Sunday, April 28, 2013

Guest Review at Wicked Little Pixie

I had the opportunity to do a guest review for Nat at Wicked Little Pixie. I'm pretty sure I said yes before I knew what the book was because I was so excited to work with Nat and review again. However, the novel she needed reviewed was not something I'd normally read, in fact, it's something I'd normally shy away from,. To make a long story short, I took one for the team and was pleasantly surprised. 

Check it out!

Pastors’ Wives follows three women whose lives converge and intertwine at a Southern evangelical megachurch. Ruthie follows her Wall Street husband from New York to Magnolia, a suburb of Atlanta, when he hears a calling to serve at a megachurch called Greenleaf. Reeling from the death of her mother, Ruthie suffers a crisis of faith—in God, in her marriage, and in herself. Candace is Greenleaf’s “First Lady,” a force of nature who’ll stop at nothing to protect her church and her husband. Ginger, married to Candace’s son, struggles to play dutiful wife and mother while burying her calamitous past. All their lives collide during a fateful event that threatens the survival of all that is precious to them, each will ask herself: what is the price of loving a man of God? Inspired by Cullen’s reporting for Time magazine, Pastors’ Wives is a passionate portrayal of the private lives of pastors’ wives, caught between the consuming demands of faith, marriage, duty, and love.

When Nat asked me to guest review Pastors' Wives I was nervous. I don't read a lot of (OK, I don't read any) Christian Lit so I'm not terribly familiar with the genre, if one can even call it that. I was nervous that this would be a book about Amish people because as much as I love the Amish (and I do – bonnets are the coolest!) it seems that all of the popular Christian/Inspirational Lit is about innocent Amish women meeting the man of the dreams and bla, bla, bla. The thing I was scared most about was how Lisa Takeuchi Cullen would portray Christians. Christians seem to fall into several categories in literature; the fanatic, the con man/woman, the pervert or the duped innocent. There's more of course and I'm sure these generalizations don't apply in Christian lit, but nevertheless I got nervous and put this book off repeatedly out of fear.

Yesterday, I picked up Pastors' Wives and started reading and reading and reading. I couldn't put the novel down. Pastors' Wives is fast-paced and overall well written. Lisa Takeuchi Cullen writes multi-dimensional characters with very authentic emotions and spirituality that seems genuine and not a stereotype of how Christians “are”.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Best jobs ever?

So, I'm still unemployed, but it's cool.
I had an interview this week and between the preparation and actual interview itself I really felt confident about my skills and abilities for the first time since my unemployment began. I would have felt even more confident about myself if I had actually gotten the job, but I'm choosing the pull a Pollyanna and look for the positive (if you haven't seen this Disney Classic go watch it and come back. I'll wait............Ok, welcome back!).

Another positive thing about not getting this job is that it's opened me up to apply for what possible might be two of THE BEST jobs ever.
Check it out.


Seriously! Sign me up. I am ready to sample alcohol for money.
(Also, sorry the listings are so small.)

Where were these jobs when I was in university?
(Nb. So not me.)

These jobs made me laugh and sounded significantly better than the carnie job I saw in my first week of unemployment.
Just thought I'd share.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Something I Wrote About Downtown Brantford

I was perusing the Facebook the other day and saw that an orginization in my city is running a contest. Apparently, those interested in entering just write their favourite vintage memories of Downtown Brantford and they can win something.
This was a no brainer for me. I grew up with Downtown Brantford as my playground.

A little background for the non-Brantford readers.
Brantford is a city built on industry and manufacturing. However in the 80s and 90s when manufacturing plants started closing up, moving south and changing to more automated ways of doing things many people in Brantford became unemployed in a short period of time. This along with the move from cities planned around a downtown core led a once thriving downtown to turn into a veritable wasteland. I'm not even joking. At one point the downtown was a bustling place where families would hang out and at it's lowest point it was cast as a location in a horror movie because the set directors really didn't have to do anything to it.

