Month: June 2014

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Marriage

Some people go through marriage blindly. Some go through couple counseling as part of their church’s requirements for matrimony. We took a completely different route. We… consulted a book.

Having read and loved Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I knew I would one day read his series on Effective Marriage and Effective Families when I’m ready to walk those milestones. With our wedding fast approaching (June 28!), Thanh and I went through the 7 habits:

1. Be Proactive: We cannot choose the events that occur, but we have the freedom to choose our response. In marriage, we cannot control our spouse’s thinking or actions, but our reactions to theirs are completely independent. Therefore, we do not blame our spouse for the feelings we have or how we interpret outcomes.

2. Begin with the End in Mind: Envision your marriage five years from now. Ten years from now. How should your children describe your marriage. Write a mission statement. Here’s our marriage mission statement:

We promise to nurture each other’s goals and ambitions; to support each other through misfortune and celebrate triumphs.

We promise to keep our lives exciting, adventurous, and full of passion.

We promise to persevere when times get tough, knowing that any challenges we might face, we will conquer them together.

3. Put First Things First: Don’t always act on urgent matters for they may be unimportant (i.e. interruptions). Assess activities and pursue those that align with your values first. Define your roles in life (i.e. student, wife, mother, CEO, etc.) and set three important goals under each role to fulfill on a weekly basis.

4. Think Win/Win: Seek mutual benefits. Your values matter and so do your spouse’s. When your interests or values don’t align, try a rating system. For example, if you want to go to the movies but your spouse prefers watching the games at home, ask each other to rate how sad you would be if you miss the activity. Then, yield to the person who would be more affected if the event would not occur.

5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood: In other words, listen before you talk. Listen more than you talk. Listen with the intent to understand, not to reply.

6. Synergize: Don’t compromise. Don’t settle on a solution that would make one party unhappy. Seek a third alternative through synergism. It’s not your way. It’s not my way. It’s the better way.

7. Sharpen the Saw: Make sure you are healthy: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Before we could help someone fulfill their dreams and aspirations, we must first be in a healthy position to meet our own.

We Say
The 7 habits for a successful marriage are rather common knowledge, as they should be. There is no real secret to having a blissful marriage. As with any other domains, success comes only after hard work and genuine effort. While we don’t view marriage as an uphill battle, we know not to expect rainbows and unicorns everyday. :)

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Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

Title: X-Men: Days of Future Past
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Ellen Page
Genre: Science Fiction
Running Time: 131 minutes

Plot
In a world where humans with special powers are labeled mutants and their gifts are feared instead of celebrated, the biggest war known to mankind is born. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) was sent back from the future to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from unknowingly starting a war that would wipe out the mutants.

He Said
As someone who is unfamiliar with the X-Men universe, I didn’t know the histories of the characters and therefore didn’t fully comprehend the context of the story. Nevertheless, I was still able to enjoy the movie as a standalone, filled with action and special effects. The star-studded cast also didn’t hurt.

She Said
I watched this movie for Jennifer Lawrence. While she delivered as always, I must say her singsong Vietnamese sucks. Even with the English subtitles, I couldn’t reverse translate what she uttered. As a whole, the movie was good though rather predictable. In the superhero genre, I do believe the Dark Knight trilogy trumps X-Men. X-Men carries a slightly different message, however, where true evil is ignorance and differences should be embraced.

We Say
As another sequel in the X-Men movie franchise, this movie is basically another run-of-the-mill superhero film custom-made for the summer box office. While not bad by any means, it is ultimately only superficially entertaining.

Travels: Chicago

We adore Chicago. It reminds us of Philadelphia and New York City, except cleaner than the former and more manageable than the latter. We would consider settling here one day if it weren’t for the high crime rate.

Millennium Park/Grant Park

Home to iconic structures like “Cloud Gate” (aka “The Bean”) and Buckingham Fountain, this park reminds us of NYC’s Central Park. With beautiful greenery and art throughout, it is definitely worth a stroll through! The juxtaposition of nature with skyscrapers in the background offers a refreshing “escape” from the rest of the city.

The Art Institute of Chicago

My (Nhi’s) heart skipped a beat as I stepped inside the Art Institute. I’m just infatuated with the Impressionism era — my work office featured Monet and my home Van Gogh. The museum has an impressive collection of Monet along with sculptures, Asian, and American arts. We spent most of our time visiting and re-visiting the Impressionism exhibits.

Fun Anecdote: I (Nhi) didn’t pack comfortable shoes. By the time we walked through the park and the institute, I was dying from pain. Walking barefoot didn’t help as the gravels felt like pins and needles. Further, there were pieces of broken glasses on the sidewalk. So Thanh told me to wait for him. After some time, he came back with Croc shoes to save my feet. :)

John Hancock Center

I (Nhi) contemplated making the 94th floor my office. Just imagine! Breathtaking view from every corner and a convenient cafe just steps away. So marvelous. Since we were on vacation, we took the opportunity to sip a cup of coffee and take it all in. Of all the observatories we’ve been to, this is easily our favorite.

Water Tower (Wow Bao)
The Water Tower Place is probably one of the fanciest shopping malls I’ve (Thanh) seen. Since we weren’t in the shopping mood, we didn’t fully check it out. The highlight to us was the Wow Bao eatery on the first floor. It features fresh Chinese steamed buns with a variety of savory and sweet fillings. While we personally still love our recipe the most, the buns were a great snack! We liked the Mongolian beef and chicken teriyaki fillings best.

Navy Pier
Unfortunately, most attractions were closed due to construction during this time (early June 2014). Otherwise, it seemed like a nice place for some ferris wheel and miniature golf fun. It also has a nice theater for Shakespeare plays as well as acrobatic performances. The pier itself was absolutely freezing, but was equally relaxing. It offers an excellent scenery of boats, sea gulls, and an endless blue of Lake Michigan.

We Say
Visit Chicago! Parking here is outrageously expensive. We recommend that you leave your car at the hotel and take the public transportation to hit up the list of attractions.

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Genre: Young Adult
Length: 313 pages

Plot
Essentially a “sick” love story about living while facing a known, pending death.

He Said
Perhaps I’m cold hearted, but I felt none of the emotional pangs I was supposed to for this “beloved” and apparently “moving” novel. The plot was predictable and most dialogues read like bad soap opera. I couldn’t connect as I believed it unrealistic and honestly felt frustrated and tortured in several parts. The last few chapters are more tolerable than the majority of the book as it didn’t have the insufferable “epic” romantic exchanges. I do appreciate the novel’s message that chronically ill people should still “live” and not let death/sickness define them.

She Said
An honest perspective of death and meaningful message that we should be comfortable with the idea of ambiguity. John Green conveyed great stylistic flare. But, how unrealistic sounding are his dialogues?? “Hazel Grace, it is my privilege to have you break my heart.” Who says that?!?!? And a teenage boy, at that! While I appreciate Green’s message, most of the novel reads like a bad romance.

We Say
A work truly meant for teenagers. Unimpressive as a book, we’ll skip the movie version.