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

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

An Unexpected Pleasure

We all have days that feel like they were lost somewhere, like the time flew by and at the end you look back and realize nothing was accomplished.  Today, however, feels like an unexpected idyll.

Over the weekend, it became very clear that my car was not sounding the way it should.  Everyone agreed that the muffler was the problem, so this morning, I dropped it off at a garage my husband's friend recommended, in an unfamiliar part of town.  The garage was close to a subway station, but instead of walking straight there, I decided to meander for a while on Danforth Avenue, checking out the little independent shops and enjoying the sunshine.

I walked for two subway stops, probably about 2km, and I did not see ONE single Starbucks.  Instead, I enjoyed coffee and a fresh scone at an independent cafe called Caketown (how can you say no to that?) and discovered that Danforth between Woodbine and Coxwell seems to be the Ethiopian part of town; there must at least half a dozen Ethiopian restaurants, as well as some Ethiopian food stores.  I found out we have an Obama Cafe and it is down the street from the Emerald Isle Seniors Society.  This is why I love my city!  I saw moms and babies, senior citizens, bikers, and a few homeless men, and no one seemed to be in a hurry.

I don't know why this day gives me so much pleasure.  Maybe it's because often life seems so scheduled and rushed, so it's rare to have a slow morning of just plain enjoying my own metropolis.  Even the subway ride home was enjoyable, as the cars weren't full and I got to sit enjoying a light read.  Such a fantastic morning!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Reads in 2013 (So Far!)

Today is Top Ten Tuesday, and over at The Broke and the Bookish, the theme du jour is the top ten reads from the first half of 2013.  I've read a lot of great books this year, so it was hard to decide.  Here goes:

1.  Graceling by Kristin Cashore:  I think I like this book so much because it caught me by complete surprise.  I'm not a big fan of fantasy, and picked the book up at the library on a whim after a friend posted this link on facebook.  To my surprise, once I'd started, I couldn't put it down!

2.  A Mountain of Crumbs by Elena Gorokhova:  Fascinating memoir of growing up in the later years of the USSR.  I felt a bit of a kinship with the author since we both strange obsessions with foreign languages.

3.  The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller:  I've posted so much on this book already, so there's not much else to say.  :-)

4.  Brooklyn by Colm Toibin:  This was a book club pick.  I loved the depiction of the ocean journey and of Brooklyn in the 1950s.

5.  No One Is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel:  It's so hard to describe this book, but trust me, it was beautiful and strangely not as depressing as it seems.

6.  Quiet. The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain:  This book was a gift from a friend, and found myself nodding in agreement or having "aha" moments the whole way through.

7.  Doomsday Book by Connie Willis:  Time travel, woohoo!

8.  State of Wonder by Ann Patchett:  Another book club pick.  From the description, it sounded so weird and I didn't know if I'd enjoy it at all, but it really pulled me in and touches on a lot of thought-provoking topics things like medical ethics, childbearing, the pharmaceutical industry, the role of women, etc.

9.  A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra:  I can't say much about this except WOW.

10.  The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng:  I'm cheating a little as I still have 50 pages left, but this is a really thought-provoking read.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Summer Updates

Summer.  It's almost here.  Tomorrow marks the official start of summer and you know what that means:  long weekends, barbecues, cottages, travel, etc.  This year, I've felt a bit ambivalent about summer starting.  In my old life, the hot season always meant a slowing down; ministries at church took a pause and work was less busy.  Still, summer for me is always defined by fun weekends, like taking picnics and day trips, going to amusement parks, etc.. My work will probably be a bit quieter over July and August, but since so much of my life pace revolves around my husband's crazy hospital schedule, I don't anticipate summer having much affect on our life.   Maybe I need to corner my husband and make him promise me a couple of Saturday outings?  :-)

Anyway, despite my ambivalence, I am looking forward to some summer traveling.  As mentioned earlier this week, we are off to western Newfoundland in just over a month.  Gil has been telling me stories about his time in "The Rock" ever since we met, so I'm super-excited to experience it for myself.  I'm looking forward to seeing icebergs and whales, Viking settlements and lots and lots of water.  I dare you to watch some of the commercials on Newfoundland and Labrador and see if you don't want to go there too!

This is also the year in nearly a decade when summer doesn't equal wedding season.  We have only one wedding this year, and it'll be in Newfoundland.  I guess this means the bulk of my friends have moved on to the next stage of life, since I know at least 11 people expecting babies by the end of the year!

What are your summer plans?

