Saturday, August 10, 2019

Five Minute Friday: AGAIN


I'm linking up with the Five Minute Friday community, writing for five minutes on a given prompt. 

This week's word is AGAIN.

_______________________________________

This summer I decided to go gray again.

I've been colouring my hair for the past ten years, and I just decided to quit. I was at the point where I needed to colour it almost every three weeks in order for it to look acceptable, and it was getting very tiresome.

Here's what it looked like prior to my decision to quit colouring (pic from 2018):


The last time I coloured it was April 2 of this year. Here's a picture from June 8, two months into the going-gray process:




And one from June 23:


And the latest, from July 25 (front and back):


I've gotten quite a few compliments on how it looks -- many of them from women younger than me. Some women my age have told me they're doing the same thing as I am, while others have said they're "not quite that brave" yet or "can't quite let go." I completely get that. Everybody has to make their own decision, whether it's about hair colour or anything else.

When I decided to do this, I thought I might not like the process or the outcome. I wondered if I'd look at myself in the mirror and gasp, "Oh my gosh, who is that person??!!"

But I haven't had that experience -- quite the opposite, in fact. I find I'm far more accepting of my image in the mirror: I'm not constantly checking my hair, wondering if the gray at my temples is too obvious or if the back is fading faster than the front. I feel more like myself again. It's very freeing.

Is there something you've been thinking about doing that might make you feel more like "you" again? I'd recommend you go for it. You won't know until you try.

Monday, July 29, 2019

What I've been doing - summer 2019 edition


The summer is flying by, and I've been neglecting this blog shamefully.

No, wait: scratch that. No shame, and no shoulds. It's been a busy summer so far, and I just haven't had much opportunity to compose posts. That's life. In this post I'll share a little bit of what I've been up to, under the categories FAMILY, WATCHING, READING, and WRITING.


FAMILY

 
my Uncle Charlie and Aunt Sigga


On July 10 my uncle (my dad's brother) Charlie MacEachern died in PEI after a long illness. His death leaves a huge void in many lives. He was so funny and upbeat, the kind of person who made your day better just by showing up. And he always did "show up" for the people he loved. He was a great support to my dad, calling or dropping by almost daily, and will be very much missed by all of us. 

Uncle Charlie and Jonathan, 2018:
"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good"

I was able to go to PEI for Uncle Charlie's celebration of life service; my sister-in-law Caroline suggested we go together in her van, and she visited her sister in Truro, NS while I was on the Island for four days. It was good to be there with my extended family and share memories and stories about my uncle. My brother Lincoln and I sang "You Raise Me Up" at the service; my Aunt Sigga chose this song specifically, and the words are certainly fitting for the kind of person my uncle was to everyone who had the good fortune of knowing him.


You raise me up so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be.

In news from the other side of the family: my mother-in-law broke her ankle in May, so it's been a long process of recovery for her. After surgery in mid-May, she's been recuperating in the convalescent wing of a retirement home here in town, and hopes to get home to her own house this weekend. We've all pitched in to help support her during this time, but her own determination and upbeat spirits have done a lot to help the recovery process along. 

 ********

WATCHING 

I saw two movies this summer that have already become absolute favourites: 

Brooklyn: based on the novel by Colm Toibin, about a young Irish girl in the 1950's who moves to Brooklyn, New York to work.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato-Peel Pie Society: based on the novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, about a young writer in post-WWII London whose life is changed when she receives a letter from a man from the Guernsey Islands, asking about books and telling her about the Islanders' experience under Nazi occupation during the war. 



I need more movies like this in my life: touching and delightful but with some substance to them. And if they have a large proportion of former Downton Abbey stars (as Guernsey does), so much the better.

********

READING 

After watching Brooklyn, I read the novel by Colm Toibin that it's based on; I really enjoyed Toibin's simple storytelling and how the novel captures its place and time so vividly.

I also read Hannah Pasch's Millenneagram: The Enneagram Guide to Discovering Your Truest, Baddest Self. I'm definitely not the target audience for this book, and I don't think I or anyone else has ever applied the word "baddest" to me -- but I liked Pasch's irreverent yet encouraging approach to the enneagram system of personality types.

If you're interested in seeing what other books I've read in the last while, you can check out my June "Quick Lit" post HERE


********


WRITING 

My poem "Departures" was published this summer in Juniper Poetry, an online journal; you can read the poem HERE. This poem is a special one to me because it's about the death of my mom, so I'm happy that Juniper liked it enough to publish it.

My prose poem "Along King Street" was June's featured poem on our local library's Poetry Blackboard, a site curated by Kingston's Poet Laureate Jason Heroux. You can read the poem HERE

"Along King Street" is also going to be featured in an outdoor poetry installation during Kingston's "Vibrant Spaces" event next month. It will be one of five poems displayed along a poetry path -- and in keeping with its subject matter, Jason told me they'll be sure to set it up within view of the windmills. 


********

Thanks for stopping by to read this update. I hope your summer has offered you lots of opportunity for rest, recreation, and rejuvenation in just the right proportions. And if you've been reading, watching, writing, or doing anything interesting this summer, let us know in the comments!




Saturday, June 15, 2019

June 2019 Quick Lit: What I've been reading



Today I'm joining Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit, where we share short reviews of what we've been reading.



Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. 
I have read some of Berry's poetry and the occasional essay, but this was my first foray into his fiction. This is a magnificent book that reads more like a memoir than a novel. As she nears the end of her life, elderly Hannah Coulter reminisces about her life in the Kentucky farming community of Port William: her formative relationship with her grandmother; her youthful, short-lived first marriage; her years married to Nathan and raising three children on the farm; her observations about agriculture, changing times, and community. The whole time I was reading this book I was wishing I'd read it while my mom was still alive so that I could have told her about it. She'd have read it; then she'd have passed it on to Dad; and they'd likely have spent many hours talking about it and connecting with its themes. It's really beautiful. If you're looking for fast pacing and a strong narrative arc, this book won't fit those requirements -- but if you want an uplifting story about ordinary people living ordinary but meaningful lives, this book is for you.



Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb.  
While Berry's book is a novel that reads like a memoir, this one is a memoir that often feels like a novel. Gottlieb, a therapist, is devastated when her longtime boyfriend ends their relationship because he doesn't want to marry someone with a child. She realizes she herself needs a therapist to work through this crisis and the deeper issues it has brought to the surface. Gottlieb's story of her work with her therapist, Wendell, is interwoven with stories of her own clients as they work their way toward healthier relationships and greater life satisfaction. This book is entertaining, funny, and thought-provoking and will probably provide a few aha moments for any reader.



The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang. 
Wang was diagnosed with schizoaffective/bipolar disorder as a teenager; in this collection of beautifully written essays, she discusses not only her own personal experiences -- such as how she was essentially pushed out of Yale University because of her illness when she was a student there, or how she uses her knowledge of fashion to help her pass as more put-together and therefore more stable -- but broader themes such as media depictions of mental illness, crimes involving mental illness, and the debates surrounding diagnosis of schizophrenia and related disorders. Wang's blending of memoir and rigorous research makes for a fascinating book.


 Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life by Henri J.M. Nouwen.  
This is the book I'm currently reading. Nouwen was a prolific letter-writer, and this volume is a collection of letters he wrote to friends and strangers about spirituality, faith, and vocation. This book is more than just a window into an interesting life; reading it is a truly spiritual experience in itself. Nouwen's kind, probing words, his vulnerability and sharing of his own struggles, make you feel like you're in the presence of a trusted friend or spiritual director who, with a few well-chosen questions, will give you new perspective and grounding. Brene Brown's foreword to the book shows that this was her experience too. I'm reading this book slowly and really savouring it.

What have you been reading lately? I'd love to know!





Friday, May 31, 2019

Five Minute Friday: NAME (for Rachel Held Evans)

I haven't written anything on this blog since April 19, Good Friday. Life has gotten in the way: my mother-in-law broke her ankle a few weeks ago, had surgery and was in hospital for over a week, and is now in a convalescent unit getting back on her feet, literally and figuratively. Sometimes creative pursuits have to take a back seat when these sorts of things happen.

As I looked at the Blog Archive section of my blog, I realized that it's been years since I had a month with no posts -- and May ends today! So I'm barely getting in under the wire with today's short post, but it's one I'm glad to write. I'm linking up with the Five Minute Friday community to write about the word NAME -- and about Rachel Held Evans.





If the name Rachel Held Evans isn't familiar to you, she's a writer who explored issues of faith and doubt in her four bestselling books, all of which I've read and reviewed here on this blog: Faith Unraveled (a.k.a. Evolving in Monkey Town), A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Searching for Sunday, and Inspired.

I never met Rachel or even attended a talk she gave. But her books were a window into an intelligent, passionate, questing soul. The Christian faith of her upbringing disappointed her in many ways, but this disappointment challenged her to go deeper: to learn what it really meant to be a woman of faith, a doubter, a lover of Scripture, and a member of the body of Christ. She had many detractors who believed that her support for LGBTQ people and her refusal to accept easy answers about Scripture made her a bad influence. But she inspired many people to keep following Jesus, to keep asking questions and grappling with doubts, to come to Jesus' table in confidence that there was room for everyone.

Rachel died a month ago after being hospitalized for treatment of an infection; a reaction to medication had caused brain seizures and required an induced coma. She was 38 years old and left behind a husband and two small children. Tomorrow her funeral will be streamed live on her website.

Rachel Held Evans' death is a tremendous loss, but her name and voice live on in her writings and in the countless people who were encouraged by her words and her life. She was, to use the Hebrew phrase she championed, a woman of valor: eshet chayil.



Rachel Held Evans, 1981-2019
 
 

Friday, April 19, 2019

Five Minute Good Friday: NEXT


Today I'm linking up with the Five Minute Friday community, writing for five minutes on a given prompt. 

This week's word is NEXT.




I look out my window. The sky is whitish-gray, with darker gray clouds moving across it. Gusts of wind scatter leaves and debris across the street.

We are expecting rain today. It is supposed to start sometime this morning and rain all day and into tomorrow: 30-60 millimetres total before it's all done.

The forecast for Sunday is much better, though.


I wish we could skip the next two rainy, gloomy days and just go straight to Sunday.

Sometimes I feel the same way about Good Friday. It would be so much easier to just skip these next two days -- the increasing darkness and suffering of Good Friday, the silence and emptiness of Easter Saturday -- and go straight to the joy and celebration of Easter Sunday.

But the way of Jesus is through: not around, not over, not under, but through. He walks the road of suffering. He doesn't take a shortcut past the hard parts, the pain and desolation, to get straight to the triumph.

So we wait with him now and over the next hours and days. 

We wait in sorrow and hope. 

We go through.