Kung Hay Fat Choi!

Today was the first day of Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year). 2015 is the year of Sheep. Why February 19th? This day is a new moon day, and is the first day of the first Chinese lunar month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar system.

A Super Brief History: The Year 2015 is the 4712th Chinese year. The Chinese believe that the first king of China was the Yellow King (although he wasn’t the first emperor). The Yellow King became king in 2697 B.C., therefore China will enter the 4712th year on February 19, 2015. I won’t get into the elements and the Stem-Branch System and how we arrive at the sheep being a green wooden sheep–too technical, so I’ll let you Google it, if you’re so inclined.

Since we’re the only ones in New York from the family, Mom and I took the day off from work and donned our new clothes and shoes before heading out to feast on traditional lucky dishes and some contemporary Chinese cuisine as well–we went to the Upper West Side’s Red Farm; the dishes are below. We were stuffed after eating eight dishes (a lucky number), some of which were Chinese dumplings (treasure because of the meat inside), long noodles (symbolizing long life), and oranges (a sign of completeness).
PhotoGrid_1424402952167We had a great time spending the day together, walking the New York City streets and stamping out the bad with our new shoes, wearing red for good luck and to chase away any evil spirits–even our lipstick was red today (my finger nails too)! And the best part (besides quality time with mom, natch)? LUCKY MONEY! Gotta love those little red envelopes.

I wish you all prosperity, happiness and blessings!
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Why I Ride

A few people have asked me to stop fundraising on my Facebook page because it’s annoying. Some have also said it’s “beneath me to ask for money.” They have since been excommunicated, not only from my Facebook page, but from my life. It’s my page and I will do as I please with it, especially if it means bringing awareness and raising money for a cause that is extremely close to my heart. Never have I ever asked for money for myself, and I don’t even actively raise funds for multiple events/causes, except this one, Cycle for Survival. Since others have asked me why this is such a heartfelt issue for me, I figured now is as good a time as any to share one of the several reasons.

When I was 4 years old and in my kindergarten’s summer program, a beautiful girl named Chase joined and we became fast friends. Her skin was tanned like butterscotch and her wild sandy brown hair sat on her head like a halo. Her eyes were hazel and framed by the longest lashes I’d ever seen at that point in my short life. Chase had two missing front teeth, just like I did, and we couldn’t stop smiling and laughing. We played everyday she came to school and were inseparable, even during nap time. I hated when she wasn’t around–she’d be absent for days in a row. I asked her why she was gone so much and she explained to me that she was sick and had to go the doctor for special medicine and care. I told her I got sick all the time, especially in the winter. She told me it wasn’t that kind of sick, that she had something called Leukemia and that it never really went away. I didn’t know what Leukemia was, but I told her I hoped she got better soon so we could play more. She said she’d be fine one day and we went to play on the swings, never to talk about her sickness again.

I remember Chase missed a whole week and I was really sad. Then another week went by, so I asked the teacher where Chase was. Ms. Sandy looked at me and said that God didn’t want Chase to hurt anymore, so he took her to heaven to live with him. Not truly grasping the concept she was trying to convey to me, I said, “That’s nice of him. I’m really gonna miss her though.” She cried silently and rushed me off to go play.

Chase has stayed with me all these years: her smile, her eyes, the feel of our hands joined together as we skipped around the playground. She was the first friend I lost to cancer, my first friend in life. I raise money in her memory; I ride for her. Cycle for Survival is my battle cry, my part of the fight against all forms of cancer.

Please understand. Please help me fight. If you’d like to donate, please click here and know that you are appreciated. My team and I will ride hard and strong for you, your loved ones, and everyone affected by cancer in all its forms.
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I See the Light

Forgive the corny titles I subject you to on a regular basis; I can’t help myself.

