Category Archives: Personal Life

What Is the Perfect Reading Spot?

Today’s topic is a lighthearted one.

My idea of the perfect reading spot has evolved over the years. I thought it would be fun to tell brief stories about where I used to love to read, why I chose those spots, why my preferences changed, and where I read today. Feel free to leave a comment with stories about your own favourite reading spots!

Behind the Couch

My grandparents were lucky enough to become grandparents at a fairly young age. They still had a house full of children when I was born, so they never bothered getting rid of a lot of the stuff that parents accumulate while raising kids. Many of the toys and books my mom and her siblings enjoyed were saved for us grandkids and, later on, the great-grandkids! My grandmother’s living room has a few large couches in it. They had, and still have, a cupboard filled with children’s books behind one of those couches.

Some of my earliest memories that have to do with reading involve climbing behind that couch and finding the same editions of classic fairy tales tucked back there that my mom read when she was a child. I read them over and over again while the adults chatted in the next room.

Underneath the Piano

As soon as I outgrew the small space between the couch and the cabinet full of books, I moved onto a spot beneath my grandparents’ piano. (Have you noticed the pattern of my early reading years yet?)

It didn’t look exactly like the piano in this photo, but it did have plenty of room to sprawl out underneath it if you were six or seven and unconvinced that social mores should always be followed.

The adults thought it was funny that I kept finding hiding spots to read.

I liked the fact that I was simultaneously close enough to listen in on their conversations while also in a place that was enough out of the way that no one would try to take my spot.

Reading underneath the piano also meant that I was a little closer to the kitchen. This came in handy when I read about some delicious treat that could only be found in a science fiction or fantasy book and needed to find a snack that actually existed here on Earth instead.

In a Beanbag Chair

My parents moved far away from our extended family when I was seven. We spent four years living in Laramie, Wyoming, and I’m convinced that I spent at least one of those years reading in a bean bag chair.

Where did that bean bag chair come from? I have no idea. It was probably a gift from someone, although I don’t remember what the occasion was or who might have given it to me.

It was the most comfortable reading spot I’d discovered at that point in my life, though. I sat in it over and over again until it finally wore out completely. My siblings and I were still homeschooled back then, so there were many hours of reading time to be had once our lessons were finished. This was even more true during the very long and snowy winter season in Laramie. There’s not much else to do other than read in the middle of a blizzard or when there are a few feet of snow on the ground.

I remember seeing the little white beads on the floor, so I think my beanbag chair either leaked or popped after a while. At any rate, this was roughly the same point in my life that my family switched from homeschooling to public schooling.

At the Library

By far my favourite part of attending public school was getting to visit the school library. They had hundreds of books there, and you could check them out as often as you wanted to.

I have a few memories of being in that library without my teacher. Maybe she gave a few of us permission to go there after we finished certain lessons early since our classroom was right down the hall from the library? At any rate, I read as much as I possible could there before the school year ended. If I could have visited during the summer, I would have.

Luckily, Laramie also had a well-stocked public library that my family visited regularly. My strongest memories of it are as follows:

  • Sitting in little wooden chairs and reading quietly while my siblings finished picking out what they wanted to borrow.
  • Looking at a sculpture of a large apple that had a big bite taken out of it. There may have been a worm crawling out of it, too. This piece of art was in the children’s section, and it utterly fascinated me.
  • Sneaking into the adult section of the library once to look around and being surprised when none of the adults noticed or cared. For some reason, I was convinced that the librarians would have disapproved of a child looking at books meant for grown-ups.

In a Hammock

My family moved back east where many of our extended family members lived when I was eleven.

The house we lived in had a large backyard full of trees that overlooked a lake. I bought a hammock with my savings, and my parents hung it between two trees.

I spent the next few years of my life reading out there whenever the weather was decent. It was such a peaceful place to read, especially when I occasionally glanced up and saw a neighbour swimming or boating past our yard. We’d never lived right next to a lake before, so it surprised me a little bit every single time that happened.

At the Park

The best reading years of my childhood began when I was fifteen and we moved away from the countryside and into a small town.

Our house was a ten to fifteen minute walk from the public library, so I could finally go to the library as many times each week as I wanted to  without having to ask anyone to drive me there.

This meant that I sometimes went every day in the summertime! There was a small park right next to the library, and a bigger park about halfway between our home and the library.

