Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Words to Live By

Military Spouse Appreciation Month


We’ve all heard the buzz words.

Resilient. Loyal. Hard-Working.  Words used to describe the ‘typical’ military spouse. Military Family Services uses them regularly (check out this video for more) and they most certainly are not wrong. We are ALL of those words.
 
But the truth is, most military spouses start off just as a person in love with their spouse.  The upcoming hardships are not really important, are they? In fact, they’re kind of exciting. New adventures! Opportunities for travel! It’ll be romantic! Even as an officer in the military with eyes wide open, I had great big stars in my eyes when I married my husband. I didn’t really care what it meant and how it would affect my career, my mental health, my entire existence. I was ready for the roller-coaster ride ahead.

And then, sooner or later in the first five years (more or less), it happens. Maybe more than once.  That moment when the reality sinks in.

Alone in a new location, with an interrupted career (or no career), no family, no friends and a spouse that is AWAY…the washing machine breaks, the basement floods, the car dies and your two-year old (or dog, or cat, or…), throws up all over your last set of clean sheets. The moment when some people (like me) sink down in the midst of the still-unpacked boxes and have a darned good cry.

That’s when the REAL words happen.

Gritty.

Tough.

Inventive.

Gutsy.

Persistent.

Kick-a**, baby-wearing, puke-cleaning, duct-tape slinging SUPER HERO.

The words that don’t often go on a resumé. Words that find us when we are at our lowest, that help us get up and push through the bad times to the many, many good times.

Words that speak truth. 

Military spouse-hood is not all smiling faces at the end of deployments, nor is it weeping faces at the beginning of them.  It’s embracing the difficult, long hours of going it on your own, and coming out okay at the end. It’s molding your personhood around the ups and downs of the military lifestyle, and carving out something that is uniquely you. Words that ADD to the resilience and loyalty and hard-working professionalism that we celebrate this month, Military Spouse Appreciation Month.

And to the almost 35,000 Canadian military spouses, they are the words that count.



Brenda


Brenda and her spouse of 21 years.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

LFB Reviews: Hope for the Flowers

One of my jobs at the Library Friends Bookshop is to sort donated books onto the appropriate shelves. It's a small task, but I really enjoy it because you never know what you are going to find in the donation bin. We get everything from recent bestsellers to thirty-year old textbooks, mint-condition vintage hardcovers to well-loved picture books.

Hope for the Flowers
Available on Amazon Here
I work with people who have such varied tastes in literature that sometimes someone pulls out a beloved favourite that I've never even heard of. Hope for the Flowers (words and pictures by Trina Paulus) was this sort of book.

It's an unassuming little yellow hardcover that has a very seventies look about it (published in 1972 by Paulist Press), and the back cover heralds it as:

a different sort of book for everyone except those who have given up completely (and even they might secretly enjoy it)

I probably would have shelved it under the children's picture books, as that what it looks like; art and colour and a hand-written font throughout. But my coworker recommended it as something everyone should read, and on the front cover it mentions that it is

a tale—partly about life and partly about revolution and lots about hope for adults and others (including caterpillars who can read)

I'm not a caterpillar who can read, but I gave it a try.

Hope for the Flowers is a very quick read, about a caterpillar named Stripe who sees a giant tower of other caterpillars climbing to some unknown destination, crawling all over one another to get to the top. None of the caterpillars know why they are climbing, none of them know what's at the top, and at some point the climb becomes nasty. The striped caterpillar meets another caterpillar (Yellow) on his way up and they both decide it's not worth it and climb back down. They fall in love, and spend many days just being in love, always in the shadow of the tower of climbing caterpillars.
Stripe and Yellow in the column (page 32)

Stripe becomes restless, still wanting to know what's at the top...and in spite of Yellow's encouragement to stay, he sets off again, leaving Yellow to make her own way in the world.

Obviously this is a book about life...about the rat-race to succeed and the things we give up in order to reach the summit, and even thought it's 45 years old, it's a book that's just as relevant today as it was when it was written. It's so easy to look at someone else, see them running in an unknown direction, and think, "Why are they running that way? Shouldn't I be running that way too?". You see it at theme parks and at businesses, a large group of people hurrying toward an unknown destination is like a magnet. None of us want to miss an opportunity to experience something extraordinary.

