Book Review: God Never Blinks

God Never Blinks

Over the Christmas holiday, I went with my sister and dad on a cruise to Mexico. For anyone who has been on a cruise, you will know that there is a lot of downtime. Because I spent about 5 minutes packing, I forgot to bring a book. As a result, I spent my downtime on the cruise reading the Bible since there was one in each cruise cabin. (My goal for 2011 and 2012 was to finish reading the Old and New Testament. I’m still working on it.) On the second day, I noticed that my dad had a book sitting on his bed. Elated, I asked him where he got the book. He told me his boss, Tim, gave him the book as a Christmas gift.

Tim asked my dad what kind of book my dad likes. My dad responded, “Books about life. Books for middle-aged people.” I chuckled when my dad told me his response. I told my dad that I’ve actually heard of God Never Blinks. To confirm my suspicion, the book cover states that it is a New York Times Bestseller. I started reading the book at about 4pm. I spent the next 4 straight hours reading the entire book, cover to cover.

The book is a collection of 50 lessons that the author, Regina Brett, shares from her experiences in life. Each chapter is a life lesson. These lessons include “When in doubt, just take the next right step” (Lesson 2/Chapter 2), “Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple” (Lesson 23), and “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” (Lesson 48).

Regina wrote many of these lessons as part of a newspaper column. She then saw how popular they became for the readers to share with friends. So, she decided to compile all of them, add a few new lessons in, and create the lessons into a book.

God Never Blinks is a book I’d recommend to anyone, young or old. It’s an easy read-you’ll be flipping through the pages quickly. The title is slightly misleading-it’s not a religious book although the author does include many words about faith in the book. It’s simply a book of little lessons of life that the author had learned in her 50+ years.

What I love about Regina is that she’s not someone with a PhD in psychology from Harvard telling us how best to approach life in order to be happy because she’s done 10 years of research on the topic. She’s not someone who became a millionaire at 23 and is telling us how to lead a successful life. She is a woman who was 1 of 11 kids in her family, who became pregnant at 21, who got married at 40, who got cancer at 41, and who survived to be 50+ years old to publish her first book.

Her stories talk about how she struggled to be a single mother at 21 and making only $7,500 per year. She’s honest with the reader and exposes us to the wounds she has from broken relationships, deaths, and failures. Regina shares the intimate details of her life from celebrating her mothers’ 75th birthday to her first dates with her husband, Bruce.

Several of the chapters are repetitive in what they are trying to teach us, but the anecdotes are unique and keep us interested. The resounding theme of the book is to appreciate what life gives you, even if it is very little. It made me reflect on many of my attitudes towards certain aspects of life including friendships and work. There is one chapter where the author asks us to write out the 20 things in life that we’re most appreciative of. I actually stopped reading, got out my laptop, and jotted down things I am thankful for. Maybe I’ll share them in a future blogpost.

My dad told me that he actually read the book out of order. He browsed through the Table of Contents and picked out the chapters/lessons he wanted to read about. I thought that was really cool since I have a very “must get things done” mentality. If I start something, I have to finish it. There are many pros and cons to that habit.

The book was a great way for me to pause and reflect. That sounds cheesy, but now that I am at the wrinkly old age of 22, it’s time for me to add some wisdom. So, here are some things I am going to change/add in my life because of the book:

  1. Meditate. In Lesson 47, the author talks about a group of women in a Harvard Medical School professor’s research group who thought they were infertile. After several months of meditating daily, these women were able to get pregnant. I’m not planning to have any kids anytime soon, but I realize that the author is telling us that the mind and our mental state have a large impact on our physical wellbeing.
  2. Spend more time with friends. I’ll be sending out Skype invites!
  3. Do the best-today. One of the lessons in the book talks about how writers sometimes save their “good stuff” for another article or work. Instead, the author asks us to use our best material today because it will force you to come up with even better stuff tomorrow. I love that!

7 Fabulous Days in Hawaii

Over the winter holiday season, my family and I went to Hawaii for a week. We planned our trip carefully to maximize the experience in Oahu. If you are interested in going to Hawaii, I hope this post helps you organize your itinerary!

