Sunday Rituals

Sunday Rituals
A photo posted by Sharon (@onebookworm) on
My Sundays are absolutely precious. While I run around the city chasing meetings and deadlines during the week, Sundays are the only days I have to pause. Over the last few months, I've been trying to make a conscious effort to commit to nothing on Sundays.

This is my newfound ritual. Wake up without the sound of an alarm. Make myself breakfast from scratch. Brew the good coffee in the french press and read every interesting article in the New York Times. The plan for the rest of the day? Maybe a nap. Maybe a book. Maybe a movie.

Time slows down when I slow down. Deadline will still be there at the end of the day. At least today, I have luxury of taking it for myself.

Book Review: Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Book Review: Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up


Everyone and their mom have heard of this book by Marie Kondo. I was a bit late on the bandwagon, having only picked it up at the beginning of summer to see what all the hype was about. The NY Times wrote a great piece to sum it up, which convinced me to grab a copy.

It's a detailed look at how to declutter the junk in your life with cutesy Japanese tidbits of soundbites. Kondo writes about her obsession with organizing that stemmed from childhood. This is done in part to outline how her expertise has been honed over her young life. She names this organizing technique after her first and last name, KonMari. She also secured the aptly titled website, http://tidyingup.com/

If you just want the goods, skip the first sections of this autobiographical account. To sum up the Konmari method:
  1. Organize by types; not rooms (i.e clothes and not bedroom, and then T-shirts before pants..etc).
  2. Take everything out at once (so you're damn committed)
  3. Touch each piece and ask yourself, "Does X bring me joy?"
  4. According to your answer: toss, donate or fold meticulously and put back in place
Some people have really taken to this (look up all those YouTube videos), but aside from a few specific techniques, there's not really that much new.  I wouldn't be as bold to call this a new idea since the philosophy of KonMari essentially boils down to our relationship with stuff. The question is one way to really make one consciously aware of what we feel about said stuff.

I just organized my underwear drawer and didn't ask, "Does this itchy bra I bought on sale bring me joy?" It was common sense. With all this being said, I do think that this book could be eye-opening to a lot of people who never thought about all the stuff they keep around them. 

Back at it

Back at it
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It has been a glorious summer. Work was non-existent. I read books upon books and lounged around the city without obligations or responsibilities.

It is now Wednesday August 19, 2015. While I could continue my pattern of sloth into the dwindling weeks of summer, I'm making the effort to buckle down and get some work done. I'm staring at a busy fall/winter with classes to teach, courses to ace and trips to take. Oh, and for fun, blogging again. Who am I kidding? This is my leisure time activity when I'm in the midst of work.

There are old trips to catalogue and an insane amount of books to review. Hope you're liking the new look of the site!

Next Destination: Iceland

Next Destination: Iceland

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Dear Past Sharon,

Thank you very much for booking this trip 6 months ago when the Canadian dollar was stronger than what it is today and when the Icelandic economy was facing signs of trouble. How else could such a destination be so affordable?

Thank you again for having kind foresight, or perhaps supreme psychic abilities. I had no clue that my life would become as busy as it has over the last few months. Deadlines, contracts and obligations abound, so what better time for a vacation? There wasn't a hint of sarcasm in that last sentence. I really do think that I would have worked myself into a hysterical fit if it were not for this vacation.

Money is great, but what's the damn point if I don't get to enjoy my limited time on this earth? In a few short days, I'll be trekking on glaciers and bathing in thermal hot springs. If all goes well, throw in the Aurora Borealis.

Gratefully Yours,

Present Sharon

P.S- You should have exchanged money before the Canadian dollar sank!

Ecuador: Day 6, 7, 8


DAY 6 

Saying goodbye to the jungle, we started our trek up to higher altitude and cooler temperatures. This was a relief since humidity is my enemy. To get more exercise in, we ended up in La Punta Ahuano  to see El Paillon del Diable or "The Devil's Cauldron". It's a waterfall and when viewed from the front base, you're supposed to see the devil's face. Originally, I thought it got its name from the insane gush of water and jagged rocks at the bottom of a nearly enclosed pit.

