Category Archives: Personal Life

Why I Love to Reread Books

Earlier this year I reread The Handmaid’s Tale in preparation for the miniseries based on this story that is coming out next week. Stay tuned! I am planning to blog about that series after I’ve seen it, but today I’ll be talking about rereading books in general.

Over the last few years I’ve also reread:

  • The Earth’s Children series
  • The Anne of Green Gables series
  • The Harry Potter series

Yes, I’ve read these stories so many times that I know every plot twist by heart. I’ve even been known to quote my favourite passages from them to my spouse when he least expects it.

There are a few different reasons why I occasionally like to go back and revisit these tales despite the fact that there are many new books left on my to-read list.

Reason #1: I Already Know I’ll Like the Story. 

Several months ago, I started reading something that I was fully expecting to love. The blurb was amazing, the reviews of it were really good, and I’d spoken to someone else who’d read it and thought it was wonderful.

Imagine how surprised I was when I could barely make it through the first scene. Not only was the main character written in a stereotypical manner, the narrator seemed more interested in describing what her body looked like than why she woke up in a world that had shifted from being completely ordinary to not making any sense at all.

I was disappointed. Rather than getting sucked into the story, I quietly closed the file and went looking for something else to read.

The nice thing about returning to old favourites is that I already know what I think of them. If they have flaws, I’ve already weighed them against the storyline and decided that they aren’t serious enough to destroy my warm feelings about the characters or plot in general.

Most of the books I read are still new to me, but sometimes it is really nice to be guaranteed a satisfying read.

Reason #2: I Don’t Always Identify with the Same Character.

I thought Marilla was a stuffy, old grouch the first dozen times I read Anne of Green Gables. Many of the rules she expected Anne to follow didn’t make sense to me, and I thought she was far too strict with the girl in general. The last time I read it, I was surprised by how much I empathized with her.

I am nowhere near Marilla’s age, but I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to suddenly become the permanent legal guardian of a rambunctious preteen who has never known a stable home life, has limited respect for social conventions, and pushes back against almost every boundary you try to set with her.

At least I have memories from a good childhood and a nephew who is close to Anne’s age. Marilla didn’t have any experience with children at all when she first met Anne, and the bits and pieces of her upbringing we later learn about make it sound strict and dreary. Nobody gave her warmth or affection at that age. All she had ever known was duty and hard farm work, and yet somehow she was expected to look after a young girl who was starving for affection.

All of these details make the strong, loving bond she eventually forges with Anne even more remarkable than I remembered it being.

Reason #3: I Know I’ll Find Something New in Them Every Time

Reading the same book again is like walking down your favourite trail and noticing small differences in the landscape this time. It was nowhere near this beautiful  – and possibly photoshopped?! – but when I was a kid I used to love to walk down short mountain trails and find plants I hadn’t noticed before.

No matter how many times my family had previously walked down those paths, there was always some kind of flower or shrub that I’d missed the last time. Had they not been in season on our last visit, or was I looking elsewhere then?

I don’t know, but last winter I reread my favourite book in the Earth’s Children series,The Valley of Horses. The Clan of the Cave Bear, the first book in that series, was full of difficult – and even traumatic – experiences for Ayla, the main character.

What I enjoy the most about The Valley of Horses is how much time she has to reflect on all of the things she experienced after she was permanently banished from her adoptive tribe. There were periods of loneliness in those years she spent living alone, but all of that solitude did give her the opportunity to heal emotionally from the things that had happened to her.

One of the details of this story that I’d begun to forget was that Ayla survived pneumonia while she was living on her own. As someone who has had this disease before, I’m amazed at how well she did at looking after herself while she recovered.

Even the mildest form of pneumonia is a nasty illness. It sucks every ounce of energy out of your body no matter how many hours of the day you sleep, and the symptoms can last for weeks if you happen to be a character living in a time and place where antibiotics won’t exist for another 30,000 years or so. Something as simple as taking a bath or staying awake for more than a few hours at once is extremely difficult even if you’re lucky enough to have a prescription for antibiotics, a warm, safe house, and a fridge full of nutritious food that can be reheated easily.

I can’t imagine having to prepare and cook food, gather wood, keep a fire going, melt snow or ice for water, stay alert for any hint of danger that might be approaching your cave, and try to recover from this horrible disease all at the same time.

