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

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR

Happy autumn! Today's TTT topic is the books on our fall to-read list. I've done a lot of reading over the summer and I am looking forward to some of the books I've got on deck for the fall.

1. Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson: Eep! This book comes out TODAY! I read the first book in the series, and loved it, so I've had a hold on this a the library for ages even though it hasn't been released yet.

2. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett: I've only read one other of her books, but I enjoyed it and this one seemed intriguing.

3. The Girls by Emma Cline: I've heard this is a real page-turner. I'm just waiting for my e-book hold to come in.

4. Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov: I must have added this to my to-read list ages ago, and I don't remember why, but as a die-hard Russophile, I'm interested in finding out what attracted me in the first place.

5. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell: A portrait of a country town by the author of North and South, which I loved.

6. All Roads Lead to Austen by Amy Elizabeth Smith: I mean, it's related Jane Austen, so what could go wrong?

7. Bolshoi Confidential by Simon Morrison: Ahhhhhh! I cannot wait for this to be released. Russia! Ballet! *swoons*

8. The Crimean War by Orlando Figes: This season's list is a little Russia-centric, eh? Oh well. Figes writes history in a very readable style, and I'm quite interested in this topic as I'm not hugely knowledgeable about the Crimean War.

9. The Last Command by Timothy Zahn: I didn't love the second book in the Thrawn trilogy, but I've been on a Star Wars kick all year and am psyched for Rogue One, so I'll probably try to read this third book in the series some time in the autumn.

10. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: I've read The Hunchback of Notre Dame AND War and Peace this year, both super long books that were on my lifetime to-read list, so why not finish off 2016 with another long classic.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

A Letter

Dear child of my heart,

I’ve written a lot of letters over the years, some to dear friends, some to people I had never met, and others to the nebulous “to whom it may concern”, but apart from writing to Santa in my childhood, I’ve never written a letter to someone who didn’t exist. But in a way, you do exist. You are my child, the child of my heart. You were never conceived and no one knows you in the flesh, and you will never have a fingerprint or a social insurance number, but I know you. You exist in my mind and in my dreams, and most importantly in my heart.

Child of my heart, I am sorry we will never meet, but know that I imagined the day of our meeting a thousand times. The way I would hold you and weep when I finally saw your face. The way your dad would be in awe. How we would send the news to the far corners of the earth that you were here at last, our baby.

I am sorry that I will never carry you in my womb. I’ll never know what it felt like when you kicked me or be able to complain about your pressure on my organs. I’ll never know the agony of pregnancy nausea coupled with that tiny bit of joy because it means you’re still there, holding on. I’ll never touch the place on my middle where you are poking your little arms or legs or butt out, never be able to sing or speak to you, to be the first voice you will recognize.

I’m sorry that you will never be able to show me the depths of love that exist in this world or challenge my innate selfishness by just being a person who needs me constantly. When other women talk with knowing nods about how motherhood changes a person, I’ll think of you – my nonexistent child – and know that I would have been changed too, and maybe I already have been – but in ways that none of these women would understand if I told them.

I’m sorry that you will not know your loving grandparents. I’ll never be able to look at your expression and see my father or mother, my younger brother or your own dad staring back at me. I won’t come around the corner and be overcome with emotion when I see you moving your arms in a gesture that is just like your grandma. I’ll never know if you would have taken after me in my musical abilities or my husband with his mischievous spirit.

I think of all the experiences we were going to share. I was going to read to you, first Goodnight Moon and Paddington Bear, later Anne of Green Gables and the Narnia books. I was excited to see you experience beloved characters for the first time. We would take you to the park, to see you soar in the wind on the swings and use the slide with glee, knowing that mommy would always be there to catch you at the bottom. We would go to the cottage, and you’d splash around on the same beach that I did when I was a child, and we would race to the dam, pick raspberries, and mark your height each year on the side of the bedroom door jamb. Then I’d show you on another doorway how tall I was at that age, and your uncle too, and we would compare.

I was going to watch you grow up, experience hardships and pains that would break my own heart as I stood by but couldn’t stop them. One day, you wouldn’t like me that much, but we’d push through. I would make a million mistakes and say all the wrong things, but in every moment, you would at least know you were loved, so loved. If you ended up like me, you would want to spread your wings and fly far, far away. I would stifle tears and let you go to forge your own path because I too once (or twice or three times) stood at airport security with a big bag, waving at my parents as I went off for adventure in new lands. As I watched you go, I’d lean on my husband and let the tears out, and he’d remind me that you were strong and would have the time of your life.

