Tag Archives: Memoir

August 2021 Bookish Resolutions Wrap-up

This was another challenging month for me with a lot of soul searching, but I just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Here are my results:

Read 24 books this year for the Mount TBR 2021 challenge.

“The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben

In my third attempt to read this book, I finally succeeded! I don’t know why I didn’t finish the first two times, because it really is a wonderful book. Perhaps I just got distracted? Anyway, to read more about my impressions of the book, see the entry below.

Read 12 nature related books this year to enhance my horticultural therapy study.

“The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben 

This quote sums up the book and the feeling that you will leave with after reading it:

“When you know that trees experience pain and have memories and that tree parents live together with their children, then you no longer can just chop them down and disrupt their lives with large machines.”

I believe the book should be required reading material in school.

Apparently also there is a related movie.

Read 12 books that are either memoir, poetry, or soul books.

“World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Written by a poet, Nezhukumatathil weaves her story into observations of nature. A delightful read!

Favourite quotes:

“And so, I ask: When is the last time you danced like a superb bird of paradise? I mean, when was the last time you really cut a rug, and did you mosh, bust a move, cavort, frisk, frolic, skip, prance, romp, gambol, jig, bound, leap, jump, spring, bob, hop, trip, or bounce?”

and

“It is this way with wonder: it takes a bit of patience, and it takes putting yourself in the right place at the right time. It requires that we be curious enough to forgo our small distractions in order to find the world.”

“Three Simple Lines: A Writer’s Pilgrimage into the Heart and Homeland of Haiku” by Natalie Goldberg

I started this when I was on vacation in July and finished it upon returning home. Part history, part travelogue, I really enjoyed journeying along with Goldberg. The book motivated me to write several haikus about what happened on my vacation, and I wrote them in the book, so the book has become a keepsake.

“The Comfort Book” by Matt Haig

I loved this book so much that I bought it after I read my library copy. So much deliciousness here!

Example:

“…one of the most common feelings among people was the feeling of not fitting in among people. The comfort, then, is the weird truth that in one sense we have most in common with others when we feel awkward and alone. Isolation is as universal as it gets.”

and

“I used to worry about fitting in until I realized the reason I didn’t fit in was because I didn’t want to.”

Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

Very sporadic.

Read related literature to my novel writing.

No, I didn’t do this.

Analyze two creative nonfiction essays per month. These are the two that I analyzed:

“My greatest pandemic discovery has been finding the wild in the city” by Andrea Curtis

What I like about this essay:

-Evocative language:

“We’ve also slipped down the side of steep embankments, threaded our way over boulders, passed ancient washed-out bridges, dodged storm water outtake pipes, graffitied underpasses and fjorded frozen streams.”

-Unexpected discoveries:

‘In his beautiful book about walking called The Old Ways, the British naturalist Robert Macfarlane calls unofficial urban paths, the ones trodden but not formally marked “desire lines.”’

-A thoughtful takeaway

“Hearing the voices from my family’s past 50 years later felt like coming home again” by Gayle Belsher

A couple of discoveries:

-The essay starts with a few facts.

-The essay mentions how the author’s journey links to the pandemic, which I am seeing is a common topic now in creative nonfiction essays.

Overall I am starting to see patterns, and I am going to try such techniques as peppering facts in my creative nonfiction essays.

Analyze what I like about two picture books per month.

These are the two that I analyzed:

“This Pretty Planet” by Tom Chapin and John Forster; illustrated by Lee White

The book is based on a song, so it’s not a surprise that the text is musical. Short and sometimes rhyming text make it easy on the ear; the illustrations also make it easy on the eye.

Favourite part:

“You’re a garden

You’re a harbour

You’re a holy place.”

“Peace” by Baptiste Paul and Miranda Paul; illustrated by Esteli Meza

What I liked:

-beautiful and creative rhyming pairs, such as correctly/directly

-peace explained in a child friendly way: “Peace is pronouncing your friend’s name correctly

-animals are featured in the pictures, and the author’s note explains how peace also affects animals

Submit one story to a contest per season.

Not a good month: I got five rejections. However, I am planning on repurposing two of those stories.

Attend one writing webinar per month. (flexible)

I didn’t do this.

Work on one lesson of a writing course per month. (flexible)

I’ve been working my way through a course about marketing writing.

Attend a writing group session per week. (flexible)

I have dropped out of one of my critique groups due to scheduling conflicts. However, I still continue meeting with my first critique partner weekly.

Blog at least twice a month.

I’ve completed this task.

Weekly treasure:

The birds that have been coming to my bird feeder have provided a lot of comfort. How many sparrows can you see?

Challenges:

HaikuForTwo

I wrote four!

100 day challenge

Read two chapters of a book a day. This works well for me, and I will continue it.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

July 2021 Bookish Resolutions Wrap-up

Admittedly summer always throws me off schedule. I forgot that last year in the midst of the “summer that wasn’t” due to the restrictions of Covid-19, our planned trip to Germany had to be cancelled and there was little to do until we discovered the beach in August, where we went once a week, which at least provided a mini respite from the sameness of it all.

The upside of that summer was that I was much more productive, or at least that’s how I remember it. This summer though, I seem to have fallen into the natural summer rhythm of spontaneity verging on chaos. 

We managed to have a one week socially distanced family cabin vacation up in the Muskokas. Bliss: swimming, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, even one session of archery. Not only that, but I was able to read like I haven’t read in a long time on rainy days. Alas, I lost that momentum when I returned home, due to a series of unexpected visits. Not that I am complaining, but the dizzying speed of reentry change sometimes has my head spinning.

Now on to how I did with my revamped resolutions. 

Read 24 books this year for the Mount TBR 2021 challenge.

I read “The Global Forest: 40 Ways Trees Can Save Us” by Diana Beresford-Kroeger. See the next category for a description.

Read 12 nature related books this year to enhance my horticultural therapy study.

