Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Of Books: My first love

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C.S. Lewis
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” Charles William Eliot

Oh books! How I am thankful for you. You were my first friend. My first love. I learned so much about how I hoped I might be as I read. I learned about others. I learned about the world. From the trivial to the deep books have changed me; shaped me. And they amuse me. And for someone growing up without many friends and with ADD (Ie. super low attention span) you were a saving grace!! I get stressed waiting someplace without a book – I don’t feel quite whole unless I know there is a book somewhere near by. Books just make life better. When I was 13 I went to Disneyland for a week with my family and one half of my suitcase was clothing, the other half was entirely books. I definitely over packed on books but felt so glad they were there.

I love all sorts of books. I love mystery books and historic fiction, I love chick lit and Christian insight books. I love so many books. And interestingly, I get bored by so many other books. I’m the worst English Major ever, as a general rule I dislike the classics greatly. But there are some that have shaped and inspired me – and mixed with a smattering of other book choices I bring you, my top ten most influential books (or Authors) in no particular order. (Tagged by LeAnna!)

1. Laura Ingalls Wilder - Little House on the Prairie Series
From Laura’s eagerness to her hands on attitude, I immediately found a main character in a book that I connected with. Laura didn’t have it all together – I totally related to that the first time I read this series. I loved the glimpse at life past and especially loved getting to immerse myself in that culture – and as I got older I was sure that if I was Laura an Alfonso would love me too. That was probably the first love story I fell in love with.

2. L.M. Montgomery - Anne of Green Gables Series & Blue Castle
Oh did I relate to Anne – of course I didn’t have red hair, nor was I an orphan, but there wasn’t something about her joy for life and intensity that I loved. She felt things so deeply and longed for friendships – I related so well. I never quite understood her issues with Gilbert or her love of classical literature but I loved how helpful she was in a tough situation and I loved seeing a story of community, family and friendship surround a lonely, isolated child. It was what I longed for in life and it gave me hope to see it happen for Anne.

Oh and the Blue Castle! What a winner. The main character Valancy represents everything one hopes to experience as you grow - a life! a love! a home! Her story is so engaging, so heartbreaking and so beautiful...it gives the reader courage and joy to watch her transformation. 

3. C.S. Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia Series, especially the Voyage of the Dawn Treader
My mom first read the Chronicles of Narnia to me when I was young, and then as I got older I read them to myself over and over again. I loved the adventure! When I was feeling particularly sad or lonely I would imagine myself walking into the wardrobe with them and finding a whole new world. I loved the adventure and the idea that kids could have such an impact in Narnia. The parallels to Christianity weren’t necessarily obvious in the moment, but looking back I can see how the ideas in the book helped shape my idea of God.

4. Ann M Martin - Babysitter Club Series
The Babysitters Club Series definitely filled a major role in my life. There were so many books, it was like having a thousand friends! One can’t be lonely when the BSC gang were around! They were familiar, they were friends, they were so much fun. It constantly switched which of them I felt like – was it Kristy? With her no-nonsense attitude, turtlenecks and planning skills? Or Claudia with her love of junk food and artistic side? Rarely was it Stacy – as she was such a fancy New Yorker but often it was Mary Anne with her sweetness and cute boyfriend (haha, wishful thinking). They were the friends I wished I had, and they were always available!

5. Carolyn Keene – The Nancy Drew Series
If the BSC gang was my best friend, Nancy Drew was definitely next in line. I loved her quick thinking – her ability to reason through things and make such amazing discoveries! Though in reality she would scorn at my detective and reading habits (I remember the sadness I felt when she described a negative character as being the type of person who skipped to the back of mystery novels, yikes guilty as charged) I still loved to read along.

6. Diana Gabaldon - Outlander Series
When I hit High School the school librarian recommended this series (actually the same day she recommended Harry Potter – which I rejected as being for kids). To this day I am shocked that she recommended this book to a 16 year old as it was just bursting with sex but I am so thankful. Sex aside it is one of the best series I have ever read. Not only did it teach me so much about history (scottish and more – I learned so so much) but it taught me a lot about marriage and relationships, family, how to respond in stressful situations and what real love looked like. Jamie won my heart instantly and raised the bar for every man there after. While Paul isn’t identical to Jamie, they do have many similarities. They both are tall, red headed and strong, yet their size is only outdone by their hearts and their loyalty. Neither will back down from a fight if necessary though both would find ways to deal with a situation outside of that. I reread the series yet again (I think I’ve finished 6 read throughs of the series thus far) when newly married and realized the similarities I actually had to stop and pray and thank God for giving me my Jamie :)

7. Torey Hayden - “Just another Kid” + actually all of her non-fiction
Torey Hayden is a teacher who works with kids with different types of developmental or situational disabilities – she has worked with some really interesting kids and has taken the time to write out her experiences. I read “Just another Kid” when I was 15 at my aunts house – I was bored and it was on the shelf – and I devoured it. I found it so engaging. I learned things about people and and difficulties that I had never known about. I spent years tracking down all of her books and have read and reread them all many times – learning so much along the way. Now I lend them out to people and love to let them experience the engagement that comes in these stories.