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Summer TBR List

Today I'm linking up again with The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is "Top Ten Books At The Top Of My Summer TBR List".  I don't usually make a seasonal list of my to-read intentions.  I have a master list that grows longer every day (sigh...) and a very short list of what I'd like to start next.  Still, here are some books I'm planning on to reading this summer:

1.  The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng:  I'm kind of cheating since I've just started this one, but it's great so far.  I saw it on another blogger's TTT a few weeks ago and was immediately intrigued as I've never read a book set in Malaysia.  (FYI, my husband is from Malaysia.)

2.  As Near to Heaven by Sea:  A History of Newfoundland and Labrador by Kevin Major:  My husband travels to Newfoundland a few times a year, but this summer he's finally taking me along.  Woohoo!  I thought it was high time I read this history book that was a wedding gift.

3.  The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx:  One of the few novels I know of that takes place in Newfoundland.  Anyone out there have other suggestions?  I've already read Alligator by Lisa Moore, as well as The Colony of Unrequited Dreams.

4.  To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis:  Since I liked Doomsday Book so much, this seemed like a logical summer read.

5.  The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde:  This showed up on a lot of lists when I was looking up time travel books.  I looooove Jane Eyre, so this seems like a natural choice for me.  I've got it on my Kindle, so I'll read it when we're traveling around Newfoundland and I don't want to lug a lot of paper books.

6.  The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:  Sherlock Holmes is every these days.  I've read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, but not this one, and it seems high time I finally read it.  Also on my Kindle.

7.  This Momentary Marriage by John Piper:  This will be the fourth installment of my marriage reads for the year.  I aim to post on it some time in August.

8.  Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn:  I received this as a gift from a friend who almost never reads non-fiction, so I'm assuming that means it's pretty good.  As I understand, it looks at the role of women and girls across the world and at movements to give women more of a voice.

That's all I could come up with so far.  Who knows whether I'll actually read all of those or instead get caught up in a reading tangent?  What books are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Beach/Cottage Reads

Today I've got another link-up with The Broke and the Bookish.  Today's topic is beach reads; however, I've changed it around slightly.  I don't really "do" beach reads.  If I go to the beach, I typically bring whatever I'm reading at the time.  I'm also not much of a beach person, considering I burn very easily.  On the other hand, I do love cottages, and sitting on the dock of our family cottage with a good book is one of my greatest joys in life.

I don't have many criteria for cottage-y reads, although generally if it's a vacation, I prefer to avoid very heavy subject matter, as well as anything super-scary; cottages get dark and have strange noises at night, so if you're reading something scary, you may have trouble sleeping!  The plus side is if I'm on vacation, I can take the opportunity to read long, saga-type books because I know I'll have time to dig into them, and can read goofy books that I might be embarrassed to bust out on the subway.
Mysteries work well for the cottage, as do books that are somewhat light-hearted, for example:
1.  The Number One Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.  There are occasionally heavy moments, but overall this series is pretty light and enjoyable.
2.  The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  They are mysteries, but not the kind that make you afraid at every bump in the night.
3.  One Day by David Nicholls.  I read this one on my honeymoon. There are definitely a few not-light elements in this one, but overall I'd classify it as fairly light.

Sagas or books that are just plain long:
4.  The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher.  Not long enough to be called a Saga, but it does cover several decades within a family.  I'd say this is the ultimate cottage read because it has romance, war, secrets, and family drama, yet it's not heavy enough to leave you depressed.
5.  Edward Rutherford books.  I've only read Sarum, but I enjoyed it.  Because his books are so long, I hesitate to pick one up unless I have some time on my hands because it annoys me if I have to keep flipping back to earlier sections to remember what happened.
6.  11/22/63 by Stephen King.  I actually read this one in a week because I had an 8-day library loan and I wasn't working at the time; however, it's realllllly long and some people would hesitate to pick it up unless they had a lot of time on their hands or were prepared to forego sleep by reading into the wee hours of the night, because it's really addictive.

Adventures books:
7.  Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Okay, it's kind of for kids, but it's full of adventure... and pirates.
8.  Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis.  They all take a boat to the end of the world and encounter new lands.  Plus Reepicheep is in it, so there is comic relief.  Most of the Narnia books would make good cottage reads.
9.  H. Rider Haggard.  I mentioned him last week as well.  His books are your typically 19th century adventures stories.  I've got his Allan Quartermain stories on my to-read list, but King Solomon's Mines and She would also be good cottage or beach reads.

