December: Embracing it all.

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The year has come to an end, and so has my Happiness Project. I dedicated December to embracing all the things that actually worked for me this year.

Here’s what I’ve learned throughout this process. That happiness isn’t actually a state, or a personality trait. Happiness is a fleeting moment, it’s the smile of your child’s face when you walk in the room. It’s quiet moments of hot coffee and books while the household is sleeping. It’s the complete bliss of actually being in the moment for once, instead of looking at your phone or ahead to the future. I think that the idea of being eternally happy initially sounds great, but how do we know true happiness if we haven’t experienced the lows.

This project was definitely productive as I picked up some great habits in which I will carry with for hopefully a long time. Here’s my quick list of things I will continue to do:

  • Breathe. Take moments to take a deep breathe, and really enjoy how your lungs feel when they are full.
  • Pursuing passions. After finally signing up for a marathon again after 6/7 years, what I realized is that I am so capable of anything I put my mind to. So whether it’s running, a fun hobby, or reading, I want to continue to pursue and working towards goals for fun. No pressure to do certain times, or setting high bars… just purely enjoying doing something.
  • Saying no. This includes not over scheduling, telling people what I actually want, and focusing on what’s most important for our family.
  • Dates with my Husband. This was life changing. We have actually been really keeping this goal up, and it’s been great to get out as a couple again.
  • Yoga. Enough said… perfect for my mindset, and my body.

Well friends, that rounds up a whole year of working on happiness!! If you are interested in reading about the my personal project, check this link out. If you are interested in doing a happiness project, feel free to drop me a line, or a comment. I’d love to chat!

 

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The Measure of my Powers, by Jackie Kai Ellis

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I had heard about The Measure of my Powers from a lovely friend, and then on the WSIRN Podcast, it was being recommended as some really good Canadian memoir writing. So while listening to that podcast episode, I requested it from my library. WELL, three pages into to it I decided to stop reading, and go out and buy it that day… it was just too damn beautiful to not own for my own personal library.

Jackie Kai Ellis had seemed on the outside to be perfect. She was married to her “hot” husband, had a successful career, and also owned a home. But within the first paragraph you see that Jackie struggled everyday to have the desire to go on. Her depression was so heavy that she had contemplated on whether she should continue to live. Jackie found her purpose in the kitchen. It all started with a chocolate chip cookie, and the ability to find joy in each bite. She then went on to discover herself through food, and travelling from France to Italy, then the Congo.  

First off, this book is stunning. The sheer weight of it is heavier than your average book, because of the stock of the paper. Each page feels crisp, and just waiting for me to dog-ear it! Sorry all you people who believes books shouldn’t be marked up 🙂 She has also made the pages colourful, and sprinkled her life changing recipes throughout it.

Here’s a list of the things I loved the most about this memoir:

  1. The thoughtfulness that Jackie took in sprinkling her recipes, and her favourite quotes, makes me feel really connected to her. I even felt inclined to reach out to her after reading this book to tell her how much it resonated with me… and she so sweetly replied.
  2. It’s back drop is set a lot in Paris. And I just love Paris, croissants, and all the descriptions that Jackie details. Except now I need to go back!
  3. The authenticity, and rawness that Jackie exposes. Her struggles, I’m sure will resonate with a lot of people, but knowing that she was able to pull herself out of this hard place is so hopeful.
  4. Lastly, her descriptions of food were magical. She could describe each bite so well that you want to stop and enjoy your next meal as much as she does.

Okay, so now that I’ve gushed a ton about this one, I’d love to leave you with one quote from her book that I just thought was so beautifully badass!!!

For so long I had dreamt of dying, to dispose of a life I despised in so many ways. But if I were to throw my life away anyway, I thought, maybe I could waste it living, doing whatever the fuck I wanted, however the fuck I wanted to. I would have been dead anyway.

That’s all for today my friends, I’m off to do what the f*ck I want… and possibly bake some chocolate chip cookies from the recipe in this book!