Scene from Silent Hill, 2006
See those boarded up buildings, that is not set design, that was our downtown. 
So anyway, here's the article I submitted with some additions because you're not all from Brantford.

As a long-time resident of Brantford, and for the most part Eagle Place, Downtown Brantford has been
a big part of my life.

For over 20 years I attended Cornerstone Church, which was housed first in a second storey space on
Queen Street and then, for many years, in the old Mason building on Colborne Street (right across from
Zorba's Greek restaurant). My dad was out of work for most of my childhood and so he spent a lot of
time volunteering at the church with my sisters and I in tow. We would often walk with my dad to the
church and would stop in at the local businesses - Jamie's Bookstore, de Haagen's bakery, the exotic
pet store and one or both of the two arcades downtown. I still remember ballet classes being help in a
building next to Cornerstone and at least 2 furriers, including Nymann's, that offered cold storage for
all your fur items.

The former Cornerstone Church building. The third floor was the coolest.

My mother also took us downtown often to pay the bills and simply to get out of the house. We would
walk or sometimes take the bus to pay the bills at the PUC office, the Post Office (had to sit on those
Countless Brantford children have burned their bottoms sitting on these lions during the summer.

 the Union Gas building and for a while even the Bell Telephone building where I saw my first
touch tone phone. 

I sat in this guy's lap more times than Santa Claus.

We would sometimes stop at the Burger King or the Laura Secord in the Eaton
Centre for a snack, run around Victoria Park or take part in one of the many programs offered by the
Brantford Public Library when it was still housed in the Carnegie Building. 

Formerly The Brantford Public Library, now part of Laurier Brantford's campus.

We took advantage of BiWay’s (the downtown location's) closing sale, I got lost in the old Woolco and I saw my first movie,Snow White, in the Capitol Theatre. I remember the huge murals of Pauline Johnson, Wayne Gretzky and Tonto on the side of Pauwels Travel Bureau and was treated to a birthday lunch at the Colonial Resturant one year. For some reason my mom always changed the subject when I asked why we
couldn't eat lunch at Justine's. (Nb. Justine's was a strip club.)

As a teenager The Downtown was a cool place to explore. I discovered Admirals and the beauty that is
the Junk Pile 

Read what's included in the Junk Pile and lament that you don't have that in your home town.

as well as a great 2 for 1 pizza place on Colborne Street's south side. At one point there
were at least four great second hand stores in the downtown core, a used record store in what used
to be a luggage and leather goods store and a great little Polish grocery and deli. Unique World in
the Mall catered to all my black light and incense needs, there were two theatres I could choose from
on a Saturday night and the short lived Red Rocket Cafe let me indulge in some excellent food in a
fantastically, kitschy environment.

Then I went away to school, vowing never to return to Brantford again which I'm pretty sure is the one
surefire way to ensure that one returns to Brantford indefinitely.

When I returned after four years in Waterloo and almost two in Hamilton, Brantford had changed.
The downtown core wasn't cool anymore, it was sad. The casino that had promised to solve all of
Brantford's problems had failed to live up to the glorious future politicians had promised and the
positive aspects of allowing Wilfred Laurier University to expand in Brantford were still being debated by local politicians.

I had started a family since leaving and, to be honest, would probably have avoided Brantford's
Downtown like the plague if things hadn't started to change.

The embracing of Laurier as a positive change for Brantford by city officials, the creation of Harmony
Square and the intentional role of community organizations like Freedom House, the Brantford Public
Library and others have made the downtown a positive place for families and businesses to be, as well
as, a place I want to explore again and a place where I can make memories with my own family.

Frosty Fest brings 15,000 people into Downtown Brantford over 3 days. A far cry from Silent Hill.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

He's How Old?!?

Yesterday, my family gathered together to celebrate my son's eighth birthday.

