Some books are read for entertainment. Others are read as facts. And every so often, you come across a book that shifts the way you see the world.

When I first set out to read Tara Westover’s book educated, I was expecting a pretty linear story about a girl who had never had a formal education suddenly being given the privilege of one. I thought it would chronicle her journey of moving from uneducated to educated. And in some ways, this book does that. But, to say that that’s what the crux of the book is about, is to ignore the struggle that Tara experienced in coming to terms with these two vastly different worlds with which she simultaneously identified.


Hearing the abuse that Tara endured in her childhood and the manipulation that was ongoing in their family home, one might assume that it would be easy to leave. However, that’s not the experience that Tara shares. That made me realize that the circumstance we grow up in is often embedded in us much deeper than we know or realize. The norms and values that our family instills in us, the way we interact with and relate to others – these things are all taught and learned. There are things that we all do (or don’t do) that other may find strange or ignorant or rude, and we see glimpses of that throughout Tara’s book. We see also how fiercely one can hold to family loyalties, and how tough it is to cleave that from one’s identity. This has encouraged me not to make assumptions, and to seek to understand rather than to judge.

This book reminds me of how powerful our minds are, and how much control it can have over the course of our lives. The biggest gift that we can give to anyone is the gift to be able to choose and think for themselves. And in doing so, to craft their own education.



A Year of Reading

This year, I set out to read 25 books. With the end of 2017 just around the corner, it is timely to look back on a year of reading, and to consider what books I hope to read in the new year.

The Last Interview: Jane Jacobs (compilation)
Here be Dragons – AnnMarie Kelly Harbaugh and Ken Harbaugh
Fahrenheit 341 – Ray Bradbury
Leaving Home – David French
Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple
Streetfight – Janette Sadik-Khan
Secret Path – Gord Downie
Wenjack – Joseph Boyden
Steal Like an Artist – Austin Kleon
The Boy who Dared – Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Mom Enough (compilation)
All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
Upstanders – Harvey Daniels & Sarah Ahmed
The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell
The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – Timothy Keller
Quiet – Susan Cain
Flight of the Hummingbird – Michael Nicole Yahgulanaas
Chasing Slow – Erin Loechner
Year of Yes – Shonda Rhimes
At Home in the World – Tsh Oxenreider
The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami
I am Malala – Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb
The Only Necessary Thing – Henri Nouwen
The Program – Suzanne Young
The Treatment – Suzanne Young
The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande

Grit – Angela Duckworth
Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor Frankl
How People Grow – Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Essentialism – Greg McKeown
Unfinished Business – Anne Marie Slaughter
13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do – Amy Morin


Reading and Writing

I’ve never thought of myself as a writer. And once I reached university, I became acutely aware not only of my lack of writing prowess, but also of how unread I was. At 16, I had not read The Outsiders, To Kill a Mockingbird, or anything by Maya Angelou. Not to say that those are symbols of a well-read adolescent, but rather, that they often came up in “literary” conversations, to which I had nothing of value to contribute.

Growing up, I read a lot. But in my formative preteen years, no one told me I should seek out more than the few YA fiction series that I gravitated towards. My interest in fiction waned and I turned to non-fiction. Left alone to my own devices, I sought out books on architecture and home design, because those were what interested me. I brought home books with titles like Prefab Today and Japanese Small Homes that were full of floor plans. I would sketch them in my little notebook and then draw out what I imagined they would look like in 3-D. I owe much of my visual/spatial abilities to this exercise. 

Now, almost a decade later, maternity leave has given me the gift of being able to read more. And to write more. I am enriched by what others have learned and have captured in words. I, in turn, also have the time and space to attempt to do the same. Or at least attempt to. I may never be as eloquent or complex as some of my friends who have already honed their craft for years and years, but what I have learned thus far from reading Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage is that writing, like any art form, is a craft that requires practice. I’m sure that I will pen a significant amount of truly atrocious writing (the majority of it unfinished), and only rarely will I write something I feel moderately comfortable sharing, but alas, this is a necessary part of the process.

And so I return to where I started. I’ve never thought of myself as a writer, but perhaps with some trial and error, and through studying and writing with others, I’ll begin to see myself in a new light.

Staying In

Oh snow. You have this ability to incapacitate people and cause them to hole up in their homes. At least, that’s what I’m doing tonight :) I made it out this morning for a supply call and came home to many inches of snow. About half an hour later – and with the help of some neighbours – my driveway was clear and my car found its way into the garage.

