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

Thursday, 29 December 2016

2016: A New Hope or The Darkness Strikes Back?

This year. I can't sum it up in words, more like guttural utterances and tears, with a few profanities strewn in. On top of our personal crises, which included the death of my beloved Sadie and several rounds of failed fertility treatments, we had a number of celebrity deaths, Brexit, the Trump campaign, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, the growing crisis in Syria, and probably a lot more than I'm forgetting. The world feels darker now. My anxiety has been ramped up considerably. My coping has been shaky at best. Despite a couple of high points such as my graduation (which was somewhat marred by my cat's death the day before) his year will go down as a bad one in my life.

On Friday, I went to do something I had really been looking forward to: a friend date to see the film Rogue One. You see, I have been a Star Wars junkie since I was quite small. I grew up enjoying the exploits of Han, Leia, and Luke. Just before meeting my friend, I learned that Carrie Fisher had suffered a heart attack, and on Tuesday her death was announced, followed by her mother's death the following day. I grieve. I was then reminded of this post from one year ago today, when I was feeling low about the year that was, and found a sliver of hope in watching Star Wars, Episode 4: A New Hope. I wrote these words, which feel ridiculously optimistic after the year that we just experienced: "So maybe it's there, somewhere, that hope. Maybe I can find it and grasp it, if even for a little while."

Looking back on 2016, it feels less like A New Hope than The Empire Strikes Back. It feels like this year was spent fighting the darkness within and without. I did a year-long study of Revelation and then an autumn study on spiritual warfare, yet I feel more helpless than ever against the darkness. I feel like I'm losing and being closed in on all sides. I have prayed and sought and prayed and sought some more, but it's hard to find God in the darkness. As we close off the year, it feels like the Emperor is in charge, Darth Vader has the upper hand, and Han Solo is frozen in carbonite. All I can do is hold on to a tiny hope that this isn't the end and that this darkness will not define the rest of my life.

However, in a dark time such as this one, I am reminded that Carrie Fisher, too, struggled with dark demons, that many people consider her a powerful spokesperson for those dealing with mental illness. So in honour of Carrie, I will raise a glass to toast the end of the year that was, and go forward hoping and praying that this year will be the one when the tide turns, when the darkness ebbs, and when I find hope again. Perhaps 2017 will be the year when I learn how to fight like Princess Leia. May it be so, and may the Force be with you.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I Read In 2016

2016 is heading toward it's end. I can't say I'll miss this year; I'm consigning it to the dust heap of history for a multitude of reasons, but one of the few bright lights was that I read a lot of great books. Today for Top Ten Tuesday, we're listing our favourite books read in the past year.

1. The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra: This was hands down my favourite book of the year. 

2. The Diviners by Libba Bray: A paranormal and super creepy story set in 1920s New York. I was gripped from the get-go and I can't wait for the third installment.

3. The Passion by Jeanette Winterson: A beautiful and strange story set in Venice and during the Napoleonic invasion of Russia. I liked it so much that I sent it as part of my Secret Santa gift to Melissa over at Writer Grrl Reads. Except that they had changed the cover from what I was used to and the new one has a topless woman on it, so I spent 20 minutes agonizing in the store about whether I'd be creeping out a stranger by sending her a book with nudity on the cover. I sent it anyway, and we both had a laugh over it.

4. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: Gripping and beautifully written novel set in post-War Barcelona. I loved reading it while I was visiting that city.

5. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton: I plowed through this in a couple of hours while killing time at the library. So. Many. Emotions.

6. The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng: A complex and layered novel set in wartime Penang. 

7. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: I put off reading this book for so many years, but I ended up find it to be a real page turner. Sure, there are parts that I skimmed (mostly battle scenes), but I felt really involved with the diverse cast of characters. I'm so glad that I finally read it!

8. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett: I don't know what to call this book exactly. It's in some ways a series of stories about the aftermath of an affair that leads to the break-up of a marriage. 

9. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: I just love World War II novels, and this one did not disappoint.

10. Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: A series of letters that the author wrote to his son about his life and what it means to be African American. I listened to the audiobook of this book in the car and found it so compelling that I was sorry I didn't have a print copy so I could underline everything.

Honourable mention:
Persuasion by Jane Austen: It was my third time reading this book, so I didn't want to count it amongst the books I'd read for the first time, but I find that I appreciate this book more as I get older. It is probably my favourite Austen, and that's saying something because my love for Pride and Prejudice runs deep.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

On the Term "Childless"

I've been thinking a lot about words lately. As a writer, words are important to me. There is a reason why we choose one synonym and not the other, why we say that something is 'gargantuan' instead of just 'big', for example. I myself have been known to prefer the term 'barren' because the former conveys the bleakness of my lost hopes in a way that the medical 'infertile' does not. Lately, as we ponder the life ahead of us, I'm wondering about 'childless' versus 'childfree'.

This is a polarizing topic. Those who choose not to have children often define themselves boldly as 'childfree', showing that they feel unencumbered by the societal pressure to have a family. It's something I admire, but I do not relate to. I do not feel like I belong among the 'childfree', those who are pleased to choose a life where they can go across the country on a moment's notice, trek the Andes, or just go for drinks after work without ever worrying about who will do the daycare pick-up. Moreover, my inability to conceive feels less like freedom and more like a millstone around my neck, dragging me to the depths, a perpetual burden. I do not think that I will ever view my lack of children as anything other than a lifelong grief.

On the other hand, there is the term 'childless'. Some people, particularly mothers, prefer this term because 'childfree' denotes a sense that to have children is burdensome. I sympathize, because I do experience my situation as marked by loss; however, I do not like those who have children deciding on the term that I - who cannot conceive - should use to define myself. More importantly, I do not wish to constantly define myself as 'less than'.

Those of us who have been in this position, pushing into the 30s with nary a stroller or a bassinet or a baby bump, have perhaps experienced the sense that at some point, their lack of children made them somehow 'less' than others. With phrases exalting a "mother's love" and a "mother's heart", and declaring that "moms are special people", we who are not mothers are defined as less loving, less compassionate. Our time is always less important; it is we the childless who should work late in the office and cover all the holidays. I hear this constantly as my husband consistently works almost every holiday in the year so that the parents in his practice can 'be with their families', as though I am not my husband's family, and as though Gil does not deserve to attend church on Easter like the rest of the doctors can. As though my punishment for being barren is that I should spend the next 20 years of Christmases alone while my husband works at the hospital, so that the deserving fertile people get to be with their families. We are told that our opinions and experiences are less meaningful when people throw around phrases like, "Well, you'll feel different about that when you have children." In churches, we are often an afterthought, the ones asked to teach Sunday school or hand out programs at the multitude of 'family-friendly' events; we are part of the body of Christ, but we're one of those less vital organs, like the appendix or the spleen. The moms - special as they are - get to be the heart and the lungs.

