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Posts Tagged ‘2013’

From time to time I’m asked about good books that I’ve read recently.  I surround myself with people who love to read so the passing and sharing of book recommendations is fairly commonplace, and cherished.  To me, recommending a good book is like giving someone a hug to tuck away in their pocket and pull out when they need it.  However, as a solid memory has never been something in my possession with any regularity, I am rarely able to pull out the recommendations when they’re required.  In an attempt to fix this, I’ve decided to make note of my favourite books that I read this past year.  If you haven’t read them, give them a try; and if you’ve read anything good, definitely share them.  Just like hugs, you can never have too many good books.

The Unfinished Child by Theresa Shea

If you have a child, or ever thought about having a child, or if you have a best friend who is so much a part of your life that you can’t imagine living without them, this book is going to tear your heart out.  It was recommended to me by my mom and her recommendations are pretty much always spot on and this was no different.  I read the first 25 pages and couldn’t put it down and I carried it with me everywhere I went until I finished it.  The author manages to write almost the exact way things sound in my head and seeing the words down on the page made me think that maybe others think the same way I do.  It was like finding a friend and then living through something horrible with her, and realizing you’re so glad you didn’t have to do it alone.  This the kind of book where I basically locked myself in the bathroom while I frantically read through the last 50 pages because I couldn’t be disturbed.  And it’s also handy that in the bathroom I was very close to the Kleenex, because I certainly needed it.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

I have no idea how I found this book, or, more correctly, how it found me.  I must have read about it somewhere and put it on hold at the library.  Either that or by way of a magical book fairy it somehow ended up on the shelf with my name on it.  Either way, I’m very glad it found its way to me.  It’s a funny, quirky, loveable little book that when I got to the last page, I realized it had taught me a lot, but in a very subtle, I’m going to make you think you came to these brilliant realizations all by yourself, kind of way.

Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel

If you told me one of my favourite books of the year was going to be about a guy who creates an on-line dating program to match people up based on their on-line personas (emails, on-line shopping, video chats) and then ends up tweaking it to allow people to communicate with people who have died, I definitely would have rolled my eyes at you and questioned our friendship.  I have no clue how I ended up with this book on my hold list at the library (this seems to be a theme of my reading history for 2013), and truth be told I almost returned it without even opening it, but I’m so glad I didn’t.  The premise is just crazy enough to require you to suspend reality just a little bit, but still realistic enough that you find yourself asking “what if.”  Give this book a try, I did and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor

One of my favourite bloggers, Outlaw Mama, included this book in her 2012 book review post and when I read the blurb about this book, I knew I was going to have to read it.  I knew it was going to be horribly painful and gut-wrenching, but I knew I would have to read it all the same.  It’s a memoir from a woman who was 24 years old and five months pregnant when her husband died in a freak accident.  Enough said.  Read it.  I cried and (perhaps surprisingly) laughed my way through it and when I was done I wanted to track down Natalie Taylor and ask her to be my friend.  She made me love her and respect her and want to have her over for a cup of tea, all by the end of the third chapter.

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

If you haven’t read a Maeve Binchy book, stop what you’re doing right now and go to your nearest library and grab all of them off the shelf.  Then call in sick to work for the next week and read them, one after another after another until you come to this one, her very last.  And once you’ve finished them all, take a breath and then cry a little when you realize that Ms. Binchy is no longer with us and we will never have the pleasure of reading a new novel born from her brilliant and humble brain.  She is proof that there is exquisite beauty in a simply told story with characters you want to know and places you want to visit.  Her books, for me, are like a cozy, well worn blanket that you curl up with on a cold day: comforting, familiar and always, always warm.

