Thursday, March 31, 2016

March Reads (2016)

a cozy night by the fire reading

I read a lot of great stuff in March! Here's the list: 

*Still Alice by Lisa Genova - I loved this book. It's about a Harvard professor who is diagnosed with early-onset, progressive Alzheimers.  It has everything I like in a novel: relationships, direct description (no slogging through flowery prose here), an amazing plot, well-executed writing, and a sweet ending. I would definitely read anything else Genova has written or writes in the future, and I appreciated her structure and her terse description. This book helped me understand the disease so much more than I knew. When doctors or professionals write books and stay within their field of knowledge, it does so much for a book, and this one is in that category (she has a Harvard degree in neuroscience). Four bright stars, and I'm watching the movie soon!

*Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison -- I read this memoir by former playboy bunny girlfriend in about 24 hours, but not because it was overly enticing (nothing surprising here, folks) but because it was very readable and I was rooting for Holly and wanted to see how she changed her life, i.e. leaving the Playboy mansion. Some of the details of the grounds and house, the company, and the routines were interesting to read about, but really it's Holly's story of her control by "Hef", cat fights with the other girls, and becoming a whole person again. This book is not about the sex, if you're looking for that go read The Happy Hooker, but I love memoirs and when I saw this at Chapters I knew I wanted to read it. When I saw it on my library's shelf, I snagged it and knew it'd be a quick read. Three stars for content, and an extra for Holly's courage.

*Boys Adrift by Dr. Leonard Sax -- This nonfiction book should be top priority in getting ahold of if you still have young boys or men at home, or if your kids are having kids! It's that important. There are five 'factors' that Dr. Sax writes about in this book that show why our current batch of boys seem lazy, unmotivated, and directionless, and it's fascinating. Sax writes books that are very easy to understand, with plenty of examples from his profession to illustrate his points. He backs up everything with research and now that I've read two of his four books and regarded both highly, I put the other two on hold. 

*At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier -- Have you read Girl With the Pearl Earring or listened to Chevalier's TED talk? She is one of my favorite historical fiction writers because she chooses an object-usually just one object- and obsesses about it, researches it until it's completely wrung out, and then writes a book around it. Her writing has taken a turn in the last few books from famous historical paintings to now Americana items such as quilts, and in her newest, apple varieties. This book is lovely to read, but it's more vulgar and graphic than her others. Not that that's a bad thing-it goes well with the story and must be told that way, but if you're queasy, I'd give a hard think if you want to continue. If you don't get the stomach churnings from readings (I don't, I have to see it to feel sick, which is why I've never understood why people WATCH surgeries being performed. Weirdos.), than you're fine. You'll like it. 

*Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel -- This book was probably my least favorite this month, even though I love dystopian/futuristic fiction. It was a page-turner, and with short chapters and jumping around from character to character, the book went fast, but I didn't think it was excellent by any means. The story is about a flu that depletes the vast majority of the world, and the people who are surviving in the aftermath. The stories come together in interesting yet predictable ways, and a few of the subplots were what held my attention. I give it 3 stars and a shrug of the shoulders.

*The Holy Spirit by Billy Graham - We all have different quirks as it comes to the topics we like to learn about, research, or dig deeper into, and the Holy Spirit is one of those for me. The bible says little about Him, but being as He is a person of the trinity, I am always wanting to know more about Him. I was mentioning to a friend recently that I hadn't read any good books on the Holy Spirit, and she suggested a title that I'd never a very famous Christian author and evangelist-Billy Graham. I've never read anything by him, but out of all the books I've read on the Holy Spirit, this has been the best so far. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

3 Year Post Move: Reflections from Another Country

view of beautiful Vancouver from Science World, even in dense clouds

The clouds are starting to give way to clearer skies, some of the flowers have started blooming, and the birds are out chirping. It's much easier to have a better mood when Spring is arriving- no matter where you're living! I have to admit there is no where else I'd rather be in the late Spring and Summer as Beautiful British Columbia. Although I know I'll crave a good thunder and lightning storm in early Summer (and I won't get it), and I'll say around mid-August, "just ONE day of rain for a change, please!", the weather is mild, the humidity is non-existant, the beach is calling, and the view of the clear skies over purply- gray mountains is breath-taking.

