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

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

2016: A New Hope?

2015. I don't have words to describe this year, or rather I do, but I'll spare you because they are mostly curse words.

On January 1, 2015, I wrote the following in my journal: "The word that comes to my mind for this year [2014] is loss. Loss of Bruce [my oldest friend's father who passed away in December of 2014]. Loss of my dignity. Loss (sometimes) of the confidence I had that my friends and family would be there in my hours of deepest need. Loss of hope. Loss of faith in medical science. Loss of a dream and of subsequent dreams, the idea that I could ever be a mother of more than one child, of the idea that giving up my career was the most logical thing to do. Loss of unity with my husband. Loss of control over my body and emotions. Loss of the ideal that if I tried hard enough, my dreams would come true."

When I read those words, I just want to go back to my January 2015 self and give her a hug, and say, "Oh honey, the losses will just keep on coming." The hits have been one after the other this year. I lost a dear friend in February, leaving a wound in my soul that continues to ache. We had a massive family illness in the winter, which led to a terrible misunderstanding with my father. We made up and are on good terms again, but words were said that cannot be unsaid, and it still smarts. School was hard, several friends lost their parents, friendships were tested and found wanting. Close family members came to the brink of divorce, reconciled, and I've only just learned today that they are splitting up for sure. We are still infertile, and I have lost hope that we will ever be parents. My heart hurts. It has kept hurting, this whole long year. Then as I tried to embrace the holidays and find the joy in it all, I found a dead raccoon in my yard and spent Christmas Eve shoveling it into a garbage bag to haul to the curb. It seemed somehow symbolic of the year that was. Needless to say, 2015 has been nothing like I expected.

Were there joys? Of course. I met new friends. I did well in school. I attended a close friend's wedding. There was a new Star Wars movie. We adopted Neville. We laughed and loved and lived. But it still hurts.

So, now it's almost 2016, and I am afraid. I went into the last two years thinking that things would get better, and instead they just got worse and worse and worse. To be brutally honest, I am sad every day, and I know that even the best circumstances and a fantastic career will not heal the child-shaped hole in me, but at least I would like a reprieve from really awful stuff happening. I go into this new year with trepidation, wondering "How long, o Lord?", wondering if I will make it to see 2017 without losing myself, the loving and wondering and rejoicing parts that I know are still in there somewhere.

However, after getting even more bad family news today, I decided to give myself a pass from getting anything useful accomplished, and just sit in bed this afternoon watching the original Star Wars. I realized, thinking it over, that Episode 4 is titled "A New Hope". So maybe it's there, somewhere, that hope. Maybe I can find it and grasp it, if even for a little while.

Happy New Year, friends. May joy find you wherever you are.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas!!

A quick shout out to wish everyone who celebrates a wonderful and merry Christmas! It's been a rough season for us, which was capped off by finding a dead raccoon in our yard on Christmas Eve (yes, really), but we are trying to find the joy in the season and in the miracle of our Saviour's birth.

Happy holidays from our family to yours!


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Christmas List

Merry almost-Christmas! Today at The Broke and the Bookish, we're posting about books we'd love if Santa were to bring us. Here's my list:

1. Any of the illustrated editions of the Harry Potter series: Be still my heart!

2. Humans of New York Stories by Brandon Stanton: I love reading his posts, and this seems like a great coffee table book.

3. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (AKA J.K. Rowling): I'm actually fairly close to getting my hold at the library, but it still seems like a fun book to have.

4. Longbourn by Jo Baker: To supplement my Pride and Prejudice obsession.

5. Yes, My Accent Is Real by Kunal Nayyer: He's so funny!

6. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews: I hear this is good and I like the cover.

7. Funny Girl by Nick Hornby: He always makes me laugh.

8. The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra: I adored A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, so this is a no-brainer.

9. Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates: This looks fascinating and race-relations in America is such an important issue to follow right now.

10. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo: I've never read any of her books, but I've read good reviews and I needed a 10th item on the list.

So, what's on your Christmas list?

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Welcome Neville!

I'm excited to announce that our family is growing... but not in the way you're thinking! On Saturday, we took in a new kitty, a 'sibling' for our dear Sadie, and his name is Neville Catticus.

With Neville at the Shelter

It happened like this: In November, Gil came home with the news that his secretary had found an abandoned kitten, and asked if we wanted her. I was shocked and didn't think he was serious. I had been sure that he didn't want another cat, and so I hadn't really thought about it. I was about to go to Florida for a few days with my dad, so I waited until I was home to say that I was interested, and by that time, the kitten had found a home.

A few weeks later, I was running an errand and found that my journey crossed paths with Toronto's new Cat Cafe. I fell in love with a cat there and got the green-light from Gil to pursue an adoption, but again it fell through because this cat could only be adopted if his sister came along for the ride, and three cats seemed like a little too much. Still, the desire to take in another kitty had settled in me, so as soon as my schoolwork was done for the term, I got myself over to the shelter and met Neville, and the rest is history.



What about his name? I actually agonized for way too long about his name, and was told multiple times by my husband that I was overthinking the issue. I wanted a literary reference, and Neville is one of my favourite supporting characters from Harry Potter. I gave him the middle name of Catticus because Gill initially suggested our cat be named Atticus based on the character from the Harper Lee novel, because, in his words, "I bet he would like to kill a mockingbird." Yes, we are those crazy people whose cat has a middle name, but no, it will not be on any paperwork!

This year has been so hard in a million different ways. We had family drama, health stresses, continued infertility, and death, and somehow I just needed 2015 to go out on a high note. I'm excited that we will get to share our lives with another feline friend.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I Read In 2015

Whew, it's hard to believe the year is nearly over. I'm definitely looking forward to a new start in 2016, but today at The Broke and the Bookish, we are looking back to our favourite reads of the year, so without further ado....

1. Being Mortal by Dr. Atul Gawande: Dying is not a cheery subject, but this book challenged me on so many levels and I've recommended it to a lot of people. It's a great look at how we deal with dying in our culture. I highly recommend it.

2. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke: Honestly, I have no idea how it took me so long to read this book. It's about nerdy magicians, for goodness' sake!

3. The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman: I read this book for my graphic novels course and found it really moving and interesting and creative.

4. Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie: I am a sucker for Massie's biographies. For me, the high point was his Peter the Great book, which I read last summer, but Nicholas and Alexandra was great too and helped me see the doomed couple from another angle.

5. Oblomov by Goncharov: I had put this off for ages because I wanted to read it, but wondered if it would be slow moving. I ended up really having a soft spot for the lazy Oblomov and laughing at this Russian classic.

6. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden; Gee, how many times can I write about my love for Joseph Boyden on here? This book took an original and nuanced view of Canadian history, both of the French and the Native Peoples, and I couldn't put it down.

7. Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay: Intrigue! Ballerinas! Stalinism! Love stories! What's not to like? I really enjoyed this book in which a wealthy Russian ballet star looks back on her hidden past.

8. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: I've become a bit bored with the slew of popular dystopias on the market now, but Station Eleven was something totally different. It infused dystopia with art and mystery, and I really enjoyed it.

9. Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden: Boyden's look at two young Cree men and the Great War. It was fantastic, and my favourite of Boyden's thus far.

10. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel: As a self-proclaimed Tudor nerd, I can't believe it took me years to finally read Wolf Hall, but when I finally got around to it, I was completely drawn in and loved it.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Broke and Bookish Secret Santa!

This year, I did something new and took part in the Secret Santa exchange at The Broke and the Bookish. I'd thought about it last year, but missed the sign-up date. It felt a little weird at first to have a total stranger know my address, but I decided it would be fun, and it totally was! I had a blast looking for something special for my match, and I can't wait to hear that she's received her gift (which should arrive today)!

Well, today Santa came to my house with a gift from Chelsea over at BFT Reviews. I received chocolate, some lovely Christmas-y socks, a Jane Austen mug (be still my heart!), and a copy of The Book Thief, which I'd been meaning to read for ages. I am so excited! Thanks Chelsea!




Not only that, but I also participated in a Secret Elf exchange with some friends from all around the world, and today got this lovely ring from my dear friend Erin. Santa really has been busy today. ;)


Saturday, 12 December 2015

Infertile at Christmas

I'm going to be honest here: I'm struggling with Christmas. I used to love everything about Christmas: The stockings, the tree, the nativity scenes, carols at church, snow, evening church services, coloured lights, pretty much everything except eggnog. Even when I was working in Ottawa and had to drive to Toronto at noon on the 24th, I would do so with joy because it was Christmas. The last few years, though, I find myself wishing away I could fall asleep in November and wake up in January. This isn't just wanting to get past my exams without writing them (though that would be nice). It is more a factor of the constant pain of infertility, which tends to feel more overwhelming during the holidays.

In the first place, Christmas is a time when we talk about families. I get bombarded by cards with pictures of everyone's beautiful children, often with one more child this year than last. I hear ads on the radio talking about what to get my kids for Christmas, or even what to get my husband to show him that he's a great dad. (I had to change the channel for that last one as I burst into tears on the highway.) Next to Mother's Day, I find that Christmas is the time of year when I am most reminded that I am not a mother, that I don't have a family, and that I don't fit in.

Christmas is also a time when we talk about baby Jesus. A lot. I mean, yes, Christmas is increasingly secularized, and you can get through it with minimal exposure to a manger scene, but you get what I mean. Yes, I know, the original Christmas story is about two people who were shocked and not ready to be parents and who had to start their family in terrible circumstances. Yes, I know it's Jesus and not some random baby. It's still images of babies, here and there and everywhere. There are still days when I see that nativity picture, with Mary lovingly bent over the infant Jesus, and my heart aches for the child I wanted to have, the baby whose crib I would lean over to sing lullabies, the one that I will never have. It still hurts.

Mostly though, Christmas marks the passing of time, and the whole holiday season is a chance to take stock in the year. This year sucked. Sorry, but it did. I lost a dear friend. I lost others in my life. In our family, we had serious illness, marriage separation, and conflict. In the world, we had some pretty bad things as well. I find it hard to look ahead and say that maybe 2016 will be better when I remember that in 2012, and 2013, and 2014, I went into the holidays thinking it might be my last Christmas without a baby on the way, that the coming year would bring life and joy when in fact it has brought increasing sadness. I feel like infertility has taken my ability to look ahead. I used to be one of those people who would hear about Jesus coming back and think, "Not yet. I have so much left to do." Now I understand why people yearn for His coming, because I find it so hard to find the joy in this life and it doesn't sound like such a raw deal to leave it behind.

I usually try to end posts like this on some kind of inspiring note, like, "Here's how I'm holding on to hope" or "God is still good". I don't know how to do this. I haven't given up on life and faith, but I don't have it in me to pretend that I'm not drowning each and every day. Pray for me this Christmas. More than that, pray for those around you who are lonely. Invite the childless into your home, and those without families. Remember that for many people, the holidays are hard. Love your neighbour. Share your joy.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten New-To-Me Authors in 2015

I've read a lot of books in 2015, especially considering the fact that I've been in school most of the time. I read for pleasure when the pressures of school get overwhelming, and I do spend a lot of time on the bus and subway going to and from university. Because of that, I get to read a lot of wonderful authors. Today at The Broke and the Bookish, the theme is favourite new-to-me read in 2015. Here is my list:

1. Joseph Boyden: I've posted about him a lot, but I read The Orenda in the winter and fell in love, then promptly read his two other novels. I am totally hooked!

2. Hilary Mantel: I put off Wolf Hall for ages, thinking it would be dry, but ended up rushing through it because I got so into the story. I didn't like Bring Up the Bodies quite as much, but am still super impressed with her attention to detail, and would like to read more of her.

3. Marie Lu: I read the whole Legend series as well as The Young Elites, and really enjoyed them both.

4. M.R. Carey: I honestly didn't love The Girl With All The Gifts, but thought it was intriguing and curious, and am very impressed with the writing style.

5. Neil Gaiman: How I went this long without reading Gaiman, I don't know, but I have now and I'll be reading a lot more.

6. Emily St. John Mandel: Station Eleven was one of my favourite books this year. I loved Mandel's writing style and the creative take on the dystopia genre.

7. Dr. Atul Gawande: Being Mortal was one of the best books I've read in a long time, and I've been recommending it to everyone I know. Few people can write about the world of medicine in a way that is so easy to ready by laypeople. I'm so glad I discovered him.

8. Anthony Trollope: Despite being an avid fan of the classics, I'd never read Trollope, but He Knew He Was Right was a surprising hit for me, so I'll read more of him.

9. Art Spiegelman: I read The Complete Maus for my graphic novels course, and it blew me away.

10. Sean Michaels: I not only read Us Conductors this spring, but I got signed because he did a reading at the Reference Library. :) I was really impressed with all the background research Michaels did on the theremin and on Russian history.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - (American) Thanksgiving Edition

This week is a Thanksgiving theme over at The Broke and the Bookish, so I've chosen to write about fictional families. There are some families in books that are so fun and sweet and I would totally want to be at their table for Thanksgiving dinner. Here are five:

1. The Weasleys from the Harry Potter series: I think we all saw that one coming. How much fun would it be to spend a holiday in the Burrow?!

2. The Bennets from Pride and Prejudice: Okay, Mary is awkward and Lydia is a handful, but I think it would be fun chatting with Lizzie and Jane and having a laugh at Mr Bennet's dry wit.

3. Lara Jean's family from To All the Boys I've Loved Before (and the sequel): I love the three sisters from this series. They are funny and quirky, and they fight but still love each other. I feel like they would be a blast to hang out with for Thanksgiving dinner. (Not to mention, Lara Jean would bake something delicious for dessert!)

4. Lou's family from Me Before You and After You: Sure, they've got problems, and they probably don't have much room around the table, but Lou is hilarious and her nephew and grandfather are a riot. I think they'd be welcoming and warm.

5. The Green Gables family from Anne of Green Gables: Yes, they're a non-traditional family, but Anne is such a riot and Matthew is so warm, and you know that with Marilla cooking, the food would be fantastic.

And five families that would make staying home alone preferable!
6. The Malfoys from the Harry Potter series: They're arrogant and they're racists (or the Wizard equivalent). Need I say more?

