Book Reviews – Aug/Sept Edition

I’ve been reading up a storm lately – but I haven’t done a book review in a while. So here are my most recent reads and what I thought:

The Lake House by Kate Morton – *****

I LOVE Kate Morton. This book, like her others, held both mystery and drama. It was well written and easy to read. She has yet to disappoint me. Definitely a good read if you like mystery, drama, romance and historical fiction all wrapped into one!

Circling the Sun – Paula McLain – *****

This was my first Paula McLain book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Paris Wife. It gives you a unique perspective of Africa, and women’s rights. It is a beautiful story, with a powerful heroine.

I Let You Go – Clare MacKintosh – *****

Let me first say, this is not at all my kind of book. I would never have picked it up on my own – but my Mom read it and insisted I read it too. I obliged … and can I just say holy shitballs? It wasthe most mind blowing thing I have read in SO LONG. The twist…oh the twist….I have never been so shocked and confused in my reading life. Definitely a must read – it will blow your mind!

The Paris Wife – Paula McLain – *****

I could not wait to get my hands on this one after Circling the Sun, and I was not disappointed. It was the wonderful but sad story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. So well written, so enjoyable to read. Definitely recommend it.

The Pleasures of Men – Kate Williams – **

I bought this one off the cheap rack at Chapters. I am usually pleased, but I have to say I didn’t enjoy this one. It was strange, and unpleasant. There was no happiness in this book, and when I finished I actually felt a little blue.

The Isle of Wings – Karen Altenberg – ****

Another Chapters cheap rack find – but with better results. It was a hauntingly beautiful tale of a remote island plagued with infant deaths, and a minister determined to show the natives the light. A good read, and certainly unique! I enjoyed reading up on the history of St. Kilda afterwards.

The Royal Nanny – Karen Harper – ****

An interesting and well written story about the real Royal Nanny – Mrs. Lala. The story is beautiful and exciting, but also sad (like any good book should be!). It’s historical, educational and well written. Based on a true story.

The Illegals – Lawrence Hill – ****

I was so excited to read this one – I loved Book of Negroes and had high hopes for it. Let me tell you – this was not at all what I expected! It was excellent – well written and a good, powerful story. But it is a bit strange – the places where the story takes place are fake, and it is written in the future (2018, 2020, etc). Yet it references the rest of the world in actual…so at first, I thought I had just never heard of these places. In the back of the book it refers to the two places being made up. So again, it was odd – but good, and the story is powerful and absolutely applies to real places that exist.

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Thirty

Despite my well-intentioned plans to thwart this milestone, it seems to have crept up on me anyway. Today I am thirty. I remember turning 20 and thinking how very old I would be at 30. Well…let me tell you 20 year old, 20 lbs lighter me….30 is barely old and I only have two grey hairs (not the full head you thought I would). So there.

Image result for 30 birthday

30. Three decades old…I can hardly believe it.

My first thought is how very lucky I am to be turning 30. Plenty (plenty) of people don’t get to live this long. How many of us have babies and children and siblings and friends that we wish, desperately, could have lived to see 30? Right? Most of us…especially those of us in the infertility community. So let me be the first to say I am so incredibly thankful to be 30 today. I am so thankful to have had 30 years on this planet, surrounded by my loved ones, and hope to have 60 more.

My second thought is holy-jeepers-how-the-hell-did-I-get-to-be-thirty-wasn’t-I-just-18-yesterday? Time passes so fast! I feel like just yesterday I was marveling at how mature and grown up I would be at 20 (!???…ya, ok) and then I blinked and now I’m 30. It’s worth noting I am not much more mature or grown up than I was at 20 – except, you know, I have a grown up job and grown up bills and a marriage and grown up thoughts about life (babies, vacations, RRSPs, pensions, benefits, healthy meals…). But really, underneath all of the grown-upness I am really just that 18 year old girl with marriage plans a serious crush on three of the five Backstreet Boys. Ok, so perhaps I lost my love of baggy pants and short curls, but have you seen BSB lately? Hello, they’re still dreamy.

Anyway -back to the topic at hand. Today I am 30. I have been alive 3 whole decades (and 9 months if we’re getting specific). I have accomplished much of what I had hoped I would by the ripe ‘ole age of 30, and still have plenty to go along with some more mature goals (I mean, above and beyond the “buy my own bedazzler so I can look rad” goal I made for my adult self at 12). I am happily married and  have a nice home with three wonderful furbabies and a hearty supply of little nephews to keep my heart full. I am a more whole person than I would have been if I had not gone through infertility, and I am truly grateful for that. I am also significantly less high maintenance than I was a decade ago, and significantly more down to earth.

