Random stuff, reflections on the meaning of life and death, humour, self-deprecation, a bit of bad poetry.

I did it, peeps! I read 52 books in eight months, four months ahead of schedule.

On January 1st, I made it my intention to choose reading over social media, Netflix and general farting around.

I am simultaneously chuffed and satiated, not the least because, simply put, I love reading soooo much (arms spread as wide and high as possible).

Over the past years, reading has taken a back seat to boring stuff like responsibility and adulting. Not that working full-time, taking care of fids, fur kids, a teen, and aging parents stopped me from purchasing books left, right and centre. Yes indeed, I have a serious literary habit.

A dear friend recently asked why I buy books versus borrowing them from the library. I replied: “Carol, mostly I like to own the books. Like works of art, I treat them with reverence.  At the same time, I hope to support the artists. Libraries are wonderful. I borrowed from them exclusively when I was a child. I simply prefer to read at my own pace now and have the books at hand when I need. So yes, it would save tons of money. And possibly a few artists would starve.” Rest assured, I do cull my book piles. What you don’t see here are the stacks in my office, bedroom and living room. 

Here is my book list so far. I don’t have a sophisticated rating system apart from like, love, and blech. Luckily, there was only one major blech so far. For the sake of brevity, I will only identify the blech and the absolute loves on this blog. Anything without a rating merits a “like”. I will re-post this list with any new additions at the end of the year.

(For those of you curious about the lone blech, I leave you with this video review. Click here.)

Books Read 2019

  1. The Little Paris Bookshop — Nina George
  2. I Know You Know — Gillian MacMillan
  3. Life After Life — Kate Atkinson LOVE
  4. Big Magic — Elizabeth Gilbert LOVE
  5. And Then She Was Gone — Lisa Jewell
  6. Bridge of Clay — Markus Zusak
  7. Grit — Angela Duckworth
  8. The Marrow Thieves — Cherie Dimalin
  9. To the River — Olivia Laing
  10. The Atomic Weight of Love — Elizabeth J. Church
  11. Siddhartha — Herman Hesse
  12. Lying in Wait — Liz Nugent
  13. Less — Andrew Sean Greer
  14. The Woo Woo — Lindsay Wong
  15. A Noise Downstairs — Linwood Barclay
  16. Bird by Bird — Anne Lamott
  17. The Organist — Mark Abley
  18. Homes — Abu Bakr Al Rabeeah with Winnie Young
  19. The Haunting of Hill House — Shirley Jackson
  20. Brother — David Chariandy
  21. The Best Kind of People — Zoe Whittall
  22. It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of War and Love — Lynsey Addario LOVE
  23. The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye — David Lagercrantz
  24. All the Light We Cannot See — Anthony Doerr LOVE
  25. Songs for the Cold of Heart — Eric Dupont
  26. By Chance Alone — Max Eisen LOVE
  27. Life’s too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious — David Dark
  28. Agatha Christie — The Mystery of Three Quarters
  29. The Travelling Cat Chronicles — Hiro Arikawa
  30. Case Histories — Kate Atkinson
  31. Gift from the Sea — Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  32. Under the Visible Life — Kim Echlin
  33. The War of Art — Steven Pressfield
  34. A Gentleman in Moscow — Amor Towles
  35. The Leopard — Jo Nesbo
  36. Gingerbread — Helen Oyeyemi BLECH
  37. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine — Gail Honeyman LOVE
  38. The Moon Before Morning — W.S. Merwin LOVE
  39. The Word Is Murder — Anthony Horowitz
  40. My Brilliant Friend — Elena Ferrante
  41. The Wild Edge of Sorrow — Francis Weller LOVE
  42. Warlight — Michael Ondaatje LOVE
  43. Flash Count Diary; Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life — Darcey Steinke
  44. Natural Causes — Barbara Ehrenreich LOVE
  45. Voices in the Air (poems for listeners) — Naomi Shihab Nye LOVE
  46. The Blue Between Sky and Water — Susan Abulhawa
  47. One Good Turn — Kate Atkinson
  48. When Will There Be Good News? — Kate Atkinson
  49. Grief is the Thing with Feathers — Max Porter LOVE
  50. Bird Therapy — Joe Harkness
  51. Lanny — Max Porter
  52. The Tattooist of Auschwitz — Heather Morris

And there you have it, folks. Do feel free to comment about your love of reading below and include any books you are currently reading or ones you recommend I put on my to-read list. The best part of this whole experience has been in the virtual sharing of books, truly an inspiring exchange.

