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

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR List

This week at The Broke and the Bookish, book bloggers are posting their spring to-read list. I am not sure how it's possible that spring is already upon us, but I'm thrilled. I've managed to read through all of my winter list, except for We, which I've moved onto the spring roster as I've got a hold at the library that still hasn't come in. Here's what I hope to read between now and June:

1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: Despite his popularity, I've never read anything by Gaiman, but this is for a book club, so I'm really looking forward to checking him out.

2. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster: I've been meaning to read Forster for a while now.

3.  We by Yevgeny Zamyatin: This was on my winter list, but it's on hold at the library and I'm moving very slowly down the list. Hopefully I'll get my copy before summer starts! For those who've never heard at it, We is a dystopian Russian classic and inspired Orwell's 1984.

4. Swords and Crowns and Rings by Ruth Park: After reading A Town Like Alice, I was on an Australia kick and asked a few Aussie friends for recommendations of what constitutes classical Australian authors. Thankfully we have this book at the university library, so I'll be checking it when classes end.

5. Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden: A logical pick because I loved The Orenda so much.

6. Russia by Martin Sixsmith: I said I'd read more non-fiction this year, and I've had this history of Russia book for a while, so I'll be picking it up, probably in the few weeks before the spring/summer term begins so I won't have to lug it on the subway every day.

7. Breaking the Tongue by Vyvyane Loh: Because I've been interested in literature taking place in Malaysia lately.

8. Us Conductors by Sean Michaels: I bought this in December and have been excited to pick it up.

9. Four Queens by Nancy Goldstone: A biography of four sisters in thirteenth century Europe.

10. To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han: This is a light pick for whenever summer classes start driving me nuts. :)

Monday, 9 March 2015

Advocating for the Infertile: When Church Hurts

I don't know about others, but I have a hard time talking about my infertility, and I suspect I'm not alone. It's personal. It's painful. It's somehow an invitation for unsolicited advice and pat answers. Yet.... if no one talks about infertility, it remains taboo. If no one talks about it, how can I expect others to become comfortable with the subject. I'm torn at how to respect my own privacy and yet open the doors to conversation, but I'm hoping to write a few posts on the topic and see where it goes.

I had an awful time at church yesterday. For the past few months, crying at church has become the new normal. I get in there and start singing, and the waterworks just flow. "Because He Lives" is the absolute worst. When the second verse starts up with, "How sweet to hold a newborn baby," there is just no stopping the tears. Up until now, however, I've managed to hold myself together, at least a little. I've never had to physically leave. Yesterday was a turning point, and the worst part of it was, it did not have to be this way.

We've been going through this prayer guide for Lent, and every Sunday a few members of the staff go up and lead prayer on that day's topic. Yesterday's topic was children. There were three men on the platform and they invited a friend of mine, a staff member and the mother of a toddler, to come up and join them. The last words I heard was, "Because there's something so special about the heart of a mother," and then, without thinking, I stood up, left Gil sitting on the pew, and hightailed it to the washroom. I wept in the stall for a few minutes, thought I was done, went out to the lobby and just couldn't hold it together. Both my boss and our custodian saw me wailing. Not my finest moment.

The thing is, I don't expect everyone to constantly watch their words because there may be an infertile person among us. I really don't. This is church, however. It's supposed to be the refuge for the heavy-hearted, the place I go to for comfort, not a place that drives me towards needing comfort. Why is it necessary to talk about the "heart of a mother", as though only mothers have compassionate hearts?

Eventually, I went back in, sat through the sermon, and went home to grumble to my husband. Typically, I would have stopped there, but I didn't want to. Why? Because people need to know that their word choice hurts. People have to understand that glorification of motherhood in the church is deeply painful for childless women and men... not to mention those who are longing to marry, those with difficult relationships with their parents, those who have given up a child to adoption, etc., etc. It's not okay to just brush past it. So I did what I could: I wrote a firmly-worded comment to the church, letting them know that this kind of word choice is hurtful and alienating. We'll see where it goes, but I'm glad I took a moment to stand up for the infertile among us. Someone needs to speak for us. Maybe that person is me.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: All-Time Favourites from Recent Years

Today's topic for Top Ten Tuesday (as always, over at The Broke and the Bookish), is listing books we would classify as all-time favourites from the past three years. I'm honestly not sure if this is talking about books we've read in the past three years, or books that came out in the past three years, so I'm just doing books I've read, since I don't read a lot of new releases.