“The Global Forest: 40 Ways Trees Can Save Us” by Diana Beresford-Kroeger.

I don’t think that the title is accurate—more like “40 Ways Trees Play a Part in Our Lives” or something similar—but certainly the book is bursting with fascinating tree facts and stories. I read the book in short bursts, two chapters a day, following the pattern I used in the 100 day challenge. It works!

Quote:

“…most trees are not naturally solitary. They are community dwellers. The community for the tree is the forest. Inside the forest all mother trees get the greatest protection possible.”

“The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature” by Sue Stuart-Smith

I read this as part of a book study with one of my critique partners. Well researched and well written, the book is a delight to read. So many benefits of gardening and nature including even the use of them in trenches during WWI. Who knew? 

Quote:

“It is one thing for gardens to provide respite from war but quite another to create them in the very midst of it. Yet this is what happened during the long, drawn-out fighting on the Western Front. Pretty flowers may seem trivial when shells are dropping all around, but in that landscape of utmost devastation, the beauty of nature especially of flowers, provided a psychological lifeline in a way that nothing else could.”

I see parallels to this in these Covid-19 times, with there being an uptick in interest in gardening.

Read 12 books that are either memoir, poetry, or soul books.

“H is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald

I tried to read this before, but I never did finish it despite its luscious language. This time I took it slowly, reading about 5 chapters per week and then discussing them with my book club partner, and I am really glad that I did it that way. I think the book is meant to be savoured, lingering over the descriptions.

After her father passes away, Macdonald trains a goshawk. She intersperses her experiences with that of T.H. White, who also wrote a book about training a goshawk.

So much to love in this book, but I’ll leave you with this quote:

“Of all the lessons I’ve learned in my months with Mabel this is the greatest of all: that there is a world of things out there—rocks and trees and stones and grass and all the things that crawl and run and fly. They are all things in themselves, but we make them sensible to us by giving them meanings that shore up our own views of the world. In my time with Mabel I’ve learned how you feel more human once you have known, even in your own imagination, what it is like to be not.”

Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

I didn’t do it every day, but I did work on my writing here and there. I did a lot of planning for my novel I am working on too.

Read related literature to my writing. (I need to figure out an actual number.)

No, I didn’t do this.

Analyze two creative nonfiction essays per month.

These are the two that I analyzed:

“The fashion industry’s ‘plus size’ label shames women to fit an unhealthy standard” by Laura Sang

What I liked:

-a doctor who treats eating disorders uses her own experience in having to wear plus sized clothes due to Covid weight gain to talk about the damage the fashion industry is doing

-a call to action, eye opening

“How does a book addict part with his collection?” by Arthur Chapman

-totally relatable

-intersperses personal experience with general experience

Overall, I enjoyed both, but nothing stood out for me.

Analyze what I like about two picture books per month.

These are the two that I analyzed:

“Wanted! Criminals of the Animal Kingdom” by Heather Tekavec; illustrated by Susan Batori

-I love the structure of this very humorous picture book; it makes it memorable. (Wanted for; criminal activity; rap sheet; FYI)

-Good beginning: “Creatures all over the world are turning to a life of crime, chaos and corruption.” 

-Everybody gets a cool, catchy name: Ms. Jagged Jaws, Copy Cat, Big Bad Mama

“Ocean Speaks” by Jess Keating; illustrated by Katie Hickey

What I like about it:

-First page grabs you right away: “The beach was a blanket of squishy, soft sand, and Marie wanted to feel it under her feet.” 

-Length of sentences: 

“Shoes off.

Socks off.”

-Great comparisons:

“The ocean stretched out before her, like a big blue mystery.”

“The waves were talking to her, whooshing up to her toes and sighing away again.”

-The power of threes: “forests and farmhouses, boulders and bird calls, wheat fields and waterfalls” 

-Plenty of alliteration: “plotting every point on paper”

Submit one story to a contest per season.

I have already done this.

Attend one writing webinar per month. (flexible)

Not done

Work on one lesson of a writing course per month. (flexible)

As a challenge from the library, I signed up for a course at LinkedIn Learning. It turned out to be facilitated by the writer of one of my favourite craft books, which is “Wired for Story”. Sweet!

Attend a writing group session per week. (flexible)

I met most weeks, but not every week.

Blog at least twice a month.

Not done.

Weekly treasure:

Doesn’t our campfire look like a starry sky?

Challenges:

HaikuForTwo

I wrote two.

100 day challenge:

Read two chapters of a book a day.

Done

How’s your summer been going? Do you feel like it’s been more like a “normal” summer? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

June 2021 Bookish Resolutions

It’s hard to believe it’s July already.

June was a tough month for me. I’ve always felt that I’ve been operating in life with a smudged map, but this month I’ve felt like my map has completely blown away. So I’m trying to embrace a sit spot for a little bit of a think instead of rushing off on my next adventure. This is particularly challenging for impatient me.

When one of my critique partners sent me this blog post about goal setting, one particular line stood out to me: “Goals are amazing but unless our goals map to growth, we’re simply writing a to-do list.” Yes, that’s definitely what I feel like. I am checking off my to do list instead of growing, so I decided that I am going to revise my bookish resolutions to reflect growth.

That’s why this month’s blog post will contain not only my goals from June but also new goals.

Old goal: Read 24 books this year for the Mount TBR 2021 challenge.

I’m certainly failing this challenge. None read this month.

New goal : I’m still going to pursue this challenge. At the end of the year, I may simply need to cull some of the books that I had hoped to read.

Old goal: Read 12 nature related books this year to enhance my horticultural therapy study.

I could put “the river” by Helen Humphreys in either this category or the next. Whichever one, I love this book! 

Humphreys writes about a small part of the Napanee River where she has a waterside property. She writes about its history, what she has found there, the animals and plants there.

I do disagree with Humphreys’ belief that the river is indifferent to her despite her love for it. I believe if you love nature, it will love you back, just maybe not in a “human” way.

