Category Archives: Personal Life

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: The Most Creative Halloween Costume I’ve Worn

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So here’s the thing about being a preacher’s kid: it can give you a childhood that’s a little off the beaten path in certain ways.

My family didn’t celebrate the secular, mainstream version of Halloween until I was 11*, so I only had a few years of trick-or-treating and picking out a costume before I aged out of that tradition. I  was so thrilled to finally be able to dress up, get some candy, and say “Trick or Treat” that I didn’t worry about choosing creative costumes. One year I was a nurse, another one I was a mime, and I don’t remember what I decided to be that third year. I wasn’t allowed to pick anything scary or gross, and late October used to be a much colder time of year than it often is now, so I probably picked the warmest costume I could find.

*We went to Harvest Festivals instead which are a Christian alternative to Halloween for some denominations. They were an interesting mixture of the sort of cute Halloween or autumn party you might throw for a class of preschoolers and some scary skits about various religious topics like the spiritual dangers of trick-or-treating. I don’t believe we were allowed to dress up for them because that was considered sinful, but we did get candy, a few small toys, and to play fun games like bobbing for apples!

The most creative Halloween costume I’ve seen on someone else was made to look like a pink birthday cake. This person spent hours decorating cardboard to look like a cake, and I think they used pink and white tissue paper or something to give the appearance of light, fluffy frosting on the cake. It was a beautiful costume but apparently rather stiff and uncomfortable to wear.

One year I also saw about a half dozen people dressed as dominos (the game pieces, not the pizza place). I always wondered how they decided who would be which domino and where they got their costumes from.

a hazy pink photo of a ghost standing in a hallway that’s lit by a pink light. The viewer is looking at it from the perspective of a pitch black room where nothing else can be seen in the foreground. I’ve never gotten into dressing up for Halloween as an adult, but I know what I’d pick if I did.

A ghost.

Think about it: you get to stay warm, comfortable, and anonymous under your cozy bedsheet, gently frighten the locals without resorting to anything gory or offensive, and maybe even rattle some cool metal chains.

What’s not to like about that?

It’s a vastly underrated costume choice if you ask me. I haven’t seen anyone dressed up as a ghost in Toronto in years, and I think this deserves a strong comeback.

If I’m going to dress up, it’s going to be in something comfortable and practical even if it is Halloween.

Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: How I Shake Off a Bad Mood

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A white iPhone is lying on a wooden floor. The screen of the iPhone is black except for a yellow face that has an angry expression on its face. The top of its head is pink and just beginning to turn red in anger. My assumption for this week’s prompt is that we’re talking about bad moods that have innocuous, non-medical causes and aren’t a sign of anything seriously wrong in life.

I’m usually a pretty upbeat person, but we all have grumpy days eventually. This is what I do to shake off those feelings.

1) Eat a snack. Low blood sugar can cause a bad mood for me.

2) Take a nap or go to bed early. I can get a little grouchy when I haven’t had enough sleep, too.

3) Read or watch something comedic. It’s hard to laugh and still feel out of sorts afterwards.

4) Take a long walk out in nature.

5) Spend time alone. I love people, but I also need to charge my introvert battery regularly.

6)  Mute the news for a while. The negative slant they bring to everything in order to get more clicks and views is sometimes too much for me.

7) Perform a random act of kindness.

8) Write a thank you note to anyone who has done something nice for me lately. It could be for a friend, relative, clerk at a local business, or anyone else who made my day better.

9) Dance or lift weights. Exercise is such a great mood booster.

A combination of these things usually works well for me if one of them doesn’t do the trick on their own.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: The Weirdest Thing I Loved as a Child

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A photograph of a very old graveyard. The gravestones are covered in moss and have most of their etchings either hidden by moss or worn away. The largest and nearest one has begun to bend over and looks like it might soon fall over entirely. Please note that this post includes references to child mortality and epidemics because little Lydia read tons of stories about (typically Victorian-era) children who caught all sorts of unpleasant illnesses. This will be a general overview, and I will not be going into detail about specific characters, individuals, or causes of death.

