Notes on living alone during a pandemic

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My body is getting soft. My daily “sanity strolls” are not giving me the same level of cardio as my previous routine of spin classes and other group fitness. It feels cumbersome to carry my bike down my building’s stairs everyday so instead I just throw on my running shoes at some afternoon hour when I realize that I’ve been sitting on my couch for far too long, scrolling into the depths of social media without really gaining anything from it, and I step outside into my neighbourhood.

I engage in the dance which (mostly) everyone else is – a 6-ish foot gap (I have to admit I’m not totally sure what six feet actually looks like) between myself and any other human, a small smile when we make eye contact as if to say, it’s not that you smell or that I don’t like you, as maybe this gesture would communicate before.. all of this, but rather, I do this as an act of care for you, an act of self-preservation for me.

I have yet to pick up a book from the growing pile in my living room. I’m getting closer to wanting to read, to engage in a story, but for now I’m content to throw on another episode of Schitt’s Creek as I know I can count on it to bring me joy and maybe even a laugh.

At the beginning I endlessly consumed news stories and media, reading with some level of horror and a growing level of anxiety the articles describing how the Coronavirus pandemic was unfolding, how various areas of the world were being affected, how experts predicted this would unfold, what the world would look like “after.”

Now I mostly avoid the news in general, except for reading some local headlines, my workplace Covid-19 updates and critical information, very brief log ins to twitter, and of course, the latest from my personal hero, Dr. Bonnie Henry.

On my aforementioned daily walks/sanity strolls/podcast tune in times, I have been trying to really notice the way Spring has descended upon my neighbourhood. I walk the same routes multiple times, noticing new buds, then full blooms, then leaves replace petals. My phone’s camera roll is filled with close ups of blooms, the portrait mode on my camera urging me to “place the subject within 2.5 metres,” which I guess means I could use it to determine if I was a safe distance away from other humans, if I dared to approach one on the street.

I’m not baking bread, unlike the rest of the internet, though I did bake a coffee cake and then proceeded to consume it in its entirety over the course of just a few days, so who says I’m not getting anything productive done?! (Me, I’m the one who says that.) I have been writing letters and postcards to friends, in an effort to say, I’m still here! And even though we talk occasionally on the phone or FaceTime, I want you to know that I took time to sit down and craft this physical letter to you, I used a pen to hand write these words, I chose the envelope and the stamp and delivered it to the mailbox down the street, I love you, I care about you.

So, if you’ve made it this far and you’re wondering, as I am, why did she write all of this down? I guess I needed to remind myself that I’m here. I wanted a small written entry to mark this strange and hard time. I wanted to say aloud that yes, my body is getting soft, but I am (trying to be) OK with it. I am leaning into gratitude for legs that keep me moving, lungs that keep exchanging oxygen, eyes that take in the world, and a body that holds me and keeps me alive in this beautiful, messy, fascinating, scary life.

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xoxo; Carly

Book List 2019

books

inspired: slaying giants, walking on water, and loving the bible again  rachel held evans

I really loved this book. I read it at the beginning of the year, before RHE passed away, and it was a refreshing overview of the Bible and its different genres. As someone who has wrestled with faith and who continues to ask questions about the faith I grew up with, I appreciated Rachel’s fresh perspective as well as her wisdom on Scripture.

tin man  sarah winman

This is a beautiful and heartbreaking story, as a lot of the best books are. It’s a quick read but one that stuck with me.

places i stopped on the way home: a memoir of chaos and grace  meg fee

I wrote about Meg Fee’s ebook in my 2015 book list, and this is the full, published, fleshed out version of that. I have loved Meg’s blog for many years and I enjoyed reading this book in Meg’s familiar voice.

chroniques de jerusalem  guy delisle

I think this is my first graphic novel! If you know me, you know that I have a special place in my heart for Israel, Palestine, and the people there. Guy is an illustrator who travels to different countries and places with his partner who works for MSF. It was interesting to see a glimpse into his everyday life as he looks after his kids, explores new places, and learns about the culture and conflict in the holy land.

