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

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Books in 2013

So it's the LAST Tuesday of the year and over at The Broke and the Bookish, we're looking at the best books read in 2013.  I just couldn't keep to the 10-book limit.  Here's the list of my favourite reads from this year:

1.  Les Misérables by Victor Hugo:  I had this on my list of most intimidating reads back in this post, and I am pleased that I finally got past my hesitation and read Les Mis.

2.  Me Before You by Jojo Moyes:  A total tearjerker.

3.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith:  I started this shortly after grad school when I was working at Chapters book store.  Seriously, how did it take me almost 10 years to pick it up again?  So good!

4.  The Shipping News by Annie Proulx:  I loved how small-town Newfoundland came to life in this book.

5.  The Fault in Our Stars by John Green:  A favourite of bloggers and a moving read.

6.  Doomsday Book by Connie Willis:  Time travel is always big on my interest list, but this book also brought the middle ages to life for me.

7.  A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra:  Captivating book about several people experiencing the war in Chechnya.

8.  The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng:  A beautiful book that looks at the baggage of the Japanese occupation in Malaysia.

9.  A Mountain of Crumbs by Elena Gorokhova:  A beautiful memoir of growing up in the later years of the USSR as an English language enthusiast.

10.  The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller:  See my posts on this book here and here.

11.  Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Won't Stop Talking by Susan Cain:  I can't tell you how many times I was tempted to fist-pump and yell out, "Finally somebody understands me!"

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Top Ten Tuesdays: Top 10 Books for Santa to Bring Me

It's another Tuesday, and today at The Broke and the Bookish, we're talking about which books we'd like Santa to bring us.  Right now, I'm happy that Santa (AKA Toronto Hydro) brought us power and heat for Christmas, but if he wants to bring some books while he's here, I'd like:

1.  The Complete Worst-Case Survival Handbook.  Apparently I don't know what I'm doing in a power outage, let alone a "worst-case" scenario. :-)

2.  The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov.  My dad is a huge Asimov fan, and I'd really like to read more of him.

3.  Gold Mountain Blues by Ling Zhang.  I've had my eye on this one for a while.

4.  Babel No More by Michael Erard.  It's about people who are able to learn like 20 languages, otherwise known as my heroes.

5. and 6. Dreams of Joy and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.

7.  Austenland by Shannon Hale.  The movie made me laugh until I cried.

8.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  It seems like everyone has read this already, and I'm terribly curious.

9.  Salinger by David Shields.  I was a bit obsessed with J.D. Salinger in high school and find it fascinating that he managed to stay a hermit for so long.

10.  Margaret Thatcher:  The Authorized Biography by Charles Moore.  Just in case you needed more evidence that I am extremely nerdy...

Merry Christmas, Everyone!


Monday, 23 December 2013

But Baby It's Cold Outside

Gil and I flew home on Sunday morning, blissfully unaware that we were flying into a disaster zone.  Over Saturday night, Toronto was hit by a massive ice storm that has left at least 300,000 people without power.  (See here for more details.)  We came home to find our house dark and cold and it's still off as of this morning.  The hydro company says it may take until after Christmas for everyone to get their power back. 

Edit:  This evening, our power was back on!  Unfortunately, there are many in our neighbourhood that are still in the dark.

After moaning previously about how I had lost my Christmas spirit, I now feel a little silly.  There are worse things than having a husband working on a holiday and a lack of Christmas joy.  I'm lucky that my mom's house had power restored this morning, so I've been able to warm up here, but others have had to go to emergency warming stations to keep from freezing.

Ice-covered bush at Mom's house


All of this has made me more mindful of the first Christmas.  One of the pastors at my old church gave a sermon in which he said that "Do not be afraid" is one of the most repeated phrase in the Biblical account of Jesus' birth.  The real experiences of Mary and Joseph were much more emotional and tumultuous than the Christmas card glow depicts.  As I have had more and more friends with newborns, I have realized that new parents are usually stressed and tired, while new moms are also recovering from the birth.  I would imagine being a new mom in a stable or grotto was actually pretty uncomfortable and scary for Mary.  Why do we think Christmas should be about warm fuzzies and eating candy?

Anyway, I'm trying to be positive throughout this small trial in our lives.  We are so thankful to have family and friends with power to take us in, and for the house that our home and cars have not been damaged by the falling tree branches.  We are also thankful for a Saviour who came into this broken and cold world to take the burden of our sin from us so that we can spend eternity in a beautiful place with no mourning and death.

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9: 2, 6 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Christmas and All That Jazz

Gil and I are on a short trip to Chicago this weekend.  He's attending a conference, and I'm tagging along to do some sightseeing.

I've flown through Chicago a dozen times, and have even spent a few days just outside the city to see family, but have never actually visited Chicago.  After two days here, I have to say it's a great city.  The Christmas decorations are lovely, the buildings in the downtown are SO cool, and there are a lot of interesting museums as well.

Being here has re-awakened my Christmas spirit.  This year, I've found it really difficult to get into the holiday mood.  I've had Christmas music on my car radio since November, I put the tree up weeks ago, and I have enjoyed a few festive parties thus far, but I haven't felt my usual joy this season.  Gil is working all next week, and it feels like another year is ending while I haven't accomplished anything yet.  Bah humbug.  :-)

Enter Chicago.  Having a few days in a lovely city without the pressure of working or buying gifts has allowed me to just enjoy the lights, the carols, the Salvation Army bell ringers, and get happy.  Today, I visited the Moody Church and there was a children's choir practicing in the sanctuary.  On Thursday morning, when I went down to the hotel lobby, there were four people in 1800s clothes singing "Carol of the Bells'.  I'm starting to feel Christmas creeping into my mood.

To make matters even better, I've found what is pretty much the holy grail to me at holiday time:  A genuine German Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market).  We have one in Toronto, but I checked it out recently and was disappointed.  The Chicago market, however, seems to have been transported here by elves straight from my dearest Deutschland.  It has German ornaments and candy, and all the Bratwurst, Pfeffernuesse, Kaesespaetzle, and Gluehwein you can ask for.  I loved it so much that after visiting on Thursday, I had to hightail it back on Friday for a Bratwurst.  (Okay, true confession:  I was tempted to go back again today, but it was the exact opposite direction from my intended destination.)

Anyway readers, I hope you're getting into the holiday spirit and enjoying the season.  Frohe Weihnachten! :-)

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten New (To Me) Authors from 2013

After a brief hiatus, I'm back linking up with The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is "Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2013".

1.  Rainbow Rowell.  I kept reading about her on blogs, so finally I picked up Eleanor and Park and Attachments from the library.   They were great!  I'm hoping to read Fangirl in 2014.

2.  Liane Moriarty.  A friend recommended What Alice Forgot, and I ended up plowing through it in a couple of days.  Such an interesting read!