So many things to ponder, but I’ll leave you with a couple: 

“The British naturalist and writer Roger Deakin once said that watching a river is the same as watching a fire in the hearth. Both are moving and alive, and the feeling from watching both them is a similar one.”

and

“The river has pushed its banks many times. Does it have memory of this, or a reach beyond itself that it can feel, that it remembers? What does it feel its true size is? Does the river have a kind of consciousness?”

New goal: I’m still going to pursue this challenge.

Old goal: Read 12 books that are either memoir, poetry, or soul books.

“Bluets” by Maggie Nelson

I listened to this book in audio form, because that was the only way I could without buying it. I’ve never taken to audiobooks, and I still don’t appreciate them, despite the fact that one of my primary modes of learning is auditory. Perhaps I miss the tactile sensation of turning pages. Also, I don’t know how people can multitask when they are listening to an audiobook. If I do this then I am constantly stopping and rewinding, because I have missed something. Finally, I love to write down quotes of my favourite parts, and this is hard to do when you are listening to something.

Well anyway, I love the book. There are 240 prose poems all related to the colour blue. Apparently half of westerners’ favourite colour is blue, and that includes me, so I enjoyed all the snippets of blue information—such as learning about the “blue” people (Tuareg), and that indigo blue was originally the “devil’s dye” until it was made holy, and that the colour of the universe was accidentally declared as turquoise—interspersed with philosophy and poetry.

You can read more about it in this article:

New goal: I will continue with this goal.

Old goal: Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

My summer writing challenge, as set by my daughter, is to write a novel, but I confess we have slacked off lately. I need more motivation to do this.

New goal: Continue with this goal, but find a way to actually do this. Ideas?

Added goal: Read related literature. I need to figure out an actual number.

Old goal: Read 3 creative nonfiction essays a week.

Favourites:

“Collectively Speaking” by Chelsey Clammer

So much to love in this essay, especially the term “a resilience of women”

One of my favourite quotes:

“As an editor, I hold people’s stories. As a trauma survivor, I help those stories find their voices. Because it’s the experiences I’ve had that guide me in encouraging other survivors to find a voice. It’s the editor in me that helps to shape that story into something tangible—something we can see. Read. I give feedback about specifics. The mechanics. But as a female trauma survivor, I hold. Help. It might look like I’m by myself, but I’m never alone. I’m holding people’s stories. Guiding, even, the therapeutic activity of crafting a voice for your experience. I’ve read about so much trauma—have seen the ways so many people have survived to tell the story of those who haven’t.”

“The Glass Sliver” by Robyn Fisher

I can totally relate to her experience.

Favourite quote:

“Sometimes, this whole caregiving thing does seem like a wilderness experience. I mean, you got your sandwich, your canteen, your first aid kit. You even got your map and compass. But you’ve never been on this trail before, it’s all new to you. And last night’s storm washed part of it away, so the map does not resemble the path anymore. You’re bushwhacking now, hoping you’re not too far off the trail, and the way will show itself soon.”

“Le Pen de Amazon” by Helen K. Hedrick

Hedrick writes an essay using a choice of words from the book she is reading. I love this idea!

“The Birds: June is for Juncos” by Leanne Ogasawara

“Until the pandemic, I had always considered myself to be a city person. I never thought much about ecological issues until I came back to the US in mid-life. To be sure, Japan was not perfect in terms of the environment–not by any means. But I think it is safe to say that in Japan nature is not held as “standing reserve.” Rather than seen merely as a resource to be used, nature and the seasons are something to which people in Japan strive to be attuned. Deep listening is an especially humbling act, as the ephemeral and transient quality of sound demands attention and focus.”

New goal: Add in some analysis. I will analyze what I like about two creative nonfiction essays per month, which I hope will inform my writing.

Old goal: Read 5 picture books per month

My favourites:

“I Talk Like a River” by Jordan Scott; illustrated by Sydney Smith

The main character is comforted when his father tells him that his stuttering is like talking like a river. Based on a true story.

“A Year of Everyday Wonders” by Cheryl B. Klein; pictures by Qin Leng

A year of firsts and a few seconds and some lasts.

“In a Garden” by Tim McCanna; illustrated by Aimée Sicuro

A rhyming picture book.

My favourite rhyme:

“In a garden

full of green

many moments 

go unseen.”

“A Thousand No’s” by DJ Corchin; pictures by Dan Dougherty

The main character gets a lot of “Nos” for her idea, so she asks for help.

New goal: Analyze what I like about two picture books per month.

Old goal: Submit one story to a contest per season.

I submitted a poem and a creative nonfiction essay to The Fringe Literary Contest.

I submitted a creative nonfiction essay to the Amy MacRae award.

New goal: Continue with this goal.

Old goal: Attend one writing webinar per month.

“Outside” virtual book launch—Sean McCammon with Susanne Ruder (New Star Books)

New goal: I’m going to be flexible about this.

Old goal: Work on one lesson of a writing course per month.

I have been working on my American poetry course. 

New goal: I am going to be flexible about this.

Old goal: Attend a writing group session per week.

Now that it’s summer, one of my writing groups is only meeting every second week, so it may not be doable.

New goal: Meet when we can over the summer and revisit in September.

Old goal: Blog at least twice a month.

New goal: I will continue this.

Old goal: Weekly treasure:

New goal: I will continue this. It’s one of my favourites.

Challenges:

Old goal: HaikuForTwo

I wrote three this month.

New goal: Continue, as I love this.

New goal: I’m going to go back to doing something similar to the 100 day challenge where I break down some of the stuff I want to do on a daily basis. It helped me complete the German novel I wanted to read. Currently, I am reading a horticultural therapy related novel, two chapters a day.

It was good to reevaluate my goals and see what was working and what was not. How’s your goal setting going?

