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

Sunday, 1 July 2018

My Classics Club list

About five years ago, I came across a blog called the Classics Club, and was intrigued. The premise was that you make a list of 50 classic books that you want to read in the next 5 years, and then review the books on their blogs. You don't need to do 50. You could choose 20 books or whatever works for you, but I stuck with 50 because it was manageable while still a challenge. I read a lot of books, about 80-90 in a year, so choosing to do a minimum of 10 classics still left me a lot of room for the biographies, history books, YA, and modern fiction that I also enjoy. I don't like to write reviews, so I decided to choose 50 as a personal challenge, and to finish them by June 2018.

If you've been around here a while, you know that these past five years were extremely difficult. We thought we would be growing our family, but instead we went down into the abyss of infertility treatments, and on top of that, there was a lot of family drama, and I also went back to school, graduated, and started working in a new field. I can safely say that five years ago, I never expected June of 2018 to look the way it does. But somehow, it makes me happy that I finished my 50 books. That was the one goal that I could keep working towards, when everything else was falling to pieces.

Overall, participating in this challenge has been a good experience. I finally read War and Peace and Les Miserables. I discovered that I enjoy Anthony Trollope.  I also found that I don't particularly enjoy Faulkner or Virginia Woolf, but at least I tried! :)

I'll post my full list below, but first question for you readers: What books should I add to my second Classics Club list? I've given myself the summer off, but hope to start a new list in September, with the goal to finish by the end of August, 2023. I'd like to broaden my horizons a bit and read classics from non-European classics, since I've read a lot of the English and Russian canon. Give me your best recommendations of neglected classics!

The full list, including when I finished it.
1. Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (January 2014)
2. Charlotte Bronte, Shirley (December 2014)
3. Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (July 2013)
4. Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (December 2016)
5. Kate Chopin, The Awakening (March 2014)
6. Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (December 2014)
7. Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (September 2014)
8. Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers (June 2017)
9. Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot (August 2017)
10. Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (October 2015)
11. Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles (July 2013)
12. George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (December 2013)
13. William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses (March 2018)
14. William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (July 2014)
15. E.M. Forster, Howards End (March 2017)
16. E.M. Forster, A Passage to India (June 2017)
17. Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford (October 2016)
18. Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton (April 2014)
19. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sufferings of Young Werther (July 2017)
20. Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov (March 2015)
21. H. Rider Haggard, Allan Quartermain (April 2016)
22. Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure (February 2018)
23. Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of Seven Gables (September 2015)
24. Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea (July 2016)
25. Homer, The Odyssey (February 2018)
26. Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (March 2016)
27. Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (October 2013)
28. Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (May 2018)
29. Henry James, The Wings of the Dove (December 2017)
30. James Joyce, Ulysses (April 2018)
31. Rudyard Kipling, Kim (May 2016)
32. Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, Dangerous Liaisons (July 2014)
33. Mikhail Lermontov, A Hero of Our Times (January 2014)
34. Nikolai Leskov, The Enchanted Wanderer (November 2017)
35. Sinclair Lewis, Main Street (October 2014)
36. Guy de Maupassant, Pierre et Jean September 2013)
37. Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago (January 2015)
38. Edgar Allan Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher (April 2014)
39. Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe (September 2017)
40. Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (September 2014)
41. Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace (August 2016)
42. Anthony Trollope, He Knew He Was Right (January 2015)
43. Ivan Turgenev, King Lear of the Steppes (April 2015)
44. Ivan Turgenev, On the Eve (March 2015)
45. H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds (June 2013)
46. Rebecca West, The Thinking Reed (May 2016)
47. Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (July 2013)
48. Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (December 2015)
49. Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (February 2017)
50. Yevgeny Zamyatin, We (April 2015)

Monday, 2 April 2018

Infertility Chat: Maybe I Don't Want To Babysit Your Kids

I've been on a blogging hiatus these past few months, but I'm back to talk about something that has bothered me lately. I've had a few instances where discussion of my infertility has led to responses such as the following:
"I bet you're a great babysitter!"
"You can babysit my kids!"
"If you lived closer, you could come and 'mom' my kids some time!"

I want to give benefit of the doubt that no one intended for these comments to be hurtful or inappropriate, but you know what, they are, and I'm going to unpack the reasons why.

Firstly, sometimes these people are joking. This falls into the same category of  the nudge-nudge "You can have my kids!" statements that I get occasionally. These are the worst kind of comments. Do not do this. My infertility is not a joke. The fact that you can have kids and I can't is not funny. I understand that this topic may make someone so uncomfortable, but that doesn't make it okay to laugh about it to somehow lighten the mood. There may be times when I lean on dark humour, but that is my own prerogative as the hurting, grieving person. If I am being serious and sharing a deeply personal grief, there is no call for you to make a joke, particularly one that is not really funny anyway. If you're that uncomfortable, it's far better to just say, "I don't know what to say. I'm sorry you're going through this."

