When Everything Falls Apart | Motley Monday

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For the last month and a half, I’ve been planning and organizing a high tea, which happened on Saturday. It was one of the tasks for my Queen’s Award. I’m not the most organized person on the planet, but I was pretty on top of things with this. I had activities planned, the guest list sorted, invitations sent out almost on time (it wasn’t my fault that the printer broke twice), a menu basically organized (other than the spur-of-the-moment cupcakes), and basically everything under control.

Until Friday night.

One of the requirements for the high tea was that at least ten people had to attend. Any less would mean that I’d fail the task and would have to do the whole thing again. So I invited sixteen people, thinking that this would be plenty. Normally when I invite people to things, only one or two can’t make it. Plus I sent out the invitations pretty well in advance, so people could plan around it.

Most people RSVPed with yes straight away, which was great, except for one girl, who had her cousin’s birthday party.

Fifteen.

A friend of mine who’s been unwell for a while said that she’d get back to me closer to the time, and eventually told me that she couldn’t make it.

Fourteen.

A week before the high tea, I got a text from someone saying that she’d had a seizure and hit her head, so she most likely wouldn’t be able to come.

Thirteen.

On Thursday, a friend who had just gotten a new job told me that her hours for Saturday had been changed, and she would have to work instead.

Twelve.

On Friday night, a girl messaged me and said that she’d forgotten about it and had made other plans.

Eleven.

At the same time, a friend messaged me and told me that both she and her sister would be unable to attend. After explaining the predicament that that would have left me in, she managed to rearrange things so that she could make it, although her sister still couldn’t.

Ten.

Also on Friday night, I realized that I hadn’t actually had a definite response from another friend, so I messaged her, only to find out that a family member had died and the funeral was on Saturday.

Nine.

It was at this point that I started crying.

And then, on Saturday morning, another girl messaged me, saying that she and her family had underestimated the amount of work necessary for her sister’s 21st party, so she wouldn’t be able to come.

Eight.

Everything had fallen apart before my very eyes. In a matter of hours, my high tea had become a disaster.

What on earth did I do? Well, on Friday night, I cried a lot of tears. When you’ve put in so much effort that seems like it was all for nothing, I think tears are excusable.

I then messaged a friend, who has also done Queen’s Award, to ask her for advice. She gave me a couple of suggestions.

Finally, I went to bed, still crying, and I prayed. I asked God to help me to figure this thing out. And you know what? He did.

In the morning, I wasn’t feeling any better about the situation, but my mum (who is absolutely amazing, I must add), wouldn’t let me give up. She suggested that I put something up on Facebook, so I posted in the youth group page, begging people to come if they could. After not hearing from anyone, my mum went on a texting rampage in the middle of her baking for the high tea. She sent texts to all of her friends, asking them if they were free. At first, all she got back was nos. I wanted to crawl in a hole and give up and cry.

But then God came through. Someone commented on my post, saying that she, her daughter, her friend, and her friend’s niece (all people I already knew) would love to come.

Twelve.

At the same time, my mum got a text back from her closest friend, saying that she was free and would also love to come.

Thirteen.

So they came, and they had fun.

Maybe my high tea didn’t quite go to plan. Maybe there was a period of about twelve hours in which I wanted to just call the whole thing off, because it would just be a waste of time anyway.

But God came through. I was talking to the lady who responded to my post, and she said that she and the other three people she came with had been planning on going tramping that day, but the rain meant that they had to think of something else to do. Free high tea? Perfect alternative.

If it hadn’t been raining, I would have failed the task. God came through. He is the reason that my high tea was able to happen (with a little bit of help from my mum).

Call on God in your time of need, and He will answer. It may not necessarily be how you would like, but He knows what is best.

He can make it rain.

Arohanui,
Tessa Ann

Book Review: What We Saw | Wordy Wednesday

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So this is technically supposed to be an update on The List, but I’ve only read two or three books on it since the last update, and I just finished (ten minutes ago) an incredible book that I’m bursting to talk about. So I’m switching things around.

