12 Jan 2020, 15:37

Book Riot's 2020 Read Harder Challenge

I’ve done the BookRiot Read Harder Challenge for the last few years and it has helped get me out of my usual genres while also helping me connect with a bunch of fantastic books and keep me looking for new and interesting reads. Sometimes when I’m feeling stuck with a book, it’s fun to check my list, and see what else I had wanted to read so I can switch things up.

I completed most of my ReadHarder 2019 Books with a few exceptions, but one thing I found helpful is having a live document where I could write out some of the books I wanted to read, the categories they fit under, and check them off when or if I completed them. The experience is different versus on GoodReads but I like tracking them on both.

You can see the post from bookriot here with all of the categories and also with suggestions for many categories. I appreciate that they always have some solid recommendations for each of them, and add more as time passes.

You can see my collection of 2020 ReadHarder books on GoodReads, arranged in no particular order right here.

(this list is still a work in progress)

Read Harder 2020

  1. Read a YA nonfiction book
    • #NotYourPrinces by Lisa Charleyboy
    • How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana
    • Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson, Narrated by Laurie Halse Anderson
  2. Read a retelling of a classic of the canon, fairytale, or myth by an author of color
    • Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
  3. Read a mystery where the victim(s) is not a woman
    • Iced in Paradise: A Leilani Santiago Hawai’i Mystery by Naomi Hirahara
  4. Read a graphic memoir
    • ✔ Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home - Nora Krug
    • ✔ Palestine by Joseph Sacco
  5. Read a book about a natural disaster
    • Haiti: After the Earthquake by Paul Farmer (Non-fiction)
    • We Speak in Storms by Natalie Lund (Fiction)
  6. Read a play by an author of color and/or queer author
    • ✔ The Amen Corner by James Baldwin
  7. Read a historical fiction novel not set in WWII
    • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  8. Read an audiobook of poetry
    • Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga, Narrated by Vaneh Assadourian
    • Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson, Narrated by Laurie Halse Anderson
  9. Read the LAST book in a series
    • Finish the Broken Earth Trilogy - N.K. Jemisin
  10. Read a book that takes place in a rural setting
    • The Round House by Louise Erdrich
  11. Read a debut novel by a queer author
    • ✔ Small Beauty - jia qing wilson-yang
  12. Read a memoir by someone from a religious tradition (or lack of religious tradition) that is not your own
    • Laughing all the way to the mosque by Zarqa Nawaz
    • I am Malala - Malala Yousafzai
    • Daughter of Gloriavale: My life in a religious cult by Lilia Tarawa
    • ✔ We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib
  13. Read a food book about a cuisine you’ve never tried before
    • The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Micheal W. Twitty.
  14. Read a romance starring a single parent
    • ✔ Fumbled by Alexa Martin
    • The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred
  15. Read a book about climate change
    • The Migration by Helen Marshall
    • Greenwood by Michael Christie
  16. Read a doorstopper (over 500 pages) published after 1950, written by a woman
    • ✔ Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Pérez I started reading and listening to this book last year, and it’s massive, but brilliant and incredibly frustrating. I now realize it’s not over 500 pages but it’s seriously massive, and I’m just going to give this one to myself.
  17. Read a sci-fi/fantasy novella (under 120 pages)
    • ✔ To Be Taught if Fortunate - Becky Chambers
    • The Black God’s Drums - P. Djèlí Clark
    • ✔ All Systems Red by Martha Wells (first book in the murderbot diaries)
  18. Read a picture book with a human main character from a marginalized community
    • ✔ Queen of the Hannukah Dosas
    • ✔ Baby Loves the Five Senses: Hearing by Ruth Spiro and Irene Chen
    • ✔ Sulwe: Lupita Nyong’o, Vashti Harrison
  19. Read a book by or about a refugee
    • ✔ No Friend but the Mountains - Behrouz Boochani
    • ✔ We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib
  20. Read a middle grade book that doesn’t take place in the U.S. or the UK
    • ✔ Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (now that I’ve read this one, I have to read Akata Warrior!)
  21. Read a book with a main character or protagonist with a disability (fiction or non)
    • Beast of Burden: Animal and Disability
    • ✔ Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me by Anna Mehler Paperny
    • ✔ Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc
  22. Read a horror book published by an indie press
    • Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories
  23. Read an edition of a literary magazine (digital or physical)
    • ✔ Quill & Quire - March 2020, the Spring Kidlit Special, seemed perfect for me. I picked it up at the small press store in the Toronto Reference Library.
  24. Read a book in any genre by a Native, First Nations, or Indigenous author
    • ✔ Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline
    • #NotYourPrinces by Lisa Charleyboy
    • Sanaaq - Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk

11 Jan 2020, 18:45

2020 - New Year Same You

A New Year, same me. I don’t make resolutions anymore because they tended to not be the most healthy choice for me, I’ve had a few intentions I’ve been working on from the moment I thought, hey maybe this is something I should pursue. I’d like to constantly be working on something - be it learning a new skill, or building muscle, meditating, or at the very least, reading a new book.

One of my biggest intentions has been to make it to my lifting class with a bit more consistency. I was avoiding it for reasons that weren’t really real, but they were reasons that I had thought made sense. The net positive impact of going to the class justifies the cost of going to the class - both from a time perspective and the money. I feel strong, and the positive effects of being in a group of body positive people is just incalculable.

My other body-mind related thing is making time for a yoga practice. I completed yoga teacher training at the end of last year, and it’s made every class more accessible to me. I’m still nervous about perceptions but I have a collection of modifications for nearly anything that I can pull from on the fly. I also have some idea of what’s going to happen next because most classes follow a pretty familiar arc. I’m still unsure if I will teach to anyone other than my partner, but at least I feel comfortable doing that. I’ve realized that I’m drawn to more restorative classes with props and time and breath work, so I might aim for more training in that area.

So far this year I’ve read 10 books. Some of them were short, some of them were YA, all of them were enjoyable reads not necessarily on a Reading Challenge list, but most of them probably could fit in somewhere or another. I’m hoping to post a few ideas for Reading Women and Read Harder soon, but at the moment, my biggest goal is to actually read the books I already have kicking around on Overdrive or in the house. It’s so lovely to visit a library or a bookstore, or peruse the online catalogues, but I get excited and start stocking up, and before I know it, the to be read in 21 days pile is much higher than I can manage.

My other reading intention is to make sure I pick up a few books in Polish. I’ve got my sights set on Olga Tokarczuk because I don’t have much awareness of what’s out there in Polish literature, but big name awards like the Nobel Prize are nothing to sneeze at - and since she won last year, it seems prudent to check out her work either way. But first, books in the house.

And on the bright side, there are copies available in English and Polish at the library, and I’ve requested them, but the wait is very long, so it’s feasible that I might finish the books in the house before I ever get to see these new ones.

I’ve started looking at what I will do once the kiddo goes to school and I still don’t know. There are lots of possibilities, but I know I would like to find myself and find an identity beyond being a mom again.

20 Apr 2019, 10:45

The Great Outdoors - Point Pelee National Park

The moment the weather turns a bit north of zero I start dreaming about being outside. Outside in the park, outside in the backyard, outside in the forest, outside somewhere else.

I used to have a tent in my backyard growing up. We’d never go camping, but we would drive out to a park, and make food on a fire. Like me, my mom liked (and still likes) making a fire - and we get really into it. It’s a deep point of pride when it works out the way we wanted it to.

I also spent regular summers in the woods at summer camp with a mix of cabin sleeping and tent sleeping, and I’m hoping to help fill our small human’s life with those experiences as well. I enjoyed them while I was there, and I look back on those times quite fondly.

This year, the first of our outdoor adventures was at Point Pelee National Park. We rented one of their Otentiks for most of the week and just enjoyed the birds and the sounds of not-so-distant lake erie lapping at the nearby beach.