3.  Tan Twan Eng.  I got this recommendation from Barefoot Med Student and really enjoyed The Garden of Evening Mists.  The added bonus was that I gained a better understanding of my husband's home country and its history.

4.  Ann Patchett.  Our book club read State of Wonder this spring, and I found it fascinating and really strange.  I'm not sure why I hadn't picked up any of her books until now.

5.  Christopher Buckley.  I picked up one of his books on CD for a drive to Ottawa, and it kept me entertained for about 9 hours of driving.
6.  Colm Toibin.  My book club read Brooklyn in March, and it was awesome.  I'll totally pick up more of his work in the future.

7.  Elena Gorokhova.  I had A Mountain of Crumbs on my to-read list for ages, because we all know I can't resist a Russian memoir.  So glad I finally read it this year.

8.  Kristin Cashore.  I devoured each one of her loooong books in a couple of days.  Write more, please!  :-)

9.  Connie Willis.  Time travelers from Oxford having adventures in the Middle Ages and Victorian England! 

10.  Jasper Fforde.  Time travel and jumping into literature all in one book series.  I thought moving to Hogwarts was my fantasy, but this series puts that to shame.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Medical Mondays: Coming Out of the (PCOS) Closet

I missed it last month, but I'm back now to link up with Medical Monday, hosted this month by Jane at From a Doctor's Wife and Emma at Your Doctor's Wife.

Today I'm getting very personal.  I try to avoid anything that brings you into the very centre of our private life, but as this issue is more about me than our marriage, I'm opening up.  In a way, I find writing about my issues is cathartic.  Disclaimer:  I'm trying not to overshare, but if you're freaked out by any mention of "lady issues", you may want to pass on this entry.

At 19 years old, I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).  I had really no idea what that meant, and as these were the days before Google, I accepted the doctor's statement that I shouldn't worry.  She put me on birth control pills to regulate my (barely existent) cycles, and I pretty much put it at the back of my mind.

Fast forward about 11 years.  When I was about to get married, I started researching PCOS, and found lots of scary stories from women who couldn't get pregnant or needed considerable interventions to have children.  (This is probably why most doctors (my hubby included) scorn WebMD and "Dr Google"!)  I became terrified that conceiving would be very difficult for us, but as we had decided to wait a year or two before trying, I again tried not to think about PCOS.

In the past few months, we've stopped using birth control to try to have a child, and my cycles have become more erratic. The last one was a full 6 weeks long.  I am becoming more and more afraid that conceiving naturally is unlikely and interventions are in our future.

PCOS is an endocrine disorder that is thought to affect 5-10% of women of reproductive age.  In layman's terms, your hormones are out of whack, which can cause anovulation (not ovulating) or irregular ovulation, acne, hirsutism AKA "excessive hairiness" (thankfully I don't have that!!), and even insulin resistance which can lead to obesity or diabetes.  I'm kind of angry that no one told me most of this when I was first diagnosed, especially the insulin resistance because it can lead to life-altering diseases.  I've found this to be a common thread in many PCOS women:  Doctors gave them the Pill to "fix things", and only later did they realize that the pills don't actually solve the problem, but only mask the symptoms.

The truth is, we don't really know how many women with PCOS are able to conceive without interventions.  Using Google or searching message boards will skew the results, since people who conceive on their own are less likely to blog or post about their pregnancy journey.  I am likely getting way ahead of myself in freaking out, but I also don't want to be taken unaware.

In the short term, I'm focusing on what I can do NOW to make my body as healthy as possible.  A good diet and regular exercise have been shown to regulate cycles, something I have definitely experienced in the past.  Because of the link between PCOS and insulin-resistance, avoiding sugar and complex carbohydrates can also have a positive link between regulating the hormone issues and increasing overall health.  (Seriously, I have the biggest sweet tooth in town; why did no doctor EVER tell me that sugar is especially bad for those with PCOS??  *Sigh*)  There are women who claim to have "cured" their hormonal imbalances just through diet and exercise.  I don't necessarily believe I can do that, but am definitely open to any change that could have a positive effect on my reproductive health.

If you have PCOS, I'd love to hear your experiences.  Has diet and exercise impacted your symptoms?  Have you had to use Clomid or Metformin to have children?

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things For Which I Am Grateful

I've taken a break from TTT lately, mostly because the topics weren't very interesting to me, but this week's topic (hosted, as always, by The Broke and the Bookish), is one that definitely applies. I've divided it into bookish and non-bookish items.  :-)

I Am Thankful For:
1.  The public library:  I've praised it before, but I can't get enough of my local library!

2.  Those moments when you know you have stuff to do, but you just can't put that book down.

3.  Jane Austen.  Always.

4.  My Kindle for being a constant companion

...And I'm Also Thankful For:
5.  My totally amazing husband:  Life has been crazy lately and we rarely get enough time together as we would like, but he is my constant supporter and I love him more each day.

6.  My family:  When I moved out on my own, traveling the world, I didn't realize how much I needed these people in my life.  Lately, it seems I appreciate them more and more.

7.  New life:  There have been so many babies born lately (five at work, one to my best friend, another to one of my oldest friends, etc.) and even more people are pregnant.  It baffles me how these little people just come into the world so tiny and helpless, and how we get the privilege of helping them learn and grow.

8.  Chocolate.  Duh.

9.  Airplanes:  I've tried to calculate this in the past, but I've likely taken over 100 flights in my life time, 8 in this past year alone.  Without airplanes, it would take me at least 24 hours to get to see my relatives down south, not to mention how long it would take to reach my beloved Germany.  As a linguist and a traveler, I am so grateful that I was born in the age of air travel.

10.  God, as the giver of all things, especially all of the above.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Feeling Blue

I've been feeling pretty down lately.  Last week was rough as I attended a funeral for a family friend who had Alzheimer's.  In addition, I'm dealing with a few other issues and November always gets me down with its grey and rainy weather.   Lately I've been feeling like life is moving so fast and I'm still getting nowhere.  Even good things, like two close friends having babies, haven't raised my mood so much as made me sad that I'm not able to see these friends and their little ones as much as I'd like.

Work has been crazy as we move into our busiest season, and I end up spending way more time at meetings than I would like.  It feels like I'm going in circles lately.

In addition, I've felt like I just don't have words to write any more.  I like blogging, but I get tripped up in keeping the balance between sharing what is meaningful to me without overdoing it.  

All that adds up to one fact:  I'm in a funk.  Friends, how do you deal with these low periods?  What cheers you up?

Friday, 25 October 2013

Obvious Etiquette 101

This is a public service announcement.  Up until recently, I had figured that women were immune from a certain type of faux-pas.  I mean, some men are clueless and get a pass, but surely a woman knows not to ask another woman if she's pregnant, right? 