7. Any family in a Gillian Flynn novel, but especially the Camille's family in Sharp Objects: I'd rather impale myself WITH all those sharp objects than spend the day with this collection of people. Soooo creepy.

8. King Arthur's family as portrayed in The Mists of Avalon: I mean, the food would probably be great, but it comes with a healthy side dish of dysfunction.

9. The de Bourgh family from Pride and Prejudice: Colonel Fitzwilliam's comment sums it up: "My aunt does talk a great deal, but seldom requires a response." Considering I'm not a gentleman's daughter, I think it would just be an evening of awkwardness, even if I were granted a look at the famous chimney piece of Rosings Park.

10. The Karamazov family in The Brothers Karamazov: Way too much baggage and drama for my liking.

Happy Thanksgiving to any American readers! Enjoy your time with family and friends!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Book To Movie/TV Adaptations I Still Need To Watch

I've skipped a few TTT due to not really feeling the topics, but today's discussion at The Broke and the Bookish is a fun one. We're talking about which book adaptations we are looking forward to, or which ones are already out that we still need to watch. One thing about me is that I rarely watch movies. It's not for any philosophical reason. I just rarely get out to the cinema. I've seen one film in theatres this year so far... That said, here are some that I really need to make time for, one of these days:

1. Mansfield Park: There are several adaptations of this book, but I haven't seen any of them. I hear good things about the 1999 version, even if it's not loved by all Austenites.

2. Paper Towns: I quite enjoyed this John Green book, actually (whispers) more than I liked The Fault In Our Stars. I'd love to see the film.

3. Divergent: I'm just waiting for this to play on TV some days so I can convince my husband to watch with me.

4. The Remains of the Day: Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. How in the world have I not seen this film?

5. Life of Pi: I didn't particularly like this book, despite all the hype. However, I hear the film is wonderful and I really do want to watch it.

6. The Great Gatsby: I'm a sucker for Baz Luhrmann. He makes such gorgeous films.

7. Wolf Hall: Now that I've read both Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, catching the mini-series is on my radar, for when I'm not buried in school assignments.

8. Matilda: I adore this book, but the movie came out just before I turned 16, so when I was feeling way too old to see a kids' movie. I hear it's great though.

And finally two adaptations that I won't see until I've actually read the books:
9. War and Peace: One day, I will read this book. I swear it. I'd also like to see some of the film adaptations, as well as the upcoming BBC miniseries.

10. The Book Thief: It's on my to-read list, I promise!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

General Life Update

This is just a post to let people know how things are going in various aspects of our lives. I'm just realizing that there are people who read my blog because they genuinely want to keep up with me, and I haven't been doing the best at that, so I'm sorry. Here is what's going on in various areas of life:

School: I'm still in grad school, halfway through the fall semester. These past few weeks have been extremely busy with work, three classes, a practicum, and Bible study, and I'm a bit overloaded. Overall, though, the program has been great and I enjoy my classes. (Well, I enjoy most of them...) It has tremendously helped my emotional health to spend a lot of time in a place where no one thinks to ask/grill/interrogate me about when we will have kids, why we don't have kids, and various and sundry biological clock issues. I've met some great friends through my program as well. I will be finished in April, so I'm starting to think about when to apply for a job in my field. Yikes!

Work: I still work at my church, though I cut my hours back because of school. I am honestly praying about how long to continue in this position. I love my church, but I want to do the best I can at my job, and it's hard to do that when I am so drained by school, etc. We shall see.

Marriage: We had our fourth wedding anniversary last week. Time flies! Well, I don't know if it's flown by, honestly. There are days when I feel like we just got married yesterday, and other days when I look at photos from our wedding day and marvel at how young and unaware I was. I find special days bittersweet right now. I remember how I pictured my life at four year's married, and it certainly didn't involve being childless, a receptionist, or in school. However, our love for each other continues to grow and I am convinced that God will use these troubles to strengthen us if we let it.

Infertility: Well, it still sucks. I go through periods when this struggle is all-consuming and debilitating, and others in which it is just a constant pain in my heart, but livable. Today it's livable. We are not pursuing any treatment at this time for various reasons, but it is still a constant source of sadness.

Cat: Is great! My cat is a light when things feel dark. (God is a light too, of course, but He's not so cuddly.)
Gratuitous cat photo

Other random stuff: I've joined a new gym. It is frequented by absolutely hilarious older ladies who make me chuckle in the changerooms. I'm also really, really hoping that we'll be able to take a vacation this winter, because we desperately need some prolonged alone time.

That's all for now!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Wishes for the Book Genie

I'm a little late, but I can't resist this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic: Ten wishes we'd ask the book genie to grant us. I've basically gone as wildly unrealistic as possible. Here is my list:

1. More time to read. Like create extra hours in the day that are only accessible for reading, not for work or housework or whatever.

2. A VIP line for library holds, or preferential treatment for us frequent users.

3. A cloaking device so that I can laugh or cry to my heart's content while reading on the subway or read in public places without anyone talking to me.

4. Some kind of magic spell so my books to stay open to the right place, without me breaking the spine.

5. Some kind of magic so that big clunky hardcover books are not so heavy and fit easily in my purse.

6. Built in shelves with a sliding ladder, or basically my own library.

7. A beacon so that I can identify people who the same books as me while I'm out and about.

8. All the Harry Potter merch available. Like all of it.

9. To attend a recreation of the Netherfield ball. It could happen, right?

10. To be able to read my favourite books for the first time again and experience everything anew.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Infertility Chat: You're allowed to be sad.

I've been neglecting my blog lately. Yikes! This semester just started biting back and I've been stressed. However, despite having an exam to study for and a million things to do, I've got words flowing through my head and fingers right now, so I am writing.

The infertility community is... interesting. It can be life-giving to find your tribe, to realize you're not alone in your struggle. On the other hand, becoming involved in infertility groups or even just conversations about the journey can make you crazy. The questions. The comments. The need to justify your decisions. The feelings of comparison and jealousy and sometimes the one-upmanship. I feel the need to say something important and that is: You're allowed to be sad. Yes, you.

If you've "only" been trying six months, or one year, or five years. No matter how long you've been trying, you're allowed to be sad. It's hard.

If you haven't tried everything, and even if you're not sure whether treatment is for you, you're allowed to be sad. It doesn't mean you want it less or you're less deserving of a child.

If you don't want to pursue adoption, you're allowed to be sad. There is no law that infertile couples must adopt. It isn't for everyone, and just because you don't want to go that route doesn't mean you don't want a child enough.

If your spouse isn't on board for treatment, you're allowed to be sad. It's lonely to feel like you're not on the same page. Just because you won't strong-arm them doesn't mean you don't want it that badly.

If you have told everyone in your life about your infertility, you're allowed to feel alone (and sad). Having people know what's happening doesn't mean they truly know your struggle.

If it's a happy occasion for someone else, you're allowed to be sad. It doesn't mean you aren't excited for them. You can be happy and sad at the same time. It's called being real.

If you've already had children and are having trouble conceiving another, you're allowed to be sad. You don't feel like your family is complete, and that doesn't mean you don't appreciate your existing children.

