SARcasm











{August 11, 2014}   RIP Robin Williams

Today, the world lost a great comedian and actor in Robin Williams, as he committed suicide after a very difficult battle with depression. His wife and children lost a husband and father. He will be missed very deeply. In a lot of ways, I share his wife’s desire that as time goes by, we can remember the joy he brought to so many, the laughs he shared, as opposed to his sad end.

But I also hope that a part of us remembers how he died, also … remembers that depression is a disease with a high mortality rate, and it is every bit as real as cancer, as real as heart disease or any other illness. We owe it to ourselves, and to everyone else, to recognize the suffering of mental illness, and to live with compassion for it.

For those suffering as Mr. Williams did, and as so many of us have, please: you are valued, you are loved, and you deserve the world, as the world deserves you. Make a phonecall, send an email or text, please … it might not feel like it, but so many people out there want to help, if you’ll trust us. And for those who know someone suffering from depression … please don’t wait for them to fight through their illness and come to you. Please be there for them, love them, and let them know that with every fibre of your being. You just might save someone’s life.

MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS LINE (CANADA): 1-866-996-0991

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{July 19, 2014}   A Few More Books Down

Hi all!Β Sorry, I promise I’ll post a newsier, more substantive posting soon … but in my own little world, while things have been busy this week, it’s all been pretty run of the mill stuff; job interviews, grading papers, errands, housekeeping, babysitting … my reading material has probably been the most interesting thing in my neck of the woodsΒ this week, so I wanted to share! πŸ™‚

A SERIOUS NOTE BEFORE THE FUN STUFF THOUGH: not everyone in this world has been blessed with such a routine week; it has in fact in many ways been a very troubling one in many parts of our world, as we hear of ongoing fighting in Gaza-Israel with many innocent civilian casualties; as we hear of the tragic conditions of undocumented, unaccompanied immigrant children on the southern US border; as we hear of the Malaysian Airlines plane shot down near the Ukrainian-Russian border in the midst of ongoing tensions and fighting there, and a serious humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. I want to take a moment to hold all of those struggling with the problems of the world in my heart, thoughts and prayers, and I encourage anyone wishing to make a tangible difference – in the South Sudan crisis anyway – to visit the United Church of Canada’s South Sudan Appeal page and donate atΒ http://www.united-church.ca/south-sudan. Amnesty International – http://www.amnesty.ca – is another great place to get involved. Thank you.

This week, I finished reading (1) TAKE THIS BREAD, (2) TOWELHEAD, and (3) EATS, SHOOTS AND LEAVES.

1. Deadlocked – Charlaine Harris

2. The Last Week – Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan
3. Speaking Christian – Why Christian Words Have Lost their Meaning – Marcus J. Borg
4. The Spiral Staircase – Karen Armstrong
5. A History of God – Karen Armstrong
6. jPod – Douglas Coupland
7. Beloved – Toni Morrison
8. β€˜Tis – Frank McCourt
9. We Need to Talk about Kevin – Lionel Shriver
10. The Constant Princess – Phillipa Gregory
11. Wicked – Gregory Maguire
12. The SixΒ WivesΒ of Henry the 8th – Alison Weir
13. Eleanor of Aquitaine – Alison Weir
14. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling
15. The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien
16. The Two Towers – J.R.R. Tolkien
17. The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien
18. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
19. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling
20. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling
21. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling
<s>22. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling
23. Dracula – Bram Stoker
24. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling
25. The Inferno – Dante
26. Towelhead – Alicia Erian
27. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
28. The Way the Crow Flies – Ann-Marie MacDonald
29. The Robber Bride – Margaret Atwood
30. 1066 and All That; A Memorable History of England – W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman
31. Have a Little Faith – Mitch Albom
32. Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman
33. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
34. Stardust – Neil Gaiman
35. Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
36. The Holy Bible – Various
37. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
38. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
39. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
40. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
41. The Book of Negroes – Lawrence Hill
42. Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family – Susan Katz Miller
43. The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman
44. Lolita – Vladimir Nobokov
45. Atonement – Ian McEwan
46. All the King’s Men – Robert Penn Warren
47. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
48. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
49. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
50. Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
51. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
52. Scarlett – Alexandra Ripley
53. White Noise – Don De Litto
54. Their Eyes were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
55. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
56. The Help – Kathryn Stockett
57. Ragtime – E.L. Doctorow
58. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
59. The Trial – Franz Kafka
60. Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlasser
61. The Man Who Made Us – Richard Gwyn
62. Memoirs – Pierre Trudeau
63. Shake Hands with the Devil – Romeo d’Allaire
64. Team of Rivals – Doris Kearns Goodwin
65. Nation Maker – Richard Gwyn
66. The United Church of Canada: A History – Don Schweitzer (ed.)
67. Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
68. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
69. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe – Douglas Adams
70. Life, the Universe and Everything – Douglas Adams
71. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish – Douglas Adams
72. Mostly Harmless – Douglas Adams
73. Committed – Elizabeth Gilbert
74. The Manticore – Robertson Davies
75. World of Wonders – Robertson Davies
76. The Donnellys – James Reaney
77. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
78. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
79. Farenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
80. Not Wanted on the Voyage – Timothy Findlay
81. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
82. Coraline – Neil Gaiman
83. The Crucible – Arthur Miller
84. Mirror Mirror – Gregory Maguire
85. Eats, Shoots & Leaves – Lynne Truss
86. Sorbonne Confidential – Laurel Zuckerman
87. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
88. The Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick
89. Hey Nostradamus! – Douglas Coupland
90. The Girl who Played with Fire – Stieg Larsson
91. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
92. The 5 People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
93. The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
94.Β Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain
95. The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
96. The Bonfire of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe
97. Guys and Dolls – Damon Runyon
98. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Stieg Larsson
99. He’s Just Not that Into You – Greg Behrendt, Liz Tuccillo, Lauren Monchik
100. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer
101.Β Take this Bread – Sara Miles