Wrong!  I witnessed this etiquette mishap last week while I was at work.  A young lady who is recently married was in the lobby, when another woman recognized her.  I watched it all go wrong quickly:  "Oh so-and-so, it's been so long!  Congrats on your wedding last summer!  Ooh, and it looks like you're expecting too, how nice!"  I wanted to cut in, pull the fire alarm, knock over a fast or something just to stop this from happening, but unfortunately, said woman had to explain that actually, she's just gained a little weight since the wedding.  I felt awful just watching this transpire.

Early this week, the same thing happened to me.  A woman asked whether I had big news.  I said no, and she, with a knowing glance, responded: "Well, it looks like you may have put on a little weight..."  And then I started crying.  Yes, it was possibly an over-reaction, but I'm sensitive about this kind of thing and being told I'm getting fat is really not the way I like to start my work day.

We shouldn't need reasons for this, but just in case you're wondering why this isn't okay, here are a couple:

1)  Women don't like being told they look fatter than before.  Even if they are fatter.  Even if they're pregnant.  Just don't do it.
2)  A woman is generally thrilled when it's time to announce a pregnancy.  If she felt like it was the right time, she'd tell you.  Since she hasn't, assume that if she is actually pregnant, she'll tell you when she feels like it, not before.  (See also Jayme's excellent post here.)
3)  Fertility issues are very sensitive to many people.  If a woman is having trouble conceiving, asking her if she is pregnant will both make her feel fat AND remind her that she's having trouble.

Bottom line:  If you see a woman, think she's expecting, and have a desire to point it out, JUST SAY NO.  :-)

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Two

It's crazy to believe it, but it's been two whole years since we walked down the aisle.  Yesterday, Gil and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary, so we're officially no longer newlyweds. 



I actually find anniversaries kind of sad.  The morbid part of me thinks that we're counting up from our wedding, but also with every year, we diminish the number of years we have left.  Still, it's nice to look back and remember a great day while celebrating the fact that we've made it so far.

Going to the Chapel...

The funny thing about weddings, is that so much time goes into preparing for them, and then they're over so quickly.  I barely remember anything on that day, not the speeches, not what people were wearing, and not even what I was thinking while waiting to say my vows.  (I think it was somewhere along the lines of, "Wow, we're really doing this."



Year 2 was good year overall, less eventful than Year 1 (thankfully we didn't have to move at all), and I think we really settled into this life together.  I have nothing but high hopes for the coming year.

Here's to you, Gil!


PS  In case you are wondering, my husband is very hesitant about photos of himself going on the Internet.  I can put some on Facebook, but as this is an open blog, I avoid anything with his face, hence all the back- and hand-shots of him.  :-)

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I was "Forced" to Read

October sure is flying by, and it's another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is "Top Ten Books I Was Forced to Read", either by school, a friend, book club, etc.  Here's my list:

1.  One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey:  We read this in English class in high school and I found it fascinating. 

2.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee:  Another one from school.  This is one of the most beloved novels around, so it's no surprise that it made my list.

3.  The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas:  I actually read this for a history class in high school, but found it an exciting and entertaining read. 

4.  Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev:  Read in a Russian History class in university.  I love Turgenev.  I also love it when teachers and profs assign fiction to give a glimpse into the time period and mindset. 

5.  A People's Tragedy by Orlando Figes:  This is a non-fiction look at the Russian Revolution.  I have a few issues with it, but it's an illustration of how history books can be made readable and engaging.

6.  The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis:  My mom lent me this book out of the blue, saying it was hilarious.  To my surprise, it was fantastic and I've to the sequel on my TBR list.

7.  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins:  Okay, no one forced me to read it, but we were on a road trip and I was in the back seat with my friend's copy of THG.  I was picked it up because I was bored, and suddenly I'd read 50 pages and was hooked.

8.  Half the Sky by Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn:  My friend bought me this book for Christmas, so I felt obliged to read it, though was worried it would just be depressing.  It certainly has its sad parts, but also tells stories of hope and encourages readers to make a difference.

9.  State of Wonder by Ann Patchett:  We read this in my book club and I wasn't really looking forward to it.  I ended up being drawn into the strange story and really enjoying the read.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Medical Mondays: Sometimes There Is No "We"

It's the first Monday of October (already?) and that means it's Medical Monday, hosted this month by Jane at From a Doctor's Wife, Emma at Your Doctor's Wife, and Lisa at Life of Ray Doc's Life.  This time I'm posting about home maintenance as a medical spouse.  It's meant to be taken lightly, and not as a criticism of my very busy husband.

Last weekend, while I was in the throes of gardening, I suddenly thought to myself that home ownership is like a gateway drug. You think it will satisfy you, but it ends up bring more work and stress than you anticipated. For example, about 18 months ago, we were so excited to move into our brand new house. After spending most of adulthood in apartments, dorms, and condos, it was thrilling to have a whole house to ourselves. No more listening to the upstairs neighbour's chihuahua barking or opening three or four doors before being home.  We had space!  We had freedom!

We moved in and it was bliss. Well, that is until we realised that our house had a lawn. Of course, we knew that before, but apparently you need to mow a lawn regularly or it looks terrible and you start finding maintenance flyers stuck in your door on a daily basis. We also discovered that we had no idea how to operate the mower we had bought from the previous owners. Thankfully, my husband's colleague recommended a good lawn service, and we breathed a sign of relief.

This year, Gil had the wonderful suggestion that we should start a garden. He was really excited about this project that we would undertake, but it turns out that by “we”, that meant that he borrowed some books from his secretary and I did all the purchasing, digging, planting, and minimal harvesting. For hours of labour, we seem to have exacted several handfuls of cherry tomatoes and three small onions. Still, I was excited at this new venture and despite the lacklustre results, I'm happy that “we” tried it out.

As soon as the garden was started, Gil decided we needed to begin composting. Luckily, our city provides composters at only a minimal delivery cost. Of course, I postponed ordering one until late summer and it wasn't delivered until two weeks later, but now we can finally get started and will hopefully have great soil for next year's garden.  It turns out, however, that composting is actual work.  You don't just put it on your lawn and dump items into it.  Instead, you need to mix the compost material with leaves, twigs, and plants.  In short, to set up the composted we needed to spend considerable time raking and weeding to get enough for the base of the compost.  And by "we", I mean "me", because Gil was once again at the hospital on a Saturday.

Then something strange happened. Apples emerged on the lovely tree in our yard which last year produced lovely blossoms but no fruit. It would have been wonderful, except that we didn't realise how quickly the apples would ripen and by the time I got around to buying a “fruit-picker”, most of the apples had fallen and begun rotting on our lawn. This is why I found myself on a lovely fall Saturday bending over to pick up rotten apples and deposit them into our brand new composter. To make matters worse, many of the rotting apples were covered in bees. [Gil's comment:  "That's great!  We need to maintain a healthy bee population in the neighbourhood!"]