The bottom line is, don't let anyone tell you that you aren't allowed to feel. This is your journey. These are your emotions. Infertility is lonely and hard and soul-destroying, and you're allowed to be sad about it. One day, when you're further along this rugged road, someone will come to you with tears in her eyes, and spill her story, and it will be your turn not to judge or to invalidate her story, but to simply say, "It's okay. It's okay to feel sad."

Monday, 28 September 2015

Overwhelm book cover reveal!

Today is a fun day! I mentioned last week that one of the books on my fall TBR list is Overwhelm by Layla Messner. Layla was my housemate in university, and I am honoured to be able to promote her book. Today I'm taking part in her book cover reveal, hosted by:

http://yaboundbooktours.blogspot.ca/


Here is the book summary:

Overwhelm by Layla Messner
Release Date: November 13, 2015



The living crystals that feed elemental power to Atlantis are exhausted. They give and give, but the Altantians just want more energy to fuel their magical city. Sixteen years ago, the crystals came up with a plan to make it all stop, a plan that revolves around three teens:

KALIOPE is a soulsinger, an empath with the power to sing the souls of the dead to their next lives. She just wants to grow up, but her mother won't let her.

DANICA is Kalipe's whipping girl. She gets punished whenever Kali disobeys.

CHIARAN is a firestarter, so reckless even his family considers him a monster.

When Chiaran arrives in Atlantis, he's the first fire person to set foot on the island in a hundred years. Kaliope naturally considers him an enemy and uses the last of her depleted power against him. But the battle reveals that the two have more in common than anyone could have guessed. 

Anyone, that is, except the crystals.

Three teenage antiheroes, a bisexual love triangle, and an island about to sink. 

Overwhelm is a darkly sensual fairy tale about growing up against all odds.

About the author:
Láyla Messner is a young-adult author and the founder of Chrysalis Sanctuary for healing childhood sexual abuse. She has an M.A. in embodied writing from Goddard College and her novels provide New Sexual Mythology for teens.

She believes that love is real. She does not believe in unsolicited advice or the word "impossible".

Author links:
Website
Goodreads
Twitter
Facebook

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books To Read - Fall 2015 Edition

Today over at the Broke and the Bookish, we're posting our TBR list for the autumn. I've had trouble paring this down, though with school, work, and a practicum, I don't know how much time I'll realistically have to read so much. Here is what I have so far:

Forthcoming Books:
1. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell: I'm typically not one to pre-order books, but this one is coming my way as soon as it's published. It's Rowell meets Harry Potter, so what's not to like? Squeeeeee!

2. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson: I've become slightly addicted to The Book Geek's reviews and vlogs, and this was recommended. I don't know that I've ever read a real Western, so I'm looking forward to the experience.

3. After You by Jojo Moyes: I feel like I'm likely to be disappointed by this book since I loved Me Before You so much... but I can't not read it.

4. Overwhelm by Layla Messner: Layla was my housemate in university, and I have pre-ordered her first novel (well, first to be published, anyway). Can't wait! I'm giving it as much book publicity as I possibly can.

5. Ms. Marvel: Last Days: I'm slightly obsessed with this series after reading Volume 1 for a graphic novels course this past summer. Cannot wait for the next one to come out on December 1! Although this one may not get read by the end of fall because I'll be getting it via the library.

6. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood: I love her. End of story.

Classics:
I have a 50-book list courtesy of the Classics Club blog, although I'm not officially participating because I don't blog about my books. Nonetheless, I still am attempting to read those fifty books within five years (by June 2018), and I'm hoping to cover at least two before winter:
7. The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne: I'm supposed to finish this by October 23 as part of the Classics Club "spin". 

8. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser: This has been on my TBR (and my Kindle) for ages, so it's high time that I actually read it.

Other:
9. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel: I absolutely loved Wolf Hall, so hopefully this one will be a winner for me too..

10. The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King: I heard him interviewed on CBC Radio and was fascinated by this book. Also, I am woefully uneducated about the issue facing Native Canadians, and am hoping to rectify that.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Advocating for the Infertile: Why I Don't Think We Should #StopAsking

A lot has been going on in infertility circles lately. A few months ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that he and his wife are expecting a baby girl, but also noted that she had undergone several miscarriages. Last week, celebrities Tyra Banks, Chrissy Teigen, and Gabrielle Union opened up to the media about their struggles with infertility. Tyra and Chrissy apparently discussed infertility and IVF on the program FABLife today, and though I haven't seen the segment (since I don't have cable), I hope to find a way to watch it. I am thrilled about these developments (although obviously I'm not thrilled that *anyone* had to go through this battle.) On the other hand, I have an issue with something that Tyra said. Her FB feed posted the following:

"I can’t believe that I’m talking about how all of this personally affects me Monday on my new show FABLifeShow but I hope that by sharing my story, I give someone the strength and courage that all your stories have given me. As women we shouldn’t feel ashamed or pressured to talk about plans for a family. But we shouldn't feel pressured to either. We need a space where we can really help each other – and most importantly listen to each other – because a lot of social media is about snap judgments and being well...judgy and just assuming things. The questions hurt. Why? Because you never know what someone may be going through. So you know what? Let’s ‪#‎StopAsking‬."

I wasn't sure at first why this bothered me. I mean, I completely agree that women shouldn't feel ashamed to talk about family plans. I also agree that sometimes people act like your reproductive choices are everyone's business, and they really, really, really aren't.

You know what, though, I don't think not asking is the answer either. I'm worried that the message that gets received is that we shouldn't talk about these things or bring them up. Yes, I've had experiences where people asked about our family plans, and the end result was pressure to discuss my private matters. On the other hand, I've had people ask questions which gave me the opportunity to open up in a way I hadn't been able to before. Usually the key factor in whether it's a negative or a positive interaction is context: What is the context of our relationship and what is the context of our conversation? If you're asking because you are curious or you feel like I 'ought' to be pregnant by now, chances are that the conversation will not be positive, but if you ask as my friend, I will feel safe to share my journey, and that's a good thing.

All that to say, I don't think the message should be "Stop Asking" but rather "Think Before You Ask". Think about whether you actually know this person and whether you are ready to potentially share their burdens with them. Think about whether you are asking out of a desire to be a loving friend or whether you are just merely curious. Think about whether you're in a situation where this person might feel comfortable sharing a struggle with infertility, miscarriages, or any other reason why they may not have chosen to have children yet or whether the setting is not conducive to a heart-to-heart (e.g., the person is working - happens to me all the time! - or you're at a family event with several others looking on... you get the drift). Don't be afraid, however, of bringing up something that's hard to talk about. Chances are, someone out there is longing to open up to someone who really does care.

ETA: I'm linking this post up with Amateur Nester's infertility link-up. Go check her out, as well as some other infertility bloggers.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: My Life in 10 Books

This Tuesday is a freebie over at the Broke and the Bookish, so I'm using it to do a topic that I've seen a lot in the vlogging community. Since making videos of myself isn't really my thing, I'll do it on the blog instead. The topic is "My Life in 10 Books". Rather than doing your ten favourite books, it's about ten books that have changed you, that made a significant impact, that were a milestone for you, etc. Note: I've left off the Bible, which I do read every day (or almost every day), because it's in a different category for me than all these books that I read at some point in my life. Here is my list:

1. Matilda by Roald Dahl: I adore this book. I read voraciously as a child, and I was shy and awkward. It meant the world for me to have a heroine who was like me.

