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2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
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seven things on a sunday – thankful edition

Over the past few months I have been tagged in various FB memes for a number of things. I was tagged by a few people for the Thankful one, whatever it’s called. The last few months haven’t been the best and I have been avoiding much of the online world. I check in once in a while, and offer brief status updates, but really I haven’t been all that engaged in participating in social anything. So I thought it might be a nice idea to combine remembering to BLOG with listing things I am thankful for. What better time to do this than over Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. Right? Right!

1. I am thankful for my family. I had tossed about whether or not to even add this to my list because it seems so unoriginal and obvious, but then I thought, wait, I really AM thankful for my family. My parents, my sister, my in-laws… they have always been there for me. They help me when I am in need of help. They love me and take care of me. They make me laugh, pick me up when I am down, and are just wonderful, supportive people in my life. My parents raised two girls to be polite, respectful, loving, and to treat others well. We grew up in a house of love, sure there were some major blow-outs while growing up (girls are MOOOOODY, yo!) but my parents loved each other (much to the embarrassment of my sister and I), they loved us, and although my sister and I really didn’t get along well when we were kids, we did bond over the embarrassment of how mushy our parents were while in public. heh. Oh, and special shout-out to my amazing, dearly-departed grandparents for being cherry on top of family love and wonderfulness. It’s only been 6, and 5 years since they are gone and I miss them so much my heart aches, but they helped raise my sister and I and not a weekend went by without seeing them. So, yes, I am VERY thankful for my family and all they have brought to my life!

2. I am thankful for my husband! Again, obvious and unoriginal, but completely 100% truthful. There is not a day that goes by that I am not thankful for the amazingness that is my husband. Shawn is always there for me, no matter what. He’ll run out to the store if I notice I am out of juice, or bread, or — and this just happened — SAGE for the SAGE sausage stuffing I am making for thanksgiving dinner that night! I don’t even ask. He just gets up and goes. He makes me laugh so much, even when we’re both miserable and sad, he can find a way to find that laughter. He takes care of me so fully and unconditionally. I love this man with all my heart and I can’t imagine life without him. I am thankful for all the twists and turns that brought me to the place in my life where we met. He’s my rock and my heart. I love him more each day.

3. I am thankful for my friends. I grew up thinking no one would ever like me. I wasn’t good enough for friends. I was shy and insecure and didn’t realize the friends I had in my life didn’t actually hate me. It took me ages to trust people and believe that I did have friends who weren’t just pretending to like me, or spending time with me out of pity. I have some of the most AMAZING friends in my life these days and sometimes it just makes me stop and think, “Wow. I really DO have friends.” I have some long-time friends that I don’t see often at all, but when we do see each other, it’s almost as if no time has past. I have some newer friends (over the last 10 years) that I was nervous about at first, but am so, so thankful that they are part of my life. I have a support group for when I’m having trouble just living life, or need help with a mental break. I have friends who care about me, and I them. We love each other. We help each other. I trust them. And that’s a huge thing, because I don’t trust easily. I am thankful for the friends in my life who help make my life richer – either in person, or online!

4. I am thankful that I can drive. Ok, this might seem weird to most of you, but really, with my extremely long saga of learning to drive and then FINALLY getting that licence in 2011, this is something I am *newly* thankful for. I guess I should say that I am thankful that I can drive without a ton of anxiety now. I have been driving a lot lately, and so it’s freshly in my mind. On Fridays I have been driving all over the place for the past month. I drive after work to pick up Shawn from the bus terminus since he gets home late. I no longer have the steering wheel in a death grip. I am so much more relaxed when I drive and I at times I find that I actually ENJOY driving. Although, I am still thankful that Shawn prefers to drive, so when we’re together I just let HIM do it. Heh.

5. I am thankful that even though we’re not great, we’re ok. This one is a stretch, but it’s pretty true. Things aren’t the happiest right now, things are tough (not with each other, but in the rest of life) and well, we’re still ok. We’re both working, we’re both more-or-less healthy, we can pay the bills, we have each other, we have #NoSophie. We make each other laugh, and we have a ton of love. We are ok. Do we think that’s good enough for us? Not really. So we’re working on that, but right now? The things that aren’t great aren’t really the end of the world. We’ll get through it. Together. We don’t have anything super major to panic over right now though, and that’s ok. House over our heads, food on the table, clothes on our backs… we’re ok. And truly, I am thankful for that.

