The Halfway Point

2018 is just about halfway completed. I have been reflecting on my goals and actions and wonder if I am putting my best foot forward. For me, I find having goals to reach for important to my motivation. Without them I just plod along allowing life to happen to me rather than me living my life. I have been excited about a few things this year.

  1. 18 in 2018
  2.  Scrivener Software
  3.  Totem Project

18 in 2018 is primarily a to-do list. But I have outlined it as a series of goals and achievements that assist me with the fundamental purpose of living life. I have two lists. A personal list and an Edmonton Tourist list. I have discovered my personal list to be much more fun for me. Somethings are so mundane you might think I am dead boring. For example, one thing on my list was a series of declutter projects, my closet, the kitchen drawers, my personal hygiene space in the bathroom, my bedside drawer and the cupboard under the stairs. The last one was looked upon with dread. I did not want to face that at all. One morning I enlisted help from my hubs and we got to work. The most shocking thing happened. Apparently, we had completed this task last year, and the cupboard was fantastic. That was an easy item to cross off the list. I was surprised and how light I felt after the decluttering process. My drawers and baskets all still look fresh and clean, my closet has copious amounts of empty hangers but need some rearranging because my summer wardrobe is not easily accessible. Basically, I need to thank my mom for forcing me to endure the process as a child. I never felt as good as she claimed cleaning would make me feel, but now that I am older, simplifying my life is energizing.

I have a brunch jar, a mason jar that holds bottle return money saved for brunches! We used the cash from the jar to explore restaurants in Edmonton. Our criteria are simple, we have had to either heard great things about these places or learn of new places that we are curious about. Then we visit the restaurant. So far we have ventured off the beaten path. My next brunch place I wan to visit is Pip in Old Strathcona. My jar is ready for me to empty it! I jest need to find the time.

I have only read 14 books so far this year. I say only because my goal is 40 and in six months, I am off my target of by one book. I am currently reading Eleanor Oilphant is completely fine, and I am enjoying her quirkiness. I have read some great books this year! I started following the Hello Sunshine book club (Reese Whitherspoon), she showcases women authors and mixed genres. My favourite so far is You think it, I’ll say it by Curtis Sittenfeld. I loved the compelling characters in this book and wished I could get to know them in a novel. Hopefully one of them will pop up in a novel for my reading pleasure. I don’t usually think of myself as someone who reads short stories, but Elizabeth Strout and Maeve Binchy are stellar short story authors who I have read and thoroughly have enjoyed their offerings. So maybe I do enjoy short stories? I remember reading O. Henry in grade five (Thanks Mrs. Malone!) and his stories stuck with me. I found them compelling and riveting. All those authors have inspired me to try my hand at the short story genre. Which lead me to my second thing I have been excited about this year.

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Scrivener software and Office Lense have inspired me uncreative ways I didn’t think possible from software! I usually write in my notebook at cafes or parks because Judy Blume does. (Taking her Master Writing Class was a big deal for me, and I learned so much!) Often, I write using Word on my desktop because it is 2018. I was watching an author video on Hello Sunshine Book Club page with Jill Santopolo, author of The Light We Lost, and she mentioned using Scrivener, so I looked it up and downloaded the one-month free option. This rocked my world and cured me of wanting a smartboard in my office. I combine it with Office Lense, an app a colleague encouraged me to try, and I can convert my notes to documents and move sections around Scrivener. Its keeps notes in an easy to find section or on the bulletin board beside my main document. The simplicity of this and the usability of this has rocked my world. Uploading handwritten notes to make them useful is something I dreamed about since 1988, when I was in University for the first time. Clearly, I was ahead of my time. Now if I could combine it with software from recorded notes (maybe Dragon Speech?) my life will be complete.

