Thursday, January 29, 2015

Good excuses for not Blogging!

I have truly been neglectful of posting at all this week, but I do believe I shall have your empathy when I tell you it's because I have been out and taking full advantage of being outside in the spring-like weather.  No when I say spring-like, I mean really spring-like.  After a crazy few days of insane Chinook winds, Monday our city had record breaking temperatures of 19*C.  That would be 66*F, for my American friends.  No, that is not a typo.  19*C.  In January.  In Southern Alberta.  Whoever heard of such a thing?  We were out playing with, get this, NO coats, NO boots, NO mittens!  T-shirts!  We were in t-shirts, the likes of which I had to unpack from their winter hibernation baskets and if truth be told, we were sweltering a bit in our long pants.  I swear I got a bit of a tan.  So I know I have your total forgiveness that the blog went by the wayside.

Another reason I have not blogged is because I am reading a book I just cannot put down.  Started it Monday afternoon when it arrived in my mailbox and I've been sucked right in!  It's a true story and oh, my goodness, what a story it is.  Of course, I have been reading outside, coffee in hand, on the deck soaking up the sun while the kids play their little hearts out. Outside.  In January.  With no coats.  Have I mentioned that already?

In other news around here, I finally have exercised myself back to pre-Christmas season weight.  How is it that I could gain 6 pounds in the week between Christmas and New Year's and it has taken almost 4 weeks to get rid of it?  Something is not right with this equation and if someone could tell me where I find a complaint department who will handle this issue promptly and efficiently I would much appreciate it!  On the other side of the coin, my hubby has not had sugar since November and can turn down a bite of one of his favourite desserts, just like that.  (She snaps her fingers as she types that).  How does he do that?  And why has that discipline not rubbed off on me?

I've pretty much banned myself from all stores other than grocery stores for the next month.  I have to confess that the after Christmas clearance sales at a certain decorating store in our area has seen my presence and my wallet way too many times this month.  But I did get some lovely things for less than half price in some cases.  Next year when my children want to know what I want I'll definitely have to put a gift card from this place onto my wish list.

So that's it in a nutshell for me.  I'm praying my east coast friends are staying warm and safe in the predicted blizzard happening over there.  What's been happening in your neck of the woods this week?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #314

Good morning everyone!  Sorry for the later post.  Went to bed not feeling well last night and totally didn't even realize what day it was!  I had a start to my post, such as it is, so I'm posting that and will come back in an hour or so once I get myself together.  Whew.  

1.  A wonderful massage therapist!  Totally worked out my super tight, super sore achilles tendon.  I can actually walk without a limp now.  And to add to that she showed me how to do it at home for myself to get relief.  Very much appreciate this lady!

2.  Books at my fingertips and Reading Time:  Boy I've really appreciated extra reading time this week.  And the fact that I readily have all sorts of books available within reach at all times is a huge blessing that I very muchly take for granted.  This was really brought home to me this week as I've been reading a memoir set in Germany's WWII.  The author mentioned was a precious commodity that books were and it hit me how blessed I am, and all of us here in North America, to have such ready access to books whenever, however we want.  I've never known a time in my life to not have books and reading material.  For this I am very grateful.

3.  A group of supportive women who make up my ladies bible study.  Though we come from all backgrounds, walks of life, and diverse places in our Christian walk it is a group of women who are there for each other to support, lift up, encourage, pray for each other, correct in love and generally are there.  I really appreciate this group that God has brought together.

4.  Birds singing.  With the lovely weather this week, the birds have come out and have been lifting their voices.  They're not the spring birds quite yet, but I'll take almost any bird song in the middle of winter!

5.  This quote:

"If you’re exhausted, the problem is likely that you have not allowed God to set your agenda. You’re asking more of yourself than God is asking of you, and you’re putting your energy in the wrong things."
Sheila Wray Gregoire

Found here quite by accident, this quote, in fact the whole post, was an absolute lightbulb moment for me.  In trying to find me word for 2015, I've been thinking how for the most part, I feel like I am always rushed, a lot of times in panics to get where I need to be or to do what needs to be done.  And I've been thinking on the reasons why.  I've seen a pattern in my life.  I've been seeing how it's not God who sets my agenda, it's me and then I hurriedly ask Him to bless it.  I'm a huge procrastinator, have been since high school, so things always get piled up.  I'm a people pleaser and have a difficult time saying no.  So put these combinations together and there is bound to be a blow up.  And it's usually my undeserving, unsuspecting family who gets it.  So this is the year I'm intentionally going to take steps to change that.  And this post was the catalyst.  Now if you all could just think of a word that encompasses all that for me, I'd really appreciate it.  

