February: I love to read books (so why resist?) month

There is something I just love about having a stack of books by my bed, so that at any moment I can reach over, grab one that suits my mood, and fill myself up with ideas and stories.

Last summer, my mom started passing along a bunch of old Reader’s Digest condensed book collections. These collections varied in decade, published from the 1960’s to the 1990’s. They are perfect to read before going to sleep or just to relax because they tend to have lighter themes and be relatively shorter in length. It has also been a great way to add variety to my reading because the selection includes books that I may not have otherwise considered.

Lately, I’d been craving a good read, so I turned to these collections, and wound up reading the childhood memoir of Marcel Pagnol, “The Days Were Too Short”. There is something magical about Marcel’s writing.  He leads you along unsuspectingly with this beautiful imagery and then, suddenly, with one sentence,  he evokes a powerful and unexpected reaction. In this way, I found myself gasping in surprise, bursting into laughter, and at one point tears. It is simple, honest, powerful story-telling. Accompanied by charming, whimsical illustrations, the experience is a complete delight. (See image above.)

What a treat.  That is just one of the reasons why I love reading. Yet, sometimes, I find myself resisting the desire to read a book.  It’s a small kind of resistance: like when I am going to bed, and I’m tired so I don’t want to concentrate.  Or the lure of reading on-line instead.

But reading a paper book is a very different experience than reading on the internet. I don’t need to look at all the research to prove it to myself; I just need to observe the way I feel after doing each activity. When I read a book, I am relaxed and soothed in a completely different way than if I’d read an article on my iPhone. The way it engages me is different, too.  Reading a book takes me to a deeper level of concentration, a complete immersion into an enduring experience.

I am not saying one shouldn’t read on-line articles!  Just be aware that each activity provides very different kinds of benefits. Listen to your body after 30 minutes of reading a book vs reading on-line, and you’ll see what I mean.

February is I love to Read Month. As I head into this month, I want to make a point of reading books at bedtime, at least on most nights.

Reading books is one of the most rewarding habits to nourish at home.  It is a simple, inexpensive way to enrich our lives, delight our imaginations, and broaden our understandings. I can’t wait to find the next group of books to stack on my night table!


To sign off today, I leave you with a memorable quote from The Days Were Too Short. Pagnol’s father always said these were the most beautiful words in the French language:

“Hope is not needed to undertake a task, nor success to carry it through.”

How do you interpret that quote?


What Do You Get If You Cross A Cool Tradition, A Few Laughs, and Something a Little Bizarre?

Answer:  Today’s Blog Post.

A Cool Tradition

I found this cartoon series the other day: “Comics from life in Argentina.”  An American lady shares her experience dating an Argentine man.  The cartoon is a quick, fun read, and interestingly relates to the concept of home, moving, and family.

Click on this link to learn about the tradition of the “almuerzo familiar”… and bring the familia!


A Few Laughs

Need a quick laugh?  Click on the link below and pick from your favourite cartoon strips.  There are lots to choose from!


Perhaps you prefer to marathon-watch a classic comedy series of the tv variety?  Then check out the list of 101 best written tv series. The list was created by the Writers Guild of America, and includes some great comedies (and many other genres, too!) that you might love to watch on a winter weekend.  Are there any shows that you think should have been included, but weren’t?

Hmmm…. I wonder if there is a Canadian list?


A Little Bizarre

Okay, I don’t even know how to introduce this one. It’s a long article, but really is an unusual story. Keeley’s idea of home is definitely different than the average.


The above image is used with permission from the author of Supper Sunday and The Nib – sarahglidden.com. 

Travel, Moving, and Finding Meaning: a TED Talk by Pico Iyer

The Age of Movement

Image used with permission: http://www.aliciaandneilphotography.com/

Click on the link at the bottom of the post to listen to today’s TED Talk:

“More and more people worldwide are living in countries not considered their own. Writer Pico Iyer — who himself has three or four “origins” — meditates on the meaning of home, the joy of traveling and the serenity of standing still.”

Changing our surroundings is a way of waking ourselves up.  The longing to travel is often fuelled by the desire to see the world and our lives through different eyes, and to change our perspectives.

Even more profound is the experience of moving.  If you have ever moved, you know how deeply it can affect your view and understanding of the world, and of yourself.  A small move within the same city can affect you, never mind a change of country or province.

In his TED Talk, Pico Iyers considers how living in the “Age of Movement” is transforming us, and suggests that “stillness” is the best way to find what travel and moving can teach us.

Finding Stillness and Meaning

At about the 9th minute of his TED Talk, Pico shares an experience he had in a retreat at a hermitage.

