Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review: The Kings Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi


After seeing the movie The Kings Speech, I was very interested to find out more about King George VI.  I came across this book on Amazon  and was excited to see it was a biography on not only the king but of his speech therapist Lionel Logue.

The book was a great read.  It was well paced with a very good balance of anecdotes and history.  Enhanced with sections of pictures (which is my favourtie part of reading historical biographies) Logue's grandson searched through Logue's personal diaries and archives, pulling together a book that gives great insight in to the lives of both the king and his long time friend and therapist.  Both lives are followed chronologically, starting with the birth and childhood of each and going through with a good amount of detail to the end of Logue's life.  Excerpts from letter's written to the king by Logue and vice versa give the whole book a very personal feel and light and easy reading.

I really liked the fact that at no time did I want to "fast forward" through bits.  Often when reading biographies I find the authors tend to put in too much detail and it becomes some what repetitive and cumbersome.  I often skim read those bits to get back on track with the story.  This book is short and sweet and very direct.  It moves well between the lives of the two men, intertwining the story when their lives touched each other, and efficiently filling in the details of their lives when they were apart.

In the acknowledgments, Mark Logue touches on the fact that the book was written during the time span of a year and that it was quite rushed.  It was sometimes noticeable in the writing that it was pulled together quickly, and from time to time there were inconsistencies, but nothing that ruins the story or flow of the book.

Overall, an excellent read.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Digging Through My Past

Our basement is a mess.

It is a mass of stuff that we either don't need right now but want to take up north, don't have space for right now but still want to keep, don't need and don't want but have been too lazy to do anything about and, if I'm being totally honest, there is some stuff down there that is still in the box it came to this house in.

We have lived here for 6 years.  I know.  I know.  Unpack already.

I'm faced with two problems when it comes to those unpacked boxes.

The first one is I don't remember what is in these boxes.  I obviously don't need or value what is in those boxes if I haven't opened them yet, haven't needed what ever is in them.

The second is that I need to do something with what is in the box.  But in order to do that I need to OPEN the box.  And I'm afraid if I actually open the box I'll want what is inside.

And trust me, the last thing I need upstairs is more stuff.

You might ask why the box isn't labeled.  Well, you see,  I had moved four times in as many years when those boxes were packed.  I was totally sick of the entire process at that point and didn't label most of the boxes that were packed.  Because we did all the moving on our own, we just moved room by room, each load getting dropped off in the appropriate room.  In the end, as moving goes, there are always stragglers laying around the house, things that didn't really fit in any one room and things that didn't get put in the correct box.
At the end of the day, those boxes didn't get labeled.

They just got dumped in the car and then dumped in the basement with the rest of the stuff we didn't immediately need at the time.

I'd ask my husband to open the box, but then he'd have to come in to the basement.  And then he'd see the mess I made of the mess that was already here.  And then he would start with one of two speeches.  Speech number one is that we should take all the stuff to the dump and be done with it once and for all.  Speech two is that we need to move to a bigger house.

To which I would say "Why, so we have more room for more stuff in boxes I haven't labeled?"

He wouldn't see the humour in that comment.  At all.

So I'm just dealing with the box on my own by putting it underneath a box that IS labeled.  It is full of music cassettes.  HA!  Never going to use those again, but totally can't throw them out yet. How could I possibly throw out my Tiffany and Cindy Lauper tapes????  I'd be lost without them.  Really, I would.

Getting back to the point, I'm cleaning the basement.  And it really has been a lot of fun.  I found a big box of school stuff that my mom had been saving (yes, I get the pack-rack gene from my mother).  In this box I found a binder full of stuff I had written.  Not essays or assignments, but actual stories.  I fancied myself a writer back then, and spend hours in my room writing tales and poems of teens and children, the lives they lived and the challenges they faced.

I even entered one of them to be published in the school literary magazine.  It was a short story, that eventually I turned in to a long story, despite the negative feedback I got from the English teacher who read the submission. Apparently it wasn't realistic enough to be fiction, what ever that means.

I wanted to share the prologue with you. I was really big on prologues and epilogues, not sure why.  But I remember working so hard on this one particular story, and being so proud of the final result.  So here it is, the prologue.  I am writing this exactly as it is on paper, even though I really want to go in and edit it so it sounds better. So while you are reading, please remember this is the writing of  high school student :)

I've been having this dream for as long as I can remember.
It starts with me walking down a long hallway lit by only a few oil lanterns hanging from hooks on the wall.  A door at the end of the hall opens as I approach it. 