Finally, believe it or not, I am still in search of a real-time book club to join! Nothing like drooling over books with like-minded people.

I stopped by Chapters yesterday after picking up some bird supplies at the adjacent pet supply shop, just for a latte and a little looky around. I wasn’t planning on buying a book. Muah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, I said, rubbing long nailed, monster hands together in the thought bubble above my head.

It wasn’t long before a staff member approached me to ask if I needed help. Her name tag said Miri, just like the girl from the original Star Trek series episode. She was very young, a diminutive figure, with long black hair and dark, intelligent eyes. I thought the name Morag would suit her more and at that moment I wanted to be her, way back at the beginning of my life, helping someone buy books they didn’t need to pile on the piles of books already waiting to be read at home. The longing came in a flash and stayed with me.

“You have my dream job.”, I said, my finger pointing to her name tag. “I have my dream job.”, she replied with a crooked smile. “I’m thinking of applying here once I retire.”  “Do it!”, she said, enthusiastically. “Maybe I’ll see you around then.” “Oh, I don’t know if I’ll still be here.” She sounded doubtful.
But this is your dream job, Miri. Where else would you be? Sigh.
In the end, I bought the book Lanny by Max Porter, because I loved his book Grief is the Thing with Feathers so much, I vowed to read everything he writes. I also purchased two wooly cushions, the same blue-gray-green colour as Ian’s eyes, that were on sale, for the new IKEA sofa in the basement, because I need a cushion at my back so that my feet touch the ground. Miri didn’t help me with my book choice but I purposely asked her for help with the cushions, sending her on a wild goose chase for the same cushions without the cushion stuffing, so that I could say her name again and thank her for having my dream job. 
Have a dream job? Care to share?

  1. The brown club definitely hangs out at this airport. The only white people I’ve seen so far are Ian, a young girl wearing a silk skirt, bangles and a bare midriff and a tattooed family who are heading home to England. Someone on the intercom is looking for Passenger Bombidoodle. You can’t get browner than that.
  2. Next time I travel, I’m investing in cabin luggage that has wheels. Either that or a meet and greet service. It wouldn’t be that much of a stretch, really. Today my aching back and forward head posture had golf cart envy. If you’re not fit enough to carry your carry-ons, either stay home or book a cart.
  3. I used to love people watching at the airport. The travellers always seemed to be beautiful people wearing glamorous travel togs, wheeling hard cased, lightweight luggage pieces that don’t need to expand because everything inside is silk and who needs extra undies and socks when you’re a jet-setter? Check-in luggage? Nah, that’s for amateurs. Today, everyone seems to be wearing a neck pillow, even before they get on the plane. I was standing behind a girl in the bathroom who was wearing a pair of light beige, skin tight, spandex shorts. There were no panty lines. I checked. On top, she wore a beige, cropped sweatshirt (I fail to see the point) that had a cream-coloured ruff. Her straight, long blond hair hung down her back to the top of her tighty beigies. I worried on her behalf because that’s what I’m good at. What if she sat on an errant m & m in the waiting area? Never mind trying to keep those shorts intact being jostled back and forth in the airplane toilet? Would she order cream in her coffee so that her spills matched her outfit or would she drink it black? I thought about all of this as she applied her make-up in the mirror and the turbo speed hand driver blasted the water from my hands onto the back of those shorts.
  4. The bathrooms are better at Pearson. They have a lot more stalls and a lot less people needing to pee. I am the only one at my gate drinking a Venti, no foam latte. When the time comes, I will choose my stall. And if it’s not clean, I will simply choose another one.
  5. I see absolutely no logic in traveling further West so that we can wait three hours at Pearson, then board another plane to backtrack our way East. Then again, the brown club is here. Plus there are those lovely bathrooms.
  6. Ian is making friends with the brown family next to him. He thinks the white dad looks like his brother Mark after a holiday in the Carribean.
  7. Our flight from Montreal to Toronto was delayed. I made everyone in my row panic when i told them we only had 30 minutes to fly into Pearson and make our connecting flight. Thankfully, I misread 22:55 pm as 20:55 pm and am now enjoying a latte large enough that I need two hands to hold it.
  8. The only passenger on the entire flight from Montreal to Toronto who reclined his seat was the gentleman in front of me and as he did so, a waft of pungent BO drifted back to our row. Maybe he misread the time of his connecting flight too and suffered a shart. Delays will do that to you. I didn’t dare look to see if he was wearing beige shorts as we deplaned. My son just read this over my shoulder and nodded his head in commiseration. See? Everybody notices these things and I write about them.
  9. Someone just started to sing happy birthday on the intercom. With all these people waiting at the gate, it’s bound to be somebody’s birthday, i guess. 