Again, some mini-reviews for each of the three books I’ve read:

TAKE THIS BREAD is a great memoir of a longtime lesbian atheist who converts to Christianity … but not the stereotypical version of Christianity we all associate with the fundamentalist/evangelical/’Moral Majority’ bit. A very practical, hands-on, tactile, physical expression of God’s love – and tying the concept of Communion, or the Eucharist, the findamental sacrament in the Christian community, to Jesus’ requirement that we love our neighbours, Sara Miles expresses her Christianity by radically reimagining Christ’s table as something open to all, helping to set up several soup kitchens as a spiritual practice. An absolutely phenomenal example of us being Christ’s hands and feet in this world.

TOWELHEAD is extremely hard to review, as it seems incredibly wrong to say I ‘enjoyed’ such a deeply disturbing book, but it was extremely well-written, evocative and provocative, casting light and shadow and shades of grey into a world and a situation at once both startlingly simple and deceptively complex. Perhaps one of the best reviews that most echoes my feelings on the book can be found here – http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/10/books/review/10GILESL.html?_r=0Β – I suggest you read it for a better sense of the feel of the book than my humble talents can provide.

EATS, SHOOTS AND LEAVES might leave you wanting to stand up and cheer because you agree with Lynn Truss’s basic point, or it might leave you more convinced than ever that grammar sticklers need to get a life. I probably lean to the stickler end without being a complete one myself – while I try to avoid errors in grammar generally, or punctuation in particular, I know it happens, it can be tricky, some rules are less hard-and-fast and more stylistic, and a few errors in grammar, especially in this age of netspeak, doesn’t make you a total idiot. But I still enjoyed this book and found my inherent belief that grammar and punctuation are important tools to our understanding of the written word happily affirmed by the author. This book may or may not convince you of the importance of punctuation, but it will perhaps convince you of an even more impossible fact: that a funny, enjoyable, easy-to-read, lighthearted book about grammar, of all things, can indeed be written! πŸ™‚



Hi all! First of all, I’m sorry – this has been a particularly protracted break from blogging, even for me. The first six or so months of 2014 have been particularly busy ones, as not only have I had the usual “busy working mom” stuff on my plate, but for three months that work went from part-time to full-time. And as much of my work is done in my computer, when I have had some leisure time, I’ve been more inclined to put away the screen. Which has been bad news for keeping up with my blog, but good news for progress through my reading list. As such, I thought that would be a good place to wade back into the blogging waters (although by no means will it end here – I promise to be more of a presence in the *somewhat* quieter summer months).