So when I am told that I ought to use the phrase 'childless' to appease some mothers, I wonder why? Why should I walk around defining myself constantly as lacking, as less than, as having a piece missing?  But maybe, in fact, we don't need a term for us as all, because we don't really exist. We are like the wallpaper that you might have noticed at first, but after a while you've forgotten whether it has flowers or polka dots. I don't need a word for my lack of children because my deep grief barely exists, it is invisible to most - even those have been told about it repeatedly - and in a sense, it's as though I don't really exist either.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

Today's TTT topic is books that we wouldn't mind getting for Christmas. Here goes!

1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling: Squeeee! Just take my money.

2. Samarkand: Recipes and Stories from Central Asia and the Caucasus by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford: I probably would never actually cook any of the recipes, but I'm sure the pictures are nice. ;)

3. Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine and Beyond by Olia Hercules: Another recipe book that looks lovely.

4. History: From the Dawn of Civilization to the Present by Adam Hart-Davis: This is totally up my alley.

5. Swing Time by Zadie Smith: I've read a few of her books and this looks very interesting.

6. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow: Because I have a thing for collecting historical biographies.

7. Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman: I've meant to read this for a while now, but never got around to it. The cover is so nice! I wouldn't mind owning it.

8. Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan: I will probably get this from the library, but I love owning heavy historical books, so it would make me happy to find it under my tree.

9. The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew: I've been reading a lot about First Nations issues recently, and this autobiography seems like it would be interesting and important.

10. When Breath Become Air by Paul Kalanithi: I've heard so many rave reviews of this book, and it seems like one I might want to read more than once.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I'm Looking Forward To In 2017

Another Tuesday, another link-up. This week's topic deals with books we're looking forward to in the first half of 2017. I'm not sure if that is specifically looking at new books or just books we're looking forward to reading, so I'll do a little bit of both.

Books anticipated in early 2017:
1. Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han: I just love this series so much. The characters are adorable.

2. Warcross by Marie Lu: To be honest, I just found this book as I was looking up books coming out in 2017, but it sounds like a fascinating concept!

3. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli: I need this!

4. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman: I am new(ish) on the Gaiman train, but this looks fantastic.

5. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden: Woohoo, more Russian themes!

Books I plan to read in 2017 that have already been released:
6. One Night in Winter by Simon Montefiore: This has been on my list for a while and oh, hey, it's another Russian theme.

7. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende: While have long intended to read some Allende, I recently read a book about travels in South America, and the section on Chile made me bunk this modern classic up my list.

8. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: I might as well jump on the bandwagon!

9. Avalanche by Julia Leigh: I've heard this is a gritty, real take on a failed IVF experience, and I'm really interested to read it.

10. Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks To Your Plan B For A Meaningful And Fulfilling Future Without Children by Jody Day: Sounds cheerful, eh? I'm really trying to wrap my head around the hand we've been dealt. I'm not okay with it, and I'm not sure I ever will be, but I'm trying to find a sliver of a silver lining, and hopefully this book will help.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Have Yourself a Snarky Little Christmas (Card)

'Tis the season for Christmas cards. Around this time of year, we go to the mailbox and find it stuffed, not just with a gazillion flyers for things we probably don't need, but also with cards. Our mantles and fridges are decorated with images of angels and reindeer and bells, covered with red, green, and gold, and bedecked with photos of families in their holiday best, smiling in a meadow or in front of a Christmas tree. Doesn't it put a smile to your face?

It doesn't. Not to me anyway.

You might wonder why I am such a Grinch? People take time out of their busy lives and pay for postage just to wish me a happy holidays, and here I am, tossing their handiwork in the recycling bin. Am I just a horrible person who hates children and families and the true meaning of Christmas?

I've posted in the past about how difficult holidays, and especially Christmas, are to me in my infertility journey. There seems to be a societal consensus that Christmas is for the kids, that we're supposed to find the magic in watching our little ones open their gifts from Santa and experience the joys of the season. All of the radio and television ads are about children. They feature happy families putting up a tree. We all know that Christmas is about families, and those of us without children - who may never have a little one to spoil in the name of Santa - well, we can just sit back and watch everyone else share the magic.

It's no secret that this year has been extremely difficult in many ways. There were joyful moments, like when I graduated and our brief holiday in Spain, but overall, 2016 has been a hard year. Our infertility treatment failed. Our cat died. I suffered anxiety and depression. I feel like have been mired in sorrow, fighting so hard just to get one foot in from of the other while I am up to my knees in the mud and muck of loss and grief.

One of the saddest parts of this journey has been the lack of support from loved ones. When you lose a family member or get sick, people rally around you. They bring casseroles and send flowers. This has been one of the most profound grief experiences of my life, but no one sent flowers or brought around food. Very few people have acknowledged it at all. Many of our friends have faded quietly out of our life, unable to face us in our sorrow. It hurts.

So what does this have to do with Christmas cards? Well, everything. This time of year, the cards come in. People who never acknowledged our pain, who never sent so much as a two-line email telling us how sad they are for our situation, are now sending us cards with their adorable children. Maybe they think this is helpful and their way of sending love, but when you've been silent during my grief, a photograph of your happy family makes me feel like you're rubbing it in my face that you have a family and I don't. It doesn't say "I love you" to me; it says "LOOK AT MY BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN." If you haven't reached a hand down to help pull me out of the pit, then I don't want your family on my fridge. I don't have time for superficial friendships any more. I want to invest in the people who will invest in me in return. I want to spend my time and emotional effort with people who will make me feel loved and supported in my darkest days.

This Christmas, maybe I am the Grinch. I'm okay with that. I've been asking myself the hard questions this year, like why do I bother sending cards anyway? Is it out of habit, or because I truly love these people, and if so, how am I prepared to invest in those relationships in the coming year? I ask you, too, to think before you send that card. What are you trying to say with it? Is this person going through a hard time, and have you reached out at all? How are you investing in that friendship in other ways, or is it just a once-a-year, Christmas-card relationship?  Let's not just do things because we think we should. Let's make gestures that are meaningful instead.

Merry Christmas. This year, let's love harder and better.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2016

Today's TTT topic is "Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read for the First Time in 2016". Pretty self-explanatory. Here's my list!

1. Elena Ferrante: I've been making my way through the Neapolitan novels. One book left, and that's on deck for me when I finish my current read.