I’m not a good traveller. As much as I am drawn to the idea of seeing the world while ticking items off a bucket list sort of itinerary, I love staying home even more. The fact that I am height-challenged and can never reach the overhead bins in the plane doesn’t help, never mind that lifting heavy bags like that is poor ergonomics in the first place. Flight attendants, I feel your pain.

But the worst part of traveling for me, is having to leave my pets behind. The very thought of it renders me to a hand-wringing, horribly guilty state. Heartbroken really. We have three birds and two dogs to board. The birds are fairly new acquisitions but no easier to care for. These small feathered beings recognize us, socialize with us and do not cope well with change. My husband says I am anthropomorphizing them.
Finding resources to look after them has been challenging because most people who love animals have their own menageries to care for with little room at the inn. Plus, the fact that it’s summertime with overlapping vacation periods.
One positive aspect of being an anxious, over thinker is that I gave myself plenty of time to come up with a plan. Our groomer, Tania, will be looking after the dogs. Whereas I don’t know her personally, she does a great job cleaning them up, takes them on very short notice when there is a “poop” emergency and consistently tells me how sweet and well-behaved they are. What sealed the deal though was when she said, “They can even sleep with me if they want!”. Only a true dog lover would ever considering sleeping with boarders.
The birds were a little trickier to place. It had to be an experienced “bird person” as they have
particular needs and tendencies. Based on recommendations from a couple of friends, we booked three spots at the the Veterinary Hospital for Birds and Exotic Pets in town. This had to be organized
well in advance as the prerequisite was a full medical exam as well as preventative treatments for
parasites. While we were there, we decided to have a DNA test done for our albino cockatiel, Johnny Winter, and discovered that she was in fact Betty White incognito.
Yesterday morning, my husband and I washed all the cages, loaded the birds in their carry cages, and transported them into town. The technician who checked them in was great. Efficient, kind and very knowledgeable. Betty White was placed next to two other cockatiels named Bob and Bill and Eugene Blue and Limoncello were side by side just like they are at home. Full disclosure: I bawled my eyes out later in the car.
And I cried again when the vet called me a few hours later to say they were worried about Chelly, our barred parakeet, who had been fluffed up and lethargic for hours. Could be stress or could be that she is ill, the vet explained. Not wanting to take any chances, particularly as we would be out of reach the following day, I gave her permission to do an exam and culture. The vet called me back around 8:30
pm. The culture was positive for a crop infection, was treatable with antibiotics and had a good
prognosis. It was only after the vet hung up that I remembered something. For the past couple of weeks, whenever I kissed Chelly on her little head, I noticed a sour odour, almost like urine. I wondered about it at the time and sprayed her more regularly with the water bottle (she loves having a shower, then preening herself). But the smell lingered. I had also noticed a few times that she stayed in her cage rather than run out to greet me when I opened the cage door with her comical, chicken wearing pyjamas, belly to the ground kind of gait.
In retrospect, thank goodness we decided to board them at the avian vet’s. Not being experienced bird owners, we may have let this go on too long with dire consequences. Birds are fragile little things; when they are ill, their condition can deteriorate rapidly.
We still have to drop off Sami and Gami shih tzu later this afternoon. It’s like they know what’s in the
air. Neither of them have eaten today. Ugh.Part of me (the adventurous, bucket-list part) is really looking forward to this trip. It will be good to see family overseas again and for my husband to see the land of his forebears for the first time. That being said, I am already looking forward to being reunited with the fids and the fur kids again.À bientôt!
Limoncello “Chelly”, our Linnie.
Eugene the pacific blue parrotlet