It’s something I’d overlooked in the past, but it makes me like Ayla even more now that I’m aware of what that experience must have been like for her.

How about you? How do you feel about rereading books? I’ll be on Twitter throughout the day, and I’d love to discuss it with you.

Can You Be Mindful and Angry at the Same Time?

One of the things I find most challenging about practicing mindfulness is doing it when I’m angry. While I’m not the kind of person who loses their temper easily, I do have a tendency to ruminate on whatever is making me mad beyond the point where such an act still remains useful.

There was a time when I felt guilty about this. I wished I didn’t feel angry in those situations and that I could find  it easier to brush those feelings aside when they did pop up.  Even though I’m pretty good at responding to those things calmly when they are happening, I saw others looking far calmer than I felt when they were in the same kind of situation.

You see, I was comparing how I felt on the inside to how other people were acting. The interesting thing about this is that I had no idea what those other people were thinking about when they responded so calmly.

How someone behaves doesn’t always match up with how they’re feeling inside. For all I know, they could have been looking at my response and wondering the same thing about me. The first time I realized this, I literally laughed out loud.

The cool thing about practicing mindfulness is that it doesn’t require you to change how you feel. In fact, changing how you feel isn’t the point of it at all.

There’s No Such Thing as a “Bad” Emotion

Anger in and of itself isn’t helpful or harmful. Everything depends on what you do with that emotion and what thoughts you entertain when you feel it.

Do you jump to conclusions about what will happen in the future because you’re mad right now? Do you try to suppress it? Do you look for someone to blame for it? Do you assume it will last forever?

On the positive side, can you embrace the fact that this is how you’re feeling right now? Do you think back to other times in your life when you felt this way and remember how you dealt with them? Does your anger prompt you to do something to improve the situation if that’s possible?

There are healthy and unhealthy ways to handle every negative emotion that exists.

Mindfulness Isn’t About Always Being Zen

If the only people in this world who were allowed to practice mindfulness were the ones who are always patient and understanding when they were irritated by the people, places, or circumstances in their lives, there would only be about three of them on the entire planet…and I wouldn’t be one of them.

When I’m angry, I do my best to stop and experience that emotion without judging it or making any assumptions about what it means, whether it’s justified, how I’ll feel in the future, or how I think I should be feeling about it instead.

This is a much easier thing to talk about than it is to actually practice. I’m not going to tell you that I always succeed at simply feeling my emotions without assigning value to them or wishing they were different. Like you, I’m a human being. I have days when I live in the moment really well, and other days when I feel much more like this cat:

(I don’t normally include gifs in my posts, but this one was the perfect illustration for this point. It’s fun to imagine that this cat is a master of mindfulness when she’s not pushing everything off of the desk she’s sitting on. Who knows? Maybe she’s even figured out how to live in the moment while being mischievous!)

You’re in Control of the Process

There have been times when I’ve brushed an emotion aside not because I’m trying to avoid feeling it but because I’ve sat with it long enough.

Just because you’re mad right now doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same way five minutes, two days, or a month from now.

This is by far one of my favourite things about remembering to be mindful when I’m pissed off about something.

There is no handbook that says you can’t change your mind or that you’re only allowed to feel mad for X number of minutes at a time. The freedom of knowing I can sit with my anger for as long as is necessary actually makes me less likely to hold onto it.

It’s like telling a child that they’re only ever allowed to have one cookie regardless of how old they’ve become versus slowly allowing them to decide for themselves what they do and don’t eat.

By letting go of all expectations of what you’re support to do, it becomes much easier to stop after one cookie (or one wave of ire, in this case).

What Mindful Anger Looks Like

Mindful anger is…

  • Non-judgemental
  • Not attached to any one particular outcome
  • Open to change
  • Focused on what has already happened, not what might happen in the future
  • Honest
  • Aware and accepting of other emotions like fear or envy that could be the cause of it
  • Not vengeful

I hope you found this post helpful. If you have anything to add to this post, please let me know!

What Do You Read When You’re On Vacation?

I arrived home from a relaxing, tropical vacation a few days ago.

One of my personal earmarks of a good trip is what I got to read while I was away. Not only is it nice to get lost in a novel while you’re traveling to your destination, it’s also fun to have something to do during the inevitable parts of any trip where you have some free time to spare.

Luckily, I got to lose myself in a great book during those lulls in activity.