All this to say: We love our house, but be careful what you wish for. And now I've learned that whenever my doctor husband says “we” should start a project, it probably means I'll be doing most of it!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Rediscovering My Inner Music Geek

I have a confession:  I love musical theatre.  When I was a kid, my dad would take me to a show at least once a year.  We saw Cats, The Secret Garden, Showboat, and several other shows.  I was full-on obsessed with Phantom of the Opera and Les Mis for several years.  I played the saxophone in band and went to music camp.  In fact, I even joined the marching band in university and played in parades all through the Christmas season.  Yes, I was that girl.

As an adult, though, music ceased to be a hobby any more.  Without a band to play with, I rarely picked up my saxophone, and going to the theatre was too expensive to do regularly.  I didn't even realize how much I missed it except in rare moments when I would hear a show tune and immediately break into chorus.

Recently, however, it seems I've re-discovered my inner music geek.  In August, Gil surprised me with tickets to The Wizard of Oz as an early birthday present.  There was even a real live dog playing Toto!  Then I went to New York City to meet up with friends and we ended up getting half-price tickets to Rock of Ages.  For my birthday last month, my sister-in-law promised to take me to see Les Mis (yes, it's BACK!) and my mom bought opera tickets for the two of us.

As my musical theatre interests have re-emerged, so has my appreciation for classical music.  I've found myself listening to the classical station while driving, which seems to calm my frustration with slower or less cautious drivers.  :-)  On the flip side, I'm starting to feel much older than 33 as this radio station features product spots for Viagra, constipation relief, and nursing homes.

All this to say, I'm enjoying how the move back home has awakened interests that I'd forgotten.  So readers, are you theatre geeks too?  What's your favourite musical?

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesdays: Things that Tempt Me to Stop Reading

Well, it's another Tuesday, so it's time for another Top Ten list.  Today's topic, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is book turn-offs.  We talked previously about things which make us not want to pick up a book, but this week we're discussing things that annoy us or make us consider shutting the book rather than continuing on.  Here are some of mine:

1.  Cheating:  I can't root for a character who is unfaithful to their partner.  This also applies to most love triangles (since it's hard to be in love with two people without cheating on one or both of them).

2.  Lack of consequences:  Of course, not every teenage girl who has sex gets AIDS, and not everyone who tries drugs will die a horrible death.  Still, certain lifestyles have consequences, and it irks me to no end when characters (especially teenagers) take dangerous risks but nothing negative results from them.  (This rant brought to you by the time I flipped through some Gossip Girl novels at my old job.)

3.  Improbable knowledge:  This especially bugs me with teenage characters.  Even a precocious character should be given a level of knowledge that is realistic.  There was a scene in a Robert Sawyer novel in which two 15-year-olds discussed why Tim Hortons restaurants don't have an apostrophe in the name.  Seriously, what kind of teens know/care about this?

4.  Unnecessary/graphic sex scenes:  There are ways to portray intimacy that don't read like a Harlequin romance novel.  I try to avoid books that are full of sex scenes, so it annoys me when a graphic one shows up out of nowhere.

5.  Bad grammar or bad writing:  This is what editors are for.  Use them.

6.  Weird/improbable names:  Okay, so I'm a name nerd, but it bugs me when the characters are all 25 and older, but have names that are popular right now.  One outlier is fine, but if a group of characters my age are named Isabella, Mason, Jackson, and Addison, I'll be tempted to throw the book across the room.  A good author will do research on names from the period to make the book seem authentic.  I also have only so much patience with weird names in fantasy.

7.   Last names/first names:  This is kind of weird and it's mostly found in thrillers, but it really bugs me when all the male characters are referred to by surnames, while women are referred to by their first names.  This irked me so much reading The DaVinci Code.

8.  Overly detailed or technical (to a point):  This phenomenon was epitomized by Stieg Larsson.  Thrilling series of books, but no one cares about the details of Lisbeth's computer.  It also applies to clothing/brand names.  I understand dropping brand names to show the character is wealthy, but I don't need to know every detail of their ensemble.

9.  Unhealthy relationships:  I can handle this if the author is obviously trying to show that the relationship is unhealthy.  I can't do unhealthy relationships that are romanticized.  (I'm looking at you, Twilight.) 

10.  Unlikeable characters:  I have to like someone in the book to get into it.  This is why I almost didn't finish Vanity Fair.  I couldn't really stand anyone, with the slight exception of Dobbin.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Top Ten Tuesday, errr Wednesday: Favourite Sequels

Hey there, I'm a day late, but once again linking up with The Broke and the Bookish.  Today's topic is "Top Ten Sequels".   I tried to avoid series, otherwise this list would be all Harry Potter.  :-)

1.  Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (sequel to Graceling):  I have read Fire as well, but that was more of a prequel.

2.  Rilla of Ingleside or Anne's House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery (sequels to Anne of Green Gables):  I like all the Anne books, but I like these in particular as they focus on a different person (Rilla) or put Anne and Gilbert in a new context.  I loved seeing Anne and Gilbert figure out married life and go through struggles that I've also experienced.

3.  The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (sequel to Oryx and Crake):  This books gives the context of Oryx and Crake from another perspective.  Can you even fathom how excited I am to order MaddAddam with my birthday gift cards???

4.  An Echo in the Darkness by Francine Rivers (sequel to A Voice in the Wind):  Continues the story of Hadassah in first century Rome.

5.  To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (sequel to Doomsday Book):  More time travel, more antics of Oxford academics, and this time with cats and period clothes, and less plague to boot.  Love it!

I got a bit stuck with this topic, so here are two books that I want to read:

1.  Dreams of Joy by Lisa See (sequel to Shanghai Girls)

2.  The High Road by Terry Fallis (sequel to The Best Laid Plans)

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR List

I'm so sorry for neglecting this blog lately.  I just lost my motivation somewhere, but I'm trying to find it.  Right now I'm having computer issues, but when things get fixed, I plan on writing some posts in advance so my laziness doesn't turn into outright neglect again.

Anyway, it's another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and today we're talking about our fall To-Read list.  I actually finished ALL the books on my summer list, which was a pleasant surprise, but this fall I've got some long reads on the list.  Remember how I posted previously about books that intimidate me?  This fall I'm aiming at finally cracking open those scary reads.  Here is my Top Ten Six List:

1.  Les Miserables by Victor Hugo:  I'm still scared at the length, but at least I've got it on Kindle so I can a repetitive strain injury.

2.  Life of Pi by Yann Martel:  I have to read this soon as it's on loan from my mom.

3.  The High Road by Terry Fallis:  Because after some heavy reads, I'll want to laugh my butt off.

4.  MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood:  I've been salivating over this one in the book store for weeks, so I don't think I'll be able to put off buying it for much longer.  The only question is whether I want to re-read Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood beforehand.