Checking in: 6 months in Chinese New Years Resolutions


At the end of January, I wrote about my Chinese New Year Resolutions and then I checked in on myself about 3 months in. This is my latest check in roughly the halfway mark. I'm keeping it simple and to the point:

#1- Drink More Water
Keeping it up and the results are starting to show up on the scale. 5 pounds gone, without any major changes to diet or exercise, just from water drinking on the daily.

#2- Read One Classic
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse is currently blowing my mind. I love it when you read the right book at the right moment in your life.

#3- See One New Country
Ecuador.

#4- Write Weekly
I think I one up'ed this resolution, but I'll post about this once it actually happens.

#5- Stay Happy, Stress Less
And for the biggest piece of news...I'm leaving my secure, sit-all-day-at-a-computer-job! It was a toxic work environment, despite the actual work itself, which I enjoyed immensely. Taking a cold hard look at how I was spending my work hours, the times that I was truly enjoying myself were not enough to overshadow the times I wished to be somewhere else doing anything else.

I literally do not know where I'll be a few months from now, but I feel free and happy.



Ecuador: Day 4 & 5



One of the main reasons for the trip was a visit to the Amazon.  Although Brazil is famous for it, we knew our budget would not allow for a Brazilian vacation during a World Cup year. So we looked at a map and looked to see where else we would be able to affordably see the Amazon. 

I loved it and I hated it. I hated myself for loving parts of it. It's complicated to wrestle with the images of extreme poverty and my own participation in the middle of all of it. What could I do? (I'll explain later.)

Ecuador: Day 2 & 3


Back into the blogging swing of things, I plan on posting the rest of my Ecuador entries before the month is out!

Day 2 and 3 of my Ecuador adventure saw us jumping from city to city. Waking up early in Quito, we checked out the colonial section of Old Town, a UNESCO heritage site. We whizzed through Independence Plaza, the Cathedral, Presidential Palace and the Archbishop’s Palace

Pause for Peonies


After an unusually stressful week, I came home to some beautiful blooming peonies. My photos do it absolutely no justice. After hiding inside the large buds, it opened all at once. Petals upon petals just burst forth filling my front porch with pink. They are such a beautiful sight to behold. It's enough for me to stop before I leave for work in the morning and again when I return home. 

It's these little moments of pause that I am grateful for lately; these little bits of thoughts filled with admiration and nothing else. 

Drama at work has made the morning and afternoon portions of my day a bit of a drag. Looking after my house and then my mother's house is proving to be coming at the worst time. Have my life always been this hectic? 

I must thank past me for intuitively knowing that I need a bit of time off. Somehow the week long pause I have for next week is exactly what I need. Even though I don't think I'll be able to afford the time to pause, it will be just enough time for me to catch up and find my breath. 



Ecuador: Day 1



Yes, I went to Ecuador. No, I did not go to the coast or visit the Galapagos Islands.

Why?

It's much cheaper to see the rest of the country and to explore the incredible volcanoes atop heights close to 9,000 feet above sea level and then to venture all the way down to the jungle. 

Why did I go during rainy season?

To escape the bitterly long Canadian winter. And when you travel at the tail end of the rainy season, you get a few beautiful days when chance smiles upon you. 

DAY 1-  Arrive in Quito

Flights into Quito are a bit tricky if you're Canadian.Tricky in the sense that you have no choice but to go through the states. American airport security makes no sense. We landed, got through customs and security for a second time before we repeated the whole thing all over again at another airport in a southern state. We only had carry on luggage, which saved us a bit of time, but we still ended up annoyed and tired. 