As a disclaimer, vacationing in Hawaii is very expensive! We had to save a lot of money to afford all these activities, but we decided it was worth it. What’s the purpose of making money if you don’t spend it to enjoy life, right?

Day 1: Arrival in Honolulu

We arrived in the evening at Honolulu airport and checked in at the Waikiki Gateway Hotel. The hotel was about a 25 minute taxi ride from the airport. We had not booked a rental car before our arrival. When we discovered that the cheapest rentals for cars were $100/day because it was peak season, we opted out of a rental car. Make sure to book a car ahead of time! The taxi ride was about $35 + tip.

We chose to spend our time in Waikiki Beach in Oahu. Waikiki is an area in Honolulu. Our hotel was situated right by the shopping area that lines the streets of Waikiki. We took a walk in the area and chose to eat dinner at Ezogiku, a ramen house. I recommend the seafood ramen or ramen with wonton.

We took it easy on the first night we got there because of the tiring 9-hour flight from Colorado.

Day 2: Expedia Activity Booking, Waikiki Beach Chilling, Surfing, Paddle Boarding 

In the morning, we attended a workshop hosted by Expedia Activities. We booked our hotel and flight package with Expedia so they sent us an invitation to their activity center. There are activity/vacation specialists there that give you a list of activities available in Hawaii ranging from day trips to see the volcanoes on the Big Island to whale watching to swimming with dolphins. We chose to use this service because it is very convenient. We had our entire week planned during this two-hour long session. They booked our activity ticket and transportation for each activity so we didn’t have to worry about it for the rest of the week. The activity prices were the same (and some at a discount) as if you were to book it individually with the company hosting the activity.

For lunch, we went to Shore Bird. The restaurant is right on the beach so the view was a perfect compliment to our Maui Maui Burgers. The price per entree is about $15-$20. The restaurant has no windows so don’t be surprised when a seagull hops around next to your feet.

In the afternoon, I signed up for a group surfing lesson ($50 for 1.5 hours) at the activity tent on Waikiki beach. They provide the surf board and wetsuit. I highly encourage taking a surf lesson for first-timers. The instructor was excellent so I was able to surf on the first wave I caught.

Picture my dad took on the beach of me paddling out to the waves

Afterwards, I went paddle boarding with my sister and dad. Paddle boarding is where you stand on a surf-board like platform and have a paddle to move yourself around! The paddle board rental was $30/hour.

A picture my dad took of me paddle boarding

For dinner, we went to Keo’s, a Thai restaurant near our hotel. The entrees are from $15-$45. Their desserts are a must-have. I recommend their Mud Pie ($9), a chocolate lover’s favorite. The main dishes was pretty good, but the ambiance of the restaurant is what makes it a worthwhile dining experience.

Day 3: Polynesian Cultural Center

If you ever go to Honolulu, the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) is a destination you should certainly make time for. I encourage the full-day activity package, which includes the entrance fee into the park, buffet dinner, and post-dinner theatrical show. We purchased the “ambassador package”, which is one of the upgrades, because it includes a tour guide, upgraded buffet menu, and front-row seats during the performances. The package is about $145/person. Our transportation came to pick us up at 10am to take us to the PCC, which is on the north side of the island (Waikiki is on the south side). It was about an 1.5 hour drive. The PCC is like a theme park featuring six different areas, each representing a different Polynesian island. There are hands on activities such as basket weaving (in the Samoa area), hula dance workshop (in the Hawaii area), and dance performances in each. There is a mini-river that snakes around the park and you will get to row in a canoe in it.

A unique element of the PCC is that it is run by Brigham Young University. Many of the tour guides and performers are students at the BYU Hawaii campus. They work at PCC in return for tuition payments. Thus, the ticket costs all proceed to providing for the university.

The park closes at 5pm, but that only concludes the first half of the PCC experience. The dinner is hosted at PCC and it is in a high ceiling, island-themed dining hall. The hosts and waiters are all in costume. We chose the Prime Buffet diner menu, which includes a sushi bar, unlimited crab legs, salad bar, and dozens of other options.

