Tag Archives: family

Book Review: The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger

the-newlywedsIn light of the recent immigration ban, reading stories of those who have navigated across cultures to a new life in the United States seems even more important. Even when those stories appear in the novel you turn to when you need a break from the world.

Stories, like the one found in The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger, humanize the immigrant experience. The book follows Amina Mazid who leaves her home in Bangladesh for a new life in New York. While her story is not one of religious persecution or civil war, she is in search of happiness. A different happiness than what she can find in Bangladesh. The same happiness so many are seeking when they step onto American soil. But like the immigrants before (and after) her, Amina must carve out a space for herself amidst her American reality and the other happiness she knew before. A home she can never forget.

Amina Mazid is twenty-four when she moves from Bangladesh to Rochester, New York, for love. A hundred years ago, Amina would have been called a mail-order bride. But this is the twenty-first century: she is wooed by—and woos—George Stillman online.
 
For Amina, George offers a chance for a new life for her and her parents, as well as a different kind of happiness than she might find back home. For George, Amina is a woman who doesn’t play games. But each of them is hiding something: someone from the past they thought they could leave behind. It is only when Amina returns to Bangladesh that she and George find out if their secrets will tear them apart, or if they can build a future together.

At it’s core, this book is a rather nuanced portrait of a young woman’s transition from one culture to another. This theme reminded me of another great book, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. And I think fan’s of Lahiri’s work will also find value in picking up a copy of The Newlyweds.

Freudenberger shows an immense depth of knowledge about Bangladesh, it’s culture, and Islam. The acknowledgements section of the book makes it clear that she did her research by way of extensive interviews and immersive travel to the country itself. (Even more amazing? This research, and the subsequent novel, was inspired by a Bangladeshi woman Freudenberger met on a plane! #talktostrangers)

However, there is a note of inauthenticity to the story, most notably the character of Amina herself. Freudenberger explains the duality that I’m sure many immigrants experience…

“[Amina] had thought that she’d been born with a soul whose thoughts were in no particular dialect, and she’d imagined that, when she married, her husband would be able to recognize this deep part of herself. Of course she hadn’t counted on her husband being a foreigner…In a way, George had created her American self, and so it made sense that it was the only one he would see.”

And perhaps it is this duality, which Freudenberger explains but hasn’t experienced, that makes Amina’s character lack just an inkling of depth. Because, at the end of the day, Amina’s husband George didn’t create her American self, the author did.

The story itself is captivating and full of suspense. It is an entertaining depiction of the effects of honesty (or lack thereof) on relationships and navigating cross-cultural experiences. Check it out! 

Have you read The Newlyweds? Would you? Let me know below!

P.S. Books to read if you love the Commonwealth and a book I could NOT put down.

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Wedding: Rehearsal Picnic

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After an absolutely perfect bridal luncheon earlier in the day, the fun continued into the evening with our rehearsal picnic. What to do about our rehearsal dinner was a decision we left until the very end. I couldn’t quite make up my mind. Should we rent out a room at a restaurant? Practice at our venue and then send our friends on their way while we shared an intimate meal with just our families? In the end, we chose to rent out a shelter at a local park, serve tacos, and invite friends and family alike to share a picnic table (or two). I loved the simple and relaxed tone.

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We covered the tables in colorful Dollar Tree tablecloths and my mom (who honestly doesn’t believe in a party without favors) set out decks of cards, fans, and other festive trinkets. We pulled up lawn chairs, chatted about wedding set-up strategy, played a few boisterous rounds of Thirteen, and my brother even took his discs out for a spin.

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After everyone arrived, we dug into the build-your-own taco bar provided by Moe’s catering. Highly recommend! Moe’s will send someone to set everything up for you and it’s SO affordable. Definitely a no fuss option when your mind is spinning with a list of Wedding Day To-Do’s.

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With our bellies full we took to the field to rehearse our ceremony. Our dear friend Ben acted as our officiant and he spent the evening making sure every detail of our script was perfect and ready to go for the following day. We had everything mapped out in no time!