2. Kristy's Great Idea by Ann M. Martin: Okay, yeah, I know, but this series was my favourite forever. I devoured the BSC books and I think they had a role in making me into a real reader.

3. Letters to Judy: What Your Kids Wish They Could Tell You by Judy Blume: My true confession is that I found this book in my basement. It must have belonged to my step-mother. It contains a whole bunch of letters that teenagers had written to author Judy Blume. I used to read letters at night before going to bed. I'm not sure why this stayed with me for so long, but maybe it was reading that other kids were going through the awkwardness and stresses of adolescence, that it wasn't just me who didn't fit in, and that it was okay to feel different.

4. The Shining by Stephen King: This was the first adult book that I read, and marked a transition for me. I was twelve, so probably way too young, but I still remember the thrill of getting through it.

5. Emma by Jane Austen: Emma will always be near and dear to my heart because it was the first Jane Austen book that I read, and it set me on to a lifelong love of the classics.

6. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: I read this book in Grade 10, so in and around age 15. I remember it for a few reasons. Firstly, it was one of the books that I remember having a really emotional reaction to. I was literally weeping at the end, to the point where my mom asked what in the world was wrong with me! Secondly, it was one of the first books I had read where I was unsure about the main character. Sometimes I liked Scarlett, and sometimes I couldn't stand her, and it forced me to think. Thirdly (SPOILER ALERT), it's one of the first books that I remember reading with an open-ended ending. I actually couldn't sleep afterwards because I was trying to mentally conclude that Rhett and Scarlett would have a happy ending. I guess you could say the book introduced me to a lot of facets of more adult reading material.

7. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera: I credit this with pretty much the course of my life to come. Before it, I had very little concept of the East/West divide. This book drew me into a fascination with Eastern Europe, which led me to eventually study Russian and do a degree in East European and Russian Studies. The funny thing is, I read it on the recommendation of someone who said, "This book will change your life." It really did!

8. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling: The book that started it all. I truly feel like the Harry Potter series are books that will be with me forever, like the characters are old friends. They have impacted me in a million different ways, and if I ever have children, I will relish seeing them experience the stories in a new way.

9. Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery: You may know that I took my blog title from the later books in the Anne series. They are all fantastic, but Rilla is very close to me. For those who have not read it, the book tells the story of Anne and Gilbert's youngest daughter Marilla, and what she experiences during the First World WAr. I re-read it shortly before I got married, and I feel like I experienced it in a new way. The idea of going through a really hard time, and being thankful for the hardship because it changed you is something that I cling through during my infertility struggle.

10. The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller: This book is hands-down the best marriage book I have read. I am not a huge fan of marriage books that are really practical, mostly because what works for one person may not work for another. Keller's book looked at the heart of what marriage is, and I think about it all the time.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Haven't Finished

Is it Tuesday already? I can't believe this school year is starting. Labour Day is over and we are on to my fourth and penultimate semester of graduate school. (Well, unless I decide that third time's a charm and I want yet another Master's degree, which I wouldn't rule out, knowing me!) All that to say, it's another Top Ten Tuesday and the topic is Ten Finished Series I Have Yet to Finish. If you know my tastes, you know that I don't get on the bandwagon for a lot of series. I'm a bit of a curmudgeon about the fact that it appears some authors just can't write less than three books on a theme. I have, however, read a few of the big ones like the Hunger Games, Divergent and, of course, Harry Potter, and there are a few series that I have yet to finish.

1. The All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness: I am about to start The Book of Life later this week, so that'll be knocked off my list.

2. The Legend series by Marie Lu: I picked up Legend on a whim at the library, and was suitably hooked that I'll likely finish the set some time this fall.

3. The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry: I've only read The Giver, but it certainly was compelling and I will likely give the others a go, especially since they are so short that I could read the whole series in a few days.

4. The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot: Feel free to laugh at me on this one. Ten years ago, I worked at a large book store, and we were allowed to take books into the staff room to read on our lunch break. I got hooked on these books since they were hilarious and uncomplicated enough to be enjoyed in 10-minute increments. I think I only read the first two, however, and I'm unlikely to read the rest since it seems like there are at least ten.

5. The Little Women books by Louisa May Alcott: I don't even know if this counts as a series, but I did read Little Women and have never read the two sequels, so I'm including it.

That's all I've got. There are so many series that I probably won't get around to reading them all, but I'm really up for recommendations of which ones are worth reading. I would love your suggestions!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

What Do You Want For Your Birthday - Infertility Style

It's my birthday in a couple of weeks... Or it might have already passed, if you go by my mother-in-law's calendar which has aged me prematurely by twenty days or so. Milestones are hard for those undergoing infertility, or at least for me. Any occasion which marks the passage of time is a painful reminder that the years go by, but my inability to conceive remains the same. I used to enjoy celebrating birthdays with friends, whereas now I start to dread them months in advance.

I even had a birthday party with FIREFIGHTERS once. Yes, I used to be fun...

Around this time, I start to get questions like, "What do you want for your birthday?" I've always found it hard to give out wish lists as an adult, but now I find it particularly difficult? What do I want? I want to be a mother. I want nothing more than to be a mother. I want to wake up and not feel an overwhelming sense of sadness. I want to feel hopeful again. I want to go back to when I read "If God is for us, who can be against us?" and to believe it in full, instead of seeing the see of baby bumps around me on Facebook, at the church, on the bus, and feeling like God is certainly not for me these days.

But then I read the news. I see the thousands upon thousands of people clamoring for help, for a safe place to raise their children, for a roof over their heads and an escape from the perils of war. And then I feel like a real jerk for focusing on my dark little cloud when other people are in the midst of an unimaginable storm. I guess what I want for my birthday is for a better world, and to be a better person, to find that light within and pass it on to others.**

I know this post may feel disjointed. Please bear with me as I wrestle with various emotions right now. Thank you. <3


**If you have been moved by the plight of Syrian migrants, please consider making a donation here or here or here. Every bit helps.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I Didn't Click With

This week at The Broke and the Bookish, we're talking about characters that we just didn't click with for one reason or another.

1. Pi Patel from Life of Pi (Yann Martel): Admittedly, I didn't particularly like this book. It was so hyped that I expected to be wowed, and I wasn't. Pi was okay, but he came across as preachy and super philosophical for me.

2. Stephen Wraysford from Birdsong (Sebastian Faulks): I wrote about not particularly liking this book recently, but Wraysford was one of the reasons. It seems to be set up in such away that the (spoiler alert!) break-up of his love affair turns him cold, but I could never figure out his motivation for anything. Even when he was in love, it really just manifested itself in wanting to sleep with Isabelle. I had no idea what he thought or felt most of the time.

3. Isabelle Azaire from Birdsong (Sebastian Faulks): Like Stephen, Isabelle was a mystery. She was suddenly in love with Stephen, and she admittedly had a difficult back story... but what did she like? What did she want? Why did she leave Stephen? Her motivation was never, ever explained, and then the decisions she made after the war broke out left me scratching my head.