8. J.K. Rowling – The Harry Potter Series
Since rejecting this series as “too kiddie” in high school I’d intended to stay away, I hate to be wrong. But in my early twenties these books were turned into movies so I went. And fell in love and immediately started reading at book 2 and kept reading all the way through, waiting with bated breath for each new installment, rereading the series each year before the newest book would come out. I read the entirety of the final book in one day, including breaking down crying in the tanning salon I was working at – thankfully I was sitting with a pile of towels so I could dry my face. I loved these stories and while I couldn’t necessarily relate to the main three it didn’t matter – they were so engaging, the stories got me. I loved them. I dont know what exactly I learned here but I know I was reminded of how beautiful story telling could be – and how enjoyable a well written book could be.

Harry Potter also opened my eyes to this new sort of genre that I might not have experienced otherwise – it led me to the Hunger Games, to the Divergent series and to Lynn Flewelling – all series that have been wonderful and engaging to read. I’m so thankful for this style of writing and for having my eyes opened to it!

9. Maeve Bunchy – literally all of her books, though "Glass Lake" is my favorite
My roommate Sheri in University recommended “Tara Road” – because she loved it and my name was in it. I was skeptical but gave it a shot and fell in love. I spent the next many years again tracking down all of Maeve Binchy’s books and devouring them. She created such beautiful worlds, with such engaging people, and in doing so gave you these wonderfully deep glimpses into humanity. Her stories were deep at times, and silly at others, and often made me laugh out loud. I love the way she interweaves relationships and connections and basically makes me feel like I am in the story with the characters. Maeve had a true gift and I am so thankful for the books she wrote before she passed. I will never stop reading and rereading her books – each time I pick up one of her giant “door stopper” of a book I feel comforted and as if I’m with friends. What a gift.

As honourable mentions, following in her footsteps is Marian Keyes, Jill Mansell and Cathy Kelly. I love love love their books, and would recommend any of them (though Jill’s books are a lot more light hearted and chick flick like).

10. Kristin Hannah – again, everything she’s written, though “Winter Garden”, “The Things we do for Love” and “Magic Hour” especially stand out.
Lastly comes Kristin Hannah; an author that can write a chick flick type movie in one moment, then a Torey Hayden style page turner, followed by a desperately sad but interesting and educational history fiction piece. 

Kristin has a true gift, I love, love, love to read all that she writes. Again I have spent time tracking down all her books and am never disappointed. From the first thrift store finds ($2 for my first few books of hers) to following along on kindle the moment the book comes out, she has me hooked. “Magic Hour” was a beautiful story that engages your heart and really looks into the question of what makes a person have value and the power of believing in someone. “The Things we do for Love” questions what makes a family and how to live in a moment of loss or let down. Lastly, “Winter Garden” is a beautiful piece of historic fiction that engages your mind and your heart – I was swept away in the story. I dare you to read it without crying. I’m not sure how it’s possible.

I’m so thankful for stories and the authors who pour so much into them. Books gave me a glimpse into a life outside of my own as a child, and how they give me comfort and expand my mind. I am so thankful for books of all types – that they don't all have to be by Jane Austen to be good – not to be down on Jane Austen, I know many people who love her books, they just don't catch me personally.
 
“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.” Jane Smiley, Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel 
“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” Oscar Wilde
“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Death or the Wood between the worlds

Lately I've been reading to my mom - it's a new way of interacting with her. It has been really enjoyable for both of us. It only seemed fitting to start off by reading the Chronicles of Narnia to her - as she first read it to me years ago. 

We've started with "Magicians Nephew" and I'd forgotten how much fun this story is. How beautiful as well. The story centers around a young boy (the Magicians Nephew) and his friend, Polly, as they end up discovering a new world - or really they discover a place between worlds that gives them access to other worlds. This place between worlds is a forest, and called "The Wood between the Worlds." The description of this place is hauntingly beautiful and stuck out to me for a few reason. 
The next thing Digory knew was that there was a soft green light coming down on him from above, and darkness below.  He didn't seem to be standing on anything, or sitting or lying.  Nothing appeared to be touching him.  "I believe I'm in water," said Digory.  "Or under water."  This frightened him for a second, but almost at once he could feel that he was rushing upwards.  Then his head suddenly came out into the air and he found himself scrambling ashore, out on to the smooth grassy ground at the edge of the pool.
As he rose to his feet he noticed that he was neither dripping nor panting for breath as anyone would expect after being under water.  His clothes were perfectly dry.  He was standing by the edge of a small pool - not more than ten feet from side to side - in a wood.  The trees grew close together and were so leafy that he could get no glimpse of the sky.  All the light was green light that came through the leaves: but there must have been a very strong sun overhead, for this green daylight was bright and warm.  It was the quietest wood you could possibly imagine.  There were no birds, no insects, no animals, and no wind.  You could almost feel the trees growing.  The pool he had just got out of was not the only pool.  There were dozens of others - a pool every few yards as far as his eyes could reach.  You could almost feel the trees drinking the water up with their roots.  This wood was very much alive.  When he tried to describe it afterwards Digory always said: "It was a rich place: as rich as plumcake."
C.S. Lewis – The Magicians Nephew