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Kate Weston can piece together most of the bash at John Doone’s house: shots with Stacey Stallard, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early—the feeling that maybe he’s becoming more than just the guy she’s known since they were kids.

But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills’s shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn’t have all the details. When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can’t be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same question: Where was Ben when a terrible crime was committed?

This story—inspired by real events—from debut novelist Aaron Hartzler takes an unflinching look at silence as a form of complicity. It’s a book about the high stakes of speaking up, and the razor thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.

I heard about this from a few different places, and at first I didn’t really want to read it. I had an idea in my head of what it would be like, and I thought it would be a waste of time. After reading a couple of extremely positive reviews, I decided to give it a go.

IT WAS ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE.

I’ve decided that the best way to do this is to use bullet points.

> It started off quite cutesy. Which is my absolute favourite. I was grinning hardcore at how cute it was. BUT do not fear if cutesy is not your cup of tea, because this book is not written to be a cutesy book.

> I was going to save this one for last, because it is the greatest, but I just have to share. The main character, Kate, was very deep and thoughtful about things. When this is written a certain way – overly metaphorical and cheesy – I label it with John Green Syndrome and try not to hate it. BUT THIS. IT WAS BELIEVABLE AND GENUINE. IT WASN’T CHEESY. IT WAS DEEP THINKING IN A WAY THAT PEOPLE MIGHT ACTUALLY THINK AND IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.

> People had logical motives. Half the time, when I’m reading YA books, I question the sanity of the characters (and occasionally the author). But these seemed to make sense to me, considering the backgrounds and situations and everything. It was believable. Absolutely believable.

> There was swearing, which, if you aren’t aware, I do not like. However, it wasn’t unnecessary swearing. Some books are filled with it. This one only contained it when it was needed to show what characters were like and that kind of thing. It didn’t make me think less of the book. In fact, it made me think more of it because it was used so effectively (and sparingly).

> My English teacher would appreciate this one. It had repetition of themes and phrases and concepts and motifs and it worked really well. I’m thoroughly impressed by it.

> There was genuine character development and questioning of morals and everything like that. I don’t normally care too much about that kind of thing, but you can’t help but notice it when it is this good.

> The points that it brought up about dressing provocatively and “boys will be boys” and stuff along those lines were amazing. Most books don’t address them at all. This one was about them.

I’M TRYING TO THINK OF REASONS WHY IT WAS SO GOOD BUT IT JUST WAS OKAY? YOU JUST HAVE TO READ IT PLEASE.

You’ve probably already guessed this, but I gave it five stars.

I just don’t have enough words to describe how strongly I recommend this book.

Arohanui,
Tessa Ann

Why I Hate Winter | Motley Monday

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I have this list of post ideas, but none of them were working for me tonight, so instead you get a rant about winter.

For a very large portion of the world, you are entering summer. Long, hot days are in the months ahead.

Those of us in New Zealand (and other Southern Hemisphere countries) are not so fortunate. We are a week and a bit away from winter. And I am not happy.

I know a whole bunch of people love winter. I do not. I do not understand why you would. It is horrible. And today, I’m going to tell you why.

> It’s cold
I don’t like the cold. It makes me miserable.

> It’s wet
Which is the absolute worst when you have glasses.

> We don’t get snow where I live
Snow is pretty. Snow can be fun. I might enjoy winter more if we got some snow. But we don’t. We did. Once. Five years ago. And that was the first time since the 1930s or something. Rain is nothing compared to snow. You can’t have a rainball fight, build a rainman, or make rain angels.

> I get freakishly cold hands
I don’t know if this is some medical thing, but in winter, my hands (especially my right) become like ice, and sometimes they refuse to warm up, even with gloves on. It’s not very pleasant or enjoyable.