Most importantly, though, I have been blessed in my 30 years to learn what really matters in life (both to me and those I love). It is not belongings or achievements or income…but loving with your whole heart and being loved, giving and receiving, laughing and crying, hoping, praying, and always (always) finding for the good. Every moment of my thirty years has been worth it because it led up to the understanding of those things. Every moment helped lay the path for where I am today – and although the greatest desire of my heart remains unfilled (motherhood) – I am  so thankful for how very blessed, and how very fortunate, I have been and am.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for caring. I hope to have two or three times the amount of life I have already had to learn and grow and blog (90 sounds like a good, solid age to die at) – and I pray the same for all of you.

XOXOXO


Letter to my 20 year old self:

I see you there, hiding behind your clothes and friends, hoping no one sees the real you. But I do, because I was you. I see the hurt and the pain and the fear you’re feeling. I see how confused and unsure you are. I see how scary the world is, and how ill-prepared you feel.

It’s going to be OK. You are stronger than you ever thought, and you will come out on top despite the odds being stacked against you. Life is scary, there is no way to sugar coat it, but please trust that anything worth doing is scary. If it’s not scary, it’s not worth doing.

Friends come and go, so when you fall out with them (and you will), don’t beat yourself up so badly. Your whole life will be filled with friends coming and going – learn to spot the gems, and hold tight while learning to spot the pebbles and enjoy the short time they are there. Friends are either blessings or lessons…but it doesn’t make either any less important.

Love yourself. You are more beautiful and perfect than you let yourself believe. You deserve good things and good people. Love your body despite it’s shortcomings. It is the only body you will ever have, and learning to love it is both the most difficult and most gratifying thing you can do.

Enjoy this time in your life. Don’t stress about exams and parties and peer pressure. Stick to your guns, your head is on straight, and let yourself enjoy this time. It’s the easiest time of your life and later you will regret not enjoying it more.

Most importantly – let go of the things that are hurting you. Holding onto the past will only hurt you more. The only one with the power to free you from that is you, and learning this skill will serve you many, many times in your life. Let things be. It is OK for some things to remain unresolved.

Life is going to get so much better. Hang in there, get by and cling to those you love and those who love you. Down the road, they will be everything to you and you will be glad you held onto them.

All my love.

Your much slightly older self.

P.S: Lay off the head bands and chokers a bit…and excessive amounts of blue eye shadow = so 1980. You’ll thank me, you, for this later.

 

Writing

 

For as long as I can remember, writing has been in my blood. I was 10 the first time I wrote a short story, but I kept it under lock and key because I couldn’t bear the thought of sharing my soul and having someone not like it. I continued to write daily – 5 or 6 pages of a story and then abandoning the pages for another idea – all through high school. In 10th grade, during a creative writing class I had taken because it was supposed to be easy, I was labelled promising by my teacher, who then focused on guiding and nurturing me. That class will remain the most influential experience of my youth, and the first time that I recall ever feeling like I was actually good at something. I will also never forget how disappointed she was when I told her I wasn’t going to University for Journalism (something I still regret 10 years later).

 

Despite my success in the writing classes I took in high school and University – I continued to keep anything that was not to be submitted at school under lock and key. It was immensely personal (even though it was not about me), and I was too afraid to have it rejected. I had poured my heart into my work, and I didn’t think I could bear a negative response. I remember once, when I was 12 or so, my mother found a story I had started to write. She read it, and then read the rest she found underneath it. She met me when I got home with pride, encouragement and admiration, but I only felt hurt and betrayed. She tried to talk me into becoming a writer, but I was so angry at her for invading my privacy I just stormed away.

My writing flame died down when we began our journey through infertility, and I poured myself into my blog instead. I think I was just too emotional to consider writing during that time, for fear of what other feelings it might unleash. I read though – sometimes 2 or 3 books a week.

Much to my surprise and excitement – my writing flame has returned with a new fervor. Over the last few weeks I have been punching out a novel that I am determined to complete. It is both exciting and terrifying, but anything worth doing in life is both of those things, isn’t it?

This flame came at the perfect time – as we begin to proceed into Fall and then Winter. There is no place I’d rather be during the cold months than at my desk drinking a hot drink, writing, looking out over the farm.

What projects are you up to?

A Day in the Life

I’ve seen these “Day In the Life” posts and I always wanted to do one, but since they are typically done by Moms, and I am not a Mom, I didn’t. However, I have a uniquely different perspective as I am not a mother, but am not child free either. I provide after school and weekend care 5 days a week for my 4 year old nephew aside from my full time job – meaning 3 weekdays, and both weekend days, I spend being a parent. I am immensely blessed to have a sister willing to let me be so active in his life…and thought I might share a little window of my typical day with MB.