Below, please note that I’ve swapped out “INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE” for “QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN’T STOP TALKING”, by Susan Cain, and “JESUS FOR THE NON-RELIGIOUS” for “TAKE THIS BREAD” by Sara Miles. Jesus for the Non-Religious will probably return to this list (or my next one), it was just the easiest place to make room for this other book on a similar topic (progressive Christianity) of a similar length.Β I will also bold and cross off books I have read since the start of the year, rather than naming them all here. πŸ™‚

1. Deadlocked – Charlaine Harris

2. The Last Week – Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan
3. Speaking Christian – Why Christian Words Have Lost their Meaning – Marcus J. Borg
4. The Spiral Staircase – Karen Armstrong
5. A History of God – Karen Armstrong
6. jPod – Douglas Coupland
7. Beloved – Toni Morrison
8. β€˜Tis – Frank McCourt
9. We Need to Talk about Kevin – Lionel Shriver
10. The Constant Princess – Phillipa Gregory
11. Wicked – Gregory Maguire
12. The SixΒ WivesΒ of Henry the 8th – Alison Weir
13. Eleanor of Aquitaine – Alison Weir
14. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling
15. The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien
16. The Two Towers – J.R.R. Tolkien
17. The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien
18. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
19. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling
20. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling
21. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling
<s>22. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling
23. Dracula – Bram Stoker
24. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling
25. The Inferno – Dante
26. Towelhead – Alicia Erian
27. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
28. The Way the Crow Flies – Ann-Marie MacDonald
29. The Robber Bride – Margaret Atwood
30. 1066 and All That; A Memorable History of England – W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman
31. Have a Little Faith – Mitch Albom
32. Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman
33. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
34. Stardust – Neil Gaiman
35. Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
36. The Holy Bible – Various
37. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
38. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
39. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
40. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
41. The Book of Negroes – Lawrence Hill
42. Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family – Susan Katz Miller
43. The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman
44. Lolita – Vladimir Nobokov
45. Atonement – Ian McEwan
46. All the King’s Men – Robert Penn Warren
47. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
48. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
49. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
50. Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
51. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
52. Scarlett – Alexandra Ripley
53. White Noise – Don De Litto
54. Their Eyes were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
55. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
56. The Help – Kathryn Stockett
57. Ragtime – E.L. Doctorow
58. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
59. The Trial – Franz Kafka
60. Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlasser
61. The Man Who Made Us – Richard Gwyn
62. Memoirs – Pierre Trudeau
63. Shake Hands with the Devil – Romeo d’Allaire
64. Team of Rivals – Doris Kearns Goodwin
65. Nation Maker – Richard Gwyn
66. The United Church of Canada: A History – Don Schweitzer (ed.)
67. Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
68. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
69. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe – Douglas Adams
70. Life, the Universe and Everything – Douglas Adams
71. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish – Douglas Adams
72. Mostly Harmless – Douglas Adams
73. Committed – Elizabeth Gilbert
74. The Manticore – Robertson Davies
75. World of Wonders – Robertson Davies
76. The Donnellys – James Reaney
77. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
78. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
79. Farenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
80. Not Wanted on the Voyage – Timothy Findlay
81. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
82. Coraline – Neil Gaiman
83. The Crucible – Arthur Miller
84. Mirror Mirror – Gregory Maguire
85. Eats, Shoots & Leaves – Lynne Truss
86. Sorbonne Confidential – Laurel Zuckerman
87. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
88. The Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick
89. Hey Nostradamus! – Douglas Coupland
90. The Girl who Played with Fire – Stieg Larsson
91. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
92. The 5 People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
93. The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
94.Β Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain.
95. The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
96. The Bonfire of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe
97. Guys and Dolls – Damon Runyon
98. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Stieg Larsson
99. He’s Just Not that Into You – Greg Behrendt, Liz Tuccillo, Lauren Monchik
100. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer
101.Β Take this Bread – Sara Miles

This time around I’m not going to review each book individually with any kind of depth, as there are several. But I will say I enjoyed and recommend each of them, albeit perhaps for somewhat different audiences. Briefly, HAVE A LITTLE FAITH is a sweet, short, inspiring book about the presence of God in two faith communities and specifically two clergy members with radically different life experiences. BEING BOTH outlines the experience of living life as an interfaith family like ours, and makes a compelling case that more than a confusing or difficult experience, it can be a very fulfilling and rewarding one.

THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA: A HISTORY and TEAM OF RIVALS I actually read some time ago but forgot to strike off here. The former is a collection of essays outlining the history of the United Church of Canada from both a timeline-type perspective and an issues-based perspective. A bit of an “academic” read but a worthwhile one. The latter, similarly, is a bit scholarly in that it was written by a historian, but one who makes Abraham Lincoln’s rise to power and his close work with men who could otherwise have been political rivals during the Civil War amazingly accessible. The man was quite something, and Doris Kearns Goodwin does an exceptional job of illustrating that. Highly recommended.

QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT WON’T STOP TALKING is an insightful revelation into the world of introversion, removing a lot of the misperceptions, assumptions, and stigma attached to the introverted, who can in fact be incredibly social, powerful and world-moving if we as a society stop thinking “shyness” is necessarily a defect and can work to see the richness beyond the perhaps quieter facade. And lastly, THE POISONWOOD BIBLE is a sweeping yet intimate story of a troubled missionary family in the even more troubled Congo of the 1960s – not by any means an easy or a light read, but a fascinating one from a literary/poetic perspective, as well as the perspective of history, politics, etc.

If any of these books sound interesting to you, I can certainly recommend any of them highly, even though they are vastly different books that are designed for very different audiences (unless, like me, you aren’t a terribly picky reader in terms of genre and enjoy almost anything). πŸ™‚



Hi everyone!

So my apologies for the absenteeism. While Christmukah was fantastic – always an amazing time with family and friends, so busy but so worthwhile – the start of 2014 has been … not all bad, necessarily, but eventful. We DID all get sick the first week of the year, which is never fun; Little Tyke missed two days of school due to a broken boiler and one due to this illness, I’ve had 2 job interviews and a few days of work, as well as a special project I’ve been working on with my online school, and Ari’s office is in the midst of a move. Not to mention getting sick immediately after (a) a trip that (b) entails Christmukah, gifts, a week away generally etc., you set yourself quite behind. It was the second week of January before new toys found homes, Christmas decorations came down, etc. This week we had a cleaner come into our house – such a relief! – and only this week or so has it felt like we’ve been back to any kind of routine. Needless to say, during a few weeks where it’s felt like the house, work etc. have been falling down around us, blogging has not been at all a priority, even for someone with as spotty posting as me to begin with.

That said – we’ve learned a lot the last few weeks about time management (yes, even thirty-somethings can learn! lol …), about teamwork, about how awesomely helpful our kids can be if we don’t just take it on ourselves to clean up after them … so I’m guessing now that we’ve sort of found our footing again, hopefully a bit of blog posting won’t be too hard to keep up. And there is LOTS to talk about, from the ridiculously cold weather (and my related jealousy of my mother, stepfather and grandma, who are down in Florida as we speak), to politics, to pop culture (Justin Bieber and Richard Sherman anyone?) … and of course our regular features like my reading list etc. So this is a post to say thank you for bearing with me – over the last year of inconsistent blogging, and the last 3 weeks or so in particular, I’m back and among my New Year’s resolutions (like going to the gym, starting weight watchers and finding a job lol), is to be a more regular presence here … because as anyone who sees me in passing on FB or has the chance to chat with me knows, I have a lot to say. I just need to make more of an effort to come by here and say it! πŸ˜€ I look forward to that conversation in 2014.

Blessings, and Happy New Year (either belatedly for 2014, or early if you observe Chinese New Year, as we have often done when years haven’t gotten off to the best start! lol …)

Cheers,

Sarah



{January 3, 2014}   New Year, New Reading!

Hi all! Hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday and that 2014 is off to a rolicking start for all! I had a wonderful time with friends and family, and I feel like a good time was had by all this Christmukah season! And now it’s January 3 and we’re back to the routine’ – the take the tree down, make room for holiday gifts, unpack and have laundry on constant loop time. So much I could say about the week or two before now, from what I felt was a very successful Christmas Eve pageant at church, through a fun Christmas resulting in some new electronics, clothes, books and – most importantly! – amazing time with family, and a Chanukah with my in-laws and just about all our friends back in Kitchener-Waterloo (including a few ‘rasslin’ buddies in Toronto when we went to check out WWE’s live show on Dec. 30 – thanks Ari for the tickets, and Dad for babysitting!).

I will definitely try to do a bit of a look back/look ahead, year end/year beginning post in the next day or two, but Christmas break also means new reading, and despite having done some reading in recent months I haven’t updated my reading list in some time, so I wanted to take care of this before I forgot and got sidetracked with other things in the New Year. I also wanted to make a couple of changes; namely, changing my two Dan Brown picks to “Book of Negroes” by Canadian author Lawrence Hill (which I finished over the winter break, incidentally), and to “Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family” by Susan Katz Miller. You can find those changes below in bold, and “Book of Negroes” struck off. I may yet replace one or two books below with Malala Yousafsi’s autobiography and “Blood”, also by Hill, but I’m going to hold off on that as yet, since I’m still really interested in my list as it is, so I might just read those over and above my 101 books. We’ll see. πŸ™‚

That said … for my first book review of 2014, we’ll look at a wonderful piece of CanLit, “THE BOOK OF NEGROES” by Lawrence Hill, with no further ado …

I’m a bit behind the 8-ball in reviewing this one as it’s roughly 5-6 years old, but I read Hill’s “Black Berry, Sweet Juice” a couple of years back and wanted to read more of his work. Ari bought me this book for Chanukah and I read it over about 2 weeks’ time, which should tell you how engaging it was, and an easier read than you might expect given the subject matter. πŸ™‚ You can find the review below.Β 