What were your favorite blessings for this week?

P.S.  Everybody who left a link in the comments, I've tried to transfer your links into Mr. Linky.  Please check to see if it made and please go ahead and add yours if I didn't get it!  So sorry for the delay in getting this up.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill ~ Book Review

 I know this is a long review but bear with me it was a long book and covered much.  Inspired by the actual Book of Negroes penned in Manhattan in which names were listed of former and current slaves who had helped the British during the Revolutionary war and who were qualified to board ship to travel to a new life in Nova Scotia, Canada.

 Aminata Diallo was only 12 years old when she was abducted by slave traders from her home in West Africa. Forced to walk for 3 months in chains until they reached the sea, she is then shipped to America where she is sold in South Carolina to an indigo plantation. Having the skills of a midwife passed onto to her from her mother she uses those skills to survive and help other slaves by "catching" their babies. Knowing she must learn all she can to survive she secretly is taught to read by the black women who takes her under her wing at the plantation and when she is sold to a Jewish indigo inspector, she is more than willing to learn to work with numbers and ledgers when he wants her to. Befriended by his wife, Aminata continues to expand her knowledge of the white man's world and ways and when opportunity arises for her to make her escape she ends up in Manhattan living in a colony of other ex-slaves. Her reading and writing skills come to the attention of the British military who then "hire" her with the promise of her own name being added to write the "Book of Negroes" a historic British military ledger that allowed Black loyalists passage on ships to Nova Scotia where there were promised land and freedom. With the desire in her heart to someday return to her beloved African village of Bayo, Aminata agrees, seeing it as one step towards that dream. But her losses keep adding up. When the opportunity finally arrives to return, and with no more family ties in North America, she takes her chance and arrives in Freetown, Sierra Leone, a British colony created for returning slaves. Will her losses and disappointments finally end now that she is back in her homeland? Now all of a sudden unsure, Aminata risks her life to travel back to her village not knowing if she will even see it still standing or if anyone will remember her.

 It was hard to put this book down once I started. Epic in it's scope the story starts with an aged Aminata in Britain then travels back to about 40 years earlier to Africa to America to Canada, back to Africa and finally settles itself in Britain. I was amazed that the author, a male, had written such a strong female character, and that, in a first person point of view. I really liked all his research into the historical aspects of the British military and abolitionists role in the actual Book of Negroes and returning slaves to Africa. The Book of Negroes is the largest single document about black people in North America until the end of the 18th century according to the author's research. 3000 names of men, women and children were recorded, those who had served the British in some capacity during the revolutionary war and then promised a new life, so to speak, in Nova Scotia. It was interesting to read his chapter at the end entitled "A word on history" and should not be skipped as it gels the story together.

 The hardships Aminata endured from her capture right until her move to Britain were horrendous and yet her drive for survival and keeping her character never left. There were times in the story, though, when I thought her strength and backbone would have landed her in way more trouble than the story unfolded and she seemed to walk away from a lot of horrible consequences other slaves might not have and lived a proportionately better life than was the status quo of her peers. But totally free of horrors she was not. Physical, mental and emotional abuse followed her throughout her life. It was heart-rending to read of all her losses throughout her life, yet refreshing to also read of her overcoming them and never losing her character or the will to survive within her. Mentioned in the beginning was the fact that her father was a Muslim and taught her to pray but it is not delved into much further within the story. A reunion of a loved one in the end seemed to happen a little too conveniently for it to be quite believable and was unnecessary to the story but didn't detract from the power of the story.   It was a brave life that she had the courage to step beyond her pain, losses and disappointments, beyond letting hatred consume her and allow herself to work with the white British abolitionists for the removal of slavery even after being disillusioned with them also. If nothing else the Book of Negroes and the story of Aminata should speak to us of hanging onto our hope and courage in the hardest of times

Worthy to mention is the fact that  there is some sexual content.  Too descriptive for my liking it had me skipping a few paragraphs but it is  fairly moderate in today's adult book standards but deserves the mention that there is some in the context of the story.