4. Lucy from A Room with a View (E.M. Forster): I would assume this is on purpose, as Forster writes in a very cold style so as to show the morality of the times, but I found it hard to connect with the heroine or know what I wanted for her. I mean, I wanted her to leave her fiancé, but that was mostly because he was a jerk.

5. Florentino Ariza from Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez): Yes, he carries a torch for Fermina for decades, but he's soooo creepy, not to mention all the seductions. Break-ups hurt, but you have to move on with your life. Actually, I just don't think this book was for me, at all, even though I've read it twice.

6. Emma Woodhouse from Emma: A Modern Retelling (Alexander McCall Smith): The original Emma holds a soft spot in my heart because it was my first Jane Austen. I loved Emma. Even though she was sometimes manipulative and puahy, she tried hard, and she grew. I didn't love this adaptation though. I didn't think the story translated well into the modern era, for the most part. While it made sense for 19th century Emma to be matchmaking for penniless Harriet Smith, watching 21st century Emma try to essentially find a sugar daddy for Harriet was unnerving. It made sense for the original Emma to be sheltered and treated as the queen in Highmore, because she was. In a modern context, it just made her seem stuck up and unrelatable, in my opinion, and it was too bad.

7. Bella Swan from Twilight (Stephenie Meyers): I know she was a teenager, but I was a teenager once myself, and I never completely lost my identity in a boy. I just couldn't relate to her. Mostly I just wanted to shake Bella and yell, "Get some hobbies, woman!" :)

8. Tobi from MaddAddam (Margaret Atwood): This was a hard one as I enjoyed Tobi immensely in The Year of the Flood. I liked learning her back story and seeing her survival skills. In the third book (which I didn't like nearly as much as Oryx and Crake), Tobi seemed whiney and insecure. I didn't like how there was all this love drama with the scientists. I honestly wish Atwood had stopped at two books.

Okay, these last two aren't technically characters, but the authors themselves, but I had trouble connecting with them.
9. Ulli from Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life (Ulli Lust): I enjoyed this book, but I just wanted to wrap my arms around young Ulli and tell her to make safer choices. Maybe I just wasn't a 'real' teenager, but I was never reckless, and I had trouble relating to Ulli's lack of boundaries.

10. Cheryl from Wild (Cheryl Strayed): I understand that Cheryl had gone through a tremendous amount of heartache and difficulties before this, things that I can never fully relate to. On the other hand, I just couldn't understand why she kept making bad choices. Why did she keep running out of money because she spent it on stupid things? Why didn't she parse down her immensely heavy backpack from the beginning, when she realized she could barely carry it? Did she not realize it could literally be a matter of life and death? Maybe I'm just a boring and safe person! Oh well!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books for a Course on 20th Century Russia

Today's topic for Top Ten Tuesday is "Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught X 101". Since I am a die-hard Russophile, here are some picks for if I am ever asked to teach a course on 20th Century Russia; all of these books would complement the course materials. I chose some books by Russian / Soviet authors, as well as others by Western authors who have written about the area. There is one memoir on the list, but the rest are fiction.

Mother Russia!


1. Sashenka by Simon Sebag Montefiore: I really liked this book by Montefiore, who is both a novelist and a historian. It covers the founding the USSR as well as the purges of the 1930s.

2. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov: Another look at the purges, but also a classic of Soviet literature that everyone should read.

3. Between Shades of Gray by Ruth Sepetys: This book covers the deportation of Lithuanian citizens to Siberia following the annexation of the Baltic States in 1939. I think it's important as there were a lot of ethnic groups deported internally during World War Two, and it's not widely known.

4. Russian Winter by Daphne Kolotay: A look at the post-war climate and the arts scene.

5. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: This is the definitive fiction piece on the Gulag system, and I think everyone should read a little Solzhenitsyn at some point. (Probably pick this book to start with, since his others are reallllly long. :P) Psst: If you're up for it, you can read more about the Gulag system in Anne Applebaum's fabulous Gulag: A History.

6. A Mountain of Crumbs by Elena Gorokova: A look at the later years of the USSR through the eyes of a citizen. I loved it too because of the focus on language learning.

7. The Free World by David Bezmozgis: This book covers the massive emigration of Soviet Jews in the 1980s.

8. Petropolis by Anya Ulinich: I didn't love this novel. I found it on sale at some point and was intrigued. It's not entirely my cup of tea, but it is a quirkly look at the post-Soviet era. If you really want to immerse yourself in the early years of the Russian Federation, with all its inflation and issues, try the movie Brat' ("Brother") starring Sergei Bodrov Jr. It's a guilty pleasure of mine, especially as it shows scenes from Vasilievsky Island, where I lived when I studied in St. Petersburg eleven years ago.

9. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra: A beautiful book which takes place in Chechnya and looks at the impact of the civil war there. Psst, here's another film recommendation: Prisoner of the Mountains (1996), also starring the late Sergei Bodrov Jr.

10. The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis: Oh, hey, let's keeping talking about how I like Bezmogis... This book is also relevant to contemporary Israeli politics and actually takes place in Ukraine; however, I included it because it looks back at the Jewish emigration noted above, and therefore is relevant to the topic. In addition, it covers a lot of heavy issues about how we deal with those who have wronged us, in particular in a totalitarian society, and how we engage with issues of historical blame and memory.

Speaking of issues of historical memory, here's me with a bust of Lenin.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Updates on My Summer Reading List

When I posted my 2015 Summer TBR list, one of the commenters said she was interested to see how I'd enjoyed those reads. I rarely do reviews, but I'll post some thoughts on the books that I've already read. I have finished 6 out of the 10 on the list, mostly because I've gotten derailed with some long-time holds coming in at the library, and a few recommendations that I put ahead of my list. So far, I am somewhat on track to finish my summer list by the "official" first day of autumn (September 22), as long as my hold on American Gods comes in on time! Here are my thoughts on the books I've read thus far:

Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay: I don't even remember how I found out about this book, but I loved it. Russian Winter tells the story of former Soviet prima ballerina Nina Revskaya, now living in Boston and auctioning off her jewellery. The book goes back and forth between the present, and Nina's life up to the point when she defected from the Soviet Union, including the complicated relationship with her best friend. I love ballet and I love Russian history, so this book was a win because it was well-researched in both subjects. I liked that the situations were not black-and-white, and that the book kept you guessing about what the full back story was. Definitely a win, and I'd read more of Kalotay's books.

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley: I gave this book 3.5/5. It was a compelling, feminist-infused narrative of the Arthurian sagas. It held my attention for all of its 800+ pages, and I read through it in less time than anticipated. However, I had a few issues with it. The first is the length; I really thought the book could have been shorter without sacrificing anything, and perhaps we could have seen less of certain characters. My second issue was the religious aspect. The entire book seemed to be beating readers over the head with paganism = good; Christianity = bad. This was somewhat lightened up towards the end, but it was too late, in my opinion. Now, I am an evangelical Christian, but I can handle criticism of my religion; however, there was no subtlety in Zimmer Bradley's agenda here, and I got really tired of Christians that were all hypocrites and ramblings about how Christianity was so bad. It felt overly forced, and that was too bad. I enjoyed the novel, and I'm glad I read it, but I won't be reading any of the author's other books.

