"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books to Take You To a Foreign Land

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is a freebie, meaning we get to choose whatever we want. Since summer is close upon us here in Canada, all our thoughts start going to travel. I was bitten by the travel bug as a young kid, and it doesn't take much to make me want to high-tail it out of town on a new adventure. Here are ten books to read to take you far away into a new and exciting culture. I've tried to mix things up and not use the same location more than once (except I've Italy in there twice because, well, it's Italy).

Source is here.

1. All Good Things by Sarah Turnbull: This a memoir of the author's time in Tahiti. I think we can all agree that a vacation in Tahiti is always in order!

2. A Room With a View by E.M. Forster: A jaunt around Italy would be pretty sweet right about now.

3. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute: From the jungles of Malaysia to small-town Australia, this book takes you on a long journey from the comfort of your living room.

4. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter: This novel goes back and forth between modern-day Los Angeles and a small Italian coastal village.

5. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle: I read this ages and ages ago, but this account of the author's time in southern France is hilarious and makes you feel like you're experiencing it first-hand.

6. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome: I suppose England isn't a foreign land for everyone, but Victorian England sure is. Enjoy this light-hearted account of a journey down the Thames.

7. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett: Take a trip into the Brazilian rainforest without leaving your house.

8. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng: This has been on a lot of my lists because it's just that good. It's a fairly heavy read dealing with historical memory and World War II, but it also takes you into the highlands of Malaysia.

9. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden: I picked this up out of curiosity when my mom was reading it, and honestly could not put it down. If you're interested in historical Japan, this is a must-read book.

10. The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak: In truth, I didn't love this book, but it's a great introduction to Russian History for those who, unlike me, aren't addicted to historical biographies.

So where you will travel this summer, either by book or by road.... or even by map? ;)

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Want to Meet

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is about authors that we'd like to meet. This is a bit difficult for me. For starters, a lot of my favourite authors are long dead, and I'm guessing this is more about people I could feasibly meet. As well, I tend to be hesitant about meeting people I admire, because what if they're nothing like I imagine? What if they're jerks? I did my best though, so here are ten living authors that I'd like to meet one day.

1. J.K. Rowling: I can talk Harry Potter until the cows come home.

2. Rainbow Rowell: I'm actually kicking myself because she actually came to town last year and I missed it. Maybe next time...

3. Margaret Atwood: In truth, I've met Atwood twice and have signed copies of The Handmaid's Tale and The Blind Assassin. However, in an ideal world, I'd like to really talk to her about her life and experiences.

4. Donna Tartt: The Secret History was kind of mind-blowing, and I'd like to see how her mind works.

5. David Bezmozgis: Like Atwood, he actually lives in my city, so I always imagine I could run into him at bookish events. I'd like to hear more about his life story.

6. Gillian Flynn: I'm curious as to whether she is as dark in person as her books are!

7. Joseph Boyden: I've been on a Boyden kick lately, and I think he'd have interesting things to say.

8. Alexander McCall Smith: Because he rights the most interesting and hilarious characters.

9. Neil Gaiman: I've only read one of his books, but he seems like the kind of person you want to meet.

10. Ann M. Martin: I did meet her once at a book signing when I was 11, but it would be fun to have a chat with the woman who dreamed up the Baby-Sitters Club and gave me hours upon hours of enjoyment as a preteen!

I'm really interested to see who is on other people's lists!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Advocating for the Infertile: How Then Shall We Celebrate Mother's Day?

Mother's Day. There's no getting around it. It's a hard day for many people. It's difficult for those who have lost their mothers, and for those whose mothers were absent, abusive, or otherwise not great parents. It's difficult for those who have lost children, including those who have had miscarriages and carry a grief that others may not know about. It's hard for those who are far from family and long to celebrate their mothers and grandmothers. It's also very hard for those of us who long to be mothers, but for various reasons are not. That leaves me struggling with what to do with this day. Should I hole up in my house, making calls to my various mother-figures while otherwise pretending the day doesn't exist? Should I put on a brave face and act like I don't care?

This is the third year in a row in which I approach Mother's Day with the desperate prayer in my heart that next year I'll be able to celebrate, that it will be my last year not being a mother. It's easy to want to hide. All week, store displays, radio ads, television, and of course, other people have reminded me that this day is coming. I'm forced to celebrate the wonderful, selfless, giving people that mothers are, and I struggle with wanting to scream that not all mothers are selfless and giving, that many childless women (and men) are selfless too, that this binary way of looking at procreation hurts us all. So do I stay at home, angry at society for perpetuating this myth of the perfect mother whom all women should aspire to be?