Following dinner, we explored the mini-shopping area, which featured island souvenirs. Then, we entered the amphitheater for the nightly, award-winning, theatrical performance called “Ha: Breath of Life.” The show has extraordinary visuals, exciting performances, and a touching story. During the intermission, they served us dessert, which came with our tickets. My sister’s favorite part of the show was at the end with the fire dancers.

This picture was taken in the Polynesian Cultural Center. Notice the temporary tattoo on my left arm? That was one of the fun activities we did at one of the tribes.

Day 3: Pearl Harbor

Our tour bus came to pick us up at an inglorious time: 6am. We arrived at Pearl Harbor around 7am because the bus makes multiple pickup locations. We bought the multi-tour package ($70/person, kids are free). This includes visiting the Battleship Missouri and the famous Arizona Memorial. The entire activity lasted until at 2pm. In between the tours, we also visited the Pearl Harbor museum on-site, which features a gallery of video interviews of Pearl Harbor survivors.

My dad and I on the USS Missouri

Pearl Harbor Arizona Memorial: Picture is one I took from the room with the names of those who lost their lives on the USS Arizona

For dinner, we went to Roy’s, an Asian-fusion restaurant. This is one of the highest rated restaurants on Yelp in Honolulu. The atmosphere is fantastic, service is great, and food is delicious. We ordered the 3-course prix fixe menu ($50/person), which included your choice of appetizer, main course, and dessert. I chose the salmon with rice for my main entree.

I ordered the salmon with rice at Roy's Restaurant in Waikiki

Day 4: Chilling on the beach and swimming with dolphins

We spent the morning relaxing on Waikiki Beach. The water is cold, but because of the sunny weather, you will quickly get adjusted to the ocean temperature.

My sister and I building a sandcastle. It has a tunnel through it too!

Around noon, our transportation came to take us to Sealife Park, a marine-life activity park that was on the North side of the island so it took about an hour to get there. The general entrance of the park is $30/person, which gives you access to the sea animal petting area, sea lion show, and dolphin show. The dolphin show is spectacular and demonstrates the extraordinary intelligence of the animal. However, we went there specifically to swim with the dolphins.The swimming with dolphins costs about $100/person. You are in the water with the dolphin for about 30 minutes, but the actual individual interaction with the dolphin is only a few minutes since you are in a big group with people taking turns playing with the dolphin.

Here I am dancing with a dolphin!

For dinner tonight, we went to Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin, a highly-rated Japanese tempura restaurant on Yelp. Each entree is about $20-$25. The entrees come with miso soup and salad. I enjoyed the lively environment of the restaurant. The food was good, but I haven’t eaten a lot of katsu before so it’s hard for me to judge.

Day 6: Submarine Underwater Tour and Catamaran Dinner Cruise

We took a two hour submarine tour with Atlantis Submarines. There is a catamaran that takes us to the submarine that is floating near the surface about half a mile from the beach. The submarine has individual seats and large windows for each passenger so we all get a clear view of the underwater scenery. We saw turtles, a plethora of exotic fishes, a sunken ship, and a sunken airplane. One of the interesting things I learned is that the company, Atlantis Submarines, purchases old planes to sink into the ocean for the specific purpose of allowing people to see a sunken airplane during their tour. The tour was about $100 per person and children have about a 50% discount.

50 feet underwater next to a sunken ship

After the submarine ride, we headed for our Ali’i Kai Catamaran dinner cruise. It was about $75/person. The catamaran sails around the Waikiki beach area from 5-8pm. The dinner is an Asian fusion buffet featuring dishes such tofu chicken, mashed potatoes, salads, and curry. Shortly after dinner, performers showcased dances from various Polynesian countries. The performers then invited audience members to join them in the jovial dances. At 8pm, we headed for the top of the catamaran to admire the weekly Friday fireworks show on the Waikiki beach.

Picture of the fireworks show taken from the catamaran

Day 7: Return home!