Photography and visual arts is a big part of my life. I love to document my adventures through digital photography. Every now and then I like to have a purpose to my photo adventures or I find I continue to capture the same things endlessly. Trees, nature paths, architecture and my dog are my favourite things to capture. I like choosing a specific subject to photograph and create a project around it. IMG_E7974Last year I focused on the Red Chair project. A series of red Muskoka chairs were captured. The purpose was to explore the offerings of Parks Canada during the Canada 150 free entry into national parks. These chairs are off the beaten path or in well-traveled places. Finding them became a fun pursuit for me. I sat in every chair I photographed to experience the view and take in the purpose of the chair. Some of the captures can be found on Instagram by using #redchairproject or by scrolling through my feed @edmonton_tourist I am considering putting the entire collection on my Edmonton Tourist Facebook page. I enjoyed the red chair project so much, I decided to photograph totem poles. It began because as a kid I remembered poles around Edmonton and was fascinated with them, I loved the Sunwapta Pole at CRFN Television station, and the poles in Jasper. fullsizeoutput_238bI even remember having a tiny one that I bought in Banff as a child. This project became much more involved than I expected and deserves its own post, so watch for that one next Sunday.

I looked at my list and I have completed 8 items. Not bad for six months! I have 10 more to attempt. Now it is summer, I can safely explore some of the ravines with my pal Captain. The small town exploration begins next Friday, I have the day off (Thanks Flex Time!) and intend to visit Lacombe and the Farmer’s Market. Calmar and Vegerville are also on that list. It is nice to have things to look forward to. So how do you organize your goals and plan your time?

Obsession or Passion?

My book obsession passion has reached new heights.

dovekeepersThen why am I writing instead of finishing the last chapter of The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman? Well, to be honest, the last chapter has filled me with anxiety and trepidation. I am fearing the end because I fell in love with 3 out of 4 of the women whose stories are intertwined with each other. I don’t want to see it end, nor do I want it to end badly, NOR do I want to say good bye. I will busy myself with house work and some other mundane chores before I sit to weep and say farewell to Yael and Aziza.

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Last night at my Book Club meeting, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of sitting for the entire evening talking about books. We asked each other why this happened. First off, we all read the book Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danicat. Two of us really liked the book and two of us weren’t sure. This made for great discussion as to what we liked and what we didn’t. The big consensus was that this was an unfinished book, with gaps and details left to misunderstanding or oblivion. I like that in a book. I don’t always want to know the meat of the story, it helps with speculation of the character. But I did love the cultural aspect of the characters family. Learning about the bond of women and how they give everything up to serve man. This makes me thankful I am a Canadian Girl with North American values that honor education and independent choices for women and their daughters.  Leaving this book behind did not sadden me like leaving the Dovekeepers will.

Other books that have stayed with me over the long term and make me sad when I leave them behind have strong character development and something that has me relate on a personal level. Everyone I talk to who has read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant has felt the same as me, they loved this book and rank it amongst the best they have ever read. The Dovekeepers feels the same as this book. From the time in history, to the bonding of women, to the servitude of men, The Red Tent speaks to the strength of women over time. Read it.

I have been ever vigilant in searching for that next great read. I browse Goodreads on a regular basis and have found some reviews to be stellar and others that make me wonder if we read the same book.  There is a section on goodreads called Explore. I stepped into that section this week to look at new books that are going to be released this year. Authors I have never heard of, genres that don’t interest me (romance) and concepts that I have never heard of for fiction (Steampunk? I thought that was art!). Then I discovered a section called GIVEAWAYS!

For the record, I love free things! From soap and shampoo in hotel rooms to water bottles at conferences, Free = Good! I started heading down the list and began entering the draws. Publishing houses and authors give away first copies before the launch of their books to readers who are willing to read and review these books. Tuesday I won a Canadian book The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper! Simon and Shuster publishers are mailing it to me. The release is set for March. It sounds scary but so interesting! I can’t wait to crack it open!

