They sent me to Binghamton

I've always wanted to be on the east coast, and the universe responded…by sending me to Binghamton, NY. Oh you've never heard of it? Neither had I, but I do so love adventures and that's how I choose to view this. Let the adventures begin!


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It was the best of days, it was the worst of days

A few weeks ago some friends and I spent the weekend at the Charles Dickens Christmas-themed Skaneateles. We spent the time enjoying the costumed carolers,

walking the decorated streets of downtown Skaneateles,

and relaxing at the luxurious Mirbeau spa, complete with our own fluffy robe.

‘Twas indeed the best of times. There’s nothing quite like enjoying a relaxing weekend with some amazing ladies whilst enjoying a glass or two (or three or four) of wine and indulging in some freshly baked donuts.

I had been to Skaneateles in the summer and also had a wonderful time, but I must say seeing it in the winter with all the costumed carolers and decorations made it a lot more fun. That and I indulged in shopping this time. 😀

Until next time, Skaneateles! I heard there is a boat tour in the summer so I’ll to come back for that!

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Give Me Some Sugar

As I once again procrastinate from doing school work, I wanted to talk about a book I just finished reading, Sugar by Deirdre Riordan Hall.

sugar

I’m the fat Puerto Rican–Polish girl who doesn’t feel like she belongs in her skin, or anywhere else for that matter. I’ve always been too much and yet not enough.

Sugar Legowski-Gracia wasn’t always fat, but fat is what she is now at age seventeen. Not as fat as her mama, who is so big she hasn’t gotten out of bed in months. Not as heavy as her brother, Skunk, who has more meanness in him than fat, which is saying something. But she’s large enough to be the object of ridicule wherever she is: at the grocery store, walking down the street, at school. Sugar’s life is dictated by taking care of Mama in their run-down home—cooking, shopping, and, well, eating. A lot of eating, which Sugar hates as much as she loves.

When Sugar meets Even (not Evan—his nearly illiterate father misspelled his name on the birth certificate), she has the new experience of someone seeing her and not her body. As their unlikely friendship builds, Sugar allows herself to think about the future for the first time, a future not weighed down by her body or her mother.

Soon Sugar will have to decide whether to become the girl that Even helps her see within herself or to sink into the darkness of the skin-deep role her family and her life have created for her.

It was one of the free downloads Amazon offers its prime members once in a while and I’ve had it downloaded on my kindle for some time before I finally sat down and read it. At first, it was a bit difficult for me to read because the heroine’s situation was terrible, but not so terrible that it grabbed my attention like a horrible car wreck would on the freeway. It was painful to read how awful the heroine’s, Sugar, family treated her, how awful her thoughts were about herself, and how she would turn to food to forget the emotional pain. But mostly it was painful because of how normal and not so out of the ordinary the story setting was, and made me more aware that unfortunately there are people out there whose lives are very much like Sugar’s.

But then I kept reading and a beam of sunshine came through in the book in the form of the hero, Even. Their developing friendship and her slowly but surely blossoming into the person she truly was underneath it all really warmed my heart. The setting is in high school, which is a time that is not something I can easily recall at this point, but the book is still very relatable. The popular kids, not-so-popular kids, drugs, bullying, rumors, and all that fun stuff are themes in this book. Then there’s the theme of family, of how family situations affect people in different ways and of how people can change, both in good and bad ways.

When I finally put the book down (well, my kindle really), I felt like this:

feels

SO good! I highly recommend, but just be prepared to have a serious case of the feels afterwards. 😛


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Reading Spree

I’ve been a bookworm for as long as I can remember. Sometimes life gets in the way and I go for months without picking up a book (or my Kindle) but other times I go on a reading spree, sometimes at the cost of sleep, social activities, and even school work…

books

I get it from my mom. One of the reoccurring memories I have of when I still lived at home is my mom and I both sitting down at the kitchen table, about to eat breakfast on a Sunday morning. We exchange pleasantries for a few minutes, the usual “How was your week?” and such, then almost in a choreographed movement, we both pick up our books and read while eating breakfast. I love it. Some might say, “Oh, but that’s rude! What kind of quality time is that??” And to that I say, well, THIS:

readers

is still much, much better than this:

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Just sayin’.

In any case, just wanted to share a few of the sleep-depriving, all-encompassing books I’ve read recently.