1. Deadlocked – Charlaine Harris

2. The Last Week – Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan
3. Speaking Christian – Why Christian Words Have Lost their Meaning – Marcus J. Borg
4. The Spiral Staircase – Karen Armstrong
5. A History of God – Karen Armstrong
6. jPod – Douglas Coupland
7. Beloved – Toni Morrison
8. β€˜Tis – Frank McCourt
9. We Need to Talk about Kevin – Lionel Shriver
10. The Constant Princess – Phillipa Gregory
11. Wicked – Gregory Maguire
12. The SixΒ WivesΒ of Henry the 8th – Alison Weir
13. Eleanor of Aquitaine – Alison Weir
14. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling
15. The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien
16. The Two Towers – J.R.R. Tolkien
17. The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien
18. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
19. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling
20. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling
21. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling
<s>22. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling
23. Dracula – Bram Stoker
24. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling
25. The Inferno – Dante
26. Towelhead – Alicia Erian
27. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
28. The Way the Crow Flies – Ann-Marie MacDonald
29. The Robber Bride – Margaret Atwood
30. 1066 and All That; A Memorable History of England – W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman
31. Have a Little Faith – Mitch Albom
32. Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman
33. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
34. Stardust – Neil Gaiman
35. Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
36. The Holy Bible – Various
37. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
38. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
39. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
40. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
41. The Book of Negroes – Lawrence Hill
42. Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family – Susan Katz Miller
43. The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman
44. Lolita – Vladimir Nobokov
45. Atonement – Ian McEwan
46. All the King’s Men – Robert Penn Warren
47. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
48. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
49. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
50. Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
51. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
52. Scarlett – Alexandra Ripley
53. White Noise – Don De Litto
54. Their Eyes were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
55. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
56. The Help – Kathryn Stockett
57. Ragtime – E.L. Doctorow
58. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
59. The Trial – Franz Kafka
60. Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlasser
61. The Man Who Made Us – Richard Gwyn
62. Memoirs – Pierre Trudeau
63. Shake Hands with the Devil – Romeo d’Allaire
64. Team of Rivals – Doris Kearns Goodwin
65. Nation Maker – Richard Gwyn
66. The United Church of Canada: A History – Don Schweitzer (ed.)
67. Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
68. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
69. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe – Douglas Adams
70. Life, the Universe and Everything – Douglas Adams
71. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish – Douglas Adams
72. Mostly Harmless – Douglas Adams
73. Committed – Elizabeth Gilbert
74. The Manticore – Robertson Davies
75. World of Wonders – Robertson Davies
76. The Donnellys – James Reaney
77. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
78. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
79. Farenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
80. Not Wanted on the Voyage – Timothy Findlay
81. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
82. Coraline – Neil Gaiman
83. The Crucible – Arthur Miller
84. Mirror Mirror – Gregory Maguire
85. Eats, Shoots & Leaves – Lynne Truss
86. Sorbonne Confidential – Laurel Zuckerman
87. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
88. The Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick
89. Hey Nostradamus! – Douglas Coupland
90. The Girl who Played with Fire – Stieg Larsson
91. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
92. The 5 People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
93. The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
94. Interview with the Vampire – Ann Rice
95. The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
96. The Bonfire of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe
97. Guys and Dolls – Damon Runyon
98. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Stieg Larsson
99. He’s Just Not that Into You – Greg Behrendt, Liz Tuccillo, Lauren Monchik
100. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer
101. Jesus for the Non-Religious – John Shelby Spong

I’m torn on exactly what to say about this book. As I said in my Goodreads review, on the one hand I want to get a bit picky about how readable and accessible it is in some ways – should a book about slavery really be a ‘page-turner’? On the other hand, it speaks well to the author that, while he doesn’t (much) sanitize things (although I’m sure the horror of slavery is such it is impossible to write about from this remove without any sanitation), he creates an accessible book that you don’t need to be a historian or scholar to read, enjoy and learn from. Aminata Diallo is a relatable character who faces both a lifetime of losses and horrors, yet builds important and affirming relatinonships that see her through. While there are a few unrealistic conceits throughout the story designed to build hope and affirmation, you still feel the strength her journey requires of her, and the understanding that even when good things happen, it has so often gone the other way it is far from a sure thing (and vice versa). A very human story about a very inhuman time and place, crossing the map from Africa to the Southern United States to the Northeast, into Canada, and back to Africa before one last trip to England, this historical novel might struggle in some places with the risks of the genre – telling a compelling and entertaining story while remaining true to difficult subject matter – but by and large succeeds, and at the very least is a compelling and engaging read you will not regret.



