Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Twitter Love

I love the freedom social media gives me. I love the way I can connect with people who, in the pre-social media world, I would never have met. I love reaching out with my words and ideas, knowing that someone “out there” may read them. 

I cautiously started with blogging. Then I progressed to Facebook. Soon Twitter followed, and then came LinkedIn, Google+, My Space, StumbleUpon, Digg, FlickR and Tumblr.
These days, I can’t open my inbox without an invitation to another social media site popping up.
Twitter is by far my favourite social media site: it’s quick, it’s snappy, it’s informative and it’s fun!  I feel as if I’m a member of a cosy club. But it’s dangerously addictive. As I interact more and more with people across the globe, a disturbing feature has crept in: I’m spending most of my free time interacting with people through a computer.
Can you be addicted to social media?
In her Brainblogger article No Man’s Land, Veronica Pamoukaghlian, MA, says that although social media addiction is not yet included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the emergence of this new type of addiction is sweeping the world from Asia to America.
Social Media Strategist, Jeff Bullas, provides some interesting statistics on social media addictions (and you can take a poll to see where on the scale you fall!)
The top five symptoms of social media addiction are:

·            You spend more than four hours a day on-line: This includes the time you spend using your mobile phone. Do you check your social media updates on your mobile first thing in the morning and last thing at night?

·            Your life-style has become reclusive and sedentary: Do you have more on-line friends than real friends?

·            You access social media while you’re doing other tasks: Do you walk and check your Facebook updates? Do you eat and tweet? Do you struggle to finish ordinary tasks because you’re constantly distracted by the next tweet, status or blog comment?

·            You easily lose track of the time you spend on-line: How often do you intend to spend only “a few minutes” on-line, only to find when you switch off, you’ve lost hours?

·            You feel anxious when unable to connect on-line: Is the first thing you pack when going on vacation your iPhone or Blackberry? Do you panic when you realise you’re out and about and you’ve forgotten your phone at home?

If, like me, you display any or all of these symptoms, chances are, you’re addicted (or well on the way to a social media addiction!)

So, what’s a girl to do? Stand up and say, “Hello. My name is Judy. I am a Tweetaholic?”

As I said to my husband when he threatened to throw my Blackberry in the bin, it’s simply too much to ask me to go cold turkey and give up all my social media at once. Besides, I whined, a social media presence is essential for anyone involved in the writing profession!

But, to save my precious Blackberry, I decided that I couldn’t do it all, hear it all, and participate in it all. After all, writing is the most important part of being a writer.

Now, there’s no on-line time for me until I’ve met my writing goals for the day. I still find time to go onto my social media, but now that time is limited to what’s left over from the day after all other tasks are completed.

The interesting thing is, by limiting my on-line time, when I do find myself revisiting my old love Twitter, there’s less guilt and more fun. And isn’t that the best of both worlds?

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This article was originally written by Judy Croome  for children's author Jo Ann Kairys at www.storyquestbooks.com/blog as part f Jo Ann's Virtual Blog Tour 2012.

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Sunday, 6 May 2012

This Burns My Heart

In a remarkable easy-to-read style, Samuel Park addresses the philosophical issue of free will and choice in his debut novel THIS BURNS MY HEART.

The central character is a beautiful and intelligent Korean girl, Soo-Ja. The reader comes to know Soo-Ja through the twists and turns of a life created by the convergence of several factors beyond her control. The social conditions (South Korea after the Korean War); her ambitions as a woman in a restrictive culture (she wants to be a diplomat in a society that only expects well-bred young women to marry and care for her husband, in-laws and children); and her ancestral background (born to wealthy parents) all set the stage for Soo-Ja’s journey.
From her Father’s decision about Soo-Ja’s career to the husband she chose to the decision made by the slimy (but helpful) property developer Mr Gi-Yong, THIS BURNS MY HEART constantly reminds one of the need for a conscious awareness of the consequences of our choices, not only those which affect us, but those which affect others. “I was young. I was a fool,” said Soo-Ja and encapsulates the underlying melancholy that runs through this novel. Often, we have to make major life choices when we are too young to understand the consequences.

With delicate passion and deft skill, Park leads us through Soo-Ja’s emotional evolution from a young, rather spoilt girl, to a mature woman who faces her past mistakes, endures their consequences and ultimately finds the courage to make a different choice. Later in her life, as she grows into an acceptance of what is, Soo-Ja reflects , “She had not been allowed to pursue happiness; only to try to find some meaning in her sufferings, and look for a way, however small, to make sense of her disappointments.”

We shape our lives and we shape ourselves…
and the choices we make 
are ultimately our responsibility
~  Eleanor Roosevelt

Many times, I found myself thinking of my own country and its people. From the description of Chu-Sook’s mother’s shack; the youth challenging a repressive government; the low image of Korea that ex-pat Koreans have of the country (perhaps as a way to justify their choice to leave their birthplace) and the complexities of Soo-Ja’s intergenerational family relationships, this novel rises above superficial cultural differences and penetrates to the core of our common humanity.

In vivid detail, Park brings Soo-Ja’s world alive for the reader. From the vibrant street markets of Daegu to a dingy inn in modern Seoul, one can smell the noodles cooking and hear the horns blaring. This is the Soo-Ja’s world, but it could be mine. Both flawed and very human, she is a heroine whose desires, mistakes and emotional growth could be those of any woman, anywhere in the world.

With sensitively drawn characters and an engrossing love this story did exactly what it promised: at times, my heart ached , not only for Soo-Ja, but for all those whose presence was intricately woven through her life.

Samuel Park’s THIS BURNS MY HEART is an engrossing read that raises questions that linger in the mind long after the last page has been turned. Since finishing it, I have spent many hours reflecting on the choices I've made in my life. Soo-Ja's story helped show me that even the bad choices I made could be turned into inner victories: "The life she had was in fact the one she’d been supposed to have, she told herself. Without its lessons, how could she have become the woman she was?"

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I’m giving away a free copy in the format of your choice of THIS BURNS MY HEART to one lucky blog reader. All you have to do is leave a blog comment below telling me what is the most memorable choice you made in your life or tell me where you shared this blogpost or, if you tweet about this review, simply mention @judy_croome and I'll pick up your entry that way.

Competition closes 31st May 2012. 

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Here comes the (radiant) bride...

Pictures speak 1000 words, so here are some of my favourite memories from my niece Nikki's wedding day...the day she married her best friend and soul mate Gareth Deiner:

The happiest bride I've ever seen...
after the marriage ceremony at St David's Marist Brothers Chapel

The beautiful bride

On her bouquet Nikki had attached a charm photo of her beloved Da,
so he made her wedding after all

The bridal party

The bride's family
From L to R: Sister Bailey, Dad Ian, Bride Nikki, Groom Gareth,
Mom Iona, Brother Michael (Iona is my big sister)

My niece Bailey, my husband Beric, Me, nephew Michael, niece Nikki,
my new nephew Gareth, my Mom/Nana of bride, my sister Iona, her husband Ian

My big sister (Mom of bride) and I

Me, Iona, Mom seated

Mr & Mrs Deiner

Having fun dancing to the swing band (the drummer was 85 years old!)

A tender moment between the bride and her Nana
If you love happy weddings, you can see all the photos by 
Please join me in wishing Nikki and Gareth a blessed and happy marriage, one in which life's inevitable challenges are conquered by an eternal love that holds them steady and true.
All our love and blessing to you both!