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Because our friend Carrie is the sweetest wedding photographer in the world, we ran off with her into the meadow to take a few “AAAH! We’re getting married tomorrow!” photos. I’m so glad we did. After a year of living in Miami, it was crazy to me how GREEN everything looked in Lexington. Kentucky is beautiful, y’all!

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So glad we set aside some time to frolic with our friends and family in the great outdoors! We loved having our tribe all together the night before such an important day. Tomorrow, I’ll post about our wedding venue. xoxo

(My dress and Chet’s shirt are both from Target. We rented the picnic shelter through Lexington Parks and Recreation.)

(Photos by Sur la Lune Photography.)

mid-week round-up

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Happy Wednesday! I landed in Lexington yesterday afternoon and am excited to get to work on all the final wedding preparations. So much to do! Before I left Miami, Chet (who will be flying in next week) surprised me with a new camera. I absolutely love it!!! I am the luckiest girl alive! I hope everyone has a great Wednesday, and now onto the links…

How to capsule your beauty products.

The cutest planter.

These teas sound AMAZING!

The long-term risks of early puberty.

Craigslist Confessional: Stealing office supplies to support family.

What we can learn from an Indonesian ethnicity that recognizes 5 genders.

I loved these books as a kid (especially the prairie one, obvi).

The serendipitous joys of traveling solo.

What to read once you’ve finished the latest season of OITNB.

Aziz Ansari on Trump.

America’s best little beach towns.

This is a long one but I HIGHLY recommend checking it out if you’ve got some spare time. It’s extremely eye-opening.

On summertime traditions.

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On Monday we talked about items to check off our bucket list THIS summer, but today I’d like to talk about things to do summer after summer. Stuff to look forward to all year; like a yearly road trip to camp in a state park with your cousins or an annual backyard barbecue held for the whole neighborhood. Do you have any summertime traditions like this?

Growing up, my family would pack up the mini-van each summer and head north to Lake Michigan. We’d rent a cottage within walking distance from the shore and head to the beach each day with an armload of sand toys, books, and floating rafts. I’ll always remember eating packed PB&J’s (with the added crunch of specks of sand) and plums from the Farmer’s Market. Maybe indulging in a few kolaches as a treat, made locally in a Swedish bakery. I would finish book after book, lounging sun-kissed and sprawling on the beach-themed furniture, trading dog-eared paperbacks at a used book store for new-to-me stories. Frequent evening trips to the ice cream parlor were a non-negotiable.

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Now that I’m getting married in just a few weeks, I’ve been thinking about how meaningful these types of traditions are. I’m eager to lean in to the rituals of my new, soon-to-be-official, tiny family.

The last two summers, Chet and I celebrated his birthday with a trip to the aquarium. (We walked across a rope bridge above a shark tank right after we got engaged!) And I love imagining what it will look like if this ritual carries on into the expanse of our years. Who knows if it will, but I can see our future selves fawning over sweet turtles and fish so colorful it’s hard to believe they’re real. And that’s pretty cool.

But the possibility of traditions not yet thought of is pretty cool, too.

What summertime traditions do you hold dear? I’m oh, so curious…and who knows? Maybe we’ll get some ideas! 

Book Review: Diamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace

diamond rubyI often joke that my fourth favorite film genre is Sports CinemaCall it a guilty pleasure if you like, but I love those rags-to-gold medal movies about teams beating the odds and gaining the glory. And this love is also reflected in my literary leanings. Especially when you throw in a dash of girl power and a sprinkling of American history.

Diamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace seemed to fit this bill perfectly. My mom, knowing that I harbor a strange love for sports-tales, gifted me this novel a few years back and I’ve been saving it for a rainy day. Wallace tells the story of “Diamond” Ruby Thomas, a fictional character based on the real-life Jackie Mitchell who threw a baseball hard enough to strike out two of the greatest sluggers to ever play the game–Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. Here’s a synopsis–

Seventeen-year-old Ruby Thomas, newly responsible for her two young nieces after a devastating tragedy, is determined to keep her family safe in the vast, swirling world of 1920s New York City. She’s got street smarts, boundless determination, and one unusual skill: the ability to throw a ball as hard as the greatest pitchers in a baseball-mad city.

