Tag Archives: Memoir

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

January 2021 Bookish Resolutions Wrap-up

It’s been a great start to my year.

 -Read 24 books for the Mount TBR 2021 challenge.

This month I read “The Happiness of Pursuit” by Chris Guillebeau and “The Kindness Diaries” by Leon Logothetis. Click here to read my summaries of the books.

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

I only read 1/3 of my book club selection for my CHTA book club meeting, so I’ll have to do some catching up. I did, however, read one other related book this month.

“Vitamin N: 500 Ways to Enrich the Health & Happiness of Your Family & Community” by Richard Louv

-A huge selection of nature based activities for kids and/or adults and individuals and /or organizations to engage in

Favourite quote:

“The point isn’t that technology is bad for kids or the rest of us, but that daily, monthly, yearlong electronic immersion, without a force to balance it, can drain our ability to pay attention, to think clearly, to be productive and creative.”

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

I read one memoir.

“Field Notes From An Unintentional Birder” by Julia Zarankin

From the jacket cover: The book “…tells the story of finding meaning in mid-life through birds. The book follows the peregrinations of a narrator who learns more from birds than she ever anticipated, as she begins to realize that she herself is a migratory species…”

Favourite quote:

“What I love about birding isn’t so much the birds I see but the circumstances within which I see them. That seeing the birds allows me to reflect on my own life, to forgive myself for things I’ve done, or to understand how they might not have happened otherwise.”

I particularly liked the chapter called “Going Solo”, in which she observes “Birding was helping me develop affection for Toronto, the place I’d always wanted to flee, and that might have been the biggest surprise of all…The most unexpected fringe benefit of birding has been falling in love with my own city.” I can relate. Since I’ve started to learn horticultural therapy and really pay attention to my surroundings during my walks, the urge to flee has been lessened.

-Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

Completed!

-Read 3 creative nonfiction essays a week. 

Completed! Here are my favourites:

“The Serviceberry: an Economy of Abundance” by Robin Wall Kimmerer

One of my favourite authors writes about different types of economies. It’s a longer read, but it’s worth it.

Favourite quote:

“I want to be part of a system in which wealth means having enough to share, and where the gratification of meeting your family needs is not poisoned by destroying that possibility for someone else. I want to live in a society where the currency of exchange is gratitude and the infinitely renewable resource of kindness, which multiplies every time it is shared rather than depreciating with use.”

“After my miscarriage, ‘hope’ isn’t what I needed to move forward” by Sarah Faye Bauer

The author writes about a different way of viewing hope, and it really made me think. 

Favourite quote:

“Chodron describes hope as the opposite of mindfulness. Hope “robs us of the present moment,” whereas mindfulness means, “being one with our experience, not dissociating, being right there when our hand touches the doorknob or the telephone rings or feelings of all kinds arise.”

Hope assumes a future time and place of stability. Chodron believes nothing is stable, ever. We are groundless. All we have is right now, just this very moment. This golden, terrible, elevating, horrifying, gigantic moment. And then, if we’re very lucky, another moment more.”

-Read 5 picture books a month.

Completed! Here are my favourites:

“Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao” by Helaine Becker; illustrated by Liz Wong

Did you know that the most powerful pirate of all was actually a Chinese woman in the 18th century? Read about her in this book.

“Harlem Grown” by Tony Hillery; illustrated by Jessie Hartland

Written by the founder, this picture book is the story of how an urban farm transformed the neighbourhood kids and their families.

“The Great Realization” by Tomas Roberts; illustrated by Nomoco

The poem about 2020 that went viral is recreated in picture book form. Click here to view a reading.

Bonus book:

“Music for Tigers” by Michelle Kadarusman

Set in Tasmania, this chapter book explores the rumours that the Tasmanian Tiger—the last known captive one died in 1936—still exists. The main characters are neurodiverse.

-Submit one story to a contest per season.

This was a biggie for me. I entered the NYC Midnight Short Story Contest. I had 8 days to complete a maximum 2500 word story.

Luckily I came up with an idea right away with the genre of historical fiction, subject of a long journey, and character of surveyor.