The weirdest thing I loved as a child was visiting the pre-1950 (ish?) sections of graveyards, figuring out how old the people there were when they died, and trying to guess what might have killed them and if they would have survived if they had access to modern medicine. I was most interested in the gravestones of those who died young because almost everyone I knew who died had done so at a ripe old age.

Why was I interested in this? Well, there were a few reasons for it:

1)  I’ve always thought cemeteries are beautiful and peaceful places to remember the dead. I liked seeing the pretty tombstones, reading names on them that maybe weren’t so commonly used these days, and pondering their creative epitaphs.

2) Getting sick made me anxious in small part because of how many classic novels I’d read about kids being disabled or killed by all sorts of diseases that can now be cured with medications like antibiotics or prevented entirely with vaccines. (See also: Beth March from Little Women, Helen Burns from Jane Eyre, and Mary Ingalls from the Little House books). It was always nice to go to the library later on, or maybe ask my mother who was training to become a nurse back then, and learn about how modern medicine has radically changed the world in this regard.

3) It made getting vaccinated slightly less horrible. I still hated needles, but at least I knew why vaccines were so important.

4)  I liked being scared, and it was frightening to read lists of names on a gravestone who died one right after the other and realize they were probably related and suffered from the same illness.

In conclusion, I have a bit of a gothic side. Don’t tell anyone. 😉

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Three Fun Facts About Myself

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The numbers 1, 2, and 3 are beige coloured and lying on a red surface. Beneath each letter is a small lego: a white one underneath the number 1, a black one underneath the number 2, and a red one underneath the number 3. Once again, I’d like to have a crystal ball so I can see how you all answer this question! Will you be telling us a secret? Posting pictures? Sharing funny childhood stories? Or maybe something else entirely?

Here are three fun facts about me that I don’t think I’ve shared on my blog before:

1. I once stopped driving and pulled over to the side of a quiet, flat, country road to save a turtle that had been flipped over on its back. There were no other vehicles anywhere to be seen in either direction, so I was not putting myself in harm’s way by doing this. The turtle was a greenish-brown little creature that was about the size of a small dinner plate. It wasn’t at all heavy to pick up and probably weighed no more than 5 pounds. It didn’t look anything like a snapping turtle, but I’m not sure which type of turtle it was. I picked it up, brought it to the edge of the road, and made sure it was walking into the grass safely where it would live happily ever after before I drove off again.

2. I was born with an innocent heart murmur that wasn’t diagnosed until I was an adult. It’s called an innocent murmur because it doesn’t cause any health problems and doesn’t need to be treated. Some of you may have one, too! About 10% of adults and 30% of kids have them, so it’s a pretty common variation of normal. I only ever think of it when I meet a new doctor who pauses and listens again to my heart while examining me.

3. I  have always loved educational stuff. When I was a teenager, my family visited some family friends in a big city. There was a gorgeous, huge museum there I desperately wanted to see. Our hosts said museums were boring and wanted to show us a local mall instead. Mom took me aside and told me to be polite, so I smiled and said nothing more about it.

My only memory of that excursion is of patiently sitting in a food court with a neutral expression on my face as I silently felt the sting of disappointment and the grating texture of boredom that somehow seems worse when you’re a kid or teen.

On a positive note, I have visited that museum multiple times since then and always have a marvellous time examining their fossils, paintings, and artifacts in detail.

But I still don’t like going to the mall. Ha!

(This is in no way a judgement of people who love shopping or malls, by the way. May you enjoy those hobbies to your heart’s content. Our hosts and I simply had wildly different ideas about what is fun in life, and I doubt they realized what a rare treat visiting a museum was for rural people who didn’t have a lot of disposable income.

We had a mall in the town we lived in, but it was about a one-hour drive to the nearest small museum and  several hours to a full day of driving for the large ones. Due to the cost of gas, multiple meals, parking fees, highway tolls, and possibly renting a motel room or two for the night in addition to buying general admission tickets to a museum, we were only able to afford to do this about once every five to ten years when I was growing up. It was a huge deal whenever it happened, and it was one of the many reasons why I moved to an urban area as an adult).