1. 11/22/63 by Stephen King: I'd moved away from King after being obsessed with him in high school, but this brought me back. I think about it all the time.

2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell: I adore this book. Margaret Hale has the spunk and smarts of Elizabeth Bennet, but is much less known.

3. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: Made me think, made me laugh, made me scratch my head.

4. Graceling by Kristin Cashore: I actually like her whole series, but Graceling stood out as my favourite of the bunch. Kick-ass heroine, evil people, supernatural talents. I love it.

5. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis: To add to my time-travel obsession.

6. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng: I put this on too many of my lists, but it's such a beautiful and thoughtful novel.

7. The Secret History by Donna Tartt: A head-scratching and creepy novel that I couldn't put down.

8. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens: I love Dickens, and this is him at his finest: Villainy, poverty, ridiculous people, bizarre coincidences, virtue rewarded, and wacky names.

9. The Chosen by Chaim Potok: Beautiful look into a community that I knew little about.

10. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden: This is a must-read, especially if you are Canadian. It takes you right into the origins of our history, the difficult relationships between colonists and native people, and makes it come alive.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Rest in Peace, Blaire

On Sunday morning, I woke up expecting a packed day. I worked on a project for school, went to church, stopped by the mall to take out money from the bank machine, and ended up the day at my friend's house watching the Oscars. I had no idea that the day would take a turn in the saddest possible way.

I found out late Sunday evening that my friend Blaire had passed away. She was 35 months pregnant and the mother of a three-year-old girl. She suffered a sudden heart attack at age 27. Her unborn son died with her.

There are no words for this kind of a loss. All griefs are hard, of course, but when my grandparents passed, at least we could remember their long lives. This one hit like a sucker punch. I am sad that I will never see her outspoken political posts on Facebook again, or chat about life's insignificant details like Oscar fashion or what kind of milk we buy. I am sad for her husband, as he grieves these terrible losses and tries to keep it together for his young daughter. I am sad for Rowan, who will grow up without a mother. I am sad.

Blaire was a tireless advocate for progressive politics. She longed for a day when everyone had access to adequate medical care and education. She adored her daughter. She loved Disney. She was Blaire, and I loved her for the person she was.

This loss has put so much into perspective. All the trials of this week - which included papers, presentations, and a broken furnace - seem a little less daunting in the light of such a loss. I've been holding Gil a little tighter each night. I've realized that although I want to be a mother more than anything, I don't want to waste my days dwelling on what is not. I want to live. For Blaire.

RIP Blaire and baby Cassius

A few of Blaire's friends and I have put together a Go Fund Me page to help her husband with funeral expenses, as well as to save for Rowan's education. If you're interested in donating, the page is here:

Sunday, 15 February 2015

It Doesn't Get Easier

The other night, I was watching television and ended up full-on weeping. Like tears streaming down my face, nose running, etc.. It was awful. What were we watching? Not Parenthood (that cry-fest) but the new show called Forever. There was an episode where Henry and Jo were investigating the death of a deposed king of a (fictional) country. They interviewed the man's wife, and she spoke emotionally about how it turned out they could not have children. Even though it had been decades, she still spoke with obvious pain about finding out she was infertile. Friends, I know television is not real, but this program killed me.

As we've gotten further along in our infertility journey, I keep hoping in vain that I'll wake up and feel better about it. That I'll stop wanting it so badly, the way I stopped wanting to go to law school or play keyboards in a band (yes, really). It doesn't seem to happen that way. Some things do get easier. I stopped obsessing over random symptoms ages ago, which is helpful to my mental health. I rarely cry when some well-meaning acquaintance asks me when we're going to have kids, but the ache is there every day. I never close my eyes at night without thinking and praying and wishing for a child.