The room I enter is large, with big heavy curtains lining one side and mirrors lining the other.  

As I walk in and look around I notice people scattered around in small groups.  I can't see any of their faces, even though I'm trying hard to pull them in to focus. 

At the end of the room I see one man stand and start to talk, but I can't understand what he is saying.  I can feel the tension rise in the room as everyone turns to look at him.

He seems to be talking to one person in particular.  A boy standing off to his left, and while I can't actually see his face, I know that I know him.  I feel a rush of adrenaline when I notice that the boy seems nervous and unsure of what to do.  He starts to walk towards me and I try to ask him what is going on, but he doesn't respond. My breath quickens as I realize my entire body seems to be disconnected from my mind. 

The boy gets closer and I start panicking.  I try to call out for him to stop, but my mouth is frozen.  It try to run but my body doesn't respond.  

Suddenly, all I see are flames and pain paralyzes me. 

A pain that takes my breath away and ultimately pulls me awake. I'm always screaming when I wake, and can physically feel the pain I felt in my dream.  The pain is so real, it takes me a few second to realize I'm awake and another few minutes to recover.

I don't know what this dream means, or why I have it so frequently.  All I know is it feels very real and I always wake up with a feeling that it is somehow a part of my future. A feeling that it is a part of my soul, even before my physical body has been through it.


Ha, I chuckle now when I read all the dramatics.  I think this story was my favourite because it is about magic, love, betrayal and action, and the heroine is smart and honest and has a real connection with her family.  My other stories were more down to earth stories about every day people.  What ever the reasoning for making this my favourite, I got 13 chapters written for this one, the longest story I had ever written.  I didn't actually finish it though, because I started college and got busy, so I don't know how it ends.  But I still have this crazy connection with the main character, as if I know her.

Ah well, memories of my youth! 

I think I'm going to go and read the next few chapters, to see if I can remember how I wanted this thing to finish.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Full Moon

Today has been a day and a half.

It has been filled with children laughing, crying, screaming, pouting and whining.  Lots and lots of whining. 

It has been filled with mommy laughing, crying, wanting to scream, sometimes yelling, and whining.  Yes, I found myself whining back a the kids. 

Not as a way to show them how annoying it is.  Not as a way to show them how hard it is to understand them when they whine.

Nope. The sad fact is they, my children, have totally infiltrated my brain.

I have heard the whine so often I have mistaken it for an appropriate way to communicate.

I have heard the whine so much that I heard it when no one is speaking.

I have heard the whine so much and I found myself so tired and frustrated, that I, in fact, started whining when my children asked something of me.

I'm not proud of this.  And when I caught myself, I stopped.  But still.

It has not been a good parenting day.  At all.

And then a friend on facebook posted a picture of the full moon. And it caused me to wonder.  What power does the moon have over behaviour?

We say it over and over again when faced with odd behaviour or occurrences.  "Is there a full moon tonight?"  "Must be a full moon."

I haven't ever really put much thought in to the saying until today.  Seriously, I thought the day would never end, and now that it has all I can do is feel guilt about the mistakes I made today.

Playing over all the times I yelled, whined, had no patience,  was short, or was just plain too tired to even respond.

I totally forget to remember the times we laughed, giggled, danced, made paper hats, snuggled and read books together and when for a walk in the glorious weather we had today.

But the fact that there was a full moon has actually made me feel a bit better about their behaviour and mine.  It is a comforting thought that there was something else at play here today.  That there was some stronger power that took over our brain and heart and caused them to malfunction.

It was the moon's fault.

I'm going to take that to bed with me tonight and remember all the fun times we had today. 

And then I'm going to pass out from exhaustion and hope that I don't have to go through it again tomorrow.

Because that would just blow my whole full moon theory to bits.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Five Things I just Don't Get (part three)

Here we go again!

1. Skinny jeans for babies.  Really?  Is that necessary?

2. The tv show Toddlers and Tiaras.  This is like Toddler Jersey Shore.  Seriously, the drama is unreal and the parents are worse than the children.  And what in heaven's name is putting children in fake teeth, make up, extensions and heels teaching them?  Many moms say it isn't any different than a child using her mom's clothes and make up and playing dress up.  Uh, the difference is  when she plays dress-up she isn't required to perform what is often very adult like dance moves and wake up at 4am just to have her hair put in. 

