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

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books About Time Travel

This week's Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is a "freebie", meaning we can choose whichever topic tickles our fancy.  A few weeks ago, I mentioned how much I love time travel books.  I don't think we'll ever actually be able to travel through time, but I love the idea of it, so I chose to do my list on my favourite time travel books.  When compiling the list, however, I realized that I hadn't actually read that many books on the subject, so I consulted the master - my dad - who gave me a few suggestions.  The last few weeks I've been in time travel heaven reading a few books to augment my list.  Without further ado, Maggie's Top 10 Time Travel Books:

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells:  To be honest, I didn't love this book.  I found whole morlock/eloi conflict creepy, and I much prefer the idea of traveling to the past or to the near future, rather than thousands and thousands of years ahead.  Wells' book, however, has to get credit for capturing the imaginations of many.  The whole idea of a time travelling machine in popular culture stems from this one novel, so I couldn't leave the book off my list.

PS  Does anyone else remember the old Lois and Clark episodes when H.G. Wells visited and took Lois and Clark through time.  So fantastic! 

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger:  This book was on the top of both my and my dad's list.  It's the story of a man named Henry who has a genetic disorder that causes him to involuntarily travel through time, and of his life-long romance with Clare.  (Readers should be aware, however, that there are some pretty racy passages in this one.)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling:  If I had to pick a favourite of the HP series, it would be this book.  I love how the time travel is worked on, and also how it was portrayed in the movie.

11/22/63 by Stephen King:  The story of a man who discovers a portal into the 1950s, so he goes through it in order to stop the Kennedy assassination.  I love the attention to the small details of the 1950s and 1960s; King must have done a whole lot of research for the writing of this book.  It was great that he covered the good aspects of the period as well as the negatives (racism, women's rights, etc.)  I especially enjoyed seeing Jake's little flubs when he hums songs that haven't been written yet.

The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma:  I found this by accident at the library a while back and of course had to pick it up.  It has three intersecting stories of time travel during H.G. Wells' time, but there's a twist...  which of course I can't reveal if you haven't read it.  :-)

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens:  This one is possibly a debatable item on the list; does Scrooge actually travel through time, or is it all a dream?  Still, it's difficult to leave out, as it's a classic, and asks the question of what we would do differently if we had the chance to go back.

The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov:  This one is a bit different from most in that it doesn't spend a lot of time in different time periods, but rather in Eternity, a construction that allows people - called Eternals - to go through time and enact small changes for the good of mankind.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis:  My dad recommended this book to me and I couldn't put it down.  It's the story of a student who goes back in time to the Middle Ages, and something goes terribly wrong.  The story goes back and forth between the 1300s and the 2050s.  I found the portrayal of the 2050s somewhat amusing.  The book was written in 1992, and while Willis didn't make the mistake of having the near-future be some ridiculous construct with flying cars everywhere, she obviously didn't anticipate the telecommunications revolution.  It made me laugh to see all these people in 2050s using land telephones and complaining the the "lines went down".

A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle:  Featuring characters from L'Engle's famous book A Wrinkle in Time, this book involves Charles Wallace traveling back to the 1200s to make a change that will prevent nuclear war 800 years later.

The Root Cellar by Janet Lunn:  A lonely orphan at her aunt's country home discovers that at a certain time of day, the root cellar turns into a portal into the 1860s.  She ends up traveling through post-Civil War America to find a lost Canadian soldier.  I loved this when I was a child, and recently re-read it.

Do you like time travel books?  What are your favourites?  Did you love or hate some of the ones on my list?  Please feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Reader Input Requested: What Did You Do With Your Wedding Dress?

Before I got engaged, I thought spending a lot of money on a wedding dress was ridiculous.  Seriously, what's the point?  You only wear it once!  My best friend rented her wedding dress, with fabulous results (half the cost and you don't have to clean or store it), so I planned on doing the same.  The only glitch was time and location:  Our engagement was just over 4 months, and the only dress renting store I knew of was 4 hours away.  I thought I'd get a used dress, but I decided to try a few new ones on and ended up falling in love with this beauty:

Anais Collection (now Coco Anais)106

Of course, I caved and bought it (though I had the sparkly sequin belt replaced by ribbon, much to the amusement of the wedding store; apparently I'm the only bride ever to want LESS bling).  I loved my dress and am so glad I listened to my mom and bought it.