2. Kristin Hannah: I loved The Nightingale. So good!

3. S.E. Hinton: I finally read The Outsiders when I found myself with hours to kill and no book while waiting for my car to be repaired, and to my surprise, I utterly loved it.

4. Dan Simmons: I had Drood on my list forever, but finally made my way to it in the spring. I'll definitely be reading more of his books.

5. Geraldine Brooks: People of the Book was a really intriguing concept. I definitely want to read a few more of her books, especially March.

6. Carlos Ruiz Zafon: I read The Shadow of the Wind while on holiday in Barcelona, and it was one of the best books I read all year.

7. Libba Bray: I finally started the Diviners series, and boy am I hooked. I can't wait for the third book to come out!

8. Becky Albertalli: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda made me laugh and cry.

9. Markus Zusak: How did I wait so long to read The Book Thief?

10. ShayaLonnie: Okay, so this year I discovered FanFic and got obsessed. ShayaLonnie is one of my favourites.

Now it's your turn, readers! What new authors captivated you this year?

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Things For Which I Am Thankful

I haven't been blogging a lot lately. My apologies. I got a bit caught up with life. I'll update more later, but I got a new part-time job, and between that, NaNoWriMo (first time doing it!), the US election, and feeling a bit overwhelmed with grief, I haven't had a lot to say about myself.

I missed last week's link-up, but I like the title and I'm in desperate need of a little gratitude in my life so I'll link up with the same topic this week: Ten Things I Am Thankful For.

Non-Bookish Things
1. I'm beyond thankful for my country. We have made many mistakes over the years, but in the past little while, I have been overwhelmed with joy that I live in a country and a city that is diverse and accepting of others. Last week, I have the privilege of celebrating with a friend who had her Canadian citizenship ceremony. When the waitress at our restaurant asked why we were all so happy, we told her. She responded with, "That's so amazing! Way to go! I don't know if I could do it, especially the test!" She then had a free dessert sent to our table. It was such a beautiful gesture of welcome, and I was very moved.

2. I'm thankful for my husband. We have been through deep waters, and I know that it has not been easy for him to grieve with me and also deal with a spouse who is deeply hurting and dealing with depression and anxiety. He has been my biggest fan every step of the way, and I am so grateful.

3. I'm thankful for my my family. Sometimes I take it for granted that parents and siblings love and support one another, but the more I see of the world, the more I realize that isn't always true. We may not always do the right things, but we have each other's back and my family is full of love.

4. I'm thankful for Neville! He brings me joy every day.



5. I'm thankful for my Christian faith. I don't talk about it that much on here because I've been wrestling a lot with God and with His plan for my life. I don't understand why He has chosen to leave us childless, and I struggle with why I have not like I fit in or was supported by the broader Church when I was in the dark hole of depression... but I know that this life is not all there is, and I am thankful that God gives me hope in the hard times.

Bookish Things:
6. I'm thankful for Overdrive and public libraries. I would probably be bankrupt if there were not so many ways to get books for free!

7. I'm thankful for Harry Potter. The books have gotten me through some very dark days, and I am looking forward to a full reread over the Christmas season.

8. I'm thankful that with the growth of ebooks, I can read a lot of the classics for free on my Kindle.

War And Peace on a summer's day

9. I'm thankful for the book blogging community, where I can always find recommendations for books that will challenge and entertain me.

10. I'm thankful for writers who go deep into research to make their stories more accurate. There is nothing more satisfying to me as a historian than reading historical fiction and finding that the writer did his/her homework.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Halloween?

So it's Halloween. A few weeks ago, the facilitator of my infertility support group asked if we have trouble with this day, and most of us said that we don't. I don't remember this being a particularly hard day in the past - certainly not up there with Mother's Day - but it turns out that I should know better than to make assumptions with the emotions of infertility. I'm finding today hard.

Halloween is not a big thing for me. I enjoyed it as a child, and somewhat as a college student, but frankly I'm not hugely into costumes and have never had the desire to dress up as an adult, so I've predominantly ignored it in years past. I hand out candy, but I don't watch spooky movies or decorate beyond a simple pumpkin. It's not my thing.

Halloween in uni. Oh my.
This year, I suddenly find today difficult. My Facebook feed is full of children and families in costume. Everyone seems to be enjoying today. Everyone but me. Since we've made the decision to step back from treatment, it feels like I'm mourning all the things that will never be. I won't dress my adorable cherubs in fun costumes. I won't ever be the one going door to door. It feels like just one more aspect of life that I'm shut out of. Between Christmas, Family Day, Mother's Day, and Halloween, it feels like every few months there's another observance to remind me that I'm on the outside looking in, while others mark the passage of time. I feel a little like Scrooge peering in on his nephew's Christmas dinner in A Christmas Carol. Observing, but not observed. Such is the life of an infertile woman.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Five

Five years ago, I married the love of my life. That sounds so dramatic and picturesque. It WAS a beautiful wedding, but Gil and I were never star-crossed lovers, but rather ordinary people who found each other in an ordinary way. He wasn't my first love, but he was my best love and will (hopefully!) be my last love.

These five years have been quite the journey. Sometimes I find it difficult to mark anniversaries because things turned out so very different from the way that I hoped and planned. There were many days when I thought the infertility struggle would break me forever. There are still long nights when I wonder why it had to be like this, and why my husband stays with me when I am barren, broken, and depressed. I look at the photos from five years ago and tears come to my eyes, not tears of joy, but of sadness for the dark days that were still ahead for starry-eyed 2011 Maggie and Gil.

But...

But...

But our story is not over. Our love is not over. I married to a man who still makes me laugh every day, even on the days when my cheeks feel permanently streaked with tears. I married a man who tells me he would do it all again, even knowing how dark the nights would be, and how much of me would be lost in the journey. When I met Gil more than seven years ago, and even when I married him five years ago, I didn't yet know that I was marrying the best man there is, one who has integrity and tenacity and pluck in spades. Because of who he is, and because of who our God is, I have faith that one day the sun will shine a little brighter, and the tears will flow less frequently, and we will find out who we are in this new state of being permanently childless. There are still hard days ahead, but today I will celebrate with my best friend.

Happy anniversary, my dearest love and my dearest friend.