                                                                  Betty White

                                                                 Sami & Gami

As far as I am concerned white loafers should stay in the closet at all times but if you’re going to wear them anyway, for heaven’s sake, dust them off and (shoe) polish them up after Spring equinox.

Context: I put my clip-on sunglasses in my coat pocket the other day then sat down for a car ride. Needless to say, either my body heat, hip flexion, or possibly both caused them to bend and contort. I dropped them off at Vizualis to be repaired and picked them up today.

Clerk wearing white loafers before Spring equinox, who I know fairly well and try to avoid when it comes time to choose new frames: “Hi! How are you?”

Me: “I’m well, thanks. You look good. Did you get new glasses?”

White loafers: “No, I lost weight. I’m on a diet, nothing but salads for me.”

Me: “Go figure, I’m on a diet too!”

I’m thinking we may not recognize each other next time around. One thing’s for sure, you will never, ever, catch me wearing white loafers no matter what season it is. Not even the kind with velcro straps.

“You and me, we’ve met geniuses. And we know we’re not like them, don’t we? What is it like to go on, knowing you are not a genius, knowing you are a mediocrity? I think it’s the worst kind of hell.”
“Well,” Less said. “I think there’s something between genius and mediocrity—“
Less, by Andrew Sean Greer
And that is the bar I am aiming for as I begin my 57th year. Anything between mediocrity and genius will do.

Valentine’s Day

I love this face
This face, this face
The space it takes
When pressed so close
To mine
The crinkled corners
Of kind blue eyes
The deepened grooves 
That earn another year today
I love the way it takes me in
The tam o’ shanter
Silly grin
That makes me laugh
(At stupid things)
The words that form
Inside its rooms
They swirl and dance
Into songs and poems
My Valentine’s Boy
He makes me sing
He makes me better
He makes me think
There was supposed to be
An earth shattering KABOOM
And oh, by God, there was
A spark, a flame, a plume
That face, that face
it caught me fast
I’m smitten now
No looking back.
Happy birthday, sweet I! ❤️❤️❤️
What is the shape of your joy? 
In Kyo Maclear’s wonderful memoir, Birds Art Life, she refers to her friend Jack Breakfast and his cure for creative depression: “He had discovered his joy was bird shaped.”
A few years ago, I think it was the month of June, I was walking my dogs through the local park during my lunch hour, when I heard a bird song for the first time. What I mean is, until that exact moment in time and space, this song had been nothing but white noise in my head, the soundtrack to a busy, distracted life. But on that particular day, for whatever reason, the universe opened up and it was like I heard it for the first time. Its melody was sweet and clear. Two notes in succession, repeated. I remember feeling fully aware in that moment and the distinct sensation of my heart lifting in my chest. I scanned the trees above to find the source of the music but to no avail. It was only much later, in describing it to Ian, that he identified it as a chickadee song
As it turned out, the shape of my joy was also a bird. And in discovering that joy, my life was permanently altered and I became a bird person.
Late last night when I should have been in bed, I was busted by Ian as I edited a selection of the 500 plus bird photos I took during this past Sunday’s snowstorm (make that crazy bird lady). 
“What are you doing?”, he asked.
“Editing photos when I should be winding down.”, I replied sheepishly. I showed him the shot I was working on.
“Nice! I wrote you a poem.”, he said. “I sent it through messenger.”
(As much as I love poetry, I especially love it when it’s written for me.)
Here is the poem:
My love loves taking photographs
The backyard birds are famous now

Her spirit animal
Chick a dee dee dee…
Little cuddly looking cuties 
that can’t be cuddled
Cause they can’t be still

If I were to describe a bird 
that most resembles her
It would be the chickadee
Predictably unpredictable 
Or unpredictably predictable

These little flitterfluff rascals
All puffed out against the 
fierce forces of winter
Flitting and quitting 
in acrobatic routines 
that never repeat. 
Peep peep

hard to photograph, a challenge
They don’t sit still for long 
Not long enough to focus on. 
Always on to the next task

I’m waiting for my chickadee
To come home
— Ian Hanchet
And here is the photograph I was editing (the shape of my joy):
So tell me, what is the shape of your joy?
So I just bought a domain name thinking it would inspire me to write more blog entries. Here goes.