Even if they are meant seriously, these comments turn the focus back on the person responding. I've shared something about my own personal grief, and instead of mourning with me or asking how they can be supportive, it's turned into an opportunity for ME to do THEM a favour (babysit their kids), while somehow be phrased like it's a gift to me. This is not okay. I am happy to help my actual friends, the people who have sat with me and listened to me and wept with me. If a genuine friend needs a helping hand with her kids, then I am happy to oblige, but presenting it like you are doing something super nice to me by "offering" the chance to do what your 16-year-old neighbour does for an hourly rate is not loving or kind.

I understand your train of thought. You think that spending time with children will fill that spot in my heart, will make me feel like an almost-mom, but the truth is that it might not. I help in the nursery at Bible study occasionally, and while it is sometimes fun, I almost always end up crying in my car afterwards because holding those babies just reminds me that I'll never hold my own babies. If being around other people's kids filled that void, I would just work at a daycare. In other areas of life, we understand that this mindset is silly. If a friend were out of work, you wouldn't offer to let them come to work with you for the day to experience what it's like to be employed. If a friend is single and depressed about it, you would never think to say, "Why don't you spend the day with my husband?" We understand that our friend doesn't want to just spend the day with a man, but is in fact wanting a long-term, committed relationship to someone they love. Likewise, my desire to be a mother is not because I just want to spend lots of time with children. It's about the family life that I had pictured for us, the relationships that would develop, getting to know a little person who is a bit like me and a bit like Gil and also something extra and unique, and watching that person grow and learn over a lifetime. An evening spent watching your kids while you go to the movies will not fill that hole.

I've said it before and I will say it again, but someone else's infertility is not your problem to solve. The absolute best thing you can do is listen and grieve, and ask if there is some way for you to offer practical support. Please allow me the agency to decide what will and will not be helpful to me in my own grief without deciding on my behalf that your suggestion is just what I need.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Christmas Ghosts

Merry belated Christmas, friends! I hope it's been a good one for you and your families.

I haven't blogged in a long time. It felt like I ran out of words to say. Sometimes I was busy, and sometimes I had too many balls in the air, and at other times I just had too many emotions and no way to put them on the page.

In some ways, you could say that I'm doing better than at this point last year. We moved through some of stormiest periods of grief. I put myself out into the world and had new adventures and new joys. We are probably healthier than we were at the end of 2016.

But.... it still hurts. When I look at my tree on Christmas morning, I see the shadows of the gifts that should be there, the pajamas and toys and books that my children should be opening. When I look at our stockings, I see the extra space where more stockings should be. I see my shadow life, the one we were 'supposed' to have, the one in which we have two kids and maybe a third on the way, and I feel the gut punch of knowing that will never be. I live with the awareness of that ghost life every day, but at especially at Christmas.

One of the saddest parts of our infertility is that very few people understand or share in our loss. It is unacknowledged, unseen. When I voice it, I am being 'too dramatic' or 'too negative' or I just need to 'have a little faith'. No one sees the deep wounds that I carry. People commend me for looking happier, but don't notice that I still walk a little differently because part of me is broken.  There is hole in my heart. These ghosts come with me every day. I think they always will.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall 2017 TBR

Hi friends! After a brief blog hiatus, I'm trying to get back at it, and today's TTT topic is a good one. Today on The Broke and the Bookish, we're posting our fall to-read lists.

1. Longbourn by Jo Baker: This has been on my list for ages (because Pride and Prejudice), so I'm hoping to finally pick it up.

2. Fairest by Marissa Meyer: I started reading the Lunar Chronicles series last month and now I'm addicted. This book tells the back story of evil Queen Levana.

3. Winter by Marissa Meyer: See above.

4. The Break by Katherena Vermette: I picked this up at Chapters on a whim and it look interesting, plus I try to read Canadian literature when I can.

5. SPQR by Mary Beard: To be honest, I have no idea why I bought this book on the history of Ancient Rome, but I do make an attempt to read some History books each year and I've been slacking in 2017, so I'll try to get to this over the fall.

6. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James: In 2013, inspired by the Classics Club blog, I made a list of 50 classic books to read in 5 years, which would take me to the end of June, 2018. I've got seven books left to read, and Henry James is on the list.

7. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai: This young woman is so inspiring.

8. Resurrection Year by Sheridan Voysey: I saw a webinar with Sheridan and his wife in which they talked about their infertility story and the year or so that they spent processing the fact that their fertility treatments never resulted in a child. As I try to process my own infertility, I think this could be helpful.