We arrived in the middle of the night and cabbed it to our hotel. Cheap cab fare, considering the trip took a little under an hour. We were exhausted and fell asleep immediately. When we woke, this was outside our window:


It was a good omen, despite it being rainy season, we woke to a clear blue sky. We hopped out of bed immediately and hit the town to see as much as we can before the clouds arrived. 

Our first stop was the Basilica del Voto Nacional. On top of a hill, the Gothic cathedral was impressive on the outside. The inside, which only cost $2 US to enter, was a bit of a bore. The day we went, the steps to their tower was closed off for repairs, so it was a bit disappointing. We spent more time outside, looking for all the South American animals on the outside of the church. 
  



With the sky still blue, we made for El Panecillo. We negotiated with the cab driver (which is how to take a cab in Ecuador) to take us up the hill for a mere $5 US. The dab driver took it upon himself to drive us to the prison and point it out to us first. For limited English and poor Spanish, we got on quite well. 


And there she stood, La Virgen de Quito. She was impressive and so was the sight from the top. The entire city laid out before us and it hits me that we were in a vast, growing city where poverty still haunts. While a small portion of it looks like any other metropolis, the haze that was starting to show from diesel powered buses weren't enough to obscure the slums covering the hill side. This was Quito, the capital city. I knew that these were the lucky ones and that I'll only see more over the rest of my trip. 


When the clouds started to gather, we knew that we need to head back down to the city. We caught a cab and this time the fare was only $4 US. We wandered in and out of souvenir shops in Old Town. I thought these figurines were rather odd and could only think to associate it with the racist past of southern USA. Later on in the trip, someone explained that these were in fact cucuruchos. They are men dressed in purple cone shaped coverings during holy week and walk in a procession carrying giant crosses and chains on their feet.


Despite being healthy late 20-somethings, my boyfriend and I both got altitude sickness on the first day. Quito rests at a little over 9000 feet above sea level. We grew short of breath when we climbed the virgin. We weren't able to see or do as much as we planned on the first full day. By 3pm, I had a migraine and needed to go back to the hotel to rest. Lucky for us, that's when the rain started.

After a nap, we had a light dinner and then spent the rest of the evening relaxing. More physical aspects of the trip were still coming up, and we didn't want to tire ourselves out immediately. 


Pause

Pause.

One of the worst ways to appreciate life is when you confront death. You can look at the past and feel grateful for the happy childhood and wonderful people you’ve met. You can smile over those experiences. You also look to the future to see all the missed opportunities or milestones never to be reached or chances that will remain forever not taken.


Grief makes you think about all of these things, but it really makes you pause. I'm not quite 30 and I've attended more funerals than someone my age should. It feels surreal and not quite right when the funeral is for someone my own age. They've been robbed of infinite possibilities. It also brings me to reflect on my own life and how I'm living it. 

Am I making it as meaningful as it could be? Am I fulfilling what I want to do? Sobering thoughts enough for anyone to away from the internet for a while.
  

Books I can't finish: The Fault in Our Stars

Books I can't finish: The Fault in Our Stars
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Reasons why I came across the book:

  • A movie is being made
  • Quotes and images are all over moody teenagers' tumblrs
  • Good reviews


I'm very thankful that I didn't spend any money on this. I couldn't even get past the first chapter! It's overly sappy and incredibly predictable. There is nothing original here. I'm actually a fan of young adult fiction. Hell, I even read Twilight and didn't think it was that horrible until the films came out.

Remember when A Walk to Remember came out and every female went crazy for it? The Fault in our Stars is trying to do just that for the younger generation who may have missed out on pouty Mandy Moore. At the time it was novel and I would even dare to say somewhat creative. Now, it's just tacky and vomit inducing, which is what I would have done if I kept reading The Fault in our Stars.

The writing is crap. Please tell me everything the narrator is thinking, even when it's unnecessary. *sarcasm* A good writer shows you a story, not tell you every damn detail. I will not read another book by John Green. It's like an insult to other great writers when I spend a second with one of his books.