6. I am thankful I have (most of) my Halloween Whimsy back. Not quite at 100%, but I did take the decorations out of storage and put some up in the house AND at work. Last year at this time I was a falling apart mess (not realizing that I was dealing with delayed onset PTSD) and I didn’t decorate anything. I don’t even think I changed up my blog theme… did I? Either way, this year the pumpkins and candles have come out to play once more. I am kind of hoping to find a Jem costume to wear this year because I think three years in a row of Snow White is enough right now, but I’m still not sure what I’m going to wear to work. We get NO kiddies trick-or-treating here, which is a bummer, but that’s ok. I like to dress up for myself anyhow. I don’t have all of my whimsy back, and I am still having a hard time doing anything fun and creative, but this year as soon as October hit, I was raring to go with my Halloween decor! It is my favourite time of year after all. Next up? CHRISTMAS DECORATING!

7. I am thankful for sunsets. Don’t laugh. Or do. But it’s true. I have a great view from my front stoop of sunsets and I don’t know why I have become so infatuated with them over the last couple of years, but I love them. There’s something about looking up at the sky that calms me. I love the colours that explode through the clouds as the sun goes down. I am that crazy lady, out on her front stoop, in her jammies (or whatever), after the rain, in the snow, as the sun sets and changes colours over and over. I take photos with my phone and my Canon camera. I just can’t get enough of the sunsets. I don’t do anything with the photos afterwards, but I just feel like I have to capture those breathtaking moments forever. Even going back to look at them make me hold my breath and just think, “Wow.” I’m a dork, whatever. I love them to pieces. Thank you, nature!

hello, october

I could have sworn I’d posted at least once in September. Apparently not. Guess I just thought about posting a lot.

Well, it’s October, so my blog is happily sporting it’s Halloweeny frock.

I’m also in the middle of merging my book blog back into my personal blog. As I rarely seem to post on either one, there’s no point in my trying to manage two. It’s going to be a long work-in-progress because I need to re-categorize and tag posts. Not to mention all the book links that will eventually be obsolete when they aren’t pointing to the right place anymore!

My gods, my hair has been three different colours since the style in my profile photo. I’d better get on updating that, too!

So, I’m around. I’m just… busy? Exhausted? It’s been difficult to find time to sit and jot down thoughts. Once I’m on the couch, my brain is just burnt out. I have been reading more than I was last year, but I also fall asleep pretty soon after I get home, if I’m not out exercising.

Tomorrow a group of us from work are walk/running the Run for the Cure 5k. My plan is to blog about that after it happens. Probably next weekend because I’m pretty sure I’m just going to want to come home and sleep after this. ;)

I suppose I’d blog more if I had something happy to blog about. It’s been such a gloomy year that it’s hard to find something not all doom and gloom to write about. Bah.

seven things on a sunday – summer time

1. I used to think Summer didn’t mean much unless you were able to spend your days in the country, near the water. Summer time in the city was never appealing to me and I always moped around waiting for autumn and winter. But the last few years, thanks to the help of Jinx’s Garden and the way my body and mind have changed due to exercise, I’m appreciating the summer months way more. The more muscle I build, the less over-heated I am when it’s warm out. In fact, some days I can wear a light sweater because I’m chilly. I haven’t experienced this since I was a teen. I feel grounded and calm when I walk through the garden barefoot. I am spending way more time outdoors this year than ever before. Reading, walking, running, whatever. I still long to be able to do all of this near water, but at least I am learning to enjoy the season no matter where I am.

2. I have just finished the first week of my two-week vacation from work. There’s an odd sort of guilt associated with vacation time that I can’t seem to shake. I have done almost nothing productive this past week. I have sat  outside, inside, and read. I read nine books in the last 7 days. I keep feeling like I should be doing SOMETHING with my time off other than sit around and read, but right now, that’s all I want to do. Why do we feel like we need to do stuff around the house, or be productive when we take time off? I realize that it’s often during this time that we can get stuff done, but it should also be ok to just relax when you’re off from work. Without feeling guilty. Right? I will be home alone next week as Shawn starts a new job, and that’s when I plan on puttering around the house (getting ready for a garage sale, cleaning stuff, etc). But this past week, I just needed to recharge. Since I don’t have a body of water to gaze out over, I got lost in books. I haven’t been reading like this for a long time, and it’s just nice to get back into it.