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

April 2021 Bookish Resolutions Wrap-up

-Read 24 books for the Mount TBR 2021 challenge.

I read two: 

“Dear Scarlet: The Story of my Postpartum Depression” by Teresa Wong

and 

“Der Erste Tag Vom Rest Meines Lebens” by Lorenzo Marone

Click here to read about them.

-Read 12 nature related books to enhance my horticultural therapy study.

I finally finished my first course, and with it my textbook written by Mitchell Hewson.

-Read 12 books that are either memoir, poetry, or soul books.

I read three.

“the lost spells” by Robert Macfarlane; illustrated by Jackie Morris

This, a companion book to “The Lost Words”, is meant to be spoken aloud. The pictures are as gorgeous as the words. This is one book that I will buy as gifts for people.

Click here for a taste.

“If I Knew Then: Finding wisdom in failure and power in aging” by Jann Arden

I love this memoir. Arden writes like she is talking to you as a best friend, which makes it a pleasurable read. A lot of the book is about embracing your cronehood—something I wholeheartedly agree with—but also about Arden’s past as the daughter of an alcoholic father and an alcoholic herself.

Favourite quotes:

On her dad:

“I am starting to forgive him for being absent, even for being mad all the time. I realize now that he wasn’t mad at us kids or at Mom; he was mad at his own life. “

and

“Sometimes the devil you don’t know isn’t as bad as the devil you do know, and I will never let anybody tell me any different.”

“The Reason I Jump” by Naoki Higashida

A fascinating, much needed, and rather poetically written look into the mind of an autistic teenager, written by a 13 year old autistic boy.

As someone studying horticultural therapy, I appreciated the following passages:

“… our fondness for nature is, I think, a little bit different from everyone else’s. I’m guessing that what touches you in nature is the beauty of the trees and the flowers and things. But to us people with special needs, nature is as important as our own lives. The reason is that when we look at nature, we receive a sort of permission to be alive in this world, and our entire bodies get recharged. However often we’re ignored and pushed away by other people, nature will always give us a good big hug, here inside our hearts. 

“…nature is always there at hand to wrap us up, gently: glowing, swaying, bubbling, rustling…You might think that it’s not possible that nature could be a friend, not really. But human beings are part of the animal kingdom too, and perhaps us people with autism still have some leftover awareness of this, buried somewhere deep down.”

Higashida also writes his own stories, and I really love his story called “The Black Crow and the White Dove”. 

I had no idea that the book had been turned into a movie!

-Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

Done!

-Read 3 creative nonfiction essays a week. 

Done!

Here are my favourites:

“We all have privilege to some degree. What we do with it matters.” by Taslim Jaffer

Favourite quote:

“As a brown Muslim woman, I have been the butt of jokes, the target of overtly racist comments and on the receiving end of microaggressions that prick like tiny needles but nonetheless leave scars. 

But I also go unseen in other situations. Like when I am fair enough to escape colourism or when my Muslim identity isn’t obvious because I don’t wear a hijab. Or, like in the case with the clerk casually referring to the “China virus,” I am not the racial group being targeted. 

In those circumstances, I am privileged enough to decide to say something or not.”

“I lost my mother. This is how I know when she’s with me” by Kandace Chapple

Do you have a sign from a departed loved one? When I see a feather, I associate it with my mom.

“The Covid-19 pandemic may be an opportunity to transform the way we live” by
David Suzuki

Favourite quote:

“In this moment of crisis, we should be asking what an economy is for, whether there are limits, how much is enough and whether we are happier with all this stuff.

Can we relearn what humanity has known since our very beginnings — that we live in a complex web of relationships in which our very survival and well-being depend upon clean air, water and soil, sunlight (photosynthesis) and the diversity of species of plants and animals that we share this planet with?

Can we establish a far more modest agenda for ourselves filled with reverence for the rest of creation?

Or will we celebrate the passing of the pandemic with an orgy of consumption and a drive to get back to the way things were before the crisis?”

“How Not to Get Kidnapped: a Suggestive Guide” by Meredith Town

I really enjoyed this hilarious essay.

“Gliding Toward the Sun, an Essay on Cross-Country Skiing” by Kandace Chapple

Favourite part:

“I skated two full strides and figured I was above water over my head. Few swam in these waters even in the hottest days of July because it would mean bringing out a souvenir leech between the toes. It was just as well. Lake Dubonnet is a lake’s lake—all business, no play. The shores housed a thick racket of brush and trees for birds and deer and coyote. The water bred mosquitoes and bluegill and bass. I loved the lake for its solitude. Not once had I come here to find I couldn’t hear the silence on the other side of the lake.”

-Read 5 picture books per month

Done!

My favourites:

“A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart” by Zetta Elliot; illustrated by Noa Denmon

A Black child explores his emotions over the year, and the emotions include joy, fear, anger, pride, and peace.

“Ten Ways to Hear Snow” by Cathy Camper; illustrated by Kenard Pak

On the way to her grandmother’s house to help make a meal, Lina discovers several different ways to listen to snow.

-Submit one story to a contest per season.

I am still working on my synopsis for the CANSCAIP contest.

-Attend one writing webinar per month.

“Fresh Stories for a New World: Finding Your Stories Through a Practice of Side Writing” with Karen Krossing (SCBWI)

Natalie Goldberg on her new haiku book (Geneen Roth)

-Work on one lesson of a writing course per month.

Alas, I did not do this.

-Attend a writing group session per week.

I attended at least one per week, usually two.

-Blog at least twice a month.

I didn’t blog twice last month, but I have already blogged three times this month.

-Weekly treasure:

My tulip that looks like another flower

Challenges:

100 days

I have done it! I have completed reading my German book! Yay me.

Since the 100 days challenge is not over, I have started a new book written in German, but even after the challenge is done, I’m going to keep reading one book I really want to read but find intimidating using the just two pages a day method.