He talks about “retreat” and silence not as a lack of noise, but as the presence of peace: an experience that helps us to rediscover who we are, and make meaning of all the movement in our lives.

His description makes me long for that kind of stillness and solitude – and maybe some day I will spend a few days at a hermitage on a beautiful mountain!  In the meantime, though, scheduling that kind of retreat is pretty hard for most of us.  It got me thinking: is there a way to create  intentional “retreat”  in our regular lives, at home? 

Rebooting:  Retreat in Our Regular Lives

In his Talk, Pico encourages us to find simple ways of intentionally incorporating “retreat” into our “every-day” lives.  While this probably means something different for each of us, here are some suggestions of ways to build more “retreat” into our lives:

Yoga. For several years, I used to practice yoga and meditation.  The focused breathing on the pose is one thing that approaches the experience Pico describes.  I find it hard to make the time to do this lately, but perhaps I need to start again.

Meditation.  Even if you don’t have time to do yoga, a couple of minutes of regular meditation can bring much needed stillness into our lives.  I will provide an in depth post on this interesting topic soon. There are also many books on the subject. For beginners, the key is to focus on the breath for a minute or two.  Just breathe easy, and if your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the breath.

Walking.  Walking has benefits similar to a retreat.   When you are mindful of nature surrounding you – yes, even urban outdoor settings are part of nature –  you heighten the benefits.  If you can occasionally include an outing to a park or out of town,  all the better! Yesterday, my mom and I drove out of town, and took a  brisk one hour hike in the cold (- 27c), sunny day.  When I was done, I felt like a new person.  To sum up: a good hike is amazing!

Nature.  Related to the point above is the simple act of connecting with nature.  Whether you can go to a park at lunch break, work on your garden, bike ride around your neighbourhood, sit in your back yard, or go on a camping trip, being outside and interacting with nature reconnects you and is a type of “retreat”. In our first six years of marriage, my husband and I lived in an apartment on the 10th floor. In the summer, spring, and fall, we would sit out there watching the birds and world go by. It was wonderful to watch the distant trees sprout buds, turn green, and eventually orange, all from up above.

These kind of activities may not be the same as going on a solitary retreat, where you can walk and think and meditate for three days straight without the interruptions of daily life.  However, they are activities that are accessible, inexpensive, and can help us reconnect with ourselves on a regular basis.

Do you have ideas on how to find stillness and peace in your life?  Have you ever gone an a retreat?  What was the experience like?

Click below:

“Where I am From” by Sarah Habben

If you are in the mood to read a short story this weekend, click the link below.  It’s a beautiful work of non-fiction, by Sarah Habben, about her vibrant childhood, and the intricate nature of her identity and the idea of home. Sarah Habben was one of the finalists for the Canada Writes CBC 2014 Nonfiction Prize.


The image is by Vlado, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com



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Philippe Petite and an Inspirational TED Talk.

“I had to make a decision to shift my weight from the foot anchored to the building to the foot anchored on the wire.”

The quote above is from a film I watched a few years ago, called “Man on Wire.” It is a documentary that shares the story of the incredibly talented Philippe Petit, and his breath-taking tight-rope walk across the Twin Towers. I love the above words because, in some ways, they symbolize what we all do when we take a chance, when we put ourselves out there, when we try something new.  We may not be risking our life, but we still must make a decision to step forward from the safe into the unkown.

I found the documentary fascinating – the true story of a man following with courage his unusual vocation.  Today, I want to share one of my favourite TED talks.  Philippe Petit sums up his creative life in 20 minutes.  It is really worth a listen.  Inspirational and so entertaining!

The above image is by Vlado, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net



 Comfort ~ Inspiration ~ Ideas

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A Song Called “Going Home” by Kenny G

Kenny G: Best-Selling Artist and a World Record. 

Image by Nuchylee, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

I just discovered this song a few minutes ago. I wasn’t looking for music, I wasn’t even on YouTube, but it turned up on an unrelated search and, with a title like “Going Home”, you know I would have to check it out! I did, and I loved it. It’s an instrumental piece.  According to Wikipedia (I confirmed this fact by checking two other websites), Kenny G is the “biggest-selling instrumental musician of the modern era and one of the best-selling artists of all time, with global sales totaling more than 75 million records.”  

Kenny G was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1997 for playing the longest note ever recorded on a saxophone. Apparently, he held an E-flat for 45 minutes and 47 seconds!  How can he hold any note for so long? Circular breathing. I’ll admit, I don’t really know what that means (yet), but it makes more sense than him simply exhaling for that long.

Enjoy this beautiful piece of “smooth jazz”.  I love the tap dancing.



 Comfort ~ Inspiration ~ Ideas

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