From Coney Island sideshows to the brand-new Yankee Stadium, “Diamond Ruby” chronicles the extraordinary life and times of a girl who rises from utter poverty to the kind of renown only the Roaring Twenties can bestow. But her fame comes with a price, and Ruby must escape a deadly web of conspiracy and threats from Prohibition rumrunners, the Ku Klux Klan, and the gangster underworld. 

If you too enjoy a good ol’ fashioned coming-of-age Sports film then I highly recommend you give this book a read. Two movies in particular that it called to mind were A League of Their Own and Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. I ADORE those two movies and Diamond Ruby was a perfect mixture of both. There was, of course, the “girls can’t play baseball!….oh wait, YES THEY CAN!” element from A League of Their Own but also some Coney Island side-show elements from Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. (Ruby even befriends a woman who went blind as a result of a diving accident! Um, HELLO!?)

Not to mention, Laura Lippman says, “Comparisons to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn are not made lightly. Wonderful…memorable…perfect.” And the historical accuracy, especially as it pertains to New York City and it’s infamous love of baseball, can’t be beat. While Diamond Ruby is Joseph Wallace’s first novel he’s written four previous books on baseball history. He certainly knows his stuff!

The book FAR EXCEEDED my expectations and I would recommend it to lovers of baseball and historical fiction alike!

Have you read Diamond Ruby? What did you think?

My Reverse Bucket List

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I love a good Bucket List as much as the next guy or gal. It’s incredibly enlightening to jot down the things you want to accomplish, the places you want to travel, the experiences you long to take part in. But as my mom used to tell me as a child, whenever I looked longingly down the road towards 13 or 16 or totally grown up, “you shouldn’t wish your life away.”

And she’s right. If we’re always focusing on the future, we miss out on the NOW and totally lose sight of the past. Now I’m not saying to throw your Bucket List out the window! It’s fantastic to have wild aspirations; it’s wonderful to set your sights on far off lands. I just hope that, once accomplished, the bullet points of your list get stuck with star stickers and big, fat check marks instead of crossed through or deleted. 

Why not take a few moments today to craft a REVERSE Bucket List? Instead of creating a list of all the things you want to do, why not make a list of things you already HAVE?!

I’ll go first…

My Reverse Bucket List

1. Read over 12 books a year for as long as I can remember.

2. Snorkeled in the Florida Keys, caught crabs on the coastline of Louisiana, and took a boat ride down the Danube.

3. Ended a successful 11 year Speech and Debate career with State, National and International accolades under my belt along with a familiarity with more college campuses than you’ve probably been to in your life.

4. Cooked food grown by farmers whose names I know. Grown plants. Learned to love the act of making simple meals to nourish my body.

5. Cultivated relationships with friends who make me a smarter, more passionate, better human.

6. Watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.

7. Trained in classical ballet for 17 years and have the feet, knees, and turn-out to prove it.

8. Hiked through rain and hail, lighting and thunder in the Rocky and Wicklow Mountains.

9. Explored, by foot, the streets of Buenos Aires and Bowling Green and everywhere in between.

10. Paid off all my debt.

11. Helped fix-up houses for under-privileged families in Chicago and South Carolina.

12. Learned how to write a grant and a blog post and a speech and a cover letter like a badass.

13. Knitted a scarf.

14. Moved in and out of a gajillion apartments and navigated the wild rental world of slumlords, mice, theft, illegal eviction, and general property negligence.

15. Started my very own blog!! (And kept up with it for over a year.)

16. Fell in love with the smartest, cutest, most supportive boy in the world.

17. Spent my childhood flexing my imagination, exploring the world, and voraciously reading.

18. Enjoyed 17 years with the most wonderful father a girl could ask for.

There’s so much I still want to do but I’m so thankful and happy to have already done so much. xoxo

What are you waiting for? Go write your own Reverse Bucket List! And tell me one item from your list in the comments below. 

My Holiday Season: a look back in photos.