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Top Ten (Er, Twelve) Tuesday: Character Names I Would Use On A Child Or Pet

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a little bit bittersweet for me. The official topic is "Ten Characters I'd Name A Child/Dog/Cat/Car/Etc. After". It's a hard topic because I have a long list of names for my future children, many of them from works of literature. I could easily name a dozen kids after my favourite books, but if you've tracked around her for a while, you may know that our journey to have a child has been unsuccessful, and that at this point, I am attempting to come to terms with never being a mother. Sorry to be a bit of a let-down on what is normally a lighthearted link-up, but there you go. I do, however, love names, so I'm going to open up a bit and share some of the names on my list that I fell in love with through books, and a few that I would happily use on a future fur baby. I'm excluding Bible names, because that list is looooooooooong. :)

Names I would use on a future child (if my husband would ever agree to them):
1. Hermione: I don't care if everyone in the world would respond with "Like in Harry Potter?" Yes, like Harry Potter, and like Shakespeare, and the daughter of Helen of Troy. It's such a beautiful and rich name, and I would use it in a heartbeat if it weren't for the fact that my husband would exercise veto power.

2. Josephine: Jo March is such a great role model for a bookish girl like I was. Again, it's not really usable for me since my two best friends and sister-in-law are all called Jo, but I like to daydream about a little Josie.

3. Marilla: Because Marilla Cuthbert is just such a great character, and I adore Rilla of Ingleside as well.

4. Beatrice: I mostly just like this name, but I fell extra in love because of Beatriz in Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow Of The Wind.

5. Jane: There are so many great Janes in literature like Jane Austen, who gave us Jane Bennet, and my beloved Jane Eyre.

6. Dorothea: I've loved this name since I first read Middlemarch.

7. Walter: Oh Walter Blythe, I love you so! *Cries*

8. Edmund: Another name that I like for many reasons, but Edmund Pevensie and Edmund from Mansfield Park make me love it more.

Names I would and probably will use on a future pet:
9. Minerva: Yes, another HP name, but so fitting. There is a kitty named Minerva in my future. It's only a matter of time.

10. Luna: Actually, before we got Neville, we considered adopting a kitten that an acquaintance found, but that fell through. She was a lovely white cat and I was going to call her Luna.

11. Bingley: I'm not a huge dog person, but I have this dream of having a dog named Mr Bingley one day. Mr Bingley was just so cheerful and lovable that his name seems to suit a future pup.

12. Dunstable: I don't know why, but ever since I read Fifth Business 20ish years ago, I've had this in mind for a pet. It just makes me laugh to think of a cat with such a stodgy name.

As an added bonus, here are some names that I will never use, even if I love the associated characters:
Fitzwilliam: Sorry Mr Darcy, but no.

Bathsheba: Far From The Madding Crowd is a favourite of mine, and the character is a great example of a strong woman, but Bathsheba is a whole lot of name to bestow on someone.

Bertha: I adore Anne of Green Gables, but even though she loves this name, I do not.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I've Read Because of Other Bloggers

This week's TTT topic is books we've read on the recommendations of book blogs and vlogs. Here goes!

1. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra: I am fairly certain that I read this book because of Lianne over at Eclectic Tales, and I loved it. His second book has easily been my favourite read this year.

2. Walk On Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson: I read this because it was mentioned in one of Emily May's vlogs, and I'm super stoked to have the sequel in my hot hands to start today! It's also the first western I'd read in a long time... possibly in my entire life.

3. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng: I think I read this from Barefoot Med Student's blog, and was excited to find a book that dealt with my husband's native country of Malaysia.

4. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: I'm not sure where in particular I found out about this book, but it seems to be on a fair amount of blogs.

5. The Diviners by Libba Bray: Same as above. I'd seen it mentioned on various sites, and decided to take a risk. I ended up loving this book and am excited to read the rest of the series.

6. The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan: This is thinly veiled Will and Kate fanfiction... and I loved it. I think it first came to my attention via a few blogs, among them The Broke and the Bookish and Tiff at Mostly YA Lit.

7. Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli: I first became intrigued by this book when I bought a copy for the Broke and Bookish Secret Santa last year and sent it to Tiff at Mostly YA Lit. I realized then that I wanted to read it for myself, and what a sweet book it was.

8. To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han: This is another book that I saw on multiple sites, and decided to purchase when it popped up in my email on a list of Kindle deals. I adore the characters in this series and the light escape it provides from regular life.

9. The Young Elites by Marie Lu: I think I learned of this one from The Book Geek. To be honest, the first book wasn't my favourite and I have yet to read the sequel, but they did lead me to check out the dystopian Legend series, which I enjoyed.

10. Everything by Rainbow Rowell: I had never heard about her before I started checking out book blogs, and man, did I get hooked after reading Eleanor & Park. Her books are so addictive and the characters so interesting.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Villains From Recent Reads

Today's TTT topic is focused on villains. I was tempted to talk about my all-time most memorable villains, but they're probably everyone's most memorable villains, like Voldemort and Dracula and whatnot. Instead, I'm writing about memorable villains in some of the books I've read recently (i.e., in the last 2-3 years). I've chosen to focus on actual villains and omit cases where the villain was society, or Stalinism, or the protagonist him/herself.

1. The forest in Uprooted by Naomi Novik: I enjoyed this book and the fact that there wasn't so much of a tangible enemy except for the forest itself.

2. Drood in Drood by Dan Simmons: The whole question of this book is what is real, if anything, but I found the idea of the mysterious Drood very compelling.

3. Inspector Fumero in The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: Fascist sadists make for scary villains.

4. Naughty John in The Diviners by Libba Bray: Soooooooo scary. This book gave me the creeps!

5. The Humdrum in Carry On by Rainbow Rowell: Mostly because it's called the Humdrum. I just like the name.

6. John Uskglass (the Raven King) in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell by Susanna Clarke: I loved this book and was compelled by the mysterious Raven King that lures people into his traps.

7. Ursula the nanny in The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaman: Well, isn't that just your worst nightmare of a babysitter??

8. The perpetrator in Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects: I don't want to spoil the ending, so I won't reveal who ended up being the guilty person in this novel, but this book was incredibly disturbing, especially the villain.

9. Baron Harkonnen in Dune by Frank Herbert: He gave me the creeps.

10. Morgause in The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley: So manipulative!


Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR

Happy autumn! Today's TTT topic is the books on our fall to-read list. I've done a lot of reading over the summer and I am looking forward to some of the books I've got on deck for the fall.

1. Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson: Eep! This book comes out TODAY! I read the first book in the series, and loved it, so I've had a hold on this a the library for ages even though it hasn't been released yet.

2. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett: I've only read one other of her books, but I enjoyed it and this one seemed intriguing.

3. The Girls by Emma Cline: I've heard this is a real page-turner. I'm just waiting for my e-book hold to come in.

4. Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov: I must have added this to my to-read list ages ago, and I don't remember why, but as a die-hard Russophile, I'm interested in finding out what attracted me in the first place.

5. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell: A portrait of a country town by the author of North and South, which I loved.

