Wow. This month was not what I expected.
We went from the heights of seeing our new baby on the screen for the first time to the depths of parenting battles, flu and gastro. Through it all I tried to see it through the lens of gratitude as my experimental monthly theme.
Writing-wise it was a big month with the #Write31Days challenge keeping me on track. At first I enjoyed the rhythm of the writing, but when things started to get tough on the home front I found it more of a discipline than a thrill. If you missed out on reading my entries, take a look at the landing page here. The other downside was that I slowed down a lot with my historical fiction novel and I’m looking forward to getting back into that.
What I’m Reading
The Lake House (Kate Morton)
The size of this book was a little daunting at first, but Morton’s writing soon drew me in – her characters were interesting and engaging and the scene of the Lake House itself was vividly crafted. I loved the way the story spanned multiple generations and that characters I initially wrote off as one-dimensional became the ones I most resonated with when the story shifted to their perspective. The case of the missing child was well woven in, though I wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending but don’t want to say too much for fear of giving it away. I would definitely read more of Morton’s work, and particularly appreciate that she is a fellow Australian.
Wonder (R.J Palacio)
I loved this book. I really couldn’t put it down and ended up finishing it off in 24 hours. The story of August and his facial abnormalities was so beautifully woven to evoke such empathy and connection. This is a book I am definitely going to get my kids to read when they are old enough. The setting of the high school and the casting of the other students who interact with August is superbly done – particularly in avoiding setting them up as one-dimensional. Definitely a new favourite.
H is for Hawk (Helen Macdonald)
This was a book I heard about in the What Should I Read Next podcast as the favourite of one of the interviewees. I didn’t love it. I’m not even sure I can really put my finger on why – it was poetically written and interesting enough, delving into the obsession of Helen in her quest to train a goshawk which helps her deal in part with her grief following the death of her father. I think for me, she just wasn’t a likeable person on paper… taking advantage of pretty much every human in her life and becoming irrevocably consumed by her desire to train the goshawk. Perhaps if I knew a little more about what she was like before this moment in time, apart from scattered details about her obsession with birds and being a watcher originating since childhood, it may have been more cohesive? The weaving in of details of the life of author T.H White was interesting enough, but felt as if it was done because the story of Helen herself was too one-dimensional. In the end it was as if she revealed too much, but didn’t reveal anything at all.
Still Life (Louise Penny)
I should have read these novels in their writing order, but my enjoyment of this first in the Chief Inspector Gamache series was not dampened by having read it later. I love the setting of Three Pines and find the characters to be well-written for the most part and I like the way she weaves in nods to literature and psychology throughout. Given my mistake in reading these out of order I was immediately aware of who the culprit would be, given their non-appearance in the remainder of the series. This didn’t diminish my experience of the book, however, and I was fascinated to see how Penny would weave in the clues and red herrings. She didn’t disappoint.
Love Warrior (Glennon Doyle Melton)
I’ve been a long time Momastery fan, but this book was something else entirely. The writing, story-telling, vulnerability made it such a compelling book and one that I didn’t want to put down. I laughed, I cried, I felt connected to the whole story and simply enjoyed the experience. Rarely do you get such an honest picture into someone else’s marriage, and I felt like I learned a lot through their struggles to connect. Ultimately, however, the focus of the story on being brave enough to listen to yourself and not construct a ‘you’ that everyone else wants was super challenging and inspiring.
What I’m Watching
Dave and I found the concept for this show intriguing – the one lone designated survivor of a massive attack on the Capitol becomes President completely unexpectedly. The story of how a man who would never otherwise have become a world leader starts to find his feet and make decisions he never thought possible is compelling, though I’m not sure how long it will remain so. For now, an easy Saturday night watch for both of us.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
This New Zealand film was very enjoyable, despite considerably dark subject matter. Ricky Baker is a teenage foster kid who comes to live with childless couple Bella and Hector in a remote location near the bush. Dave and I found ourselves laughing out loud on many occasions, with the humour expertly written and delivered. I loved the connection and relationship between Ricky and Hector and the escapades that ensue following a dramatic event in both their lives. A great film and one I highly recommend.
In late high school it is very possible that I forced each and every one of my friends to watch this dramatisation of Shakespeare’s play. My sisters and I could almost quote this movie by heart and the character of Malvolio would send us into fits. The ingenuity of the crafting of the storyline, the way the characters intersect and weave around each other, the discussion of love and infatuation, identity and masks – all is woven together with such deftness that the crescendo in which all is revealed is such satisfying theatre. The embedded line “if this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction” is so perfectly placed.
Dave and I were completely fascinated by this story of a father’s quest to raise his children in a sustainable, highly educated, anti-Capitalist way. The juxtaposition of the six dynamic children against their very American cousins was stark and sobering. While we wouldn’t rush out to live off the land, rob supermarkets together as a ‘free the food’ mission and hand out weapons as presents for Noam Chomsky day, there were a lot of inspiring elements – particularly how the father chose to speak to his children – answering their questions honestly, sometimes brutally so, and always requiring depth of intelligence from them.