{December 1, 2013}   Church Reflections

One of the true blessings I’ve had through my work at my church over the last few years has been the opportunity to lead worship from time to time when our minister is away. I thought I’d share my reflections here for those who might be interested in what a progressive Christian worldview might represent. I encourage anyone with a bit of time on their hands to listen – not so much because I’m an especially good preacher, but more because I’d love to share as widely as possible the reality that there is another way to ‘be Christian’ … to be a progressive, affirming, loving person who takes Jesus’ message of radical inclusivity (the Samaritans, lepers and tax collectors of our day) in a 21st century Emerging Christianity. I’d be extremely flattered by anyone willing to listen, and familiarize themselves both with my own faith journey, and how faith can, in fact, inform a progressive world view.

CLICK HERE to listen to my reflection on Christ, Gandhi, and peaceful conflict resolution.

CLICK HERE to listen to my reflection on radical forgiveness.

CLICK HERE to listen to my reflection on discipleship in a progressive Christian context.

CLICK HERE to listen to my reflection on the power of prayer.



{December 1, 2013}   What I’ve been up to!

So while I have been the invisible blogger for the last 20 days and well I know it, I wanted to share why, as you know, being the narcissistic type who wants to share the entirety of my existence because the people out there care so damn much. πŸ™‚ So let’s see …

First of all, my birthday boys – I was so busy the last two weeks celebrating their birthdays with them in, you know, the real world, I didn’t have time to report back on the festivities here online … which you know, means it didn’t really happen lol. Ari and Little Tyke’s birthdays are 9 days apart. We actually ‘met’ LT on Ari’s birthday, when he (LT) was 9 days old. This year, we celebrated both in grand fashion. We had a massive friends-and-family birthday party for Little Tyke, and Ari and I spent the weekend away in Lake Placid for his b-day (with thanks to my folks for the babysitting services). It was a lot of work, but oh so much fun. πŸ™‚ Happy birthday to two of the bestest men on the planet. Big hugs.

Ari and Little Tyke.

Ari and Little Tyke.

The boys and the Menorah.

It’s also been “Christmukah”, as you can see by the tree above, and the Menorah below. Being a mixed faith house, we celebrate both holidays, and this year Chanukah was early, so we’ve been hustling to get the house decorated and get some shopping started before/as Chanukah began (we’re on the 4th night of 8 as I type this). We exchange small gifts over the week and a day, each person gets two nights on which they get a gift. These tend to be smaller gifts, since we also exchange gifts at Pseudo-Chanukah with my in-laws, and Christmas of course, but they’re nice treats, often those little things you don’t think to buy for yourself, and the boys love the lights and the singing and dancing. So far, a reading light, a book, socks and a card game have been purchased. The last gifts of Chanukah for the boys tend to be their Christmas jammies.

So we’re having fun with all those celebrations … off to the Santa Clause parade tomorrow, although the boys have already met the man.

Boys and Santa Claus.

 

And last but not least this of course means a busy time at church. Not only did I lead church service earlier this month (of which I am probably unseemly proud and will be sharing my reflection in a later post), but it’s obviously one of the busiest times of the church year. Today I volunteered at our fantastic Bazaar, and tomorrow kicks off the Advent season; my family will be lighting the first Advent candle, I help organize a potluck after service, and I am in the process of preparing for our annual Christmas pageant. It’s a wonderful and exciting time of year … and it’s one of those ironies that often at the times you most want to share what’s going on in your world, is when you have the least time available to do so. But the above is my month in a nutshell. And I do hope as we gear up for the Holidays that you are enjoying your Chanukah, that you do enjoy your Christmas, and that all of my American friends are enjoying their Thanksgiving weekend and Black Friday sales.

God bless.



{November 10, 2013}   Rob Ford – My Thoughts

So I guess I’m a little behind the eight-ball on this whole story, but I haven’t really found a comfortable way to address it since it began. If I take the sympathetic approach, it’s disingenuous as I truly am no fan of and do not like the mayor of Toronto. However, when speaking of addiction and a life that is clearly in crisis, taking the schadenfreude, let’s laugh at the buffoon approach seems callous and cruel, even if the man on the receiving end IS extremely easy to dislike, espouses poor political policies and is in no position -for many reasons – to run any city, much less the fourth largest in North America. Whether sober or not, he would never have my vote … and yet I can understand in the depths of whatever compassion I can claim that he is ill, and badly needs help. To that end, I don’t know if my words that follow will strike the tone I’m hoping to, and I apologize for that in advance. But I have done my best.