3. On Tuesday, it will be three weeks since we said goodbye to Jinx. It’s been a very difficult thing to get through our heads. Since it was so sudden, it almost feels like it never happened. We’re both constantly looking up and thinking Jinx is there, in the room with us. Jinx’s absence has made it hard for me to tend to the garden. I feel like the wind is knocked out of me each time I go down to check on the tomatoes and coocumbers. In fact, the cucumbers just aren’t growing much this year. It could just be a bad crop, but honestly, I think it’s because Jinx wasn’t down there walking through them and snuffling them. This is the first year they have not thrived. I also find it so empty when I am outside on the back deck reading. Jinx would also come out with me and just lie on the deck, enjoying being outdoors. He’d watch for squirrels and protect me from them. He’d wander down and snuffle his garden. I keep looking up from my book to talk to him and tell him he’s handsome, and a good boy. But he’s not there. Sophie does not like spending time outside at all. I’ve tried having her out there while I enjoy the air, but she just paces in front of the backdoor, waiting to be let in. It’s sad. I’m trying to find peace in the outdoors without Jinx at my side, but it’s a painful process. Still, the backyard, and Jinx’s Garden are healing me, slowly.

4. Summer time means sitting on the back deck, in the evening, with a cigar and a beer. Or wine. Or a rum and coke. Not often. Very occasionally. But it’s still something we like to do when the evenings are warm and the crickets are chirping away, and the sun is setting. It hasn’t been too humid this summer, in fact, I feel like this summer has had the most perfect weather (but that’s because it hasn’t been humid and 30C+). There have been very few mosquitos this year, which makes sitting outside in the evening a blissful experience. The spring was late and wet, so the bugs were bad then, but so far, July and August have been lovely. Shawn and I laugh and talk about everything and anything. We cry over missing Jinx. We listen to playlists on music streaming apps. We decide we need to groom Sophie. (Sophie isn’t as big of a fan of these ideas as we are.) It’s peaceful, and although we bring our phones outside with us (to capture these moments on instagram), we are disconnected from our computers for a while and we just enjoy being with each other.

5. I love the sounds of summer. Chirping birds, chirping crickets, wind in the trees. Lawnmowers in the distance. Kids playing (as long as they aren’t screaming and really loud). The distant sound of motorboats on the river. I like those sounds better when they are closer and I am near a beach, but still. The sounds of summer make me happy. The best part about this cooler-than-average summer is that we have been able to have our windows open more often and these sounds drip in throughout the day. The summer breeze brings in sweet smells of grass, water, flowers and boat fuel (I like it, ok?) and sounds of summer. Much better than the constant drone of the air conditioner (which is actually on today because it’s humid and hotter than it has been. Totally ruining the point of this post. =P)

6. I long to spend my summer in a cottage, near water. That hasn’t been a reality for years (since I moved out on my own), but I know that one day it will happen. Even if we just rent a cottage for two weeks somewhere. It’ll happen eventually. We’ve had too many summers of having our vacations not line up, or not having employment or money to do anything when we do have time together. I’d love to own a cottage, but aside from being a lot of money, it would be a lot of WORK and to really make it worth it, it would have to be close by so you could get the most out of it during the summer months. One day. We’ll have a cottage summer one day. It’s a goal.

7. For many, August marks the end of summer. And while the official season end isn’t until the middle of September, August is so different from June and July I can understand why people feel this way. August’s colours are more golden and darker greens. Shadows bathed in golden sunlight. Yellows and oranges. Not the same as fall colours, but August isn’t bright yellow, blue, and green days like June and July are. I have always loved August. It fills me with this inexplicable hope, even though I don’t seem to ever hope anymore. It fills me with an energy that makes me feel like I can accomplish anything. It’s a wonderful time to take vacation from work and just reset. I love August and its golden glow. It’s calming and perfect for lazy days of summer.

August is perfect for bath time! Even if Sophie doesn’t agree. ;)

Middle Grade Madness: The Magic Thief series

Stolen (Magic Thief, #1)
by Sarah Prineas

Hullo! I’m actually going to blog about some books. Can you believe it? In fact, I’ll be blogging about a few series I think. I have been on a huge Middle Grade reading roll thanks to my newly awesome library and I have discovered a few series that I can’t believe I waited this long to check out.