Hilariously enough, on the way home I decided to make the detour to pick up our next month’s book club read – Gillian Flynn’s gone girl. I hear good things about it so I’m excited to get started.


I made myself some quick and easy pasta with green beans, onions, chicken, and cherry tomatoes to accompany this book, and I am contemplating turning on some jazz fm.

Anyways, there you have it – my plans for this snowy evening. Stay safe, stay warm, and I’ll see you all in the morning.

Amazing Things Around the Web

I love to read blogs. On my iPhone, I have an app called Newsify, and every morning I try to make it through all the posts that have come up. Admittedly, some of them I will gloss over, but there are others that draw me in and move me to action. Here are four posts that I dwelled over for a while – 2 of which I would like to see come true in Kingston, and 2 of which were more for my own personal interest.

The Happy Post Project: Spreading Cheer Via Post-It Note (via GOOD)

Last year, I initiated Kingston Through My Lens. It was an amazing experience, and my plan was originally to run it again this year. However, as circumstance would have it, I need to do something a little less involved for Culture Days this year, and I am leaning towards organizing a Happy Post Project in Kingston. Simply put, people will come and answer the question “what makes you happy?” on a post-it note, and then you display it in some shape or form. Then, you take all the post-its and mail them to The Happy Post Project to help them reach their goal of 100,000 happy posts.  If you live in the Kingston area and want to help me out with this, just send me an email!

Little Free Libraries Around Toronto (via Apartment Therapy)


As it says in the article, the idea of book swaps is not a new one. I came across Book Crossing a few years ago, and really liked the idea, but I wanted something that kept the books more so in the local community. This idea of little free libraries is great, but the price of purchasing one of their libraries is quite prohibitive, and I really don’t trust my ability to create one from scratch. Most likely, the thing will fall apart, and we will be left with a yard full of books that have been destroyed by Kingston rain (though lately we have been getting no rain…and my lawn is definitely showing evidence of that). That being said, I think Kingston could really benefit from doing something like this – maybe we could use little mailboxes or something like that. According to the little free libraries global map, there is one in Landsdowne, Ontario, on a boat dock…but alas, I do not have a boat. Don’t worry, I will find a way to get this off the ground. Again, I am sending out an open call to people who live in the Kingston area, if you can help in some way (maybe you just happen to have a vast quantity of mailboxes that can be used for this project), please email me!

A $10 Bicycle That Actually Works! (via Apartment Therapy)


Can you tell I love Apartment Therapy? =P After watching this video, I was amazed not only at the bicycle, but at the man behind it. His process of trial and prototyping, his determination for success amidst the skepticism of others, and the way he used his skill set were inspiring. Though this is not something I would do, I have so much respect for him, and would love to try out the bike!

Monday Giveaway! (via A Cup of Jo)

There are a few personal blogs that I subscribe to, Joanna Goddard’s being one of them. I have this attraction to people who live in NYC and SF, so it seems most of the individuals that I follow are from one of those two cities. Anyways, her giveaway yesterday was this SWEET diaper bag from So Young. I am not yet at that stage of life where I will need a diaper bag, but I forwarded it to Kelvin nonetheless, after which I received a text that said “That is one of the best baby bags I’ve ever seen…How much?”. We then proceeded to scour their website, amazed at all the cool features the diaper bag has, and how it has such a rugged exterior that Kelvin would proudly tote around. In particular, we liked the built in sunglasses case, though Kelvin and I will need to determine whose Raybans will go there. And for those of you who are curious, it is $175, and available at a number of fine retailers as well as online (with free shipping for orders over $50, which this bag definitely is).

Now that I am at the end of this post, I just want to say that I really enjoyed sharing my thoughts. Often times, these thoughts will get sent off to twitter or in emails to Kelvin, my sister, and my parents, but perhaps I should use this outlet more to share cool things I find.

women in the bible

thanks to youversion, i am on a wonderful 21-day plan (which will end on Christmas day!) looking at women in the bible. i’ve explored the actions and consequences of many women (both good and bad) and am really enjoying the act of reading and digesting everything. i have looked at such women as esther – who didn’t back down from God’s calling and whose actions saved many people – and rebekah – whose humble service led her to a godly relationship. each woman’s story has taught me something of great value, and challenges me to apply these principles in my life. today, i read about the unnamed widow who had nothing left but olive oil. i liked her story so much that i created a comic to graphically organize my thoughts.