First of all, I suppose, for those who find living under rocks comfortable, let’s recap – on Halloween afternoon, the Toronto police announced they possessed a video of Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine, as described by several journalists and bloggers several months ago. Rob Ford spent a weekend responding with very general, vague, somewhat self-deprecating ‘We all make mistakes’-type comments before earlier this week admitting to having smoked crack cocaine “in one of my drunken stupors”. As Toronto city council moves to severely limit his powers, and the push for him to at a minimum take a leave of absence (which he steadfastly refuses to do … along with refusing to commit to sobriety in terms of his admitted drinking problem), and another video has become public of the mayor literally on a drunken, murderous rant, the story has ballooned out internationally, garnering attention not only on ‘real’ news, but Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” hosted by Jon Stewart, and its sister show, “The Colbert Report”, hosted by Stephen Colbert.

I don’t live in Toronto – I’m all the way in Ottawa – but I have friends and family there, and honestly, it is a huge city with major influence in Ontario, so I can’t help but to have developed an opinion on this case, and it comes down somewhere in between those seeking to make fun of and/or condemn the mayor, and those who support him, appreciate his flaws and foibles, and think he’s done a great job in office despite, you know, the alcohol and drugs. My thoughts, in no particular order, with no particular rhyme or reason, go something like the following:

  • At the end of the day, this isn’t really funny, but actually incredibly sad. No, no I won’t get all holier-than-thou about this, as I’ve laughed at Stewart and Colbert’s jokes too – but really, if we examine our best selves, it’s sad and scary. This is a man with a family, and a huge city which is suffering from a soap opera side show circus instead of the governance it needs and deserves. A city with much to be proud of is becoming a laughing-stock, and a man who badly needs help seems determined to self-destruct in the public eye, and take the city he runs down with him, refusing to compromise on even so much as a leave of absence, much less stepping down. Common sense has been abandoned and there is suffering on both a personal level, and a political, city-wide level. It is in some ways infotainment run amok and we enjoy the show … but let’s not lose sight that these are real lives – a real man with a real family, and an extremely large city with a large citizenry and complex infrastructure – which are suffering.
  • I am actually inclined to be naive and give the benefit of the doubt that Mayor Ford’s smoking crack was a one time event that occurred in a drunken haze. However, he has a drinking problem. And if I, as a sickeningly non-confrontational, non-judgemental person who takes stories about people she doesn’t know with several grains of salt, can see that and know that – and he has all but admitted that – and yet he will not commit to abstaining from alcohol, he will not commit to rehab or to step down … that is bad news for the city of Toronto, and will absolutely do nothing, really, for Rob Ford or his family either. We all do stupid things when drunk – for some of us maybe that just means dancing poorly and telling embarrassing stories, for others it might be a bit more serious, going home with someone they don’t know for example – but I don’t think that smoking a hard drug is under the traditional list of ’embarrassing drunken mistakes made by all’. And remember – this man is a forty-some-year-old who smoked crack … as the mayor of Toronto … and the mitigating factor he cites is that he was in a drunken stupor. This shouldn’t be inspiring a great deal of confidence in Torontonians – any Torontonians – in terms of their mayor.
  • All of this said – right now this needs to be about damage control and not schadenfreude … and on a similar note, we need to focus on the issues. Drug and alcohol use insofar as they affect Mayor Ford’s job performance – and to the extent he doesn’t think these as problems need to be addressed in any meaningful way – are fair game, for example, as are his policies to those who disagree with him, including the hypocrisy that he has been known to take a hard line on drug users. I have no problem with anyone criticizing the mayor. But ‘he’s stupid’, ‘he’s fat’, ‘he’s a clown/buffoon/idiot’ … I figure we have enough concrete, tangible, job-performance-related things to throw at him at this point without having to be ‘mean’. At the end of the day, this man is a crappy mayor who is selfishly inflicting all of his problems on the city he runs; his weight, his plain-spokeness, his likability or lack thereof have nothing to do with it.
  • Bottom line; let’s not indulge the soap opera. Here are the facts that matter, bluntly without trying to take cheap shots: the mayor of Toronto has a substance abuse problem that at least includes – but is not necessarily limited to – alcohol. He has been drunk at official events a number of times, and has been drunk to the point he thought that indulging in illegal drugs was a good use of his time as mayor. He is not necessarily evil or bad for this, but he is sick. And in his stubborn refusal to admit as much, he is pulling the great city of Toronto down with him. And if Rob Ford truly loves his city and his constituents as much as he claims, he will think long and hard about them – as well as his family, friends, and those who love him – and realize the best thing he can do for anyone who cares for him – and anyone he cares for – would be to get help, so he can best serve the city he was hired to represent.

