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

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books That Have Made Me Think

This week's TTT topic is a freebie, so we can write about whatever we want. I chose to pick 10 books that I've read over the past year that have challenged my thinking or given me more to ponder. It's a mix of fiction and non-fiction. I do try to vary my reading to include books for pleasure and others to help me learn and gain new perspectives, so here are some that stood out. Enjoy!

1. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: This book covers several hundred years of a family in Ghana and the United States. It touched upon colonialism, slavery, and oppression. It gave me a lot to ponder and was a compelling read as well.

2. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: This book made me laugh and cry, but it's also the story of an outcast who in some ways has a heart of gold. I don't want to give too much away, but the book made me think about the people around us who are going through great suffering, and how easy it is to dismiss someone as cold or grumpy when there may be more going on.

3. My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me by Jennifer Teege: The author of this book was adopted as a young age, and found out in her 30s that her grandfather was a Nazi war criminal. The book made me think about what family is and how we cope with the burdens of our past, both in our families and the collective past of our culture.

4. All Roads Lead To Austen by Amy Elizabeth Smith: Okay, this book wasn't super deep, but I enjoyed the reflection on how people with different nationalities and cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds reacted to the same books.

5. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: I really liked this book about two sisters in Vichy France during World War II. The author made me think about how I would respond under occupation, and what is real heroism? Is it just the person who puts her life on the line who is a heroine? It's not always so easy to judge what is right and wrong.

6. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander: A heavy and sobering book about the impact of the war on drugs on the African American community.

7. Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: I listened to the audiobook of Coates' letters to his son about what it means to be an African American male, and I plan on reading it again this year. Lots of food for thought.

8. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood: I had read this book in high school and picked it up again on a whim. It made me think about the treatment of the mentally ill in society, as well as at the idea of voices. Whose voice do we listen to, and whose do we disregard?

9. The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng: As with The Nightingale, this book made me think about the lives of those in extenuating circumstances (in this case, Japanese-occupied Malaya), and the idea of complicity and guilt. Some people had to cooperate with the the occupiers in order to save others. How do we determine whether that is heroism or guilt?

10. Joni: An Unforgettable Story by Joni Eareckson Tada: If you're not familiar with Joni's story, she was a teenager when she had an accident that left her as a quadriplegic, but has ultimately been able to use her story to inspire many. The book talks a lot about suffering and how it has the power to shape us. As someone who has gone through a major loss in the past year (though very different that Tada's), I appreciate her contemplative book about how we hold onto faith in the midst of disappointment, when He does not choose to heal us.

I'd love to hear what books have given you food for thought!

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

My Dirty Little Secret

I have a dirty little secret: My house is a mess. Not like "Oh glory me, I haven't dusted the baseboards in days!" kind of mess, but a real mess. I mean, you've probably seen dirtier. It's not like an ecological disaster zone quite yet, but it's pretty darn filthy.

In addition to the dirt, my house is cluttered. Part of this is not my fault; my husband has a bunch of bins of old stuff that he has no time to go through, including reams of paper, and he tends to leave his clothes in a heap but wants to do his own laundry. Part of the clutter is due to the fact that I was in graduate school and working for a while, and the paper just piled up. I can make a bunch of excuses for it, but there is just clutter all over.

Part of the problem is that I kind of, sort of, maybe hate my house. I'm thankful for it, of course. Shelter is good, and we're fortunate to have a house in a crazy market. However, I hate my house because it's a constant reminder of what should have been. It was to be our forever home, with three bedrooms, so we could fill them with kiddos. Instead, I fill those rooms with stuff so that I don't have to think about the what ifs. 