This is the most challenging contest I have ever entered, but I am glad that I completed it.

-Attend one writing webinar per month.

I signed up for Jael Richardson’s launch of “Gutter Child”, but unfortunately missed it, so I will watch the recording when I can. That means watching two writing webinars in February.

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

I did several lessons of “Write, Heal, Transform: a Magical Memoir Writing Course” from DailyOm. I have now completed the course. Yay me!

-Attend a writing group session per week.

I have done two a week.

-Blog at least twice a month.

This is my third blog post this month.

-Weekly treasure:

Looking up, up, up while laying down on our blanket during our winter picnic in Guelph.

Other Challenges:

Storystorm

Completed with 50 ideas!

New:

100 days

100 days to work on a project of your choosing starting today.

I chose to read 2 pages every day of the German novel I started 2 years ago, because, hey, it’ll motivate me to finish the novel ,and also I’ll spend some time on improving my German every day.

HaikuForTwo

I love this idea of taking two words from the current book that you are reading and creating a haiku poem from it. You can read more about it in this Storystorm post.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

Six Degrees: from “Hamnet” to “off script: Living Out Loud”

It’s the first “Six Degrees” challenge of the year, and I am super excited to see where our book journeys will lead us this year.

For the first chain of 2021, we are going to start with “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell. Alas, I am still waiting for the book from the library, so I’ll have to construct my chain based on the synopsis.

From Goodreads:

“Drawing on Maggie O’Farrell’s long-term fascination with the little-known story behind Shakespeare’s most enigmatic play, HAMNET is a luminous portrait of a marriage, at its heart the loss of a beloved child. 

Warwickshire in the 1580s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet.”

Let’s dive right in.

“Running on the Cracks” by Julia Donaldson

I also haven’t read this book, but I read recently that Donaldson, more know for children’s books such as “The Gruffalo”, also lost a son. His name was Hamish, and it is in this YA book that he is most present. I have put the book on my TBR list.

“You Won’t Always Be This Sad” by Sheree Fitch

Another children’s book writer—“Mabel Murple” is her most famous book, and it’s a book that is delightful on the tongue—Fitch also lost a son. In this memoir in verse, Fitch writes movingly of the loss and of her reconstructed world. 

“Still: a Memoir of Loss, Love, and Motherhood” by Emma Hansen

On my list for my Mount TBR challenge, this book I acquired from one of the local little libraries is a memoir of one woman’s experience of something little talked about in our society: stillbirth.

“How to Pronounce Knife” by Souvankham Thammavongsa

This 2020 Giller award winning book of short stories pivots around the theme of loss of culture and values. All the main characters are from Laos, a country I’m not too familiar with, but I’m always interested to learn more about other countries and cultures. Favourite quote: “We lose each other, or the way we know each other gets lost”.

“How to Fly: In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons” by Barbara Kingsolver

Though the poems in this book, Kingsolver’s second book of poetry, have many themes, there are many that are threaded with a palpable sense of loss, especially in her section on ancestors. Kingsolver ends her poem about the death of her mother, with whom she had a challenging relationship, with “Here begins my life as no one’s bad daughter.”

“off script: Living Out Loud” by Marci Ien 

Rounding out the list is this book that I mentioned in last week’s blog post. Ien writes about the ups and downs of her career and her personal life, including several significant losses. 

I hope the theme of loss hasn’t gotten you down. As we look back on 2020, we have all experienced some sort of loss, and sometimes reading about others’ loss in some form or another helps us to cope. I hope that you find something to read from this list, and I hope you join us next month where we’ll start with “Redhead by the Side of the Road” by Anne Tyler.

That wraps up my first blog post in 2021! Happy New Year! Here’s to better times in 2021.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

2020 Bookish Resolutions Wrap-up

I have done it! I have completed my 2020 Bookish Resolutions!

This has been such a great experience, and I am going to do it again. My 2020 word is “focus”, and this challenge is one of the ways that has helped me to focus.