Now, I have no glamourous labour story, in fact, I usually try to avoid discussing the entirety of the story with moms-to-be because I don't want to scare them. I also suffered from postpartum depression and then developed a hormonal imbalance that led to more depression. So, generally speaking, I have some very unpleasant memories of Jacob's first days, months, years. However, the joy of being Jacob's mother has exceeded those bad memories and made the times of trial and uncertainty so worth it. If I had to live through all the badness for even 1% of the goodness I've had with Jacob in my life I would do it. Every time.

Jacob was a surprise.

 Jeff and I were not actively planning on starting a family, but Jacob came at a time when Jeff and I had both, as a couple, committed to living differently. To stop living in excess and to start living in faith again. I'm not saying that Jacob was a gift, but I've always kind of wondered if his conception wasn't part of the spiritual principle found in Luke 16:10 "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much..."

Listening to family last night I was incredibly blessed by what people had to say about my son. I know that he is warm, generous, polite and friendly, but to hear family members that aren't with him on a daily basis say it made me proud of my little man.

Jacob's aunt Melissa described how when she takes him to the Dollar Store and offers to buy him a treat, he always asks if he can buy one for Jeff and I. (I like to think this is because he is generous and kind and not because Jeff and I (mostly Jeff!) regularly eat his candy while he's sleeping.) My sister Amy commented on how Jacob was thankful for even small things, like socks. My parents were impressed by his courteous behaviour and my niece Victoria reiterated that if she ever had a son she would want him to be like Jacob.

Part of me wants to preen and yell, "Look at my creation!" like some kind of demented, mad scientist, but another part of me knows that cool kids like Jacob don't just happen, but are the product of love, intentional parenting and being surrounded by awesome people who care.

So, I want to say thank you to the people that have sown into our lives (Jeff and I) and into Jacob's, to family members that took frantic calls about the colour of Jacob's poop, to those who encouraged us as parents when we were pretty sure we were doing everything wrong and who have loved on Jacob with abandon.

I hope everybody gets a chance to have a Jacob in there lives. He really is the best kid ever...and he's mine!

(Sidenote: How long do I get to use the "this is baby weight" excuse? There's no time limit on that, right?)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Change of Seasons

Yesterday I was thinking of where my life is at the moment and I was reminded of a part of scripture. 

I'm not trying to convert you...although if you have questions I'd be more than happy to chat ;)

The scripture I was thinking of is from Ecclesiastes and (if you don't adhere to Judeo-Christian beliefs) also a song from the 60's made famous by The Byrds. It's a basic truth that sometimes bears repeating.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8  (NIV)

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Here's the song...

To me the scripture doesn't suggest that these times be without emotions, be easy or be without consequences, but they will inevitably occur and that we should be ready for them. That a season that might seem negative shouldn't be cause for our faith to be shaken or our belief in good things to dissolve or that a more positive season be cause for us to forget who/what got us through the negative season. 

Nowhere does it say that the season must be handled alone either. Others have inevitable gone through these seasons and we can take hope and comfort that they've made it through and even accept their help and advice on how best to traverse the seasons in our own lives.

The seasons Ecclesiastes mentions aren't all pleasant. Honestly, I'd really rather avoid war and death if at all possible, but they are a natural part of life and with the support of others who have been through their own seasons, determination and faith that "this too shall pass" we are to walk through them. 

Just some thoughts as I walk through some changing seasons in my own life. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Big. Fat Thank You

Recently, my life has taken a turn in a direction I wasn't expecting.
Things that I assumed as given were whisked out from under me like bad shag carpeting. People and promises weren't as reliable as I had once thought and things have been bleak to say the least.
So I've been, frustrated ( A LOT!), hurt (oh definitely!) and really disappointed in people I once looked up to. However, the thing that has made the first couple of weeks (almost a month!) easier to get through is the many friends that have come around me during this difficult time.

So here's a big shout out to family, old friends, new friends, Internet friends, local friends, international friends, acquaintances, people with similar experiences, awesome government personnel who do their job with a smile and people who gave my kid good chocolate at Easter (it was delicious, thank you).

Thanks everybody!!