9. The Enchanted Wanderer by Nikolai Leskov: This is another one from the Classics Club list.

10. March by Geraldine Brooks: A look at the father of the March family from Little Women.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Eight Years, Four Years, One Year

Oh July, bringer of hot, lazy days and summer adventures, but with heat comes the danger of being scalded,, seared, or simply consumed in the fire so that nothing is left.

Eight years ago this week, I waited awkwardly in a shopping mall entrance to meet a man for dinner. Shortly after this, I spent a weekend with my mother at our family cottage, and during a canoe outing told her, "I might have met someone. I think I like him."

Four years later, the man from the shopping mall meeting, now my dear husband Gil, said to me, yes, let's have a child. Four years ago today, full of hope, I wrote down that it was finally Cycle Day 1, our first month trying for a child. Filled with hope, I envisioned a winter pregnancy, a spring baby. My imagined spring due date pushed forward to summer, then, autumn, then winter, then spring again.

One year ago tomorrow, I got the call from the clinic. Our cycle had failed. Our last hope. The dream was dead.

I thought that one day it would get easier, that one day I would start waking out without grief or pain. It hasn't. The sharp knife point of grief has dulled slightly, but infertility is still the air that I breath, day in and day out. It envelopes me and consumes me. It is my constant companion. I am infertility and infertility is me. I cannot imagine a life when I will not be aware in every moment that I wanted to be a mother, and I never could.

How do I keep going to face another July, and another? I don't know. I live by putting one foot in front of the other. I enjoy the good moments when they come, and I let myself grieve. I am kind to myself and try to be kind to others. I pray and worship and try to find my way in this dark valley of my faith. I look forward to months that are not July.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I've Been Meaning To Read

Hey friends! This week's TTT is looking at book series that we've been meaning to start. To be honest, I'm often skeptical about starting a new series, because I often feel like once I've started, I have to read them all, even when I don't necessarily love the books. There are some like A Song of Ice and Fire that I am highly unlikely to read just because it's such a time commitment and I'm not sure the books are my cup of tea. However, there are a few series that I would like to try.

1. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer: I've heard great things about these books.

2. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan: I have the first book on audio just waiting for a long drive. I don't actually know that much about Greek mythology, so I might learn something along the way.

3. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld: The concept is intriguing to me.

4. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini: The covers are so lovely! I'm not usually that in to high fantasy and dragons, but I have heard many good things about this series.

5. The Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray: I remember being interested in A Great and Terrible Beauty back when it was relatively new and I worked at a bookstore, but I never got around to reading it. Since I've loved Bray's most recent series, I may have to give Gemma Doyle a go.

6. The Inkworld trilogy by Cornelia Funke: This seems like a booklover's dream: A character who can bring fictional characters into reality.

7. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: This is a maybe for me. I have friends who are absolutely obsessed with it, and others that strongly disliked the books. The sheer number of volumes and length of them makes me hesitant to jump in, but I do love time travel, so maybe I'll grab the first book for a vacation and check it out.

That's all I could think of! Please let me know which series you think I've missed or I absolutely have to start reading!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Diverse Books Added to my TBR

It's another Tuesday! This week's TTT topic is books of a given genre that we've recently added to our to-read list. I couldn't think of a genre, so I chose a theme instead. I've been making an effort recently to expand my reading and ensure that I was getting more diverse perspectives, with protagonists of various culture backgrounds, so here are some recent additions to my TBR that have themes related to cultural diversity.

1. Sour Heart: Stories by Jenny Zhang: I saw this posted on a blog (I can't remember where!) and it caught my eye. This book contains short stories about Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants in the United States.

2. What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons: This book looks really thought provoking and interesting.

3. A Dry White Season by Andre Brink: Since my 2010 trip to South Africa, I've been fascinated with the country and it's dark history. This book is well-acclaimed and discusses race issues during Apartheid.

4. Short Girls by Bich Minh Nguyen: A book about two sisters of Vietnamese origin in the United States.

5. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon: This looks absolutely adorable. I've never met a book that looks at modern arranged marriage among young Indian Americans. And the cover! <3   

6. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: An important look at police violence. There was a woman on my bus who was reading this for a while. I kept wanting to ask her how it was, but I chickened out.

7. The Break by Katherena Vermette: A novel taking place within a Métis community in Canada.

8. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin: This is an important work on race in the American South during Jim Crow. It's been on my long list forever, but I recently added it on GoodReads.

9. You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have To Explain by Phoebe Robinson: This is supposed to be really funny as well as informative.

10. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I started reading Adichie a few years ago with Americanah, and since then I've enjoyed several of her books and learned a lot about Nigeria along the way.