Will not recommend.
Will not watch the movie.
Will not read beyond the first chapter.

The Orenda

The Orenda

This wasn't a book I was expecting to read. It really wasn't a book I was expecting to fall head over heels in love with. It's everything unexpected and became an experience unlike any other you will read in print. If you were to ask me what I was doing Easter weekend 2014, I'll tell you that I was reading a Canadian masterpiece.

Why did I pick this up?
In brutal honesty, I saw this on sale for $12.99 at Costco and thought why not? I heard Joseph Boyden's interview on the radio for CBC's Canada Read contest (which it went on to win), and thought it sounded interesting. He seems like a cool guy who supports a lot of worthy causes in my city for Aboriginal communities.

I also felt guilty for not reading more Canadian writers. I've tried Atwood, Munro, Shields, and even Robertson Davies, but they really don't appeal to me. Don't get me wrong, there are some really great Canadian writers too like Wayson Choy, Farley Mowat and Yann Martel. I guess most of the "big names" in Can. lit don't tell stories I find myself relating to or connecting with.

So there I was with throngs of shoppers. I bought it and figured that I was doing my duty in picking up a book from a Canadian writer and one who writes about Aboriginal issues, no less.

Thoughts
I have never been more surprised by a book! After the first few chapters, I knew this was something special. Told from the point of view of three very different characters, it weaves together a complicated picture of early Canada. You want to hate the characters, pity them and then find yourself falling in love with them for all of their faults.

Snow Falls, an orphaned girl who is adopted by her family's killer of a neighbouring tribe, jumps out at you in part 1. You want to hold her and wish to see her survive and avenge her family. Then there's Bird, her new father and prominent member of the Haudenosaunee tribe. Despite my initial feelings, I empathized with him throughout part 2. And finally, there's Christophe, a Jesuit priest from France sent to save the souls of the savages, who surprised me most with his unwavering faith and courage.

The first thing I did after putting this book down (and drying my tears), was order everything else Joseph Boyden had written. Boyden is a writer who writes characters that comes to life and sits next to you as you read and then they become ghosts who haunts you after the final page.

READ THIS BOOK. 

Checking in on 2014 resolutions


It has been approximately 91 days since I wrote about my Chinese New Year's resolutions. This means I'm about a quarter of the way through the Year of the Horse, which is a good time as any to check in on my progress. 

#1 - Drink more water
There's one water bottle at work and one at home. It helps to have this accessible instead of pop or sugary juices. I don't think I've seen any changes aside from more frequent trips to the bathroom. Nonetheless, this is still a habit I want to stick to. 

#2 - Read one classic
I wasn't expecting it, but I came across one accidentally. This will be in a future post. However, I do intend to read a classic that fits the more traditional definition. My reading time has shrunk drastically this year thanks to a billion work commitments and extra-curriculars, so I'm being extremely picky about my books.

#3 - See one new country
Done. Ecuador was amazing. I will actually post about this trip when I get a moment to breathe. 

#4 - Write weekly
Opps. On the most part, I was able to keep true to this. Of course, I write this as I'm nearly two weeks late behind blog entries. Technically, most of the writing that I've done this year are really dull academic papers or even more boring presentations. On that aspect, I'm on track. 

Still, I want to keep some sort of writing that isn't job or school related. Hopefully, I'll be better in the next quarter. 

#5 - Stay happy; stress less
My finances are in order, thanks to sitting down and actually sorting through everything. YAH! I feel like an adult with a proper investment portfolio. That's one less stress in my life. 

However, drama seems unavoidable, especially when I work in a field with menopausal women. There is a generational divide and sometimes this causes more issues than I would like to deal with. On the whole, I'm working out my life balance and trying to spend quality time with people and activities I love. 

I'm pleased with the progress so far. Despite the craziness that is my schedule, I feel that I can keep this momentum going for the next quarter. Until then.....