The Case of Comrade Tulayev by Victor Serge: This book is supposed to be one of the definitive books on the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. It was a good read, though it's hard to say I 'enjoyed' it because of the subject matter. I'd only recommend the book for people who have a good knowledge of Russian history and culture, because the plot jumps from person to person and it would be difficult to follow if you don't know the context. I left it unrated in Goodreads because I thought it was theoretically very good, even if I had trouble getting into it.

Petersburg by Andrei Bely: Another book that I left without a rating in Goodreads because I really didn't know how to rate it. The book takes place in 1905 and is broadly about a young radical and his relationship with his father, a government official. There is a lot of symbolic and poetic language, a lot of dream-sequence like sections, and I sometimes had trouble following the plot, which I believe was intended. I'm fairly certain it is a brilliant book, but probably warrants a couple of readings before I think I have a handle on it! I would only recommend this book for people who are really into various kinds of literature and not reading for plot alone, but I'm glad I read it.

Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas: I'd been meaning to read this book for a while, and I'm glad I finally did. This is a Christian marriage book encouraging readers to see marriage not as a vehicle to make one happy, but as a means to change us and make us grow in character. As we serve each other, we grow as people, becoming more holy. I liked it, though not as much as my personal favourite Christian marriage book, The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller. I will definitely be re-reading Sacred Marriage at some point and possibly journaling through it.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks: I gave this book a 3/5. It was a compelling enough read, but I didn't like it all that much for a number of reasons. Firstly, it felt like three stories stuck together: Stephen Wraysford's experience before the First World War; Stephen's experiences in the war; and the life of his granddaughter Elizabeth in the 1970s. The 1970s plotline felt out of place. Although it involved Elizabeth tracking down information about her grandfather, there was so much about her personal life and frankly, the ending was a bit bizarre. Stephen's wartime experiences were fascinating, though a bit long and extremely detailed. The section before the war was too cliché for me: Young English student falls into an adulterous affair with a repressed woman who is starving for love. They are head over heels in love after barely speaking to each other. Meh. We've all read that one before. It seemed all sex and no so much love, and while I'm not a total prude, the sex part included a lot of purple prose. All in all, I enjoyed the book, but it's not one I'd ever read again or really recommend, despite the fact that it's apparently included on a lot of must-read lists.

Have you read any of the above books? What did you think? Do you totally disagree with me? (It's okay if you do! :D )

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Auto-Buy Authors

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic (over here, as always) is choosing ten authors whose books we automatically buy when they come out. This was hard for me. In the first place, between the library and my new addiction to Overdrive, I rarely buy books any more. I know, I know. I still love a good book store, but I don't love spending money on books when I can get them for free. My list is more like authors whose books I will automatically try to obtain when I hear a new book is forthcoming. Again, this wasn't easy for me because as you may have noticed, I like a lot of authors who are long-dead, so they will never put out a new book. I think I've managed to figure out a few though.

1. J.K. Rowling: Obviously I would pre-order any new Harry Potter books, but I've also made a point of reading her Cormoran Strike books when they come out.

2. Rainbow Rowell: She is one of the few authors who I do follow to ensure I get her newest as soon as I can.

3. David Bezmozgis: I try to support Canadian authors, and Canadian authors who come from Russia and write about Russian themes are really up my alley.

4. Joseph Boyden: I don't know when he'll have another book since The Orenda is so new, but I'll be watching and reading.

5. Kristin Cashore: I have no idea if she's working on something right now, but if a new book in the Graceling Realm comes out, I'll be first in line.

6. Gillian Flynn: I wouldn't say I love her books, but they certainly are compelling and I'd probably be tempted to read her next one.

7. Robert K. Massie: No one writes historical biographies like he does. Yes, my nerdiness is showing.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Most-Read Authors

A while back (whoah, was that a year ago?!), The Broke and the Bookish did a link-up on which authors we own the most books from. This week's topic is which authors we've read the most from. I was a bit surprised by the results. Doing the math, it seems like most of these authors are ones I read in my childhood, who seem to be fairly prolific. Here goes:

1. Ann M. Martin (too many to count): Yes, I know a lot of the Baby-Sitters Club books were ghostwritten, but her name is on them all and she must have written a fair amount of them. I think I read up to #100 or so when I was a kid.

2. Judy Blume (17): Oh how I loved Judy Blume in my youth. I'm so reading her new book when I get a chance.

3. Roald Dahl (14): One of my all-time favourite writers. He most definitely had a role in shaping my childhood.

4. L.M. Montgomery (at least 13): All of the Anne books, all of the Emily of New Moon books, Chronicles of Avonlea, and probably a few others that I'm forgetting.

5. Stephen King (12 or 13): I went through a massive King phase when I was about thirteen. I was surprised when I looked back and realized how many of his books I have read.

6. J.K. Rowling (10): All of the Harry Potter books, plus the Tales of Beedle the Bard and the two Cormoran Strike novels. I love her.

7. Margaret Atwood (9): I think I have rhapsodized about Atwood enough times on here, so suffice it to say that I like her a lot.

8. C.S. Lewis (9): I've read all the Narnia books, plus The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity. He is always on my TBR list, but I never seem to get around to reading his other non-fiction.

9. Francine Rivers (8): I went through an obsessive phase with Rivers for a while. I still love the Mark of the Lion books and her Lineage of Grace volume.

10. Charles Dickens (7): The sad thing is how many extant Dickens books I still haven't read. Maybe in my lifetime I'll get around to them all...

Monday, 3 August 2015

Two Years

As I wrote a few weeks ago, last month marked two years in our journey to have a child. The thing is, it's easy to rationalize, to say that two years isn't a whole lot of time. Yet, any time you peruse a TTC board (that's “Trying To Conceive” for the uninitiated), you'll see people ranting about not getting pregnant within the first three months or so. Two years may not be a long time in comparison to your whole life, but it feels like a long time, especially when you're watching your dreams of a big family dwindle. If it takes two years for one child, will there be time to have a second? Two years is longer than Gil and I dated before we became engaged. It's half of the time Canadian teenagers spend in high school. It's one month shy of the amount of time I was in graduate school for my M.A., and several months longer than my degree program will be this time around. It's 730 days or 104 weeks, essentially 2.5 pregnancies, back-to-back, and you feel that when you start to see people who were pregnant when you started trying announce that their second child is on the way. In the time since we've started trying, I've welcomed a niece and nephew, attended at least four weddings (though I may be forgetting someone), traveled to New York and Dominican Republic and Texas, watched a World Cup Tournament from start to finish, put my Ottawa condo on the market and sold it after six months, applied to a Master's program and completed more than half of it, and the list goes on. I've cried with friends who lost their fathers and mothers, and been reminded of how short life actually is. John Lennon said that “Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans,” so I guess that's all the life that happened while I planned and hoped and yearned for a baby. Two years hurts.