I spent a late night/early morning finishing Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See and upon reading the last page, I felt like this author’s words made a light within me burn brighter. I didn’t sleep a wink as my mind wouldn’t let go of the characters, the imagery, the intricacies of the story that made this book so precious. I found myself highlighting so many passages that I wanted to commit to memory, so thought-provoking and emotive they were as to leave me referring back to them even before I finished reading this book in its entirety. All the Light We Cannot See is a work of art.

“I have been feeling very clearheaded lately and what I want to write about today is the sea. It contains so many colors. Silver at dawn, green at noon, dark blue in the evening. Sometimes it looks almost red. Or it will turn the color of old coins. Right now the shadows of clouds are dragging across it, and patches of sunlight are touching down everywhere. White strings of gulls drag over it like beads.
It is my favorite thing, I think, that I have ever seen. Sometimes I catch myself staring at it and forget my duties. It seems big enough to contain everything anyone could ever feel.”

All-the-Light-We-Cannot-See

Chosen as an Amazon.com book of the month for May 2014, the site’s review is:

Does the world need yet another novel about WWII? It does when the novel is as inventive and beautiful as this one by Anthony Doerr. In fact, All the Light We Cannot See–while set mostly in Germany and France before and during the war–is not really a “war novel.” Yes, there is fear and fighting and disappearance and death, but the author’s focus is on the interior lives of his two characters. Marie Laure is a blind 14-year-old French girl who flees to the countryside when her father disappears from Nazi-occupied Paris. Werner is a gadget-obsessed German orphan whose skills admit him to a brutal branch of Hitler Youth. Never mind that their paths don’t cross until very late in the novel, this is not a book you read for plot (although there is a wonderful, mysterious subplot about a stolen gem). This is a book you read for the beauty of Doerr’s writing– “Abyss in her gut, desert in her throat, Marie-Laure takes one of the cans of food…”–and for the way he understands and cherishes the magical obsessions of childhood. Marie Laure and Werner are never quaint or twee. Instead they are powerful examples of the way average people in trying times must decide daily between morality and survival. –Sara Nelson

The same thought crossed my mind before I made the purchase: do I really want to read another WWII story? However the synopsis and reviews convinced me to go through with it. Thank the literary gods that I did! This has easily become one of my best reads of the year for the way Anthony Doerr’s vision has burned these words, characters and feelings into my brain and heart.

“So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?”

Spoken in French over a transistor radio with Claire de Lune playing in the background? Magical.

Hard of Hearing

I’ve been on a reading binge a of late, sacrificing hours of YouTube watching and my DVR’d shows are collecting dust in my queue. However I’ve been rewarded with some really good literary escapes, another of which I will briefly share with you, as I have another book on deck of which I’m itching to delve.

Not even five minutes ago, I finished reading The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, by German author Jan-Phillipp Sendker.

AHH Cover

A poignant and inspirational love story set in Burma, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats spans the decades between the 1950s and the present.  When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion that will reaffirm the reader’s belief in the power of love to move mountains.

Once again, the synopsis made me cringe, due to how sticky-sweet and corny it sounded. I decided to give it a try anyway because I enjoy writers from other countries, I like reading of tales set in lands other than my own from time to time, and I also feel that non-native English speakers use the English language quite differently and are able to express themselves in unexpected, yet greatly welcomed, ways–their perspectives on universal experiences, truths, emotions come to life differently on the page and on the screen, and I love it (usually, but definitely not always).

Beautifully worded, this book attempted to tackle the subjects of familial and romantic loves in a somewhat fantastical way. Unfortunately my heart was slightly more detached than I would have liked and thus caused my enthusiasm to wane over the past few days. The story was good, the characters were even better, however I just feel (even now as I write this) that something just didn’t quite hit the high note–especially for the fact that the author never addressed his love, or possible lack thereof, for his children, namely his daughter Julia who made the physical and emotional journey to uncover her father’s mysteries. Disappointing. The bones of all the characters were strong, as was the premise of the story; however, for all the talk of hearing heartbeats, mine was just a murmur.

On to the next tome.