But just like Stripe, we have to be aware of our own motivations, and stay true to who we are. Stripe, as a caterpillar, has no idea why he wants to be up in the sky...and his character suffers as a result. Often if we are patient and observant, we can figure out a better way.

This little yellow book was a pleasant surprise in the donations pile. I'm so happy I got to read it. I'll be taking it back, not because I didn't enjoy it, but because this is a book to be shared, and loved and passed along.

Total Keeper (10) to Back to the Library Friends Bookshop Post-Haste (1)?

10/10. You should come to the LFB and buy it. 


Brenda






Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Powerscourt, Ireland 2007
Are you wearing your green? Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I love Ireland! 🍀

I've only visited twice, but both times were amazing, and I hope to go back again soon. The folklore, the green hills and steep cliffs, the AWESOME sweaters (my favourite writing sweater was made in Ireland) and of course a few of my favourite people (ah-hem, DUNNE) make it the perfect basis for my latest novel, SKIN.


Aran sweater and a selkie story...a great combination!


Hope you are having a fantastic St. Patrick's Day, and have a great weekend!    

Brenda

Monday, February 6, 2017

Julie and Julia: LFB Reviews

Week 4:
Julie & Julia, My Year of Cooking Dangerously
Adult Memoir/Cooking/Humour
The Movie Adaptation
Cover
by Julie Powell


I was putting some cookbooks away at the Library Friends Bookshop and I came across Julie & Julia.

Firstly, it caught my eye because it isn't really a cookbook, and in my humble and unschooled library-bookshop-volunteer opinion, it shouldn't have been shelved with them. There are no real recipes in the book, although there are lots of references to Julia Child's Mastering The Art of French Cooking. The Memoirs are shelved very close to the Cookbooks in our wee little shop, and I guess I can see how the mis-shelving could have happened.

Secondly, I'm a purist when it comes to book-to-movie adaptations and I've passed by the Julie & Julia movie many, many times on Netflix or On Demand because I hadn't read the book. Why would I want to ruin the book? In my humble and unschooled movie-connaisseur opinion, book-to-movie adaptations are so much more enjoyable when you've read the book first and have a bit of background info...although sometimes the screenwriters/director fail miserably at bringing my mental picture to life. It's a problem.

The original cover (not the movie version) of this copy made it even more appealing and I may be one of the only book lovers on the planet who hadn't read this book...Soooo, into my bag of goodies it went.

Now I have to say that this book is the reason why I started LFB reviews. I picked this book up just after New Years, and I was looking for a project. Something to energize my writing. Something to push me forward and make me see alternative ways of doing things. Similarly, Julie Powell was feeling a trifle stagnant in 2004, when she picked up Mastering the Art of French Cooking and for some insane reason  decided to spend 365 days cooking up every single recipe in the book and blogging about it daily.

If you've seen Mastering the Art..., you'll recognize that this was no easy undertaking. Julia cooks with calves hooves, with freshly-scraped bone marrow, with quails eggs and pigeon and any number of bizarre ingredients that are not readily available, even in modern-day New York City.

On top of all of this, Julie is in a dead-end job (sorting through the aftermath of 9/11) and still in love with her patient high-school sweetheart while all of her friends are having crazy-exciting affairs. She has a tightly-wound biological clock with incoming pressure from her parents, and is moving to another (under ventilated and mouldy) apartment. She deals with black-out power outages and unexpected blog popularity, and even the death of Julia Child, herself.

Being a rather lackadaisical blogger, I am in awe of Julie Powell's determination to not only cook something crazy every day, but to blog about it EVERY DAY. That's insane. Seriously. Who does that? All while dealing with all of the other things that life threw at her, and while maintaining her sense of humour. It's pretty amazing.

Her writing is humorous, poignant and un-pretentious...all three things I need right now in a book. We all could use a good laugh in today's world climate. It's a book you can put down for a few days and not feel lost when you pick it up again--although you won't want to put it down in the first place.

I loved it. It inspired me. The result is my tiny commitment to read and review books from the LFB, and share them with you. Heck, if Julie can write a blog while cooking calves hooves in a New York City loft, I can put a few words down more regularly.

So there you go.

Total Keeper (10) to Back to the Library Friends Bookshop Post-Haste (1)?