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

My mom told me to read this book.  She told me to read it on a Monday and asked me on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday if I’d read it yet.  I told her my library didn’t have a copy yet but I would put it on hold when I saw it.  She told me she couldn’t wait that long; couldn’t wait that long for me to read the book so we could talk about it.  That’s how much she loved this book.  I have to admit, I went in with pretty high expectations, perhaps unrealistically so, but this book still turned out to be one of the best of the year, and that definitely says something.  There’s a twist at the end that you may see coming, but it doesn’t make it any less amazing.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

If 2013 was the year that I was caught off guard by books, this one goes to the top of that list.  It’s a book written from the perspective of Budo, the imaginary friend of an interesting little boy named Max.  Normally that would have been enough to get me to put the book right back on the shelf but a strong recommendation from my bestie made me give it another chance.  She was right, I was wrong, and this book is amazing.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

There are books that touch you, and then there are books that change you.  There are books you like, and then there are books you love.  There are books that make their mark, and then there are books that draw a line in the sand that is so distinct that everything else comes either before or after.  This book turned out to be all of those things to me.  Some day when I can find the right words there will a post just about this book, and how it came to find me at just the perfect moment, but until then I will simply add it to this list and recommend that you give it a try.

Happy reading from the Polka Dot Palace!

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With one day remaining in the year, I can safely say that 2013 has not turned out the way I expected it to.  I can look back to this time last year and almost taste the anticipation I was feeling.  It was going to be a great year, filled with many wonderful things.  I expected it to be that way.

I was wrong.

Less than two weeks into the new year I knew it would not be all that I thought it would be.  It would, in fact, be barely a shadow of what I thought it would be.  I wanted to crawl into a hole and come out when the calendar no longer said 2013 but, of course, that was not a realistic way to spend 11 and a half months.

If only it were.

So I trudged along.  I made it through the rest of January, barely, and wished away February and most of March.  With the warmer weather came a small sense of relief and summer brought with it some smiles and laughter and a pat on the back that I’d made it half-way.

But my constant companion was a sense of injustice; a feeling that this was not how it was supposed to be, not any of it.  What happened to my expectations?  What happened to my year as I had imagined it to be?  What happened?

And even in my own head I sounded like a spoiled child.  Who am I to decide what is “supposed” to happen and what is not?  In the general scheme of terrible things that happen, if this thing knocked me down for a whole year, how would I ever handle something truly terrible?  On the slippery step ladder of horrible things, I was fairly close to the bottom and yet I had still managed to fall off and stay down for longer than was probably warranted.

But I couldn’t shake it.  I couldn’t shake the sense that I was on a completely different path than where I should have been.  As I checked off the days and the months crawled by I just wanted to make it through the year, as though it was the actual number 2013 staring back at me that was keeping me from moving on in any meaningful way.

I have spent almost an entire year feeling like a mistake was made; like my original year had been so nicely written out, only to be erased like words on a piece of paper, still faint enough to read if you look closely.  And instead of writing something new on top, I have spent months staring at the paper, squinting my eyes to try and gain a glimpse of what was there before.

And now, finally, I have reached a point where I’m tired of looking at something that isn’t there, tired of squinting and imagining and creating something from nothing.  It has taken me a whole year to get here.  A whole year to realize that the things that happen to us are bad enough without adding them the weight of unfulfilled expectations.

How often do we expect things and are then disappointed when they don’t happen?  I expected this year to turn out differently.  I expected him to respond differently.  I expected to feel differently.  What if I stopped expecting things and just dealt with them as they came?  What if I just felt the emotions as they came, without first having to debate whether they are what I expected them to be?  How much of a relief would it be to just take away that step entirely? What would that year look like in comparison to this?  If I stop measuring everything against what I expected, will I also then stop coming up short?

There is a sweet little movie called The Odd Life of Timothy Green that came out last year.  If you haven’t yet had a chance to check it out, I would recommend that you do. In the movie there is one particular line that has stuck with me, and which now resonates even more than before.  On Timothy’s first day of school, his parents drop him off and after saying goodbye, his dad yells for him to “have a great day” and his mom says “that’s too much pressure!”  His dad then corrects himself and yells to Timothy to “have the day you have.”

Have the day you have.

How simple it seems when you put it that way.

How complicated I seem to have made things, and how I now crave the blissful simplicity of living a life free from unmet expectations.

So, as I sit on the cusp of a fresh start, both according to the calendar on the wall and also a feeling deep inside, I will not wish you a great new year.  Rather I will encourage you to have the year you have.