Alternate title and  cover used in U.S.

Reading Goal Met:   Book with more than 500 pages (slight cheat coming in at 474), Book that made me cry, Book by an author you've never read, A book you own but have never read, A Book based on or turned into a tv show.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #313

It's Friday already?  Well welcome then to Friday's Fave Five.  Looking for the blessings in our everyday.  Are you ready to join in?  If you are new, you can start here with the guidelines and then jump right in.

My highlights to me this week have been:

1.  Dinner out treat.  Every January our church treats all the home group leaders and team leads and their spouses out for a great feed of Chinese Food.  It's good food shared with a group of people who are connected through a similar activity.  It's nice getting to know others in the church who fill the same roles and receive encouragement and share stories and laughs and vision.

2.  Warm weather.  This week has been incredibly balmy, the temperature rising each day well above freezing.  A true blessing after sitting in a cold freeze for a few weeks now.  The only thing with the really warm weather is it's windy, it is the Chinook winds after all that is raising that temperature so quickly, and because of the fast melt it is messy and muddy.  But that's a ok.  It's a nice reprieve in the middle of winter.  I'll take it.

3.  Half price deal on a lovely candle holder and candle tray.  Perfect for a nice glow on the kitchen table in the still dark evenings.  I spotted the tall candle holder on a Christmas half price sale and nabbed it thinking it was lovely and perfect for a wintery theme.  Then the lady who works there commented on the matching tray.  There was a matching tray?  It was tucked away behind an whole bunch of other items but as soon as I saw them I couldn't split them.  A little glow bringing a smile everytime I look at it at a half price deal is a blessing in these long winter days.

4.  New boots.  I've had the same pair of boots for about the last 10 years so my birthday request this year was a more stylish new pair.  I've always wanted ones that came up the calf but have never been able to wear that style thanks to inheriting my Dad's families calves, thanks Dad.  By the time I add tucking the material of my pants in there, there is no way Hosea those boots are going to zip up.   But this year I found a really cute pair in a taupe color I love.  And because of the design style of them they fit nicely and they are comfortable.  So thrilled.  Goodbye black orthopedic looking boots.  Hello cute ones!  Now I don't mind it being snowy outside because I'm rocking the cute!

5.  Gift of light...installed and on!  I've been wanting a new light fixture in the bedroom for a long, long time.  We had a run of the mill fan and light combo in there that came with the house when we bought it 21 years ago.  I was ready for something different, a little trendier, a little bed-room-ier.  I hate the feel of a fan blowing right on top of me when I'm sleeping so that thing rarely got used.  We have ac if it's that hot.  When making the bed I always ended up whacking the hanging strings really good with the comforter which sent them flying and banging into the glass bulb cover and getting wrapped around other arms of the fixture.  I was ready for change.  We went to a couple of light stores here and a huge light store in Calgary but neither hubby or I were ready to lay down upwards of $300 and over just for a darn ceiling fixture.  But nothing at cheaper stores like Home Depot caught our fancy.  So we bided our time.  Then we saw one in Costco.  And we looked and we talked and we walked away.  I just wasn't sure that it wasn't a bit too blingy and he wasn't entirely sure 100% that he wanted to give up the fan.  But just before Christmas I went and look again.  The light was still there and for 50 dollars I thought it would do just fine.   Days went by and I got caught up in the busyness of Christmas and not feeling well so thoughts of the light got pushed into the black hole areas of my brain and I never mentioned it to hubby again.  Opening Christmas gifts and lo and behold what did hubby get me?  The blingy light!  I was thrilled.  I never would have guessed.  Then he installed it.  And it was lovely.  Way better than I had ever expected!  The blingy stuff makes beautiful patterns on the ceiling and wall.  Good bye ugly ceiling fan!  It's definitely an odd favorite, I mean who puts light fixtures as a blessing, but it makes me happy every single time I turn on the light because it tells me my hubby loves me.