What I’m Listening To
I deviated from my usual podcasts a little this month, discovering some exciting new offerings and broadening my podcasting horizons.
Magic Lessons – Elizabeth Gilbert
This was my favourite podcasting find. I churned through episodes with Brene Brown, Glennon Doyle Melton, Cheryl Strayed and Rob Bell, as well as ‘You Have a Screaming, Not a Calling’ and ‘Living the Dream and Facing the Nightmare’. I find Gilbert’s approach of helping struggling creatives through their roadblocks to be inspiring and uplifting, and her advice always helps me in some way.
Let it Be
The feel of this podcast between Kelly Exeter and Brooke McAlary is kind of like eavesdropping on two friends having a conversation about doing life better. I listened to their conversations on ‘Resentment’, ‘Gratitude’ and ‘On Writing’ this month.
TED Radio Hour
The format of this program takes a topic and journeys through snippets of TED talks that relate. I listened to the episode on ‘Growing Up’ which was so interesting – delving into parenting approaches as well as the stories of people who had experienced exceptionally bad parenting or bullying growing up.
Ann Kroeker: Writing Coach
A great resource for writers offering encouragement, advice and tips on how to approach your craft.
What Should I Read Next with Anne Bogel
I listened to the episodes with Erik Fisher and Julie Smith – gaining lots of new books for my ‘to read’ lists.
The Simple Show with Tsh Oxenreider
I’m enjoying the new format of the show and have listened to a couple of episodes this month including ‘Routines, Golden Hours & Makers Schedules’ and ‘Very Married’.
Becoming Wise with Krista Tippett
For those who find the On Being episode lengths daunting, these mini-podcasts selet snippets from the longer shows and focus in on one topic or idea. I listened to ‘I Feel Therefore I am’ and ‘Spirituality is Enfolded into the Act of Living’.
Dave recommended this episode – ‘The Secret History of Thoughts’ and it was completely fascinating. Delving into the three approaches that one can take in relation to the importance of thoughts in the psyche, it followed the stories of two men – one who began having compulsive thoughts about killing his new wife and another who became trapped inside his own body for 20 years. I ugly cried along to the latter story, particularly at the impact of the care of this boy on his family and how they suffered as a result. More deeply it was such an interesting look at Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Mindfulness.
Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell
I have listened to only one of these podcasts – ‘The Lady Vanishes’ but as an Australian, I found the Julia Gillard part of the story to be very trying. Gillard’s stint as Prime Minister was saddled with problems far more complex than her wishful recasting that every attack was based on misogynistic and sexist grounds. To reduce the issue down to one of mere sexism and to compare her story to that of Elizabeth Thompson who clearly had exceptional talent and prowess as an artist was a little simplistic. I can’t say I’m hanging out to listen to the rest of the series if this is indicative of the level of investigative work. I guess it shows in one sense how history is simply cast according to the story-teller.
Let’s just say we have learned a lot this month with Eli. He can be the most mature, kind, excited boy when he has something to look forward to, but the most difficult, enraged, temperamental boy when he is overtired or frustrated. We have been reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe with him and he has relished the experience, responding with fascination particularly towards the Aslan figure. Eli’s imagination knows no bounds and he has become enthralled with the ninja turtles (despite never having seeing the show) and Vikings and spends hours practising his moves.
This guy is growing up. My favourite phrase of his at the moment is ‘hey…I have a idea!‘ At bedtime every night he has extended stories to tell us that involve something about a fire and a rescue and he gets very animated as he speaks. After having difficulties with his language it is so nice to see him making gradual improvement. We’ve been to a lot of specialists and assessments this month – a paediatrician, hearing tests and a development assessment and it looks like he will be getting some help soon.
This girl is hilarious. She is so attuned to people’s faces and moods and one of the best things is if she comes by and asks in a really sympathetic voice, head tilted to the side – ‘You O-tay?’ when you are lying on the couch. She has become a shadow of the boys and insists on disrobing and running outside after them to play. We’ve had our fair share of tantrums this month, as Ivy knows all too well what she wants and when she wants it, but she is getting better at using words and being flexible.
For a family usually so keen on adventures, we had very few this month. That’s not to say there weren’t some memorable moments mixed in, though.
Dave and I watched in wonder as we saw our little baby for the first time on the ultrasound screen:
We had a couple of fun crazy hour dinners:
I was lucky enough to have a girls’ lunch with my Mum and sisters (and Ivy):
We planted Camellias to frame our deck:
Visited the playground after dinner one night:
“Helped” Mum and Dad move into their new house:
Went Trick or Treating with friends and had lots of fun visiting all our neighbours in the estate:
Well, I am very hopeful that as November dawns, good health and energy will come with it. I miss hanging out with people and doing life together. Good-bye October – you have been one to remember…