> Getting up when it is freezing is not fun
It’s hard enough to get me out of bed, but when my bed is warm and the world is cold, it becomes nearly impossible.

> Winter = flu vaccines
My mum is a very strong advocate for the flu vaccine. Last year, I refused to get it, because I hate needles. This year, it was basically forced upon me, because I was getting two other vaccines at the same time. (Side note: having two vaccines in your left arm and one is your right is horrible. My left arm was so sore, so I’d overcompensate, forget that my right arm had also had a vaccine, and make that arm sore too. Gahh that was an awful couple of days.)

> It’s just miserable and gloomy
Ugh. It depresses me. Winter sucks.

Please tell me that I’m not the only one who hates winter.

I’m insanely jealous of the Northern Hemisphere right now.

Arohanui,
Tessa Ann

Book Review: Dear Thing | Wordy Wednesday

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It has been forever since I’ve done a proper book review.

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After years of watching her best friends Ben and Claire try for a baby, Romily has offered to give them the one thing that they want most.

Romily expects it will be easy to be a surrogate. She’s already a single mother, and she has no desire for any more children. But Romily isn’t prepared for the overwhelming feelings that have taken hold of her and which threaten to ruin her friendship with Ben and Claire-and even destroy their marriage.

Now there are three friends, two mothers and only one baby, and an impossible decision to make…

Thought-provoking, heart-rending but ultimately uplifting, Julie Cohen’s Dear Thing is a book you won’t be able to put down, until you pass it on to your best friends.

As I said in my very brief Goodreads review, this was incredibly heartbreaking and incredibly sweet. One of my friends recommended it to me a while ago, and I finally decided to read it the other week. It was so good.

Romily was an interesting character. I’m still not entirely sure if I actually liked her or not. And I found her relationship with Claire quite interesting. I don’t know.

Honestly, I don’t have all that much to say about this book. It reminded me of Girls In Trouble, kinda, which I reviewed a few months ago. You can find that here.

I will say that it kept me up late. Not necessarily because I was in suspense, but more because I was so wrapped up in the story that I kind of forgot to stop reading.

My main issue was that I found it extremely predictable, but, as it seems to me that maybe I’m just good at predicting, I’m not going to hold that against it.

I gave it four stars. If you’re looking for a good, contemporary, slightly-more-adultish-than-YA-probably book, I’d definitely recommend it.

Just be prepared to have your heartstrings tugged at a little.

Arohanui,
Tessa Ann

Things I’ve Learnt From Having An International Student & Other Life Lessons | Motley Monday

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Brief rant: why can’t Britain and America just use the same spellings? Being in New Zealand, we’re taught the British way, but so much of the world is influenced by America so I often forget which is which. Hence why I had to Google learnt vs learned. (Learnt is British, and therefore the one that I’m supposed to use.)

Rant over.

On Saturday, I helped (if we say learnt, then why is helpt not a word? English, I hate you.) with the catering for a wedding. I was exhausted. I have a new appreciation for waitresses, dishwashers (the people), and people who serve tea and coffee. I learnt a lot from the experience, but mainly that I don’t want to work in that industry. Oh, and also that, despite the exhaustion and sore feet, back, and wrists, it’s quite rewarding and eye-opening. I would recommend that everyone does a similar thing at some point in their life.

But this post is not about weddings. It’s about our Thai student.

For the last ten weeks, we had a Thai student staying with us. He’s 15, and very extroverted. It was an interesting experience for my entire family. I’ve compiled a list of things that I learnt while he was staying with us.

1. You don’t have to travel to experience a different culture.
I learnt more about Thailand in those ten weeks than I had in my previous 17 years. He was the one in an entirely different country, and yet all of us got to experience a different culture. Granted, it’s nothing compared to going to Thailand itself, but it’s probably the next best thing.

