I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that I love reading Young Adult (YA) fiction, but these books sometimes make me so disgusted that I want to throw them across the room. Yes, there are a million elements that work together to make a book extraordinarily good (or bad), but for me, what draws me or repels me is usually the use of emotion. And it seems that YA books seem to portray emotion either very well or very poorly. If complex human emotions are replaced with melodrama—poorly-justified teenage angst—it makes me want to throw up a little bit. But every so often, there is a YA book that, in the simplest of language, tells a story that leaves me gutted—that turns me into a snotty mess and gives me a new appreciation for the unanswered questions and the hard truths and gray areas of life that youth (and adults) wrestle with as they discover who they are or want to be.
In January, I made a goal to read fifty books in 2017.
Well, it’s the end of June and with twenty-five books completed, I’m on track with my goal. I’m exploring all kinds of genres and topics, both fiction and non-fiction. My reading is all over the place, and I’ve made some really amazing discoveries.
I know it seems like January is supposed to be the time for New Year’s resolutions and goal setting, but having spent my entire life (first as a student and then as a teacher) with my life revolving around the academic calendar, for me a new year begins when school starts.
But then again, I’m so in the habit of setting goals, planning strategies, stopping to reflect and analyze my progress, and pivoting when things aren’t working well, that I am constantly reflecting on goals—whether it’s January, August, or October, doesn’t really matter.
Sri Lanka never really crossed my mind as a destination, but my husband happened to get a bug in his brain and started doing a ton of research, discovered that it was a direct flight from Beijing, found decent-priced airfare, and ended up planning a trip there during our spring break. I went not really knowing what to expect—just willing go along for the ride and see what we would find.
It ended up being a spectacular break. We loved it so much we could see ourselves going back.
[For runners who are interested in a description of the course, a review of the event organization, or logistics about registering for the marathon, feel free to skip my musings about pre-race jitters and race agony and scroll down to below the slideshow.]
I consider myself a reasonable person. Yes, I have my
prideful whimsical moments when I overestimate my abilities by just a tad, but I think I’m usually I’m a pretty conservative judge at how much I can manage at any given time, and I’m not afraid to say no when I’ve reached my limit.
I’ve always loved exercising, but with other goals and pressures on my time, it’s often the first thing to get pushed aside. My to-do list is filled with the essentials to keep my household running smoothly, to finish my online classes, and to pursue my writing goals. By the time I check those items off my to-do list, it’s fairly easy to convince myself to save the exercise for another day.
And then I decided to register for a marathon in mid-May, and this forced me to be more consistent in my exercise regimen. My other commitments didn’t go away, which meant that I either needed to start getting up at 5:00 in the morning and exercising before my kids wake up or be completely unprepared for my marathon.
View of Hong Kong from Ocean Park Tower
Hong Kong is a popular destination among many of my Beijing friends, and for good reason. It’s an inexpensive flight, and once you’re there, it’s an easy city to travel within. The public transportation system is extensive and easy to use. There aren’t any language barriers because so many people speak English. Hong Kong is a beautiful city. It’s clean. And there is a lot to do.
There is so much information out there already about what to do in Hong Kong and how to get around, I feel a bit silly writing about it myself, and yet, we had such a good time visiting during the Chinese New Year holiday, I can’t help but chime in and add my two cents.
When we returned to China in August this year, my family decided to be committed to exploring China rather than remaining in our expat bubble here in Beijing. I really did have good intentions of recording and sharing our adventures, but intentions are one thing . . . and (clearly) our actions might not match them in the long run. But now, here I am, remembering my commitment to record our adventures. The most significant one we took this year I absolutely loved, but it was ages ago, and I have yet to talk about it.
During the China National Holiday in October (yes . . . it’s taken me that long!), my children were released from school for a week and we decided to try something totally new and go on our first road trip in China to the city of Hohhot in the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia. We really enjoyed our time there. It was nice to see parts of China outside of Beijing where we live, and it was a trip that I would definitely recommend to other expat families here.
Several months ago I reviewed a couple books that I loved so much I couldn’t wait until the end of the year to talk about them. You can read what I have to say about The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien and Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin in the reviews I wrote earlier this year. I read them back in February and they brought new perspective when remembering the role my Uncle Lonney played in my own family history. These two books continue to be among my favorite reads of 2016.
I always hesitate to write reviews. When I find books that I love, I feel like I can never say enough to really encompass the many things that make them great. Writing is complex and incredibly difficult and even with the books that I don’t enjoy all that much, I usually put the book down thinking that, even if not my favorite, the author still did better than I could have done myself.
As 2016 comes to a close, I want to share some of the best reading discoveries I’ve made during the year. My next post will talk about a few of my favorite books. In this post, I wanted to take a minute to also talk about some of my favorite blogs.