10. NDN Coping Mechanisms (Billy-Ray Belcourt)

Screen Shot 2020-04-19 at 9.54.53 AMFirst of all, I am disclosing that I am not the best connoisseur of poetry.  Sure I can still recite Stopping in the Woods on a Snowy Evening but I recognize that I am probably missing some of the beauty and education wound into these poems. I take full accountability (and admit that I prefer the narrative fiction and non-fiction) that it is me, not the material as the good reads ranking for this book are very high. To be absolutely honest, I just read it because it was on the long-list  for Canada Reads.

Although it was very artistic, creative and I appreciated the different formats, I struggled to maintain focus while reading these poems. The author clearly has a strong command of language and vocabulary but perhaps, I was just too tired to read poetry in January!

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9. Love Lives Here (Amanda Jette Knox)

Screen Shot 2020-04-19 at 9.18.39 AMWow!!  What a loving family. I am thankful that they were willing to share their story, their challenges, their knowledge and their love with others.

The author, Amanda, endured struggles in her teens – with bullying, alcohol.  She got treatment, met the love of her life,  had 3 children together – happily ever after, right?  No, life continued to throw challenges and when one of her children came out as transgender the family learned and supported their daughter through many difficulties, even moving schools, dealing with trolls yet always loving and supporting their child.

As their brave child worked through many challenges, Amanda’s husband was working though his own story.  He had been unhappy, depressed and the marriage was at risk.  A year later, he bravely admitted that he too was in the wrong body.  Not only that, they adopted a teenaged daughter who had been bounced around in the foster system sharing their love and becoming a family of 6!

As part of the Canada Reads long-list, it is another book that will move readers to a place of understanding and, hopefully, less judgement than seems to exist in society.   It did not win a place on the short-list I am thankful to have read, learned and witnessed the love of a family through this book.

Need to know more?  check out her website here.

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8. The Governance Core (Campbell and Fullan)

Screen Shot 2020-04-19 at 8.32.29 AMThe Governance Code:  School Boards, Superintendents and Schools Working together is a collection of leadership suggestions tailored specifically to school boards. This would have been a great book to read prior to starting as a trustee and was a helpful reminder of the board and staff working together towards a collective goal for students.

While it had some great tips, my only suggestion would be to have a more Canadian focus since it referenced Canadian and American school boards (ie. reference provinces not state)!

If anyone is thinking of running for a position of school board trustee this would be a great book to read to understand the roles of the trustees (governance), the roles of superintendents (operations and leadership) and work together to ensure responsible leadership that focusses on students.

While I read this book in January, it would be interesting to consider some of this advice in the present time of COVID19, with schools closed and a quick pivot to online learning (thank you teachers, principals, superintendents)!

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Book Club Chat with Jesse Thistle

fullsizeoutput_9c93At a time when connection is a challenge, our book club enjoyed a thought-provoking “zoom” chat with Canada Reads, long-listed, author and professor, Jesse Thistle, this evening.  We appreciated his time, his humour, his honesty and openness as he shared his experience and answered our questions.  For anyone who has not read From the Ashes, it is an impactful read.  It tells his story of struggle, resilience, support, perseverance and hard work as he overcame abandonment, foster care, addiction, an assault, crime and homelessness.  It makes readers question their own biases, judgement and reconsider the experience of others who struggle.

I LOVE that Jesse joined us, in his housecoat, from his cozy office.  Although we had a few internet challenges, it was great to come together, on the screen, and learn more about Jesse’s experience.  He was asked what it is like to have so many people know his story and shared that it feels like he is “singing naked in front of a crowd” and that it is an unusual feeling for readers to know his story when he knows nothing about theirs.  He does acknowledge that sharing his story with universal themes of love, family, adversity and triumph has created a fellowship in his life which is a “beautiful thing“.

We were so happy to hear about the wrap around support that he received at Harvest House and that he has been clean for almost 12 years.  He said that he had finally realized that he was going to die which gave him a “real clarity of life” which helped him to rehabilitate his life.

Since sharing his story, he has been asked to speak across the country; he not only teaches at York University but is working with a physician at St. Michael’s hospital to develop protocols to help the homeless, paying it forward!

His eyes lit up when he spoke of his wife Lucie, saying that she is “cool”, that they are “star crossed lovers” and that she is “the only thing I’ve ever gotten right in my life”.  We challenged him on that comment and think while has has a wonderful relationship with her, he is also making a huge difference by sharing his experience and opening readers eyes to understanding, compassion and caring rather than judgement!

As a family who share our 3 best things at dinner, I love that he makes a gratitude list each day (thanks to Oprah) and takes care of his own mental health.  When asked about advice he may have, he shared the teaching of his elders to see everything (each other, trees, the river, the environment) as relatives and that we need to treat all of our relations with respect.  We couldn’t help to draw parallels to COVID19 and he said that we can think of this virus as an “angry relative which is disciplining us and telling us to smarten up”.  I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment – after social isolating/distancing, the impact of this virus is making us all think about what is important in life – being grateful for our family, our friends, our health, having shelter, food… and even toilet paper!

Our book club is so thankful to have spent part of our evening with Jesse Thistle and wish he and his beloved Lucie health and happiness.  We wish him luck in Canada Reads (when it is rescheduled) and look forward to meeting him and getting our books signed when book events begin again!  Thank you Jesse!

Fun fact:  Did you know that Jesse narrated his book in just 3 days?

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7. We Have Always Been Here (Samra Habib)

Screen Shot 2020-03-21 at 10.56.02 AMFor anyone who has been following this blog, you will know that I am a HUGE fan of Canada Reads!  It is an amazing celebration of Canadian authors as 5 defenders sit around a table in the CBC studio and debate great Canadian books.

We Have Always Been Here is written by Samra Habib, a strong woman who identifies herself as both Queer and Muslim. She moved to Canada from Pakistan to flee the persecution of her family.  She has dealt with racism, homophobia, Islamaphobia and has spent decades not only accepting herself but struggling with the relationships with her family, her community and her faith.

As she journeys to acceptance, so does her family.  It is hard to believe that this young girls was pushed into an arranged marriage as a teenager.  Thankfully she shares that her relationship with her family continued to evolve and that she continues to experience the love of her family despite the strict teaching of their mosque.

This is a great memoir for Canadians to learn and understand the challenges of new Canadians, members of the LGBTQ community and Muslim women. It is written in an honest, non-judgemental way to open eyes and make readers think about the rich fabric of Canada!

Although Canada Reads has been postponed for 2019, check out the great content on the CBC website here.

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6. 21 Things You Might Not Know about the Indian Act (Bob Joseph)

Screen Shot 2020-03-21 at 10.43.13 AMAs part of a read indigenous challenge on the CanadianContent goodreads site, this was an eye opening read.  It is a starting point to do better. It is a call of action reminding readers and the government of the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations and a wake up call for individuals to have a greater understanding of Canadian history.

Working in health care, I have experienced the call to action by completing cultural competency education.  It replaces the stereotypes and history which was taught public school with the harsh facts of residential schools, Indian hospitals and the ongoing impacts of the Indian Act which still exists today.

After reading this book, it is hard to believe the terrible language and sentiments of the governments with a goal  to “kill the Indian” in the children mandated to attend residential schools. It also makes me question the progress on the truth and reconciliation recommendations.

The content was helpful and informing but admittedly, it was a dry (but important) read. Perhaps adding some individual testimony would have helped readers to really understand the true impact.  For fictional books on this topic, I would recommend reading anything by the late Richard Wagamese who lived a life impacted by the decisions of others.

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Be Prepared… COVID19 catch up on reading

Screen Shot 2020-03-21 at 10.36.55 AMHi all,  I have been remiss in posting my 2020 reads but now that I am self-isolating, my goal is to get caught up on my posts.  I am sharing pre-apologies for clogging your inboxes if you subscribe to my email posts but also will provide some suggestions for some reading.  🙂

Whether you are self-isolating or social distancing, it is a time to hunker down and read!  What are you reading?  What is on your TBR pile?  Do you have any suggestions for some lighter books that everyone would enjoy?


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5. Broken Man on a Halifax Pier (Lesley Choice)

Screen Shot 2020-01-28 at 9.49.46 AMBroken Man on a Halifax Pier was a quick read about a man, broken, jobless and behind in his rent, who meets a woman on the pier.  She is named Ramona and swoops into his life, pulling him out of his listless state to build a relationship and face the challenges of past, present and future.

Drugs, a gun, fights, arrests, near drownings, death and a terrible storm combine with decades of with family drama to keep the reader engaged.  Broken Man on a Halifax Pier is an enjoyable read which blends every day challenges of life with the power and danger of living near the ocean in hurricane season.

There is a small part of me that wants to give the tent trailer a second chance and head back East to spend more time in Nova Scotia (and actually get to Halifax) after last year’s “adventure” which could rival a Chevy Chase summer vacation!  I might need to read a few more books tempting me to travel east first… and get the tent trailer home as it is still vacationing in Cape Breton!!!

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4. The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Agatha Christie) #readchristie2020

Screen Shot 2020-01-28 at 9.10.52 AMAgatha Christie is known as “the best selling novelist of all time” (from her website), publishing 66 books and 14 short story collections.  Over a billion copies have sold in English along with another billion in translation!  Her novels have been enjoyed world-wide yet the only book that I had read was And Then There Were None.  It is time to rectify that and in 2020, I have set a goal of reading one of her novels each month starting with her  at the beginning of the Hercule Point series with The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

This series introduces the clever, retired detective who is a friend of the narrator and hastens to the country estate after the death of the newly married Emily Inglethorpe.  It was originally published as a serial in The Times Weekly edition and readers begin guessing who is responsible when it is revealed that the matriarch has been poisoned.  Hercule must assess the motives of multiple suspects including her husband, step-sons, their spouses and the help who all lived together and would have benefited from her fortune.

After reading the novel, I serendipitously discovered the Read Christie 2020 challenge which begins with The Mysterious Affair at Styles.  It provides a book each month along with encouragement and more details about each book to celebrate 100 years of her novels.

Who is interested in joining me on this journey through Agatha Christie novels?  Check out the website and follow the hashtags of #readchristie2020

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3. The Cheese Trap (Barnard, Neal D)

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 1.45.02 PMI have to admit that I really did not want to read The Cheese Trap.  I did not want to learn that cheese is something I need to be wary of or limit.  I wanted to read about how delicious cheese is, how it provides protein and how it helps my bone density.

Alas, The Cheese Trap shared how dairy is really meant for baby cows – NOT humans.  It shared that the estrogen in dairy is from lactating cows, that are not feeding their own babies, to produce dairy products for humans (providing excess estrogen to people).  It described how eating a slice of cheese on a sandwich is like eating 8, yes I typed 8, slices of bacon!  What?!?  That sounds ridiculous and sandwiches just don’t seem complete without a slice of cheese!

The book talked about how addictive cheese is and as I have limited my cheese intake (but oh how I miss it), it is difficult to pass up cheese as a quick way to tame my hunger.

Sadly, it seems that all the nutrition knowledge gleaned from elementary school, highschool and nursing school needs to be thrown out replaced be research promoting a mostly plant-based diet.  Saying good-bye to favourites like baked goods, breads, added sugar sugar, saturated fats and… sadly, cheese!

Recommended by my family doctor, The Cheese Trap was an informative read and although a lot of the research resonates, it will be a big lifestyle change to reduce, yes, I said reduce as I don’t think that I could ever completely eliminate cheese!

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