I've struggled with the concept of death, especially as my mothers journey leads her closer and closer there. It's so unknown! I trust that when God says Heaven is a place we want to be and that we get to be with Him for eternity that it is true, but it's so foreign and so unknown. It scares me to think of her going there. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Connor's Lego Party

My wonderful nephew Connor turned 6 in August and my sister and I wanted to throw him an awesome party. He loves Lego and loved the Lego movie! It was a natural fit. We wanted to make sure we didn't go to overboard - he's only 6 and while he'll like having a decorated party he didn't need us to go crazy in the progress!
Austin, Jenna and Connor - the birthday boy

The idea was to go for bright colors with a focus on yellow and red. I picked up streamers & bunting, lanterns and puffs. We picked up a Parrot Pinata (nothing lego themed so we went for bright and cheery instead) and some easy party favours (a sticker book and slinky).




Monday, September 8, 2014

Thursday, September 4, 2014

5 reasons I buy online

Recently I read a fun article entitled “5 Reasons I Don't Buy Online.” Sarah at Tucker Up made some great points and I definitely agree with some of them. However I do buy clothes online and I do so for a few very good reasons. I thought it would be fun to make my top “5 reasons I buy online”

1. Shopping in a mall for me is like searching for a needle in a haystack – I have to go from store to store and try so many things on! Even at Old Navy (where I primarily purchase everything) it’s still overwhelming, I’m bombarded with everything I see. Online I have to search for what I want and thus don’t get as distracted by all the extras or options.

Online I can easily see all the rockstar jeans they have listed – in person I need to wander the store looking through different sections to make sure I didn’t miss some jeans somewhere. I buy less when I’m searching for an item online, than when I’m searching in person.

2. I love a deal. In person though I don’t always wait for the best deal since I’m there now and it feels weird to wait and return back. But online it’s easy! I just bookmark or save the item, and the second I get an email alert for the next sale, bam, I can buy it at a reasonable price. I haven’t paid full price for anything at Old Navy in ages! Online options for shopping often come with deals that are only online as well!

3. Returning items is almost addicting for me – it’s so easy! I can try things and there isn’t a huge pressure to keep them if they don’t fit. In fact when I’m at a store I feel bad for the employees who have to return all my items so I feel tempted to buy something to make up for the time I spent there. Not true online! I easily send it back if it doesn’t work perfectly. The return is money free and guilt free!

4. Shopping at a mall eats away at my valuable personal time! I have stuff to do, people!  The times I wait to shop in person to replace those jeans with a hole in the crotch mean weeks of wearing jeans with a hole in the crotch. When shopping online I buy it right away and it’s delivered to my door within two weeks, often faster than I’d be able to get to a mall myself!

On top of that, it’s a great use of the time I already have to set aside for sitting at a computer! My life in the evenings and weekends is hectic – I rarely have time to make it to a mall, let alone go any time I need something. I am forced to sit a computer all day and am supposed to take breaks (as mandated by labour laws) so online shopping is a relaxing and enjoyable use of that time.

5. Shopping online saves me money. It helps me shop for my needs and not my wants. When I look online I’m not as tempted by everything. In person I want all the things, but online it seems a bit more distant. I’m more suspicious of if I’ll wear something. I’m much more concious of the cost online – the bill tallies right there! At the mall I can’t see the total until I am already at the till about to pay. When I purchase online I find I’m often removing items from my shopping cart when the bill gets too high. Online I feel more responsible while still getting the thrill of new clothes! 

Plus when I shop at Old Navy online it’s a very different experience than shopping in person – in person when I’m done at one store, I’ll walk past at least 5 more stores on my way back to the car that all call out to me to shop…not to mention the food court and starbucks!
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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

An Island Weekend

I am from a wonderful Island called Vancouver Island. I had the pleasure of growing up in Port Alberni, right in the center of the Island. It was a great place to grow up and remains a wonderful place to visit. This trip the weather wasn't as glorious as I'd hoped but it was still a lovely time. Our main purpose was to see our friends Dustin & Anne get married, and after that we added a visit to the Salmon Fest, lots of time with family, Sproat Lake time and a canoe trip to Newcastle Island. It was a short trip but oh so sweet. 

It was a real joy to be there for Anne & Dustin's wedding. I've known Dustin's family my whole life (though mostly remember Dustin as a kid running around the yard and such) and loved getting the chance to know him as an adult once he moved to Vancouver. You will never meet another person like Dustin. I met Anne through my friend Lyndsay - originally Anne was one of her campers and poor Anne was the "lucky first aid attendant" who had to help me at Anvil Island when a week after back surgery I danced a bit to hard and needed some first aid attention. She was very patient with me! These two are beautiful to watch and obviously in love. It was so great to see them surrounded by their loved ones and finally get to be married! Every time I saw Dustin during the reception he was bowled over by the fact that "I have a wife now!" It was very sweet. Congrats you two! I look forward to our friendship in the future!


The very lovely couple and their first married kiss

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