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: A Job I Wouldn’t Be Good At

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A neon sign lit up against a black night sky in a city. You can see a skyscraper next to the sign. The words “Peninsula Night Club” are in neon blue on the sign. The word “liquor” is larger than all other words and in neon orange on the sign. The word “dancing” is on the bottom of the sign and in neon pink. If any of you secretly own a nightclub and are looking for people to work late hours and pressure your patrons into buying watered-down alcohol while the DJ blares eardrum-rattling music all night long, I am not a good candidate for the role for the following reasons:

1) I am a morning person who needs an early-ish bedtime and a stable sleep schedule in order to function properly and stave off ugly sleep-deprivation migraines,

2)  Migraines give me horrible noise sensitivity, so I would not be able to  remain in a noisy environment if I’m at any point in the migraine cycle.  I also really don’t want to suffer permanent hearing loss from dangerously noisy work,

3) Sales is not something I’m naturally good at,

4) When I worked roles that involved sales in the past, I only said truthful things to my customers and respected their boundaries if they didn’t want to upgrade to a more expensive model of whatever they were shopping for or add extra items to their order. I  never pressured them to buy anything they weren’t interested in and actually got in trouble sometimes for not selling stuff that my customers never wanted or needed in the first place,

5) I haven’t touched alcohol in years, wouldn’t know what to recommend other than telling everyone to go drink a strawberry margarita*, and would be perfectly honest every time someone asked if the drinks were watered down or otherwise deceptively advertised.

*Back when I did occasionally drink alcohol, it was at most two or three glasses of it per year, and strawberry margaritas were one of the handful of drinks that might entice me. I liked the fruit and the fruit juice in them a thousand times more than the alcohol, though, so now I just ask for a freshly-squeezed orange juice or something for rare celebratory moments instead.

So there it is. You now all know my weaknesses and what sort of job I’d be terrible at. Please make your hiring decisions accordingly. 😉

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: A Job I’d Be Good At

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I’m going to give two long answers to this week’s prompt because I have a lot to say on this subject. One answer is a job that actually exists, and the other is a job that should exist.

Closeup photo of hardback, antique books with red covers and gold stars on their spines. The words “Volume I,” “Volume II,” and “Volume III” are stamped in gold ink on their spines. Professor

As far as the former goes, I would have loved to become  a professor.

I spent a few years tutoring other students to make some extra pocket money when I was in college. It was so exciting to finally figure out the best way to explain a topic to someone (or a group of people) who had been struggling to understand it.

I was lucky enough to do some training of new staff in jobs I had after graduation, too, and found teaching them to be mentally stimulating and worthwhile every single time.

If the job market for English professors wasn’t so slim, I would have happily gone on to earn my Master’s degree and Ph.D. in order to pursue this line of work.

Unfortunately, by the time I started college the administrators were already replacing tenured professors who had stuff like health insurance and retirement accounts with part-time adjunct positions. There were actually a few professors who taught both at the community college I started at and the four-year college I earned my Bachelor’s degree from. They worked just as hard as anyone else in their field but had low pay, no benefits, and little job security.

I would have happily taught all sorts of composition, literature, creative writing, history, and similar courses if we lived in a world where getting your Ph.D. was more affordable and almost always ended with one being offered a full-time, permanent job with benefits that could easily pay off student loans and cover all of the other expenses of life, too.

Can’t you see me strolling down the halls of some college or university and nodding a friendly hello to students passing me by before going to my office to grade essays? I sure can. I would have kept a candy dish full of treats in my office to serve as an icebreaker for nervous students.

(Well-Paid) Book Reviewer

A white person wearing a black sweatshirt is holding up the Book Review section of the New York Times while standing outside on a cloudy day.My second answer involves a problem that many writers and publishers have that I sorely wish I could help to solve for them.

I’ve been writing book reviews for over a decade now and, without trying to toot my own horn here, have a file full of positive feedback on how thorough, kind, and honest my reviews are.

If there were some way to create full-time, permanent jobs with benefits for book reviewers, I’d be the first person in line for it.

There are so many amazing stories out there that never get enough attention because of how time consuming it is for reviewers to go through the reading, analyzing, and reviewing process even if you happen to be a fast reader and talented writer who has a lot of experience translating your reactions to a tale into review form.