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Hello! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season full of family, food, friends and fun. I hope you all made many beautiful memories. I know I did! This past weekend Chet returned to Louisiana to start his spring semester so now it feels like the holiday season has officially come to a close. I was super lucky to have him here for an entire month (!!!) and we spent the days eating wonderful home-cooked meals, Christmas shopping, braving the cold to scamper around the city, and spending quiet nights at home with blankets, TV and Wink in tow. We had our own little Christmas on Christmas Eve and opened our presents to each other under own tree and Christmas Day we went to my Mom’s house for more presents and food with my fantastic family (my brother got super sick right after we opened our presents which was a bummer and we all felt terrible for him). New Years Eve we cooked a fancy dinner and watched the ball drop in our comfies. I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas/NYE/winter break! Here are a few photos I wanted to share, if you’d like to take a peek…

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Our tree topper for our adorable little tree was made by Chet circa the first grade. We decorated our tree with old ornaments from our childhoods and it was so fun to merge them into one place. I was sort of obsessed with all the Disney movie McDonalds ornaments he still had in his collection. Sebastian from The Little Mermaid may have taken the cake for me as top ornament this year. Although I still have a soft spot for my “Feliz Navidad 1992” ornament featuring a mouse wearing a sombrero. OLE!

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I love this dude so much! We had so much fun decorating for Christmas as soon as he got into town. As you can see above, his grandparents sent us adorable stocking ornaments with our names on them and his parents sent two presents to be opened specifically when we were decorating. One was a beautiful 2014 frame ornament for us to pop a picture of ourselves in and hang in a place of prominence on the tree. The other was…

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A Godiva hot chocolate set for some fancy, festive sipping. Mini marshmallows FTW!

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And speaking of trees… one night, for work, I went to a lighting at a local fire station. The carols, sung by a local high school choir, definitely put me in the Christmas spirit that night.

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Chet and I also did a lot of camera experimenting since my camera is still fairly new (he got it for me for my birthday in October). One evening we walked up to Ashland Estate to get some shots, even braving the crazy cold. I had fun with some texture shots of the old buildings (and selfies, always selfies) because THEIR Christmas tree was nothing to write home about and by that I mean not all that fun to photograph.

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Due to the temperatures we made a LOT of soups from scratch. I love this picture because the reflection in the pot totally gives it away that we’re both wearing flannel pj pants to cook dinner. YOLO.

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Another evening of braving the cold, we ventured to The Kentucky Horse Park for their annual Southern Lights. The drive-thru Christmas light display was pretty as always but this alpaca family totally upstaged everything ever.

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We brought a lot of class to the Southern Lights establishment, IMHO. Even thought we’re definitely freezing our butts off in this picture. ; )

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Hot beverages (chai for him, hot chocolate for me) and a wander through a winter wonderland makes for a magical night in my book.

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Have I mentioned that this boy CAN. COOK.? Check out those knife skills! I’d say his specialties are Asian dishes (think: Japanese curry and spicy bowls of piping hot noodles) and of course Cajun (think: huge servings of Gumbo and buttery crawfish etoufee).

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Have you ever been down the terrifying yet strangely intriguing rabbit hole that is The Lexington Peddler’s Mall? We have! Sometimes you really do find that needle in a gigantic haystack. Note: the sunglasses Chet’s sporting are not one of those needles.

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Remember those crawfish potatoes I was seeing in my dreams for weeks after Festivals Acadiens? We successfully created our own version and I’d say it was down right, to the T, SPOT ON. Food hack success!

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I did a spot of holiday baking after gaining inspiration from Lily Pebble’s Vlogmas videos on YouTube. These are her Internet-famous “Brookies” –a cross between a cookie and a brownie.

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As I mentioned above, Chet and I opened our presents to each other on Christmas eve at the apartment. I was absolutely stunned and elated to receive this GORGEOUS computer!!! Talk about spoiled. Chet built it himself AND painted it that lovely Tiffany Box blue/retro shade. I don’t think anyone has ever made me such a customized gift. It works so well and is cute to boot, not an eyesore like a typical desktop tower. I’m already obsessed with using it!