I spent a lot of time hanging out in them when the weather was nice. Our community was far too small to have festivals, parades, or other large events more than a few times a year, so it was nice to have all of that free entertainment at my fingertips.

On My Smartphone

These days I’m all about ebooks and reading online in general.

The beautiful thing about having a smartphone is that I always have something to read if I’m stuck in a waiting room or on a delayed subway car. Carrying around a book isn’t always practical, especially since you can’t always predict when you might suddenly have twenty minutes to spare and nothing to do during that time.

It’s also nice to have dozens of books at my fingertips. Whether I want something serious or lighthearted, it’s easy to find online if I don’t already have it in my virtual library.

Where do you like to read? How have those preferences changed over the years?

Minimalism and Valentine’s Day

After my last two posts, it might come as a surprise to some readers to be reminded that my spouse and I don’t actually celebrate Valentine’s Day. We’ve been married for over twelve years now, and we’ve never done anything out of the ordinary for this holiday other than possibly showing each other clever gifs and memes about it if we find some good ones.

No, this post isn’t going to be a rant against Valentine’s Day as a concept. I’m all for showing someone how you feel about them on February 14 as well as on every other day of the year. No one knows for sure how long they have left on this Earth, so I’d never discourage anyone from make their loved ones feel appreciated.  If celebrating Valentine’s Day in the traditional way with chocolates, flowers, jewelry, and a fancy dinner makes someone happy, good for them!

I believe in living a simple and minimalist lifestyle for myself, though. That belief sticks with me no matter what date is on the calendar or how much advertisers try to convince me to buy things I don’t need.

Minimizing Waste

 Buying something you have no use for is a waste of time, money, and emotional energy. Spending more than you would have spent if you waited a few more weeks to purchase the same exact product is equally wasteful.

Every year, I watch the price of romantic items like  flowers and chocolates rise sharply before Valentine’s Day only to fall back to their normal prices shortly after that holiday. For example, there is a fancy type of dairy-free chocolate I can eat that costs about $20 for a dozen pieces during most of the year. That same quantity of chocolate is sold in pretty boxes for about $25 during Valentine’s Day season.

These prices affect everyone who purchases these products, so it always surprises me to see people pay so little attention to them.

If you’re going to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a traditional way, why not buy silk flowers and pick out the card, wrapping paper, and other non-perishable stuff for next year when all of that paraphernalia goes on sale this year? Or, better yet, why not celebrate it at the end of February when everything is deeply discounted?

Given my over-active immune system, Valentine’s Day would also be a wasteful holiday for me for a few reasons that don’t apply to everyone. I’m mildly allergic to milk, so 99% of the Valentine’s Day chocolate out there isn’t something I can actually eat. I’m also mildly allergic to flowers, so any bouquet of live flowers is going to make me sneeze and cough uncontrollably until I throw it away.

Minimizing Clutter

Even though I live in a very small home and regularly try to donate or throw away things that are no longer useful to me, I still own more stuff than I need.

(My mother used to complain about this same phenonemon when I was a kid. I didn’t understand it then, but I sure do now!)

Other than the winning lottery number, of course, there are very few non-consumable things in this world that I would like but don’t currently own.

While I’d appreciate the sentiment if my spouse bought me something like a stuffed animal or jewelry for this holiday, I never want or expect anything like that. It’s not my style, and I’d much rather save the majority of that money and maybe splurge on $20 worth of fancy chocolates once the price for them finally drops again.

What I really want is to have an uncluttered home as much as is possible given our small living quarters and need to store the things that we do use often enough to keep.

If someone wants to give a Valentine’s Day gift, I know exactly what I’d recommend to them.

The Best Valentine’s Day Present of Them All

Love is the best Valentine’s Day present of them all. When I say love, I’m talking about every kind of it you can imagine:

The love that two or more people share when they’re in a romantic relationship. 

The love of a parent for their child.

The love of a family – whether chosen, biological, adoptive, or foster –  for everyone who is part of it.

The love shared between friends.

The love a person feels for their pet. 

The love a pet feels for their human. 

The love a stranger feels for another stranger.

The love we feel for ourselves.

Unlike chocolate, nobody ever suddenly runs out of love. Love doesn’t require batteries, lose pieces every time you move, or need to be protected from the elements. There is no manufacturer’s warranty for it, and you can’t find it in any store.

Love is free. Love is precious.

If I were going to celebrate this holiday, I’d do it by telling all of the people I care about how much they meant to me.