Those of you who have known me for a while might remember that Sarah Waters is one of my favourite non-science-fiction authors. A few years ago she released a book called The Paying Guests.

Without giving away any spoilers, The Paying Guests is set in roughly the World War I era. It’s about a formerly-wealthy family who must take in lodgers to help them pay the bills after their fortunes take a turn for the worse. Their adjustment to suddenly sharing their home with complete strangers is an incredibly difficult one for reasons you’ll have to discover for yourself. If you’ve read this author’s work before, you might be able to guess what at least one of those reasons are. The rest were harder to figure out ahead of time.

Humorously enough, I originally tried to read this book on a previous vacation a year or two ago. The trip ended before I could finish it, though, and I didn’t keep reading it because the first few chapters were paced so slowly. I was looking for something more adventurous at the time.

I finally decided to give it another try during this get-away. I knew I was going to have plenty of time to dig into a good story during it, and I was sure the plot would pick up once the characters had all had a chance to fully introduce themselves. Ms. Waters often makes her readers wait a while for the payoff. She’s never disappointed me before. Luckily, I was right about all of those things.

Reading Over a Friend's ShoulderThe atmosphere of this book was old-fashioned, straight-laced, and full of delicious mysteries. Of course, it also included a sweet romance that took a while to show up but felt completely natural for the plot once it did. The whole storyline couldn’t have been more different from the modern, casual, and sunny place I was visiting while I read it.

I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ve sure been loving what I’ve read so far. It’s hard to talk about it without giving away too many details, but this is classic Sarah Waters material. The crumbling but still somehow beautiful mansion is just as appealing to me as all of the secrets the characters are carrying in their hearts.

I love reading stories that are the polar opposite of my current surroundings. It makes both the real world and the fictional one I’m exploring seem more interesting than they’d be if they shared a lot of similarities.

This blog doesn’t host comments, but I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading lately if you’re on Twitter. I will be talking about this book and what other people like to read when they’re on vacation over there today.

Things Nobody Tells You About Moving to Canada

Twelve years ago I immigrated to Canada from the United States. Today I thought it would be fun to share a list of things I learned about moving up north that I found surprising, funny, or interesting.

International Postage is Slow and Expensive

It costs me about $1.35 to mail a greeting card to the United States. Once I actually ended up spending more to mail a small box of gifts to a family member than I spent on the presents themselves. Needless to say, I don’t regularly send boxes of goodies to my loved ones down south these days. They are only mailed off for the most special of occasions.

There’s also the time factor for international packages. It is often much slower than it would be to to mail something to someone within Canada. You need to send stuff early if you want it to arrive on time, especially during the busier seasons of the year. Normally I try to mail stuff out at least two weeks before I hope it will arrive. This is usually overkill, but there have been times when packages haven’t arrived until the tail end of that window of time.

Immigrants Are Everywhere, and They Are Welcomed Here

20% of the people who currently live in Canada were born somewhere else in the world. That percentage is more like 50% here in Toronto.

It’s so interesting to hear stories about where other Canadians came from and how they ended up living here. Some of my fellow immigrants originally moved here to go to university or to accept a specific job. Others came here because they fell in love with someone who already lived here just like I did. Regardless of why they’re here or when they arrived, I love hearing people talk about their adventures along the way to temporary work visas, permanent residency, and/or citizenship.

While my adopted country definitely  isn’t perfect, stories like this are common here. I’ve personally witnessed similar random acts of kindness playing out more than once in Toronto. It’s one of the things I really like about living here. There is an openness to strangers in Canadian culture that seeps into your bones once you’ve lived here long enough.

Canadians Have a Dark, Unique Sense of Humour

On the flip side, one of the first things I noticed when I moved up here was how dark the Canadian sense of humour can be. It’s not quite as dry or self-deprecating as British humour, but I can see how it was influenced by them . Both Canada and England laugh at things that aren’t quite as common to joke about in the States.

Sometimes my Canadian-born spouse likes to gently tease me when I react to Canadian jokes like an American would. They make me pull back even though I know there’s nothing malicious about them. I simply don’t quite understand why they find stuff like Nina Conti’s monkey puppet act so hilarious.

Obviously this is one of those things that not every Canadian immigrant will notice or think about. So much depends on which country you grew up in and what assumptions you make about how society works when you move to a new culture.

