Books Books Books!

How is it July already? How are we six months into 2016? Time goes by so much faster now than I remember it going when I was in university and though I think I’m okay with that, it definitely makes it easy for time to slip away from me. On the plus side, now that it’s beautiful out, I’m spending a lot of time sitting in the sun and reading books so I can’t really complain about how I’m spending the fast moving time.

How was that for a segue, yo? Without further ado, here are some books I read lately! (Three books, to be precise. That is why the blog post is named “Books Books Books”. Titles are cleverer when you explain them.)

light
All The Light We Cannot See
By: Anthony Doerr

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

I know, I’m incredibly behind the times on this one – I think it was first recommended to me on the day that we finished the barre challenge back at the beginning of the year – but I had to wait for it to come in from the library for my e-reader. (Which is absolutely the best way to read books, by the way… I never thought I would be on board with not having the physical book but I love only having to carry around one thing with me.) Anyway, the book finally came in and I absolutely understood why everyone raves about it. It is just so lyrically beautiful – yes, the story is engaging and I found myself constantly trying to puzzle out how the characters end up where they end up, but the thing that really makes this book shine is how Doerr describes the world around the characters and the big and small moments in their lives. All The Light We Cannot See is the furthest thing from fluff and it is definitely a book that you need to set aside some time to really lose yourself in, but it is so worth it.

bookthief
The Book Thief
By: Markus Zusak

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

I definitely get on thematic kicks while selecting books and apparently my kick right now is World War II books. I did not give myself enough time to read The Book Thief – I think I thought it would be lighter than it was and I only had it for three weeks from the library – and I really had to push through and stay up way too late on a Thursday night to finish reading it before it expired. I didn’t mind, though – even if I was a little red-eyed from staying up late and weeping at work the next day.

This book is definitely not light and you won’t like it if you don’t care for experimental fiction. Afterall, the book is narrated by Death and it is full of definitions and facts that enhance the atmosphere of the book but break up the narrative flow.

theroyalwe
The Royal We
By: Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it’s Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king. And when Bex can’t resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick’s sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he’s fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she’s sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.

Now, this book was light and it was awesome. It’s by the Go Fug Yourself girls and, like every other review says, it’s basically Kate Middleton fanfiction. The main characters are pretty much exactly what you expect from a standard rom-com, the secondary characters are quirky and awesome (especially the Prince Harry-type character, “Freddie”) pretty much exactly as you expect from a rom-com but it’s all tied up in the “royal family” conceit and it does a pretty solid job of making you feel like you are sneaking a peek behind the scenes of real life. I banged it out in two sun-soaked afternoons and I enjoyed every bit of it.

Heaven

heaven is whenever
(I couldn’t find a source for this image. If it’s yours, please let me know so I can credit.)

Y’all, can we talk about how exciting it is that it’s a fairly reasonable time on a Wednesday, I’m totally caught up on Game of Thrones and I’m enjoying a glass of wine and the first episode of Season Four of Orange is the New Black while I bang out a few assignments? I even have a mid-week load of laundry in the dryer! I don’t even know if I remember the last time I had this little bit of free time! Sure, I’m still doing work, but today kind of seems like a little slice of heaven.

I even have the mental energy to write a blog post right now.

I mean, not a great blog post, I’m not reviewing an event or discussing a new fitness class, but it’s something, right? A big stream of consciousness something… Instant forgiveness, right? And I do have a few things to write about over the next few weeks – even with all the craziness lately, I’ve managed to sneak in a Lagree class, gotten back into a much needed regular yoga practice at Junction 9 and caused myself some intense fun and subsequent muscle soreness by doing an obstacle course class at cor.fit. (Check out my Instagram for a little sneak peek of that!)

I have worked my way through so many awesome books during my 45 minute dinner break between work and theatre during the past few weeks – I mean, what else am I going to do while I’m trying to get myself fed and shake off my day to give a strong performance?

I’m going to Kimberley with some girlfriends this weekend and I cannot wait to eat at Pedal and Tap (because it was on “You Gotta Eat Here” and you gotta do that when you bring new people to town…) and drink a bunch of wine and watch girlie movies. My life has been so much lately, that I cannot wait for a little break and then for something new.