This is equally true for short stories, novellas, and picture books that I’ve seen some new reviewers assume must be simpler to write about. Yes, you can often finish reading them in shorter period of time than it would take to read a full-length novel, but the review writing process is the same and may even take much longer than usual if you need to figure out how to share relevant details about it that support your criticisms or compliments without giving away spoilers.

Sometimes I need to read these stories multiple times and take detailed notes in order to figure out how to word my review fairly, accurately, and in a spoiler-free manner. For a picture book, this can be done in ten to twenty minutes depending how many notes I need to take and is no big deal.

Rereading a possibly confusing or dense 100-page novella again to catch all of the nuances to it I might have missed the first round, though, can take as much (and possibly even more) time than picking a full-length novel to begin with.

Does this happen every time? No, of course not, but page counts can only tell you so much about how you’ll react to what you’re about to read or how tricky it might be to write a good review of it. I’ve been surprised multiple times by which books were and were not easy to review.

(Now don’t get me wrong. I love reviewing shorter works that generally don’t get as much attention as novels do, but there are still no shortcuts here).

It would be so much easier for authors and their books to get more exposure and gain new readers if this sort of job actually existed. Who knows! Maybe someday we’ll have a Star Trek sort of economy that enables everyone to do the work they love the most.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Describe Your Fashion Sense

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My fashion sense is comfortable and practical.

I tend to gravitate towards dark shades of purple, red, blue and green because those colours look best on me. (Especially purple!)

A white woman who is wearing a dark red t shirt, black sneakers, and a pair of jeans is sitting on some wooden bleachers in front of a brick wall. She has loosely curly brown hair, is wearing sunglasses and a watch, is holding a grey jacket, and is smiling as she leans her right arm on her left knee and leans forward towards the audience. Here’s a photo of me from last autumn so you can see what I typically wear. Jeans, yoga pants, and subtle shirts that generally don’t have any writing, logos, or obvious designs are what fill up my wardrobe for the most part.

I buy clothing that can be washed in a regular washing machine with as little fuss over it as possible. (That is to say, no ironing or dry cleaning, please.) Rarely, I’ll splurge on something that needs to be air dried if I otherwise love it, but the rest of the time I prefer clothes that can be tossed into the dryer without a second thought.

Softness is important, too, so I avoid scratchy fabrics like wool or lace. I want my clothing to move naturally with my body, provide adequate coverage from the elements, be okay if it gets a splash of mud on it while I’m out in nature, and to impede my movements as little as possible.

Brand names mean almost nothing to me when it comes to clothing. This was different before fast fashion became so ubiquitous and drove down the quality in so many stores, but I’ve noticed that some brands I used to spend more money on are no longer worth it. The $50 shirts from higher end stores tend to fall apart just as fast as the $10 shirt I picked up on sale at a fast fashion store these days, so why bother spending more in most cases?

(I sincerely hope this changes. I would happily spend more on clothing if it were constructed better and if more of the profits were passed onto the workers who sewed and/or sold it. But if it’s all equally poorly made and the workers often aren’t treated well either way, I’d rather keep my attire budget smaller and save or donate the rest).

I do tend to buy name brand shoes because my feet still notice a big difference between thrifty, poorly-made shoes that wear out in a month or two and better-made shoes that I can wear for the entire year. So I suppose that is one area where certain brands matter to me.

To be honest, fashion isn’t something I think much about aside from what I said earlier. If I ever have more money than I know what to do with, I might hire someone to show me other styles that might suit me. For now, though, I’m happy with my practical and thrifty wardrobe.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Recent Songs I’ve Loved

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Photo of a rainbow audio spectrum capturing the sounds of various notes that are being played. The colours are, from left to right, purple, red, orange, yellow, green, and blue, and each colour is at a slightly different height against the black background. In addition, the colours have dim reflections of themselves in the shiny black but dimmer floor of this image as well. I know this week’s prompt only asked for one answer, but I’m going to give four because I couldn’t narrow them down any more and, just like I do with books, I also jump around between musical genres.

As I’m a pretty new listener to three of my four answers, I had to make a guess as to what genre some of them best fit into.

Brutal by Olivia Rodrigo

Genre: Punk Rock

Why I Like It: This is something I discovered while watching the first episode of the science fiction television show The Power. I like the way it captures the angst of being a teenager who is still figuring themselves out and doesn’t know how to respond to adults who romanticize that stage of life. This is great for when you’re maybe a little grumpy and need to vent your frustrations through music.