The truth is that I feel like in these two years, or at least in the last year and a bit since infertility came into the picture, life has happened to us. It's impossible not to feel like you're in limbo, waiting for your life to start.

On the other hand, as I've neared the two-year mark, something happened. I started feeling a little better. A friend told me once that she found the one-year mark the hardest, and I didn't understand, but now I sort of do. By two years, you can finally resign the idea that you have any control over the process. If I did, I'd have a child by now. I can sit back a little and realize that I really cannot control my life. It's a hard lesson to learn, and I am sad that I had to learn it this way, but I guess I have. Someone remarked on an infertility message board lately that I seemed relaxed about the process, and I balked, but I suppose it's true. I've abandoned the temperature-taking, charting, symptom-obsessing behaviour that I had a year ago because it led me down the road of thinking I had some inkling of control over an uncontrollable situation. I've abandoned the obsessive planning because I can't figure out the future, or rather the future that I planned has become obsolete. Is this healthy or does it mean resignation to failure? I don't know. For the right now, though, it's all I can handle.

How have I changed in the past two years? That's hard to answer. I've definitely become a sadder person, one more prone to bitterness, which I fight every day. I feel like I've lost friends because I couldn't handle pretending that I'm okay. It's easy to look back on the person I was and mourn for the optimism that was lost. On the other hand, as I've mentioned before, I think I'm more compassionate to those in difficult situations. At least, I hope I am. I've lost some of my inner control freak, and that is probably healthier for the long run. I've become more open about my struggle in hopes to help others. In the long run, if I ever become a mother, I hope that I'll look back on this time and remember not just turmoil (though there was a lot of that), but also growth and friendship and love that kept me going. I hope I'll be able to say I came out of infertility a stronger person and maybe even be thankful a little for it. That day is not today, when my arms still long for a little one to hold, and my heart still aches on a daily basis... but maybe it will be one day.

ETA: This post has been linked up with Amateur Nester here.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Bookworms from Literatures (How Meta)

Gah, I'm late posting this week! I got caught up with two assignments, but I really liked this topic, so better late than never. This week's post at The Broke and the Bookish is about characters who are book nerds. I love me some book nerds. Here are some favourites from the books that I've read:

1. Hermione Granger from Harry Potter: This has to be a given, right?

2. Francie Nolan from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: I love how she just went to the library every day to educate herself. Libraries change lives, y'all.

3. Matilda Wormwood from Matilda: Another point for libraries! Who doesn't love how little Matilda went to the library and ended up with Great Expectations.

4. Marie-Laure from All The Light We Cannot See: I love how this character was so limited in what she could read (because she was blind and braille books are expensive), but yet was such a voracious reader of the books she had.

5. Cath from Fangirl (gee, I feel like I include this book every other week!): She read Simon Snow books and she wrote a Simon Snow book.

6.  Jo March from Little Women: Jo loved books and plays and writing. She's kind of my hero.

7. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables: Okay, she got a little wordy, but she was definitely a lover of literature. Remember her adventures reenacting the Lady of Shallot?

8. Diana Bishop from A Discovery of Witches (and sequels): This woman practically lived in the library.

I realized almost all the way through the list that it was almost entirely females, so here are some male bookworms:

9. Hanta from Too Loud a Solitude: I read this ages and ages ago, and would love to revisit it. It's a short novella about a man who works compacting paper and books, but as much as he can, rescues the books and reads them himself.

10. Konstantin Levin from Anna Karenina: I don't actually remember what he read, but I remember him as a man of books and learning.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Recent Books To Come My Way

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic (as always, over at The Broke and the Bookish) is the most recent ten books that have come into our possession. It could be purchases or library books. The majority of my reading comes from the library or via OverDrive, but I'm doing a course on graphic novels in which we are encouraged to do a lot of reading on the side, so I have purchased several of those in the recent past. This week was a little difficult because I had to retrace my readings based on Good Reads and try to remember when I purchased certain books or picked them up at the library. There was one book that I read recently, but I remembered that I actually signed it out in early June but renewed it a couple of times before committing.

1. Saga, Volume 4 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples (library): I'm kind of addicted to this series, something I *never* thought I would say about comics. I'm growing! Too bad volume 5 won't be out until September.

2. Persephone by Kaitlin Bevis (e-book purchase): I bought this after I saw it advertise on a list of e-book details. I have a bad habit of purchasing e-books and letting them sit on my Kindle for ages though...

3. The Case of Comrade Tulayev by Victor Serge (school library): One of the books on my summer to-read list.

4. Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge (library): We just did a presentation at school on Gulledge's second graphic novel (see below), so I took this out for comparison.

5. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (purchase): I initially borrowed this book from the library, but when I heard that a new version was out with an excerpt from her forthcoming book, I had to had it because I'm a total... wait for it... fangirl. :)

6. Russian Winter by Daphne Kolotay (OverDrive): Another entry on my summer TBR list, one which I ended up loving.

7. Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge (e-book purchase): This was for a school project, and unfortunately my local library does not carry it. I'm glad I bought it, though, as it's a great book.

8. Runaways: The Complete Collection, Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan (purchase): A guy at the book store recommended I check this out for my graphic novels course. I haven't started it yet though.

9. The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett (library): I read this for a summer reading challenge that I'm doing. I had to choose a book that was a bestseller in my birth year (1980), which was hard because I'd already read two on the list and some of the others were not to my taste. I can't say that I particularly liked The Key to Rebecca, unfortunately.

10. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (OverDrive): An impulse download that I quite enjoyed.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Hyped Books I've Never Read

This week's topic at The Broke and the Bookish is "Top Ten Hyped Books We've Never Read". It's hard for me to do this category because I'm not a hype kind of person. I tend to read a lot of classics and older books rather than jumping on too many bandwagons; still, there are books that are hard to avoid if you follow the blogging community, so here are some books that would fall into this category:

Books with General Hype:
1. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: I generally dislike the whole genre of "I did this thing and found some kind of enlightenment and let me write a book about it." I didn't particularly like Wild (I know, I know), and I have the feeling I won't like Eat Pray Love. If I do end up reading it one day, I'll just focus on the eating part. ;)

2. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg: Yeah, I know I should thinking about developing in my career and all that, but I like to read books that bear little resemblance to actual life.

3. Bossypants by Tina Fey: Everyone seems to like this book, and I probably would too, but I tend to only read biographies of dead people.

4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: I hear about this all the time, especially now with the television show, but it's a huge time commitment. Maybe one day....

5. A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin: See above.

6. Captivating by Stasi Eldridge: I really wanted to like this book because it was soooooo hyped in the Christian community for a while and most of my friends were raving about it. I have never managed to get past the first chapter. I remember having a great bonding moment with a friend when we realized that neither of us could get through Captivating.

Books With Blogging Hype:
7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: It's on my list, I swear!

8. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: So many bloggers seem to think this book is the bees knees. It doesn't seem to be my kind of thing, but I won't rule out reading it one of these days.

9. The Selection by Keira Cass: I hear about this book all the time and it seems you either love it or hate it.

10. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: I've been hearing a lot about this book lately and I'm not sure if I'd like it. Anyone want to convince me? ;)

What about you, readers? What hyped books have you never read?