grateful to be here even though I’m struggling with so many people in close quarters.

The lodge is out of town and close to hiking. There is a very short trail attached to the property and the Mount Si trail head is within walking distance. I invited myself along with a group of ladies who were headed to Mount Si. We only had time to hike to the first mileage sign but it was a beautiful hike. I fully enjoyed myself.

Sunday mornings, I spend three hours out by myself. I might have to take myself hiking instead of sitting in a coffee shop!

2017 reading challenges

One of my absolute favorite things about New Years is the opportunity to brainstorm a reading list for the upcoming year. I’ve always had a lot of fun with this. The past few years, I’ve picked a couple series of books to read, as well as standalone titles from my to-read list. This year I’m doing the same, except I decided to read a few specific titles along with my best friend.

Here’s my list for 2017.

Standalone titles
Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas
Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
All of Jane Austen’s books
A book by Agatha Christie, title undecided

Series
Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Lord of the Rings by Tolkien

Reading challenge
7 Keys TJEd reading list

The TJEd list isn’t a reading challenge, per se. It’s actually a self-education outline, reading a lot of the great classics in a specific order. I have no plans to finish this list in 2017, as it is quite long and involved. But I would like to get started and make a dent in the list.

I also set a Goodreads goal of reading 100 books. I far exceeded that last year. My total is unknown, as I’m still entering a few books from December. Some of those were readalouds I did with my daughter, but I read a lot for myself. If you want to be friends on Goodreads, please add me! I love meeting new readers.

Here’s to a wonderful year of reading!

A Tapestry of Secrets – a book review

Tapestry of Secrets

Now in her eighties, Perla Phillips has carried a secret since she was eighteen years old. When she sees her granddaughter, Ella, struggling for perfection, she decides to share her secret to show that God can use even the biggest mistakes for good. But before she can reveal what happened during that summer sixty years ago, she has a debilitating stroke.

Carrying a secret of her own, Ella arrives back in Wise, West Virgina, to help her aunt Sadie care for Perla. Both know the woman wanted to tell them something, but she’s now locked in silence. Together they begin looking into the past, but they may learn more than they expected.
Will they have the courage to share their hearts? Or will the truth remain buried forever?

I love reviewing books by Bethany House! I eagerly read over each and every monthly email, trying to figure out if they are offering a book that I would enjoy reading. I chose A Tapestry of Secrets because of the cover. I adore quilting and novels about quilting.

Sarah Loudin Thomas is a new-to-me author. When I requested this book, I think I knew that this was in the middle of a series but thought it would be ok to read out of order. In that regard, I was correct. I have no idea which characters the two earlier novels are about. This book can be read on its own, without having to read the other novels. Unfortunately, that’s about the only good thing I can say about it.

The main character drove me insane. I wanted to reach into the pages and slap her until she developed some common sense and decency. Ella was recovering from a bad relationship and yet she continued to drool over multiple men at the same time. I understand looking around and contemplating your options. But if you are seriously considering dating one man, please do not talk about how the other one is a hottie and maybe you should date him! One at a time. Evaluate a man based on his own qualities, not compared to someone else in your circle of acquaintances. From her internal dialog – “then again, maybe she shouldn’t be too quick to lean in any one direction.” Really? When you cannot stand the main character, it doesn’t matter how well written the story is; it’s painful to read.

I wish that the author had spent more time talking about Ella’s art. That was what I was most interested in. She designed quilting art. Wall hangings, quilts, but with a nontraditional flare. Some of the descriptions of Ella’s work were very vivid and I was intrigued to learn more about the process of how Ella gained her inspiration, chose her materials, and created her art pieces. But other than a couple of short passages, the book never delves into the quilting aspect. I was disappointed.

Still, thank you to Bethany House in exchange for my honest opinion! All thoughts are my own.