And I am excited to try to do the same.

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Last year when I sat down to write my “end of one year / beginning of another year” post, I just couldn’t find it anywhere inside me to make resolutions. I’ve never been a resolution person. Not because I don’t want to be, rather because I’ve done it a few times in the past and by about February I either can’t remember what any of my resolutions were, or they are no longer things I want to spend the next 11 months trying to accomplish. Either way, my resolutions never happen. They get made and broken, made and forgotten, made and ignored.

So last year I decided I’m done with resolutions. What I did instead was come up with a list of realizations. Rather than looking forward to what I want to accomplish in the coming year, I looked back on what I had learned from the year just past; things that I needed to come to terms with, things that I needed to realize and let go of so I could start the new year fresh, unencumbered. So last year I wrote a post entitled “new year’s resolutions” and I was pretty happy with it so I thought maybe I would make a tradition of it.

And so, without further ado, here are my 2012 new year’s realizations:

1) fear the known, not the unknown – doing something new and different is scary but the idea of never trying anything, of living a life spent doing the same things over and over again, is even scarier.

2) do the work – dreaming is great, nothing in life can start without a dream, but a dream is just a beginning. If you want to make that dream into something more than just a beginning, you have to be willing to do the work. Dreams don’t come true just because you dream them, they need some good old fashioned hard work to push them across the finish line.

3) signs are suggestions, not directions – I spent much of 2012 waiting for ‘signs’ to show me the paths I should take and confirm that the decisions and changes I was planning to make were the right ones. And sometimes I found the signs and became confident that it meant I was moving in the right direction. But then I realized that although the sign may be confirming my choice, it did nothing to show me how to get where I wanted to go. I saw the sign and was still lost. The universe can provide the signs, I still need to come up with the map.

4) worrying about everything doesn’t protect you from anything – enough said.

5) if you have all the answers, you’re not asking the right questions – I seek answers in life, just as we all do, answers to all of the questions that run around in my head, big ones, little ones, a million different questions. I used to think life would be better if I could just get answers for all of those questions. Then I realized how awful it would be to run out of questions.

6) it’s okay to do things for no reason – self-reflection and contemplation are good things. Incessant knit-picking and analyzing are not. Sometimes I do things for no reason and it’s okay, I don’t need to take a pause and reflect on ‘why’ – I just need to chalk it up to me being me and move on.

7) leave space for the surprises – if everything is planned out, every minute of every day and every month of every year, there’s no room for the unexpected. No time left for those pockets of wonder that make life worth living. The plan will always be there but the pockets are fleeting.

So there they are, my realizations and lessons learned when looking back at 2012. I have absolutely no idea what 2013 is going to have in store for me but I’m excited for the ride, and hopeful for what may come my way.

Happy New Year.

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I told myself to get out of bed, even though I really didn’t want to. Tomorrow the alarm will once again ring WAY too early and sleeping in today will only make it more painful. So I sat up, slid my feet into my slippers and decided to head down to the basement.

I tiptoed past the kids rooms where they were still sleeping soundly in their beds. We all stayed awake until after midnight last night and then the kids fell asleep in the car on the way home from our friend’s house. They would probably sleep at least an hour more.

I headed down to the basement, telling myself that it was time to finally get caught up on Grey’s Anatomy, having five episodes still sitting on the PVR. I got about halfway through the first one when I heard footsteps above me.

I called out so he would know where I was and moments later turned to see him, all sleepy-eyed and tousled hair, dragging his blanket behind him.

“Happy New Year, Mama,” he said, climbing up on the couch beside me and tucking his head under my arm. I turned off Grey’s, it’s waited this long, it can wait a little bit longer. Instead we watched some cartoons until our tummies grumbled and it was time for something to eat.

He decided on Froot Loops, I made myself a bagel. I poured two glasses of orange juice and pulled up the stool beside him.

He lifted his glass and smiled at me.

“Let’s cheers, Mama. It’s 2013 now.”

We bumped our plastic glasses together, each took a sip and smiled.

What a great way to start a new year.

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