3. All the hype surrounding the George Clooney movie The American.  That is two hours of my life I am never going to be get back. 

4. Why Torontonian's can't just suck it up and deal with the weather we are dealt.  Really, we look like fools to the rest of the country when we whine about our weather. 

5. The children's tv shows Waybalo and The Wot Wots.  I cannot for the life of me understand what these characters are saying.  Neither of my kids watch it, but I have been found watching it trying to decipher their babble in to something that is near English, and I can't.  Every so often I catch a word here or there, so I know they are TRYING to speak English, but most of the time all I hear is Charlie Brown's teacher on helium.

And that's my beef for today!


Sunday, February 13, 2011

But Mommy! ...

Lately, the people who reside in our home have been a little lax when it comes to taking care of their property and making sure things are returned to their spot.

These people include everyone buy myself.  After all, I found places for everything, I know where everything goes.

Part of the problem is no one is willing to actually LOOK for their stuff.  They more glance around and if it isn't within immediate view, I hear "Mommy!  I can't find..."  or "Marina, do you know where....?"

Many may automatically assume that because over the last 10 months I have reorganized the house in to chaos.  What good is an organized house if no one knows where the stuff is?

Well, I covered that.  Everything is either labeled, alphabetized, or, as is the case for the filing cabinet, it comes with list of things that are in there and where to find it.  I've covered all the bases to make this household flow as easily as possible.

Plus, things don't go missing until they have been taken away from their homes anyway.

Earlier today, my Little Man had been playing with his new favourite toys.

These are them. (Please take a moment to revel at my superior grammar skills :) )
Their names are as follows: Turtle, the turtle. Hammy, the hamster. Woof, the dog. Rhino, the rhino. And Bob, the horse.

I don't know why the horse gets a name, or why he chose Bob. I don't ask these questions because they usually come with long winded answers that are so long he forgets what the question was.

And these guys are small.  They make Little People look big.  Case and point:

Little Man carries them all over the house.  Problem is, he sometimes forgets where he left them and then asks me for help.

After a week of hearing people ask me where stuff was, I was a bit irritable.  So when Little Man told me he couldn't find his animals I told him he should look for them.

"But Mommy, there is a big mess on the floor!"

"Well, if you clean it up then you"ll find them."

"But Mommy, they are small animals, it is going to take FOREVER!"

"Mister Man, if you can make a mess, you can clean it up."

"But Mommy!  I'm just a little boy!  See, I'm only this tall!  And my hands are very small!"

And then he does this:

And then I laugh.

And then I see this:

That's my Little Lady, dressed up like Rudolph and trying to catch the blinking light from the nose.

And then I laugh.

And then I'm laughing so hard that I have to sit down because my monkeys are being monkeys.

And then while I'm sitting there I absent mindedly start tossing toys in to bins.

And then I come across Little Man's animals.

He is happy.

And I've been fooled.  They tag teamed me.  I'm totally out numbered.

So just to keep things even, I give them each a swiffer and wet cloth and tell them to clean the floors.

Only difference is, they think cleaning the floors is fun.

Sneaky little buggers they are.

Just think what they can get me to do when I'm old and senile.

Oh my.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

For the Love of Reading


In addition to watching way too much television at night, I have also picked up another hobby of mine.


Well, maybe it isn't actually a hobby, but a past time?

Regardless, I'm reading again, and I'm loving it.

The interest was revitalized by the Twilight Series of books.  I literally read through those faster than I could turn the pages. It was just the thing I needed to pull back in to the world of books. I read the whole set twice, right after each other and then started on the Harry Potter books.

It used to be that I never left the house without a book to read, and I'd often have more than one book on the go.  A small mass bound paperback to take with me when I was out and about, theme or genre didn't matter.  A fiction book.  And I always have a non-fiction historical book at arms length.

Why so many books at a time?

Have you ever read historical non-fiction?  It can tend to get a little dry.  So when I get sick of reading about which ever royal, president, prime minister or other notable person the book is about, instead of just putting the book away, I start reading fiction to ease my brain a bit.  And then after a few nights, I typically go back to the history book, rotating between the two of them for a few weeks until both or done.

It used to only take one week for me to read two books of average length simultaneously. Now I fall asleep too quickly.  Kids do that to you.

I have been consistently adding to a list on my CrackBerry books that I want to read.  And the list is starting to get long. So long in fact my husband it thinking about suspending the use of my debit card and blocking Amazon and Chapters from my computer.