I hope that other Canadian immigrants who read this blog will consider writing their own posts about what they’ve observed here. It would be so interesting to get other perspectives on this. If anyone does this and lets me know about it on Twitter, I’ll edit this post to include links to their posts!

You Are (Probably) Going to be Doing Most of the Traveling to See Everyone Back Home
My parents spent a lot of time visiting us in Ontario during the first year or two I lived up here when I wasn’t legally allowed to leave the country. I was still waiting to become a Permanent Resident at that point, so the government wanted me to stay in the country full-time until all of that paperwork was sorted out.

Once I became a Permanent Resident, though, it quickly became clear that it’s a lot cheaper and easier for two young adults to go visit a few dozen relatives between the ages of 0 and 90+ than for those relatives to come up to Toronto.

We really appreciate getting the visitors we do up here, but my spouse and I are used to doing most of the traveling these days.

On a positive note, family reunions quickly become the highlight of your year. It is so much fun to be surrounded by relatives who are all thrilled to have you around for a week or two. Sometimes it feels like being a mini-celebrity because of how excited your family is to see you when you go back home.

These are a few of the many things that I didn’t know about life in Canada before I moved up here. Perhaps I’ll share more of them in a future post!

What I Read in 2016

booksI’ve been keeping track of every book I read for the last four years. Over half of the books I read were for a review site that I volunteer at under a pseudonym, so I omitted their titles from this post for privacy reasons.

The number of books I read overall was somewhat smaller than usual. I started plenty of them, but I didn’t finish as many as I normally do.

The number of biographies I read increased dramatically. It’s fascinating to read about how other people lived their lives. I was especially interested in how they handled failure and other life challenges. You can learn a lot about someone by seeing how they fixed problems in their lives that seemed insurmountable.

My poetry numbers were down. I normally love this genre, but I had a lot of trouble finding good stuff to read in it this year.

Everything else seemed to stay roughly even. They vary a little every year, of course, but they felt pretty constant to me.

Here is the final list:

Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs
“A Girl from Yamhill” by Beverly Cleary
“Sins of the Family” by Felicity Davis
“Balls: It Takes Some to Get Some” by Chris Edwards
“Hidden Lives” by Margaret Forster
“Beautiful Child” by Tory Hayden
“Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things” by Jenny Lawson
“A Child Called Hope” by Mia Marconi
“Empty Hands” by Sister Abigail Ntleko
“Mary Janeway” by Mary Pettit
“Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence” by Doris Pilkington
“Writing My Wrongs” by Shaka Senghor
“Unsweetined” by Jody Sweetin
“The Game Changer: A Memoir of Disruptive Love” by Franklin Veaux
“Raising Ryland” by Hillary Whittington
“A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles” by Mary Elizabeth Williams
History
“The Mother Tongue” by Bill Bryson
“The Day the World Came to Town”  by Jim Defede
“How to Be a Victorian” by Ruth Goodman
“The Many Deaths of Tom Thomson” by Gregory Klages
“The Indifference of Tumbleweed” by Rebecca Tope
Mainstream Fiction
“Midden-rammers” by John Bart
“Christmas Rose” by Marjorie Farrell
“My Notorious Life: A Novel” by Kate Manning
“I Will Send Rain” by Rae Meadows
“Noah’s Child” by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
Poetry
“Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot
Science Fiction and Fantasy
“MaddAdamm” by by Margaret Atwood
“Troll Bridge” by Neil Gaiman
“Woman on the Edge of Time” by Marge Piercy
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling
“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” by J.K. Rowling
“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” by J.K. Rowling
“The Martian: A Novel” by Andy Weir
Science and Medicine
“Too Much of a Good Thing” by Lee Goldman
“A Life Everlasting” by Sarah Gray
“The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health” by David R. Montgomery
“How to Clone a Mammoth” by Beth Shapiro
“Push Back” by Amy Tuteur
Sociology and Psychology
“Our Iceberg is Melting” by John Kotter
“Fast Food” by Andrew F. Smith
“Hair” by Kurt Stenn
“The Novia Scotia Home for Coloured Children” by Wanda Taylor

Introducing LydiaSchoch.com

Hello! I’m Lydia Schoch. I know a lot of you will discover this post by following a link to it from my old site, but I wanted to formally introduce this blog and website to new and old readers alike. The tabs at the top of this page will tell you about who I am as a person. They’ll… Read More