Actually, I bought two domain names: I purchased the second one after making a big spelling boo boo on the first one. I’ll blame that on my cataracts. Apparently I have to wait five days before canceling the first one which makes absolutely no sense to me unless they’re hoping I forget to cancel. 
In other news, I am following four times more people on Instagram than are following me which makes me rather uncool and needy. Not to mention many of the accounts that do follow me promise to make me more popular on Instagram. Sigh … welcome to the world of social media. 

Oh, and there are a total of eleven people (still) following my blog. (If you’re reading this, you’re one of them!) Out of those eleven, two are the same people, one is my husband, three are from my defunct book club and five are (loyal) friends.

I’ve entered cancelling my domain name in my smart phone calendar. Five days seems so random. 

My domaine name is, by the way. I was both shocked and pleased it was still available. Sounds a lot better than bogieampruby. com, don’t it?

I went sports bra shopping today. Not because the ones I wear aren’t doing the job. Rather, I wouldn’t want to be caught dead in one if I were in an accident and somebody had to perform CPR or something.

Anyone who knows me well knows well enough how much I hate clothes shopping and shopping for undergarments is no exception. Luckily, my go-to clothing store is conveniently located next to my favourite bookstore, the ideal place to console myself after a failed attempt to find something, anything that fits. (I have a lot of books, by the way.)

This particularly clothing store happens to sell a sporty line, clothes to sweat in, or in my case, stuff to sweat in AND wear to the office. I am particularly drawn to the fact that they carry an “ultra-petite” section though by section I mean one pair of stretchy pants (what the hell are sculpture pants?) that are still two inches too long for my 26″ inseam.

I found the sportsbra rack at the back of the store, all black except for one conspicuous salmon-coloured model, and searched for my cup size. Uh … what the heck does size “extra-large” translate to in cup-size? I spotted a sales clerk lurking in the shadows and asked her how the bra sizes work. She replied, “Well, I take medium.”, as if that was supposed to be some kind of universal reference point for the rest of us. “I’d better try a large then.”, I decided. I headed to a cubicle, undressed and pulled the claspless, crossed-back bra over my head, then grimaced in anticipation as I turned to face my reflection in the mirror. Well, folks, how do I put this? It would have been a perfect fit if I’d been looking for some sort of abdominal hernia support. Or a hammock to have a nap in before I used it to carry my coconuts home.

“How’s it going in there?’, the salesgirl called from the other side of the cubicle. “I’m afraid I’m not as young and perky as you.”, I lamented. I need proper cups that lift and separate and provide a solid surface to rest my chin on.

Besides, I just remembered a book I need to get.

The expedition wasn’t a complete loss though. I managed to snag a fall coat on my way out the door. Don’t you just love stuff you can try on without undressing?

Additional rant: please, please, please, dear fashion Gods … make skinny pants/leggings go away and bring back the boot cut. I really don’t like having to take my glasses off to try on pants, never mind my shoes. And I don’t like having to put my socks back on everytime I take them off. It’s bad enough being 4’11” on a good day without feeling like I’m just another link in the sausage train!

Had any luck with clothes-shopping lately? Do share your stories of inspiration.

P.S. I did wear a pair of jean leggings the other day that my dear work friends bought me before my honeymoon last year. It’s the first time I wore them in public and even though I was very uncomfortable and had to take my shoes and glasses off to get them on and and put my socks back on when I took them off, I wore them happily because they were chosen with love, by people I love.


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Indian Book Blogger | Poet | Short Story Writer

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