Luckily he hates the computer and wouldn't know how to block sites anyway.  The debit card thing though, that could happen...

I have actually had so much fun reading that I was thinking of joining a book club.

A club where readers go to be with other readers and talk about characters and life experiences and drink wine.

But I don't like being told what to read. 

Or how long I have to read it. 

And I don't really like analyzing books so much it isn't even the same book I read in the first place.

So no book club for me.

It'll just be me and my book list for the next... well, I've got no time line.  Reading should be about escapism and connecting with characters.  It shouldn't feel like homework! So no rules!

Here is my book list to date.  They are in no particular order.  Books marked with a double asterisk are ones I have read already, but want to read again.I'm a sucker for reading books over and over again.

*Emma -Jane Austen
*Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mum (this is a HUGE book) - William Shawcross
*Harry Potter books 4-7 (I will admit that I stopped half way through the fourth book and then the movies came out, and I never went back). - JK Rowling
*PS I Love You - Cecilia Ahern
*Twenty Something - Sophie Kinsella
*Black Heels to Tractor Wheels - Ree Drummond
*The Land Girls - Angela Huth
*The Stone Angel - Margaret Lawrence
*My Life in France - Julia Child
*The Ideal Wife - Gemma Townsend
**Bridget Jone's Diary - Helen Fielding
**The Edge of Reason - Helen Fielding
*The Last of the Crazy People - Timothy Findley
*Diana - Andrew Morton (I'm on a Brit kick)
*Pride and Prejudiced - Jane Austen
*Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Friend - Christopher Moore
*The Host - Stephanie Meyer
*The first Sookie Stackhouse book, I can't remember the name or author right now.

Can you believe I have NEVER read a Jane Austen book?  I didn't realize this until yesterday when I was reading though my list.  I wonder if I've been missing anything...

I'm currently reading The Kings Speech by Mark Logue and just finished reading Mini Shopoholic by Sophie Kinsella.  She cracks me up she does.  So much so that I have been banned from reading her in bed at night because my husband needs his beauty sleep. 

The King hasn't been cracking me up so much, but if you like bio-history books, you'll love this one.  So good. 

I should probably number the list.  Next time.

Do you have any books you could recommend?  I'm up for suggestions! 


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Happy New Year?

Talk about delayed :) 

I know I KNOW, I never call, never write.  I'm a fair weather friend. 

I can't even say I've been terribly busy. With the kids so young still, I tended to do most of my posting at night after they had gone to sleep.  I'd curl up on the couch beside my tv watching husband and type away. 

But then we started to do something every. single. night.

It all started during a date night.  We went for dinner and a movie. My lovely husband had two weeks off at Christmas, so we went during the week.  We had the whole theater to ourselves because we purposely picked a movie that have been out forever so we didn't have to sit beside strange people. Well, I picked a movie that have been out forever so I didn't have to sit beside strange people. Yes, I have issues. And I'm not ashamed to say it.

We saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One. Little did we know this was just the beginning. It just snowballed from there.  We did it as soon as we got home and then started doing it every night. We even talked about doing it while the children were awake. 

So what was it we were doing?

We became addicted to watching the Harry Potter Dvds.  From beginning to end (well, sixth year) we watched the saga that is Harry's life.  And when it was all over, when there were no more DVDs to watch, no more bonus features to devour, we felt like listless.  We knew regular tv just wouldn't cut it anymore. 

So we moved on to Eli Stone.  Let me tell you, it is a shame the writers strike happened because it really derailed Eli and I think it had real staying power, had it been on regularly enough to keep its followers.  We hadn't even seen the second season because it was jumping around so much.

We are now working our way through Alias. 

And while it may not sound like we are bonding all that much, sitting staring at the boob tube, watching tv together has opened up lots of conversation, laughter and tears (I cried like a baby when Sirius Black gets killed, Jordan Whetherby finds out her unborn baby is perfect, and Sydney Bristow finds her fiance dead in his bathtub), which inevitably ends in more laughter from Peter because he doesn't get how a tv show/movie can upset me so.  Good thing he hasn't watched "PS I Love You" with me because I think there were only a few minutes of that movie that I WASN'T crying.

So we are busy reconnecting, relaxing and generally getting to know each other again. 

The only down side is that my husband likes to eat while he watches tv.  And then I eat.  And then we both started to LOOK like the couch.  So we started exercising. 

But that's a whole different story :)


AKA Couch Spud.