I am going to do the challenge again (even if it isn’t hosted at the same blog), but I am going to change what I’ll do every week based on what I hope to accomplish in 2021. This year, as well, I am using the templates to design your own challenge from Modern Mrs. Darcy.

December Wrap-up

I completed my Mount TBR challenge for 2020 and have already planned Mount TBR for 2021.

-I read a couple of memoirs:

“The Lark and the Loon” by Rhiannon Gelston

Not strictly a memoir and definitely genre pushing. Read my review here.

“off script: Living Out Loud” by Marci Ien

I have long admired Marci Ien, and I loved this book about the highs and lows of her personal and professional life. The structure—a bunch of short stories—is one that I aspire to for my memoir.

Ien is now an MP, and I hope that she’ll write about that experience too.

Favourite quote:

“Fuelled by, I have to confess, a simmering resentment, I began posing the question myself in interviews—not to women but to men. After listing all their accomplishments, I’d say something like, ‘I notice you have four kids. How do you do all that and balance time with your family?’

I’d often be met with long pauses. With, say, ‘I’ve never been asked that before.’ And, sometimes, answers that were quite thoughtful. There are men out there who want to make sure they spend time with their families and are trying to do better on that front. But even these men were slightly taken aback. It wasn’t a question they were used to being asked.”

Watch this interview for more about the book.

-I wrote at least 250 words 5 days a week.

-I limited my social media time: 15 minutes maximum for Facebook and 15 minutes maximum for Twitter.

-I read 5 creative nonfiction essays per week. Here are my favourites:

The Birthday Party” by Randi Evans

One of my talented classmates writes about arranging her 70th birthday party in Spain.

I need more people with ADHD in my life” by Brittany Penner

Favourite quote:

“I saw clearly the ways in which they lift my spirit and lighten my heart. They often recover from intense situations quicker than I can even process them. They constantly teach me the necessary art of adaptation to life’s various surprises. They remind me to loosen my grip on certain aspects of life because when those things are gone, acceptance is always less painful. There is always a tomorrow in their world. And if there’s no tomorrow, there’s still today and we might as well enjoy it.”

My Publishing Journey” by Phyllis L Humby

How Humby got not one but two books published.

Project Christmas: How I convinced my Persian parents to let me celebrate the holiday” by Azin Sadr

Favourite quote:

“The following Christmas, my parents bought a miniature tree that came up to my waist. I was so proud of it and decorated that thing like there was no tomorrow. That year, the best gift my parents gave me was keeping my light on: They knew that fostering my spirit was more important than any cultural distress they may have felt. I was not asking to be Christian, I was simply asking to be a part of the holiday spirit.”

“A first hand account from an Alberta ICU during Christmas” by Dr. Raiyan Chowdhury 

Favourite quote:

“I know Christmas and the holidays for all Canadians is going to be hard this year.

It’s especially sad in our unit.

Most Canadians know that while this year will be lonely, they will see their loved ones in person again and life will eventually return to normal.

That’s not the case for our COVID-19 patients and their loved ones.

For some in our unit, this will be their last Christmas together. I try to remember that as I power through one of the most difficult working weeks of my life.”

“One card, 50 years of greetings: the ultimate green Christmas tradition” by Lorna Krahulec Blake

I love the idea of sending a card back and forth for 50 years!

Bonus:

I had to share three poems by one of my classmates. They brought me to tears when he read them in class.

-I read 5 picture books per week. These are my favourites:

“The Library Bus” by Bahram Rahman; illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

Set in Afghanistan. Pari becomes Mommy’s library helper on the library bus.

“A World of Mindfulness” by the Editors and Illustrators of Pajama Press

One of the better books about mindfulness.

“A Quiet Girl” by Peter Carnavas

Mary is a quiet girl, which allows her to hear things that nobody else hears.

“From Tree to Sea” by Shelley Moore Thomas; illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal 

What various elements of nature can show you about yourself. I like what the moon can show you the best: “…even when I change I am still me”.

“Violet Shrink” by Christine Baldacchino

In this book about anxiety acceptance, Violet doesn’t like going to parties, but her father keeps taking her to them, until they work out a compromise.