The next night I was browsing that list again and entered a few new draws. By morning I received notice that I won Healer’s Touch by Deb Howell. Deb sent me a private message on Goodreads, she is signing the book and mailing it to me! Her and I chatted back and forth a bit and I admit to being star struck. I get that way with writers, hockey players and astronauts.

Then Friday I was browsing again and came across The Fallen Snow by John Kelley. I entered the draw for that book because it is another autographed copy but then I noticed a message, this weekend is the book launch! He was offering a free download on Amazon click here you Canadians for a free copy for your kindle or kindle app to read this book. The deal is, by accepting the free book, they hope you will review it on Amazon or the Kindle store. Fair enough, I appreciate the book and will be honest about my review!

I do know that the more you review, the more books people will send you. SWEET! Bring on the books! But here is my disclaimer, if it isn’t smart or clever, I will be ruthless.

What do yo think? Obsessed or passionate?

So here is me, looking for my next great read! I have chosen these ones for the month of March  and end of February:

  1. The Fallen Snow by John Kelley
  2. Under the Dome by Stephen King
  3. The Dinner by Herman Koch
  4. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (the book club selection for March)
  5. The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston
  6. Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb

Thoughts or opinions on my chosen ones? Got a better one for me? I am ALL EARS!

Happy reading!

My favorite books I read in 2012

English: Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade...

I am not going to lie, 2012 was a craptastic year. But every dark cloud has a silver lining and I had a few of those. I achieved some goals, learned some hard lessons and made new friends. All of those belong in the win/win category of my story.

My Life Coach advised me to make a non-fitness goal this year. That was hard. A non-fitness goal made me feel weak. I looked at the things that were important to me and I decided convincing myself that I am intelligent was pretty high on the list. My non-fitness goal of 2012 was to read 50 books. Today is December 30th and I completed my last book today, just under the wire.  You can see the complete list of books here. That list shows 51 books, that is I am not sure whether to include Life of Pi. I read it 2 years ago and reread for book club. I got new insights out of it as I often do when I reread books, so I added it to the list. I also didn’t include the TON of reading material I read for University, that wasn’t for fun it was for marks which is fun in a different way, so that didn’t count either.

I decided to reflect back on my year of reading, trying out new genres and exploring topics that had been difficult for me in the past. I picked most of  these books because someone else read it and said, you might like it. Mostly it was true. If  i started a book and hated it, i stopped reading it. 50 books was a lot to get through and I wanted to enjoy my reading, after all this was suppose to be fun! This was a huge year for risk taking when it came to books and it paid off in droves! Here you have it, the Edmonton Tourist’s Top 11 books she read in 2012.

My favorite books I read in 2012

  1. Book of Negroes by  Lawrence Hill. Yes it is an older book, yes it won the Canada Reads award, yes it shamed me as a human and Canadian. But the story was captivating and engrossing. I couldn’t put it down. This should be required reading in every high school on the planet. I missed her when I finished the book. She was remarkable.
  2. Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Maybe I loved this because of where I was at the moment in my life but it struck a chord with me. It was my Eat, Love Pray of 2012. I want to read it every year to see if I learn new insights from it.
  3. 11/22/63 by Stephen King. This was and is the only book I have read by him. I will admit to being scared of him. I have seen some of his movies and I don’t like feeling scared, but something about this book called to me. First of all it wasn’t scary! Secondly it had an element that lots of people think about, myself included, the chance to go back in time and fix a wrong that you did. Sadly there would be consequences  I loved this book, but it was loooooooooooong. Not a quick read.
  4. Room by Emma Donoghue. This is not for the faint of heart. It was told through the eyes of a 5 year old boy and that made it seem less horrific because he didn’t really understand what he was seeing. A college girl is kidnapped and made to be a sex-slave for a creepy old guy and she is kept in ROOM. It made me think about how young children see their world and how they deal with pain and abuse.
  5. A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron. A book club pal recommended this to me. It is from the perspective of a dog who reincarnates into several lives looking for his purpose. He takes the lessons learned into the next life. Brilliant book, I loved it. It was heart warming and not sad.
  6. The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Better than the movie, although I thought the movie was great. I loved this man’s journey to discover what was truly important to him. The fact that I could vividly picture my future ex-husband George as the main character only broke my heart. I love how his relationship with his girls builds throughout the book. There is nothing sexier than a great dad.
  7. The Unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. It was long listed for the Booker Prize and I heard about this from Laurie Greenwood on CBC Radio. I liked this book as it played like a movie in my head, but it wasn’t until the end when you find out what it meant, then looking back over the book made it brilliant.
  8. Me before You by Jojo Moyes. I have figured this for some Chicklit fluff. Was I wrong! It had me torn in pieces thinking about the moral dilemma  Loved the two main characters. Great read!
  9. Gone girl by Gillian Flynn. I had never ventured into mystery before, or a mystery like this one. I often found my jaw hanging open in shock and awe. I may have found a new genre I like!
  10. Shop Girl by Steve Martin. I like his writing style. His other books were not as good as this one. I like how he captured the female character. I think it is hard for a man to write about females, I find them often unbelievable but I liked her.
  11. A Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan. This was almost poetry and made me feel pretty. Lots of memorable lines and something I could really relate to. Heartbreak transcends gender.