harry potter #1-7  j.k. rowling

My first time reading this series! I don’t have too much to say except that I loved it. It was fun to read the series as an adult and to exercise my imagination. If you have read the books, you know. If you haven’t read them, you should. Now I’m working through the movies!

pyongyang: a journey in north korea  guy delisle

Another graphic novel by Guy Delisle, this one about a trip to North Korea. I didn’t love this as much as Jerusalem, but it was still interesting and gave me a bit of insight into a country that is very closed to outside media.

all the broken pieces  ann e. burg

This is a young adult novel written entirely in verse. It was short and the story was lacking some depth, but it was a new experience to read a novel in verse!

the island of sea women  lisa see

A piece of historical fiction about an all-female diving collective on the island of Jeju in Korea, this novel follows two women and their friendship, covering the Korean War to present day. It was well written and more heartbreaking than I thought it would be when I started it. I know Lisa See has written several other books and I am looking forward to checking out more of her work.

moses: when harriet tubman led her people to freedom  carole boston weatherford

I don’t remember how I came to request this from the library, but this is a beautifully illustrated children’s book about Harriet Tubman. It was short and lovely.

women talking  miriam toews

One of my favourites from the year. A group of women come together to talk about love, leaving, forgiveness, sin, fear, the unknown, and freedom after horrible things have happened in their small community. Based on a true story.

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Capture

Here’s the thing about settling in to your mid-to-late twenties: the roadmap is gone. The signposts that led you through highschool, university, and into your first job have passed by and the highway is wide open in front of you.

You have to figure out to fill your gas tank. Is this what they call “self-care?” My fuel includes being outdoors regularly, moving my body, spending time with friends, getting massages, planning trips in the future. That’s what keeps me going day by day, kilometer by kilometer.

What is the destination? Is there one? Is it really all about the journey, as they say?

What about auto maintenance? I’m supposed to get regular oil changes on my car every certain number of kilos or months, and I try to stay on track, more or less. What is the maintenance of my soul? I haven’t been to therapy since the spring. I attend church regularly, but I’m unsure of how much I’m connecting to it, to faith, to anything, lately.

I don’t know enough, or care enough, about cars to write a whole post using them as a metaphor for my life. And maybe I’ve veered over the centre line, so to speak. Really, I’m just fumbling around in the dark, putting one foot in front of the other, hoping that it leads me somewhere worthwhile.

What is the destination? Is there one? Is it really all about the journey, as they say?

I don’t really know what I’m trying to say. Maybe I’m just hoping that putting words to paper, sending sentences into cyberspace, will help me to process and reflect on what life looks like and what I want it to be. I guess I’m hoping that I have some say in how the horizon stretches out before me, or at least an ability to step back and look at the landscape with wide eyes and an open heart so as to navigate wisely.

Maybe I’ll take pause to soak in the sunset as well.

 

2018 Book List

books

I know, I know, it’s quickly approaching the middle of March lol, May. whoops. I almost wasn’t going to write about my 2018 books, but after reading previous years’ lists, I was reminded how nice it is to have these words out in the world if only to remind myself of what I have read and learned and how I have grown through the way other people see the world. So here it is: short, sweet, and simple – the books I read in 2018.

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

Loved it. A YA novel that touches on current, deep issues. I appreciated the simple but straightforward way the author tackles a very painful topic (the shooting of a young, unarmed black man that is witnessed by his best friend and told from her perspective) and seeks to bring awareness and ultimately, hopefully, change.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

I picked up this book at a community street library and while it was compelling and I didn’t want to put it down, I’m not sure I would totally recommend it. It is the story of a movie star and the seven husbands she had throughout her life, each partnership formed for a different purpose or goal. Not my favourite book I read this year, not the worst of all time.

The Girls – Lori Lansens

The story of conjoined twins who were adopted as infants and the story of how they have grown up, this book holds a very unique perspective as the novel switches back and forth between the two girls’ voices. Written by a Canadian author, the story held multiple twists and surprises, and I would recommend it.

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

Read to me in library class in elementary school, I had totally forgotten the plot of this book. It is an easy read, geared towards children, and while the story was pretty interesting I didn’t love all of the characters and found certain parts hard to picture (maybe that’s because I’m getting old and my imagination is out of practice? uh oh). It’s a classic, and a classic tale of good and evil, but not one of my faves of the year.

Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee

I read this in one day (!) in Ottawa last spring as my friend Hannah was going to be discussing it in her book club that evening and I didn’t want to be left out of the conversation. This novel, the second written by Harper Lee (written first chronologically but the second to be published) has quite a bit of controversy surrounding it. An undercurrent of racism runs through the book, and the question remains: Did Harper Lee even want this book published? or was she coerced and taken advantage of in her old age? Either way, it is interesting to connect with To Kill A Mockingbird characters again. Read this one with a critical mind.

Am I There Yet? – Mari Andrew

Part illustrated story, part essay, Mari Andrew delivers a sweet, encouraging book about getting through life, basically. She touches on growing up, finding a career, relationships, her family, and personal illness, among other topics. If yu’ve ever seen her relevant and touching posts on instagram, you will love this full length book filled with Mari’s insight and wisdom. Would recommend.

The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion

Disclaimer: this is not a particularly happy or uplifting, feel-good book, but sometimes you need a book that discusses grief and it’s unpredictable waves without shying away from it or always trying to find a silver lining. This is the first book I’ve read by Joan Didion and I would love to get my hands on more.

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying – Nina Riggs

The second heartbreaking but beautiful book I read this year. Nina Riggs writes about her diagnosis with terminal cancer and how it affects her relationship with her husband, two sons, and mother. The book was published posthumously, and it’s possibly one of my favourite books I’ve ever read.

Educated – Tara Westover

This is definitely one of my favourite books I’ve ever read. Tara Westover was raised by survivalist parents who didn’t believe in modern medicine or education and who had a deep distrust of doctors and the government. Tara doesn’t set foot in a classroom until she is 17, but goes on to gain an impressive education. Some of the stories from her childhood are shocking and deeply painful on a physical and emotional level, but Tara’s determination, resilience, and tenacity are inspiring. 10/10 would recommend.

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Five A.M. in the Pinewoods – Mary Oliver

 

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I’d seen
their hoofprints in the deep
needles and knew
they ended the long night

under the pines, walking
like two mute
and beautiful women toward
the deeper woods, so I

got up in the dark and
went there. They came
slowly down the hill
and looked at me sitting under

the blue trees, shyly
they stepped
closer and stared
from under their thick lashes and even

nibbled some damp
tassels of weeds. This
is not a poem about a dream,
though it could be.

This is a poem about the world
that is ours, or could be.
Finally
one of them—I swear it!—

would have come to my arms.
But the other
stamped sharp hoof in the
pine needles like

the tap of sanity,
and they went off together through
the trees. When I woke
I was alone,

I was thinking:
so this is how you swim inward,
so this is how you flow outward,
so this is how you pray.

2017 Book List

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This year saw books few and far between, so this list is short and sweet. Enjoy!

The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware

One of those thrillers that has a shallow plot and isn’t terribly well written, but you need to know what happens so you read the whole thing in a couple days. Reminded me of The Girl on the Train.

The History of Love – Nicole Krauss

Lent to me by my dear friend Hannah, this story develops slowly and steadily, making you fall in love with its characters and the way that words tie and hold them all together. Obviously I won’t give anything away, but the ending is a conversation starter, no doubt.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

My first time reading Atwood, and I was enthralled with the way the prose flowed almost like poetry, even while spinning a tale that is disturbing, especially in the days we are currently living in.

Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult

Shedding light on the very real problem of racism that still exists in the States today, I was impacted reading this book as a nurse, a woman, and someone who strives to be woke.

Turtles All the Way Down – John Green

A thoroughly enjoyable young adult fiction novel that discusses mental health and mental illness without romanticising or tying everything up in a neat, problems-solved package at the end. Shoutout to my friend Nick for recommending it and letting me read his copy while I was in Australia this year.

What Happened – Hillary Clinton

I love HRC, this book making me admire her even more. She is educated, intelligent, capable, and full of grace. I will probably not finish this book until 2018, but I’m looking forward to it. My friend Hannah and I have formed a tiny, messy, haphazard book club to discuss it so if you’re interested in joining us, let me know!