“Swift Fox All Along” by Rebecca Thomas; illustrated by Maya McKibbin

Based on the author’s story. Swift Fox starts to learn about her indigenous (Mi’kmaq) heritage.

Bonus books:

“Pretty Tricky: the Sneaky Ways Plants Survive” by Etta Kaner; illustrated by Ashley Barron

Quick change artists, exploding flowers, and seeds in disguise? What’s not to love about these plants that are masters of deception?

“The Vegetable Museum” by Michelle Mulder

For ages 9-12, this story revolves around an heirloom vegetable garden while tackling several issues of loss.

-I attended several writer’s events:

Interview with Vicky Metcalf award winner Marianne Dubuc (Writer’s Trust of Canada)

Interview with Matt Cohen award winner Dennis Lee (Writer’s Trust of Canada)

To access both of these interviews, click here.

Interview with Rupi Kaur (q)

To access this interview click here.

I spent at least one hour a week working on one of my many guided journals.

-I blogged one time a week.

-I wrote about 10 objects for my “Cabinet of Curiosities” object diary.

Bad news though. I lost my object diary when my computer died. Let’s hope that it is retrievable. 

-Here is one of my weekly treasures:

Wishing everyone a better 2021.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

November 2020 Bookish Resolutions

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been successfully sticking to my bookish resolutions for 11 months! 

-Click here to read what I read for the Mount TBR challenge.

-I read one memoir:

“My Year of Living Spiritually” by Anne Bokma

Bokma writes about her year of trying everything from singing to magic mushrooms, goat yoga to witch camp, gratitude to crystals. The back story is her break from her fundamentalist religion causing a rift from her family, especially her mother. One of my favourite chapters is called “Into the Woods”, which includes her experiences in forest bathing and tree climbing.

Click here to watch an interview with Bokma.

-I wrote at least 250 words five days a week.

-I limited my social media time: 15 minutes maximum for Facebook and 15 minutes maximum for Twitter.

-I read 5 creative nonfiction essays per week. Here are my favourites:

“This Year Remembrance Day Feels Even More Important To Me” by Natalie Romero

Favourite quote:

“I challenge that those individuals have never actually had their personal rights and freedoms taken from them. If losing the freedom of being able to shop without a mask is the worst you’ve experienced, then count yourself lucky.”

“‘I don’t want to lose who I am’: How a brain tumour messes with your head” by Gaetan Benoit

A humorous and tragic description of Benoit’s diagnosis of a brain tumour with his 2-5 year prognosis and his hope that he can continue to do what he loves.

“Running away is a theme in my family – and it started with my father” by Anne Bokma

To get a taste of what’s in her memoir that I mentioned above, you can read this article.

“Calgary, I need emotional-support chickens in my backyard to endure the new normal” by Teresa Waddington

Favourite quote:

“Don’t get me wrong, they’re still problems. I don’t mean to belittle the issues of emotional dysfunction, but they are problems that only emerge once the issues of immediate threat to survival wane. We can only have emotional-support chickens after we’ve stopped eating every chicken that crosses the road.”

“How do you teach in a pandemic? Masks, face shields and patience, endless patience” by Gisela Koehl 

Written from the perspective of a grade 2 French Immersion teacher.

-I read 5 picture books per week. These are my favourites:

“A Family for Faru” by Anitha Rao-Robinson; illustrated by Karen Patkau

Tetenya tries to find a family for orphaned rhino Faru.

“The Boy Who Moved Christmas” by Eric Walters and Nicole Wellwood; illustrated by Carloe Liu

Evan is not expected to live until Christmas, so the family decides to celebrate in October, and then the whole town pitches in by decorating and even holding a parade.

This is a true story, and I remember when this happened in a town close by to me.

“I am the Storm” by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, illustrated by Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell

An exploration of children’s feelings during and after storms.

“The Paper Boat” by Thao Lam

In this wordless picture book, fleeing Vietnam is shown from the point of view of ants. Based on a true story.