A good, solid 9.5/10. If you haven't read it yet, you should go get it. 

Incidentally, I searched for Julie's original blog, and although there are lots of references, I couldn't find it. But you can my other LFB reviews here:

My Name is Memory
The Bar-Code Tattoo


Brenda

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

My Name Is Memory: LFB Reviews

Week 2 and 3:
My Name is Memory
Adult Action/Adventure/Romance
by Ann Brashares

I loved the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants books. LOVED them. My copies have been read and re-read and passed on and passed back. And I'm always curious how an author with a well-known series of YA books moves on to something else afterward--like J.K. Rowling after Harry Potter. My Name is Memory came into the Library Friends Bookshop three weeks ago, and I hadn't read it, so into my bag of goodies it went.

Although Sisterhood is considered YA, this book is not. It is, however, an adult book with a YA bent, as the book opens up with two high school kids around the time of graduation. Daniel 'remembers' Lucy from a previous life...in fact from many, many previous lives...but she does not remember him.

It's a cool concept, starting their relationship in ancient civilizations, and then following their connections from life to life, never quite connecting in the right age-level or circumstances. Always close enough that he could be with her, but not close enough that they could be together as a couple. Though the concept is fantasy, the lives are told in very real terms, and the two fall in love in various ways throughout many different centuries and settings.

But then there's the evil older brother Joaquim, who also remembers, and who has made it his purpose through time to hurt Daniel through his infatuation with Lucy.

The story dances through time until modern day, when the three come together a final time to determine their fates.

I very much enjoyed this book, but the ending...not so much. I don't think it can be compared to the Sisterhood books, as it's such a different premise, but Ms. Brashares still writes with a quiet, lyrical style. I loved how the stories mixed and mingled, with different situations each time, but I felt the ending did not suit the intensity of the story.  I hope that's because Ms. Brashares is setting it up for a sequel, but I'm not sure the storyline warrants it. I guess we will all have to wait to find out.

On a scale of Total Keeper (10) to Back to the Library Friends Bookshop Post-Haste (1)?

I give it a 6/10. I'll keep it, but would have liked a better conclusion to what was a fabulous love story through time. 


Brenda

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Teaser Tuesday: SKIN Sequel



I've been typing away at SKIN #2, tentatively called SWIM, and it's going surprisingly well. This sequel thing is not my forté, but I hope to keep picking away at it to get the sequel out this year. 

We'll see. 

Ocean and Sam are back, but there's all sorts of trouble in selkie-land, A.K.A. Prince Edward Island. Starting with Ocean's mom. Here's a sneak peek: 

“What is the problem tonight?”
He’s beautiful sitting there in the dim porch light, freckles barely showing. 
“You,” I say.
“Me?”
“Yes, you. It seems she’s having second thoughts about my ‘involvement’ with a nasty Black.”
His grin stays, but the corners of his eyes shift. He doesn’t like to be associated with his father. 
“Well, that is a problem.” He faces the water, the lilt in his voice coming out more because he’s upset. Like Irish music playing to the tune of his emotions.
“I told her I wasn’t an ‘involvement’,” I say.
This catches him, and he turns back to face me again. “No?”
I try not to smile. 
“No. Involvement is too businesslike. I told her it was lust.” 

If only life could stay that simple, huh? Don't worry, things don't stay fun and simple for long. I'm 165 pages in, and Ocean and Sam are in a lovely mess. Unfortunately you'll have to wait to find out what that means. 



Enjoy your day!

Brenda



Monday, January 16, 2017

The Bar Code Tattoo and LFB Reviews

One of the nasty (or beneficial, depending how you look at it) things about following my military husband from place to place in what seems like a never-ending sequence of moves is that sometimes it takes a while to re-employ myself. Being a physiotherapist by trade, usually this is just a matter of filling out the paperwork for the local licensing board, putting my name out to a few places looking for PTs, and voila! I have a job. Often it's faster than I'd like it be, sometimes it's not. Being a Canadian in a different country, I need a little more than proof of my degree and experience. I need THE CARD. This card is not easy coming. In fact, it's been a bit of a challenge.

So, to make a long story short, five months into our new living arrangements, I remain unemployed.

