Reading Novels: A Creative Cure for Pregnancy Nausea

Summer Reading….one of the lovely things about taking the summer off school is doing a lot of it!

Sometimes with an ongoing difficulty, distraction is the best medicine…in the case of ongoing nausea in pregnancy, there are of course many things to be done. Eating small snacks and meals often, having enough protein, drinking ginger or peppermint tea, etc. But sometimes, despite best efforts, pregnancy can feel like a giant stomach flu whose only cure is constant eating…at the very time many foods seems repulsive.

Sometimes the best cure for feeling queasy is simply not thinking about it so much, but that is difficult to do by sheer will power alone. It helps instead, to be distracted and think of something else. This is where reading novels comes in. Or rereading them, as the case may be…almost all the books pictured above were rereads, because I love returning to familiar worlds whose characters I already “get along with” and whose adventures, despite all misadventures along the way, are comfortingly going to turn out well.

So why else do I think reading is great during pregnancy? Here’s a little list:

1. Reading is a great excuse to sit down, or lie down, and to take a quiet moment for yourself. Instead of telling your husband or kids, “I’m going to go stare at the ceiling and moan while my stomach churns,” you can say, “I’m going to go read my book for a little while while you guys play or watch a show.”

2. Sitting quietly and reading a book helps you take time to digest properly when your stomach is sensitive…instead of running around right after a meal cleaning up, which is a great way to lose your lunch.

3. There is so much focus on feeding your body well when pregnant, in order to help your baby be healthy, but what about feeding your soul? Reading novels that inspire you, make you laugh or cry, help you to love and to hope, is a way to feed your soul. Since your emotions and mental state affect your little one, you can see this reading as a way to build up your baby’s spirit.

4. What kind of books do I like? Because pregnancy is already a state of heightened emotion, I don’t recommend reading crazy thrillers or compelling tragedies, especially not the latter. I read the prequel to the Hunger Games (A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes) this spring, before we got pregnant, and I’m glad. It was an extremely scary portrait of a narcissist and I’m glad the baby couldn’t feel me trembling as I read deep into the night. Definitely a must read for any Suzanne Collins fan who isn’t in a super sensitive state, though!

I tried reading an early Canadian wilderness adventure novel, but had to put it down when each chapter’s tragedy was worse than the last.

Another kind of book on my “no thanks list” during pregnancy is parenting books. While this may seem counterintuitive, I find that many books on parenting can be so strongly worded about the “right way” to do just about everything, that they can lead to a huge introspective mom-guilt session…the last thing you need when already generously sharing your very being to help create new life.

I do love rereading classics by L.M. Montgomery, Jane Austen, and Louisa May Alcott. I also enjoyed rereading the Lord of the Rings trilogy…while darker than the others, the urgency and adventure certainly distracted me from my own little woes. If Frodo and Sam could half-starve while traveling through the wastelands of Mordor on a mission to save the world from evil, I could surely handle laying in bed eating yogurt and reading a book in order to help bring a new little life into the world.

Our little Timbit is now about 12 weeks! Already cute little fingers and toes!

Cereal Bathing

Since Christmas I’ve been floating in

periodic luxury…

the bath bombs my husband gave me from Lush–

enormous sparkling balls of colour

which fill our bedroom with exotic perfumes.

When you drop them in the water,

they careen around like drunken tennis balls,

spewing a fuzzy stream of technicolor bubbles.

The first one was coffee-scented,

and I had to laugh,

lying there in a giant creamy latté.

Another resembled a golden peach,

and out of its centre came floating

–unexpected up to my face–

a perfect little dried flower,

all pointy and crimson.

Why all this sweet madness of sparkling bubbles

from my often-away, hard-working husband?

They are a silent embrace from afar,

a wordless thank you for all you do,

an affirmation of my body’s goodness,

even, or maybe especially, when it’s exhausted.

So tonight, feeling frazzled and snappy

from too many sibling squabbles

and the sneaky migration of mismatched socks

all over the living room floor,

I threw in a big orange bath-bomb,

and read a delicious chapter of Before Green Gables

while the tub filled up.