“Raj’s Rules” by Lana Button; illustrated by Hatem Aly

Raj has one rule at school: don’t go to the bathroom. What happens when he does?

“Teaching Mrs. Muddle” by Colleen Nelson; illustrated by Alice Carter

The main character has to help her kindergarten teacher on the first day as the teacher mixes everything up.

-I attended several writer’s events:

Letting Go of Anxiety with Tara Henley (Ottawa International Writer’s Festival)

The Me in Memoir with Kamal Al-Solaylee (Kitchener Public Library)

Bird Song: Finding a New Natural Voice (Wild Writer’s)

Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple (“I am the Storm”) (Odyssey Bookshop)

Sara Seager: The Smallest Lights in the Universe (Toronto Public Library)

Far from home: Kaie Kellough and Souvankham Thammavangsa (TIFF)

Memoir’s Companions with Anita Lahey (Wild Writer’s)

“The Short Story: Getting In Between Spaces” (Wild Writer’s)

-I spent at least one hour a week working on one of my many guided journals.

-I blogged one time a week.

-I wrote about 10 objects for my “Cabinet of Curiosities” object diary.

-Here is one of my weekly treasures:

My favourite picture of the snow last week

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

October 2020 Bookish Resolutions Wrapup

-Click here to see what I read for the Mount TBR challenge.

-I read one memoir from the library:

“All Things Consoled” by Elizabeth Hay

This book won the 2018 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

Hay writes about becoming her parents’ caregiver. For more about the book, click here.

-I am taking a “Writing Personal Stories” course with Brian Henry, which is helping me to write at least 250 words five days a week.

-I continue to limit my social media, and besides skipping it on Sundays, sometimes I even skip days during the week.

-I read 5 creative nonfiction essays per week. These are my favourites:

“Understanding Gender These Days is Way Over my Head—But My Teen Girls are Helping me Get There” by Paula Schuck

I can relate, as my teen daughter also teaches me about how diverse the world of gender is today.

Favourite quote:

Teen: “Mom, there are at least 63 different genders.”

Me: “63?” I then sit with a puzzled look on my face, and make a mental note to Google how many different gender and sexual identities there are later. (FYI…now their count has reached 81.)”

“Value Village” by Jonathan Poh

This is the winner of the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize, and I can see why. Poh writes about his childhood and the racism he faced, centred around the trips to Value Village.

All the other finalists are also worth reading.

“Some Things Better Left Unsaid” by Keb Filippone (3rd place)

A menopausal woman muses about the things she doesn’t say to her husband and wonders also what he doesn’t say to her. 

Favourite quote:

“I often feel badly for him that he has been duped, that the girl who stood by his side and said vows has all but evaporated into the ether, morphed into just a memory, replaced by a depressed menopausal woman who wrestles with alcohol, wrestles with restlessness.”

“It’s OK To Have Privilege—But What Are You Doing With It?” by Vanessa Magic

Favourite quote:

“Even now, when I go to the playground with my son, there are so many parents who seem as if they aren’t affected by the world that’s clearly still on fire. They stand close to each other, they share wine, they don’t enforce the COVID-19 rules and they are quick to change the subject when I ask their thoughts about school in September.”

“Birthing School Dropout” by Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo

Favourite quote:

“If there’s anything to be learned, it’s that everyone has a lot of opinions on how you should give birth, what’s good, what’s bad, and what they do and do not feel comfortable with. Ultimately, you must do what’s right for you.”

-I read 5 picture books per week. These are my favourites:

“The Bug Girl” by Sophia Spencer with Margaret McNamara; illustrated by Kerascoët

A true story written by an 11 year old who was bullied for her love of bugs when she was in grade one, so her mom looks for a bug pal for her.

“Florette” by Anna Walker

Mae moves to the city, can’t bring her garden with her, and there’s no room to grow what she wants to grow. One day she follows a familiar bird.

“Emmy Noether: The Most Important Mathematician You’ve Never Heard Of” by Helaine Becker; illustrated by Kari Rust

A picture book biography about mathematician Emmy Noether, a Jewish woman, who faced many obstacles, but who invented two major ideas that helped to change how we understand the universe.

“Your House, My House” by Marianne Dubuc

The story is a dull tale about Little Rabbit’s birthday, but the pictures tell an entirely different story; every apartment inhabitant has their own tale going on. Look for all the parallel stories, such as what happens to the ghost, Goldilocks, and the three little bears.

“The One with the Scraggly Beard” by Elizabeth Withey; illustrated by Lynn Scurfield

A very touching and tastefully written story about a boy who compares himself with a homeless man. It’s based on the author’s son’s relationship with the author’s brother.

-I attended several writer’s events.

“Wild World” (EMWF)

Wade Davis, Steven Heighton, and James Raffan with host Laura Trethewey

One Page: How to Fly with Barbara Kingsolver

Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies with Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (Ottawa’s Writers Festival)

“Evening With Margaret Atwood” (TIFA)

TIFA Kids! The Lost Spells with Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris

-I spent one hour a week working on one of my many guided journals.

-I blogged one time a week. In fact this week I blogged more than once. Go to the last post to enjoy my Halloweensie.

-I wrote about 10 objects for my “Cabinet of Curiosities” diary.

-This is one of my weekly treasures:

I stumbled upon this woodpecker while foraging for mushrooms.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Six Degrees: From “The Turn of the Screw” to “Anne of Green Gables”

It’s time again for the monthly “Six Degrees” challenge.

This month we are starting with “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James.

From Goodreads:

“A very young woman’s first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate…An estate haunted by a beckoning evil.”

Even reading what this book is about left me shivering. I don’t read books like this (anymore) because the older I get the less I like to be freaked out by books. I guess the events of real life freak me out so much that I prefer to read something more soothing. This book though did immediately remind me of one book I read a couple of years back that also made me shiver and that is:

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs

I regretted beginning this book, but I so wanted to find out what happened—it’s really well written—that I persisted despite shivering a lot. When I was near the end of the book I realized that it was setting up to be a sequel. Well anyway suffice to say the words that came out of my mouth I will not repeat here. And no I have never read the sequels or seen the movie.

From Goodreads:

“A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience.”

“Cujo” by Stephen King

This is another book that made me shiver and that I read a long time ago before I gave up reading books that freak me out. I made the mistake of reading this late at night in a hotel room while by myself. After I turned the lights out…Well anyway, don’t make that mistake.

From Goodreads:

“Cujo is a two-hundred-pound Saint Bernard, the best friend Brett Camber has ever had. One day Cujo chases a rabbit into a bolt-hole—a cave inhabited by sick bats. What happens to Cujo, how he becomes a horrifying vortex inexorably drawing in all the people around him makes for one of the most heart-stopping novels Stephen King has written.”

“On Writing” by Stephen King

Let’s get a less shivery now and link with the writer of Cujo and his memoir and craft book, which I really enjoyed, especially as a lot of his advice is similar to what I believe. Huh. Who knew?

One of my favourite quotes:

“Your schedule—in at about the same time every day, out when your thousand words are on paper or disk—exists in order to habituate yourself, to make yourself ready to dream just as you make yourself ready to sleep by going to bed at roughly the same time each night and following the same ritual as you go. In both writing and sleeping, we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives.”

“The Art of Memoir” by Mary Karr

I have been studying memoir and personal essay writing, and this is one book that is said to be a “must read”. I do highly recommend it.

Karr writes “hearing each other’s stories actually raises our levels of the feel-good oxytocin”. No wonder memoirs are so popular. She also writes “Each great memoir lives or dies based 100 percent on voice”. Not sure how to tackle that often elusive voice issue? Karr does a good job of it in this book.

“Smitten by Giraffe: My Life as a Citizen Scientist” by Anne Innis Dagg

Speaking of memoir, I didn’t manage to mention one zoologist whom I admire in last month’s list and whom is worth mentioning, a Canadian zoologist called Anne Innis Dagg who studied giraffes. I have actually met and interviewed Anne Innis Dagg, as she is a former professor at University of Waterloo. So glad that she is finally getting her due after the documentary about her life called “The Woman Who Loves Giraffes” debuted.