6. All Roads Lead to Austen by Amy Elizabeth Smith: I mean, it's related Jane Austen, so what could go wrong?

7. Bolshoi Confidential by Simon Morrison: Ahhhhhh! I cannot wait for this to be released. Russia! Ballet! *swoons*

8. The Crimean War by Orlando Figes: This season's list is a little Russia-centric, eh? Oh well. Figes writes history in a very readable style, and I'm quite interested in this topic as I'm not hugely knowledgeable about the Crimean War.

9. The Last Command by Timothy Zahn: I didn't love the second book in the Thrawn trilogy, but I've been on a Star Wars kick all year and am psyched for Rogue One, so I'll probably try to read this third book in the series some time in the autumn.

10. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: I've read The Hunchback of Notre Dame AND War and Peace this year, both super long books that were on my lifetime to-read list, so why not finish off 2016 with another long classic.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

A Letter

Dear child of my heart,

I’ve written a lot of letters over the years, some to dear friends, some to people I had never met, and others to the nebulous “to whom it may concern”, but apart from writing to Santa in my childhood, I’ve never written a letter to someone who didn’t exist. But in a way, you do exist. You are my child, the child of my heart. You were never conceived and no one knows you in the flesh, and you will never have a fingerprint or a social insurance number, but I know you. You exist in my mind and in my dreams, and most importantly in my heart.

Child of my heart, I am sorry we will never meet, but know that I imagined the day of our meeting a thousand times. The way I would hold you and weep when I finally saw your face. The way your dad would be in awe. How we would send the news to the far corners of the earth that you were here at last, our baby.

I am sorry that I will never carry you in my womb. I’ll never know what it felt like when you kicked me or be able to complain about your pressure on my organs. I’ll never know the agony of pregnancy nausea coupled with that tiny bit of joy because it means you’re still there, holding on. I’ll never touch the place on my middle where you are poking your little arms or legs or butt out, never be able to sing or speak to you, to be the first voice you will recognize.

I’m sorry that you will never be able to show me the depths of love that exist in this world or challenge my innate selfishness by just being a person who needs me constantly. When other women talk with knowing nods about how motherhood changes a person, I’ll think of you – my nonexistent child – and know that I would have been changed too, and maybe I already have been – but in ways that none of these women would understand if I told them.

I’m sorry that you will not know your loving grandparents. I’ll never be able to look at your expression and see my father or mother, my younger brother or your own dad staring back at me. I won’t come around the corner and be overcome with emotion when I see you moving your arms in a gesture that is just like your grandma. I’ll never know if you would have taken after me in my musical abilities or my husband with his mischievous spirit.

I think of all the experiences we were going to share. I was going to read to you, first Goodnight Moon and Paddington Bear, later Anne of Green Gables and the Narnia books. I was excited to see you experience beloved characters for the first time. We would take you to the park, to see you soar in the wind on the swings and use the slide with glee, knowing that mommy would always be there to catch you at the bottom. We would go to the cottage, and you’d splash around on the same beach that I did when I was a child, and we would race to the dam, pick raspberries, and mark your height each year on the side of the bedroom door jamb. Then I’d show you on another doorway how tall I was at that age, and your uncle too, and we would compare.

I was going to watch you grow up, experience hardships and pains that would break my own heart as I stood by but couldn’t stop them. One day, you wouldn’t like me that much, but we’d push through. I would make a million mistakes and say all the wrong things, but in every moment, you would at least know you were loved, so loved. If you ended up like me, you would want to spread your wings and fly far, far away. I would stifle tears and let you go to forge your own path because I too once (or twice or three times) stood at airport security with a big bag, waving at my parents as I went off for adventure in new lands. As I watched you go, I’d lean on my husband and let the tears out, and he’d remind me that you were strong and would have the time of your life.

People will say that you can’t mourn someone who didn’t exist, but to me, you are real. You will always exist. You are my child – the child that never was and will never be – and I long for you each day with a visceral ache. I will miss you every day until it’s time to close my eyes and leave this world for new adventures. I will always love you, child of my heart.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Dystopian Books

Today's TTT topic is our top 10 books in any given genre. Is dystopian a genre? I decided it was, so that is my topic. Some of these veer more into the post-apocalyptic side rather than a full-blown dystopia, but here are my choices anyway. I am fairly picky about dystopian books. I need a fairly believable back story and am frustrated if the plot gets taken up by love affairs and the actual context is disregarded. I've read several series that gripped me at first, but over the course of time I ended up finding that many blended into each other in my memory. I also have yet to read The Stand by Stephen King and The Passage by Justin Cronin, though both are on my long-list of books to read. I didn't include 1984 or Brave New World, not because they aren't great, but because I read them in the mid-90s so I don't remember that much.

1. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood: This is one of my absolute favourite books of all time. I am not mad about the sequels, especially MaddAddam, and I think Oryx and Crake works as a standalone book.

2. We by Yevgeny Zamiatin: This is THE original dystopia, the one that inspired George Orwell.

3. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: This is one book that is possibly not a real dystopian. It deals with a worldwide plague and the aftermath, so some purists might say it's more post-apocalyptic in nature, but I don't really care. It's lovely.

4. The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler: A gripping story of a society falling apart.

5. The Giver and its sequels by Lois Lowry: I can't believe I only read this two years ago. While short, it is a poignant story about a society that has chosen harmony at the expense of truth and really experiencing life.

6. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood: I've read this a few times and I feel like it gets creepier and more poignant every time.

7. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: It takes a while to figure out what is really going on in this book, and that's why I liked it.

8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: I didn't love the sequels, but there is no doubt that the first book in the series was gripping and presented a fascinating dystopia of haves and have-nots.

9. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: This book actually has several interrelated stories that happen in various eras, but one is in a future dystopian society. It was a weird book to get into, but I ended up enjoying it a lot.

That's all I could do. There were a bunch of others that I thought about, but there wasn't one that stood out enough to me to make it top-10 quality. I'd welcome any recommendations in the comments!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: TV edition

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is television-themed. I was going to do my favourite shows of all time, but there is only one show in my heart, for all time, and that's My So-Called Life, so the confession of my undying love for Jordan Catalano out of the way, here is what Gil and I will be watching this coming TV season:

Current Programs:
1. Star Trek: Discovery: I can't wait for this! New Star Trek!! My nerdy little heart is psyched!

2. The Gilmore Girls reboot: It's coming our way in November. That gives me time to actually catch up on all the older seasons!

3. Elementary: Probably Gil's and my favourite recent show. I love the way they've taken the dynamic between Watson and Sherlock. I was afraid at first that the two would fall in love, and it would wreck the program, but I've been pleasantly surprised with how their characters and story arcs have developed.

4. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: We are fully addicted to this. Wasn't the season finale intense?!

