Friday, May 14, 2010

of books and birthdays

It's my friend Sassymonkey's birthday today and she's asked us all to help with something.

She's written a post for BlogHer about a very special campaign. It's called "Books Make a Difference: Share a Book That Changed Your Life to Donate a Book to a Child in Need."

All you need to do is leave a comment on her post about a book that made a big impact on your life:

"BlogHer and BookRenter, a company that rents textbooks to college students, have joined forces because we know that books makes a difference.

From May 3-28, together we are working to make a difference in children's lives by generating new books for children who need them most -- via the nonprofit organization First Book.

Want to help? For every answer we receive in the comments to the following question, one book will be donated:

What book has had the greatest impact on your life?"

About her own life-long love of books, Sassymonkey shares the following:

"My older siblings helped teach me to read at a young age (probably so that I'd stop pestering them), and I simply never stopped. When I was a kid, I never had the latest video game or the trendy clothes, but I had a life full of literary riches. Books opened up a whole world of possibilities to me, ones I grabbed at with both hands. I strongly believe that it was because of the possibilities presented to me in these books that I can claim to be only the second person in my family to graduate from high school, and the first to obtain a university degree."

My own relationship to books was equally intense and I have tried to instill a love of books and reading in my own kids. I feel very strongly that every child should have access to a wide variety of books throughout their lives.

Here is my contribution to the comments (you don't have to be so long-winded. It's OK to just leave the title of a book that was important to you):

"I hope I'm not breaking any rules but I just can't narrow it down.

The Bobbsey Twins: I was given the first one when I was 6 or 7. I remember being disappointed that it didn't have any pictures but I tore through it. And after that every trip to the "big city" had to include a new one to add to my collection.

Pride and Prejudice: I read it for the first time when I was just 8 years old. I'd already burned my way through most of the kids' books in my local library and had been awarded an adult's library card. I'm not sure why I picked it up or what I got out of it but I loved it - and I've read it many times since (and drooled over the inappropriately shirtless Colin Firth in the BBC mini-series).

Steinbeck: I think I started with the Grapes of Wrath (for a Grade 7 book report. I was a nerd) but I also loved Of Mice And Men and The Winter of Our Discontent (but not The Red Pony - it was ruined for me by being an assigned book in a high school English class). His writing was so beautiful and his stories were so compelling - I remember his characters to this day. And he taught me about the beauty of sad or ambivalent endings.

Sigh. I love books."
Please go on over to BlogHer and add your favourite book to the list. I'd love to hear about it, so do let me know (over at BlogHer or via the comments here) whether I persuaded you to contribute.

And is there anything better than the smell of a new book?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

dream analysis

I had a very vivid dream last night. I had a arrived at a big hall full of people and remembered that I was there to give a speech. Then, as I approached the podium, I realized that I was completely unprepared - I had forgotten to prepare anything to say.

My stomach dropped down to my toes.

Now I have never, as far as I can recollect, forgotten to prepare for a speech or presentation. And while I am speaking at a fundraiser in Montreal in June and I am a bit nervous, I'm not really concerned that I won't be ready (not yet, anyway).

Life has been full of challenges lately and I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. Some of these have been expected and others have come at me from out of the blue (or at least that's how it's felt). And I have definitely been feeling ill-equipped to respond.

When I was a little girl, I had to play dodgeball at every recess in Grades 4 and 5. Our teachers thought it kept us out of trouble but I just remember every recess as a misery. My stress levels would be very high as the balls came at me. I'd dodge a few, catch the odd one (mostly out of sheer luck) and get walloped hard, at least once in every fifteen minute game. Getting hit didn't hurt that badly (I was more stunned and winded than actually injured) but I always welcomed the moment that the bell would ring and I could return to the safety of the classroom.

Life (I'm sure you see where I'm going with this) has been a little like playing dodgeball lately. My skills have improved but I still don't enjoy playing that particular game. I'd rather take a walk along the canal (or a nap would be good).

For the most part, things are fine around here. But I wouldn't complain if life were just a tiny bit less interesting.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

just what i needed

I was feeling a little sad and frustrated this morning (no bad news and no crisis just some things that made me feel, well, sad and frustrated).

Then I saw this video that my friend H. posted to Facebook and I laughed, smiled and sang along. It made me feel hopeful, too.

Then, via
this post on BlogHer, I discovered Regretsy.

Have you heard of Etsy? It's a great web site where crafters and artists of all kinds can sell their wares. I love Etsy and have spent many hours checking out its contents. I've also bought many wonderful things.

However, the vendors are not adjudicated. This means that goods posted to Etsy can be, a little uneven in quality - sometimes a little (or a lot weird) and sometimes just plain atrocious.

Regretsy brings together the best of the worst of these (the site's motto is "Where DYI meets WTF") and, combined with biting commentary, the results are hilarious. I lost myself on the site this morning, laughing until my sides hurt and tears streamed down my face.

