Year of the Rose

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According to the Chinese zodiac calendar, 2018 is the Year of the Dog. However, I plan on having it be the Year of the Rose.

Perhaps this will also serve as a hint as to what my next book cover will look like since I am also working right now on my second AND third books as I type this.

Truth be told, I had a sunflower phase for a long time and actually was a bit anti-rose because I saw roses as the archenemy. I also have had a dahlia phase and actually do find all of these flowers still beautiful.

I think my newfound love for roses might have something to do with me embracing my inner Belle since last year when the film Beauty and the Beast came out. It’s evident by my many posts reviewing books, the one I did on my love for life-like inanimate objects, my fashion choices, and now my obsession with buying bouquets after bouquets of roses the last several weeks.

 

Also, being a Game of Thrones fan, I had a coincidental incident happen where a fellow GOT fan joked about my house doing well and I asked him what animal or creature my so-called house would be symbolized by. In my head, I thought to myself “House of Roses.” Out of curiosity I decided to look up “roses” on wikipedia when I got home and it led me to a historical reference to The War of Roses, the war within the English royal family between the House of Lancaster (symbolized by a red rose) and Yorks (represented likewise by a white rose). Being an American, I was not knowledgeable of much English history but these civil wars were fought between the two houses over which house were to gain control of the throne, serving as an inspiration for the author of the Game of Thrones books. Hence, the Lancasters would be the Lannisters and the Yorks would be the Starks.

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Like the English, I continue to enjoy my tea, sometimes in my rose tea cup topped with a silicone rose lid to keep it from cooling down as quickly. One of my friends who gifted me with tea was thoughtful enough to also gift me with a gorgeous rose tea comprised of whole minature roses to steep.

So as the saying goes, don’t forget to smell the roses in life.

-M

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Book Review: Unshakeable by Tony Robbins

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I’ve been a fan of Tony Robbins since being introduced to his work several years ago. And I have had the honor of partaking in his Unleash the Power Within seminar too. I just finished reading his latest book Unshakeable so this is a review based on that experience.

Since I have been working for myself pretty much most of my adult life now, I have never worked at a company where opening a 401k account was offered. It really wasn’t until I got divorced in my late twenties that I actually bothered learning about opening up a retirement account. And even then, I made the very mistake Tony Robbins talks about in entrusting a friend who has the title of a financial advisor whose agenda was to sell me an expensive life insurance policy instead of helping me open a retirement account. Thankfully, I was able to get a second and third opinion and realized my mistake before it became a very expensive one long before I read the book.

However, in reading the book I was able to learn the different types of financial advisors and what to look for. Likewise, I had recently shopped around for a new tax accountant and have come to learn what to look for in that particular situation as well. There are certain things I believe in hiring professionals to get the job done correctly, especially when it comes to legal documents or anything that I am unfamiliar with that could get me in trouble if I do it myself incorrectly. So it’s that much more important to know that I’m hiring the right people in the first place!

It was also when I opened a retirement account that I started to invest in stocks. According to the book, low-cost index funds is the way to go and I was reminded of why I shouldn’t invest in mutual funds. I admittedly wasn’t aware of all the different asset classifications for low-cost index funds until I read the book (and I still need to refer to the post-it notes I stuck on the pages in the book to go over them as I type this).

I do consider myself a creative, artsy type. But I’ve also been running a business for over ten years now and have made a living from doing creative, artsy things. Reading a book on finances many not seem as entertaining as a pre-conceivably creative, artsy novel —- but pretty darn vital for a single, independent, modern vintage woman. And I would argue that it’s even more of a challenge to be creative in presenting information in a book about finances so that people can understand it and hence, enjoy reading it.

More surprisingly, I actually was moved to tears when I was reading one of the chapters in the book on emotional/psychological/spiritual wealth. It was a two-minute gratitude meditation that Tony Robbins takes people through at his seminars. He has an audio version of it available too but I decided to continue reading the words on the pages and went through it as I read along. Somewhere between steps 2 and 4, I lost it. He instructs you to breathe while becoming physically aware of your heart beating, reminding you to be grateful for it doing just that.

Here’s to learning to make better decisions, building & growing wealth, and being grateful for what we have.

-M

Film Review on Wonder, Book Review on The Best Day Ever, and How They Helped Me Get Out of a Funk

This week I went to go watch the film Wonder on release day and completed the book club read of the month The Best Day Ever (by Kaira Rouda).

I personally don’t mind doing a lot of activities solitarily or with other people as it’s apparent from a lot of my blog postings where I read a lot (but do enjoy discussing the books with the book club ladies) or travel by myself (but also enjoy visiting others or traveling with others sometimes). So while I did ask around to see if anyone wanted to go watch Wonder with me, I did end up enjoying the film on my own as well as the book. And I found these two seemingly very different stories therapeutic.

We all strive to be perfect or want to at least look it, even though we know no one can be [perfect].