 

The Rent Collector, by Camron Wright

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One of the best parts of my job as a Registered Massage Therapist is that my clients come in book recommendations, or loans frequently! The Rent Collector came to me from a friend/client who has very similar taste in books to me. I had been telling her how I was in a book rut and couldn’t get into anything… and she handed this on over to me.

The Rent Collector is a fiction novel, inspired by Wright’s son who filmed a documentary in about the large dump, Strung Meachney, in Cambodia. The family featured in the film is the inspiration for this novel. Sang Ly, and Ki Lim, are husband and wife, with their son, Nisay, who is 1 and half years old, and very ill. Sang and Ki struggle to make ends meet with their income coming from pickers of the massive dump Strung Meachney.  Sopeap Sin, the Rent Collector, is forever knocking on their door, looking for the money that they owe her. Sopeap is a drunk, aging, and frequently angry. Then one day, illiterate Sang finds out Sopeap can read. Sang sees an opportunity to learn to read, help heal their son, and possibly change their lives through literature.

This is a great, easy to read story. If you love a fast-paced story, this book will be right for you. But if you love literature, this book will make you remember why. Wright lists Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi as one of his all time favourites, this little fact speaks to his own his love of literature. There were great little nuggets, and famous quotes sprinkled throughout the story.

Another reason why I really liked this book is that I learned about a completely different part of the world that I’ve never read about, let alone visited. I learned a lot about the culture, and realized how much in North America we take being literate for granted… also our healthcare system. In the back of this book there is real photos of the family who this book is based on, and that just made it all hit home.

So, friends, if you love books about books, or about the love of reading… pick this one up!! Until next, keep on reading!

Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood

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I have to be honest with you, the only reason I picked this book up off my shelf was because the series Alias Grace popped up on my Netflix feed. And now this book will be on my FAVOURITE BOOKS of all time. I can’t believe I have been bypassing this battered book that I picked up at Vinnie’s for $1 for a while now, and am really glad I decided to read it.

Here’s a quick synopsis: It’s 1843, and Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer and his housekeeper/mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders. When Dr. Simon comes to interview Grace, he tries to unravel the truth of this crime.

Murderess is a strong word to have attached to you. It has a smell to it, that word – musky and oppressive, like dead flowers in a vase. Sometimes at night I whisper it over to myself: Murderess, Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt across the floor.

Atwood is an incredible writer, but she’s also just a ballsy woman! She has the power to make you feel inside her character’s head, and to make you miss them the minute you finish reading her novels. She also takes really important topics, and weaves them through an entertaining plot. As a Canadian, this book is fascinating… it’s setting is at a pillar of Ontario history, the Kingston Penitentiary, and also Toronto area.

Grace’s character is mesmerizing. This whole novel you have no idea whether she had committed the crime, or was falsely accused. She is an excellent seamstress, and this is a big part of her character. Constantly weaving her clothing, and quilts, as she weaves her story of a crime.

And inside the peach there’s a stone.

Margaret Atwood put in so many interesting quotes, letters, and based this novel off of a real crime! It’s a fascinating story and I truly think that you need to read the book, or watch the Netflix show, as this is really interesting time in Canadian history… plus it’s just really entertaining.

Until next time, happy reading!

the Arrangement, by Sarah Dunn

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Okay, this one wasn’t my favourite… It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book I haven’t liked. And that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this one, it actually brought up a lot questions and situations that made me squirm! It was kind of like a train wreck.

Here’s the premise: Lucy and Owen have been married long enough to have lived in New York City and moved to the suburbs, have an 8 year old autistic son, decide to get 19 chickens, and be involved in their communities. Long enough to fall into a comfortable place within their marriage. Then after a very drunken night with some friends, they discuss the rules that they would place within their relationship if they planned on having an open marriage. After a long day, and a lot of thinking about how she has lost herself, Lucy decides to propose to Owen that they should do this as a trial for 6 months. Owen agrees… and I bet you can guess where this story is going to.

This book had a great potential to have some really deep, dark feelings get examined, but I feel like it fell short. It lacked a depth that I was craving within this story of relationship. Albeit the story was super juicy, and that kept wanting to read right till the bitter end. For anyone looking for a fast, beach read… go pick this one up! It fits the bill completely.