 

One of my goals for 2018 is to read more books, so here’s to more words, ideas, and learning this year!

xo

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The grace of God means something like:
Here is your life.
You might never have been, but you are,
because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.
Here is the world.
Beautiful and terrible things will happen.
Don’t be afraid.
I am with you.

— Frederick Buechner

home by Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home5
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

slow rhythm

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Days off. Slow rhythm. Wake to Ben Howard, eat breakfast. Oatmeal and tea. Exercise. Clear mind, empty thoughts. Stroll home. Shower. Wash and dry hair. Put on makeup, or don’t. Eat lunch. Most likely eggs. Run some errands. Oh wait, need coffee. Definitely coffee first. Sip latte, caffeine works magic. Putter around apartment. Dishes, laundry, vacuum if you’re feeling really inspired. Wander around neighbourhood, under large trees, roots growing deep. Ponder your place. Here in this city, in this world, in this life. Buy some fruit, sometimes veggies. Chill on the couch. Need to water plants. Leave it until tomorrow. Go for another walk because it’s so nice out, can’t waste a drop of sunshine. Eat some snacks for dinner because you want to. Or that’s what you tell yourself. Really you are just a little lazy and don’t want to cook anything. Ponder your place. Here in this city, in this world, in this life. Daylight fades. Light a candle, maybe three, another cup of tea for good measure. Pjs on. Brush teeth. Slide under covers, content, unsure.

Book List 2016

book

Here it is! Once again, inspired by Hannah and Emma. Unfortunately in August this year my phone went for a little swim in the ocean (#westcoastbestcoast …?) and I lost my note on my phone where I had recorded all the books I was reading so there may be a few missing this year but it’s a pretty good list either way.

Without further ado, here are all the books I read this year:

Why Not Me – Mindy Kaling

I enjoyed this book a lot more than Mindy’s first book. I laughed a lot, read parts of it out loud to friends who had already read it (Sorry again, Hannah). I started this book in 2015 but finished it in 2016. Mindy just seems like a down to earth woman who I would love to be friends with.

*Silver Star – Jeannette Walls

A beautiful novel about two sisters Bean and Liz who go to live with their uncle when their mother leaves them alone for a few days. The girls are smart, intrepid, and lovable. The book also touches on abuse in a heartbreaking way that shows the resilience of children.

Me Before You – JoJo Moyes

This book. I know there’s a lot of hype, but it is beautiful. A young woman accepts a job as a caretaker for a paralyzed young man and her happy, bubbly personality slowly breaks down his cranky shell. Obviously the book is better than the movie, as usual, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the movie – and how much I cried… on a flight… thankfully there wasn’t anyone sitting next to me…

After You – JoJo Moyes

The sequel to Me Before You, follows the main character Lou as she tries to live her life in the aftermath of the first book. Not as good as the first, as most sequels aren’t, but still heartwarming. A good summer beach read, if you’re into that sort of thing.

*All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

I loved this book. A war time novel about a French girl and a German boy and how their stories intersect, it is wonderfully written. Equal parts inspiring and heartbreaking, I would definitely recommend this book.

*Ester’s Child – Jean Sasson

My friend Kaylie lent me this book as it is one of her favourites and it quickly became one of mine. A fictional novel about a Jewish family in Israel, a Palestinian family in Lebanon, and a German family, spanning from the Second World War to 1948, when the novel begins with the formation of the State of Israel. Though fictional, this novel follows real historical events in a place that is near and dear to my heart. I learned more about history in the Middle East and fell in love with the characters.

One Plus One – JoJo Moyes

I wouldn’t say Moyes is my favourite author though it may seem that way since I read several of her books this year. This novel was light hearted and cute, but didn’t change my world.

The Girl You Left Behind – JoJo Moyes

Despite what I just wrote a couple lines up, I really enjoyed this book by Moyes. Which may be in part due to my love for books about war time/love stories/strong female leads who stand up for themselves and what they believe in.

