jennasday

Health, fitness, communications, and everything in between!


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Review: A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle seems to be one of those books that every kid read in school, and somehow I missed it. I wasn’t even aware of the book, but after seeing the movie trailer (featuring two of my favourite women in film and maybe the best-known woman in television). I decided it was time to get to know this apparently-beloved story.

First published in 1962, A Wrinkle in Time follows Meg, the oldest of four children who live with their mother and father – only their father has gone missing while doing top secret work for the government. Meg doesn’t fit in at school, and is seen as surly and rude. Her 5-year-old brother, wise beyond his years, introduces her to a strange trio of unusual characters, who don’t seem quite to be human.

Suddenly, without Meg understanding how it came to be, they team up with another boy from school and head off through the universe through to save her father. Meg must learn to accept her flaws and let them work for her, and she must be resourceful if she’s going to save her father, and something else precious that is lost along the way.

It’s a simple, unusual story, somewhat reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz in some of its absurdist elements. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it enchanting, but maybe I lack the nostalgia of coming back to it or the childlike wonder of reading it for the first time. It was an intriguing and imaginative story that examines what would happen if we could travel through space and time without regard to the rules of physics.

am really exited to see the movie (okay, mostly because Mindy Kaling is in it and she’s amazing), but it was good to know where the original story came from. I went to link up to the trailer and instead found a new one! I love the use of music to show the sinister side of the story:

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Review: Happier at Home

It’s no surprise to anyone at this point, but Gretchen Rubin’s book Happier at Home is another home run!

Although I listen to her podcast and have read several of her books, I somehow missed this one and didn’t realize that she’s actually completed two happiness projects. The first one, about which she wrote The Happiness Project, was followed a few years later by a second, nine-month project which followed the school year.

This second one is the focus of Happier at Home, which covers such topics as possessions, family, marriage, body, and neighbourhood. Written in a very similar style to the first project analysis, Happier at Home examines some of the same questions: whether it’s selfish to pursue happiness, whether money can in fact buy happiness, and to what extent you can influence the happiness of those around you (and vice versa).

I honestly have nothing bad to say about this book. Rubin artfully combines anecdotes with research, so she can say “here’s what worked for me,” while at the same time explaining why that particular behaviour is backed up with research – or, in a couple of cases, how she deliberately defied the research and did what works for her.

Her key premise in both of her happiness projects was to “Be Gretchen,” and she talks throughout Happier at Home about the importance of doing what is true for yourself. She presents the research, but also shares the real-life changes she made or how she was able to incorporate the info into her home.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you. Go read it! Gretchen Rubin does not disappoint.


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Lightening review: Option B

As you’re looking at how to start next year, may I humbly suggest reading this thoughtful and insightful work by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. The two, each excellent writers of their own bestselling books (I read Sandberg’s Lean In earlier this year and am partway through Grant’s Originals).

Using a careful balance of anecdotes and research, the two draw the reader into the story of Sandberg’s worst day, the day her husband died suddenly, and what she learned from joining ‘the club no one wants to be in.’ They discuss the three Ps (personal, pervasive, and permanence) which cause people to remain in their grief when something terrible has happened.

Although I’ve never lost a spouse, the book examines in some great detail the importance of building resilience as an individual, group, or organization. Written from Sandberg’s perspective since it focuses on her loss, it is both heartrending and humorous. Although the book covers (as the tagline says) “facing adversity, building resilience, and finding joy,” it also touches on a host of other topics: raising children throughout grief, issues of single parents, pre-traumatic growth, and equality for women and minorities.

Sandberg admits that when she wrote her first book, she didn’t fully understand the difficulty faced by single parents (particularly women), which I found to be thoughtful and endearing.

The book is clear and well written, but difficult to read: it’s hard to think about the depth of loss the authors are writing about. No one wants to experience that. But I also think reading a book like this, candidly including things such as humour after loss and things she wished she’d discussed with her late husband, can prepare someone to face loss.

I don’t want to face difficult things. But it is helpful, and reassuring, to hear from someone who’s been through very difficult time (and to read the evidence of many others) and come out on the other side.

“I now know that it’s possible not just to bounce back but to grow. Would I trade this growth to have Dave back? Of course. No one would ever choose to grow this way. But it happens – and we do.”

The book goes on to quote Allan Rucker, who was paralyzed: “It’s not a blessing and there is no disguise. But there are things to be gained and things to be lost, and on certain days, I’m not sure that the gains are not as great as, or even greater than, the inevitable losses.”

Wow. When, God forbid, the time comes for me to respond to something terrible, may I have even a fraction of that attitude and perspective.

Go read this book.