From Goodreads:

“When Anne Innis saw her first giraffe at the age of three, she was smitten. She knew she had to learn more about this marvelous animal. Twenty years later, now a trained zoologist, she set off alone to Africa to study the behaviour of giraffe in the wild…Dagg was continually frustrated in her efforts to secure a position as a tenured professor despite her many publications and exemplary teaching record. Finally she opted instead to pursue her research as an independent “citizen scientist,” while working part-time as an academic advisor.”

“Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery

My much read copy

I’m linking the author’s first name to the first name of one of my favourite characters from one of my favourite childhood books. I love this book so much that I actually did the Anne of Green Gables tour on PEI with my bestie for my 50th birthday.

I always assume everyone knows and loves this book as much as I do, but for those who don’t here’s an introduction from Goodreads:

“As soon as Anne Shirley arrives at the snug white farmhouse called Green Gables, she is sure she wants to stay forever . . . but will the Cuthberts send her back to to the orphanage?”

So what’s the connection with the first and last book? The last book isn’t really shivery—not like the first book shivery—except maybe for Anne when she lets her imagination run away from her during her walk in the “haunted wood”. We walked through the inspiration for the haunted wood on our tour, but it wasn’t at all scary—actually really pleasant—but perhaps that would be a different case at night.

My critique partner Bev pointed out that the first and last books are both classics. Thanks Bev! Don’t know how I let that slip by.

So there you have it, my rather eclectic list for this month’s Six Degrees challenge.

Do you want to participate? Click here for the specifics. Next month is wild card month!

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Five Favourites (List 7)

1. Articles: Five part interview series on The Tyee beginning with “Talking with the Botanist Who Talks to Trees”

The whole five part series of this interview with Diana Beresford-Kroeger is worth a read.

Click here to be directed to part one.

One of my favourite quotes comes from the third article:

“What happens to me when I’m asked to write about a species of trees — I’ll go out to that species and ask the tree to help me,” says Beresford-Kroeger.

“Invariably, I will sit down by the tree in total silence and go and enter into the silence of the tree. That is kind of like a prayer, and the tree understands that you are making that prayer.

“And then you come back inside, and you’d be surprised what kind of extraordinary language you can muster to describe that tree. It is like the tree gives you a box of paints, and, somewhat like Georgia O’Keefe or Emily Carr, you paint the colour of the words the way the tree has directed you to do.”

I often wonder if our Linden tree is a mother tree. I do feel protected when I sit under this tree.

2. Documentary: Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees

Here’s another thing to love about Judi Dench: she’s passionate about trees. Watch her over a course of a year discover a lot of things about the trees she loves including being able to listen to the inner workings of one via a tree “stethoscope”. Every time a close friend or relative dies, she plants a tree in their memory, and we get to visit that grove of trees.

Click here to access a trailer.

3. Children’s Books: “The Top 10 Fastest” series by Sherry Howard

Disclosure: I won these books for completing the Mix ’n’ Match Mini Writing Challenge, and I’m glad that I did.

I received three of the series: land animals, sea animals, and birds. The photographs are stunning and the word play is beautiful. There is a section at the beginning of the book on how best to use the books (before and after reading) as well as back matter with questions. Definitions are scattered throughout.

Not only did I learn which creatures were the fastest but also I discovered some creatures I had never heard of before. My favourite of the three books is the birds volume. 

The other three books are about the fastest machines: boats, cars, and planes.

4. Writing Craft Book: “The Art of Memoir” by Mary Karr

If you are thinking about writing a memoir, then reach for this book first.

Written by the author of “The Liars’ Club” who also is an award winning teacher of the subject, this book is full of awesome tips as well as a quiz as to whether or not you should be writing a one. Memoirs are popular right now, and Karr shares that “hearing each other’s stories actually raises our levels of the feel-good oxytocin”.

I like this book, because it’s more than an instructive text on memoir.  I picked up a lot I can use in real life, such as “…blame makes deep compassion impossible, and in spiritual terms…only compassion can bring about deep healing” and “getting used to who you are is a lifelong spiritual struggle”.

