Thinking about August goals

goals

I place high value on being intentional about things, but also on being realistic and cutting myself some slack. So when I discovered Goals with Grace via The Tiny Twig, I was pretty excited. Easy monthly goals? Yes please.

Goals for July 2014:

  1. Read and review at least two books. This month, reading at least two books was easy, especially because it was finally my turn in the library cue to get Laini Taylor’s latest book. Reviewing forces me to be a lot more intentional when I’m reading because I have to highlight or make notes and generally think harder. Nonetheless, I read and reviewed Tables in the Wilderness by Preston Yancey, and Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker (which you can find under the “Reviews” tab if you’re curious.)
  2. Write in my journal at least once a week. A big huge NOPE to this one, as I haven’t even written in it yet. This is often what happens to me with journal writing, as I am afraid to return to it because I know I’ll have to sort through my crap. Ha. I have, however, managed to read through the large pile of comics I’d been keeping next to my bed, so perhaps writing before I head to sleep will be a lot more possible.
  3. Complete one non-walking to work physical activity per week. I’m bad at caring about physical fitness, but it is also summer and I don’t have a car, so I end up walking places on the weekends anyway. Plus I’ve (ugh) started doing lunges and squats at home before bed, so consider this goal achieved. And, because my husband is an absolute saint, he helped me paint my bicycle, so I am riding that bad boy everywhere.
  4. Send snail mail to my besties. This one was almost easy, because most of my besties had major events going on in their lives (birthdays, weddings, et cetera). Also, I keep a stash of cards for general/various occasions in a (currently very messy) drawer in our office, so I don’t have to buy something new if I want to send mail.

Goals for August 2014:

  1. Paint the bathroom.
  2. De-rust and paint my bicycle.*
  3. Read and review at least three books.
  4. Write in my journal at least once a week.

* This one is already done, but I did it right at the end of July/beginning of August, which was earlier than I thought it would happen.

A couple of these are the same/similar to last month’s goals, and the other two are totally new (and both happen to be DIY sorts of things). Painting the bathroom isn’t terribly lofty, but will pose a challenge as I’m going to be away from home for two weeks in the middle of the month.

Goals achievement mode: ACTIVATE.

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Thinking about what I’m into in July 2014

texas-collage

Near The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas; inside a bookstore (Half Price Books), as I would.

July was a lot of fun, but the fun went too fast. Plus, I’m really not sure if I am ready to leave my full-time job in my beautiful historical workplace. Every day, I remind myself how nice my office and building are, and I think it is making me a bit nostalgic in advance. Anyway, in spite of July’s fastness, I still managed to (duh) be into a bunch of things. So, as per usual, I am linking up with the lovely Leigh Kramer for this month’s round of What I’m Into.

Books I’m Reading

  • The Book of Life – Deborah Harkness: I’ve talked about the first two books in the series before, but now that I’m on the final book in the trilogy, I am pretty sure I don’t want this to be just a trilogy. Although books that involve vampires and witches are anything but rare, the depth of historical and scientific content makes this book really unique. I’ll admit that recalling the plot of the previous books has been a bit of a challenge, but I’ve managed to get back into the story after a hundred or so pages. This series is a must read!
  • Speak – Nish Weiseth: This is one of many books I’m liable to have on the bookshelves in my imaginary therapy office. Individual narratives are hugely important to me, and thus I am very excited about what Nish has to say about the importance of stories. Loving this book thus far.
  • The Word Exchange – Alena Graedon: I really need to apologize to this book for neglecting it. I’m reading tiny snippets at a time, and it really deserves a solid couple of hours in a coffee shop. Perhaps once I’ve finished up The Book of Life, this book will get the attention it deserves.