It's easy to want to stay away. Many infertile women avoid church on days like today, when we know we'll end up watching our more fertile counterparts be feted while we wipe tears from our eyes. However, I chose to go. I chose to not give up meeting with my brothers and sisters, both because I know my heart needs community, and I know that community needs me. As hard as it is, as painful as it may be, the church and society need to see me too, to know that there are other kinds of women around who have needs and deserve to be supported and honoured too, even if it's not on this day. If I choose to stay away and hide my pain from them, how then can I complain that they aren't there alongside me?

So I went. I did church on Mother's Day. There were tears, and I had to leave for a few minutes, and it hurt, but I was glad. (The sermon had a Jane Austen reference too, so there was that!) As hard as it is to be a non-mother on Mother's Day, today has also been a day of joy, in which I have been so blessed by others who have seen and loved me in my pain. It's been a hard day, but a beautiful day, and I am glad I took part.

This past week marked the end of my study of the life of Moses, which we began in September. I am especially mindful of what a long and difficult journey he and the Israelites had. I was reminded this week of how when Jews celebrate the Passover, they end with the phrase, "Next year in Jerusalem," which in the darkest and and most difficult days expressed the hope of the Promised Land, the return. It is hard to find light and hope when you're traveling through the desert, and it's easy to feel it especially dark on days like today, but to my friends in this hard journey, I say, "Next year in Jerusalem." I hope that this is the last year in the dark for you and me, but if not, I wish you hope for the journey.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Will Probably Never Read

I'm back after a brief hiatus, linking again with the Broke and the Bookish, where we are talking about books we will likely never read. While I add more books to my TBR list daily, there are thousands of books out there that I will never read, either because I've never heard of them, or they are not a genre that I typically read, etc., etc. Here is a list of books that I won't likely read.

Books that I really have zero interest in reading:
1. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk: I know he's an acquired taste. I really tried with Choke, but I just couldn't finish it. Also, I am like the only person in the world who hasn't seen the film.

2. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James: Not my thing. At all.

3. The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade: Call me a prude all you want, but no. This is on Peter Ackroyd's list of books to read before you die, and I have a hope of reading most of that list before kicking the bucket, but I'm fairly certain I'll skip 120 Days of Sodom.

4. Perfume: The Story of a Murder by Patrick Süskind: I saw the movie and it was one of the most disturbing films I've ever seen. I felt like I needed a long shower after that one. I won't be touching the book with a ten foot pole!

Books that I think about reading, but probably won't read:
5. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami: Sounds fascinating, but I don't know if I'll get up the courage to dive in.

6. Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov: This book is a Soviet classic. It's also insanely long, and not that easy to find, so while it's on my list, I don't know that I'll ever actually read it.

7. The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño: I read another of his books and hated it, but somehow I sort of want to read this one as it ties in. I'm a masochist.... And I'll probably never actually pick the up the book.

Series that I am not sure I'll ever commit to:
8. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin: Maybe now that I've got the Overdrive app and can read library books on my tablet, I'll commit to this, but they are just so long, and such a time commitment. Maybe if I need surgery or end up on bed rest at some point. :P

9. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon: I'm curious, but not sure if that's enough to read all those weighty tomes.

10. The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare: I know *about* some of the controversy surrounding her, though not a lot since I don't follow fanfiction. Occasionally I am curious about this series, but the reviews are mixed, so I probably won't ever pick them up.

That's all she wrote! If there's anything on my list that you really think I should try (besides 50 Shades, because I know I won't), you're welcome to convince me!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

NIAW Link-Up: It's Like Groundhog Day

"You are not alone."

That is my message for those suffering in the darkness. This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, in which bloggers and others resolve to talk about infertility. This year's theme is "You Are Not Alone".

I didn't realize it was NIAW until Monday, so I feel a little behind. At first, I worried that I should be writing something new and earth-shattering, but then I realized that sameness, routine, cycles are what infertility is all about for me. One of the hardest things about infertility is the sense that I'm not going anywhere, not moving forward, just kind of stuck here. Life has changed in some ways. I've gone back to school. I cut my hair. I made a few new friends. Life has changed, but I am still infertile, and if I'm honest, that defines me in ways that nothing else does.

After a while, infertility starts to feel like that movie Groundhog Day. It's just the same crazy cycle again and again. Each month (or so), you might allow a little hope to start developing, then get disappointed all over again and ashamed of yourself for hoping. Once you've been in the game for over a year, that adds another level of sameness. As we go into May, it's hard for me to hope that we'll have a babe in arms by next year's Mother's Day when I realize that I had the same optimistic thought last year, and the one before. All of those thoughts of, "If I got pregnant now, I'd be in my last months in the hottest time of the year," and "Hmmm, would my kid resent me if I had a Christmas baby?", I've had them all year after year. And like Bill Murray, I just keep thinking that if I figure out that ONE thing I need to do differently, maybe I'll get out of this crazy game.