Again, this is all just extemporaneous first draft stuff, so if it’s wordy, or babbly I apologize. I am just filled in equal parts with sadness, concern, frustration, anger, and yes, if I’m honest and not polishing up my halo too much, a touch of schadenfreude … and I just want those who are sick to be well, and those who need to be looked after in the meantime, to be looked after. My very best wishes to the city of Toronto as they face, frankly, a concerning and tricky time in their city governance, and yes … I also wish the best for Rob Ford as he is, again, clearly in crisis, and I hope for his sake and that of his wife, kids, and family, as well as ‘the city [he] love[s]’, that he searches his soul and finds the way out.



Hi all. First of all, from Diesel 10 and Wreck it Ralph, we want to wish you a Happy Halloween! πŸ™‚

Little Tyke and Little J as Diesel 10 and Wreck it Ralph.

Little Tyke and Little J as Diesel 10 and Wreck it Ralph.

I also want to wish good luck to anyone participating like me in National Novel-Writing Month as of midnight tonight.

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You can find more details about it at http://www.nanowrimo.org – lots of games, challenges, local meetups and write-ins, swag for your FB and Twitter etc. … you can participate as much or as little as you want, but ultimately at its core it’s the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month. It doesn’t have to be a work of high literature, or even that good – the point is to release your creativity, set down and WRITE. I have yet to ‘win’ – which everyone who reaches the 50k benchmark does – but it’s always a fun challenge for myself. And maybe this will be my year! πŸ™‚ If you’re interested, it’s not too late – hustle on over and see if you can find me over there. I’d love to exchange moral support and war stories!

 



{October 15, 2013}   Thanks-Giving

The bad news over the last 3 weeks is that I have been far too busy to blog. The good news is, a lot of what has kept me busy the last few weeks has been good stuff – family and friends, busy-ness professionally etc. But I have struggled to see that. The work I try to do on mindfulness and gratitude has been a bit of a failure. Instead of seeing ‘look, I worked every day last week, which means professional contacts, professional fulfillment and yes, money,’ for example, I saw ‘OMG when am I ever going to get my marking done and clean my house?’. And then, along comes Thanksgiving weekend. And there is nothing like fun and uninterrupted time with one’s family on beautiful fall days to remind you that even – and perhaps especially – in the midst of the crazy, there are so many blessings to be found.

So – at the risk of sounding like one of those obnoxious folks bragging about how wonderful their life is in the midst of others who might be struggling – I would like to take the time to practice some thankfulness and awareness that there are two sides to everything … and that perhaps Thanksgiving (even a bit belatedly) is a good time to look at the brighter one. So – despite my grumbling at times the last few weeks – I am thankful for …

  • Babysitters! And family who enjoy sharing in the freedom of sitters!
  • My family and friends – never before in my life have I felt so surrounded by loving and supportive people, and been so aware of it. It brings me great joy.
  • Especially my little foursome here – we’ve all of us had some cranky, tired, and some ‘just get us through the day’ moments over the last three busy, sick, tired weeks, (illness, new teachers, changing schedules with me working etc.) but I also realize a lot of it is a sign of new growth, new learning, new phases, and we have all been growing TOGETHER as a team … and that’s a cool feeling. And I am thankful that we are a family of strong people with minds of our own, even our littlest ones.
  • Fulfilling work! I am so happy being reminded each and every week why I do what I do at my church, how helpful eLearning is to my students, and even the supply teaching river has been flowing a bit more fully this year (a HUGE part of the busy-ness). It’s been busy, but it has been fun, challenging, aggravating, wonderful, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
  • Health. Between all of us, we have spent two of the last three weeks ill, and it is absolutely amazing to have finally shaken off the bug and to have a home full of healthy people again.
  • The lessons of patience. There is a particular, and very important, phonecall I have been expecting for a week now, and am still waiting. And while I perhaps dislike the suspense, I realize time passing might be a good thing, to teach me patience and to ensure the best possible outcome for everyone.
  • Special occasions. Thanksgiving is such a wonderful and inspiring holiday, and with Halloween and two of my three boys’ birthdays coming up, and the Holidays not far behind, here begins a few of the happiest months of my year … cheer in the cold of fall and winter.

Whether you are in a time of peace and comfort, or struggling at this moment – or perhaps, as so often in life, a blessed and difficult mix of both – what are YOU thankful for?



et cetera