People will say that you can’t mourn someone who didn’t exist, but to me, you are real. You will always exist. You are my child – the child that never was and will never be – and I long for you each day with a visceral ache. I will miss you every day until it’s time to close my eyes and leave this world for new adventures. I will always love you, child of my heart.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Dystopian Books

Today's TTT topic is our top 10 books in any given genre. Is dystopian a genre? I decided it was, so that is my topic. Some of these veer more into the post-apocalyptic side rather than a full-blown dystopia, but here are my choices anyway. I am fairly picky about dystopian books. I need a fairly believable back story and am frustrated if the plot gets taken up by love affairs and the actual context is disregarded. I've read several series that gripped me at first, but over the course of time I ended up finding that many blended into each other in my memory. I also have yet to read The Stand by Stephen King and The Passage by Justin Cronin, though both are on my long-list of books to read. I didn't include 1984 or Brave New World, not because they aren't great, but because I read them in the mid-90s so I don't remember that much.

1. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood: This is one of my absolute favourite books of all time. I am not mad about the sequels, especially MaddAddam, and I think Oryx and Crake works as a standalone book.

2. We by Yevgeny Zamiatin: This is THE original dystopia, the one that inspired George Orwell.

3. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: This is one book that is possibly not a real dystopian. It deals with a worldwide plague and the aftermath, so some purists might say it's more post-apocalyptic in nature, but I don't really care. It's lovely.

4. The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler: A gripping story of a society falling apart.

5. The Giver and its sequels by Lois Lowry: I can't believe I only read this two years ago. While short, it is a poignant story about a society that has chosen harmony at the expense of truth and really experiencing life.

6. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood: I've read this a few times and I feel like it gets creepier and more poignant every time.

7. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: It takes a while to figure out what is really going on in this book, and that's why I liked it.

8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: I didn't love the sequels, but there is no doubt that the first book in the series was gripping and presented a fascinating dystopia of haves and have-nots.

9. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: This book actually has several interrelated stories that happen in various eras, but one is in a future dystopian society. It was a weird book to get into, but I ended up enjoying it a lot.

That's all I could do. There were a bunch of others that I thought about, but there wasn't one that stood out enough to me to make it top-10 quality. I'd welcome any recommendations in the comments!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: TV edition

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is television-themed. I was going to do my favourite shows of all time, but there is only one show in my heart, for all time, and that's My So-Called Life, so the confession of my undying love for Jordan Catalano out of the way, here is what Gil and I will be watching this coming TV season:

Current Programs:
1. Star Trek: Discovery: I can't wait for this! New Star Trek!! My nerdy little heart is psyched!

2. The Gilmore Girls reboot: It's coming our way in November. That gives me time to actually catch up on all the older seasons!

3. Elementary: Probably Gil's and my favourite recent show. I love the way they've taken the dynamic between Watson and Sherlock. I was afraid at first that the two would fall in love, and it would wreck the program, but I've been pleasantly surprised with how their characters and story arcs have developed.

4. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: We are fully addicted to this. Wasn't the season finale intense?!

5. Blindspot: Gil and I thoroughly enjoyed trying to put the pieces together last season to see if we could figure out the truth about Jane. I'm looking forward to new mysteries in the coming season.

6. MacGyver: Gil was absolutely obsessed with the original MacGyver, so I don't think I can avoid watching this with him.

7. Fuller House: Yeah, I know, it's super hokey, but it's pure nostalgia for me.

Older Shows:
9. Gilmore Girls: I actually never watched this program when it was current, a fact that many people find astounding because I am way, way too much like Rory Gilmore. I blame the fact that when it was new, I was a university student sharing a TV (and a very basic cable package) with four roommates, so the number of shows we could agree on was limited. (All I remember watching is Seventh Heaven, some soaps my roommates loved, and something called Retro Boogie Dance Party that played in the middle of the night and introduced us to the original video for "It's Raining Men", which features men in speedos falling from the sky.) That digression aside, I've now gotten into the show and have slowly been making my way through all seven seasons. I'm midway through season 5 now, which leaves me some time to catch up before American Thanksgiving. For any interested parties, I'm solidly on Team Logan.

9. Travel food shows. All the travel food shows.

10. Call the Midwife: Maybe. I have days when I want to start this show, and days when it seems like the absolute worst thing for my depressed, infertile soul. I'll probably cave one of these days, because I do love a good period piece.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Long weekend musings on summer and infertility and grief

It's that time of year now when the temperature drops in the evening, kids go back to school, and even though the leaves are still green, we know it's only a short time before the autumn will be back in force. It feels like every day, someone else wants to talk about how the summer has just flown by, and where did those months go? To be honest, I'm finding this difficult. My summer has not flown by. My summer has been painful and grief-filled. I struggle with the balance between being authentic and not wanting to alienate people with my grief.

I haven't updated in a while about our infertility journey, so here goes: In the spring, we decided to head back to the clinic to try again. The timing made sense as I was finishing school, but did not have a job lined up, so my schedule was free enough to allow for the myriad of appointments without being too draining. This new procedure required me to give myself daily injections for the first 10-12 days of my cycle, which was pretty daunting, but I quickly got used to it. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that we tried this for several cycles, and it was unsuccessful.