Books that are kind of embarrassing:
10.  Gordon Korman.  I'm way too old for him, but honestly his books are just so funny.  The Bruno and Boots books are my favourites; I love the idea of taking out a big stack of them from the library and laughing my way through a week at the cottage.  No one at the library has to know that I don't have kids.... 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Productivity at Home

This weekend has been a pretty productive one.  I was able to:

1) Cook a great meal for us on Friday.  Okay, so I ate it alone because Gil was on-call and delayed, but he did agree it was delicious. (Oh, and we had a great meal on Saturday, but we made it together.)
2)  Garden.
3)  Do a few loads of laundry and fold them.
4)  Do lots of errands.
5)  Put together two Ikea shelves and FINALLY shelve most of my books.
6)  Plan out the week ahead.
7)  Go to Body Pump (all muscles in my chest still hurt...) and take a 30 minute walk.

Why is this all so exciting?  I mean, it's generic weekend stuff, and as my husband was working, I had to keep myself occupied.  I am just happy that I've had a push towards homemaking lately.  I've been reading the book Creative Counterpoint by Linda Dillow.  (Thanks for the recommendation, Jayme!)  In the book, Dillow talks about setting goals and then setting your priorities around those goals.  So if you want to be a godly woman, you need to consciously prioritize your relationship with God.  She suggested having one's home as a fourth priority, after 1) God; 2) husband; 3) children.  It seems a bit crazy to a working woman, but even if you work outside the home, the truth is that you're unlikely to miss work or to get behind on work because you're cleaning, whereas you ARE likely to use work/exhaustion/other commitments as an excuse not to take care of your house.   I realized that I'd let my home slip into priority, oh, 347 or so...

The thing is, I like my home; I just hate housework.  When I lived alone, I could get away with very little housework because it was just me and the cats, and after work, church commitments, friends, and a boyfriend in Toronto, I was never home.  Now, however, I'm around more often and my husband is.... not the neatest person.  But since Gil doesn't really care how clean the house is, I let it slip.  I prioritize myself, my hobbies, my work, etc.  Then I feel badly, because the house is messy and I'm embarrassed to have people over.  (Just to clarify, I DON'T think that housework is "women's work" or that wives have to do all the cooking and cleaning.  It's great if you can share the load, but in our marriage, my husband works way more hours than your average person while I work part-time; I prefer to make the most of our time together rather than spend it watching him vacuum the living room.)

Dillow actually recommends using a kind of weekly chart to plan out the week and write out your daily and weekly priorities.  I've got myself a white board, and am looking forward to doing this in the coming weeks.  (Right after I prioritize buying white board markers....)  I'm hoping this is the motivator I need, because truthfully housework really isn't that time-consuming, at least not when you don't have kids, but somehow making the time has been my struggle.  I'll let you know how it goes when I post my response to Creative Counterpart for my marriage reading series.

Do you find it hard to prioritize housework?  What has helped you get things done?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Books Involving Travel

Today I am again linking up with The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is Top Ten Books Featuring Travel In Some Way.  I love travelogues, but I haven't read a lot of them, so I decided to include a couple of travelogues, as well as some novels that involve a journey.
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle:  I read this many years ago, but I remember it being very funny.  It's about a British man and his wife, who after years of vacationing in Provence, decide to move there for a year.  Cue loads of cultural misunderstandings and hilarious anecdotes.

Anything by Bill Bryson:  I'm a big Bryson fan, though I haven't read all of his books.  The one I remember most clearly is Neither Hear Nor There:  Travels in Europe.  Having traveled a lot myself, I like writers who see the lighter side and can laugh at the crazy things that happen on the road.

A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain:  My mom bought me this before I moved to Germany.  It details Twain's travels around Germany, Austria, and Italy.  He actually visits my city (Heidelberg), which endeared me to the book forever.  The book also has Twain's essay "The Horrible German Language" as an appendix, which is pretty much required reading for any foreigner who learns German.
Apples are from Kazakhstan by Christopher Robbins:  A completely random pick-up at the library one day.  I grabbed it because there are a million travelogues featuring Italy or France, but I'd never read anything featuring Kazakhstan.  So interesting!

The 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith:  One of my favourite books as a child.  Obviously there is a larger story, but I loved the description of how the Pongo and Missus traveled on the road, how they "networked" with other dogs, the difficulties of traveling back with all the puppies, etc.  If you've only seem the Disney movies, PLEASE do yourself a favour and read the original; it's 100 times better.

King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard:  A good old-fashion adventures story featuring a desert trek and the discovery of a mystical land ruled by a despotic and cruel king.  This book is fun summer reading.  (Note:  The book is well over 100 years old and some of the language and attitudes towards African people is offensive by today's standards.)

