I am 6.5 months into this pregnancy and have not craved a single glass of wine, until this past Saturday when we celebrated Meredith's birthday at my favorite wine bar, Stem.

I just sat there and sipped my club soda, though. Thankfully, all the delicious small plates (deviled eggs three ways, shaved brussels sprouts, garlic chicken wings, and more) and the house burger made up for it - as did the Chantilly cake from Publix. 

The cake is light and fluffy and filled with fruit; it is basically a salad.

There wasn't much tradition in the way I got married.

J and I got engaged one week and went to the courthouse to exchange vows the following week with a few close family members in tow. It sounds quick when I spell it out like that, but I don't necessarily believe the "engagement" starts when someone formally proposes. Engagement, in my opinion, is a season in any relationship when you've moved from just dating and getting to know each other to discussing, making considerations and planning for a future together. As far as I'm concerned, if both parties want to get married, as soon as you start mapping out your future together, you've entered that season.

We entered that season well before J popped the question, and we had discussed things like future kids, future homes, and future goals for ourselves as a unit. We had also discussed my future last name, albeit, it was a very brief discussion. He assumed I was on board with taking my future husband's last name, and I was. There had never been any question about that for me, but with more and more women speaking up in favor of keeping their maiden name post marriage, I got to thinking about why it was a no-brainer for me (and why he just assumed that would be the case for us).

I understand that for many, identity is a unique blend of many factors, one of which is your name. It's how the world formally addresses you; it's how you address yourself, and after going by the same name for 20+ years, it's a big deal to meet someone, get married, and *poof* part of that name is now completely different. The thing is, people change their names all the time, for so many different reasons. Writers use pen names. Actors and musicians use stage names. Even God changed the names of people in scripture, like thee God Almighty. He'd change the name of people because it was no longer the best fit for the season they were stepping into. I wonder if Saul wrestled internally with changing his name to Paul, or Simon changing to Peter, or Sarai to Sarah. Maybe they did and maybe they didn't, and maybe we'll never know.

When I chose to marry, I chose to share my whole life with J, not just part of it. That includes our home, our money, our successes, our failures... and our name. I love the idea of a married couple standing as one in the world with the same family name, and personally, I don't find my identity in my name. It's part of who I am, but it doesn't make up who I am. If I'm changing as a person, if I'm entering a new season, why shouldn't/wouldn't my name change with me?

There are many sides to this argument, and there are many valid points to all sides of the discussion. Why not hyphenate? Why not have the man change his last name instead of the woman? Why not merge them? At the end of the day, it's a dated tradition that came from when men considered women as property, so they put our name on us. Thankfully, we live in a world where we get to make these kinds of choices for ourselves, for our own personal reasons.

I understand everyone's reasoning will differ, but it was never really that deep for me. I think society makes it more profound than necessary. I changed my last name for my husband, for love, for growth, and ultimately, for me.

photo source »»

I got this post idea from Brinton's blog post, which was inspired by an episode of the podcast What Should I Read Next?, in which the host shares all the literary sins people have confessed to her over the years.

I hated To Kill a Mockingbird
I've never read Jane Austen
I wrote term papers on books I never even finished

Things like that...

Personally, I was a terrible English degree holder last year. I only finished three books, and I really only liked one of them.

That's confession #1.

But it gets worse.

Confession #2 - I'm a picky reader, and I definitely have a type:

You see those accolades pasted all over the cover of this book?

"A masterpiece"

Do you see those? DO YOU?! They are liars.

Vogue lied.
The Times lied.
Daily Mail lied (no surprise there tbh).

Here's the thing, I have never, in all my six years of blogging, bashed a book in this space. I write reviews and roundups every now and then, and I make it a point to share the stories I love so other people can give them a try. However, at the end of 2017, I made one single 2018 resolution: to finish this book.

I thought, hey, let's keep it simple this year - you should finally finish that book that gets the highest of praises that's been sitting on your nightstand for the past year and a half. Well, there was a reason it had been sitting on my nightstand for the past year and a half at the time: because the narrative was dragging. I know some books take a few chapters to really get going, and since the book was almost 800 pages, I accepted the fact that it might take even longer for the plot to pick up, but it never really did. I forced myself to read the whole thing since I made the commitment, and for that reason I've decided to share my final thoughts here.

Note: I took a good 3-4 months to chew it over and make sure my review wasn't too hasty.

This book was the definition of a slow burner. I have no issue with an author taking his/her time with the story. In fact, I usually love it because the emotional payoff is better at the end. The problem with The Goldfinch was that it was full of hundreds and hundreds of pages of fluffy details that were irrelevant to the narrative. I'm all about filtering the fluff, so I'd normally flip through those pages and jump back in when the plotline continues, but that wasn't possible with The Goldfinch. The tangents were so deeply woven into each paragraph that I'd read 50+ pages and no real action had occurred.

There is a silver lining, though. Tartt's writing is stunning. The way she paints the picture with her words is a true work of art. These minute details are her brushstrokes, and the segues are definitely the signature of her craft. I just didn't need 400 pages worth of brushstrokes. In my opinion, it doesn't take all that to tell a good story.

I have a theory: Donna Tartt is so highly revered in the literary world that her editor probably didn't want to keep it real and cut through the excess. Once you start winning awards for your work, people (read: publishers) bend over backwards to keep you happy, which - in turn - keeps their pockets happy.

The reviews on Goodreads are mostly positive. Out of half a million reviews, The Goldfinsh hovers at almost 4/5 stars, which is quite impressive. Many of the more critical opinions share my viewpoint, which makes me feel like less of a Liberal Arts fraud.

The moral of the story, for me, was to never suffer through titles that are not enjoyable, even if I did make it my New Year's resolution.

/end rant

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I do not have resolutions for this year.
I do not have a word for this year.
I do not have a self-imposed December 31st personal achievement deadline.

I have goals.
I have a vision for specific areas of my life.
I have the motivation, ambition, and patience to make it happen in God's timing, and I understand
He works outside of the Gregorian calendar.

Okay, first things first: baby active spirit is due in May.
© the active spirit. +