Gratuitous wedding dress photo

Isn't the back so pretty!?
A few months ago, we had a guest speaker at our church who challenged us on how much STUFF we have sitting around our houses.  It's true that most of us have clothes we don't wear, kitchen gadgets we've never used, and books we'll never read.  I thought I'd purged a lot of stuff after moving twice in a year, but could still do more.  Sitting there in the pew, I was reminded suddenly of my wedding dress, in our basement closet gathering dust (well, the garment bag is gathering dust at least).  What if I sold it and gave the money to a worthy cause?  I thought of the verses in Matthew 6:  "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Readers, this is where I get real with you:  I went home and looked up options for my dress on the internet.... and then I left the links open in my browser for weeks without using them.  My dress is still in the basement, and when I think about selling it, I get emotional.  I know it's silly.  I know any future daughter will likely not want to use my dress for her own wedding.  I know it how unlikely I am to ever wear it again... yet I hesitate, grasping in my hands this earthly treasure.  Maybe today will be the day I finally let go...

This is where I want your input, especially those of you who have been married for longer than I have:  What did you do with your wedding dress?  Did you do a trash-the-dress session?  Did you sell it?  Do you ever try it on just to feel like a princess again? :-)

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Top Ten Tuesdays: Top 10 Book Covers

Today I am once again linking up with The Broke and the Bookish.  Today's topic is Top Ten Favourite Covers of Books I've Read.  This one is a bit difficult for me as I'm not very visual and have a hard time remembering many of the book covers; however, I'll give it a go.

In general, I'm a fan of simple covers; I favour covers with bright covers, a title, and maybe a small illustration.  Anything cheesy or with a Harlequin-feel will pretty much guarantee that I won't pick it up.  I don't want to know too much about the story, and I prefer not to see any faces so I can imagine the characters on my own.  Without further ado, here are my choices:
































When I was working at a book store, we got loads of requests for this book based only on the cover illlustration.  I still remember people walking in saying things like, "I'm looking for this book.  It's orange... with a dog maybe?":

Monday, 20 May 2013

Ruminating on 60 Years

This past weekend, we flew down to Florida to celebrate my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary.  It was a pretty amazing time:  All 11 grandchildren made it out, plus 5 of their spouses (only one was missing; he had to go to a wedding), 1 boyfriend, and their 2 great-grandchildren.  It was a better turn-out than any of the recent family weddings

My grandparents are an inspiration to me.  They married on June 6, 1953.  They didn't have a lot of money, but they made ends meet.  They went through having three children, struggling to make ends meet, my Gramps having a heart attack in his late 40s, my Gramz having a rare neurological disease in her 70s, the divorces of two of their kids, etc.  Now towards the end of their lives (both are in their 80s), anyone can see that their love and commitment is still strong.

It is crazy to think of 60 years with one person.  Since Gill and I married at 39 and 31, it is unlikely we will make it to that milestone, though of course only God knows what will be.  Even if we don't, I love the idea that at 40 or 50 years married, we too will be surrounded by our loved ones, hopefully children and grandchildren, and that we will have laid a legacy of faith and love.

Actually, my grandparents aren't my biological relatives.  Their oldest daughter married my dad when I was 11 years old, but since that day, they have considered me and my brother as part of their grandchildren, and now Gil and my sister-in-law are also part of the brood.  Since all of my biological grandparents have passed away, I feel extra blessed to have Gramz and Gramps still around.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Books Dealing with Tough Subjects

I'm once again joining in the blog link-up Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Today's topic is Top Ten Books that Deal with Tough Subjects.  Some of mine are fiction, and some are non-fiction.  A word to new readers:  I am a Christian, so many of my choices reflect my faith  

1.  A Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit. This book is the antidote to the ideals espoused by "Sex and the City".  Shalit opines that our over-sexualized culture actually hurts young women especially, and that modesty, rather than being old-fashioned prudery, is actually fulfilling and empowering.