The worst part about my nasty house is that it shames me. Or rather, it adds to the shame that I already feel, and that becomes a cycle. My mind tells me all the time that I'm a failure. I'm a terrible wife and a terrible woman. I can't have a baby and I'm not a great cook, so what kind of wife am I? The logical part of my brain says that it isn't true, that my husband loves me for who I am and doesn't think less of me for my struggles, but it's hard to believe that. That same logical brain tells me to cut myself slack, that I've been dealing with depression and acing school and volunteering as well as working, and it's okay to focus on surviving some days. Then I look at my messy house and the words just ring through my head: "Failure. Failure. Failure." And instead of cleaning and decluttering, my instinct is to hide under the blankets and cry, because I can't face the reality that once I clear it all out, I'll have to come to grips with the emptiness of those empty rooms that will never belong to a child.

On January 1, I woke up as a woman on a mission. I wanted to clean out this house from top to bottom. I wanted to sweep out all the things that had built up and that were overwhelming me, to stop being embarrassed to have someone drop in. Maybe it was getting past the difficult holiday season or hitting roughly six months since our last set of infertility treatments failed, but suddenly I needed change. Since that day, I've been taking it one day at a time. I bought a filing cabinet to attempt to fix the paper problem. I went through boxes of old paper and tossed most of the sheets that I no longer need for school. I scrubbed floors and I dusted. It's a long-term project, and I may never have that pristine house from the magazine, but I'm getting a little bit proud of my progress. Maybe one day I will graduate to being a real adult with a proper home.

Why am I sharing this story? It's embarrassing, right? I don't want people to know how messy I am. I guess I'm sharing it because maybe there are other people who are stuck in shame and loss and grief and need to know that they aren't the only ones who haven't scrubbed the kitchen floor in a long time. I needed you all to know that this grief I'm in is real and painful and nasty and all-encompassing, but I'm ready to be very real about it and not live in shame. I also want to advocate for us hurting people. It's easy to watch an episode of Hoarders and feel sorry for those poor people in their mess. It's not as easy to walk across the street and hug the hurting person who is in front of you. People like me are everywhere. We are in your Bible studies and in your book groups and at your workplace. We are embarrassed and ashamed of the mess inside our homes and inside our minds. I've had people - even my own mother - chastize me for the messy state of my house, and it didn't help. Instead it just told me, "Keep hiding." What I needed was love. I needed to be told that despite the mess, I was worth loving. So readers, if you aren't in the mess right now, keep your eyes open, because it might be your turn to tell someone that they are enough.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: 2016 Releases I Didn't Get Around To Reading in 2016

Hello dear readers! Welcome to 2017! I haven't been posting too much lately. I've been deep in thought and trying to move forward in a variety of areas, so watch this space for some life updates; HOWEVER, it's time for another Top Ten Tuesday, and today we're talking about 2016 release that we didn't manage to read in 2016, so here are some that are still on my list.

1. Homegoing by Yaa Gyosi: I got this in the TBTB Secret Santa exchange from the amazing Katelynn over at Books and Bottles, so I'm stoked to read this very soon!

2. Up To This Pointe by Jennifer Longo: I have a lifelong fascination with ballet, even though I was rubbish as a dancer, so this really appeals to me.

3. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: I feel like this book was everywhere in 2016, and yet I still managed not to read it. Soon!

4. Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer: I still have to read a few of his books, actually, but I'll get around to them at some point.

5. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty: Sounds very intriguing!

6. Victoria by Daisy Goodwin: Historical fiction? Check. British royalty? Check. I'm in!

7. The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson: Okay, maybe I'm just obsessed with historical fiction...

8. I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi: I didn't actually hear about this book until last week, so it's hard to say that I "didn't get around to it"; I've been trying to read more about race relations and open my eyes by reading more by people of colour, and this book was recommended. I'm really looking forward to starting it.

9. Swing Time by Zadie Smith: I've read a few of her books and found them interesting, so I'll be excited when my hold for this book comes in within the next few weeks.

10. Avalanche by Julia Leigh: I haven't done IVF, but infertility has been such a central part of my life over the past few years, so I'm looking forward to diving into Leigh's memoir.