The first amazing series I discovered–and devoured!–is The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas. The first book, Stolen, introduces us to Conn, a young boy who lives in the gutters in Twilight. He is a pickpocket and a thief. He has quick hands and is somewhere between the age of 12 and 14 (he doesn’t know). He semi-successfully picks the pocket of Nevery, a Wizard. From there a relationship is formed, although slightly one-sided. Conn is certain that Nevery took him home to be his apprentice, whereas Nevery  was under the impression he was taking Conn on as a servant. Conn does NOT make a good servant.

The books are narrated by Conn, though broken up by journal entries by Nevery, Rowan (the Dutchess’ daughter), and letters between Conn and Nevery. These little interludes are artistically done, so it feels like you’re reading handwritten pages. They break up the narration nicely and add to the story. Conn eventually becomes the apprentice he hopes to be and searches for his own  Locus Magicalicus (magical stone) so that he might be a real wizard. Odd things tend to happen around Conn, and he seems to have a connection with the city’s magic that no one else has.

The narration is humourous and Conn is such a likable character. He’s not very talkative, and I love the way his responses to what people say to him are actually more to himself, inside his head. He isn’t a typical protagonist in that he’s not surprised that he has magic, or whining that he has to undertake tasks or quests. He is very matter-of-fact about what is presented to him and it’s refreshing in some ways to read a book like this. He is so certain that he’s Nevery’s apprentice that it ends up being so. As though Conn knows what should happen, and what will happen (not in a telepathic way) and it just takes others a little longer to see the logic of Conn’s original thought.

Lost (Magic Thief, #2)

 Conn is convinced that the magic in their city is alive, yet the other Wizards (including Nevery for a time) don’t believe him. Conn can hear the magic speak to him when he creates explosions. Only explosions are illegal in Wellmet and to be caught would mean being exiled from the city. Of course Conn isn’t one to follow rules he feels are illogical, so he continues to do his own thing. And although I thought I would find this bratty, I was never once annoyed by something Conn did. He wasn’t the sort of main character who makes stupid decisions. All of his decisions, you learn quickly, are actually logical and he’s never out to harm anyone or cause trouble. Not intentionally. Conn just has a way of looking at things that make sense to him. If something seems out of tune, he can figure out how to tune it back up. The problem is everyone else doesn’t see his path and therefore think he’s up to no good. Eventually Nevery, along with Rowan, and Nevery’s bodyguard/cook/housekeeper Bennet, clue in to Conn’s intelligence and they try to help him in his own way.

In the second book, Lost, Conn is exiled but takes this opportunity to travel to another city, the city of Desh, because that seems to be where the magic is telling him to go. The magic keeps Conn out of Wellmet, exile or not. Until Conn can figure out what the Magic wants from him in Desh, he’s going there on his own. He does spend some time in the company of Rowan and her diplomatic envoy, but mostly, he’s up to his own devices and almost gets himself killed a few times.

This poor boy ends up in so many dungeon/prison cells. Oy.

Found (Magic Thief, #3)

The third book in this series validated my own guess about what the magic was back in the middle of book one. I was quite pleased with myself about this you know. Heh. Again, this series surprised me with how the “unoriginal” plot ended up being original. I was certain that Conn was going to have some sort of magical connection with all dragons and that he and Pip would be fast, fast friends. In fact I thought a dragon was going to be Conn’s new (and second) Locus Magicalicus. I was slightly wrong. He’s no dragon whisperer, but he still approaches dragons like he does everything else. Logically – to him. He thinks something should be a certain way and he just acts as though it already is, even if it isn’t.

I don’t know if I am explaining this correctly, but it’s the only way I can think of to verbalize it.