By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept – Paulo Coelho

Lent to me by my friend Chelsea, this was my first introduction to Coelho’s writing. I think that the circumstances in which you read can really affect your perception of a book. I read this one on a relatively spontaneous trip to Europe in May and I think that made me love it more. A love story infused with experiencing the divine as female, I found Coelho’s words made me think about love and how we experience it – whether it is God’s love or romantic love. One of my favourite quotes is:

“But love is always new. Regardless of whether we love once, twice, or a dozen times in our life, we always face a brand-new situation. Love can consign us to hell or to paradise, but it always takes us somewhere. We simply have to accept it, because it is what nourishes our existence. If we reject it, we die of hunger, because we lack the courage to stretch out a hand and pluck the fruit from the branches of the tree of life. We have to take love where we find it, even if that means hours, days, weeks of disappointment and sadness.

The moment we begin to seek love, love begins to seek us. And to save us.”

The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

Arguably Coelho’s most well known book, The Alchemist urges the reader to think about purpose, destiny, and what one really wants.

Veronika Decides to Die – Paulo Coelho

An interesting book about a young woman who has what seems like a perfect life but who finds her life meaningless and decides to commit suicide. She doesn’t succeed but wakes up in a psychiatric ward and is told that her suicide attempt has damaged her body to much and she has limited time to live. The story follows how she decides to live out what time she has left.

The Light Between Oceans – M. L. Stedman

I picked up this book at a local thrift store. A story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who find a baby in a boat and decide to keep her, and the subsequent consequences that brings to their lives. The Boston Globe describes it well: “A beautifully delineated tale of love and loss, right and wrong, and what we will do for the happiness of those most dear.”

Beyond the Beautiful Forevers – Katherine Boo

Borrowed from a friend, read mostly in France, this is a book about a slum in India right by a major airport. It has been described as a book about hope, and I suppose it is to some extent, but it is also a very real story that juxtaposes the extremely poor with the rich – the author actually spent a significant amount of time in this slum in order to accurately portray its inhabitants and their lives, their hopes and their dreams.

*I Shall Not Hate – Izzeldin Abuelaish

I heard about the book the first time I went to Israel in 2013. The author is a doctor who was born and raised in Gaza and treats patients on both sides of the conflict. In 2009 his three eldest daughters and his niece were killed when their home was attacked by Israeli shells. He is a man who has every reason to be angry and desire revenge, but instead, as the title states, he desires reconciliation instead and truly believes it is possible. Abuelaish has seen how barriers are broken down in a healthcare setting and he is inspiring in his refusal to become bitter or hardened.

*The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

Quite possibly the book with the longest and strangest title I’ve ever read, it is also now one of my favourite books I’ve ever read. An author in London in 1946 receives a letter from a man living on the island of Guernsey and as she exchanges letters with him and other inhabitants of the island she learns about their life while under German occupation during the Second World War. It is a beautiful, sweet novel, and I hope if you read it you fall in love with it as much as I did.

Milk and Honey – Rupi Kaur

If you haven’t heard of Rupi Kaur’s poetry, I suggest you look her up. Most of her poems are short, but she is able to speak volumes through her brief lines. Her book of poetry is split into four chapters, each on a different theme. She writes of love, loss, heartbreak, and healing and encourages the reader to be proud of one’s femininity.

Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff

There have been a few times that I’ve picked up a book because it’s on a best seller list or has won some award and been slightly disappointed when I’ve finished reading it, and this was one of those books. A portrait of a marriage, told first from the husband’s perspective and then from the wife’s, it was well written, but I didn’t love it.

Paris for One and Other Stories – JoJo Moyes

Like I said, I read several of Moyes’ books this year, but this one was a bit of a let-down. It is a collection of eight or nine short stories with various women as the protagonists. Short stories can be difficult to execute (lol not like I’m a writer or anything), and these ones definitely leave one wanting in the area of character development. I would recommend for a beach read that doesn’t require too much thinking.

The Girls – Emma Cline

Oh man. What a novel to end off the year with. The Girls is a story of a fifteen year old girl who becomes infatuated with an older girl she meets one summer and gets swept up into a “soon to be infamous” cult and closer and closer to the brink of extreme violence. The novel is gripping and well written and I could hardly put it down. Cline’s descriptions of the thought processes of a fifteen year old girl made me realize things about my own teen self and shows how easy it can be to be influenced.

(* = my top five favourite reads)

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