As of February 24th, we've been living in the Pacific Northwest for three years. Pretty soon, Ani will have spent the same amount of her childhood here as in her hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, which is a surprising thought. We've lived in three cities, and two countries during that short time, and we're approaching the 1 year mark of our home in Fort Langley (early April), which has gone by fast.

This is the first year since our move where I've felt a bit more stable, because there are no future moves on the horizon, we're solidly planted in a church, home group, and family bible study with friends, our kids have their own friends and aren't struggling with that anymore, and we're just living life. Aside from taxes (don't get me going about our still outstanding tax fiascos! I need my adrenaline for other things), we have nothing 'outstanding'. There are no more administrative issues to change or switch over. Fees have been paid their dues. We're on regular schedule with all bills. Things you just don't think about when you move, are drastically harder when you switch countries.

Something I've noticed is that a lot of my personal interests and hobbies have fallen by the wayside for the quiet and physical rest of reading. While I love my once-a-month dabbling with Called to Create, I'm still not ready to pursue any other craft or art endeavors because of the mental capacities that have been on high alert these last few years. I'm sure I'll be motivated to do something art related in the future, but as for now, the closet-full of art supplies go unused. I just don't have the energy yet.

I didn't envision myself being so drained by a move, and although I'm pretty good at navel-gazing, I underestimated just how a slightly different culture and a drastically different landscape (metaphorically speaking) can mentally take out of someone. These last three years looking back have been similar to the years when I had babies and I'd zone out at the wall for an hour just to absorb the quiet and let my brain catch up to the newness.

I've also realized that not only have I always valued travel, I have had three years to explore one of the most beautiful areas in the world-the Pacific Northwest of the USA and of Canada, and I've barely scratched the surface. I have an incredibly opportunity to go up north and down south--literally 1,000 miles in either direction and that's just staying on the coast. Amazing! I fully plan to put that to use. I value travel, but I also have to make it happen. I am not content to stay within my 100 mile radius for the entire year.

Other things that have been hard are the things I knew would be the hardest before we even moved: not seeing and enjoying family and close friendships that I was accustomed to. That's still hard, three years later, and I've made it a point to see my best friends whenever I can afford it. I treasure those times, and I value prioritizing times with friends even with 1800 miles between us. We regularly skype with grandparents and try to get them out here (or us out there) as often as is financially feasible.

I daydream and 'miss' things only because they were comfortable, and I have plenty in that category: I miss powerful thunder storms that I could watch from a window or my porch, and my eyes resting on a vast expanse of sky. I miss knowing where I'm going every time I drive, not having to put effort into remembering how to get back home. I miss parking lots that have multiple ways out of them (for the love, BC, get it together!) and I miss empty isles in stores, because I still always feel like I'm in everyone's way. I miss people being friendly and acknowledging you with a slight head nod or a smile-something that only really happens I've noticed the further East you go. I miss not feeling pressured to be a dual income family.  I miss a different type of humor.  I miss driving to my friends' houses, seeing their kids, our church in Lincoln, and cheap groceries. I miss free parking. I miss good tomatoes.

I do not miss: expensive medical bills and infuriating phone calls with insurance companies who never want to pay out. I do not miss scorching summers where you go outside after a shower and you're immediately prickling with new sweat and smell. I do not miss the bugs. I do not miss camping in 100 degree weather. I do not miss seeing people I know everywhere-especially when some of them are people I'd like to avoid! I do not miss football, game day parking, or Husker red one iota. I do not miss passive aggressive and poor drivers. I do not miss being an eight-hour drive from mountains. I do not miss the bootstrap and severe individuality mentality nor  Midwestern Moralism. I do not miss getting the bird when I've legally merged.