The sense that my life is stagnant contributes to the sense of aloneness. It feels like everyone else is moving forward, and I don't relate any more. In the time span since we have been trying, I have friends that have decided to try for a baby, gotten pregnant, dealt with the ups and downs of that, had a newborn, and have now seen the light of the tunnel of the newborn haze. Meanwhile, I'm still here in the same dark tunnel, and I can't even remember what the light looks like after all this time. After a while, it feels like you have nothing to share, nothing going on that is worth talking about, and after initial compassion and sympathy, people just stop asking. They forget. They go on with their lives of jobs and babies and parenting and getting pregnant again, and assume you are moving forward or getting over your infertility. The truth is, I don't think you ever get over it.

So if you're reading this and feeling alone, please know that you're not. Know that someone somewhere does truly care that you're in a dark tunnel, and there are others who know this journey all too well.

If you're reading this and you have an infertile friend, give them a call, or an email, or a hug. Let them know you are still thinking of them. It doesn't get easier, and you don't get past it. It is a struggle that defines you, and largely does so in isolation.

Check out these links to learn more about infertility:

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Authors

Today's topic at The Broke and the Bookish is all-time favourite authors. Wow, so hard! It`s like choosing my favourite parent or something, but I'll do my best. I actually had a list on my computer, but it's now in the shop, so this is all just off the top of my head. I've tried to limit myself to authors for whom I've read multiple books, because I know how it is when you fall in love with a writer from one book, only to be disappointed by everything else.

1. Jane Austen: Duh. :)

2. Margaret Atwood: I know lots of people think she's depressing and all, but I love her. Oryx and Crake is one of my favourite books of all time, and one of these days I'll go back and read a whole bunch of her other books that I read in high school.

3. Charles Dickens: He makes me laugh all the time. I know his books have crazily-named weirdos and the most unlikely coincidences, but I just can't put them down.

4. J.K. Rowling: Because Harry Potter has made my life a better place.

5. David Bezmozgis: He's much less well-known than the above. I came across him somewhat by accident, but I adored The Free World, and now anything he writes is a must-by.

6. John Steinbeck: Someone gave me a copy of The Red Pony in high school and I haaaaaated it. I swore I'd never touch Steinbeck again, but thankfully I reconsidered East of Eden was great and thought-provoking, but The Grapes of Wrath made it onto my all-time favourites list. I finished it while I was supervising construction workers in a remodel of my office (read: sitting there being present while they worked), and I was literally sitting on a chair on the hall weeping and looking like a complete basket case. It's one of my favourite book moments.

7. Rainbow Rowell: A few years ago, I kind of rolled my eyes at the hype she`s gotten, but I have laughed, cried over, and just plain loved every book that I`ve read by her and will probably rush out to get my hands on the next one that comes out.

8. Francine Rivers: I haven`t read much by her in a while, but she has a way of writing Christian novels that feel real and not preachy. The Mark of the Lion series is absolutely superb.

9. Joseph Boyden: I've read less from him than any of the others on the list -  I'm just nearing the end of Three Day Road as I type - but I can say from what I've read by him that he is an extremely talented and creative writer who provides a perspective that is sadly lacking in Canadian literature. I will absolutely pick up Through Black Spruce at some point soon.

10. Robert K. Massie: Does it count if he writes biographies? It does in my book. Massie writes some of the most readable biographies that I know, while keeping it factual and deep enough for this history buff.

11. Ack, I forgot C.S. Lewis! Okay, this will have to be a top 11 list.

I feel kind of badly as a russophile for not having one of the 'greats' on here, but I can't choose. I enjoy Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, and I'm in a Turgenev phase lately, but no one stands out as a favourite author for now. Maybe one day when I finally read War and Peace.... ;)

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Come Read My Interview over at Amateur Nester!

Hi friends! I haven't been posting much lately because it's crunch time at school, but I'm just popping in with a brief update.

Recently, I participated in an interview with fellow blogger Lisa over at Amateur Nester about my infertility experience, and yesterday it was published. Come over and check it out!

It was a pleasure to take part in this experience and share some of my experience with others. In fact, having this interview out there pushed me to share with a few friends who did not know what we were going through, and everyone so far has been loving and supportive. It's a scary think to open up your soul about infertility, especially for those of us who have experienced some not-so-helpful comments, but I can say that it's also not good to go through it all alone.

Happy weekend!