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 5.43.51 PMWith Wonder, it’s very evident that the story is about a boy who has a facial difference he was born with (Treacher Collins Syndrome) but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the film actually does go into the back stories of the other characters in his life. And while it is heartbreaking to see him go through what he goes through because of the obvious, the way the film shows perspective of the other characters’ lives it’s a lesson that it’s beyond life that revolves around you—- even when things are hard for you, it doesn’t mean other people have it any easier because we all have things we have to deal with.

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 5.46.40 PMIn reading the novel The Best Day Ever it was also surprising to know that it was written by a female author but from the perspective of a psychopathic male character. While some of the things this character thought was repulsing, I couldn’t help but be reminded that there are people out there who think these thoughts. And yet, this person thinks that he is “perfect” because he is in denial of his problems.

So may these pieces be a reminder to not be deceived by the facade of things and being able to accept and acknowledge your imperfections.

I admittedly strive to paint this image of fabulousness of myself in sharing things I do in these blog posts. But like everyone else I am vulnerable and feel pain. Even if I appear strong enough to get back up, the pain is still there. While some may perceive that as a sign of weakness, I believe that there is strength in continuously getting back up in spite of the pain and also being able to be kind to others through empathy of understanding or acknowledging other people’s pain/hardships.

Be kind to others and to yourself,

-M

Book and Film Review: The Zookeeper’s Wife

The book club ladies and I read The Zookeeper’s Wife for the month of October. And at the meeting for discussing the book, a lot of the ladies who had seen the film said that the film was better than the book (which doesn’t happen very often). So I decided to put that theory to the test and watched the film myself.

The verdict? Overall, I did like the film better too.

Visually – The book did provide actual photos of the Zabinski Family as well as the zoo animals whereas the film did not have any archived footage or photos even at the end. However, the film did make it easier to follow the different guests that stayed since it does tend to become difficult for me to keep up with too many characters in the written form. I did wish that the book would include a map of where everything was which would have been more helpful.
Historically – Luckily, both the book and the film were done in the style of having things happen in a chronological order. However, the book does have less of a progressing story feel to it in comparison to the film. This is where a lot of the ladies from the book club felt like it was hard to get through the book at times since it had a more history book or documentary feel to it. Though I will say that reading the book did give me a good understanding of what was going on in the film. So I’m still glad I read the book.

With the recent natural disasters that have been happening all over the country lately, it has been a sad reminder that whether it’s a natural disaster or a war innocent lives are taken and endangered, both human and non-human animals. And it is always heartwarming to hear about the selfless kindness and courageous acts to help others that exist amidst such tragedy.

-M

My Everyday Life in Black & White

Many of you have probably seen the posts people have been doing on the 7-day challenge of posting black & white photos from everyday life. The posts usually are something like this:

Seven days. Seven black and white photos of your life. No people. No explanations. Nominate someone to do the same. Day <enter number> of 7. I nominate <enter name>

My friend Megan nominated me to do the challenge on one of her 7 days, coincidentally on a Sunday after I returned home from an outing with my mother in the city where I came across this humorous book cover that I had just happened to photograph:

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Click here to buy the panda book
And then from the first photo I took for this challenge, I realized that the first photo was also an object that was in black & white against a black & white background, coincidentally enough! So then I decided to add a new layer to the challenge by being mindful that whole week of photographing everyday life that is ALREADY black & white, though I did still use a black & white filter to photograph them.

In following the instructions, I will not provide any explanations to leave a sense of mystery (or at least to those who aren’t familiar with what I’ve photographed). However, en lieu of nominating someone for each day, I invite anyone who is feeling inspired to take on this challenge!

From doing this project, I also became more aware of the different colors in my everyday life in general. It made me think about the fact that I could do different colored versions of this photography project (ie. a red things in my everyday life). For me, it was about taking a moment to notice things in my everyday life and being mindful. It’s why people do things like meditation.

Namaste,

M

Book Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

IMG_3174Like most people, there are lots of things I have given a f*ck about that I no longer give f*ck about. Thank goodness for that…

As straight forward as the title of the book seems, it did offer me a good supply of laughter as soon as I started reading it. Though the last chapter is on death [appropriately enough] and the topic is also something I myself thought about when I wrote my own book. At the time I had thought that I was a rare weirdo in being a 29 year old approaching 30 thinking about such a concept. However, at some point in the book I did come to the mathematical conclusion that Mark Manson and I are actually the same age too.

And while I too have lived an unconventional life in my own ways, Manson’s included traveling to 55 countries in 5 years and with it came even a larger number of lovers. But you don’t have to rack up those numbers in order to reach a nirvana of “not giving a f*ck.” It’s about living a life true to yourself in who you are, not what everyone else wants you to be or tells you to be. And in Manson’s case he ultimately came to the conclusion that this adventurous and exciting lifestyle he had envisioned for himself turned out to not be all that it was hyped up to be.

