Book Review – The Tea Planter’s Wife

It turned into a golden morning, full of delicate light, and with a pale blue haze drifting over the lake. It seemed strange that after such a terrifying night everything should be so still and normal at the lakeside, with the fresh wetness of the trees and the dew coating the grass. (Excerpt from The Tea Planter’s Wife)
If you’re depressed, or just on your period, don’t start The Tea Planter’s Wife. It begins (and carries through) with an ominous tone. It reminded me of The Miniaturist – one of the few books I have started and promptly stopped. When something makes me sad and anxious, I show it the door.
However, let it be known that I tried reading The Miniaturist in the midst of a dark depression, that I have since conquered. And I started The Tea Planter’s Wife in the midst of PMSing like they warn you about in health class. (You know the kind – everything is awful and the world is ending…oh wait I just checked the calendar, never mind, we’re fine.) Since I’d received this book from Blogging for Books, I decided to carry on and keep reading, lady feelings be damned.
Here we are now, (entertain us), at my blog post for this lush novel by Dinah Jefferies. It was well worth the fight.
Let’s start with the writing. Lush is indeed the word for this novel. It is written beautifully and carefully. The landscapes are vivid even if you’re a literary jerk like me and skim instead of read half the time. And the characters! They are vivid too; in fact, I miss them already.
Now the plot. You will not see any of it coming, really. There were so many roller coaster moments where everything went to crap right after being okay, that I started to think, “oh gosh, this is so dramatic, not realistic.” And then I remembered real life and went, “oh gosh, this is so dramatic, it’s realistic!”
From dragging my feet page to page in the beginning, I read the last two pages as if my eyes were starving. Similarly to my experience with The Fifth Avenue Artist’s Society, The Tea Planter’s Wife made me want to cuddle up to my fiance and never let go till we have lived our own beautiful roller coaster. Damn it, I hate when books make me feel.
The Tea Planter’s Wife is the perfect summer novel for someone who can’t stand crap romance novels and vapid plot lines. It sweeps you away with the story but also leaves you feeling like you enjoyed something of substance. If silly women’s lit is The Real Housewives of Literature, this is the Netflix original series that surprised you into being a fan.
If you’re looking for an escape that won’t make you feel like a twit, grab The Tea Planter’s Wife and enjoy your read.

 I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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“Rules Control the Fun!” – Why Monica from Friends Was Right

If we are being honest, I have always been the most like Monica. OCD? Check. Goody two shoes? Check. Ends up with the goofiest, most lovable romantic? Hell yeah. Now, please watch this clip below.

RULES ARE GOOD! RULES HELP CONTROL THE FUN!

Yeah, Monica! I agree so much, I just spent half an hour looking for that clip.

Anyway…

Remember when I flipped out a little about wedding planning because it hit THE YEAR of my wedding?

Well, that was nothing like the standstill I found myself in at the T-4 month mark. There was so much to do, in so little time….so I started doing nothing.

Here’s how the conversation went with my fiance, Kieran, basically every day.

Kieran: Babe, we gotta be productive and [insert wedding task here].

Me: NO BABE, I AM TIRED AND HAD A LONG COMMUTE AND I DON’T WANNA THERE’S TOO MUCH TO DO LEAVE ME ALONE NO CUDDLE ME HELP! [insert temper tantrum here]

Poor guy.

In two days, I will be 3 months from best.day.ever. I cannot afford to be doing nothing. I mean, I could, but then I would have no veil, no invitations sent, no cake, no…should I just elope?

Then I had a break-through moment that I think will be helpful to all panicking brides. It is inspired by something I learned back in college.

I work best with one incredibly rigid rule.

In college:

I was tired of being behind with homework and readings all the time, and scrambling to get it done on time. So I promised myself I’d stick to one rule: I would never do anything the day it was due. 

The night before? Sure. A week ahead, better! But never the morning before the class it was due. And once I caught up (that first day was tough), I never looked back. I always followed my rule and it made me me more productive, efficient, and organized.

While wedding planning:

I knew I needed to make a change to get myself motivated. If it worked in college, why can’t it work now? I messaged my bridesmaids the following message in our group chat, before I could change my mind:

Hi bridesmaids and ladies of high esteem ! I’m starting to panic ever so slightly as we approach T-3 months . Panic=paralyze for me so my new goal here is to do one thing at least every day for wedding stuff . Literally anything . All I need for this is for you all to check on me and make sure I’m on track for this goal. Thank you!!

The rule? I have to do at least one wedding-related task per day, and make sure the ladies know about it.

Yesterday, I forgot to send a message.  So my gal Stacey message the group said, “Sabina, what’s the update?” It felt so good to know these girls have my back and WILL nag me for my own good. That’s what bridesmaids are for!