HaikuForTwo

I wrote two, one from “the lost spells” and the other from “The Reason I Jump”.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

Six Degrees of Separation: From “Beezus and Ramona” to “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”

I missed last month’s Six Degrees, because I was so busy. This time I’m even busier, but somehow in the midst of all the craziness I sat down and cobbled together a list. I found it so soothing—like making a puzzle to take your mind off things. I persevered despite having to finish up my final assignment yesterday for my first horticultural therapy course—almost 50 pages—and having to do my pre course assignments for my next course this afternoon. 

This month we are starting with “Beezus and Ramona” by Beverly Clearly. 

From Goodreads:

“Nine-year-old Beezus Quimby has her hands full with her little sister, Ramona. Sure, other people have little sisters that bother them sometimes, but is there anyone in the world like Ramona? Whether she’s taking one bite out of every apple in a box or secretly inviting 15 other 4-year-olds to the house for a party, Ramona is always making trouble–and getting all the attention. Every big sister can relate to the trials and tribulations Beezus must endure. Old enough to be expected to take responsibility for her little sister, yet young enough to be mortified by every embarrassing plight the precocious preschooler gets them into, Beezus is constantly struggling with her mixed-up feelings about the exasperating Ramona.”

I almost reread the book, as it’s been so long since I read “Beezus and Ramona”, but instead I decided to go in a different direction.

“A Girl from Yamhill” by Beverly Clearly

Instead I started to read this book, the first of Clearly’s two memoirs. I can see where some of her Ramona stories come from. I didn’t know that you can even trip chickens, but that was one of Clearly’s adventures as a young girl. I was also surprised to read that she struggled in school. 

“My Own Two Feet” by Beverly Clearly

After I am finished reading the first memoir, I plan on reading this book, the second of Clearly’s two memoirs, which deals with her life from her college years to publication of her first book, which was “Henry Huggins”.

“Before They Were Authors: Famous Writers as Kids” by Elizabeth Haidle

This graphic novel tells the stories of authors such as Maya Angelou, Gene Luen Yang, and C.S. Lewis when they were kids. It’s an interesting read for both kids and adults.

“A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis

Speaking of C.S. Lewis, this is the book that he wrote after his wife died. It’s one that comforted me after my mother’s death.

“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis

This though is my favourite of all of Lewis’ books, and it is the book that started my love affair with reading. I still remember sitting in my grade 3 classroom on the carpet in the back corner, enthralled as my favourite teacher read us the book in chunks. It rivals my other childhood favourite “Anne of Green Gables”, which I have put on more than one previous Six Degrees list, for number of times I’ve read a book.

“The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” by C.S. Lewis

If I were to be asked my top three in the Narnia series, I would have to say that the first and last books round out my list. So why then this choice? Well this is another case of a character annoying the other characters in the book—cousin Eustace Scrubb who plagues Lucy and Edmund. Also Reepicheep, one of my favourite minor characters, plays a bigger role in this book. I even like saying the name!

So there you have it, my journey through this month’s books ending on a voyage. I hope that you have enjoyed it, and I hope that you will read some of the other posts of this fun challenge.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

March 2021 Bookish Resolutions Wrap-up

Happy Easter!

It’s hard to believe March has come and gone. It was an unusual March this year: unseasonably warm and with no March Break for the kids, as it has been moved to April.

I completed most of my resolutions this month.

-Read 24 books for the Mount TBR 2021 challenge.

I read one book from my TBR list, and it was an amazing one called “Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process”. Click here to read more about it.

If you want a sample of what the essays are like, click here.

-Read 12 nature related books to enhance my horticultural therapy study.

I got part way through my book club book. It’s a huge collection of stories, which I am taking my time with.

-Read 12 books that are either memoir, poetry, or soul books.

I read two memoirs:

“Girl in the Dark” by Anna Lyndsey

What would you do if you developed an insensitivity to all forms of light and had to spend all your time in a blacked-out room? Well, that’s what happened to Lyndsey, and you can read all about the highs and lows and the light and the dark in this fascinating memoir. 

Many doctors were puzzled by Lyndsey’s condition, and the memoir has garnered some controversy. You can read about these issues in this article.

I had wondered what happened to Lyndsey in recent years, as the memoir doesn’t end on a positive note with her cure. Fast forward to 2020, and Lyndsey finally got her diagnosis, which is Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. It’s a condition she’ll always have to live with, but at least she knows more about how to manage it.

One of my favourite parts of the book is when she finally is able to go outside after a long period of time inside and experience rain again:

“From the crown of my hat to the toes of my boots, an indescribable thrill runs through me. I stand poised at the edge of the lawn, and my starved senses open to this delicious, half-forgotten joy…It is as though I am being kissed by the world, welcomed back to life.”

“Two Trees Make a Forest” by Jessica J. Lee

This 2020 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction award winner and contender for Canada Reads 2021 (which did not win) is not your typical memoir, as it encompasses history, travel, and nature. This short video and this one will give you a taste, hopefully whetting your appetite to read the book.

-Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

A lot of my writing has been horticultural therapy related, but I also worked on my story that I wish to hand into the CANSCAIP competition as well as critiquing two stories per week.

Bonus:

Read this excellent story from one of my critique partners, which I got to see evolve.

-Read 3 creative nonfiction essays a week.

I didn’t quite read three per week, falling short just a couple, mainly because my assignment for my horticultural therapy course was far more extensive than I thought it would be. Here are my favourites:

“As an immigrant, I wanted to understand Canada’s fascination with the Tragically Hip. This is what I found” by Lindsay Pereira

“What the Hip gave me, eventually, was a key to understanding not just a culture but a people. The band’s songs reflected the hopes and aspirations of city dwellers as well as small towners, recognising a commonality in this shared experience that I began to appreciate as an outsider. The people wearing “In Gord we Trust” T-shirts weren’t just fans; they were identifying themselves as members of a club that had used this music as a soundtrack to their lives.”