2. God can work in mysterious ways.
The boy staying with us was not a Christian. He didn’t like church or Bible study at youth group. However, one day my mum heard him singing a song they’d sung in church that day (he was always singing), and on his last night, he said grace before dinner. Just little things. But who knows what could come from it?

3. Everyone is different.
Well duh. But having someone new in the house just emphasized that.

4. All cultures have similarities.
In contrast to the last point, there were things that we do here that were the same as what he did back in Thailand. It’s just interesting to see where the similarities and differences lie.

5. What we perceive as lack of intelligence may actually be a sign of intelligence.
To put it simply: his English was not the best, but that’s only because it isn’t his first language. He can speak two languages, which I certainly can’t do.

6. Everyone will do things that irritate you.
Nobody gets along perfectly. There were certainly things about him that I wasn’t sad to see leave.

7. It is possible to feel like someone is a permanent fixture in your family in just a few short weeks.
Despite my last point, all of us really enjoyed having him here, and he fitted in with our family quite well. All of us were sad to see him go.

8. Having a new person in your life makes you see things with new eyes.
Pretty self explanatory, I think. Things that were mundane or normal for us were completely new for him.

9. When someone spends a lot of time with you and your family, things that they do and say linger for a long time after they are gone.
My brother and I now say goodnight to each other in Thai. All of us will loudly exclaim “Cheating!” from time to time, which was something he did. Things like that. He may have only been a part of our family for a short time, but we won’t ever forget him.

There you go. That’s just a few things I learnt from my experiences with our student. Has anyone else ever had an experience like this? Is there anything different that you learnt? I’d love to hear about it!

Arohanui,
Tessa Ann

The List: Update #4

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I need to work on introductions of posts. My brain is dead.

Time to update you on The List! It’s been a while, and I’ve read a few books since the last update, so these will probably be pretty brief. If there’s a particular book that you’d like to read a more detailed review of, please let me know.

Changes to The List: No changes.

Books I’ve Read: I’ve read six books on The List since my last update, which I would say is kinda meh, but technically it’s actually 12. Confused? All will be explained next update.

First up, we’ve got The Bell Jar. I’m still so unsure about this one. It was good, yes, but bits and pieces of it confused me, and it didn’t really impact me at all. I gave it four stars, because it was a good book.

Next was Breakfast At Tiffany’s. This was not what I was expecting. To be honest, I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that. It was good, also, but again not very standoutish or impacting. Four stars again.

I’m excited about this one. The next one I read was The Giver, which I only added in the last update. I loved it. It was so profound and beautiful and just oh man I can’t believe I’d never read it before. Five stars. Definitely a new favourite.

Then we have The Catcher In The Rye. I did not enjoy this. It had no purpose for me. I didn’t understand it. To put it simply, my review on Goodreads was “What.” Two stars. Not good.

Another confusing one was The Color Purple. I still don’t know if I liked it or not. Part of me wanted to write it off as a waste of time and a piece of rubbish, but another part of me liked it or something? I do not know. I am so conflicted. I haven’t rated it, because I honestly don’t know how I feel.

And finally, we have the most bewildering one of all. Lord Of The Flies. You see, about three years ago, we’d discussed this book in Social Studies, during which we were told about a certain horrible thing that happened. After preparing myself for three years, I finally got up the courage to read it. Every turn of the page was pure torture, as I was waiting for this terrible thing to happen. But it never did. So now I feel as though I can’t give an honest review, because my entire experience while reading it was based on something that wasn’t even in the book.

Favourite/least favourite: My favourite was definitely The Giver, as it was magnificent. My least favourite is a toss up between The Catcher In The Rye and The Color Purple, but, as I can’t let go of the fact that I might’ve actually enjoyed The Color Purple, I’m saying that The Catcher In The Rye is my least favourite.

Next to read: I’ve currently got The Handmaid’s Tale out of the library, so I’ll be reading that. Also I think there might be something on hold for me at the moment? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll read something more easy going and less deep.

