Category Archives: Personal Life

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

Stuff I Miss About Celebrating Christmas

I stopped celebrating Christmas a long time ago for reasons that are hard to condense into a single blog post, but there are still some things that I appreciate about this holiday.

With the twenty-fifth of December rapidly approaching, I thought it would be fun to talk about my favorite parts of this time of year in today’s blog post.

pexels-photo-189258

The Feasts

I love food like mashed potatoes with gravy, pumpkin pie, and devilled eggs. My mom would make all of this stuff alongside a lot of other delicious things for the big holidays.

We usually ate simple, one-pot meals throughout the rest of the year, so it was fun to sit down to something fancier at Christmas.

There are also plenty of snacks and treats that are only available for a short time during the year.

For example, my dad would buy the same kinds of German cookies and hard candies that his mother used to buy for him when he was growing up.

I’ve continued that tradition as an adult. It makes me feel connected to my grandmother even though we didn’t share many years together on this planet.

The Lights and Decorations

This is a dark, dreary time of year for the northern hemisphere. Ontario gets about 9 hours of daylight per day in December, but other places further north that get far fewer hours of sunshine than that. There are even towns where the sun doesn’t rise at all for weeks or months at a time.

(I don’t know about you, but I could never live in one of them!)

christmas-treeChristmas trees and holiday decorations in general make me smile because of this. It feels good to see so much extra light indoors.

Even the cheesy ones can be fun. There is definitely something to be said for putting in the effort to cheer up a public place regardless of what form it takes.

The candles, lightbulbs, and other festive baubles remind me that this season never lasts forever.

We will have warm, sunny days again even though it sometimes feels like the cold will never end.

The Time with Loved Ones

One of the few things I dislike about living in Toronto is that it means I live far away from my extended family.

I’m lucky to have good relationships with my parents, siblings, and other close relatives. We pack in as many visits as everyone’s budgets and workplaces allow, but I always wish we could spend more time together.

penguinsThe holidays remind me of how far away we live from each other.

When we’re apart during them, it’s nice to have a call to see how everyone is doing.

If we were penguins, it would look a little something like this. While the adults catch up on grown-up stuff, the little ones always manage to wiggle into the middle of the action to see what’s going on.

I’m amused by every single minute of it.

These are the things I carried with me once I stopped celebrating Christmas and started jokingly referring to the special meals I made as Festivus dinner instead. I wouldn’t give up any of these things I enjoy for anything in the entire world.

Regardless of what you’re celebrating or will be celebrating soon, I hope your days will be filled with light, love, and plenty of heavenly things to eat.

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 also show you how to submit guest posts and where to find my books.

Today’s post is about this site in general.

What Is lydiaschoch.com about? 

Writing, science fiction, exercise, mindfulness, and the occasional funny story from my personal life.

Why did you move to a new site?

  1. I wanted to have a URL that was easier to remember.
  2. I wanted to focus my blogging on a smaller number of topics.
  3. Sometimes change is a good thing.

Why isn’t there a contact form or comment section on this site?

While I deeply appreciated all of the real people who used them to reach out to me, the vast majority of the responses I received through those channels were from spammers and bots. It’s time for my inbox to stop being clogged up with suspicious links or garbled messages from pretty girls who think I’ll make a great husband. 😉

What is Suggestion Saturday?

Suggestion Saturday posts are a compilation of all kinds of stuff I’ve found online.

Typically they include at least some of the following things: poetry, comic strips, artwork, short sci-fi stories, or full-length articles about social issues that have caught my attention.

Three of the links in any given week come from folks I follow or have recently discovered on Twitter. It’s important to promote other people’s work, and this is such a fun way to do it.

If you have something that you’d like to see shared on a future Suggestion Saturday post, come tell me about it on Twitter. I’d love to check out what you’ve found.

Cheers,

Lydia

img_0424