2.  If God Is Good by Randy Alcorn.  A book that looks at the age old question:  If God is good, why is there evil in the world.  I found it a challenging and rewarding read.

3.  The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.  Only Lewis can take a difficult topic like demons and spiritual warfare and turn it into a beloved novel.  I felt like I had to pause after each page to ponder the significance of what was being said.  Need to read this one again soon!

4.  The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller.  You already know how much I love this book.  I list it under tough subjects because with all the marriage books out there, it's hard to write one that stands out and because I give props to the Kellers for saying that marriage is hard because we're all selfish at heart.   Yet the book left me feeling positive and encouraged me to work on my marriage.

5.  When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.  I'm kind of cheating here as I haven't finished this one yet, but I'm 30% through and thoroughly fascinated.  The authors tackle the fact that so much of development work actually leaves people worse off than they were before.  They challenge readers, especially middle class North American Christians, to examine their own perspectives before thinking they know all the answers.  A great read!

6.  The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.  I thought I wouldn't like this book because if it's rough subject:  the rape and murder of a young teen; however, it was gripping and provided an interesting view of a horrible situation.

7.  My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult.  This book takes the reader into the midst of a family dealing with cancer, not just the medical problems, but also sibling rivalries, issues in marriage, etc.  It leaves you pondering a lot of questions on medical ethics and consent.

8.  The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.  This book really embodies a lot of what When Helping Hurts says:  that if we go into another culture to help without fully understanding it, we will often do harm.  It is a powerful and gripping novel of an American missionary family in Congo.

9.  Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.  Gahhh, I can't believe I forgot this one.  If you've never read it, I can't tell you why it's extremely thought provoking and disturbing, but it is.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Thoughts on a (Probably) Failed Exam

In high school, I dated a guy who had an amusing quirk.  If he wrote an exam and found it not very difficult, he would say, "It was so easy, I felt sorry for the test."  Remember that huge Mandarin exam I was studying for?  I did not feel sorry for it.  If the exam had emotions, I think it would feel sorry for me.  In fact, I'm fairly sure that I failed.

You may hate me for this, but I have never failed an exam before.  I was that person who felt like any grade less than an A was a failure.  I might have failed a quiz once, but that's about it, so staring at an exam paper and knowing it's not going well is a new experience for me.  That said, it's a pretty huge blessing to know that my first failed exam is one taken voluntarily which has no bearing on my future.  I can study and take it again in the fall, when my Mandarin levels should be higher.

I took some time yesterday to think over what I could have done differently, and besides studying hours and hours more each day for a few months, I don't know.   I have to work and my marriage is important to me, so I'm not willing to structure my entire life around language learning.  My main issue is reading speed, so if I'd spent more time reading and less time cramming vocabulary, perhaps that could have helped, but even then I may have been out of my league.  I'm trying to remember that my recent intensive studying was not in vain:  I learned so much new vocabulary over the past few months which will help me in my Mandarin progression, and now if I choose to take the exam again, I already have the flashcards and practice exams so I can jump right in.  加油!

Readers, how do you react when you fail?  Have you had the experience of cramming for something important and then seeing your efforts fall flat?  How do you keep from feeling disheartened when you don't make the grade?

Today because my studying is OVER(!!), I treated myself to a sorely-needed haircut and a visit to my favourite local library today.

New-ish hair.  It looks a lot like my old hairstyle, just shorter.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Saturday Strolling and How You Can Support Crisis Pregnancy Centres

Yesterday morning, I took a break from studying Mandarin to attend the First Response Relay in support of Toronto's Pregnancy Care Centre. I was initially asked to help do set-up and hadn't planned on doing the walk, but when I saw a few friends there, I decided to join in.  We had a chilly start, but warmed up as we walked around 5km and recapping it now gives me a chance to share about this amazing organization.  It was a great way to get some exercise on a Saturday morning and meet people from all over the city who support the PCC.  I even met one of my favourite bloggers, and ended up introducing myself and looking like an awkward groupie. 