I can't help thinking that ten years from now, twenty-five years from now, fifty years from now, this ache will still be there. It's gotten harder to believe that we might conceive or adopt a child, but even if we do, I'd imagine the longing and grief of this period will be hard to forget. Thirteen years ago this week, I was a lost and angry young lady, alone in a foreign land with my family falling to pieces around me, and I grasped at a light. I sought for God and found Him. But when I think of that time, it still hurts. I cannot forget the sense of being adrift and alone. Time provides perspective, but it doesn't heal all wounds, no matter what the saying claims. I can only grasp at hope that the light is coming soon this time around.

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/470485492298261649/

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Things I Dislike In Book Romances

Today's topic for The Broke and the Bookish is "Top Ten Things I Like/Dislike in Book Romances."  I chose to focus on what I dislike, since it's so much easier to decide on ten topics. Here are my picks:

1. Obsessive love: You know what I mean. "I can't stop thinking about him. I can't function. When he's not near me, it's like there is no air to breathe." That's not love, it's obsession, and it's not cool. Yes, I'm looking at you, Twilight...

2. Instant love: Call me a cynic, but I don't really believe in love at first sight. You know, there is beauty and romance in growing to know and love someone over time. I prefer more Persuasion and less Romeo and Juliet in my books.

3. Love that is focused on appearances: Sure, good lucks are nice. We all like the feeling of being attracted to someone. However, real love is about more than just looking at someone and getting weak in the knees. If an author tells me that one character is in love, and that character is constantly ruminating about his/her love interest's taut body, chiseled abs, and penetrating eyes, I'll quickly feel like this is more lust than love.

4. Cheating: If you're with one person and fall in love with another, I don't want to read about it. Sorry.

5. Love triangles: So over done.

6. Ridiculously fast engagements (in modern fiction): In Jane Austen's time, sure, you could meet someone and be engaged in a month, but in reality, that's kind of bizarre. I mostly see this in Christan novels, and it weirds me out. When half the book is on whether they even like each other, it usually feels way too rushed if they're on their way to the alter before the end.

7. When one person is in love and the other is oblivious: The whole "He's my best friend, but he won't even notice me" is kind of tired. I mean, it does happen, but when the blinders come off and the oblivious one is suddenly in love, that's way too cliche for me.

8. When everything works perfectly right away: Holding hands, kissing, sex, it's all awkward at times. Show us that. I'm picking on Twilight again, but the whole, "It's our first time and we had so much passion that we BROKE THE FURNITURE" is ridiculous and paints unrealistic expectations.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: I Can't Believe I Haven't Read These Classics

Today's Top Ten Tuesday (at the Broke and the Bookish, as always) is top books from any genre that you can't believe you haven't read. The only genre that I'm fairly consistent about is, yep, classics. So here are some of the classics that I really should have read by now:

1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: I know, I know, I'm a Russophile and ashamed. One day...

2.  The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky: I'm a Dostoevsky fan. I've even been to good old Fyodor's house. I've read several of his books, and I even have this one.... but it's been sitting on my shelf forever.

3.  The Enchanted Wanderer by Nikolai Leskov. Yes, more Russian lit.

4.  Anything by Virginia Woolf

5.  Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott: This seems like one of the classic of all classics. I'll get around to it some day.

6. Anything by Emile Zola

8. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo: I finally read Les Misérables in 2013 and loved it, so this is definitely one to read in the near-ish future, like when I'm not in school. I adore the musical (not the Disney movie, the French stage show), so I have high hopes for the book.

8. Howard's End by E.M. Forster

9. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka: As a German enthusiast and a lover of Prague, I really should have read this book by now. I think it's because I feel like I ought to read it in German that it never gets done.

10. Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin: This isn't one that I feel like everyone should read, but I'm embarrassed because I've started it twice and never finished. As with the above, it's probably time to put down my German copy and buy a translation, otherwise it will take me eons to get through it.