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien:  Once again, this is a much bigger story, but so much of the LOTR trilogy is about trekking into the unknown, meeting new people and exploring new customs, especially if you view it through the lens of Merry and Pippin.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore:  Not a story about travel, but once again with a lot of travel in it.  Katsa and Po travel around the Seven Kingdoms.  Towards the end, there is a harrowing trek through impassable mountains.  It's quite riveting.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See:  We read this for my book club last fall.  It's the story of two very-westernized sisters from 1930s Shanghai who due to war and family strife end up traveling to Los Angeles.  There is an actual travel story involving a ship across the Pacific, and then the issues of adjusting to American life and the struggle between assimilation and retaining one's own culture.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck:  This is obviously NOT a light read, but it's one of my favourite books.  It follows the Joad family in their journey from the dust bowl of Oklahoma to California.  You really see the difficulties of life on the road, the strife it puts on the family, and the scope of the migration.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Medical Metaphors (and Similes)

 **Hi friends! Today I'm participating in the Medical Mondays blog hop, hosted by Emma at Your Doctor's Wife, Jane at From a Doctor's Wife, and Amber at The Unconventional Doctor's Wife. If you're now around here, welcome! Regular readers, please take the opportunity of checking out some other interesting blogs.** 

This month's post is dedicated to the art of the metaphor.  In case you've forgotten what you learned in English class, similes and metaphors are when you compare two things based on a common feature, for example, "slippery as an eel".  I could go on, but this is Medical Monday, not Vocabulary Monday.

There are a lot of metaphors we use regularly in our daily life; however, when someone is in a specialized field, they may use comparisons that those outside the field would never think up or even understand.  This isn't limited to doctors; when I was in grad school, I remember telling my Bible study group that my thesis was going well:  "I set weekly goals for myself and have been exceeding my goals...  [chuckle]  Wow, I sound like a Stalinist planned economy."  Cue blank stare from those who had not spent years studying twentieth century Eastern Europe.

Doctors and other medical professionals have such a large arsenal of specialized vocabulary and experience that gives them a whole new realm of metaphoric potential.  Here are a couple of zingers that Gil has come up with:

--"Why are you jumping around like that?  You look like you have tardive dyskinesia."  [I was fidgeting while standing in the kitchen.]

--[When the drain of the basket on the coffee maker was clogged.]  "The coffee is dripping out so slowly.  It's like urination when you have an enlarged prostrate."

Most of the time, I double over laughing at these weird comparisons and when I've composed myself, ask for an explanation.  The bonus part is that that these similes are both a source of amusement and an educational tool; I now know that tardive dyskinesia is "a disorder resulting in involuntary, repetitive body movements", which commonly occurs after long-term and/or high-dose drug use [Source:  Wikipedia].  More importantly, I know that tardive is a word I can use in Scrabble.  :-)

Medical readers, have you or your spouse ever used a weird metaphor, to the general amusement or confusion of others?  Please feel free to share!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

On Being Fruitful (Or Not)

Last week was rough.  We have five (yes, five) babies expected among our staff.  When the fifth one pregnancy was announced this week, I was both very excited for the expectant parents, and aware that I needed to steel myself for the coming onslaught.  And come, it did.  Not an hour after the announcement, and all of a sudden I was bombarded with the questions about when it would be my turn to have a baby.  Someone even touched my stomach.  I wish I were exaggerating, but this really happened.

All of this made me want to write a post on how frustrating it is to field so many fertility-related questions, but then I remembered that I already did that before.  In the midst of this crazy week, I happened to read a post by a woman named Heather that made me tear up.  Please take the time to read it and be reminded why this topic is so difficult for many women (and men), and why questions on family planning can strike a nerve.  I've said it before, but this doesn't mean we can't be open with our friends and ask hard questions; it does mean, however, that you should think twice before asking a personal question to someone you've only met on Sundays in the church lobby.  On top of fertility struggles, there could be marital issues, health concerns, financial situations, or other issues that are keeping couples from starting a family, so please bear this in mind before you ask what seems to be an innocent question.  Just to clarify, this is NOT the case with us at present, but I am well aware that could be in the future, so I'm sensitive to the issue.

Anyway, this past week's frustrations have led me to ask God daily for His help in trusting Him, and as a result, I've begun to rejoice in the fruitfulness I see all around me.  Aside from the pregnancies at work, I have two close friends expecting babies, and two of my former youth group girls (who are now married and in their 20s).  It has been so amazing to see this women go from teens to mature adults.  As well, last Wednesday, I noticed that a pair of bluejays have built a nest in our front yard tree, so I anticipate baby birds in the coming weeks (or months?); for me, it was hugely comforting to know that there is new life on our property even in the midst of a week that felt lifeless.  We are planning a vegetable garden, so we anticipate growth and new life in our own backyard.  God is alive, and He is good.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come 
that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10