“Exit Wounds” by Sue Cann

A braided essay weaving together childhood and adult experiences.

-Read 5 picture books per month

Done. Here are my favourites:

“Terry Fox and me” by Mary Beth Leatherdale; illustrated by Milan Pavlović

Told from the perspective of Terry Fox’s best friend, the story is pre Marathon of Hope.

“Dorothea’s Eyes” by Barb Rosenstock; illustrated by Gérard DuBois

A picture book biography about photographer Dorothea Lange

“A Last Goodbye” by Elin Kelsey; illustrations by Soyeon Kim

A touching picture book about how animals express grief and take care of each other in the end stages of life

Bonus books:

“Before They Were Authors: Famous Writers as Kids” by Elizabeth Haidle

This graphic biography about such writers as Maya Angelou, Gene Luen Yang, and Madeleine L’Engle is good for both kids and adults.

“Crows: Genius Birds” by Kyla Vanderklugt

I’ll never look at crows the same way again.

-Submit one story to a contest per season.

I submitted two:

Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse (TNQ)

This was my first time submitting a poem to a contest.

Rate Your Story Spring Writing Contest: Cooking Up Culture

-Attend one writing webinar per month.

I attended two writing webinars:

An Evening with Diana Beresford-Kroeger (IRL)

Interview with Tui Sutherland

-Work on one lesson of a writing course per month.

I did a few ModPo lessons from Coursera.

-Attend a writing group session per week.

I attended at least one per week, usually two.

-Blog at least twice a month.

Done

-Weekly treasure:

The only ice in my area remaining is on my backyard Linden tree

Challenges:

100 days

I still continue to read 2 pages of my German book a day, and I am getting close to being done! 

HaikuForTwo

I wrote two from the two memoirs I read, but I have yet to be brave enough to tweet them.

New self created challenge:

30 days of awe

Write down something awe inspiring or beautiful for 30 days.

I have loved doing this.

How was your March?

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

WOW! Women On Writing Tour of “But First, Rumi”

Book Summary

When Chitra discovered a stray cat in need of help, she never thought they’d wind up saving each other. Struggling to come to terms with an unexpected diagnosis, Chitra returned home to Oman seeking a sense of familiarity. What she discovered instead was a very special cat who changed her life. But First, Rumi is the story of how, day by day, Rumi and Chitra got to know one another, and as she learned to love the little stray, she began to see greater life lessons about herself, her family, her home country and her place in the world. 

What unfolds when girl and cat meet? What happens when you follow your heart? What if the world is not as it seems? Is it worth taking a chance? 

Print Length: 158 Pages

Genre: Memoir

But First, Rumi is available to purchase now on Amazon.com.

Book Review

Because I am a cat lover and also because I have suffered a mystery illness in the past, I was curious about this memoir.

The story is slow to start, but once it picked up in chapter 3, I found myself looking forward to reading the next chapter of the book, wondering what was going to happen to stray cat Rumi. Although Ramaswami mentioned her mysterious illness a few times, there is little focus on this part of her life. Instead she concentrated on her relationship with the cat, Rumi. I found this approach to be refreshing.

I love travelling and learning about other cultures, especially ones I have little knowledge of, and this includes the author’s home country of Oman. I found myself learning a lot, whether Ramaswami describes the environment—“The world around me looked a light shade of orange owing to tiny sand particles that were always suspended in a desert. Growing up I had happily assumed that daytimes appeared the same everywhere…”—or the very different to me (and I am sure to many North Americans) views on cats and pet ownership in Oman.

The memoir is peppered throughout with gentle words of wisdom, such as “There is a fine line between being prepared to act quickly if the worst were to happen and to continually expect the worst to happen and allow that feeling to weigh you down.” Each chapter also begins with a quote by the poet Rumi. I enjoyed learning along with the author her discoveries about life. I even learned something more about cat behaviour! Not being a lover of olives, I never knew the attraction cats had to them.

The book ends with a thoughtful discussion about the state of the cats in Oman and what action could be taken to improve their living conditions.

I highly recommend this eye opening memoir.

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

About the Author, Chitra Ramaswami

Chitra Ramaswami was born and raised in the Middle East by Indian parents, and her childhood was spent reading every book she could lay her hands on or writing stories and lines of poetry. As a result of traveling the world extensively and being a natural linguist, she is an amalgamation of many cultures and tastes and is constantly looking for the next experience she can immerse herself in. When she isn’t writing, Chitra rides horses, climbs mountains and is a passionate advocate for the Omani Mau/ street cat. She currently lives in New York with her husband and a very spoiled cat and hamster duo. 

Find her online at:

Author’s website: https://cramaswami.com/ 

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Six Degrees: From Phosphorescence to The Nature Fix

It’s time once again for one of my favourite challenges! You can read the rules here for the Six Degrees Challenge as hosted by Kate from Books are my favourite and best.

This month we start with a book that I have not yet read, but I’ve had my eye on for a while: “Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark” by Julia Baird. Alas, it won’t be released until July, but it’s another thing to look forward to this summer.

From Goodreads:

“…when our world goes dark, when we’re overwhelmed by illness or heartbreak, loss or pain, how do we survive, stay alive or even bloom? In the muck and grit of a daily existence full of disappointments and a disturbing lack of control over many of the things that matter most – finite relationships, fragile health, fraying economies, a planet in peril – how do we find, nurture and carry our own inner, living light – a light to ward off the darkness?”

It seems a particularly appropriate book to read during these pandemic times.

“Book of Delights” by Ross Gay

From awe and wonder to delight.

I love this book! And even though not everything Gay writes about is delightful, it is still a delight to read the entries. Gay set out to write about a delight every day for a year, and although he didn’t manage to do it every day, he discovered a lot, including that the practice of doing so gave him “a kind of delight radar”. So the more he studied delight, the more delight there was to study. He also discovered that his delight grew the more he shared it.

“Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process” edited by Joe Fassler

From delight to life changing.

Do you remember a passage of literature that changed your life? The book is based on Fassler’s series “By Heart”, in which he asked artists to choose a favourite passage from literature and explain its personal impact and why it matters. As Fassler writes in the preface, “…each contributor tells some version of the same story: I read something, and I wasn’t the same afterward.”

“Vesper Flights” by Helen Macdonald

From life changing to wonder of nature.

Macdonald hopes that this book of essays will work “a little like a Wunderkammer. It is full of strange things and it is concerned with the quality of wonder.” She already had me in the first essay when she writes about her experience of clucking to a falcon chick still in its egg and the chick calling back.

“Two Trees Make a Forest” by Jessica J. Lee

From the wonder of nature to a journey to the forest and flatlands of Taiwan.

Having lived in China for a few years, I know a little bit about Taiwanese history as it relates to China, but this book introduced me to so much more. Written by an environmental historian, the memoir shows how “geographical forces are interlaced with our family stories.” Winner of the 2020 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction and a current contender in Canada Reads.

“The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature” by Sue Stuart-Smith

From a journey to the forest and flatlands of Taiwan to a journey to gardening and its benefits.

I’ve not read this one, but I am hoping that my book club picks it to read one month, as it would be fascinating to discuss this with like minded people. 

From Goodreads:

“A distinguished psychiatrist and avid gardener offers an inspiring and consoling work about the healing effects of gardening and its ability to decrease stress and foster mental well-being in our everyday lives.”

“The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative” by Florence Williams

From gardening and its benefits to connection to nature and its benefits.

I’ve started reading this, but again I am really hoping that the book will be one of my book club’s picks. The introduction already presents many startling facts. For example, “Mappiness” in a study discovered that it isn’t who you are with or what you are doing that is one of the biggest variables that makes you happy, but instead where you are. Being outdoors in all green or natural environments made study participants happier than being in urban environments.

So what’s the connection between the first and last books? Both deal with ways to weather the storms of life. In fact most of these books deal with that same subject.

I hope that you have enjoyed my journey this month. Next month we will start with 2020 Booker Prize Winner “Shuggie Bain” by Douglas Stuart.

I wish you many happy reading days.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

2021 Bookish Resolutions February Wrap-up

Is it the end of February? Already? Where does the time go?

I traditionally struggle with February, but this year the month felt somehow easier to bear, although it was not without its challenges including a couple of tumbles on the ice resulting in some swelling…Ouch! That’s not like me at all. I usually am steady on my feet on ice…Anyway, perhaps it was a signal to slow down and pay attention more, which I have been trying to do, but I guess I needed to be reminded. A painful reminder indeed. Why couldn’t a sticky note with this message have come fluttering down, landing gently on my forehead instead? Hmmm, this might be the plot of a new story. Messages from the sky!

Anyway, without further adieu, here’s my monthly wrap up.

-Read 24 books for the Mount TBR 2021 challenge.

I finished one book for this challenge—a book written by my uncle called “Africa Revisited”—so that puts me a bit behind, but I am reading a few other books from my TBR list. I am sure that I will catch up soon. Click here to read about the book.

-Read 12 nature related books to enhance my horticultural therapy study.

I have the book for this month’s CHTA book club, which I have skimmed but not finished. Some more catch up to do.

-Read 12 books that are either memoir, poetry, or soul books.

Success! I read one memoir this month.

“this is not the end of me” by Dakshana Bascaramurty 

Bascaramurty documented friend Layton Reid’s dying and then eventual death of cancer. It’s refreshing to see more chapters of how his family is doing after his death.

Favourite quotes:

“would you like to learn the secret to taking on life’s most brutal obstacles?

here it is.

there is no secret. just keep moving, dummy. that’s it.”

and

“for better or worse there are days that just suck the good out of you. your spirit, your strength and your hope. and then there are days when the universe seems to rally around your cause when all prospects seem lost at that particular moment.”

-Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

Done!

-Read 3 creative nonfiction essays a week. 

Completed! Here are my favourites:

“After Amanda Gorman’s performance, I’m reminded that poetry has the power to ease a frantic mind” by Millie Morton

Favourite quote:

“Memorized lines of poetry can be retrieved anywhere and anytime, without a charged battery, even in the middle of a dark, sleepless night.”

“I Don’t Buy The Idea That Women Need To Enforce ‘Positive Rudeness’ To Succeed” by Janice Quirt

Favourite quote:

“The world needs compassionate people to lead, work, parent and contribute. I want to teach my kids that they don’t need to sell themselves short in life, but they have to be decent people. Being aggressive or yelling at people may sometimes provide short-term results, but such strategies do little to build long-term trust and loyalty. That’s as true in the corporate world as it was in kindergarten.

I desire to be heard, and I want my kids to be heard, but not at the expense of resorting to cruel tactics. I’m not suggesting that women bend to the whims of assertive men by placating with false niceties, because that won’t resolve anything. But I do think a cultural shift needs to occur, and I’m hoping a more kindness-forward approach, and not flexing to take up space, could benefit everyone involved.”

“Caught in my mental darkness, I don’t know if I can tough it out” by Scott Lear

Favourite quote:

“I also wonder if I have the courage to continue to expose myself in such a naked way. Is courage even the right word, or is it self-serving selfishness? I’m not thinking of the reader I’ve never met, but about my family, friends and colleagues. How will they feel when they read this? Will they feel guilty or mad I haven’t shared my feelings with them? Will they think I’m weak? I don’t want them to feel any of this.

There’s a lot of mental-health stories written after the fact. When someone’s standing at the top, looking down at the abyss they crawled out of. I find this helpful and inspiring. There’s far less written about being in that abyss. What it’s like to be in darkness. To be surrounded by people, yet feel alone. Perhaps it’s because it’s so painful bringing that emotion to the front. It’s easier to keep it inside and let it simmer. Or maybe I just haven’t bothered to look.”