5. Blindspot: Gil and I thoroughly enjoyed trying to put the pieces together last season to see if we could figure out the truth about Jane. I'm looking forward to new mysteries in the coming season.

6. MacGyver: Gil was absolutely obsessed with the original MacGyver, so I don't think I can avoid watching this with him.

7. Fuller House: Yeah, I know, it's super hokey, but it's pure nostalgia for me.

Older Shows:
9. Gilmore Girls: I actually never watched this program when it was current, a fact that many people find astounding because I am way, way too much like Rory Gilmore. I blame the fact that when it was new, I was a university student sharing a TV (and a very basic cable package) with four roommates, so the number of shows we could agree on was limited. (All I remember watching is Seventh Heaven, some soaps my roommates loved, and something called Retro Boogie Dance Party that played in the middle of the night and introduced us to the original video for "It's Raining Men", which features men in speedos falling from the sky.) That digression aside, I've now gotten into the show and have slowly been making my way through all seven seasons. I'm midway through season 5 now, which leaves me some time to catch up before American Thanksgiving. For any interested parties, I'm solidly on Team Logan.

9. Travel food shows. All the travel food shows.

10. Call the Midwife: Maybe. I have days when I want to start this show, and days when it seems like the absolute worst thing for my depressed, infertile soul. I'll probably cave one of these days, because I do love a good period piece.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Long weekend musings on summer and infertility and grief

It's that time of year now when the temperature drops in the evening, kids go back to school, and even though the leaves are still green, we know it's only a short time before the autumn will be back in force. It feels like every day, someone else wants to talk about how the summer has just flown by, and where did those months go? To be honest, I'm finding this difficult. My summer has not flown by. My summer has been painful and grief-filled. I struggle with the balance between being authentic and not wanting to alienate people with my grief.

I haven't updated in a while about our infertility journey, so here goes: In the spring, we decided to head back to the clinic to try again. The timing made sense as I was finishing school, but did not have a job lined up, so my schedule was free enough to allow for the myriad of appointments without being too draining. This new procedure required me to give myself daily injections for the first 10-12 days of my cycle, which was pretty daunting, but I quickly got used to it. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that we tried this for several cycles, and it was unsuccessful.

Gil and I now find ourselves in a quandary. There are other possible options, if we want to be more aggressive. People tell us we have to try everything, that it will certainly work one time. On the other hand, the reality is that isn't true. There are many people who try everything and still end up childless. Success rates for IVF and surrogacy and all that stuff are actually not nearly as high as people think. Moreover, I am losing so much of myself due to depression related to infertility. I miss the person I was. I don't want to live through three more years of constantly oscillating between optimism and grief. When I went in for my last blood test towards the end of July, I had this sense that I was done with the clinic, that I just really did not want to go back. But the other option, the one that says we will never hold our child in our arms, is almost unthinkable.

So now we grieve. I grieve the life I imagined, the exhausting days of looking after little ones, the hectic years of school-aged children, the lonely days of seeing teenagers fly the nest, the moments when I would see my husband or my grandmother in the fact of my own child. I don't know how to imagine a life without children. I don't compute how I will never be a grandmother.

We grieve alone. People do not understand this or even recognize it as grief. They want to tell us how we can have such a great life without children, as though it's easy to just change course. As though it's not the greatest tragedy of my life to lose the future that I imagined since I was a young child. So I have to smile a few dozen times and say, "Yes, summer is over. It's gone so fast," when really, it was slow and painful and sad. There were no bike rides with kids, no water parks or camp outs or walks to the park. My cat died. My dreams died. Yes, there were fun moments, like when I graduated and a brief trip to Spain in June, but mostly, 2016 has been a summer of grief.

Do I believe God is good throughout this journey? Yes. Somehow I do. Somehow, I trust that He can redeem these awful years, that He can put beauty into our darkest moments. I fight with Him daily. I ask Him why. I ask Him where the Church was, how it could be that His people were not there in the moments when I was begging Him to let me die instead of giving me this childless future. He does not answer, but He tells me to trust, so I have faith that one beautiful day, the pain will make sense and the tears will be wiped away. Until then, we grieve.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Read In School

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is anything back-to-school related, so I chose to write about my favourite books that I read during my schooling, from high school to my many forays into university.

1. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev: I read this in a Russian history course in university. I don't actually remember a lot, but I do enjoy Turgenev a lot, so I should probably read it again!

2. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas: In Grade 11 history class, we were given a list of historical novels and had to chose one for a book report, so I chose this adventure story, and I wasn't disappointed!

3. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee: A marvelous classic that was assigned reading in high school.

4. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki: I read this for my graphic novels class last year, and appreciated the summer coming-of-age tale.

5. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery: An all-time favourite. I actually own this book in three different languages...

6. The Cowards by Josef Skvorecky: I read this book in German for a Czech literature class that I took while studying abroad. In one of the high points of my bookworm life, my professor sent a copy of my essay on the book to the author (whom he knew personally), and I received a postcard from Skvorecky himself!

7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey: Better than the movie.

8. Maus by Art Spiegelman: I read this during my graphic novels class as well. Interesting and creative take on a very difficult subject.

9. Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger: Okay, so we actually only read two short stories from this book in English class, but I enjoyed them so much that I bought the book. It began me on a love affair with the name Esme, that is only slightly dulled by the fact that the name was used in Twilight. :P

10. Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich by Stephen Leacock: I read this in a university course on Canadian history, and it was laugh-out-loud funny.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Have Been On My TBR Shelf For A Looooong Time

Welp, I've missed a few weeks, including a couple of TTT topics that were interesting, but I couldn't get my act together to actually write. Sigh. Anyway, here it is Tuesday again, and the list topic is Ten Books That Have Been On Your Shelf/TBR From Before You Started Blogging That You Still Haven't Read Yet. Oof. I started blogging in 2011, well before I had a GoodReads account, and I've moved since then, so it's hard to find out which books I have genuinely had sitting around on my list since then, but I've tried to do some digging.

Books I physically own:
1. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer: I've owned this book for years, but never finished it. Maybe I'm afraid of what it will reveal about the nature of my own discipleship?

2. Fidel Castro by Robert E. Quick: I have a weird addiction with buying historical biographies, but not reading them.

3. The Tin Drum by Guenter Grass: I loved Crabwalk and picked this up used, but have yet to read it, even though it's moved houses with me several times!

4. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky: But on the plus side, I'm finally reading War and Peace, so that gives me hope that I'll read The Idiot one of these days. :)

5. Sandra Gulland's trilogy on Josephine Bonaparte: I read the first one, but not the rest, and they've been on my shelf for ages and ages.