4:00 AM: Dogs wake me up to go outside. Mr. Big sleeps blissfully through their whimpers (as always). Once I’m up I have to pee, and then usually can’t sleep right away. After much cow counting and bargaining with the Sand Man, I manage to fall back asleep by 4:45.

5:15 AM: Get up, grab a drink of water and then hop in the shower.

5:45 AM: Showered. Go pack lunch and unload/load dishwasher.

6:05 AM: Drag dogs out of bed and send them outside. Get dressed and ready for work.

6:30 AM: Call dogs in, and drag a very reluctant Mr. Big from bed like the giant toddler he is. Kiss them all goodbye and leave for work.

7:00 – 3:00 PM: Workin’ for the man … (just kidding, I work at a Hospital)

3:00ish PM: Rush home, let the dogs out and run them. We all enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, and I love seeing my pups so happy. Go inside and try to entice them to cool down and stop heaving for air before I feed them dinner (or else I will be cleaning it up again). I usually try to squeeze a quick floor wash or bathroom wipe down in this time when the dogs are laying on the floor exhausted and out from under my feet. Feed the dogs once they have settled.

3:50 PM: Let the dogs out again after dinner because they have not have enough running around sniffing stuff yet.

4:00 PM: Let the dog’s in and head out to get MB. Drive 30 minutes to his after school program to pick him up. Spend 10 minutes collecting him, his bag, and saying goodbye to every single person/thing/item he may have come into contact with today.

4:45 PM: Drive home listening to MB chatter adorably about his day and all of the things that happened to him. Easily my favourite part of the day. We usually sing a song or two on the ride as well while I try to keep him awake because Kindergarten is exhausting!

5:15 PM: Get home and let the dogs out. Impatiently wait for MB  to collect every rock from our gravel driveway that he can possibly fit into his little hands. Bribe him to leave them outside instead of on my coffee table.

5:25 PM: MB has a snack while I look through his bag for homework or teachers notes. Let the dogs out again.

5:30 PM: MB watches one episode of his new fav. show (currently Ranger Rob) that Mr. Big has recorded for him while I prepare dinner and do a load of laundry. Mr. Big gets home and brings the dogs in.

6:00 PM: Serve dinner. Beg MB to eat his vegetables to no avail…end up cutting up an apple so he at least has something of the fruit/vegetable category.

6:20 PM: MB and I do some “homework” (reading) while Mr. Big cleans up dinner. Let dogs out so they can sniff stuff again.

6:30 PM: MB brushes his teeth and then plays until his Mom arrives. Let dogs inside.

7:00 PM: The dog’s announce MB’s mom’s arrival, so he frantically rushes around to put his toys away and get his shoes on so he is ready the second she comes in the door. I give her a quick recap of the day, visit for a few minutes, and then receive a hundred goodbye kisses, hugs and “I’ll miss you’s” before they’re off.

7:20 PM: Tidy/wipe/sweep and run a load of dishes while Mr. Big plays with the dogs and cues up one of our shows on the PVR (we almost never get to watch a show the time it is aired).

7:45 PM: Enjoy the peace and quiet with Mr. Big and the pups – who have promptly fallen deeply asleep because being a dog and having a 4 year old to follow around and sniff is exhausting.

8:50 PM: Consider getting up and prepping for tomorrow by packing my lunch and laying out my clothes. Think better of it and check face.book instead.

9:30 PM: Refuse to go to bed despite my drooping eyelids because I’m not 90, but pee and brush my teeth anyway just in case. Pull out my book and get a whole two pages in before I promptly fall asleep. Mr. Big uses this time to catch up on redneck shows and/or sports, serenaded by my gentle snoring breathing.

10:30/11:00 PM: Mr. Big lets the dogs out, puts away anything they can get into and the ushers me off the couch and into bed.

4:00 AM – Start all over again.

The weekends are much the same except they involve much more playing, reading and usually a bath (or two) for MB since we are home all day. The three of us (and sometimes the dogs) try to have a “baventure” of some sort on Saturdays (the zoo, fishing, a hike, apple picking, scavenger hunts, etc) and spend Sundays doing stuff around the house.

*Re-reading this, I am thinking it makes us look more productive than we are. Don’t be deceived – while we rarely spend our days laying in the sun drinking cocktails like childless couples are supposed to – we spend plenty of time letting dishes pile up, avoiding laundry, making a mess, and neflixing until the “Are you still watching?” notice pops up … just like everyone else. 🙂