Finally, I slid into this frothy carrot soup

and imagined I was floating in the sea,

bobbing up and down near the shore

with seagulls gliding high above the waves.

But…the tiny bubbles popping near my ears

made it sound like I was bathing

in a giant bowl of Rice Crispies instead.

At least, for once, with the toddler asleep,

no one was trying to steal my cereal!

10 Reasons I love rereading the Anne of Green Gables Books!

If you’re like me and grew up reading LM Montgomery’s classic Anne of Green Gables series, you may also find that rereading them gives all the comforting feeling of coming home again after a long journey, to find that “God’s in his heaven, and all is right with the world.”

No matter what you’re going through, the wisdom, beauty and humour of Anne’s stories can’t help but bring a little more romance and hope to your life. I’ve read or reread them when home sick from school as a kid, on lazy summer afternoons and in the hospital after having a baby. I’ve been binge rereading them last week while my husband was away, but why am I enjoying them so much?

Here are 10 reasons, cause I’ve got to stop somewhere! 😉

  1. Anne is so dauntlessly hopeful. She refuses to give up on anyone, no matter how prickly on the outside. She truly believes that everyone has a story worth knowing.
  2. There are no boring characters. There are eccentric ones, stubborn ones, gossipy ones, vain ones, humble ones, brilliant ones and hilarious ones, but even one portrayed as boring or dull-witted is so cleverly described that they are amusing!
  3. Gilbert. Gilbert. Gilbert. Ok, if that seems silly to you because you haven’t met him yet, stop wasting your time and get reading! ‘Boy next store’ par excellence. Honest, kind, loyal, generous, funny, devoted and willing to sacrifice for Anne. And of course, super cute, and torturously in love with Anne for years before she clues in! I got the Kevin Sullivan Anne films for my daughter’s 13th birthday recently, and she loved them. “But mom,” she lamented after, “I don’t think they’re very realistic. No boy could ever be that nice!” Don’t give up yet honey!
  4. Every time I read one of the books I learn something new about life. These books, so full of crazy characters are also so full of life, and brimming with wisdom, but it’s shown by example, rather than preached at length. In living, loving, rejoicing and suffering with Anne, I learn along with her as well.
  5. Anne’s zest for life is so attractive. She finds beauty everywhere she goes, and joyfully shares it with everyone, helping them see the world shine through her eyes.
  6. Because in these pages I find my life…like Anne I moved a lot, have “auburn” hair and a matching tongue and temper, went to college, love writing, married my first love, had a big family, lost a little baby girl, am passionately attached to my friends, find God’s presence most strongly in his creation, and can’t quite give up in the romance of believing in fairies.
  7. Because Montgomery’s writing has all the interest of lively fiction combined with the delicious beauty of poetry.
  8. What better escape that lovey old Prince Edward Island…a little sand-swept gem, with red roads winding down blossom-laden lanes, covered in little apple orchards and rolling farms, and sweet houses bedecked with flowers.
  9. Because Anne shows that with passion and determination, humour and joy, anything is possible, even if you started out a skinny little orphan like her.
  10. Because they’re simply the best. And there are so many to keep you company. So there.

As an extra bonus, I discovered a Montgomery novel I didn’t own yet while treasure hunting at a used bookstore with the kids last week. I didn’t know any more existed! “Kilmeny of the Orchard” is a lovely, surprising tale of a beautiful mute musician who discovers love and the power to speak.

I also highly recommend Montgomery’s last book, which she delivered to the published the day she died, though it wasn’t published in its unabridged form till years laster. “The Blythes are Quoted” is full of poignant poetry by Anne and her (by then deceased) son Walter, and also short stories, some of them with a darker flair than usual. It’s a bittersweet testament to the later years of Anne and Gilbert’s marriage, written during World War II, and the sorrow of loss runs through it. Beautiful, mature and challenging…a must read!