5.  A Fruitful Wife by Hayley DiMarco:  This will be the fifth installment of my marriage reading series.

6.  Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde:  The Eyre Affair left me wanting to read the whole series, so when the weather gets cold, I'll treat myself by curling up with this book.

So, what are you all planning to read this fall?


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Interesting Book Pairings

It's another Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish.  Today's theme is "Top 10 Contemporary Books That Would Be Great Paired With A Required Reading Book".  I almost skipped this one as I had no idea what to choose - I read a lot of classics so it was hard to pick just contemporary pair-ups - but I managed to come up with a few ideas.  

1.  Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet paired with... Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell:  This works because Eleanor and Park actually do discuss Romeo and Juliet in the book.  Both works touch on the intoxication of first love and unlikely couples from two very different backgrounds.

2.  Shakespeare's MacBeth paired with... Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn:  Both deal with very dysfunctional marriages and a woman who has no moral scruples about getting her way.

3.  Catcher in the Rye paired with... Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling:  Okay, I had to sneak Harry in here somewhere.  This probably isn't my best pairing, but Order of the Phoenix is where we see Harry angry, disillusioned, and at his most teen angst-y moment.

4.  To Kill a Mockingbird paired with...  Cape Town by Brenda Hammond:  Both books deal with race relations at a pivotal time in history.  The books each feature a young person realizing the fact that injustice is widespread in our world.  Plus, I think Cape Town would be great required reading in North American schools, as we rarely learn anything about African history.

5.  The Diary of Anne Frank paired with... Between Shades of Gray by Ruth Sepetys:  Both books feature a teenage girl thrown from ordinary life into a nightmare, and finding art/writing as a creative outlet to cope.  We didn't actually read Anne Frank in school, but lots of people did, so it counts, right?

6.  Animal Farm paired with... Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins:  Both books show that the rebels can quickly become the oppressors when they get into power.

7.  Our Town paired with No One Is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel:  This may seem like a stretch since Ausubel's book deals with the Holocaust, but it's also a look at one town, how people see themselves and how they would write their own story.  While Grover's Corners isn't as isolated as the town in Ausubel, it seems to exist in a void, which is what the townspeople are trying to do in the Ausubel book.
 
8.  John Wyndham's The Chrysalids paired with...  Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam Trilogy OR Fire by Kristin Cashore:  I went back and forth on this one.  The MaddAddam books deal with a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world, which seems to fit The Chrysalids (although I read that book in Grade 9 so I've obviously forgotten a lot).  On the other hand, Fire reminded me of The Chrysalids because of the suspicion and fire of genetic "monsters".


There were some other books we read in school, but I couldn't decided what to pair them with, like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Camus' L'Etranger, Salinger's "A Perfect Day for Bananafish", and Hamlet.  I especially agonized over finding a pairing for Lord of the Flies, but ended up drawing a blank.  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Medical Mondays: "You mean he works weekends?"

Yesterday was our monthly Medical Monday link-up, and I'm very late, but joining in to the fun a day late.  This month's link up is hosted by by Jane at From a  Doctor's Wife, Emma at Your Doctor's Wife, and Heather at Pretty Strong Medicine.

Today's post is inspired by one of the phrases I hear frequently.  For example, on Friday a colleague asked me about our weekend plans.  I said it would be a quiet weekend because Gil was on-call and he looked at me incredulously:  "Wait?  He has to work weekends?"  It surprises me how many people ask this, as though it is a huge shock and imposition.  I mean, people have heart attacks on weekends and holidays too.  Hospitals never close, so why would doctors work 9-5?

The funny part is that the guy who asked me often works weekends.  Maybe when we have demanding hours, we automatically assume everyone else has it better, even the cardiologists among us?  Who knows.  It's easy to forget how many people work odd hours:  Nurses, police, firefighters, military, customer service, etc.  On top of that, lots of people work from home on their own schedules, and then there are stay-at-home parents who work all the time.  So why does it seem so shocking for a person to have to work over Labour Day?

At any rate, nearly two years in to this Mrs. Doctor gig, I'm pretty used to on-call weekends.  Thankfully I'm an introvert who has lived alone in the past, so I am used to amusing myself.  It's a bit disappointing when the on-call schedule falls over a long weekend, but I can deal with it.  These past few days, I went to the gym, did a lot of reading and treated myself to a marathon viewing of the BBC's Sherlock.  I still feel sad not to have had the chance to enjoy my day off together with my husband, but that's the way it goes with this life.

So friends, how was your long weekend?  Did you do anything fun and exciting?

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Secondary Characters

It's another link-up with Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish.  Today we're blogging about the most memorable secondary characters. 

1.  Fred and George Weasley from the Harry Potter series:  These guys never fail to make me laugh.  I have burst into giggles on numerous public buses because of them.  I love that they lend a lightness to difficult situations and they really do care about their family and friends.

2.  Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series:  It's arguable how "secondary" he is in the end, but in most of the books he's not a major character.  Snape's personality is so fascinating because it's only in the end (other than briefly in book 5) that we see his life from outside of Harry's point of view.  I love reading the old books and wondering what is really going on in his mind.

3. Easter in State of Wonder:  He's such a mystery.  He's a source of strength to the main characters, yet he has gone through serious trauma and cannot tell them his story at all.  He's also symbolic of the hazy ethical questions that permeate the book.

4.  Matthew Cuthbert from Anne of Green Gables Again, possibly not so secondary, but since the book follows Anne, I'd say he counts.  Matthew has a heart of gold and is a great example of a quiet, unassuming man displaying great character.  (Honourable mention for the Anne series goes to Miss Cornelia, because of her "Isn't that just like a man!")

5.  Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice:  He makes me laugh every time.  He is so smug and awkward.  How much was the chimney piece at Rosings Park again?



6.  Queequeg the harpooner in Moby Dick:  Initially described as a "savage", Ishmael soon got to know Queequeg and they because close friends.  He's certainly memorable because of his physical description (tattooed all over, carrying a sunken head) and the fact that he has to share a bed with Ishmael, but I also like him because he's such an unlikely friend.

7.  Death (pronounced Deeth) the librarian in Bitterblue He's so serious that you're never sure if he likes anyone, but given a nearly impossible task (learning a new language so he can decipher coded notebooks), he perks right up.  He speaks to my nerdy heart.

8.  Mrs. Jellyby in Bleak House:  Wikipedia describes her as a "telescopic philanthropist"; she is obsessed with charity work for Africa, but completely neglects her children and home.  I read Bleak House nearly 10 years ago (yikes!) and have never forgotten her negative example.

Okay, over the course of today, I've thought of a couple more.