“The Colors of My Life” by Jacqueline V. Carter

Carter writes about her experiences with colourism, which is not the same as racism but a form of prejudice based on skin colour.

“We Need To Calm The F&%$ Down About Parenting Teens” by Jeni Marinucci

Favourite quote:

“It’s about balance. If I freak out and make a huge deal out of a teen sleeping in until 1 p.m. on a Saturday, or spend all our driving time harping about that friend I don’t like or every meal becomes an inquisition over vegetable consumption, I’m raising the stakes AGAINST myself.”

-Read 5 picture books per month

Completed! 

My favourite:

“The Boy and the Gorilla” by Jackie Azua Kramer; illustrated by Cindy Derby

After his mother dies, a boy talks through his grief with an imaginary gorilla, which helps him connect to his father.

-Submit one story to a contest per season.

I’m on fire in this category! I submitted to two contests. Although I didn’t win or place in either one, I now have a couple of stories I can play with.

Valentiny 2021

Click here for the results.

Fanexpo Flash Fiction Competition

Click here to read the winning stories.

-Attend one writing webinar per month.

I attended three, making up for the lack of webinars I attended last month.

“A Conversation with Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer” hosted by UBC

So many fantastic takeaways from this webinar with the author of “Braiding Sweetgrass”, but my favourite is the response to what an educated person is:

“An educated person knows what their gifts are and how to put them into the world.”

“The Power of Hope: Using Psychological Theory to Help Our Hearts…and Our Writing” (WriteonCon)

diy MFA: My #1 Go-To Writing Technique

-Work on one lesson of a writing course per month.

I did not do that, although last month I did several.

-Attend a writing group session per week.

Done!

Blog at least twice a month.

Done!

-Weekly treasure:

The tree I sat on while I watched my husband and daughter tobogganing

Challenges:

NF Fest

I read all the posts, but I did not complete enough challenges to qualify for prizes. It’s not the point anyway. The posts are excellent, and I learned a lot.

100 days

100 days to work on a project of your choosing

I have been reading two pages a day of my German novel, and I am surprised and pleased at how much easier tackling a novel that you find intimidating is that way.

HaikuForTwo

I have done one haiku for this challenge.

New challenge:

30 Words

This is a challenge that has been revived. I’ve not posted my first one yet, but stay tuned…coming soon.

I also realize that if my guiding word for this year is Nurture, I need to set some goals to do that. You would think that would be an easy thing to do, but I don’t even notice I’m not doing it. Thus the message from the ice…

I hope that you have had a good February. Now we turn to March and thoughts of spring. Already I can hear the birds singing in the morning again. Bliss.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Six Degrees-From “Redhead” to “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse”

It’s time for this month’s Six Degrees Challenge post.

This time we start with “Redhead by the Side of the Road” by Anne Tyler

I actually took this book out and wanted to read it, but several things came up including a very painful back injury and a week’s concentration on writing a historical fiction story for the NYC Midnight Fiction Contest. So despite my best intentions, I did not read it.

Here’s the book’s summary from Goodreads:

“Micah Mortimer is a creature of habit. A self-employed tech expert, superintendent of his Baltimore apartment building seems content leading a steady, circumscribed life. But one day his routines are blown apart when his woman friend tells him she’s facing eviction, and a teenager shows up at Micah’s door claiming to be his son. 

These surprises, and the ways they throw Micah’s meticulously organized life off-kilter, risk changing him forever.”

I decided to take a different route—one I have seen other people do. See if you can figure it out.

“The Happiness of Pursuit” by Chris Guillebeau

Have you ever considered undertaking a quest? Well if so, this book will help you all the way from planning to inspiration to letdown.

I’m going to repost one of my favourite quotes, because I find it so meaningful:

“In quests of old, the hero had to travel across distant lands in search of reclaiming a grail or key. These days, we often have to recover something more intangible but no less important. Many of us undertake an adventure to rediscover our sense of self.”

“Wonderstruck” by Brian Selznick

I loved Selznick’s “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”. “Wonderstruck” is presented in a similar format, both in words and pictures. One story is set in pictures and the other in words, and at the end of the book the stories converge. It’s a bit heavy on explanation at the end but still very enjoyable. A bonus for me was revisiting the diorama in New York City, which I was fortunate to see when I was there in 2002.

“In-Between Days” by Teva Harrison

At age 37, after being diagnosed with incurable metastatic breast cancer, Harrison turned to drawing out her memories and nightmares. This memoir is the result: comic strips interwoven with narrative.

My mom died of breast cancer at age 50. I was far too young to understand what was really happening to her, so I often turn to memoirs to help me figure out what she was going through. 

The book isn’t a downer. Harrison often turns to humour to get through her experiences.

“Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder” by Julia Zarankin

Love, love, love this memoir! Recently I have also become enamoured with birds—although I do  not yet consider myself a birdwatcher—and this book spoke to me in so many ways. Click here to see a book trailer.

I also blogged about it in last week’s blog post.

“Don’t Overthink it” by Anne Bogel

Yes, I am an over thinker. Maybe you are one too? If so, consider reading this practical book with exercises that you can apply to your own life.

“The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy

The book is sparse on words, but the words all carry such heavy weight. It’s one of the most uplifting books I have read in a long time, and I plan on giving it as gifts to people.

One of my favourite quotes:

“When the big things feel out of control

…focus on what you love right under your nose.”

This is something well worth remembering during these pandemic times.

So did you figure it out? I highlighted the letters to spell out:

A

T

Y

L

E

R

A(nne)Tyler is the author of the book I started this month’s chain with. I used her name to spotlight some of my favourite books that I have read recently.

Next month we are starting with a book I am really looking forward to reading (although it looks like I won’t be able to until July when it is released in North America), a part memoir part essay collection called Phosphoresence by Julia Bard. I hope you join me again.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler