30 June 2011

Mrs Readalot Gets Annoyed (Bookclub & Linky)

It's Mrs Readalot's Book Club time again. Read any good books lately?  June's Book of the Month was chosen by this month's Book Club Host, Helen at One Trick Pony...

Novel About My Wife by Emily Perkins

Mrs Readalot has never read any Emily Perkins books, even though Ms Perkins lives in New Zealand. You'd think she would have at least heard of her, but no. Apparently this book won some kind of award, so it had potential to be a good read. I'll let Mrs Readalot tell you about it in her own words...

Mrs Readalot says:
The book started well with a snappy first paragraph. Plus it was written in the first person; I like stories told by "I" - they let me get inside the main character's head.

I have to say, I wasn't gripped. There were no all-nighters; no laying awake wondering what would happen next - but at first I liked it well enough. It was well-written, nicely described, interesting characters - though I didn't love any of them.

The story centres around Ann, the thirty-something wife of the storyteller, Tom.

As the story progresses you find yourself wondering, what is up with Ann?
Is she bi-polar? Is she haunted? Is she being stalked? You really don't know. And neither does Tom.

From the first paragraph you know Ann has died, but not how.
You just hope that all things will become clear by the end.
At least that's what I always hope for any books I read... that at the end you will understand what happened and why.

But this book left me confused and with many questions unanswered.

What was that scar on her arm from??
Who was Hallie to Ann (and why did he freak her out?)
What was Ann in her former life in Australia?
Why was she the way she was????
And why O why did the book end so abruptly.

I am unsatisfied.
Finishing a book should not leave you unsatisfied. You should not be feeling like there are huge chunks of crucial information that somehow got left out. The pivotal points of a story cannot be hinted at. They must be clearly told.
Otherwise simpletons like me will be left guessing, confused, annoyed and unsatisfied.
I was disappointed by the ending. And the unanswered questions.

Can anyone else who has read this book enlighten me?

I'd really appreciate it. Because I was left feeling like pages with important information had been torn out, leaving me scrabbling to piece together what happened and why.

If these gaps had been painted in clearly this could have been a gripping and clever story.
But sadly, it only left me empty and eager to put it behind me.

Help, anyone??

Evn though it was annoying, Mrs Readalot still rates
Novel About My Wife: ♥♥♥♥♥

Mrs Readalot does not like books which try to be clever but ask the reader to draw their own conclusions, leaving threads dangling messily.

Mrs Readalot thinks truly clever books answer all your questions, tie up all loose ends, and come to a satisfying conclusion.

Sadly, this is the second book Mrs Readalot read this month where the author seemed to think it was a good idea to have no satisfactory conclusion. The much-celebrated "Everything is Illuminated" by Jonathan Safran Foer also left her rather annoyed. Everything was not illuminated!! A very frustrating outcome, leaving Mrs R feeling like she had wasted two days. There were some dazzling snippets of poetic beauty... but a completely unsatisfying end. Bah.

Please you young writers-of-the-future, this approach is NOT clever. It does not make us love your books. Post-modernism be damned.

Book Club:
This month our linky is being hosted by Helen over at One Trick Pony, so go visit Helen to link up your book reviews (and spend some time visiting the other reviews and leave your comments... that's what makes the book club fun)

Remember you don't have to have read the Book of the Month - you can review any book you choose. The linky will remain open throughout the month of July. The link to this post will remain in my sidebar so you can find all the details when you are ready to link up your posts.


If you're joining in, add the button into your post and sidebar. If you want to join in the Book Club on a regular basis (and become a host) visit this post (which explains how it all works) and leave a comment asking to become a host.

Happy Reading!
28 June 2011

What if...?

I owe my existence to a drunken Irishman.
My ancestor was heading to Australia with his brothers but got drunk, missed his boat and got stuck here in Auckland instead.
What if he had not been drunk that day? Would I be an heiress to the Grace Brothers dynasty, speaking with an Aussie twang... or would I exist at all?

I've been thinking about the near-misses in my ancestry. If just one thing had been changed... where would I be?

What if my great-grandmother had not run away from her marriage to New Zealand when my grandfather was two years old? Would I be eating Cornish pasties in Redruth, England... or would I exist at all?

What if my grandfather had chosen a different boarding house to lodge at, instead of my grandmother's aunt's place? Would they still have met? Fallen in love? What if they hadn't? My mother would have never been born. So where would I be?

What if those Irish boys on my dad's side didn't have such a temper? Would they have beaten up their landlord and had to run away to the coast to avoid incarceration or hanging? What if the first ship they found had been headed to America instead of Downunder? What if the ship had sailed straight to Sydney instead of going via Auckland? My drunken great-grandfather would not be buried somewhere in the old Symonds Street cemetery. I wouldn't be a Kiwi... if I existed at all.

What if my mum had stayed home the night of that party in 1968? What if she never met my dad?
What if she'd gone ahead and married The Ugly Pom or Dave Crawford... or one of her many other beaux... before my dad had the chance to chat her up?

What if my dad wasn't a Catholic? What if she hadn't listened to him and had taken the contraceptives...? Would I have been born later... or not at all?

My existence hinges upon a series of coincidences. My world-travelling ancestors united from all points of the globe to eventually cross paths and get me born... Romania, Italy, Ireland, England...

Our children continue the tradition of near-misses.

What if Mr G's dad hadn't remarried and moved to New Zealand...? What if Mr G had decided to continue to Australia after visiting his long-lost dad (as he had planned)?
What if he wasn't lost that day on the way to his job interview? What if he'd asked someone else for directions instead of that pastor's wife out weeding her garden? What if she'd never challenged him to think about why God brought him to this country...? What if he didn't turn his life over to God... move to Auckland... find a flat with some guys who went to my church...?

We would never have met.
The chances of us meeting when we are from opposite ends of the earth, and opposite sides of life (party-boy meets goody-two-shoes-girl) are mighty slim.

But somehow we managed to hook up and create some pretty special little people. Without this combination of "me and him" where would Dash be? Miss Fab? Scrag?

Eek. Sometimes when you stop to think about all those near-misses, its rather frightening.
What if? What if? What if?

But its OK. The planets lined up, the Irishman missed his boat and here we are.

Inspired by looking at my littlest one and asking, What if we never had him? He is such a treasure and we nearly didn't go there... that one question led to others and before long I find its an absolute miracle I even exist.

{Writing Prompt #2 For Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writers Workshop}
26 June 2011

Still Walking with a Limp

Know anybody perfect?
Anybody without flaws, imperfections, weaknesses?
Nah, me neither.
I think we all have them, don't we?

Things we struggle with, our private battles, our nemeses and giants.
My giant is no secret - I have battled depression for the past 10 years, and continue to live in its shadow.

If you watch me walk through life for long enough, you will notice that I have this "limp".
It aint pretty. But a while back I decided there was no point hiding it.
Better to say, Yes I limp. Yes I struggle.
You'll figure it out eventually anyway.
And its nothing to be ashamed of.

Just as the grit inside an oyster shell irritates it, this weakness irritates me.
But like the oyster, an irritation can actually become something beautiful if I let it.
Turn my pain into a pearl. Turn this weakness into a strength. Turn my struggle into a story of hope.

Here's one of my favourite verses:

"My grace is sufficient for you; my strength is made perfect in weakness..."
2 Corinthians 12:9

Or, as another version puts it: "My power shows up best in weak people."

It's this "thorn in my side" that has taught me empathy.
It gives me a point of identification with others: If she can (and she struggles) maybe I can too...?

God doesn't use me in spite of my weakness. He uses me because of my weakness.
Did you think He is could only use the strong, the self-satisfied, the ones who are all-together?
No. The opposite is true. The following verse has been the theme of my life...

"Think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are..."
1 Corinthians 1:26-28

Because I am weak I know I can't do my life on my own. I know I need help.

Today I wanted to share something to encourage anyone who is struggling or feeling like they are useless, hopeless, unworthy.
I was reminded of this post I wrote two years ago, Walking with a Limp.
As true as the post was then, it is even more true now.

I have continued to walk with a limp.
But in spite of that God has been gracious; he has taken my weakness, my "limp", and given me something to share with you all. A way to encourage those on the same journey. He has brought many women across my path who I have been able to encourage and connect with.

Not because I am strong, but because I share their weakness.
My struggles are not a disqualification; they are bridge to connect me to others.
In the midst of my struggles I can still have a voice.
Even though I am a work in progress, I still have something to offer.
God doesn't wait til I am "all better" - he will take what I can offer him now, here, as I am.
In my weakness he gives me a voice to speak.

How did Jesus feed the 5000? With a little boy's lunch.
He takes what little we have and can turn it into something powerful... if we offer it up to Him.

Have a blessed Sunday

24 June 2011

My Weekly Dose of Love & Gratitude

Loving eclectic fashion.
Gumboots and fairy skirt. Fab.
Especially love that this particular fairy skirt was bought for Miss Fab by her daddy when she was 18 months old...

Its still going strong. Of course it fits her much better now.

Loving yummy treats.
Berry and apple crumble whipped up in a flash. Leftovers for breakfast. Yum.

{Filling: frozen berries, canned apple, cinnamon, brown sugar. Topping: butter, flour, sugar, rubbed together and then squished in handfuls and crumbled over the top. Bake until golden and bubbling} 

Loving that this can be made gluten free by using GF baking mix. And still tastes delicious.
Love that this can be made dairy free by using Olivani. And still tastes delicious.

And my latest indulgence...

The Collective yoghurt. Oh my. So good. Better than icecream. Really.
At treat for the grown-ups. We steal spoonfuls out of the tub. Its a race to the finish.

Loving Technology. And Grateful for it.

Love that I can talk face-to-face with my friend in China. For Free. Thankyou Skype.
Love that I can stay connected with her everyday happenings. Thanks Facebook.
Love that I can read about her adventures. And laugh at her jokes.
Thanks Blogger. Thanks Internet.

Without technology I would be missing my friend so much more. But thanks to technology we can stay connected even though separated by thousands of miles. Pretty amazing huh?

***There were meant to be some webcam grabs of Gail talking on her webcam to accompany this. I sneakily snapped them while skyping Gail the other day. But now I can't find them anywhere on my computer so I had to do a screen-grab of her vlog instead. I guess the joke's on me***

Loving Pinterest.
Oh go ahead and groan. I gave in.
I tried to ignore the invitation I got sent. I told myself, I don't need one more thing to be addicted to...
Pinterest kindly sent me a reminder... you haven't accepted your invitation yet... I ignored that too.

But while visiting Lyns, she showed me how it works. I was hooked. Thanks Lyns!
After dropping Scrag at kindy I raced home, accepted the invitation and started happily Pinning stuff.

I figure Pinterest is a tool, like any other. It can be what I make of it. I can find cool stuff on there, not just pretty pictures but great websites and blogs with actual how-to's... I can even pin my own blog posts so others can find them. (Yeah, I pinned my own parties. Am I a Saddo?)

I have happily pinned a whole Tangled party board. Cos guess who is turning seven next month and having a Tangled party? There are some great party ideas. So go ahead and call me crazy but I love Pinterest after all. The End.

Grateful for the Small things that Mean the World to Me.

Grateful for...
  • the roof over my head that doesn't leak. It keeps me warm and dry and safe.
  • Food in my cupboards. Good food. Delicious food.
  • Legs that can walk, eyes that can see.
  • Hands to hold, cheeks to kiss
  • The sun that rises every morning without fail. I can rely on that. Even when there's clouds.
  • Books to read. the library. Spectacles. Without them I'd be blind.
  • Sunshine through my windows.
  • A warm soft bed. Blankets.
  • Art on my walls. Colour in my world.
  • Chores to be done. It means I have stuff to care for.
  • Appliances that do the hard stuff. Washing machine. Dryer. Dishwasher.
  • Indoor toilet. Clean running water. Not everyone has those.
  • A car. A drivers licence. Places to go. People to see.
  • My husband. A faithful man. A good man. A loving man. A Generous man.
  • Friends. Cups of tea. Telephones. Skype.
  • Kindy. School. Education for my kids. Not to be taken for granted.
  • Clean air to breathe.
  • A country not at war.

    ...plus too many other small things I take for granted but rely on every minute of every day.
That's what I'm loving and grateful for this week. How about you?

Linking up with these gems...


P.S. I love focusing on all the things I have to be grateful for at the end of the week. Its so heartening ♥
23 June 2011

Green Eyed Monster

Sweet little girlie, why you look so sad?
You're acting very angry, you're seeming very mad
Has that green-eyed monster been whispering to you?
You know you shouldn't listen, it really isn't true

Of course I love your brothers and think they're pretty great
But you're my only daughter, my gorgeous girlie mate
It isn't very pretty when you sit there with that scowl
I see that green eyed monster and I hear him in your growl

I wonder if you realise how much you mean to me
My one and only daughter, how more precious could you be?
You're sitting in the middle and I know that must be tough
Not the biggest or the smallest, and I know boys can be rough

Never think I'd overlook you, or forget you, little girl
When I have just one sweet daughter, my treasure, my pearl
Do you think my heart won't fit you? That my arms are not this wide?
Peek into my heart, look here you are now, safe inside

When each new child was born, my heart stretched to fit you in
And now my heart is full of you, full up to the brim
So don't go getting jealous, don't listen to those lies
Come sit here on my lap, snuggle in and wipe your eyes

Green-eyed monsters by their nature are deceptive through and through
They whisper in your ear "you are not loved" "he's more than you"
Green eyed monsters have no place here, now we've found out where they hide
Close your heart off to his whispers, don't let those lies inside

I will always love you, middle child, no more and no less
Than each one of your brothers, each child of mine's the best
I cannot pick a favourite, there's not one I love the most
OK, you're all my favourites, best kids ever, that's my boast.

About the Pictures: These two photographs were taken by me last year (not last week sorry) and are two of my favourite pictures of Miss Fab ever. They capture the vulnerability that lies beneath her bolshy exterior. She's our middle child and I always thought that since she was the only girl we would escape the "middle child" syndrome... but apparently not. Lately she is needing lots and lots of reassurance. Do you have a "middle child" who has gone through this?

Writing Prompt #2.) Write a poem inspired by a picture you took last week year. Share both. {For Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writers Workshop}
22 June 2011

Bags of Hope

I'll bet you're like me when you heard about the latest Christchurch Earthquake.
Stunned. Horrified. Sickened.
That's three big earthqakes since September, for those of you in other parts of the world.

Three earthquakes squishing up tonnes of silt liquefaction through lawns and roads and homes.

Three times having to clean it all up.

Three earthquakes toppling homes off cliffs.
Three earthquakes smashing irreplaceable architecture.
Three earthquakes destroying water and sewerage lines to thousands of homes.

Thousands of people using portaloos for nearly a year. Old people. Pregnant women. Little kids.
Thousands of people without running water.

Thousands of people waiting for the verdict on whether their suburbs will be bulldozed leaving them... where?

Thousands of devastated people living in limbo, shaken awake by aftershocks, every tremor reinforcing the insecurity of their lives in the wake of three earthquakes.
One was bad enough.
Two was heartrending, devastating.
But how do you come back from three?
How do you find the heart to do it all over again... and hope that this time is the last time?

I sit here in my safe house with its running water and indoor flush toilet watching the stories every night on TV and feel... helpless.

So when I got an email from a reader asking for my help to share a way to bring hope... of course I jumped at it. Here's her email...

Hey, My name is Kerry aka KezHarry, and im an avid follow of your blog

I was wondering if you could at all help me/us/chch with your blog, we have started an wee project (massive project really) in our church in rangiora, we are only a wee church but one with a big vision and a huge God! so he has set the mandate to bless east chch with 10,000 bags of hope, a huge task when there is only 150-200 of us in our church.

Hope, Faith and Love, we are stepping out in all three and man does chch ever need Hope! recent new reports have been so sad seeing their wearing disposition.

...in the september quake we sent teams of people into kaiapoi area, plus loads of baking etc and worked there with everyone else for a few days.
obviously the feb earthquake effected everyone and we really hit the ground again but this time in full force areas and one of our church members helped set up and organised 'the rangiora earthquake express' which brought food and water via private and army helicopters into the eastern suburbs and sumner, it was the weirdest sight seeing helicopters flying over every 20mins.