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Later that evening, we enjoyed some drinks and appetizers at my Mom’s house. My sister Katie was in from St. Pete and my brother and his fiancee, Dawn, were in from Savannah. A happy little clan. Christmas morning was spent opening presents, bein’ a bum (pj’s for as long as humanly possible!!!) and seeing Into the Woods. I don’t really have any photo documentation of these endeavors on Christmas day because I was too busy being me, BUT…

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…here’s one of Wink opening his presents! I received some lovely presents from my family that I am so thankful for. Hiking poles, a lamp, a lovely bowl for noodles, lots of books about crime and (too) much more. They know me so well. One thing I’ve gotten better about in the last few years is putting my Christmas presents to use pretty much immediately. In the past, I would want to “save” them but where is the fun in that? That’s a quick way to end up with too much STUFF ie) leaving that nice lotion in your bathroom cupboard for months. Why not crack it open right away!?

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One thing I treated myself to in the post-Christmas sales was this organic blanket from Target. I can’t get enough of it and neither can my cat. I also scored a wicked cheap set of knives and a pair of jeans in my Boxing Day mad dash.

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Bummed the holiday season is over…

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yet so glad I got to spend so much time with these two!!!

Hope everyone had an equally rad time this past month. My goal is to start cranking out some more regular content on Finding Delight in the coming weeks so stay tuned and check back often! I’m so happy to have you along for the ride.

Let’s catch up! Tell me about your holiday season. What was your favorite Christmas present? Who did you kiss on New Years? Did you brave the cold for any fun outdoor excursions? Don’t be shy, share in the comments! 

Movies for the whole family.

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‘THE BREAK-UP’

Let’s talk movies! For a lot of families, Thanksgiving (and the days surrounding it) can mean a lot of together-time with your kin. And what easier way to keep each other entertained than busting out the DVD player or popping on the ‘flix? A Thanksgiving feast induced coma is NO time for chit-chat with the relatives! I can remember, in middle and high school, escaping to our basement during holiday madness for some much-needed moments of quiet in front of an MTV marathon. However, not everyone shares my love of hyper-competitive D-Listers and loosely-scripted baby mama drama, so… What should you turn on for Thanksgiving family viewing? Huffington Post just did a list of 13 Netflix Movies to Watch With Your Family This Thanksgiving, and here are 10 (not necessarily streaming) movies that I think would do the trick, too (and by trick I mean get everyone to sit down and shut up for an hour or so)…

*Juno

*Finding Neverland

*Home Alone

*Ghostbusters

*The Royal Tennenbaums

*Groundhog Day

*It’s a Disaster

*The Break-Up

*Speed

*Evening

Plus, four binge worthy TV shows (if that’s more your style):

*How I Met Your Mother

*Arrested Development

*House of Cards

*Mob Wives

What do you think? Which movies or TV shows do you like watching with your family? More of a football crew? Board games? I’d love to hear!

mid-week round-up

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What’s up, buttercups? My mom and I went to visit my grandma this past weekend, and this week at work it’s all about Thanksgiving promotion. Not gonna lie, I’m getting a little sick of thinking about turkeys and pies. : ) Oh, and winter has returned! Usually, with the turning of the seasons I feel a gripping sense of nostalgia for a day or two. As the days turned to Fall, my friends and I agreed that it happens to all of us! The only sound explanation I could settle on was that, without any recent recollections involving the current climate, your mind turns to years past as a way to make sense of the new season. The result, a flood of memories and melancholy. However, the recent snow and drop in temperature didn’t pull me into that place. I think because my eyes are cast ahead, in the best of ways. But perhaps, it’s just because winter arrived too brusquely and it’s taken us all by surprise. In any case, stay warm out there and here are some links for your Wednesday…

What’s in my Bag: Reporting on Ebola Edition

Give the gift of food this season. Donate to your local food pantry.

My mom is the coolest!

Tonight Show Family Feud

Adoption is beautiful.

Pack up the car and take a day trip in Kentucky.

Artists attempting to breathe new life into a mostly vacant neighborhood in Columbus.

Has anyone seen this movie? I’d love to see it!

I hope to one day have a similar weekly ritual.

I’ve been feeling called to Paris lately.

Is the narrative that smart kids “get out” of their small towns insulting to those who choose to stay? Does grooming kids to leave merely perpetuate the problems inherent in the area they are trying to escape? Read this interesting piece about rural return.

Trolling Dr. Oz is my favorite genre of trolling.

And finally–a beautiful essay on Gordon Lightfoot and why we choose to listen to the music we do. (Spoiler alert: it’s written by my brother.)