Thank you for reading this blog, followers. I deeply appreciate every single one of you, and I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day.

 

The Cold That Stuck Around (Or Why I Haven’t Lifted Weights in Ages)

Every once in a great while, my body meets a cold virus that decides it likes living in my body and becomes reluctant to leave it. I’m talking about the kind of devotion that some people are never lucky enough to experience once in their entire lifetimes. If it didn’t involve so much coughing, I’d be much more willing to feel sorry for those poor viruses who hang around for as long as they do.

I like to blame this on the fact that I didn’t grow up in Canada as well as the fable that I therefore have yet to mingle with some of the more virulent germs floating around up here. When Canadians emigrate to the U.S., I’m sure they’re occasionally just as surprised by our fierce American germs down there. (I will now wait for my mother, who has worked in the medical field for over 20 years and has no doubt forgotten more about these things than I’ll ever know, to shake her head and laugh at the idea of Canadian vs. American viruses.)

For the past few weeks, I’ve had about as much stamina and energy as the sleeping cat in the picture on the left.

There were a few beautiful naps to be had in the early stages of The Cold That Stuck Around™, and I was grateful for every one of them.

After the sneezing, fatigue, and congestion finally began to fade away, I started thinking about weightlifting again. I miss it every single time I have to take a break from it to heal from an injury or illness.

As usual, I waited a couple of days until after my cough finally faded away before tentatively doing a light bodyweight fitness routine that I normally find pretty easy. I was otherwise  feeling well by this point, and I really wanted to get back into my normal routine before the new year.

Something tells me The Cold That Stuck Around™ was expecting this, because I began coughing at the end of that workout. It wasn’t a hacking cough, but it did bother me off and on for the rest of that day.

The next morning I was still coughing, so I took another couple of days off to rest. Yesterday, I decided to try to reach my daily step count goal without doing any weightlifting. Maybe that fairly small amount of exercise would be acceptable while I healed.

I’ll give you the amount of time it takes to read this sentence to guess how that turned out for me.

Yes, I had another coughing fit this morning. It was milder than the last one, but I clearly haven’t shaken off The Cold That Stuck Around™quite yet.

I otherwise feel perfectly healthy. It’s hard to justify the idea of not getting my normal amount of exercise in, but clearly my body isn’t quite ready for that yet.

So now here I am staring wistfully at my weights as I wonder when I’ll get to use them again. In the scheme of things, it is a very minor problem to have. I honestly shouldn’t even be complaining about it at all, but I’m going be very happy when the-virus-that-shall-not-be-named finally wanders away for good and I’m no longer coughing at all. There are many things in life I can be perfectly patient about,  but this isn’t one of them.

I hope that all of your fitness routines are going much more smoothly!

What I Read in 2017

As I mentioned a year ago in What I Read in 2016, every January I blog about what I read in the previous year. Over half of the books I read in any given year are for a review site that I volunteer for under a pseudonym, so I omitted their titles from this post for privacy reasons.

When I first began keeping track of this, I read poetry occasionally. I still enjoy individual poems, but for the past few years my interest in this genre has dropped sharply as far as full books of it go.

The science fiction numbers look like they’ve been decreasing, but that’s because most of the sci-fi I read these days has been for that review site. I’m still as interested in it as ever.

I did read a lot more young adult fiction this past year than I have in the past. That was a fun experience, and it’s something I’d like to repeat in 2018.

One final big change I’ve noticed in my reading habits over the past six years has been when I do (and don’t) read a lot. It used to be fairly consistent, but now I read much more in the summer and the winter when the weather is too far on either extreme to spend a lot of time outdoors.

Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs

“A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley

“Gold Rush Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Nellie Cashman” by Thora Illing

“My Life My Love My Legacy” by Coretta Scott King

“The Waiting” by Cathy LeGrow

“The Alpine Path” by Lucy Maud Montgomery

“Marjorie Too Afraid to Cry” by Patricia Skidmore

“Simeon’s Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till” by Simeon Wright

