Surprisingly life changing and a bit magical

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

My wife made me read this. I would never, ever have picked this book up ever. And although I didn’t expect to like it, I found it quite readable and not even that painful, like I had anticipated.

I don’t know how to talk about this book, because it’s kind of a self help book and therefore I assume everyone should be getting something different  out of it.

Please note that I a not a clean person, never have been but I recently had a baby and am spending most of my time at home with him and I was finding, for the first time in my life, that the messes around me were actually upsetting. This book came to me at the prefect time. Which is one of the things the author talks about – objects coming to you at the right time in your life.

The things I took away from this book were the idea that your objects and your house itself serve you faithfully and in return you should make sure they are treated respectfully. I’m not going as far as she did (nope, just not folding my socks or emptying my purse every day) but that philosophy kind of resonated with me (yup, I’m lucky I have this beautiful, little house and I should treat it with care and affection). She also discusses how everything has a place, everything has a home and this is also something that brings peace to my brain, going to bed knowing things are in their place. It used to just be people but maybe I could extend it to my objects too.

So I’m not going to systematically go through my whole house, hold each object and ask myself if it brings me joy but I am going to take a bit of that book with me as I move through my life, keep my house and raise my kid(s). I’m not sure I’d recommend it but I’ll say this – if you think you should read it, it might be the right time for you to read it.

But I will never agree with her philosophy on not keeping all your books. Seriously, even bad books bring joy to my life.

Last movie I watched:

The second half of my Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. I liked it. I mean, I loved the first one but I liked this.

Last TV show I watched:

Legend of Korra. Loved it, but Avatar is better

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How to start a family

Double Pregnant: Two Lesbians Make a Family by Natalie D. Meisner

This thin little novel is a rare piece of nonfiction for me. It’s the true story of a lesbian couple in Canada who decide they want to have a baby, and then a baby each and then because their doctors advise them that they’re too old to wait a baby each at the same time. Thus begins their quest to find a sperm donor, successfully inseminate, get through two pregnancies and survive two labours.  It is a love story and a relationship story and an LGBTQ story and parenting story and overall a great read.

Being a true story, Meisner doesn’t hide the dirtier truths about relationships, hurt feelings, miscarriages, grief, broken promises, uncomfortable situations and generally being directionless in your adult life and that makes the book striking and interesting. I also like how comforting it is to read stories about people who are like you – struggling with where they want to be but determined to fulfill their goals, in love but vulnerable and afraid sometimes and facing the unique challenges of being a lesbian couple.

The language is beautiful, particularly Meisner’s description of her wife and their children, both born and unborn.

All around loved it.

Last movie I watched:

The end of Star Trek Beyond. It didn’t get better. I’m disappointed.

Last TV episode I watched:

One of the final ones in Supernatural season 11. So they killed God I guess?

A beautiful book about the horribleness and hope of humans (with pictures!)

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

This graphic novel, with simple black and white pictures is the super complex story of the author, growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. As well as being a story about coming of age, cultural isolation, mental health and family, the thing that stuck with me the most was effect war can have, well past the physical trauma, to a place, a people and an individual, particularly on non-combatants.

The story follows Marjane from when she’s about 10 years old. She grows up in a liberal household, with parents and family who support the Revolution, only to see it mutate into religious extremism. As a child she longs for stories about martyrs, but later learns a different truth about dying for the cause when her beloved uncle is executed by the new government. When she’s 14 and Tehran is being bombed her parents send her to Vienna, to study but while there she struggles with her cultural heritage, puberty and crippling survivor’s guilt until she becomes so isolated, sick and desperate that she returns home. But when she gets back, she finds she doesn’t belong there either. Her friends and family have gone through years of war and her guilt about failing to make something of herself drives her deeper into depression, until she attempts suicide. But when she fails, Marjane starts to recover, attend school, fall in love, become politically active, eventually marry only to realize that she was never meant to belong to anyone else and starts her life again as a young woman and an artist.

It’s a sad story, despite it’s hopeful ending  (presumably it’s going well for the main character because the author looks happy in her picture on the cover). I think what upset and moved me most were the scenes of the children in the war. Marjane describes playing “torture” with her friends, where they’d try to force each other into giving up secrets through discomfort or pain. We talk about the ways children are hurt by war, often in terms of trauma inflicted, PTSD, displacement, loss and physical harm but this book made me wonder if maybe there is an in between space, for children who survive conflict without loosing a house or a loved one, but who forever carry reflections of human cruelty with them, even if it’s only a child’s game.

I also have a new appreciation for not living in a country where you can be arrested if you are out with your boyfriend who you have not yet married. That seems stressful.

Anyway, it really was a great read. Probably not great if you’re having a rough week, but still, beautiful story.

Last movie I watched:

The Empire Strike’s Back. MAY THE 4TH BE WITH YOU.

Although that sort of evolved into MAY THE WEEK OF THE 4TH BE WITH YOU which doesn’t have the same ring to it

Last TV episode I watched:

Game of Thrones. Season 3. Episode 1. SO EXCITED.

The most depressing post I have ever written. Sorry.

Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon

Seriously, I’d skip this one entirely if I were you. I knew I couldn’t really read a book about the Holocaust without getting bummed out and soul search-y.

While I appreciate the idea behind turning Anne Franks’s life into a graphic novel to make it more accessible to kids, I’m not really sure it was a good idea at the end of it all. First of all, biographies don’t really make good picture stories. There’s a lot of who married who and what they do at work and where they grew up but those aren’t really great for illustrations. I know that I don’t read much nonfiction, and if it’s all like this, I see why. Facts and dates, even quotes kind of sterilize the story, taking away the narrative drive and lacking real emotion. I suppose you don’t need to write in real emotion when you’re writing the story of a girl who was brutally murdered, along with millions of others, but still.

One thing I really did like about the pictures though is that they didn’t PG it up. I was probably more upset by the images of the camps than most kids would be, but they are horrifying. Which I think is brave of the authors, since we seem to have this weird feeling that kids can hear about terrible things, but not see them.

But I guess what made me most sad was the way we teach history. We desperately want things to make sense, we want to understand our past and so, when something as earth shattering as the Holocaust happens, we try to find meaning. We want to teach ourselves that this kind of atrocity couldn’t ever happen again. This book supports this narrative. It has a clear agenda. It’s a lesson in humanity.

My grade five teacher read us Anne Frank. I remember swearing very genuinely to the ghost of this girl I’d never know that we would never let anything like this happen again. Even though it was a heart breaking story, at the end of it there was some hope. Now I’m an adult and I don’t want to make promises like that. I’ve come to wonder if morality, compassion and empathy aren’t, as we fervently wish, at the core of human experience. Instead I’m afraid that they are luxuries and privileges and therefore the first things to be scarified when things get harder. Now I think teaching history to kids like that is simplistic, unrealistic and probably not very effective.

We do need to remember the horrible things that happen, but if that’s all we do, try to preserve those horrors to remind us of our mistakes, we’re not looking at what caused them, not really. So I guess I’d rather we find a new way to show our past to our kids.  I think we need to acknowledge that sometimes history doesn’t make sense, that good people do bad things and bad people do good things and holding up one tragic life as a reminder of our own destructive power probably won’t change anything.

No matter how much we want it to.

See.  Really depressing.

But for the record, it does explain why superheroes are so appealing.

Last movie I watched: Justice League: Doom. My favourite part is that Batman’s hobbies include planning to take out all his friends.

Last TV episode I watched: One of the most beautiful Doctor Who episodes ever.