Next time you have a motivation problem, try making just one rule. You’ll be surprised at what it can do – especially if you’re a stressed out bride! And remember…

 

The Inkblots by Damion Searls – Book Review

Drink, oh eyes, all your lashes can hold / Of the golden abundance of the world.

An important man in psychological history loved dearly these lines by Gottfried Keller.

If you were a psychology major, like myself, you’ve heard the names Freud, Jung, Milgram, Skinner, and perhaps even Rorschach. You may even have staunch opinions on their theories. No one ever told me, however, what they thought of each other and their work. I never was told that B. F. Skinner was a total snob about the Rorschach inkblots, nor about the strange feud surrounding Freud and Jung, as they pushed aside a smart man you’ve never heard of.

If you are a regular citizen of the world, like myself, you’ve heard of The Nuremburg Trials, Andy Warhol, and Ray Bradbury. No one ever told me, however, how each of these were deeply connected to the inkblots in some way.

 

The Inkblots, by Damion Searls, is no boring account of a stuffy psychologist. In fact, the decidedly not stuffy Hermann Rorschach dies halfway through this thorough non-fictional account. I reacted to his death like I would a character in a novel. It hurt. But Searls didn’t end there.

 

At first, I took a little while to get into reading The Inkblots consistently. (Sleeping on the train home almost always feels like the right choice, at the time.) But every time I did force myself to read, I was completely absorbed. This book, with as much information as a textbook, if not more, was anything but dry. Searls categorizes himself as a word person, and this shows in his writing in the best way.

 

By the halfway point, I was happy to cuddle back up with this thick book when I could. It made me miss being a psychology student. The familiar faces I “knew” in college of Jung, Freud, Rorschach, and Skinner came back into my life. More importantly, I have a newfound respect for Hermann Rorschach – no longer a weirdo with some pictures, in my mind.

 

Searls paints a portrait of the inkblots through history, from the events that led to their conception, all the way through the author’s own experience taking the Rorschach test today. In narrating the history, he takes the reader on an emotional journey. I found myself rooting for the original integrity of the inkblots as Rorschach intended them.

Finally, I was struck by the sheer impact of one man’s (short) life’s work.

From war crimes, to treating patients, bitter controversy, to pop culture, the inkblots have been used and abused by humanity. To know the story of the man, and the roller coaster of his legacy, opens our eyes to the deep human ability to change the world, in all it’s ‘overabundance.’ I think that’s what Rorschach would have wanted his biography to teach us, after all.
Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

How to Go from Wedding Planning Panic to Organized Bliss

bridesmaids proposal

Okay so I still haven’t gotten a dress and oh crap flowers are expensive and how can I possibly find dresses for my bridesmaids when they don’t even live nearby and what about my hair???? WEDDING PLANNING IS HARD!!!!!!!!!!

bridesmaids proposalThis was the mental dialogue happening inside my head a couple months ago, as I realized my wedding to-do list from The Knot wasn’t getting any smaller, just longer. I was starting to panic, as I realized that with the turn of 2017, I was now in my wedding year. When you’re nine months away from the biggest day of your life, you start to get nervous.

So, I did what any wedding-planning, color-coding, list-loving, team-leader person would do. I took a look at everything I needed to get done that was scaring me. Then I realized that I had just asked my closest friends and little sister to be in my wedding party. DUH, I had a whole #TeamBride waiting to help me not freak out.

I went to the GroupMe messages of all my bridesmaids and asked who could take charge of finding bridesmaid dresses, and who could take on hair. Three of them volunteered, one for each role. I immediately felt better.

Knowing I had a team behind me made me calmer for a few reasons.

Delegation is KEY!

My job at Swift Kick has taught me the importance of delegation. If I tried to take full responsibility of planning an entire wedding, I would explode from all the loose ends. Knowing that there was a person to go to when it was time to talk about each aspect made me feel like I was sharing the burden. It helps when you know you aren’t the only one thinking about how to get things done.

#TeamBride has a purpose.

Realizing that my bridesmaids were there to help me get everything done made me feel like I was part of a team. These women are my closest confidants, so remembering to trust them to ease my stress was crucial. It makes us closer as friends and sisters to work towards a shared goal.

They are all pretty amazing.

Asking them for help gave the ladies a chance to remind me that they had my back. They all echoed the same sentiment:

Sabina, you worry about your wedding dress, we will take care of the rest. We are here for you.

It’s amazing what a calming effect that statement has on me!

So, if you’re planning a wedding, take these steps to ensure you use your bridesmaids (and groomsmen) to their full potential.

1. Make a Groupme or Whatsapp group with your gals or guys.

Use this to keep them all updated at once as your planning progresses. Groupme has the ability to like messages, which can help you with voting (like the message with the date that works best!) and keeping tabs (like this message so I know you read it!).