We also called our big brothers and sisters in at Hamilton Life [church] and they sent down 35 people to help out, we hired 2 diggers and with heaps of strong backs we shovelled out 45 properties in the east, we also put on public breakfasts in parks which people could come and get a free hot feed. Plus there has been so many individuals doing their bit too.

At every earthquake we have sought God to guild us in what to do and this time around its the bags of hope.

For every earthquake I have felt a bit usless, I was 9 weeks preggy in September, 9 months preggy in feb and now i have a beautiful wee 11 week old boy that needs me, so shovelling hasnt been the way for me, so baking and emailing it is!


"Bags of Hope" might not remove the silt or fix the water supply. But it does send a message of solidarity to these stricken families from the rest of us. It says, we haven't forgotten you, we give a damn.
The artwork contained in the bag (in the red and black Canterbury colours) will be a visual reminder of that.

Each cellophane bag will contain:

 A block mounted art piece (with sponsors name and town/city on the back)
 A block of Chocolate
 4+ Coffee/Hot Chocolate sachets

People can sponsor one bag or hundreds. Each bag will cost around $NZ5. A sponsor's name and hometown will be on the back of the artwork so the recipient knows it comes from a person, not just an organisation.
Here's how we can help these guys in their mission to give a "Bag of Hope" to 10,000 families in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch...
 Visit the Website with all information and links to the Facebook page & Twitter
 Sponsor a bag, or a few. Online donations can be made via this fundraising page
Thanks guys.

Images found on GoogleImage
21 June 2011

Introverts and Extroverts

Picture the Introvert.
Call up his face in your mind.
What do you see? A pale, thin, knock-kneed, spectacle wearing stammerer huddled in the corner over his book?

Would it surprise you to know that I am an introvert?
OK, so at one point I actually was a pale thin spectacle wearing shy-girl huddled in the corner over my book... but these days it might not be so easy to pick me out as the introverted type.

My Public Speaking Days...

I'm friendly and inclusive and have plenty of friends. I chat and laugh, I can be silly. I get dressed up and don't mind making a fool of myself. I've done plenty of public speaking. I bare my soul to the world on a regular basis.

How can I say that I am an introvert if I can be outgoing, friendly and socially confident?

Because introversion and extroversion have nothing to do with whether you are friendly or not.
Its about where you get your emotional energy. What drains that energy and what replenishes it.

Introverts get their energy from alone time. Or from time one-on-one with a friend. Being in crowds drains us. Social contact drains us. We might enjoy it... but afterwards we need to get away somewhere quiet to get re-energised.

Extroverts are the opposite. Extroverts are energised by people contact. Socialising re-charges their emotional batteries. People-contact is to an extrovert what water is to a fish.
They need it. Too much alone time drains them.

Introverts are the minority in our family.
My husband is a raging extrovert, a life-of-the-party type.
Two of our three kids take after him. Miss Fab and Scrag are people-people to the max.

Miss Fab gets twitchy if she has to spend too much time alone.
She needs social contact. Being surrounded by people energises her, revitalises her.
She comes home from school hungry for more.

Dash on the other hand, he takes after me. A friendly introvert.
He makes friends easily and mixes well. He's likable and outgoing, not shy in the least.
But. After a day of people contact at school he needs down time.
The days when there is football practise straight after school...? High possibility of a meltdown unless he gets some time to himself.

He loved the idea of sharing a room with Scrag. But after a few months the reality set in. No alone time.
He needs the ability to close the door and be with himself after a peopled-out day.
So he decided he'd rather have the smallest room in the house to himself, than share a large room with his brother.
Its no bigger than a cupboard but it's all his. And it has a door.

It really helps as a parent to know how my kids are wired. I know that I need to provide Dash with down time or he will fall apart. I know I need to provide Miss Fab with lots of opportunity for playing with others or she will erupt. And Scrag...? Scrag becomes destructive if left in his own company for too long.
It helps to know this about my kids! I can avert disaster far more easily.

Click here for the full Personality Test

So what about you...? Are you an introvert... or an extrovert?
{and how about those kids of yours?}