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir was a book recommended by one of the Chief Engineers at my job. A few days after he recommended it, my co-worker had apparently downloaded it and told me he had finished it in a weekend. It’s written in a form of a logbook by the main character, Mark Watney, who is an astronaut that got inadvertently left in Mars after his team thought he had died during a bad sand storm. The book follows Mark’s life on Mars as he struggles to find ways to survive until either the next Mars mission brings another set of astronauts or he is able to somehow contact earth.

I am not a scientist, nor am I a space engineer (although I used to work on a military GPS program) but I can tell that the author did a really good job in researching the technical details. Now, that does not mean that the book is heavily technical to the point that your eyes start to droop from terminology that is not commonly used. On the contrary, the author manages to explain it in such a way that it is both relatable and humorous. I love the main character! Especially because I have a co-worker whose name is very similar to his!

Burned by Karen Marie Moning

I’ve been obsessed with Karen Marie Moning’s Fever Series for a number of years now so when I received an email notification that my pre-purchased book of the latest in the series was now available, I stayed up until 1 in the morning reading it. I felt dead the next day. I don’t care, it was worth it! I thought the series was over after book 5 but apparently not! The latest is called Burned and it is the 7th book. Don’t be fooled by the rock-hard abs on the cover, it is not a romance novel! Well. I’d say it’s fantasy bordering on romance novel. Ain’t nothing wrong with a little romance anyway!

The story follows a young woman named Mac who starts off by trying to find the ones responsible for her sister’s death. She’s this bubbly, blond, rainbow girl from the south who does her nails and always coordinates her outfit. Then she gets thrown into a hot mess of a situation in Ireland and is faced with the realization that there is such a thing as fae, who are these non-human beings who do not necessarily have good will towards humans. The story goes beyond the murder of her sister into a world she had not even known existed. SO GOOD.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Prior to my trip back to the Motherland, I had been talking to my aunt and uncle about my situation. I have 3 options: (1) Stay at my current job; (2) Take the government job in LA; or (3) Take the job in NY. At the time, I was oscillating heavily between options 2 and 3, which meant that at some point, I would have to go through negotiations. I am terrible at negotiations. How terrible? This is my second job out of college and I had not negotiated, like, AT ALL. I see myself as a strong, independent woman yet here I am, a statistic! I, like so many other women, do not feel empowered enough to say, “Hey, I am worth much more than what you are offering me and as such, I decline your offer.”

One thing that my uncle has told me is not to be so down on myself. I see where I’ve made my mistakes, now it’s time to move on. Best believe I will be negotiating this time around though! In any case, he let me borrow Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, which was extremely helpful to me. It helps knowing I’m not the only one who feels this way and more importantly, it helps knowing that it’s ok to feel this way. For any woman out there who has ever felt like a fraud whenever she gets praised at the office, feels intimidated at the prospect of negotiating a salary, or feels like she doesn’t deserve to sit at the table, I highly recommend this book. Ladies, it is time we lean in and sit at the damn table!

I’m pretty sure there were other books that I devoured, but those are the ones that stand out the most. I also have at least three books recommended by my friends and I cannot wait to get to those! This weekend I plan on going up to Santa Barbara for some quality alone time and I see myself walking to the beach and getting my read on. I can’t wait!


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Wonder

Last weekend, I went up to San Francisco for my friend’s birthday.

SF

It was an extremely beautiful weekend in San Francisco! Warm weather, clear blue skies, both of which are very un-SF like. I felt like I was still in LA!

I had a really great time especially since I had not seen this particular friend in quite some time. It was great to catch up, reminisce, and just get away for the weekend. One of the things we ended up talking about is our love of books! We literally spent about an hour just talking about the books we just finished, which books we would recommend to each other, and books we were currently reading. One of the books they both recommended to me is called “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. I just finished it tonight, and I…well…I’ve got a serious case of the feels.

feels

It is such a well-written book! The story is told from different perspectives, including one from the antagonist, and it is really just so, SO good. It is a serious tug in the heartstrings. The story is about a middle-school kid, Auggie, who was born with severe facial abnormalities and who will be attending school for the first time in his life (previously he was home-schooled). It follows his journey through his first year at a regular school and does a great job of showcasing each character’s strength, courage, and humanity. He is not painted as this angel who just takes it all, head held high and neither is the antagonist painted as the devil, completely devoid of any empathy. The author does a great job of developing each character, flaws and all, and by the end of it I really just had to stop for a moment and gather my composure. The author provided the perspective from the antagonist after the book was first published and that just tug my heartstrings even more.

my emotions

I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good fiction book, especially the younger crowd. Its main theme is to be kinder than is necessary, and the author manages to portray this through the characters’ actions in a really touching way.

kind