16 Before 2016

The year 2015 is coming to an end. About a week ago, I stumbled upon a goal-setting blog post by Lisa Jacobs – 16 things to do before 2016. It caught my eyes because instead of the usual start-the-new-year-with-a-list thing, this is an end-the-year-with-a-list thing. I decided to jump on the bandwagon.

The main motivation behind my 16 things is to start the year right, hopefully, because most of the times I started off with so much excess baggage from the year before that the resolutions are just items being carried forward from one year to the next. If I manage to strike all 16 off this list, then I would already have achieved something in my goal-setting. So here it goes.

Selina’s 16 Before 2016

#1 Clean up unfinished business.

I have plenty of unfinished business to finish. Top in the list is my research work, followed by the many projects that I started but never gotten around to complete. I definitely will not be able to finish everything before 2016 begins, but I can clear off some in order to begin the year inspired.

#2 Complete Bible reading plan 2015.

I fell far, far behind over the past 3 months. Spending the days without reading the Bible had been a blur… it’s like going on auto-pilot mode. To me, intentional living couldn’t happen without seeking His word first.

#3 Start a brand new reading challenge.

#4 Enjoy my annual wrapping day.

There is this one grand annual gift exchange that my extended family practises, and so I allocate one evening to do all the wrapping.

#5 Sort out my digital storage.

My files are scattered here, there, everywhere. I intend to get them sorted out once and for all.

#6 Update and declutter wardrobe.

Years of being a stay-at-home-mom and a full-time postgrad has turned my wardrobe outdated and plain old functional. Forget about fashion. But my clothes are getting worn out and my old pair of jeans no longer fits, so it’s high time for a wardrobe overhaul. It does not need to be fashionable, but it should be functional.

#7 Rearrange my bookshelves.

I’ve been collecting books for the past seven years or so, and it’s taking up plenty of space in the already limited space of mine. I even gave the annual Big Bad Wolf sale a miss this year, just so that I could get a hang on my book collection. I should be reading, not collecting.

#8 Get back in shape.

I recently discovered Zumba and I am loving it. I always love dance and I have not been keeping in shape since my first pregnancy. It’s time to groove to the beat!

#9 Schedule and perform a year-end review.

I know that I fail miserably in many aspects of my goal-setting in 2015. But what needs to be done, needs to be done.

#10 Launch my blogs and their respective Facebook pages.

#11 Start daily journalling.

This is truly therapeutic and beneficial emotionally and spiritually. I have already started on this one, and it’s no turning back.

#12 Make homemade tomato pasta sauce.

My son loves spaghetti with bolognese sauce and I have always been using the store-bought version. In an effort to eat wholesome food and to make healthier choices, I intend to try homemade sauce.

#13 Catch up with friends.


#14 Create a 2016 Photography Challenge. 

I did not do justice to the Nikon and Canon DSLR sitting in the dry box.

#15 Create a Recipe binder. 

#16 End 2015 STRONG. Over the course of this year, there has been many times when I wish I had done things differently. Time cannot turn back, and at this time of the year it is best to learn from the past, look forward and charge ahead.


Lying or Manic Depression?

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is most likely to be the last book that I am able to finish this year. Being in the young adult genre, I never expected the book to have such a gloomy tone to it. Reading the book is meant to be like listening to the protagonist telling the story, and I read (or hear?) about severe headaches, suicidal intentions, heartbreaks and first love.


We Were Liars is an account of what happened during summer 2015, according Cadence Sinclair Eastman, a teenager from an affluent family who spends her summer holidays on a private island with her cousins. As the title suggests, we can expect that part of the story is a lie, but which one? The shocking revelations come at the end of the book, and it leaves me with a surreal feeling of “how could it turn out like this”? Spoiler ahead: It’s like listening to your friend talking for hours and then realizing that at least three-quarter of the story is not what you thought it is. Feeling heady?

Well, lies or not, We Were Liars is cleverly written. It also poses some valid questions on more serious topics such as old money and broken families. It is not too difficult to read, obviously, since it is a young adult fiction. It may not be as layered in meanings as John Green’s Fault in Our Stars, but still clever nonetheless.

Who should read it: Young adults, anyone who is in for an easy but clever read.

Who should give it a pass: Those who are looking for serious literature stuff.


Room, with a capital R

I have a feeling that I might not have enjoyed Room by Emma Donoghue so much if I am not a mother of a four-year-old boy. More often than not, I found myself wondering what is going on in the mind of my boy who laughs at a cartoon joke, cries when his defiant younger sister grabs his toy away and gets upset over a his own carelessness. The way he perceives the big bad world is obviously different from mine, and sometimes I wish that I could go back to the time when I still think like he does.

The main character in Room is a five-year-old boy Jack who has never gone out of the Room in which he was born in. The narration in Room is actually what goes inside Jack’s mind. What he sees, and how he perceives them. Everything in Room is the world to Jack. The only person whom he has contact with is his mother, whom he calls Ma. Ma was abducted and being involuntarily confined by her abductor Old Nick. Jack’s only access to the “outside world” is from what he sees on the television so he is not even very sure if this other world truly exists.

To me, Room could pass as a parenting book. Ma did her best to raise Jack up despite the circumstances. The description of their daily routine could seem to be mundane, but it was actually a portrayal of how Ma spent every moment to provide for Jack when they were held captive. It is not surprising, and a food for thought, that when they managed to escape, Jack found Ma to become distant and not being available for him as much as she used to.