5. Website: Masterpiece Generator Site

Whether or not you are looking for a fun break from your writing or are actually needing some help with, for example, a name, this site has you covered. It’s a bit like “Mad Libs” where it will write a tongue in cheek blurb for your latest book idea or create a fairy tale plot for you or even write you a poem.

Do you have any recent favourites to share?

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Six Degrees: from “Rodham” to “To Speak for the Trees”

Last month was my first month participating in the very fun “Six Degrees Challenge”.

The challenge is hosted monthly by Kate at booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

The rules summarized from the website:

“On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.”

“Join in by posting your own six degrees chain on your blog and adding the link in the Linky section (or comments) of each month’s post. If you don’t have a blog, you can share your chain in the comments section. You can also check out links to posts on Twitter using the hashtag #6Degrees.”

This week the starting point is “Rodham: A Novel” by Curtis Sittenfield

So what would have happened had Hillary Rodham not married Bill Clinton? I haven’t read this novel, but the premise is intriguing. 

From Amazon:

“In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton.

But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail—one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the tradeoffs all of us must make in building a life.”

I don’t tend to read books that challenge you to think about “what ifs” of past events. Perhaps this is because when I think about the own “what ifs” of my life, it brings about a lot of regrets.

Anyway, I decided that I would instead connect books written about and by women whom I admire, more specifically women scientists, those who did end up following one of the paths that I could have taken, had I studied biology in university as I originally had intended. I can live vicariously through them.

My copies

Here’s my list:

“Jane Goodall: The Woman who Redefined Man” by Dale Peterson

Growing up, there were few people I admired. I wasn’t the typical teen who went gaga over the latest movie stars or rock groups. When I discovered Jane Goodall though, well here was someone I could look up to. She was doing something I had always wanted to do, going to Africa to study wild animals, in her case chimpanzees.

This award winning 685 page (plus back matter) biography is written by longtime Goodall collaborator Peterson, and it took him 10 years to write as he had so much material on the scientist. The comprehensive biography deals with Goodall’s life up until 2004.

“Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey” by Jane Goodall with Phillip Berman

Going from a book written about her to one written by her, this is one of my favourites, as it describes much of her spirituality and also her reasons for hope for the future. It is an older book, and there’s even an addendum written after 9/11. I’d love to see a reprint of what she would add after the pandemic.

“An African Love Story: Love, Life, and Elephants” by Daphne Sheldrick

I continue with an African connection. Conservationist Sheldrick writes about her love for Africa, her love for her husband, and her love for the orphaned elephants that she has raised and reintegrated into the wild.

“The Whale by Moonlight: And Other Adventures Among Bats, Penguins, Crocodilians, and Whales” by Diane Ackerman

Elephants connect to other animals. I started to read this when I was on my last trip overseas, as lacking a good connection to the internet, I could really immerse myself in the book. Naturalist Ackerman is better known for some of her other books (“The Zookeepers Wife”, for example), but it is her nonfiction writing that draws me more. This book is from 1992, but her poetic descriptions of her scientific adventures among these four animals still capture the imagination.

“Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants” by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Now on to someone who champions the wisdom of both animals and plants. This is a book I am currently slowly savouring in bite sized pieces. Wall Kimmerer is an indigenous botanist, and in this book she shares how other living beings—the plants and animals—have much to teach us, although we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices.

“To Speak for the Trees: My Life’s Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forest” by Diana Beresford-Kroeger

From one botanist to another. An Irish born and now Canadian botanist and biochemist, Beresford-Kroeger has a unique perspective on trees and forests, as she studied not only the ancient Celtic ways, but also modern scientific ways. I have admired her since I saw the movie “Call of the Forest”, and this book is an autobiography of her life. This is the only book on my list I don’t own—I borrowed it from the library—but I do own some of her other books.

So there’s my journey from “Rodham” to “To Speak for the Trees”. Thanks for joining me. I hope you are able to go to the original blog post and check out some of the other entries.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler