Sunday, 11 January 2015

Learning to Read (Again)

You know what is satisfying? Closing the back cover of a book you have just finished reading. I have had that feeling exactly twice since I finished my degree. The first thing I read after submitting my thesis was a Thud by Terry Pratchett (borrowed from my cousin). It was like a chocolate that I was saving for after dessert. I polished it right off, under the following conditions:
  • in 20 minute intervals over the course of two weeks
  • in the evenings after dinner
  • with Matthew beside me
  • at the dining table
  • with a cup of tea
This is how I best like to read now. In previous years, I would enjoy reading in bed (I don't have enough pillows any more), on the couch (bad for my back), on public transit (makes my work bag too heavy because I now carry shoes, lunch, and a computer to work every day), or in a cafe (I like to read in silence, there is no silence in a cafe). But I do like to read in libraries. I have done most of my best reading in libraries over the last three years, public and university libraries both.

The second book, which I just finished five minutes ago, was read under the same circumstances, but it took me from mid-November until just now. That's about 7 weeks. You can't just rush a good book. I am an advocate for slow reading. I like to read every word. I really hate to skim read, and I am very bad at it; I almost never understand a text if I have only skimmed it. But also, when you are reading for pleasure, you owe it to yourself to read all the words, otherwise you are cheating yourself of the pleasure.

Other things which I believe about books, in no particular order
  • If you get to page 100 and you are not enjoying it ("enjoying" is not quite the right word; maybe I more accurately mean "if it is not satisfying") then for heaven's sake put it aside and find a different book to read. There are only about eleventy billion books ever written, so find one that suits you better.
  • Don't buy books, unless you really have to. I learned this the hard way. My parents' back shed in the Australian countryside is filled with boxes of my collected books, to which I probably still have some emotional attachment (although I should let that go, because I am sure some of those boxes have quite literally been chewed by rats by now). Books are free in libraries. And the best books, also free, come with recommendation from your friends' personal collections. Go ask your friend what is their favourite book.
  • I don't have anything against e-readers, but since I don't have one, and there are so many free paper books all around me, I don't really want an e-reader ever. Also, what is the point of an e-reader when you can have a tablet?
On the subject of reading books on electronic devices: Matthew has an i-Pad mini, which is the size and weight of a paperback, and he is reading 12000 pages of the entire collected works of P.G. Wodehouse to me in bed, about 5 pages at a time. He has been reading to me at night for a couple of years now, and had become part of our mythos. He was reading Dan Brown thrillers to me, but they got a bit gory and all the action and plot had my curiosity piqued. In short, it was hard to fall asleep. The beauty of P.G. Wodehouse is that a) it cost about $3 for 12000 pages (that's pretty good value, if you want to measure the value of literature in a cost-per-page) and b) it's funny enough to be interesting but not funny enough that you will wake yourself up laughing too hard. Okay, some nights we laughed so hard. But this is rare.

So that book I so satisfyingly just closed the back cover on was an excellent non-fiction book, The Tiger, by local Vancouver author John Valliant. It is on loan (since June!!) from my uncle. It was so gripping, a true story about tiger attacks on human in Russia in the mid-nineties. I learned much about perestroika, poverty, and Armenian Radio (look it up!! you will be rewarded). And best of all, it has a compelling and eloquent eco-theme. About two years ago, I began searching for eco-themes in my pleasure reading, and I found Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, and Wild by Cheryl Strayed. But I want more, and I want eco-themes in my urban narratives too, not just in the so-called "wild".

When I was in undergrad, the year before I met Matthew, I read 50 novels in one year, outside my degree readings. I don't think I will ever have the leisure to do that again, but I would like to try for a few more books this year. I'm not sure whether measuring quality of reading experience by "how many" is the right way to go about it, but it couldn't hurt to seek out a few more and consciously mark weekly or daily time to actually ready them.

I am healing from the degree I just finished. It is a process. 2015: the year of reading rehabilitation?

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Christmas Recap

I didn't want to just charge into 2015 without a bit of a photo reminder of what a lovely Christmas we all had. Here's a brief selection from Matthew's camera phone.

 This is the only photo of Matthew and I together on Christmas day. We are wearing our Christmas gifts to each other: Matthew's festive plaid shirt and my fancy satiny green dress. Sorry about the gratuitous leg showing. It was an awkward angle.

This is a rare occasion with all cousins and Gramma. It might be another 3 years until we get all of us in a room together again, or it might be never. I'm so glad we got this moment. The picture is so still, but it was all chaos trying to get everyone in the frame together.

We received a wonderful care package from our dearest friend Tess in Melbourne, including this AWESOME hat. It is a Canucks hat, and it is a sight to behold. It goes splendidly with his Canucks t-shirt. I also have a Canucks t-shirt and beany (on permanent loan from Matthew), and so I can't wait for us to coordinate.

This is an unexpectedly awesome Christmas gift (not for us, but for our uncle). It is a bouquet of mushrooms! We have never seen such a thing. It starts out life as a sealed bag of dirt, and when you open it, it sprouts mushrooms upon mushrooms (literally, they grow on top of each other), all in about a week! These are Shitaki.

After Christmas dinner, we all exchanged gifts. Things got loud and fun. And then when we had all unwrapped everything, we discovered that our Aunty Lorraine had given us a giant ball or yarn each. This was to do Arm Knitting. We went from laughing and shouting to being obedient and crafty in about 10 minutes - it was a tactical mastermove on Aunty Lorraine's part. Bad news: I get really stressed out when crafting. Good news: With generous assistance from several, I finally made a beautiful cloud-silver infinity scarf, which I am wearing at I type. I have received lots of compliments on this already, even from total strangers!

On Boxing Day, Matthew did not have to work. So grateful for this! We ended up spending 4 whole days together, the most time we have spent together since our February trip to London. Matthew took me for a long and slow walk to the sports store on Broadway and helped me choose some new running shoes. Thank you, Matthew! I ran over 1600 miles in my old running shoes (Christmas gift from Matthew in 2012), and they had lost their cushion. 

Then on Saturday, we went with Jessie to Granville Island and met up with our very good friends Jenny and Ove (from Norway). They were visiting family for Christmas, and I am so glad we could see them during this time! We went to Edible Canada (delicious), and in the time we were brunching, the sun shone out from behind the clouds! We went for a walk in the sunshine, took these hilarious photos, and then sadly parted ways. (Jenny and I look particularly like stunned mullets because the sun was directly in our eyes, and Jessie instructed us to close our eyes until she was ready to take the picture, and then we were to snap our eyes open quickly!)

 In the evening, Jessie came back to our place and tested out her new Christmas home manicure kit. It was very fancy, and a lot harder that it looked to actually do the manicure. Part of what made it difficult was how we kept bursting into giggles while trying to hold still. Jessie gave me 10 Accent Nails. Every one had glitter, stickers and/or a diamante. The funniest moment was when Jessie chose my right index finger (the busiest finger!) to affix a giant diamante (much bigger than my engagement ring). It lasted about three days. It is a busy finger.

That's all I have for photos now. In the rest of the week when Matthew was a work, Jessie and I hosted a delicious cream tea party at the Beavis apartment with the cousins and aunts, and also went for a very long walk around Stanley Park in the continuous streaming sunshine. It was a fantastic week off, and it was a real privilege to spend it with Jessie.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

How Will It Be Different in 2015?

Welcome to the New Year. We had a bittersweet NYE last night.

It started with a great big family Chinese take-out feast at Gramma's house. We said farewell to cousin Carolyn, who is moving to Edmonton tomorrow. Then Matthew and I took sister Jessie to the airport and she flew back to Melbourne. We had a REALLY AWESOME time with her while she was here. It was tough to let her go. We put on a stiff upper lip, grabbed some pink champagne out of the fridge, and headed to Martina and Stu's to drink it and ring in the new year. After midnight I told a 20-year-old to "put some pants on" before she left the party (cute mini-dress, bare legs, it was -2 outside, I was concerned). I am cringing today. So probably 2015 can only get better.

I love a good New Year's Resolution. And I am not particularly concerned if I can't keep it. It's the trying that counts. I think of resolutions in two categories: personal and team.

Personal: Last year I thought I should swear less but I had a degree to finish, three continents to visit, and a promotion to go for, so I had to pick my battles. I already floss and work out regularly. So this year I'm going to try to drink less. I'm not attaching any numbers. I'm just saying less.

Team: While Matthew's permanent resident application is being reviewed (might take half the year) we are going to concentrate on saving every penny, spending weekends and days off together and with friends and family, and generally Working With What We've Got.

I wrote 43 blog posts in 2014. That's less than one a week. I can do better in 2015. I don't have to Do Adventures in order to blog. I can just document our time here.