in preparation

i wrestled a little bit about whether to do this post, because it deals with a topic that is really personal. however, i felt that the lessons i’ve learned from this experience thus far have been invaluable, and i want to share them in hopes that you will be encouraged and challenged to think about how it applies to your life.

for the past two years and a few months, i have had the joy of learning and growing with kelvin. our relationship started off rather unconventionally, and it seems this trend will continue as we live life here in kingston. coming into this relationship, we both had our eyes set on the long-term. i think this is sometimes taboo for people our age, maybe because you don’t want to feel tied down, or maybe because you don’t even know where you’ll be in a few years and a relationship that requires planning and compromise just complicates things.

to delve even further into topics that may leave some people squeamish, we’ve been wrestling with how to determine whether we’re ready for marriage, and all that married life entails. as someone who watches a lot of slice and TLC, i have seen my share of wedding and newlywed shows. often, these can leave you gripping your wallet or bracing yourself for the 180 degree shift your significant other will seemingly take as you approach this milestone. however, most of these shows are focused on one day – your wedding day – shoving the rest of your married life together under the rug.

in all honesty, kelvin and i had no idea what to expect when it came to the life portion of married life, so we decided to seek out some answers. i am someone who loves workbooks, and i would say kelvin likes reading, so when i stumbled upon the book preparing for marriage, i bbm-ed him and we decided it would be a good investment. this was back in the summer. when i moved here to kingston, we committed to working through this book together.

on sundays, kelvin and i have our date night, and every other week, we set aside time to go through our answers from this book. we’ve only gone through the first chapter of this book (which has taken us over two months!) but already we have learned immensely and have struggled through the hard questions that nobody’s asked us before. these aren’t questions like “what is your SO’s favourite colour?” or how many siblings does your SO have?”. rather, it examines things like your parents’ relationship and how it’s affected you. it combs through your expectations for marriage, even down to things like household responsibilities, finances, sex, and how you will interact differently with your parents and in-laws. though it is a Christian book, it doesn’t just deal with your spiritual walks – it asks you to be candid about other aspects of your life as well – because in all actuality, you will be faced with those tangible things, and compatibility involves so many more facets than just how you both are before God.

something that really convicted me when we shared our answers yesterday was that one of the hardest things about marriage is figuring out how your two families become intertwined. for me, moving here to kingston was a big step, and already my relationship with my parents have changed. i miss them a lot and i wish i could see them more, but i know that God has called me to be here in kingston. however, all of these relationships will continue to be transformed as kelvin and i move into marriage and into the phase of life where we have kids. what interactions do we want for our children to have with their grandparents? how will we spend our holidays? it didn’t really hit me until yesterday that these things are going to change. i’m not always going to have the same relationship i have with my parents as i have now. further to that, my relationship with kelvin’s parents will be different. because of proximity, i will see them more. how will that affect my relationship with my own parents. and even now, i have had many more opportunities to develop my relationship with kelvin’s family than he has had to develop his relationship with mine. though he’s nervous about it, we need to work on this before we’re ready to move into considering starting our own family. many people may think that when you get married, none of this matters because you’ll be on your own, just the two of you, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. i’m thankful that we are realizing now just how pervasive the effects of those relationships are on our own relationship.

needless to say, i am really enjoying diving into this topic with kelvin, and as we focus more on looking at marriage throughout scripture over the next few months, i will continue to post my thoughts and lessons learned. so to end off, here’s to opening our eyes to life after the wedding day.

keeping up with the classics

over the past few days, i’ve marked more higher level reading books for kumon than i have in the past few months combined. a lot of these students are at the same point, reading such things as pride and prejudice and dr. jekyll and mr. hyde. then it dawned on me that i never fully made it through these classics (not to mention many others as well). so after this next round of short stories that i’ve borrowed from the library, i will set out to read pride and prejudice. i think i have a copy of it somewhere at home.

a beautiful day in kingston

weather has been absolutely wonderful. it’s warm, it’s sunny, and there’s just a faint breeze. it makes me want to spend all my time outside! today, since i was down in the downtown area (which reminded me that i need to vote!!) i decided to go visit some of my profs at queen’s. it was so nice to see them (i’ve been down on campus a few times, but just kept missing them) and as far as i can see things around campus haven’t changed much. because it was such a nice day, i decided to sit on the bleachers by tindall and read my book. i stayed until i finished one of my short stories, then i proceeded to head to cat mall to get my jeans hemmed. i’m so excited for the h&m to open there! the frontage looks really nice, right beside sears. i think i will do a lot of shopping there. but hopefully not too much…