I love having a go-to spot to talk to all my ladies at once, to celebrate, panic, and say hi.

2. Ask your wedding party members to take on different roles.

It seriously helps to know that there is one point person for each aspect of planning. Find out who has experience with flowers, DJs, hair…etc and who is willing to help you do what. Just having one someone to talk something out with really helps ease stress.

3. Make sure your people know their responsibilities.

The Knot’s book of wedding lists has a page all about what the bridesmaids, groomsmen, maid of honor, and best man are all responsible for. Share it with them so nobody has to assume anything! Communication is key.

I also use Trello to organize things like who is getting what dress, what tasks need to be done, and other resources. And of course, shared Pinterest boards for each aspect of the wedding!

4. Build your #TeamBride and #TeamGroom

My fiance had a “steak dinner” in the city to introduce all his groomsmen to each other, since they hadn’t all met yet. This was really beneficial because they are now all comfortable communicating with each other and they created important friendships.

Note to self: Have a fun bonding day with all the groomsmen and bridesmaids. I really want to make sure they all know each other and can work together, just in case disaster strikes and I need a solid team in action on the day of the wedding!

5. Say THANK YOU!

Yes, keep on your bridesmaids to make sure they all have ordered their dresses and taken care of everything. But make sure every time you do, you say thank you and tell them how you couldn’t do it without them. They are there for your big day, but it should be fun for them too!

So, I learned why the heck we even bother to have a wedding party. They are there to support me in my wedding planning. Instead of forgetting the real reason I am planning a wedding, my bridesmaids share my to-do list so I can focus on the real meaning of the day. That real meaning being, IN SIX MONTHS I GET TO MARRY THE LOVE OF MY LIFE! That’s worth celebrating.

2016 Reflection and a Steadfast 2017

Grace and Renewal.Grace (1)

Those were my themes for 2016. I wanted 2016 to be the year I fully got myself back after a battle with depression and fear. I must say, I succeeded in learning to be joyful most of the time again. I chose grace because I knew big changes were coming my way, and I wanted to meet them with joy and poise, not anxiety. Sometimes I did just that, sometimes, not so much. But I will give myself a little grace to say that it’s ok to not be perfect. Of the two themes, I think I did better with renewal. I learned to bounce back more quickly from things that were bothering me. I learned to avoid the dreaded downward spiral. I practiced being optimistic, only allowing a few minutes of stress before I pulled myself together.
I think the best example of this is how Kieran and I matured in our relationship. He lets me get scared and cry about something that is mostly only a problem in my head. And then we talk and he helps me realize that no matter what, we will figure it out. And then I can carry on knowing it is going to be okay. I’ve learned also to say “I trust you, God,” and then to distract myself from any anxious thoughts. I’ve learned to look at scary things head on, and then say, no, you won’t pull me down with you.
Among my smaller goals, I succeeded in purposefully making more plans with friends and in writing down ideas and thoughts in a notebook I carry with me. I decided not to pursue bigger projects besides my Etsy store, which opened this year, and planning my wedding. Those were big milestones! 2016 was good to me, though the world had a tough year. I am engaged, have a new nephew, and a wonderful job with a new coworker who is a best friend. I truly couldn’t ask for more. 

So now, onto 2017.

 

I have chosen STEADFAST to be my theme of the new year.

Google defines steadfast as resolutely or dutifully firm or unwavering.”
When looking for my #oneword of 2017, I looked ahead to all the changes I will be facing. I will become a married woman. I’ll be living away from home for the first time, and living with a husband for the first time. These are HUGE changes, but I am SO VERY excited and ready to start my new life. I have known that this is what I wanted as long as I could have dreams for my future.
But such big changes will take a resolute attitude.
I want to steadfastly hold onto my faith – since marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic Church. I can’t wait to grow spiritually with Kieran.
I want to be steadfast in my marital vows to Kieran, and steadfast in my role as a wife and -gulp- a real adult person.
I want to be steadfast in the craziness that is wedding planning, and the stress that is planning the rest of my life.
I want to be steadfast in my personal goals, as well. I can’t wait to continue reading book after book, and also to build up my Etsy store into something lucrative!
Steadfast may seem like a heavy and scary word. But for me, I will be joyfully steadfast.
“…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain to the Lord.”
1 Corinthians, 15:58
“I want to be a woman who overcomes obstacles by tackling them in faith, instead of tiptoeing around them in fear.”
Renee Swope
“Have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or disouraged, for the Lord your God will be with your wherever you go. “
Joshua 1:9
“When you do everything you can do, that’s when God will step in and do what you can’t do.”
2 Corinthians 12:10
Have a blessed and beautiful 2017, my friends. I hope to be on this blog more in the year. Look out for some changes on this site!