 

When We Were Kings by The Temptations

Genre: R&B

Why I Like It: It tells the 60-year story of how the Temptations came to be and what they’ve done over their incredibly long music career. How cool is that? I’ve slowly been going back and listening to their entire catalogue. They’ve made so many beautiful and uplifting songs, many of which are about how love can enrich your life.

 

Opera #2 by Vitas (Go here for an English translation of lyrics)

Genre: A fun mashup of Opera, Classical, and maybe a little Folk music thrown in there, too?

Why I Like It: Vitas has an amazing voice, and his music videos are like little works of art with the stories they tell. I can’t help but to wonder what encouraged him to write such a sad song, though.

 

 

Gambia by Sona Jobarteh (Go here for an English translation of lyrics)

Genre: A contemporary spin on traditional Gambian music.

Why I Like It: This is a joyful song about Sona’s love for her people and her country. The music video is a beautiful tribute to the peaceful daily lives of people in Gambia as well.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Non-Bookish Hobbies

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A row of black dumbbells lined up neatly and orderly on a white floor. The wall behind them is white as well. I’ve answered similar questions here in the past, so some of this may be a repeat for those of you who have read my blog for a while.

My non-bookish hobbies include:

1) Weightlifting

It’s one of my favourite forms of exercise.

2) Practicing Spanish

Now I can speak like a fluent toddler! Hehe. Pronunciation is tough, though, so I need to keep working on stuff like rolling my r’s and remembering which letters are generally silent or pronounced differently in Spanish.

 

3) Long, Rambling Walks

I will begin them with a general destination in mind like park X, or beach Y, or neighbourhood Z and then see what’s interesting there today.

One day that might mean walking up and down the beach until my legs are worn out by the sand. The next walk might involve browsing in all sorts of cool little shops along the way in a certain neighbourhood or it trying out a new trail at a park that I haven’t fully explored yet.

Some walks are brisk, athletic, and involve hills. Others are more like meandering strolls that aren’t exercise-y at all. I love all of them.

 

4) Card Games

Fast-paced card games like Dutch Blitz as well as calmer ones like Uno are both fun. I need to find some folks here in Ontario to play with me.

 

5) Swimming

It’s not something I get to do very often, but I relish it when I do.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: A Story About My First Crush

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Two shiny metal reflective hearts sitting on a brown grainy surface. One is larger than the other, and you can see where the smaller heart was cut out of the larger one. I have only occasionally developed crushes throughout my life, so I had to dig deeply for this post.

My first crush was a boy named Jonathan, and I think I was somewhere between the ages of three and five when it happened.

He was probably someone I went to church with as I had a stay-at-home mom who was just beginning to (or maybe would soon begin to?) homeschool me. Therefore, there was no daycare or public school for me to meet new people at during this stage in life.

The only memory I have about Jonathan or my crush on him involves my parents scolding me for calling him my boyfriend and telling me I was too young for such things as I stared up at the bare tree branches and chilly, grey sky overhead, inwardly sighed in exasperation at my parents who I thought were being really silly about the whole thing, and outwardly obeyed them. (Or at least I think I obeyed them?)

If only I remembered more about it. I assure you that the rest of my childhood was far less dramatic than that brief moment of parent-child conflict, so maybe that’s why it stuck around in my memory so firmly?

As far as crushes I fully remember goes, that honour goes to two characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I thought that Deanna Troi:

Photo of Marina Sirtis playing Deanna Troi on Star Trek:Deep Space Nine. She is wearing a teal Star Trek uniform and looking ahead of her seriously.

Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12543302

 

and

Photo of LeVar Burton playing Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He is wearing a yellow Star Trek uniform and his visor and looking ahead of himself with a serious expression on his face.

Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12048284

 

Geordi La Forge

 

were both good-looking, kind, and interesting people, and I wanted to follow them around all day and ask them dozens of questions about themselves and life in the twenty-fourth century as they performed their duties on such a fancy spaceship.

I’ve been attracted to all sorts of different types of people, and I don’t really have a type. Having a good character and a pleasant personality are such important factors in attraction, too.

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