Check the left sidebar for categories. I've only viewed a fraction of what they've put together but some of my favourites include the Bubble Scarf in Chocolate Brown, Watercolour Print Cat Art, this tree trunk thing that poops candy (I'm sorry, I'm unduly amused by the scatological), the bridal veil for dogs (mostly because of the commentary, which could have been written by my spouse) and especially the chicken poncho (that's a poncho for a chicken not a poncho with chickens on it and it helped me feel much better about my recent penchant for knitting dish cloths).

I'm embarassed to say how much time I've spent looking at this stuff today.

Time to go do something constructive.

My face hurts from laughing.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

10 to do in May

For the last few months, I've been playing along with a group of folks over at BlogHer who've formed a group called "List Lovers Unite." I'm a sucker for "to do" lists and I've found the practice of making monthly to do lists to be rather compelling.

Sticking to the list, however, has yielded mixed results. Here's how I did with April's list (as with previous months, completed tasks are in blue, partially done tasks are in green and the tasks I didn't even started in purple):

1. Write a first draft of the short story I've been kicking around. (I wrote an outline)

2. Spend an average of eight hours writing per week. (Not even close)

3. Do strength training at least once a week and continue with the five hours of cardio per week. (I'm very pleased to have started the strength training, which I did, for at least a few minutes, five times in four weeks. I fell a couple of hours short with the cardio, though. I need to remind myself on rainy days that I'm not made of sugar).

4. Sort through my clothes (carried over from February and March). (I bought some clothes but my closet is still overflowing with stuff I can't or don't wear).

5.Make summer plans for my family. (we are going to Blue SkiesMusic Festival this year and have tentatively planned another couple of trips but I have yet to sit down with a calendar and nail it all down)

6. Brush my big (shedding) dog once a week and my smaller (non-shedding, tangling) dog every other day. (I brushed the big dog once and the little one twice. I did take Lucy to the groomer on Tuesday, though. She's been shorn now, so now I really only have ears and tail to brush for a while)

7. Update my Ravelry project page.

8. Finish another scarf.

9. Make soup twice. (the jambalaya in the slow cooker when I wrote last month's post was the only soup I made. It was a good one, though)

10. Get a hair cut. (Done. And I feel much better with shorter hair)

I did get something done that had been on my previous month's to do list. I bought a bathing suit. And then I wrote about it for BlogHer and even posted a photo of myself.

I'm still reeling from that one.

Around the middle of the month, I realized was feeling very grumpy. I figured out that I was unhappy because, while I wasn't necessarily getting anything done, I also wasn't having any fun. I had to remind myself that, as I'm the one attempting to give my life more structure, I'm also the one who needs to give myself permission to be flexible.

When I drew up my goals for this month, I decided to incorporate time to read, relax and be creative (a bit ironic, I know) and to set aside time to specifically attack this list.

Things to do in May

1. Spend an average of eight hours writing a week (I'm already behind. Sigh. I have started to edit the first draft of my novel, though, so that's something).

2. Do strength training at least twice every week (Did it once last week, so I'm behind there too).

3. Do an average of five hours of cardio every week (On track. Yay!)

4. Make soup twice (I've already made and eaten a big batch of sweet potato, red lentil and spinach soup).

5. Sort through my clothes (carried over from February, March and April - but I really do want to get this done).

6. Finish making summer plans for my family.

7. Go to at least one bike store and do some test rides (That should be fun. Also, my bike has started to make some pretty scary noises when I pedal or change gears).

8. Spend one afternoon every week doing something fun or relaxing (Last week, I spent part of Mothers' Day finishing Water for Elephants, which I loved reading. This week, I'll spend Thursday afternoon either reading or knitting. I need to make the space in my life to do the things that restore my energy and my creativity).

9. Finish one knitting project (I made a bunch of dish clothes and a dish towel for a friend and gave them to her, so this one's done already).

10. Spend one afternoon per week just dealing with this to-do list (last week it was Wednesday and this week it will be Wednesday, too).

Anyone else out there still working on the monthly list? How's it working for you?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

haven't done this in a while

Haven't blown my own horn in at least a few weeks.

Alysa, who I met last year when she ran a wonderful workshop on writing your way through breast cancer (at the Living Beyond Breast Cancer conference for women living with metastatic breast cancer). I introduced myself and gave her my book.

Yesterday, Alysa emailed me to say that she'd written a review of my book for oncolink and that she thought it would make me smile.

It did.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

thank goodness someone's brain is working

I've been staying  up way too late and drinking too much coffee to compensate. Then I have trouble sleeping. It's a bit of a vicious circle.

As a result, I seem to be having problems jump-starting my brain.

The items in this post have no real connection, except that I found them on the internet and they were all drawn to my attention by local bloggers.

Zoom wrote about this lost cat. Is she yours? If her owners aren't found, do you have room in your home for this sweet girl? She's been taken in (and cared for) by the Crazy Cat Lady but she needs a forever home.

Nat got my blood boiling with this righteous rant (on why she won't "shut the fuck up") and made me laugh with this piece on Ottawa's ant plague (I feel so much better knowing thaat I'm not alone) and cry with her link to this amazing story about how a city helped a boy with cancer become a superhero for a day.

I don't know what I'd do without my virtual friends.