So where did you find joy and blessing in your week?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Thoughts on Last Year's Reads and a Reading Challenge for 2015

I spent the last couple of weeks during Christmas vacation trying to read as much as I could to get some books squeezed into 2014.  In looking back over the year of reading and comparing it to other years, I was behind.  Way behind.  As in a dozen or more books behind.  And this was bugging me.  Really bugging me.  I kept telling myself that numbers didn't matter.  But all of a sudden in my mind they did so in the midst of being sick and Christmas I was cramming in as much reading as I could get in to add a few more books in there.  And as a result, I missed posting the reviews of the last 4 books of 2014 that I read.  And now I'm not only bummed about not reading as much but also about not staying on top of my reviews.  I like to have record of the books I read and what I thought about them.  So was it worth getting the extra numbers in at the expense of missing reviews?  The jury is still out on that one.

I'm still pondering a bit on why I got so behind in the first place.  As I look back it was a bit of an odd reading year for me.  There were many books which I absolutely loved, some that were alright, a study book that though I didn't really enjoy had to finish because it was done in a group and I sorta had to read it as I was leading the group.   And there were actually 3 or 4 which I set aside because I just couldn't get into them.  I think that was a huge part on why I didn't read quite as many books.  I tried to give these books a good chance before I put them down and that took reading time out of ones that I actually liked.   And when all is said and done I really, really miss the spring and fall reading challenge that a lot of us used to participate in.  I used to to love those and always looked forward to picking my books and setting that bar a little higher in my intentional reading for 2 seasons of the year.  This year I tried to put a spring goal out but doing it by myself was just no fun and not nearly as challenging!

So for this year I found this little challenge for the whole year on Pinterest here.  You'll have to click on over because for some reason I cannot make this any bigger no matter what avenue I take.

I have no delusions that I'll be able to do all of those books within the year but I also want to challenge myself to read as many books out of own piles that I can this year.  I have got to chip away at my stockpile.  I won't even tell you how many I have in my closet and in a box under the bed.  Suffice it to say it's a lot!  Like, lots and lots.  So I was thinking I could accomplish reading quite a few of those and knocking some of these off this challenge with the same read.  

I've started the year well by just today completing The Book of Negroes.  (I believe in the States it's called Someone Knows My Name and it has a different cover). It's out of my closet and at 474 pages including the author's notes I'm going to cheat a bit, call it good and check off the first one:  a book over 500 pages.  Actually I could cross off quite a few off with this one book, now that I look at the list...a book that made me cry, a book by an author I've never read before, a book based on or turned into a tv show, a book I own but have never read.  In fact, that is one of the reasons I wanted to get to this book and finish it right off the bat this year because the tv mini series started last week in Canada (and in the next couple weeks in the States, I believe)  and I didn't want the show to ruin the book for me.  I've watched two episodes now and though a valiant effort is made the book is sooo much better.  While based on actual historical occurrence and an actual Book of Negroes penned after the Revolutionary War,  the story built around it is fictional so I guess I can't check off a book based on a true story but I am tempted.  So all that to say I am done book 1 of this year and will have a review up soon.  I am bound and determined to stay on top of those reviews this year.

How did you all do with reading last year?  What was your favorite read of the year and what's on the reading horizon for this year for you?

Friday, January 09, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #312

Hi everyone, welcome to this week's Friday's Fave Five.  It's a chilly one here in Southern Alberta but it's still a good day to find blessings.  Please join in with us.  If you are new you can go here for the guidelines.

Before I get into finding the good things about my week, I want to make a note on commenting formats... If you are using the google + commenting format on your blogger blog only other google + members may be allowed to comment.  I am not a member and so therefore I can't comment on your FFF posts.  If you leave a comment on my FFF post, I can email you back a comment on your post but if you don't comment all I can do is come by and read your post but I'll have to keep my comments to myself, so to speak.  Just so you know why I might not have been commenting on your posts.  I love to read all your FFF's from week to week and leave you comments to encourage you but since this google + thingy entered the picture I have not been able to do that and I thought you should know.

There now that this week's business is done, we can move along to the fun.

1.  Back to some semblance of routine.  I love the holidays, but boy oh boy, they mess with my routine.  After 10 days off of work, it was nice to find some routine to my days.  Going to bed way too late, getting up way too late, drifting by the seat of my pants throughout the days, eating all over the place really made it difficult to get this back to work week started.  But now it's starting to settle back to a nice rhythm.  I find peace in that.