It was hard to narrow it down to 11 but I found some authors who I will read again, I quite like Diane Chamberlain and Jennifer Weiner both new to me. And I had the pleasure of reading Maeve Binchy’s last book. She is my favorite author and of late her books had left me flat, I was not like the Father Flynn series at all. But a Week in Winter brought in new characters and was as lovely as Even Class. I shall miss her.

As for next year? I am setting a goal of 20 books. This time I am going to explore fantasy. This is something that doesn’t interest me much but people yap on and on about it. Can’t say I hate something if I don’t give it an honest chance. I find it hard to wrap my head around weird names and bizarre settings. I like Sci-Fi so maybe I need to re-examine Fantasy, and by Fantasy I don’t mean that crappy 50 shades series. There is 2 days I will never get back.

So tell me, what is on your list for 2013? What is the first book you will be reading?

Suffragette’s, book club and wine

Last night as I prepared for my book club (putting on my boots and walking to my neighbour’s house) my daughter ChatterBox asked me the following question, “What do you do at Book Club?” I gave her my best sinister laugh and replied, “What happens at book club, stays at book club.”

English: British suffragette with a poster, gi...
English: British suffragette with a poster, giving out newspapers Русский: Британская суфражетка с плакатом, раздает газеты или листовки на улице. Позади остановился двухъярусный автобус. Снято до 1919 г. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I then received a history lesson from my 14 year old ChatterBox, “Did you know the Suffragette’s movement started with women gathering for a book club?” That’s my girl! Knowing important history that made her a Person under the Law here in Canada! I always drill into her the importance of Canada’s famous five, the women who stood their ground to change the face of history by getting women the vote. Of course this paved the path for many changes, I don’t want ChatterBox to get too comfortable in thinking this is the end. Human rights shouldn’t have to be fought for, they are a right for a reason.

I asked ChatterBox where she had learned this information. She replied, “I learned it in school.” Then she looked at me as if I was nuts. “Didn’t YOU learn about it in school?” I can honestly say, if I did, I have no recollection of it. I DO remember learning about it the knee of my great grandmother. She raised her 5 kids, her sister-in-law and looked after her mother single handedly while working full time as a teacher on the prairies of Saskatchewan. This was long before the days of equal pay – who are we kidding, there still isn’t equal pay in most positions. My Gram talk to me about the importance of education and how it can change the way people see the world.

I never got the message that educating women would change the world, Gram didn’t specify that. It was implied that boy AND girls should be equally educated. It was important for her to see her granddaughters go to university, her grandsons too…but a larger emphasis on the girls. What if… was likely poking around her mind What if the girls have to make it on their own as I had to.