I have such a summer coming up and I cannot wait to share it with you all. Heaven.

Thanks for all your patience. Such love.

Xoxo
E

Sherlock Holmes – Theatre… Tuesday…?

Two Thursdays ago my mom, Bryan and I went to see the opening night of Vertigo Theatre’s season closer Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily. Normally this would be a weird time to write about it – the show is still on but it would only have a week to go so it may be hard to get out to see it. However, this show has actually been so well received (it just won a Critter award!) that it has been extended until June 18 (which incidentally is also the day my show closes…)

Sherlock-Holmes
Program Image belongs to Vertigo Theatre

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily was a bit of a revelation to me. I’ve seen the team of Haysam Kadri and Karl Sine play Holmes and Watson before, and I’ve seen Haysam in a variety of roles over the last nine or so years… but I don’t think I’ve ever seen Haysam be quite so funny. He – and the entire cast, really – was obviously having a blast onstage, and the enjoyment is infectious.

If Sherlock Holmes isn’t necessarily your jam, you still may love this show because it is peppered with real historical Victorian London references and characters. Paul Welch’s Oscar Wilde looks astonishingly like the real deal and lights up the stage with his witticisms. The script tends to stick to Wilde’s more popular works for its referential humour so even casual fans will be “in on the joke”.

I can’t imagine that I’m in the minority when I say that I love clever humour that throws around cultural references. This past month of theatre in Calgary has absolutely fed into this love and I hope that it is a trend that will stick around for awhile.

And if you’re on the fence about Holmes at all, let me just say… I was offered a ticket to see it again last Friday and I deeply considered it. I decided not to take it though so someone who hadn’t seen the show could have the opportunity. Soooo…

(Please note: This show did just win a Critter award for Best Direction of a Play so that may increase interest in seeing it. You can get tickets by visiting the Vertigo Theatre website.)

(Double please note: I know today is Tuesday… Thursday is the day before my show opens and if I thought I was stressed before… At least Tuesday still alliterates, guys!)

Sometimes You Just Get Overwhelmed

Y’all, I may have finally over-committed myself. I always love to have a very full life, but I’m starting to feel a bit of the anxiety that always comes along with too much fullness. I’ve become fairly good at recognizing this feeling quickly, but there’s not a lot I can do to reduce my commitments over the next few weeks. A few of them will fall off in mid-June and then I’ll be ready for some fun and also for some regular writing… which is fun!

But in the meantime, yesterday I accidentally put one of my earrings in my second piercing hole which I haven’t used since 2007 and I didn’t notice that I was uneven until the end of the day.

So, I can’t change the number of commitments I have, but I can stop trying to cram in any more stuff… I can also use my limited free time to engage in a little self-care and limit the anxiety.

Ways to Deal With Being Overwhelmed

Cleaning
girl cleaning
Stock Image belongs to an Atlanta cleaning company and was the least sexy cleaning picture I could find. Troubling.
This idea probably seems counter-intuitive – cleaning is work! Work is stressful! Aren’t we trying to reduce stress!?
Well, yes, but… I don’t know about you, but when I’m busy, cleaning is always the first thing to go. Not the daily stuff like dishes, but I develop a really bad habit of just dropping and going, and the regular maintenance stuff like vacuuming and dusting just disappears. Right now, my room looks like a tornado went through it and it is incredibly stressful every time I go into it. For me at least, if I could spend half an hour setting things right, that would crazy enhance my mental state. I’m thinking sometime on Saturday…

Meal Planning
meal prep
Image of meal prep belongs to Fit Mommy via Pinterest
Nothing is worse than knowing you have an hour to dash home, eat dinner, then get back out the door again for another commitment… and you have no idea what to eat. Either you have no food at home or stuff that takes actual preparation which then leads to the added stress of wasting food/money. The amount of times I’ve either spent $20 picking up sushi like the rich person I am not (SkiptheDishes is dangerous!) or just had Mr. Noodle with peanut butter for dinner…
Right now, I’m doing Fit Girl’s Guide 28 Day Jumpstart and it is a godsend. I don’t have to think at all, they lay out the shopping and prep, and the meals are quick and tasty.
Let someone else do the hard part for you and focus your mental energy on the rest of your life.