9.  Reepicheep from Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader:  So brave, and so hilarious.

10.  Harriet Smith from Emma:  I love that she's so awkward and, to quote Cher Horowitz, "adorably clueless".  She also has a heart of gold; how else could she stay friends with Emma after the woman totally messes up her love life. 

Honourable mentions go to a whole gang of folks from Harry Potter (Luna, Hagrid, Tonks, Neville, Professor McGonagall, and my beloved Remus Lupin), as well as Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility (I love to hate him, especially the moment when he pulls out his copy of Shakespeare's Sonnets) and Cinna from The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Lessons from Newfoundland: Being a Neighbour

I've been a terrible blogger this summer.  My sincerest apologies to you all.  If you have any advice on how to keep regularly writing, I'd love to hear it.

Today's post is something I've been thinking about for the last month.  I wrote recently about our trip to Newfoundland, but ever since then, I've been pondering the things I learned on the journey.  Newfoundlanders are different from the people I meet every day.  Who knows whether it's the environment or genetics that makes the difference, but they inspired me to work on my own attitude.

When you mention Newfoundland to other Canadians, they often respond with phrases like, "Friendliest folks on earth".  Canadian shows like 22 Minutes poke light-hearted fun at Newfie hospitality.  It may be a stereotype, but it's based in fact.  Even when we were sitting on the plane in Toronto, waiting for take-off, people were greeting one another and finding personal connections, when typically travelers are glued to their iPhones or in-flight magazines.

Once we got to Newfoundland, the friendliness continued.  We were invited to have lunch at the mother of one of Gil's colleagues, someone we'd never met before.  When we visited friends, they repeatedly said we should eat whatever we liked and feel at home, and one woman went out of their way to make all of Gil's favourite foods, even though she was busy with her only son's wedding that week.

I came away from the experience feeling like a cold-hearted city person.  In Toronto, I consider myself a reasonably friendly person; I smile at other peoples' babies and have a great relationship with one of the clerks at the local FedEx.  The truth is, however, that I rarely go out of my way to be helpful or friendly.  I like the idea of hospitality, but it's only a few times a year that I actually invite people over because I'm embarrassed about the mess and my limited cooking skills.  We've lived in this house for a year and only know the names of one set of neighbours.

How does one cultivate friendliness in a culture that is not conducive to it?  How do I work on being friendly without scaring others away?  These are the questions I took away from my trip and hope to work on in the future.  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Travel Tales

A few weeks ago, I had my first trip to the beautiful province of Newfoundland and Labrador.  What a wonderful place!  We were gone for five days and were able to do some sightseeing and attend a wedding, so I thought I'd share a bit of our trip.



On our first full day, we drove up the western coast and I discovered my wonderful husband had arranged for us to take a boat trip in Gros Morne.   We saw some unbelievable sights and I even saw a moose at close range.  Afterwards we headed further north to our home-away-from-home on the northern tip of the island.





The following day, I visited the home of Sir Wilfrid Grenfell, a medical missionary.  As a young man, Dr Grenfell was inspired by hearing the American evangelist D.L. Moody, and decided to serve overseas.  He traveled to Labrador and spent some time providing medical share to people in isolated fishing communities, several of whom had never had a visit from a doctor before.  Over the course of his life, he founded five hospitals in Labrador and northern Newfoundland, as well as several nursing stations and orphanages.  If you have an e-reader, you can pick up his autobiography here.





Later that day, we visited L'Anse aux Meadows, the site of a former Viking colony.  They have a mock-up of a Viking village set up, and then you can see where the actual buildings were.  So interesting!




Gil did some work during the mornings while we were away, so I took the opportunity of doing touristy things on my own.  One morning I went on a whale watching trip where I learned a lesson about the value of wearing long pants at sea.  Thankfully the cold was worth it and I saw loads of porpoises as well as one humpback whale.



On our last day, Gil surprised me by taking me to a restaurant that had amazing and fresh seafood, so I gorged myself on enjoyed local mussels and scallops.  Before we left, another couple approached to tell us there was an iceberg nearby; we had been told the icebergs were all gone as it was too late in the season.  We drove around and finally managed to catch a glimpse of it.



If you've seen the television commercials, Newfoundland looks pretty relaxed and slow-paced.  Of course, people there watch cable TV and check their smart phones obsessively just like they do in my 'hood, but I was surprised at the little things that seemed like remnants of a simpler time.  For example, on our first day, we took a short taxi ride and the driver took note of all his fares in a spiral notebook.  There was no radio dispatcher; it was just one guy in his taxi.  At the airport in Deer Lake, the parking lot had individual meters for each spot and they seemed to be cash only.  It seemed bizarre at first, but also refreshing to be someplace where technology hadn't permeated everything.  And I never saw a single Starbucks or McDonald's or Starbucks the whole time I was there, but don't worry; you can get yourself a good moose burger instead!



Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books set among soldiers

It's Top Ten Tuesday once gain and I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish.  Today's topic is ten books set in any setting of your choice.  I really struggled with this because everything I came up with was either too broad or I would have a great idea, then quickly realize I'd only read 2 books in that setting after all.  Recently, however, a good friend joined the air force (you go, girl!) so in honour of her, I decided on Top Ten Books Set Amongst Soldiers/the Military.  I've always been fascinated by people living and experiencing life in very close quarters, like boarding school or a military barracks, and having worked with a lot of military folks only increased  my interest.  I was pretty strict with my criteria:  I didn't include any non-fiction, and the book had to give the experiences of the soldiers, rather than the home front.  They didn't have to take place at war-time, but of course most of them did.

The US Civil War
The Bride of Texas by Josef Škvorecký:  A look at Czech soldiers who fought in the American Civil War.  I read this a long time ago, but I remember it being quite thorough.

The Velvet Shadow by Angela Elwell Hunt:  This is a Christian novel about a young female doctor who disguises herself as a man to act as a medic in the Civil War.

World War I
The Good Solder Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek:  A hilarious classic about bumbling soldier Švejk who is on the Austro-Hungarian side of WWI, but can't seem to do anything right.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque:  A poignant look at German soldiers in the first world war.  Remarque shows how these young men were drawn into the army by patriotic fervor, only to see how truly horrible, and how mundane, war can be.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway:  The experience of an American fighting for Italy during the war.  I appreciated all the mundane details that were portrayed.  So much of WWI in the media is about trench warfare, but here we see people having drinks, playing cards, and waiting around until there's something to do.

WWII:
The Cowards by Josef Škvorecký:  I included Škvorecký twice because I think he was a fantastic author.  This one kind of cheats because the main characters aren't truly soldiers, but actually young men who join the fight against Germany as the Germans are retreating through their Czech town.  The book was very controversial in socialist Czechoslovakia, as it portrayed the young men as more interested in girls and jazz than about patriotism.  Fun fact:  I once wrote a paper about this book and Škvorecký sent me a postcard thanking me for my thoughtful essay!