Enjoying some awesome music

I've been involved with the PCC for a few months now.  I started thinking about how much time and energy I had spent celebrating the pregnancies of friends and family, while there are so many people for whom becoming pregnant is more stressful than celebratory.  Many churches talk about being pro-life, but I wanted to be more about practical help than about politics.  Anyway, I signed up to attend a training day; this provided background information and practical help on how to respond when someone tells you about an unexpected pregnancy, although I found the tools and role playing transferable to other situations where someone is in crisis.  Since then, I've helped in a few small ways, like doing internet research and monitoring email. 

How can you support your local crisis pregnancy centre?  
  • Assist with word-of-mouth, sharing with people you know, especially those who are more likely to come into conduct with someone in a crisis pregnancy, like teachers, guidance counselors, youth workers, etc.    
  • Donate your time:  It doesn't mean you'll be counseling people; you could help moving furniture or other items that are donated to women in need, or like me, you could do internet research.
  • You can donate used baby items or products that you don't need or like (e.g., diapers from a brand that doesn't fit right or in an outgrown size, formula if you're breastfeeding, wipes when you plan on using re-usable ones).  Many people pass on baby items to friends, but at least in my circle of friends, I don't know anyone who truly cannot afford that box of diapers. 

Monday, 6 May 2013

Medical Mondays: Things Doctors Do Differently

 **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, Erin at Home With the Boys, and Heather at The Life Unexpected. If you're now around here, welcome! Regular readers, please take the opportunity of checking out some other interesting blogs.**

Last time I joined in for Medical Monday, I was feeling a bit down and posted some really honest musings. This time I'm lightening things up a bit. These are a few things I've noticed that doctors experience differently than “regular folks”.

Watching TV:  Television seems to bring out the “doctor” in my doctor husband. Medical shows are the worst of this, of course. It's a good thing I've never been a Grey's Anatomy fan, because Gil can't watch two minutes of it without lecturing the TV. We watched a couple of episodes of The Mob Doctor, with the same result. (Actually, I was also yelling at the TV for that one. How can she just leave the hospital and drive to the middle of nowhere all the time without anyone noticing? ...but I digress.) Medical Drama Syndrome, however, is not limited to hospital-set shows. I've seen it occur during crime fighting programs (usually brought on by autopsies), and even food programs. The other day we watched an episode of Bizarre Foods in which the host visited a Singapore restaurant specializing in using food to restore customers' “yin” and “yang” balance. I think my husband's head nearly exploded. :-)

Making plans:  Since I'm the “secretary” of our relationship, I generally liaise with others trying to get together with us. Any accepted invitation usually follows several back-and-forth negotiations (“He's on call that weekend... and that one too... and he's post-call on that day, so that's a no...”), and is annotated with, “But of course, he may be called in and not be able to come.” A few weeks ago, we had friends over for dinner and a hockey game, and Gil did not arrive home until they'd gone home. Ah, the medical life!

Attending family gatherings:  Most people's family Christmas party include discussion of Auntie Gertrude's recent trip to Ireland (accompanied by 2 full photo albums), the weather, politics, and polite chatter. When doctors attend family gatherings, they are immediately pounced upon by Uncle Philbert who wants to discuss his recent colonoscopy results, and Cousin Euphemia who has a strange rash. Then there is the random relative who just can't wait to corner any medical person with the latest theories on how cancer is a government plot, and the entire medical profession is a money-grabbing scam. And of course all of that information must be true because he found it on the Internet...

Attending conferences: In my previous life, I attended a grand total of one conference.  I flew overseas, had an extra day to get over jet lag and sightsee, then attended two days of meetings, complete with catered lunches, breaks, and a very fancy dinner (the kind with separate wines for each course).  Due to the cross-Atlantic travel, I missed a full week of work even though it was only a two-day conference.  Since this was such a cool experience, I couldn't wait to attend conferences with my husband, but it turns out that they aren't much fun, and usually involve me barely seeing him at all because of breakfast meetings and evening sessions.  This winter we attended a conference at Mont Tremblant and he literally did not leave the hotel for two days.  (I, on the other hand, went snowshoeing and had a grand old time.)  Gil insists that this is the norm because he needs to rack up his training hours.  I'm guessing he'll need to retire to finally get some real R&R.
 
Medical friends, can you think of anything to add?