Graphic Novels

“Secret Path” by Gord Downie

History

“The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women” by Kate Moore

“Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners” by Therese Oneill

“Snacks: A Canadian Food History” by Janet Thiessen

“Sick Kids: The History of the Hospital for Sick Children” by David Wright

“A Square Meal” by Jane Ziegelman

Mainstream Fiction

“Clan of the Cave Bear ” by Jean. M. Auel

“The Mammoth Hunters” by Jean M. Auel

“The Valley of Horses” by Jean M. Auel

“The Snow Child” by Eowyn Ivey

“The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion

Science Fiction and Fantasy

“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

“The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant” by Drew Hayes

“The Ghost Line” by Andrew Neil Grey and J.S. Herbison

“Children of the Dust” by Louise Lawrence

“Sweetlings” by Lucy Taylor

Science and Medicine 

“Almost Human: The Astonishing Tale of Homo Naledi and the Discovery that Changed Our Human Story” by Lee Berger

“The Discovery of Insulin” by Michael Bliss

The Salt Fix: Why the Experts Got It All Wrong and How Eating More Salt Might Save Your Life” by Dr. James DiNicolantonio

“The Case Against Fragrance” by Kate Grenville

“Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats” by Maryn McKenna

“Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creatures” by Ben Mezrich

“Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story” by Angela Saini

“The Case Against Sugar” by Gary Taubes

“Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Sociology and Psychology

“We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze” by Svend Brinkmann

“Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin” by Anne Katherine

“Dealing with a Narcissist” by Darlene Lancer

“Coping with Your Difficult Older Parent” by Grace Lebow and Barbara Kane

“Why Won’t You Apologize?” By Harriet Lerner

“The Atheist Muslim” by Ali. Rizvi

“Think Small: The Surprisingly Simple Way to Reach Big Goals” by Owain Service

Young Adult 

“The Crossover” by Kwame Alexander

“Allegedly” by Tiffany D. Jackson

“Sold” By Patricia McCormick

“A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness

“The Nest” by Kenneth Oppel

“The Hired Girl” by Laura Amy Schlitz

“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

My Most Popular Posts of 2017

2017 was my first full year of blogging here at lydiaschoch.com. Today I wanted to take a moment to look back at the most popular posts of the year. I’ll begin with the tenth most popular post and work my way up to number one from there.

If you happened to miss any of them when they were first published at various points over the last year, now is a great time to click on the links and catch up.

10. My Blog Won a Liebster Award.

9. The Top 5 Must-Haves If You Want to Start Exercising.

8. How to Survive a Post-Apocalyptic Storyline.

7. 5 Things That People Who Have Allergies Wish You Understood.

6. 5 Reasons Why You Should Read Science Fiction and Fantasy.

5. Things Nobody Tells You About Moving to Canada.

4. Scifi and Fantasy Rules That Should Be Broken.

3. Stuff I Miss About Celebrating Christmas.

2. The Tale of the Coveted Cookies.

1. Why You Should Be Following the Mystery of Tom Thompson’s Death.

I was expecting the post about Tom Thompson to rank highly since I received so much positive feedback about it when it was first published. It came as no surprise to me to see it in the number one slot.

It was nice to see so many of my science fiction and fantasy posts be represented. I don’t always get a ton of feedback on them as far as sharing them on Twitter goes, but it looks like they’re still being read and enjoyed.

There were a couple of surprises on this list.  I wasn’t expecting the post about moving to Canada to rank so highly, though. It was something I wrote on the spur of the moment when none of my other ideas for that week panned out. I’m pleased that people enjoyed it, though.

The Tale of the Coveted Cookies turned out to be far more popular than I thought it would be as well. It was something I typed up mostly for the sheer joy of reliving that memory, so I was thrilled to see it resonating with my readers. This goes to show that you can’t always predict ahead of time what people will find amusing.

I am planning to continue this tradition of exploring my post popular posts next December. It will be interesting to see if a similar mixture of topics dominates the 2018 roundup.

In the meantime, I hope 2017 was a good year for all of my readers. I’ll post the final Suggestion Saturday in two days, and I’ll be blogging about the books I read in 2017 for my normal Monday post on the first of January.

Cheers!

Why I’m Giving Up on My TBR List

Today’s post is going to be short and sweet. My to-be-read list has been growing by leaps and bounds for ages now. There something about the end of the year that makes me pause and reflect on little things like this to see how they’re working for me. The problem with TBR lists is that… Read More

Dual Citizens Get Two Thanksgivings

Seven years ago, I became a Canadian citizen. There are many things I love about being a citizen of both Canada and the United States. Having the excuse to celebrate Thanksgiving twice every year is definitely part of that list. Yes, this is blog post about food. No, this isn’t about turkey. Don’t tell the… Read More