There are critics who have written about the originality of the whole story line. When I started reading the book, I wasn’t aware of the cases which inspired Donoghue to write Room. I went into the reading without knowing what to expect, and found myself finishing the book within two weeks. A movie has been made but I am not too certain if it could capture the essence of the story — perception.


Where’d You Go, Bernadette

I am a great fan of Gilmore Girls. I am not really a TV person, therefore not many TV serials managed to capture my attention as much as Gilmore Girls. It’s been years since I last followed Lorelai and Rory’s stories, and I am sad to say that I didn’t manage to finish all the seasons. I found out recently that it is available on Netflix, and there is this 8 books to read if you’ve already binged your way through Gilmore Girls on Netflix post. Out of the eight on the list, I could only find one in the university’s library – Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

Bernadette Fox, the lady whose name is on the book’s title, is the mother of a very brilliant girl Bee and wife to Microsoft-superstar Elgin Fox. They live in Seattle, in an out-of-the-ordinary house under out-of-the-ordinary circumstances. Bernadette is perceived to be eccentric and anti-social. Bee, the fifteen-year-old daughter, is an intelligent girl who had been accepted into a boarding school (which is when all the drama begins) and is looking forward to a trip to Antarctica with her parents, as a reward for her performance. The book is a compilation of e-mails, notes and memos written or received by the characters who has a part to play in Bernadette’s sudden disappearance prior to the Antarctica trip.

One of the reasons that it is a recommended read for Gilmore Girls fans is the relationship between Bee and Bernadette. Even though Bernadette appears to be aloof to her neighbour and community, she shares a deep bond with Bee. Bee loves her and defends her when she was being verbally attacked by the other mothers from her school. Bernadette may appear to be hostile and mentally unsound even to her husband, but she did an excellent job raising Bee. On the other hand, another mother who appears to be friendly and have-it-all is actually very much estranged from her son.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is interesting, funny and heart-warming. Being written as a compilation of writings by the characters, it allows me to read first-hand their perspectives. How the same incident can be interpreted so differently by the two parties involved! The fact that Bernadette “became a nuisance” when she no longer is creating (she was a brilliant architect before moving to Seattle), reminds me that our talents should be put to good use.

As for the other 7 on the list, well, it will have to be saved for another time.

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Wicked Witch.”

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis is a collection of letters from “a senior to a junior devil”. The letters are a total opposite of the Holy Bible with God being regarded as “The Enemy”. Whatever that is extolled in the book is actually the opposite of what the Bible commands. It is clever in the sense that it doesn’t go all preachy and “thou shall not”, but instead it challenges the readers with a view from “the other side”.

C. S. Lewis sharpness in his observations of humanity and his understanding of what being a Christian really means is reflected in these letters. It takes me as a Christian on a journey of self-discovery. It also reminds us on how easy it is to be used for works which are not of God’s, on what evil could actually be.

The wicked witch doesn’t have to be the old lady on a broom, laughing hysterically away. The wicked witch could be just the Christian who failed to help her neighbour in need. The wicked witch need not be the person who started the war. The wicked witch could manifest its work in those who lost sight of God in times of need.

Home Is Where The Heart Is?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Home Turf.”

How I wish that “Home Is Where The Heart Is” is true. Perhaps there is a certain degree of truth to this phrase. A home is where our heart would like to be, after a long day at work. A home is where we can recuperate, whether emotionally or physically. A home is a place where we can call our own, where we can be ourselves, where we can let our guard down. Home is where we spend quality time with loved ones, so most likely our homes are filled with various knick knacks. For me, the five things which makes the house I am living in, my home are:

  1. Books. They are the few earthly possessions which I brought along with me when I moved into my husband’s house after we got married. Since then, I have accumulated more and we are running out of space to keep them. But they are part of me, and I take comfort in knowing that they are around.
  2. Photos of loved ones.
  3. An oven. I would like to say kitchen appliances, because the kitchen is the heart of the home and an empty kitchen would mean an empty heart, no? However, there are just too many appliances in the market nowadays, so if I must narrow it down to one, it would be the oven to bake and fill the home with freshly baked bread or cake.
  4. CDs or any form of music storage.
  5. A musical instrument. Not just for decoration purposes, but to fill the home with beautiful sounds of music, singing, and dancing.

I am currently reading Room by Emma Donaghue, and it strikes me how having been confined to the same room throughout all his life changes the perspective of a five-year-old towards things. To this boy, the room is his home, and all the items in it are his friends.

<a href="https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/home-turf/">Home Turf</a>

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Women in burqas. Men with long beard in long white robes. The war. The desert.

Those were my impression of Afghanistan before reading Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns. They were superficial and I did not bother to find out more. So to say that reading this book changed my perspective on this country is an understatement.

I never thought of the Afghan women’s struggles. It didn’t cross my mind that they were once children, carefree, until someone decided to marry them off to men who doesn’t love them as who they are. I didn’t know that Afghanistan had a beautiful history, before the civil war and all the wars that came after that. I didn’t realize that a society, a country, instead of moving progressively forward, could go backwards just because a group of people with such ideologies came into power. In other parts of the world, sometimes we take things for granted, really.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is so beautifully written; I cried with Laila, I felt the pain for Mariam. Imagine, being a thirty-something woman is considered as worthless and past its “expiry date”. Imagine, living with fear yet having no other better choice.

Thank you, Khaled Hosseini, for writing this story for it invokes so much feelings and thoughts from within. a thousand splendid suns