I am slowly getting used to our new life, one that I had imagined for years but could never piece together the details of what exactly it would be like. I miss my friends, and I'm making good new ones. We are investing in our neighbors, our homeschooling and church peers, and that feels purposeful and right. Three years down, although riddled with mental and physical fatigue including stress and weight gain, I can say that I'm coming out on top for the most part. After five, ten years will I even feel the and to write out my reflections and the things I miss/don't miss about my previous life? Maybe 10, maybe not, but probably-definitely at year 5. Year 3? I still feel like a baby here. I'm still asking questions that people assume I should know, but I'm needing maps less frequently. I don't have anxiety (much) about driving into Vancouver with just my kids, and I (generally) know how to squeeze our food budget. I'm still pretty tired, but I'm waking up to stretch.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Hikes with Kids: Mount Thom in Chilliwack

view from the top of Mount Thom

A few weekends ago we knew the clouds would part (at least for a little while) on a Saturday morning and I practically ran the family out of the house to get a hike in. We haven't been hiking in the last few months due to rain, family obligations, or just general laziness, but this was a hike that promised to be both quick and yet challenging, and it lived up to that

Mount Thom is in Chilliwack which was a 35 minute drive for us each way because there was very little traffic. The site notes say that it only climbs 375 m in elevation, which I was surprised by, because that hike was, with the exception of maybe 2-3 small slopes, a very vertical climb. Maybe I was just huffing and puffing because we hadn't been out for awhile. It was a busy trail even though we left very early in the morning, but when we were descending the mountain around 11AM, there were probably 70+ people going up, so going early was better!

trying to find Cultus Lake from the top

This hike took our family roughly 2 hours- 1.5 hours climbing up and then we literally ran the entire way down in 30 minutes. I sometimes find the descent on a vertical climb to be a bit harder just because I'm more hesitant. I feel like I'm going to fall easier. I'm just old! However, on this run down the mountain, my knee that hurt back when I was a teenager and playing a lot of sports, starting hurting again. I hadn't felt that pain in over 10 years, so I quickly slowed my pace and iced my knee for a solid 2 hours back home. I haven't felt it since that day, but it did make me realize how foolish that probably was without any sort of training, and a long climb right before!

Ani loved this hike and she ran almost the entire way up the trail as well. We often had to call her name because we couldn't see her! Lukka, as usual, doesn't ever want to go on hikes, but when he's there, he enjoys himself immensely. There's a great view at the top of Mount Thom and you can see Cultus Lake--and it looks very small from up there. Parking in the neighborhood is a bit odd, and some of the jobsites are quite dirty right next to the trail, and a lot of dog-poop bags were left around on the trail, even though there were trash cans at the entrance, making it probably one of the more dirty trails we've been on. I don't know if I'd go back to this hike quickly, it was challenging and a great excuse to exercise while having fun, but it wasn't my favorite trail. Crowded and a bit dirty, I'd rather explore other areas before coming back to it

Friday, March 4, 2016

Friday Links

Fort Langley river houses

* Currently trying to cook my way through this delicious (and I mean delicious) cookbook.
*Every Tuesday on my 20ish minute drive back, I'm listening to my favorite reader match-make books with others on her new podcast!
*The newest obsession of mine in expensive children's clothes that I'll never buy. Could it be they'll take over my love affair with Tea? That plaid top with snaps!
*When I seriously need a good laugh about this year's election...
*Every prayer and hopeful thing she writes, but this week, this one.
*I just caught up on the first season of Invisibilia, and I'm hooked. You've got a few more months before they start season 2, plenty of time for those hour-long episodes.
*My kids are starting a coding subscription and I'm super excited for it to be a part of our curriculum next year!
*Can. Not. Wait. (Summer 2016)
*Rise of the Robots from NOVA is on our weekend queue for the kids.
*About to start this book. Have you read it?
*Do you like travel? Are you a foodie? My free way of doing both.
*Gorgeous jewelry (and then, I find out it was made by a now-deceased French man in the 20s. Go figure)
*I'm not a player, either.