Don't take this as I'm sitting around twiddling my thumbs. I'm not. I'm writing. I'm social-mediaing. I'm still spending several hours a week on Canadian volunteer positions I haven't given up. The social obligations of being married to my husband are not to be taken lightly. I drive a mean SUV in the high school kiss and go lanes, and am an avid supporter of extra-curriculars. I am the opposite of a twiddler.

But still, I need something to focus my days and the extra funds in our bank account do not hurt. So I wait.

In my quest to fill my days with unpaid meaningful things while awaiting the chance at doing paid meaningful things, I sort of fell into a volunteer position. I was dropping off books at the local library's donation box (by necessity, not by desire--there was literally no room on any of our bookshelves), and the lovely woman who was in charge of the Library Friends said they were looking for volunteers and gave me their info.

Books, organization, self-determined hours? What's not to love about that? My junior high school-day friends will remember the wonders of being a library helper (oh, the power of charging a late fee! Getting first dibs at new books! And first looks at the Scholastic book fair!) and my librarian friends (I have a surprising amount of friends with Library Science degrees) will appreciate the joy of putting a book on a shelf exactly where it belongs--well, in my current situation, where I THINK it belongs. Library Friends Bookshop is only slightly picky about things like alphabetization.

So starting two weeks ago, I walked into a room full of crazily disorganized donated books and began my journey as a Library Friend Bookshop (LFB) volunteer.

Now I will preface what I hope will be many blog posts by saying that I had no idea, when I signed up, that one of the perks was an honour system of hours worked = books. I just thought the act of organizing and selling donated books would provide me with a different view of the book world, introduce me to other bibliophiles, and perhaps expose me to books I had never noticed before, later to be signed out or purchased (very cheaply) for my personal reading pleasure. Imagine, doing something you enjoy, and getting 'paid' in something else you enjoy?

There are just SO. MANY. BOOKS. What is a girl to do, but read them? So I've vowed to bring home a few a week (and likely return them, as there is still no room on my bookshelves) and challenge myself to read differently. To read books I wouldn't normally pick up. To expand my brain, while waiting for meaningful employment.

I figure the least I can do is tell you my thoughts about them.

And so...thus begins the LFB Reviews*.

Week 1
The Bar Code Tattoo 
YA Dystopian
by Suzanne Weyn

It's no secret that the world is a wee bit shaken up right now. 2016 was a year of bizarreness. And this week is, without a doubt, going to go down in history. How that history will play out has been wildly speculated, and I am not the one to discuss the pros and cons of any side. But the last few months have felt mildly dystopian. And with one of my yet-unsold finished manuscripts dealing with similar world-gone-crazy scenarios, this book jumped out at me on the shelf as I was trying to cram two Harry Potter books and a Maze Runner book in beside it. I've seen it before, and was curious...but not curious enough to buy it. Yet there it was, in the pile of crazy mixed up MG and YA. Not hugely out of my comfort zone, but not something I would normally have purchased. And then, SURPRISE!, it jumped into my pile and came home with me.

I wish I could say I loved this book. I really do. I wanted to love this book, I wanted it to be the first of a love affair with Library Friends Bookshop literature. The premise is so real right now--adults (over 17) being forced to be tattooed and DNA typed and having their entire lives dictated by said tattoo and the company which administered it. It could happen. It's a strong storyline.

But the book got mired in relationships and when the main character, Kayla, started having visions and speaking telepathically with a mystical leader of the Resistance. At that point, I found it increasingly hard to follow. And it seemed less and less realistic. There were some deep questions--Should our genetics dictate our employment, our livelihood, our existence? And some scary possibilities, including that of a society which 'euthanizes' its elderly. Frightening and thought provoking. But the writing did not highlight those issues, and sadly I had to fight to finish the book.

On a scale of Total Keeper (10) to Back to the LFB Post-Haste (1)?

I give it a 4/10. I'll take this one back for someone else to enjoy.

Enjoy the week, folks. From where I sit, it's bound to be a doozy.

Brenda

*Please note,  the views on this blog are my own, and do not, in any way, indicate opinions of the Library Friends, the Canadian Forces or anyone. They are mine. Also note, I tend to be perfectly awful at regular blogging. You probably know this already, but I warn you in advance that there will likely be weeks I miss. Maybe months I miss. So I apologize in advance.