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller: I wrote in an earlier post that this book did not live up to my expectations, but that's only because I was told it was absolutely hilarious.  I still found it to be an interesting look at the crazy lives of WWII pilots doing bombing raids on Italy.  It really showed the element of the absurd in wartime.

Other:
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway:  A look at rebels during the Spanish Civil War.  Poignant and fascinating. 

The Soldier, the Terrorist and the Donkey King by David Kitz: This book is about the crucifixion of Christ, but it's told from the point of view of a Roman soldier, so you see the Roman legions from his perspective. 

I could only come up with nine books.  Any suggestions for book number 10?

Monday, 5 August 2013

Medical Mondays: The Dreaded Schedule

It's once again the first Monday of the month, and that mean's it's Medical Monday.  Woohoo!  This month's link-up is hosted by Jane at From a  Doctor's Wife and Emma at Your Doctor's Wife.  We've been enjoying long weekend here in Ontario, if your definition of "enjoying" involves being awakened at 6:30am by pagers going off.

This month I'm talking about the complex issue of scheduling.  It is something I still don't have a handle on, so I hope some other medical folks will chime in and give me advise.

Once upon a time, I boasted of being a luddite.  I didn't need electronic organizers!  I had a wall calendar and a paper organizer.  I loved the feel of a brand new daytimer and enjoyed writing in the dates for the year ahead.

Then I got married to someone who loves technology and is insanely busy.  Even when we were dating, Gil added me onto his online calendar so I could see when he was on-call.  Because of my old-fashioned tendencies, I'd dutifully write his on-call weekends on my paper calendar.  As we eased into married life, however, the paper organizer became less and less useful because I didn't actually have a life to keep track of, and the online calendar became my life-line for keeping track of Gil's crazy days.

Nowadays, apart from a large wall calendar that's partly for show, I've had to give up on my beloved paper.  (You're welcome, trees!) Gil and I use Google Calendars and the Calendars + app to keep tabs on each other.  Since I work shift work and sometimes have evening obligations, it's also important for my husband to know when I'm not going to be around.  Sometimes I "invite" him to a date so he'll know he has to that evening off.  Even with the online calendars, though, life is confusing.  Honestly, I don't know how I will do it once kids come into the equation and we are dealing with doctor and dentist appointments, extra-curricular classes, etc.

Medical families, I'd love to know how you keep track of your busy life.  What methods work and which have been colossal failures?  Inquiring minds want to know!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Beginnings

We're back from our whirlwind trip out east just in time for Top Ten Tuesday.  Today's topic, hosted as always by The Broke and the Bookish, is top ten beginnings or endings.  For some reason I've had trouble thinking this topic through, but I tried to pick the books whose beginnings excited my imagination or drew me into the story.

1.  The Bible:  Is this a cop-out?  Maybe.  But is there any better start to a book than "In the beginning..."  It draws you right in:  This is your story and my story, where we came from.  It opens on your imagination just as much as "Once upon a time" does.

2.  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy:  "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."  It really sets the stage for the story to come, and makes you nod your head in agreement as well.

3.  The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera:  The first few pages of this book led me to go into East European studies.  The imagery of how a man can disappear from history, leaving only his hat behind, stirred something in me and it stays with me, 15 years or so since I first read this book.

4.  Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling:  "Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much"  In addition to the initial description of the Dursleys being hilarious, the first chapter introduces you to Harry's back story, to Dumbledore, Hagrid, and McGonagall, to elements of magic (like the "put-outer", flying motorbike, and McGonagall's status as an animagus), etc.  Reading it again after finishing all the books makes you realize how much Rowling actually set the stage for the whole series right from the start.

5.  The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton:  Maybe this is cheating a little since I just finished it, but I enjoyed how the opening scene introduced Lily from Selden's point of view, and you're not sure at first whether he like hers or whether she's someone he wants to avoid.  It really set the stage for the whole book.

6.  Wild by Cheryl Strayed:  I had mixed feelings about this book, but I can't help admitting that starting in the middle with her lost boot certainly drew me in.  I spent half the book wondering how in the world she would make it through her adventure barefoot.

7.  The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath:  "It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York."  I read this book in high school, in the days before Google, and I was going crazy trying to find out who the Rosenbergs were. 

8.  Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery:  I love that the book starts with Rachel Lynde instead of the Cuthberts, yet gives us a description of the area and the line, "... for not even a brook could run past Mrs Rachel Lynde's door without due regard for decency and decorum ..."  Such busybody, that Rachel.  Wait, is she related to the Dursleys?  :-)

9.  Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides:  "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974."  After you've read it, this sentence makes sense, but at first you're just like, "Wait, what??"

10.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen:  "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."  Obviously, I can't leave this one off as it's my favourite book.

Honourable mention goes to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  Before the book came out, I would sometimes ask myself strange questions about the HP universe, and one of them was at what point of government in the UK are muggles aware of the wizard realm.  When I read the opening of Half-Blood Prince, I was so glad JKR cleared that up.  Yes, I'm a little weird...

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Book Turn-offs

Over the past few weeks I've passed on linking up with Top Ten Tuesday because the topics didn't work for me.  This week I'm back and posting on "Top ten topics/themes/words that will make you NOT pick up a book".  Here are my choices:

1.  Zombies:  I just don't get why this is appealing.

2.  Romance:  Books that have a romantic element are fine.  I'm a lover of all things Jane Austen after all.  Books that are ONLY about romance are not my thing, and most especially the kind in the "romance" section.  I do thoroughly enjoy reading some of the titles though, since they never fail to make me laugh.

3.  Baseball:  My husband loves baseball, so even though I find it kind of boring, I'll watch it.  Reading about baseball, however, seems as appealing as watching grass grow.

4.  Diet books:  Everything in moderation is my motto. Otherwise, I make it a point not to read anything touted as a diet that will change your life/make you lose 100 pounds/etc.

5.  50 Shades + knock-offs:  Not my thing at all.

6.  Aliens:  I grew up with a deep-seated love of Star Trek and Star Wars, but other than that, sci fi books about space or alien invasion don't interest me.

7.  Adultery:  Okay, I won't say that I'll never read a book about adultery; after all, I consider Anna Karenina one of my all-time favourites.  On the other hand, adultery tore my family apart, so I have a hard time with any books or movies that are overly sympathetic to adultery or trying to break up a couple.  I couldn't even stomach My Best Friend's Wedding for that reason.

8.  Political commentary:  Even political campaign ads usually have me yelling at the television and wanting to throw things.