Books I’ve Read

  • Dreams of Gods & Monsters – Laini Taylor: This is one of the better and more interesting/unique YA series that I’ve read in the past few years. Although the concept can be a bit weird at times–angels and monsters and a teenage girl resurrecting creatures using pain and teeth–this is what makes it so good. Because it isn’t like every other YA series out there. If you are at all interested in YA fantasy, you should definitely read this trilogy.
  • Surprised By Motherhood – Lisa-Jo Baker: I do plenty of internal complaining about how all of my peers who are parents ‘don’t get me’ (bla bla bla) and my state of non-parent-ness. Reading a book like this, thus, is a small step toward my being less of a jerk about the fact that I don’t have children. In all seriousness though, this is a really honest and beautiful book. I am quite a fan (especially because I recently visited and fell in love with South Africa). You can read my full review here.
  • Tables In The Wilderness – Preston Yancey: I won’t say too much about this here because I’ve already written a full review of this book (which, duh, you can find under the Reviews tab), but it was a good book. Sorry to say that you can’t get it until the end of September!

* A note about my reading habits: if you want the super detailed version of what I’m reading, what I’ve read and what I want to read, you can add me on Goodreads, aka: the form of social media made for people like me.

Films I’ve Watched

  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Considering I liked the first installment of this version of Spider-Man much more than I anticipated, it was about time that I watched the second one. And, although I liked it, knowing one of the most important plot points in advance definitely spoiled things for me. Sigh.
  • Burn After Reading: This movie is worth watching even just for Brad Pitt’s character, who is a hilarious personal trainer who often whines like a small child. Coen brothers’ movies are hit and miss for me (most of the misses were the darker, earlier films), but I’m a big fan of this movie. Also, for anybody who has seen this film, the husband surprise changed my desktop background to Brad Pitt’s face at a particularly funny moment of this movie. Laughed until I cried.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Of all the Marvel universe characters, I have to admit that I am the least interested in Captain America. I did, however, quite enjoy this movie, as I (guilt-free) do almost all movies based upon comic books. Most exciting for me? The post-credits scene. OMG. As an aside to movie people, you are geniuses for coming up with this idea.
  • Godzilla: As bad movies (aka: movies with nominal plot) go, this one was more disappointing than I expected. There wasn’t enough Bryan Cranston for my liking, and I just really don’t have enough background knowledge of prior Godzilla films to appreciate one being made in 2014. If I want to watch a bad movie about fighting giant things, I’m going with Pacific Rim.
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel: Everything is symmetrical. My obsessive-compulsive self is very pleased. I generally don’t love Wes Anderson films as much as my spouse does, but I quite liked this one. A bit of a ‘whodunnit’ sort of movie, which I appreciate.

sea-change

Music I’ve Listened To

  • Two of my friends are in a band called Sea Change (in the somewhat grainy picture above), and they released their first EP in the middle of July. And oh my goodness, are they talented dudes. They also had so many people come to their CD release that the venue had to turn people away.

Television I’ve Watched

  • Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD, Season 1: I started watching this show when it was first released last fall because I am a devoted fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other Whedon things. Unfortunately, the first half of the season was fairly mediocre. However, upon reaching episode 12 or 13, this show really picked up. I binge watched the last 6 or 7 episodes in a matter of days because I was so enthralled/so angry/so feelings about the whole thing. All that said, if you like Joss Whedon, you should bear through the first half of this show to experience the joy of the last half. Can’t wait for season 2!
  • Doctor Who, Series 1: To be clear, I am watching the series with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor. I’m a noob, and thus was way confused when everyone asked me where I was starting. Don’t you just start at the beginning? Oh wait. Time is wibbly-wobbly. Of the handful of episodes I’ve watched thus far, I am desperately clinging to the hope of the show being better because–judge me if you must–this first series is pretty terrible. Like, really terrible. I will admit that I like Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, but that’s about it.
  • Fargo, Season 1: The husband started watching this show before I did so I did some rapid catching up while traveling to and from Texas. Once I hit episode 6, I completely and utterly lost it. Cue pirate lady vocabulary primarily composed of words that start with “s” and “f”. And this is coming from someone who watches shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. The Coen brothers are excellent at writing bad guys, and this show is no exception. Also, I’m feeling like a genius for discovering some clever anagrams.

vedrana-wed-toss

Lest anyone was concerned that I’d learned to be an adult and make a normal face,
please refer to the above photo (from Vedrana’s wedding) for your general wrongness. 