Until next time, happy reading!!!

Brother, by David Chariandy

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Brother was the latest book for our in real life book club. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to this meeting… but I did read the book! It’s just the worst when you don’t get a chance to talk about a book that gives you some big feelings?!? This book had me thinking about these characters all the time… it was intense and woven so tightly that you needed to find out how the story played out.

Brother is a coming of age story of two brothers, Michael and Francis, who live in Rouge Park, Scarborough. Their mother who works long hours, and goes to school in the evening, is exhausted but longs for a better life for her children than the one she had in Trinidad. Their father no longer existing in their life. The boys are as different as they are alike. With interests differing, but their struggles with identity, race, and fear bound them. When crime enters the Park and becomes the norm, Michael struggles as Francis grows further away from the family. This is a heartbreaking story of a family, who has a dark cloud of fear, and exhaustion within their neighbourhood.

But of course, you can’t ever really flee. You’ll forever run the risk of being spotted, if only for a second.

David Chariandy was awarded the Roger’s Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for this book in 2017. Growing up he was a sci-fi fan, then discovered the works of Robertson Davies. Sharing a love for Davies made me want to learn more about him. He’s Canadian and originally grew up in Scarborough which was the setting for Brother.  I think that Scarborough is as much as a character in this novel as the rest of the cast in this novel. There were some rumours that this book was autobiographical, which intrigues me all the more!

Like I said earlier, there were some big feelings and big themes in this novel. The brothers relationship was one that made you nostalgic and want to call up your siblings. I felt like I knew the whole time what was going to happen, but I needed to read what and why it happened… and it was beautifully executed! I blew through this one in a couple days, and think that it’s a really important novel, especially this day in age to read. I also think that one day this would be GREAT required reading for High School English classes!!

Anywho… that’s all for today, and whether you are Canadian or not, go read this one!!

Entitlement, by Jonathan Bennett

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This book is a special one. Jonathan Bennett is a poet and author, who you can tell from very early on in the novel is a big fan on the written word. He is local to the Peterborough area… making this book feel very easy for me to make connections to it’s references and Canadian ways.

You must read, Andy. Books are what separate us from the animals and the masses.

Entitlement is the story of Andy Kronk and his tangled web of his relationship with the Aspinalls. The Aspinalls are one of Canada’s elite families, and at a young age Andy had found himself thrown into a world he didn’t belong in from his friendship with Colin Aspinall. When Andy’s path takes him away from the Aspinalls, he finds himself tangled back up in their web. Andy’s story comes out as Trudy Clarke begins to write a tell-all biography about the Aspinalls, and wants to hear what Andy’s part in the family had played. But what she finds out is much more than she thought she would hear.

Like I said earlier, I really connected with this novel. With it’s travels from cottage country, canoe paddles, and Toronto life, it’s hard not to feel nostalgic. I also really love books about relationships, and the powers that lie within them. And with relationships being a large theme in this novel, I think on some part everyone can relate to the ups and downs of a family and what we do to protect our unit.

There were a couple references that I just loved in this book. Trudy, the biographer, had a big crush on Pierre Elliot Trudeau. This is something that I can relate to, only it’s a crush on his son 🙂 Another clever thing was the name of a restaurant… Gorgon and Zola’s. As a fellow cheese lover, I instantly smiled and thought about picking up a chunk of blue cheese. Even the description of Gorgon and Zola brings up images of the marbled blue veins that run through this cheese.

He’d been to Gorgon and Zola’s before. An aquamarine blue ceiling and floor were joined with walls covered in a tiled spiralling mosaic.

The ending of this book… friends, I’m telling you it was like a punch to the gut and then I just had to keep racing to the end to find out what these character’s outcomes would be. I am not a fan of spoiling an end, so I’m not going to do this, but I will say that the ending is beautiful and brilliant. So go buy this book, and read it! Then PLEASE reach out to me so we can chat about it.

Anywho that’s all for next time, happy reading!