All three books have those fun letter/journal snippets breaking up the narrative and I just adore them. I love Nevery to pieces. He’s so grumpy and gruff, but he’s got this soft heart that he tries to hide. The manner in which is journal entries are written always made me giggle and just made me love the character more. I think it helped that he reminded me of someone I used to work with. ;)

There is so much adventure, magic, humour, and fun within these pages. I am shocked that I didn’t look into this series sooner. I think I was just sceptical that it would seem too Harry Potter-ish (it’s NOTHING like HP), or too unoriginal, but it’s not. Unlike the Septimus Heap series (which is a little too Harry Potter-ish, and silly for my tastes), this book held me captive. I only borrowed the first two books of the three the library had. Just in case I didn’t like them, or someone needed the third book. (Don’t ask. I feel greedy if I take out an entire series at once.) but I read those two books in less than 24 hours and I headed right back to the library to pick up the third book. I am thrilled to find out that the fourth book – Home – is due out in about a month’s time. I think I want to buy this entire series for my niece. Or, you know, myself.

I tried writing about these books without giving too much away, but since I seem to be one of the last people to actually read them, you might not be spoiled by anything. But if you haven’t read them, and you’re a Middle Grade and Fantasy fan? Go out and get yourselves some copies now. They are amazing. Enchanting. Magical. Super fun and entertaining!

wish you were here

Words are funny things. They can harm, they can heal. They can make you cry or make you laugh. Words might seem insignificant, but they are really quite powerful.

Some are more sensitive to words than others. I’m very sensitive to words. I have always been sensitive to words. I have this entire backstory that ultimately results in: I don’t trust others. Not easily, anyhow. Because of events in my past I have serious trust issues and although I might seem like a bouncy, social butterfly to many, I rarely let many people in to see the real me. And just because I’m laughing and joking with you, doesn’t mean I trust you. I probably don’t.

These trust issues have lightened slightly as I age. My 30s are a lot less full of suspicion and distrust, my late 30s (OMG. Does. Not. Compute.) are actually even more mellow than the earlier part of this decade. But I still trust very few people. Although I now know that I have a small core group of those I trust implicitly and for them I am extremely grateful.

But back to words.

There are words that I have always longed to hear throughout my life. Phrases that if said to me, meant that I mattered. Obviously, “I love you” was at the top of that list, and I am so, so, lucky to have those words said to me on a daily basis. But words like, “you matter”, “you’re important to me”, “this made me think of you”, are also on that list. I’m the type of person who believes that if I am not there, live and in person, next to you, that you won’t ever think of me, or remember me. So many things will make me think of others, a colour, a type of clothing, a book, a food, etc. But does anyone experience that about me, when I am not in the room with them? That’s something I used to obsess about over and over as I was growing up. I can assure you that when you deal with depression and anxiety on a daily basis, that’s one of the major themes to worry about. Those little voices in your head that tell you you don’t matter, and that no one will miss you if you’re gone.

I am happy to report that this isn’t something that plagues my every waking moment anymore, although those little voices do make their way through once in a blue moon.

A little while ago I woke up to a text message that almost made me cry. Mind you, I was also dealing with the grief of losing Jinx, so I was slightly extra emotional, but still. The text included four simple words:

“Wish you were here.”

All sorts of emotions roared through me when I read the message for both my friend and for myself. Why for myself?

Because no one has EVER said that to me before.

Can you believe it? I have never had someone say to me they wished I was somewhere they were. The message hit me hard, for so many reasons on both sides. But mostly, I felt so loved at that moment. I realize that wasn’t the point of the message, but to me, to have someone actually wish I was with them. I felt like I mattered and I was so thoroughly touched and moved that I almost cried.

And then I thought that I was being rather pathetic.

But that message has stayed with me a long time now and I keep thinking about it and I keep thinking about how lucky I am to have love and friendship in my life. Stuff I honestly never thought I would ever have. I never thought I’d be married to someone who makes me happy every single day, and who loves me fully and completely. I never thought I’d have friends I could count on when I needed them, who cared enough for me to help me get through the crappy times. I have friends that I made years ago, whom I used to worry about not wanting to be my friend, who are so dear to me. I have newer friends that I made in the last 15 years that help hold me up when I fall. All of these people help put my pieces back together when I am so broken I don’t know how I can go on.

And sometimes, these people even wish I was there. And that’s something I have longed to hear since I was just a wee little thing. Maybe I do matter. Maybe I am memorable.

Yesterday was Esther Day, a day to tell those who mean the world to you that you love them. Again, simple words. But words that MATTER. Words that heal, not harm.

Simple words, but important words. Significant words.

So, dear friends, I love you. Thank you for being part of my life.