Treat Yo’ Self
treat yo self
Image is obvious, isn’t it? Please!
Like, at least a little bit. Find something in your week that you can do just for you.
Love “Game of Thrones”? Carve yourself out an hour per week so you don’t fall behind on your show. (You know you’ll get spoiled if you do!)
Cherish your solo podcast time? Multi-task it… listen while you’re driving, take a walk in the sun with headphones, lock everyone out of the kitchen and listen while you cook.
Want some wine? Well… yeah, why not?

Vitamin D
walking Actually, regardless of if you like podcasts or not, get out to take a little walk and a little sun (or fresh air at least) daily. Even 15 minutes will do a world of good… and if I can find 15 minutes in my day to get outside, you can too.

Instant Forgiveness This is something we practice in theatre but it’s good advice when you are overwhelmed too. Sometimes you’ll do what you consider to be “screwing up”. You may pick up McDonald’s instead of following your meal plan. You may forget to leave time for a run. You may have to cancel plans because you just need a night at home. Don’t beat yourself up about any of these things. It’s not a screw up, it’s just human and so are we.

Even though I’m using a lot of “you”s in this post, this is a just a sampling of the things that work for me when I’m overwhelmed. What are your best tips for dealing with the times where you’re just a little (or just a lot) overwhelmed?

Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)

desdemona
Sometimes you see a show that takes you completely by surprise. For me, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) was that show.

I read it in university. I’m certain I read it in university – it’s a Canadian play. It was written by Ann-Marie MacDonald (yes, the author of Fall on Your Knees) in 1988 long before Fall On Your Knees. As director Kate Newby remarks in her Director’s Note, it explores a seemingly endless list of important historical, cultural and political themes. I apparently own two copies of this play. I absolutely read this play in university… and I don’t remember doing so at all, except a vague recollection that “this play seems kind of odd”.

My vague recollection is completely wrong.

This production of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) (a co-production between The Shakespeare Company, Hit & Myth and the newly re-branded Handsome Alice Theatre) absolutely proves the common refrain that plays are meant to be seen and not read. The show is equal turns clever, thought-provoking and downright hilarious.

The production also lands on so many levels. Though Shakespeare fans will have a million “Oh! I get it! I’m so clever!” moments (much of the show is written in iambic pentameter and MacDonald skillfully weaves actual Shakespearean dialogue into her own), the absolutely clear intentions and communication on the part of the five actresses in the show coupled with adept physical comedy allows audience members of any background to enjoy the show.

Oh yes, did I mention? The cast of Goodnight Desdemona is five powerhouse female actors – a virtual “who’s who” of young lady actors in Calgary – who play everything from a Henry V style “Chorus” (Julie Orton) to a swaggering Tybalt (Mabelle Carvajal) to Juliet (Genevieve Pare) and Desdemona (Allison Lynch) themselves. (Each of the aforementioned actors plays at least three different characters and it is never any doubt at all who they are. Stunning.) At the centre of it all, is Ayla Stephen as Constance Ledbelly, an academic who falls into the worlds of two of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies as she tries to sort out the truth of the plays and the truth of herself. Ayla and I attended university together, so I’ve seen her play a dizzying array of different roles, but she really does shine when she gets to play a fish-out-of-water and lean into her comedic side. She, and, actually, all the ladies in this show, can communicate more with a facial expression than the average person can with a whole speech.

I generally wait until shows close to write about them, but in this case, I couldn’t wait. Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) runs until May 21, 2016 and absolutely everyone should go see it. I’ve done my best not to spoil any plot elements, but I genuinely think I could go see the show again tonight and enjoy it just as much as I did the first time even knowing how it ends. Tell your friends, get a girl (or guy) squad together, grab your lover or guilt your mom into hanging out with you and take in this show before it closes. Tickets can be purchased by visiting The Shakespeare Company’s website.

(Note: I was not compensated in any way for writing this blog post. I just really really liked the play and want everyone I know to go see it so I can talk to them about it.)