I am a fan of his”Do Something” Principle and the analogy he used of how his parents would look to him as a technology prodigy as an example to illustrate the principle. It’s often the stereotype that the younger generation is more technology-savvy but the point Manson was making was that he simply would try every button and plug or unplug every cable/cord to see what would happen until he learned how the whole system worked. The fear of trying and doing something/anything is trumped by curiosity.

I still go to auditions my agency sends me out on knowing that there’s a high chance that I will not get the gig but I go anyways because I know that if I don’t go my chances are zero. I wrote and published my own book last year, knowing that it’s most likely not going to become a New York Times Bestseller or a Pulitzer Award winner.

I believe you could always make improvements but I don’t believe in being a perfectionist. I too share the same belief with Manson (and Nike) that you just do it. Some of my earlier blog posts would make me cringe today. But the belief is that as you keep doing something you get better over time.

One might say that in some altruistic motive, I started this blog in hopes of inspiring others with my so-called modern vintage lifestyle. But as Manson points out, it’s the action that inspires inspiration and then that becomes a motivation. It’s not to say that my blog postings can’t be inspiring. But there are many people out there who feel inspired by motivational seminars who will not apply what they learned to make changes in their life or those who hear about courageous acts on the evening news and they themselves will never lift a finger to help a stranger in need.

Though at the end of the day, it’s our choice as to what we decide to give a f*ck about. And there are billions of people out there who couldn’t give a f*ck about what I have to say. The important thing is to give a f*ck about something that matters to you. And it’s not a bad thing to reevaluate what you deem as important once in a while.

-M

 

 

Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

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This novel has been turned into a Hulu series show recently but I have yet to watch it. So my personal review at this time is primarily based on my experience with reading the book.

Though in discussing the book with the book club ladies, I have heard from some women who have also seen the Hulu series that there were additional details that appeared on the show that weren’t in the book such as the real name of the protagonist character renamed Offred upon becoming a handmaid. The book was turned into a series of shows rather than a movie so I could see how a series would become more extensive and detailed whereas a book-turned-movie usually presents the opposite scenario.

As a recommendation for reading the book, I would actually reread the Introduction chapter upon finishing the book as it all makes more sense in doing so. Though this is a recent edition of the book and the Introduction is the one that was written by the author in February of this year. The book was originally written in the 1980s but has received a lot of attention lately as explained by the author in this Introduction chapter which references the most recent election and our current presidency and political climate as a result. Even though the book was written decades ago, there were many coincidences such as references to a wall being built which has made the novel feel relevant to current times.

In fact, one of the first comments that the book club ladies mentioned at our meeting discussing this novel was how the book did feel relevant and timeless. The author also explains that everything mentioned in the book has happened in history. I do recall watching an interview of Hilary Clinton saying that she was told by the credit card company to use her husband’s credit card when she first tried to get her own credit card in the 70’s which would help illustrate what happened that day women in the book lost their jobs and access to their credit cards.

Hence, I could see why the author gets the feedback about this book being a “feminist” book. As a “Modern Vintage Woman” I am in agreement with Sheryl Sanberg’s take in her book Lean In (which I had previously reviewed in my blog post last year) where women need to be supportive of each other and career-oriented women who work outside the home should not shame stay at home mothers and vise versa.

I have faced similar issues myself this year with women who criticized me for my choices (or was very aggresive in encouraging or discouraging me from making certain choices) ranging from my outfit choices, who to date, who to co-habitat with, what career movement I should make, the urgency to get married and have children, what to write/not write in my blog, etc. In the moment, it actually feels difficult to sometimes make a firm stance and defend yourself because you really may change your mind later (which you are allowed to do). But at the end of the day, I had to make peace with the fact that these other women do not have to live with the consequences of the choices I make for myself while I do. So in spite of any criticism I may continue to get, I must make my own choices. In the meanwhile, I try to walk the talk by being supportive of other women.

In the society I live in, I am thankful that I do currently have the right to exercise making such choices. So in reading The Handmaid’s Tale it makes me feel extra grateful.

It is always possible for society to retrogress and decrease the rights of women or continue to have it be the case as it is in many parts of the world. But as the book illustrates, the truth remains to be the case in both fiction and reality that the human population cannot continue to exist without women. So perhaps to some it may seem ungrateful for me to not use my abilities to reproduce to make such contributions.

But if anything, I was reminded by other women (and men) recently when I celebrated a major milestone in my martial arts career by passing my 5th degree black belt exam, that achievements by women are not limited to their ability to becoming a biological mother but can also be being a female figure in which other women can look up to for inspiration. IMG_2469I have since then found myself featured in other people’s blogs around the globe and had apparently caused quite a stir in strutting around the arena (in places where shoes were left on) in my high heels even while wearing my martial arts uniform. I’ve continued to make my stance in that I am entitled to be “feminine” or female and my youthful self in a martial arts world that is dominated primarily by older men while continuing to work hard to prove myself worthy of the title I have earned. This is me being a “Modern Vintage Woman.”

-M