"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.