Gil and I now find ourselves in a quandary. There are other possible options, if we want to be more aggressive. People tell us we have to try everything, that it will certainly work one time. On the other hand, the reality is that isn't true. There are many people who try everything and still end up childless. Success rates for IVF and surrogacy and all that stuff are actually not nearly as high as people think. Moreover, I am losing so much of myself due to depression related to infertility. I miss the person I was. I don't want to live through three more years of constantly oscillating between optimism and grief. When I went in for my last blood test towards the end of July, I had this sense that I was done with the clinic, that I just really did not want to go back. But the other option, the one that says we will never hold our child in our arms, is almost unthinkable.

So now we grieve. I grieve the life I imagined, the exhausting days of looking after little ones, the hectic years of school-aged children, the lonely days of seeing teenagers fly the nest, the moments when I would see my husband or my grandmother in the fact of my own child. I don't know how to imagine a life without children. I don't compute how I will never be a grandmother.

We grieve alone. People do not understand this or even recognize it as grief. They want to tell us how we can have such a great life without children, as though it's easy to just change course. As though it's not the greatest tragedy of my life to lose the future that I imagined since I was a young child. So I have to smile a few dozen times and say, "Yes, summer is over. It's gone so fast," when really, it was slow and painful and sad. There were no bike rides with kids, no water parks or camp outs or walks to the park. My cat died. My dreams died. Yes, there were fun moments, like when I graduated and a brief trip to Spain in June, but mostly, 2016 has been a summer of grief.

Do I believe God is good throughout this journey? Yes. Somehow I do. Somehow, I trust that He can redeem these awful years, that He can put beauty into our darkest moments. I fight with Him daily. I ask Him why. I ask Him where the Church was, how it could be that His people were not there in the moments when I was begging Him to let me die instead of giving me this childless future. He does not answer, but He tells me to trust, so I have faith that one beautiful day, the pain will make sense and the tears will be wiped away. Until then, we grieve.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Read In School

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is anything back-to-school related, so I chose to write about my favourite books that I read during my schooling, from high school to my many forays into university.

1. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev: I read this in a Russian history course in university. I don't actually remember a lot, but I do enjoy Turgenev a lot, so I should probably read it again!

2. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas: In Grade 11 history class, we were given a list of historical novels and had to chose one for a book report, so I chose this adventure story, and I wasn't disappointed!

3. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee: A marvelous classic that was assigned reading in high school.

4. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki: I read this for my graphic novels class last year, and appreciated the summer coming-of-age tale.

5. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery: An all-time favourite. I actually own this book in three different languages...

6. The Cowards by Josef Skvorecky: I read this book in German for a Czech literature class that I took while studying abroad. In one of the high points of my bookworm life, my professor sent a copy of my essay on the book to the author (whom he knew personally), and I received a postcard from Skvorecky himself!

7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey: Better than the movie.

8. Maus by Art Spiegelman: I read this during my graphic novels class as well. Interesting and creative take on a very difficult subject.

9. Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger: Okay, so we actually only read two short stories from this book in English class, but I enjoyed them so much that I bought the book. It began me on a love affair with the name Esme, that is only slightly dulled by the fact that the name was used in Twilight. :P

10. Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich by Stephen Leacock: I read this in a university course on Canadian history, and it was laugh-out-loud funny.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Have Been On My TBR Shelf For A Looooong Time

Welp, I've missed a few weeks, including a couple of TTT topics that were interesting, but I couldn't get my act together to actually write. Sigh. Anyway, here it is Tuesday again, and the list topic is Ten Books That Have Been On Your Shelf/TBR From Before You Started Blogging That You Still Haven't Read Yet. Oof. I started blogging in 2011, well before I had a GoodReads account, and I've moved since then, so it's hard to find out which books I have genuinely had sitting around on my list since then, but I've tried to do some digging.

Books I physically own:
1. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer: I've owned this book for years, but never finished it. Maybe I'm afraid of what it will reveal about the nature of my own discipleship?

2. Fidel Castro by Robert E. Quick: I have a weird addiction with buying historical biographies, but not reading them.

3. The Tin Drum by Guenter Grass: I loved Crabwalk and picked this up used, but have yet to read it, even though it's moved houses with me several times!

4. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky: But on the plus side, I'm finally reading War and Peace, so that gives me hope that I'll read The Idiot one of these days. :)

5. Sandra Gulland's trilogy on Josephine Bonaparte: I read the first one, but not the rest, and they've been on my shelf for ages and ages.

6. Cancer Ward by Alexander Solzhenitsyn: Gosh, some of my books are so depressing! I think this was actually among my dad's old books that he didn't want. I haven't felt up to another Solzhenitsyn for a long time.

7. Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan: I got about a third of the way into this one, put it down, and never finished. That was about 10 years ago.

From my virtual TBR:
8. Heart Of A Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov: I saw part of the old film version while living in Russia, and have always meant to read the original.

9. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams: Yeah, yeah, I know.... One day I'll get around to this!

10. The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard Evans: It's definitely not on my physical shelf, but I have long meant to read Evans' trilogy on the history of the Third Reich. Maybe one day I will.....