Well that was fun. I’ve decided that my friend is right – I get too invested in books.

Arohanui,
Tessa Ann

Why We Need Diverse Books | Motley Monday

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If you’ve been around the book internet for a while, you may have seen the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks floating around. I’ve never been one to really care about this, if I’m honest. Well, I care. Just not to the point of saying anything.

But I was thinking about certain things the other week, and I realized how much this does mean to me. So today, I’ll be sharing my thoughts. However, my take on this is probably a bit different from everything else you’ve heard. This one is possibly much more personal.

It also features some rare photos of me, so brace yourselves for that.

I want to tell you a story about a girl.

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This girl was born with an eye condition called ptosis. Most people have heard of it, because there are a lot of books that talk about it, since books are so diverse and feature most disabilities and defects.

Ever since she was a tiny baby, her mother has read her books that tell her just how special and awesome she is, even though she has this condition. In fact, they tell her how special and awesome she is because of this condition, because that’s what makes her different and exciting. From a young age, she’s grown up known that her condition isn’t a bad thing at all, both because her parents told her, and because she read it in books.

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When she was three, her favourite book was about two kids who pretended to be pirates while they were wearing their patches after ptosis surgery. It helped her before her own surgery, and every time she had a surgery on her eyes, even when she was 17, she would read this book to give her comfort.

In her primary school years, she really began to develop her love of reading, especially since there were books that talked about ptosis in a way that wasn’t rude, unlike the kids at school. It made her feel like the kids were wrong about her, and that there was nothing wrong with her at all.

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At the age of eleven, she was picked on by some unfamiliar girls, who told her that she was ugly and had weird eyes. She went home and cried, but was comforted by the words in her favourite book, since the main character had ptosis and was constantly being called beautiful.

When she became a teenager, and experienced everything that went with it, she was excited to find that YA books also featured different conditions a lot, including hers. It made her feel like she wasn’t abnormal, the way that she sometimes saw herself.

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And as she grew into an adult, she was able to be more confident in herself, because everything she’d read had always told her that she was okay and beautiful and normal, and that there was nothing wrong with her.

Now I’m going to tell you a different story about the same girl.

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This girl was born with an eye condition called ptosis. Most people haven’t heard of it, because there are no books that talk about it.

Ever since she was a tiny baby, her mother has read her books about kids who seem to be more normal than her, because they don’t have an eye condition like that. On the outside, they look perfectly normal and perfectly perfect. From a young age, she’s been told that she’s beautiful by her parents, but the books she’s read always seem to disagree, since there’s never anyone like her.

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When she was three, she had her first ptosis surgery, but there were no books that talked about other kids having it, so she was very scared.

In her primary school years, she really began to develop her love of reading, but none of the books that she read ever mentioned ptosis. It just seemed to reinforce what the kids at school said when they asked her about it – that there was something wrong with her.

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At the age of eleven, she was picked on by some unfamiliar girls, who told her that she was ugly and had weird eyes. She went home and cried, and really struggled to ignore their words, since the books that she read seemed to tell her that being different was bad. Years later, she still thought about those words from time to time.

When she became a teenager, and experienced everything that went with it, she was disappointed to find that YA books didn’t feature different conditions a lot, including hers. It made her feel like she was abnormal.

And as she grew into an adult, she was less confident than she could have been, because everything she’d read had always told her that she wasn’t okay or beautiful or normal, and that there was something wrong with her.

One of these stories is true. One of them is a complete work of fiction.

Both are about me. The first one is the way that things could have gone if conditions like ptosis were featured in books. The second is the truth. Well, I mean, the adult part hasn’t happened yet, but I can hypothesize.

Imagine what would happen if books actually featured and talked about conditions like ptosis. Imagine the effect that that would have on people like me, who spend so much of their lives with their heads in books.

We need diverse books. This isn’t an opinion. This is a fact.

Arohanui,
Tessa Ann