9.  New age/crystals/etc:  I'm a Christian and I try to stay away from that kind of thing.

10.  Drugs:  I have a really difficult time reading stories of people destroying their lives with drugs. 

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Life Lately

Gosh, I've been a pretty lazy blogger for the past few weeks.  Not sure why, other than a bit of travel, and then this heat wave sapping all of my energy.  So what's new and exciting 'round here?

1)  A few weeks ago, I took a weekend trip to visit my best friend in Ottawa.  We were joined by another old friend, and spent a few days just being girly:  Mani/pedi, shopping, eating, cooking.  It was great fun and so relaxing.  My best friend is due with her first baby in November, so we know that our relationship will change somewhat, and it was nice to have some time together enjoying the friendship as it is.  I'm having a hard time with being hours away and not being able to see the baby right away, especially since we used to live on the same street.  It's just one of the many changes since marriage that take some getting used to, but it still makes me tear up a little.

2)  Last week we had a crazy storm that knocked out our power for hours.  There was even flooding downtown.  Yikes!  Thankfully our family were all safe and sound.

3)  Gil and I had our very first date four years ago today.  We went for Thai food.  Who would have thought that would go down in (personal) history.  Married friends, do you still celebrate dating anniversaries?  I kind of like to acknowledge it, even though we won't do gifts or anything. 

4)  Royal Baby watch is ongoing!  I am not one of those crazy royal fans, but I do kind of follow Will and Kate, and I actually saw them in Charlottetown, PEI, two years ago.  (Okay, I could barely see anything, but I definitely heard Prince William's voice life).  My grandma was always a big fan of the Queen, so I love imagining how excited she would be to hear about the Royal Baby.

5)  We're counting down to our Newfoundland vacation:  6 more sleeps!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Marriage Reading: Creative Counterpart

This is the third installment of my marriage reading series. This time I read the book Creative Counterpart by Linda Dillow.  I didn't know what to expect as I go this on Kindle so didn't have any cues from the cover blurbs or illustrations, plus it is a bit older, but I ended up really enjoying it!

What I liked best about this book was the focus on character rather than tasks. Dillow began the book discussing the Proverbs 31 woman, but noted the importance of looking at the woman's character instead of a list of all the stuff she does. She noted the qualities of trustworthiness, industry (working hard even if you don't like the task), organization, and love. She also stressed that the relationship with God enables all of these characters. In fact, I found this book to be incredibly biblical, which was refreshing in comparison to some “Christian” authors that throw in a Bible verse or two just to support their own ideas. (Not trying to implicate any specific people here, but rather a general theme I've seen sometimes.)

Interestingly, I found that the last chapter had the deepest lessons for me. Firstly, Dillow states that to have a good marriage, I must do the following: Accept my circumstances; accept my husband for who he is; and accept myself. Soooooo many marriages fall apart because people think, “If only we had more money, things would be better” or “If my husband were X, things would be better.” We can only work on our marriage when we accept the conditions as they are. The second key point was that refusing forgiveness is a huge hindrance to growth. Guilt is a huge issue for me, and I have recently become more aware that beating myself doesn't actually help me learn, and it also puts undue strain on my relationship with Gil, because he shouldn't have to console me for every little mistake I make.

A theme running through the book was acceptance of your husband, showing you're on his team and not pressuring him to be perfect. This also leads to discussion about how a wife handles her husband's flaws. I really appreciated the call to consider my own attitude when my husband does something I don't like. Yes, it's bad for him to (FILL IN THE BLANK), but if I respond by arguing, badgering, giving him the silent treatment, or bad-mouthing him to others, I'm also sinning. Dillow comes on strong with the idea that nagging is not generally helpful. I particularly liked the quote: “God the Holy Spirit does not need a wife to be a personal Holy Spirit.” Yet, it never comes out as though wives should keep silent about flaws, but rather they need to address the issues properly. In the chapter on submission, she actually notes that not voicing an opinion is not necessarily submissive: You could be staying quite and smug, just waiting for your husband's plan to fail. So by accepting your husband as he is, you open the door to work with him on issues, instead of seeing his flaws as something that is holding you back or getting on your nerves.

I also appreciated Dillow's focus on the long-term. She stresses that women shouldn't adjust their attitude in expectation that things will immediately be fixed, that a change will be a cure-all to any problems in the relationship. She says a few times that we need to remember that suffering often produces long-term good. We can't just assume that hard times are necessarily bad and need to be 'fixed'.

One practical thing I took out of the book was the idea of writing out your priorities and fitting them into your week. I talked about this a few weeks ago (http://mrsdoctordear.blogspot.ca/2013/06/productivity-at-home.html), so I won't go into detail again. I went out and got a glass board and markers just to do this. It's helped me remember to fit my home chores into life (rather than waiting to “feel like” doing them).

Kind of blurry, but you get the gist of it.

Overall, I really liked this book and would definitely recommend it to others! Tune in for the next installment (late August, probably), when I'll be discussing John Piper's This Momentary Marriage.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Top Ten Tuesdays: Books that Intimidate Me

I'm linking up again with The Broke and the Bookish, and today's theme is "Top Ten Intimidating Books".  I'm not sure why, but I've been looking forward to this week.  Maybe it's in the spirit of "confession is good for the soul", or maybe because I hope to find companionship with others who are afraid of War and Peace.  I've read a lot of intimidating books, even plodding my way through Ayn Rand at age 14, but there are still some books that scare the pants off me.  Here's my list:


1.  Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel:  I know, I know, everyone raves about this one, but I've also heard several people say they couldn't get through it.  I will read it one day, when my mom's copy finally makes its way over to me.

2.  Sophie's Choice by William Styron:  I took German and East European History, so I've read lots and lots of depressing books and articles, but somehow this one scares me

3.  Schindler's Ark/List by Thomas Keneally:  Once again, it doesn't make sense for someone who put No One Is Here Except All of Us on a best-books list to avoid a book about Holocaust, but I guess I do so because I sobbed my way through the movie. 

4.  War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy:  My shame as a Russophile... 

5.  Les Misérables by Victor Hugo:  Saw this on several lists today.  I think I've been put off by the bizarre belief that I should be able to read it in original French, a task which will probably take the remainder of my life.  Even in English, though, it's just soooooo long...

6.  Song of Fire and Ice series by George R. R. Martin:  I'm so curious about this series, but I always hesitate to start it because of the time it will take to get through so many giant books.

7.  Life of Pi by Yann Martel:  Everyone loves it.... so I'm convinced I'll somehow hate it.
8.  Richard Evans' Third Reich series (The Coming of the Third Reich, The Third Reich in Power, and The Third Reich at War):  This set has been on my TBR list for years, but at over 2500 pages, I never manage to actually pick it up.

9.  The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:  Both long AND depressing.

10.  Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West:  I once took a class on the Balkans, and I believe we read portions of this book.  It was great, so why can I never manage to read the whole thing?

Which books intimidate you?  Which ones should I get over myself and get reading?