When it comes to Otentiks, they all basically look the same. But some of them have extra bonus parts that are neat - the ones at Point Pelee have indoor heating (either gas or wood), all come with cooking utensils and equipment (like cutlery, pots and pans, plates, cups, and bowls, and more) which makes it possible to pack a bit lighter. It felt quite luxurious, even compared to our last Otentik visit along the Trent Severn Waterway (where there wasn’t heat or supplies.)

The Otentiks also have mattresses inside, so all you need to bring is a sleeping bag or your bedding of choice. The mattresses are mostly twin size with a double size on the top bunk, so they can fit standard sheet sizes if you want to go that route.

We had a wonderful time running through the forest and pathways around the camp site. I enjoyed walking up to hundreds of birds singing their special songs. Our son loved the wagons we used to move our camp gear to the car, and to wash dishes. There was something for all of us.

The Campsite was within walking distance of lake Erie so we got to see some incredible sunsets a few times during our visit.

12 Apr 2019, 10:45

Yoga - Do you want to be a teacher?

I’ve tried to do yoga a few times in my life. The practice has always appealed to me, but I didn’t make or have the time for consistency.

A girlfriend and I took a community center series for a month or two, and then never again.

I was more consistent with my practice during pregnancy because I found it made me feel very good, and it was a great way to make sure I moved my body in an intentional way while pregnant, especially as we approached the due date. Postpartum was hard because I was dealing with an untreated and unacknowledged pelvic issue, and getting to the class on time was difficult and while the teacher was lovely, the experience was ultimately overwhelming negative - body aches and general headspace were not ready yet.

I tried taking a body positive class a few months ago, but I didn’t feel like I meshed well with the instructor, and didn’t enjoy the flow of classes and stopped going at the first opportunity.

More recently, I’ve been attending a weekly body positive yoga class with some familiar people with a very nice instructor that I feel in tune with for the most part.

I leave class feeling grateful for attending, and happy to have taken the time. The environment is generally positive and friendly, the studio is close to me, and I enjoy the walk home afterwards (and usually stop in at my favourite bookstore on the way. It’s just all around great.)

I’ve recently signed up for The Underbelly, and the first class I took was accessible and inviting. And I’m looking forward to making it a regular thing… perhaps even daily if that feels reasonable.

The BoPoYoga class has made me start to think about potentially most seriously considering taking yoga teacher training at some point.

That said, I’m conscious of being another white body, albeit a fat one, in the sea of white bodies in the yoga space - I don’t know quite how to reconcile that with my desire to do more. At the moment, I’ll have to keep reading and learning more. The knowledge and the debates are already out there.

20 Jan 2019, 10:45

We Built A Wardrobe

We built a wardrobe together this weekend. And when I say we, I mean the Tinyhuman and I. J was out doing J stuff (Hurrah!) And it was actually really lovely. I say actually because the usual idea of doing stuff like this with toddler/preschoolers/kids in general, at least in more mainstream conversations is one dripping with vague complaints of inconvenience and how hard it is to get anything done with small people around.

And that’s all true. It can be challenging, but we built more than a wardrobe with our work - we connected, we collaborated, we talked, and we played. And now he’s got a new place to climb into. (and I suppose a new place to put his clothes, but we’re not there yet.)

I’m usually the one that builds things. I’m reasonably handy. I have the inclination to it. I like making things. So this isn’t the first time, and wont be the last. but I was astounded by his memory yesterday. He noticed that some of the bracing screws were the same ones that were part of holding his desk together. And he kept holding it in his hand saying “Are these for the desk?” And I kept saying no, we are building a wardrobe, and he would repeat, but are these for the desk? And he was patient with me, but I got on the same page as him eventually.

The pride of it cannot be overstated. When he woke up this morning, the first thing he told his dad was that he built a wardrobe. There is so much to that. I feel good that that is part of his life.