It is implied that educated men will have great careers and do great things, while educated women become great role models for their children.

Why can women just be great? Men get to be great. I think we are nearing that precipice, but we still have to vigilant. I want both my children to experience the joy of higher education. It has literally transformed me into person who knows less and questions more. Before University I knew more but questioned less. I want this gift for my children.

So ChatterBox, that is what we talk about in Book club. We ask questions we give opinions and we come away knowing more or less than we did before. Either way it becomes food for thought and starts conversations. We do this to honor the traditions of the smart women who came before us and the smart women who come after….and there is wine. I forgot that part.

Reaching for the Worthwhile

I belong to a fledgling book club – all women and lots of wine. We read books that challenge our comfort zone. We take turns choosing the book of the month and host the meeting in perspective homes. Last night was meeting number 2. I know 2 of the ladies quite well, one moderately well and the other two gals are new to my life. We come from different backgrounds, our children are at different ages and stages, our careers are massively different. Yet we all have 2 things in common:

  1. We love to read
  2. We strive for inner growth and change.

I have been reading 419 by Wil Ferguson. There was a single passage near the beginning of the book that made me catch my breath, the character had the task of compiling information for an obituary:

There were never entries for “memory,” or “regrets,” or even “love,” in the lowercase.
It was always “Education (post-secondary)” or “Awards (see also:Best Debut R&B Country CD by a Female Artist, Solo).” Indexes never seemed to get to the heart of the matter. There was never
a heading for hope or fear. Or dreams, recalled. Smiles, remembered. Anger. Beauty. Or even images that lingered, glimpses of something that had made an impression. A doorway. A window. A reflection on glass. The smell of rain. Never any of that. Just a tally of proper nouns and famous names. And why only one life? Why not the web of other lives that define us? What of their indexes”

This made me think. An obituary is typically a list of accomplishments. I remember reading the Toronto paper and remember thinking this people are success driven, there was very little about love and life and endless lists of job related activities and education. Compared to the obituaries I have read in the Edmonton Paper, it was incredibly different. Edmonton Obituaries are typically a laundry list of who died first and who has survived. It seems to be more of a disaster survival list rather than a compilation of words that describe the person. Rarely do you get a glimpse of the deceased’s passions, hobbies or loves. Ferguson makes the same observation. What are our beliefs and how do we define ourselves?

This topic came up in a round about way at Book Club. A few of us are attending a Belief Re-patterning workshop. From what I understand, we have a set of beliefs that we live by. Good/Bad/Indifferent. It is these beliefs that push us forward or hold us back. The point of all this is to discover what it is we truly belive and then taking steps to re-pattern our habits and thoughts to achieve goals.

The conversation then turned to what is it that we would like to change about ourselves. Good question, where do I start? Standing in the middle of me – I find it hard to see what I am, the real deep me. My friends see it. So then what is my belief and what I am striving for?

Then it hit me…after my friend hit me with it. I want to be accepted as I am and I want EVERYBODY to accept me. I want to be perceived as smart and have it all going on. I like being the star of the Robyn Show! Is it happening for me? No, not really. I see my self taking on tons in an effort to show – I have no idea who, perhaps the world, perhaps my mother – and get the recognition I crave. DING DING – Oprah calls this an “A HA” moment, I call it the lightbulb moment.

I see myself discounting rejection, in both my personal and professional life. If I change then maybe you won’t reject me. Sad isn’t it? In some ways it is very liberating. The point isn’t to dig up all the issues of my past, the point is to recognize the pattern and restructure it. One friend hopes this will be a miracle cure, when I see it as more hard work.

If my life is summed up by an obituary or a funeral what do I hope for? My friend wants a balance between family and work. I have a pretty good idea what I would like, the trick is achieving it. I don’t want to look back over my life and say “I should have taken that path”.

I want to look back and think my life was worthwhile.