6. Cancer Ward by Alexander Solzhenitsyn: Gosh, some of my books are so depressing! I think this was actually among my dad's old books that he didn't want. I haven't felt up to another Solzhenitsyn for a long time.

7. Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan: I got about a third of the way into this one, put it down, and never finished. That was about 10 years ago.

From my virtual TBR:
8. Heart Of A Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov: I saw part of the old film version while living in Russia, and have always meant to read the original.

9. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams: Yeah, yeah, I know.... One day I'll get around to this!

10. The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard Evans: It's definitely not on my physical shelf, but I have long meant to read Evans' trilogy on the history of the Third Reich. Maybe one day I will.....


Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I'd Buy Post Haste

Happy Tuesday! I can't believe it's August! We've just had our second last summer long weekend here in Ontario, we have a month until Labour Day when schools start, and a month or so to get through the summer reading lists we made back in May or June. I've been reading a lot this summer, but today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is "Ten books we'd buy right this second if someone handed us a fully loaded gift card". I could spend that baby pretty quickly.

1. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: I saw this at the bookstore the other day and was immediately intrigued.

2. The Girls by Emma Cline: I actually have an e-book hold on this at the library, but of course I'd want my own copy so I could read it right away.

3. The Nest by Cynthia D'aprix Sweeney: I've been eyeing this one for a while, but have yet to commit.

4. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante: Highly recommended by a friend.

5. The Golden Age Shtetl: A New History of Jewish Life in Eastern Europe by Yohanen Petrovsky-Shtern: Showing my nerdiness here.... I love history books and would definitely pick some up if I had a big gift card at my disposal.

6. Awakening Lives: Autobiographies of Jewish Youth in Poland Before the Holocaust by Jeffrey Shandler: I saw this at the library where I volunteer, but they don't carry it in my local public library. It seems really interesting.

7. March by Geraldine Brooks: Because I adore Little Women.

8. Spiritual Sobriety: Stumbling Back to Faith When Good Religion Goes Bad by Elizabeth Esther: I used to follow her blog, and this looks really interesting and relevant to some of my current struggles.

9. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow: I have such a soft spot for massive historical biographies.

10. The Fox Was Ever the Hunter by Herta Mueller: I don't really know what prompted me to add this to my TBR, but it caught my eye, it fits into my lifelong fascination with Eastern Europe, and I'd probably snap it up.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Reads Set Outside of the US

Today's topic at The Broke and the Bookish asks us to list our favourite books that take place outside of the United States. When I looked through my recent reads, I found that the majority were not set in the US, probably because I read a lot of classical British lit as well as Canadian literature, but it's an interesting topic anyway. I limited myself further by looking only at the last two years of my reading, and also not using classics (since most of the ones I like are set in the UK) and nothing set in a fantasy realm or other planets.

1. The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra. Setting: Russia (St. Petersburg, Siberia, Chechnya). I just finished this recently and it's probably my favourite book of the year. It is a series of connected short stories that made me think and laugh and gasp at the beautiful language.

2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafรณn. Setting: Barcelona, Spain. A mysterious page-turner with intriguing characters and also beautifully written (though I'm sure it's even better in the original Spanish).

3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Setting: Nazi Germany. The moving story of a young girl taken in by a foster family in the 1930s who discovers a love for books and also befriends the Jewish man who is later hidden in their basement.

4. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Setting: Wartime Britain and France. It's hard to fully describe this story of an unlikely friendship without giving away too many details. Suffice it say that I was blown away by the intricacies and the way it all worked together in the end. 

5. The Passion by Jeannette Winterson. Setting: Venice, France, and the Napoleonic invasion of Russia. It's hard to describe this short book with it's intriguing characters and fantastical elements, but I couldn't put it down.

6. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Setting: Occupied Poland, Germany, Lithuania, and the Baltic Sea. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel with its four complex narrators telling the story of the wreck of the Wilhelm Gustloff during World War II. (Hmmm, I guess I'm reading a lot of books set in WWII recently!)

7. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Setting: England. Okay, so this is set in an alternate UK where magic is real, but it's a wonderful and gripping novel about a power struggle between two magicians and how the magic returned to England. 

8. The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis. Setting Ukraine and Israel. An Israeli politician sneaks off with his girlfriend to his birthplace of Crimea to escape a political scandal. There are so many levels in this novel. I loved it.

9. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. Setting Huron lands in what is today Ontario, Canada. This is a gripping novel about the interactions between the Huron, the Iroquois, and the French in the early years of colonization. 

10. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. Setting: Wartime Malaya and Australia. I didn't love this book as there were elements that I found annoying, but I enjoyed learning about post-WWII Australia and the description of wartime Malaya was fascinating and heartbreaking.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Three Years

This week marks two things: It makes seven years since my first date with Gil, which was in 2009. It also marks three years since we started trying to have a child.

Celebrating one year of dating, in 2010. I look so young!
Three years is a long time. If you're in my shoes, and you're involved in infertility communities, you might be tempted to think that it's not so long when faced with others who had longer journeys, but one thing I'm learning is that it's okay to feel like my three years have been an eternity. Three years is enough to get a Bachelor's degree without Honours, or even with Honours if you do a lot of extra grunt work. It's 75% of the way through high school in Ontario and also 75% of the term of an American president. It's apparently the life cycle of an iPhone, according to Apple, unless you're someone like my dad who always needs the newest model. It's the length of time audiences had to wait between episodes of the Star Wars franchise, both the original trilogy and the much lamented set of prequels. It's 36 months - and if you're infertile you probably felt the passage of each month with a heart growing heavier each time. It's 156 weeks or 1095 days, which makes approximately four full-term pregnancies back to back. You certainly feel that the most when you're infertile, because you probably have friends who have had more than one child while you've been waiting.

My friends with young children frequently say things like, "I can't believe he'll be 2/3/4! The years fly by so fast." On the contrary, I feel like the years have crawled by in my childless life as I've watched infertility mark every aspect of my life with sorrow. For the past 2.5 years, ever since we were officially labelled as infertile, there has rarely been a day that didn't hurt. There are no mornings when I wake up and don't remember how much I want to be a mother. I never see a pregnant belly without feeling a tiny bit sad. Someone told me recently that she is afraid to ask her infertile friends about their issues because she does not want to reopen a wound. I told her that what she's missing is that for us in the journey, our wounds never close. I feel like the walking wounded, and every moment that I'm smiling or laughing or going about daily life, it's because I've learned to live with the constant ache. I've learned that most people - even the ones that say they care - do not want to hear that you are wounded. They want you to pretend it doesn't hurt. Trust me, time does not fly by when you are always nursing an open wound.