2.  Energy starting to return.  The past 9 months to a year I have had a definite lack of energy at times, some days I was tired right down to my bones.  I knew I was down in my iron levels from my check up last year but thought I'd try to fix it with diet first.  But being sick in the first weeks of December just wiped me out so I knew I had to do something else.  I was getting up tired and going to bed exhausted every single day.  So on recommendation from a couple of people I picked up this supplement.  Boy it sure was not cheap but my hubby said if it did the job and I started to get my energy back it was worth it so I gave it a try.  I do believe it just might be working.  I don't feel so darn bone weary anymore, more like myself.   We'll see from the blood test this week whether it really is working or just a good 'ole placebo effect but I am definitely not dragging like I was for so long.  And a bonus blessing...I found a really good sale on it at a local health food store for my second round of it.

3.  Freezer clean out.  Now this may not mean a whole lot to anybody else but I finally took the bull by the horns and on a really cold day this week I unloaded the freezer into coolers and boxes and put it out on the deck and defrosted the big freezer.  I am way too embarrassed to tell you how long it's been since the last time.  Suffice it to say I may or may not have been able to build a small igloo out of ice I took out of there.  The blessing was the job was not as big or hard as I thought it was going to be.

4.  Soothing mint tea.  My first step in cutting back on drinks with sugar in them including juices.  During the holidays I had gotten way to used to ciders and hot chocolates and tropical juices.   I've been starting to brew a nice hot cup of mint tea in the evenings when I feel like something to drink other than water.  With it's delicious natural flavor I don't feel the need to even put honey into it.  It tastes and smells wonderful and is so soothing to sip as I'm reading my book.  Hopefully the habit will translate into more sweets being cut from my diet in the next couple of weeks.

5.  Twisted Peppermint candle from Bath and Body Works.  I've always loved the hand soap and body lotion with this seasonal smell but I'm really loving the candle with the same scent.  One of my dayhome kids gave it to me for Christmas and I've been enjoying it almost every day.  It's a warm and cool scent all at the same time.  Cool from the peppermint and warm from the vanilla scent.  And it's not overwhelming.

Those are five of my favorites for this week.  What were yours?

Friday, January 02, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #311

Hi everyone!  I'm back after a bit of an unintended hiatus.  After both a computer virus and a human virus, I am glad to say that both computer and I are back to normal and ready for the new year!  I missed you during the last couple of weeks and feel like I really missed out on your wonderful Christmas posts and faves.  But that ship sailed without me so we'll just move on.  

Christmas was wonderful around here with the usual faves of family, friends, food and lazing around.  So I'll move onto some newer favorites and start the new year off fresh!  Unfortunately no pics because I have yet to load all the camera programs that disappeared in the fixing of the virus.

1.  This post on rushing around in our lives really spoke to me.  I tend to be like that.  The results are not pretty.  I'm short tempered, demanding, aggravated and things never work and the fails usually start to snowball.  You get the picture.  So this year one of my goals is to take a breath and slow it down.  Plan better so that I don't always feel behind the 8 ball, so to speak.  This post was very timely.

2.  Brand new calendar on the wall.  I don't know why I like a brand new calendar so much.  Maybe it's the idea of a totally fresh start.  Nothing filled in yet, crowding the days.  Maybe it's just a new theme sitting on the wall.  But whatever the reason the new fresh calendar brought a smile to my face yesterday morning.

3.  A long extended time of my little family all being together this holiday.  We were all here.  No jobs to take us away.  Both hubby and I had from December 24th - Jan. 4th off.  Son wasn't on the rigs this holiday and my oldest has been here since the 22nd.  Youngest girl is living at home so didn't need to get back anywhere to a job.

4.  Quote:  "Don't let perfect become the enemy of better" - Joshua Becker.   Joshua speaks of it in relating to decluttering but I think it can be applied to so much more in my life.  Trying to always come up with the "perfection" part of the equation has actually stalled me from taking first steps in taking something on, from actually completely some tasks, and from feeling good about the job that I have done.  Perfection is such a lofty thing to obtain.  It is so subjective.  And it sets me up for comparing myself to others which never results in a good thing.  Perfect is no longer my goal.  Trying my best and enjoying the journey of doing and knowing I did my best is my new goal to obtain.

5.  Starting the new year off with the people I love most.  This is always a great blessing to me (even though it is getting harder to reach that 12 o'clock mark!)

I want to wish everyone a very Happy New Year and all of God's greatest abundance of love, joy and peace for 2015.

What were your favorite blessings this last week of 2014 and first few days of 2015?