Things I’ve Done

  • Went to Texas for wedding shenanigans: Once upon a time, I worked at a bookstore, and I met many a friend there. Much to my surprise, I am still friends with a handful of those people years later… one of whom became my old school pen pal upon her moving to Texas. Vedrana (pronunciation is “veh-dreh-nah” ish, for those of you who are not from Eastern Europe) got married on July 19th, so I flew to San Antonio for a whirlwind weekend of bridesladying. It was super fun–especially because the rest of the bridesmaids are way cool people, but I am an old lady and am thus still tired.

* Full disclosure: I received an advance reader’s copy of The Word Exchange, Tables in the Wilderness, Speak and Surprised by Motherhood, but the above thoughts and opinions are fully my own. Also, there are Amazon Associate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

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Surprised by Motherhood – Lisa-Jo Baker

surprised-by-motherhood

(Image source)

Although I have always believed (at least to some degree) that someday I will be a mother, I am in the camp of married adults who is not currently defined as ‘parent’. And I do a lot of work to use “if” rather than “when” to describe any hypothetical offspring, largely because I want to model that behaviour for other people so they can perhaps put the same into practice. Because sometimes the lack of children is a really painful thing for people, and I don’t want to go around (unintentionally) wielding my words like a sword.

All of that said, perhaps it then strikes you as strange that I would read a book about motherhood, especially because, for the time being, ‘mother’ is one of the last facets I want to add to my identity. I, however, am someone who does a lot (aka: most) of my learning and understanding by reading books. Thus, if I am to even consider mothering at some point in my life, reading about it (far) in advance is a natural Christie practice.

A book like Lisa-Jo’s is exactly the kind of ‘parenting’ book that I was looking for: it is in no way a manual of ‘to do’s to be The Best Parent, but rather speaks honestly and with love about what it is like to become a parent… even if you weren’t sure that you wanted to. And I’m pretty sure this is the sort of parenting book I’d want to read upon finding out I was going to have a child, or even once I had children of my own. Surprised by Motherhood is gentle but also raw–it doesn’t shy away from the hard truth of real life. (Which is, not surprisingly, one of my favourite qualities of a book.)

I’m certain this is a book that I will come back to if my husband and I choose to be parents. Lisa-Jo speaks frankly about her challenges as a mother, reminding us that parents are human beings too; they get angry and tired and they don’t know what they’re doing just like the rest of us. Surprised by Motherhood would also be a great resource for any mothers (or fathers) who have a less straightforward understanding of ‘home’, or for anyone with anxiety about parenting in light of their own relationship with their parent(s).

In short, this is a great motherhood-in-progress memoir that I highly recommend. Moms everywhere (and Moms of young children especially) would do well to pick up a copy of this book ASAP!

* Full disclosure: I received an advance reader’s copy of Surprised by Motherhood, but the above thoughts and opinions are fully my own.

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Thinking about faith and feminism

faith-feminisms

Despite my commitment to reclaiming complex labels, I still find it hard to publish my thoughts about faith and feminism. But hey, a bunch of really rad humans decided to do an internet flash mob of sorts to have this really important discussion, so I’m throwing in my five cents to #FaithFeminisms. (Can’t be two cents; Canada doesn’t use pennies anymore.)

Although I find articulating my Christian theology to be somewhat anxiety-inducing, there are a few things of which I am intellectually and emotionally certain:

  • God, a divine and thus humanly unfathomable being, created the universe.
  • God is inherently loving.
  • Every person is made in the image of God.

Knowing (and feeling) those things, then, is the basis upon which I operate my life. Because I identify as a Christian; a follower of the life of Jesus Christ.

I’m going to go right ahead and name/claim that many people have been hurt by many Christians, supposedly doing things in the name of Jesus Christ. But, because I also believe in the Trinity (God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit), I believe that Jesus was sent to earth as the human embodiment of love, and things done in the name of Jesus that aren’t loving aren’t Jesus.

And you know what is particularly unloving? Patriarchy.

Although there are plenty of chunks of the Bible (namely in the Old Testament) that would lead you to believe that men are The Most Important and women don’t matter much, I believe that humanity now has the privilege of operating under something called the new covenant. That we aren’t bound by the pain and the rules of the past, but that–because of Jesus–we are free in and to love. Free indeed.

Perhaps it is a bold statement to make, but I think it is fairly simple and obvious: patriarchy (or any other movement that gives a certain group of humans more power and more value than others) does not fall within God’s design for the universe. Because if we are all imago dei, none of us is anything less than that. We are all equally loved by God, regardless of our socioeconomic status, our skin colour, our biological sex.

I 100% believe that the God of the universe is a feminist, and thus I am called to feminism. Because in spite of all our foolish human behaviours, there is no person who has any less value than any other person. Ever. Regardless of who you are, what you’ve done, or what you will do, the God of the universe loves you equally and abundantly.

There are plenty of Christians who aren’t feminists, and plenty of feminists who aren’t Christians, but I have a real hard time separating the two things. And I think that is a good way to operate, as both my Christianity and my feminism are hugely important to the way that I treat others.

How do you work out the mess of living an intersectional life? I’d love to hear about it, regardless of whether or not those intersections involve faith or feminism. 

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Thinking about solo travel

hot-air

Independent traveling is a thing that, on one level, I did plenty of. Being an only child living in a relatively remote northern Saskatchewan community meant that participating in any mildly interesting (and also legal) activity required at least a 2 hour drive to the south. As such, it was commonplace for teenage me to drive the 3+ hours to Saskatoon for the weekend to visit friends and go to my favourite bookstore.

I also moved away to university where I knew absolutely zero people, and traveled to and from home entirely by myself. I flew from Abbotsford or Vancouver to Saskatoon at least a few times a year (which is, by the way, enough to make flying feel like taking the bus by the time you’re in your late 20s).

Since getting married, almost all of the traveling I have done has been with my husband. And, because Graeme is a fairly experienced traveler who enjoys planning, I haven’t had to do much of the grunt work.

When I was planning to go to Texas for my dear friend’s wedding, I realized that it would be my first solo trip outside of Canada. As it turns out, I actually quite enjoy independent traveling… with, of course, a few specifications.

That said, here’s how I (budget) traveled, safely and comfortably, for a weekend in Texas:

  • Booked accommodations through Airbnb. I booked my trip last-minute (the result of my lackadaisical attitude towards responsibility, and my budget uncertainties post-living in Zimbabwe), so I couldn’t get the hotel discount offered to wedding guests. I had success with Airbnb in South Africa, so I figured it was worth a shot. I limited my options to those that a) were reasonably close to the reception venue, b) had a large number of reviews, and c) were hosted by a woman. My accommodations were awesome, as was my host and the other guest in the house. A big win, even beyond saving me hundreds of dollars.
  • Rented a car with a GPS. The only time I’ve ever used a GPS was when Graeme and I were unexpectedly renting a car and driving through the night from Newark  to Ottawa. And, although I certainly could have planned (and printed off) detailed instructions for all the places I wanted/needed to drive, I couldn’t imagine myself driving and navigating at the same time. Although GPS added a fair amount to my rental car costs, it was 100% worth it for the sake of enjoying my time in Texas. (As an aside, I rented my car through Alamo; they have awesome last-minute deals!)
  • Kept my activities to a minimum. Although I could have traveled to nearby Austin (and I nearly did in the name of Friday Night Lights), I opted to limit my tourism to San Antonio and visit the Alamo and the River Walk, as suggested by a friend from the southern US. Both are easy to get to, free to visit, and can be enjoyed in a relatively short time frame. Predictably, I also went to Half Price Books and Barnes & Noble (conveniently in the same shopping complex). Seeing bookstores is something that makes me feel immediately at home.
  • Planned ahead for possible complications. This is something you should do no matter how many people you’re traveling with. I made sure that my husband had a detailed email of all the locations I’d be staying at or visiting, and gave him contact information for my Airbnb host and my local friend. I also withdrew some American cash and notified my bank of my travel plans so my cards wouldn’t be cancelled.

Anyone have thoughts (or, better yet, experiences) on solo traveling?
As you can tell, I’m a bit of a noob when it comes to this sort of thing!

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