I want to end this on something positive. I'm sure that I've grown in some positive ways in these past few years. I hope so, anyway. I've obviously gone back to school and traveled and made new friends. When I look at these years, though, I grieve. I'm sad that half of my marriage has been marred by infertility, that we cannot remember any more what it's like to believe we'll be parents. I grieve the relationships I had with friends back when I was sunny and emotionally able to support others, back before I greeted each morning with tears. I grieve the big family that I was going to have, because even if we do conceive, we certainly do not have the time to try again several times. I weep for the moments that I imagined and may never experience: The first time I would feel my baby kicking; the look in my husband's eyes when we would find out we were expecting; the joy of seeing my baby on the ultrasound screen. I grieve the self that I feel like I've lost. My pastor recently said that we rarely see God's hand in the present. It's when we look at the past that we are aware of where He's been working. I hope that one day, I will look back on these three years and see the sparks of light that I missed, because most days things still look very dark.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Good Books With Few Reviews

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic looks at books that we enjoyed that have under 2000 ratings on Goodreads. This was actually kind of neat to look at. I didn't even realize that I could arrange my Goodreads lists by number of ratings. Some of the books on the list were random finds that perhaps aren't that well known. Other cases really surprised me.

1. The Name Therapist by Duana Taha: Granted, this book only came out a few months ago and it's a book about names and not a paranormal romance, but I was surprised that it only has 50 ratings. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

2. A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka by Lev Golinkin: This was a random library find. I guess it's not that well known. It is a memoir about the author's experience emigrating from the USSR to the United States.

3. When They Come For Us We'll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry by Gal Beckerman: I read this years ago after picking it up on a whim at the Ottawa public library. I found it to be a fantastic and gripping history book.

4. Tor! The Story of German Football by Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger: Perhaps German soccer enthusiasts have yet to flock to Goodreads. :)

5. Black Man In a White Coat by Damon Tweedy: I read this last year and keep referring back to it as I found it fascinating and I learned a lot about the American medical system and the socioeconomic issues facing African Americans.

6. The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis: What?! How does this book have so few ratings? Bezmozgis is quite involved in the Canadian literature scene and this book was shortlisted for the Giller Prize, so I can only guess that his main demographic is not that into Goodreads.

7. The Free World by David Bezmozgis: Again, I find this really weird. This is Bezmozgis's first novel about a family who has left the Soviet Union and are in immigration limbo in Italy.

8. The Thinking Reed by Rebecca West: I just read this about a month ago. It's somewhat of a modern class, but apparently not a lot of people have read it, or at least rated it! It tells the story of a young American widow who moves to Paris, and her romantic life from thereon.

9. Cape Town by Brenda Hammond: A Young Adult novel about a young Afrikaner ballet dancer whose horizons are broadened when she moves to Cape Town towards the end of the Apartheid era. I really enjoyed this book.

10. Eden by Yael Hedaya: This was another random library find, which I found to be a deep and interesting story of the overlapping experiences of a group of people in modern Israel.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite 2016 Releases Thus Far

I almost skipped this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic, because I don't have much of a list. We're posting about our favourite 2016 releases, and I've only read three books that were released this year, so that's not much of a list, but in the interest of keeping connected, here goes.

1. The Name Therapist by Duana Taha: I am a secret name nerd. I love names. I can spend half an hour deeply contemplating what I would name 10 children, even though it's looking less and less like I'll even have one, let alone ten. This book was all about names, and as a bonus, the author is around my age and grew up in Toronto, so I felt a kinship with her.

2. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys: I was really stoked to read this book, and I wasn't disappointed. The book deals with a group of refugees during World War II, and the ship the Wilhelm Gustloff, which was a massive sailing disaster that almost no one has ever heard of. I found the frequent switch of perspectives a bit difficult at first, but overall really enjoyed the book and blew through it quickly because I couldn't put it down.

3. Quantum Night by Robart J. Sawyer: This book was pretty meh for me. My dad introduced me to Sawyer years ago, and we have continued to read his books because he has some interesting concepts and he is a local author, but this book fell flat with me. I had trouble liking the characters and the premise seemed too far-fetched for me to get into it.

Well, that's all I've got for 2016 releases, but I'd love to hear some of your picks for best reads from this year!

Sunday, 19 June 2016

For the Love of Sadie

This past week was bittersweet. There were some ups: I graduated from my Master's program on Thursday and got to celebrate with friends and family, but a day before, my sweet cat Sadie passed away.



Sadie was my roommate's cat. I moved in with Dana in early 2006. She had a cat, and I had a cat. Somehow, when she left, I had both kitties "temporarily". That was nine years ago!

Sadie and Scout

She was a quirky little feline. She had the most delicate bones and features of any cat I've had. She was extremely skittish and afraid of men. When I started dating Gil, she would hide every time he came by. He didn't believe that I actually had two cats. She gradually got curious, and would sneakily try to check him out. In my old condo, the kitchen and living room were at street level, while the bedrooms were downstairs. We would be sitting on the couch talking or watching TV, and she would stand on the stairs and poke her little head up like a periscope, scoping out the situation but able to run away at the first sight of danger. The only male that she never seemed wary of was my mom's partner Brian. Somehow she loved him from the get-go.

Sadie taught me things about myself, and about love. She had a weird habit of sticking her butt in your face if you were patting her. This made it difficult to cuddle with her and have anything in your hands. I remember one time, she was walking all over me and sticking her bum in the air, and I blurted out, "Why don't you just let me love you?!" It made me think about how easy it is to love those who do what we want them to do, but the nature of real love is selfless, loving others even when we don't understand them or their motivations or they drive us crazy. I'm so blessed to be loved by people even when I am not always the most lovable.

Hiding in a box, as one does

Some people might say that she was only a cat, and I guess that's true. In the past few years, however, she was just what I needed. Sure, she didn't speak or understand my situation. But because she didn't speak, she couldn't say things like, "Sure you're infertile, but at least you get to sleep in on weekends" or "Don't you know that parenting is hard?" She didn't understand, so when I was weeping about my infertility and she walked away, I knew it wasn't personal and she wasn't choosing not to care. She never made me feel like I couldn't be sad over my infertility unless I'd exhausted every single option, or like I had to justify my infertility decisions before I could get any sympathy. Unlike people, she never snubbed me or ignored my pain any more than a cat does naturally. Unlike people, she loved me for who I was. She didn't say anything, but her presence was more than enough. So she was just a cat, but sometimes that made her the best friend I could have had in this messy, ugly, lonely ride through infertility. She was just a cat, but she was my cat, and I will miss her terribly.

I love you, Sadie Lady.