The Persistant Insomniac

Late at night

her eyes are wide open

as two full moons

beaming out in the dark.

Inside fires burn

flames flicker and refuse

the stillness of sleep.

 

She gets up

grabs her book

a sweater

a snack

and keeps a late night kitchen vigil

with insomnia…

–this date with quiet–

delicious silent solitude.

 

She feeds her soul

with bread and words,

then rubs her fingers together,

lights the surrounding gloom with sparks

and writes fire!

Why Posting an Imperfect Post is an Act of Freedom

Lately my husband and I have been on a theology kick and read to each other before bed…until we get totally confused, inspired or one of us ends up drooling on the pillow (usually me!)…It’s been really interesting, and definitely gives us something new to talk about beyond how’s work and what did the kids do at school today.

Tonight we were reading about freedom, and it made me ponder what it really means to make a free choice, and how it relates to the stifling danger of perfectionism in writing…as perfectionism leads to the inability to make definitive choices and complete things. (Yes, being writing-obsessed, I manage to relate pretty much everything back to blogging…just ask my husband).

Anyway, the author described the misconception of freedom as the ability to make an endless succession of choices, without any of them ever being permanent and definitive. The idea that having options equals freedom, and the more options, the more free you are. “But why not?” you might ask…”Doesn’t that sound good?” The thing is to apply this idea and see where it leads. Here are some examples of how it changes, sometimes subconsciously, how we make decisions:

“I’m not going to choose what to study, because that way I can choose to study anything at all. I’m keeping my career options open.” Yes, and your empty wallet…Being open to the possibility of all jobs but having no job = unemployment, not freedom.

“I’m not going to choose someone to marry, because that way I can marry anyone at all…I’ll be so free.” Or so lonely and jaded, because it takes one real heart to love you and keep you warm at night, not several billion theoretical ones.

“I’m not going to post anything on my blog (ah, finally, blogging!) until I have something perfect. As long as it’s in my draft box, I have the freedom to keep changing it. It won’t be permanent.” Ah, yes, that horrific word….permanent! We are so afraid of it. It implies commitment, confidence, strength, endurance…yikes!

But tell me, is having a draft box full of unexplored possibilities really freedom?  Nothing wrong with drafts, but to really mean something and come alive they need to be released, imperfections and all, into the world. You need to say as a writer (or painter, photographer, chef, etc), “This isn’t perfect and I’m ok with that. It’s not perfect but it’s mine and I stand by it. This is me.”

That one irrevocable act of posting your little poem, photo, story or ponderings is a greater expression of true freedom and honesty than that of hoarding your drafts like treasures, choosing to hide them away lest they not shine as brightly in the light of day as you’d like. I think it was Julia Cameron who said that you need to be willing to be a crappy artist in order to become a great one. So be yourself, stand by your work, make a permanent choice to share your work and in that way really own it. Post that thing you’ve been hiding away so jealousy. Chances are what’s closest to your heart will resound in the hearts of others as well.  

On Vulnerability

Lately I’ve become a little addicted to reading The Hunger Games Trilogy, despite my initial resistance. My husband wanted to watch the first movie one night, and I refused, claiming it was not my kind of movie, and that the idea of violent teenagers in an arena was enough to give me daymares. So he bought the books instead and got totally hooked, reading it tons while he was home sick for a few days. Then my husband, who loves to share, convinced me to read it too, and after this we’ll likely watch all the movies. That’s what I get for not watching one movie! 😉

But I’m glad, and it’s a lot more engrossing than I imagined. Certainly the ideas of media control, surveillance, and propaganda in their harsh society are politically relevant and spookily real at times. But honestly, what’s really grabbing me is the romance. Tortured teenage love triangle, which sounds cheesy but is actually quite beautifully done. I’m only half way through book two, but what interests me so far is the main character Katniss’ inability to authentically respond to love.

She craves the warmth and security of love a lot but fears it more. I think this is because to really open herself up to love would be the ultimate vulnerability. Her survival so far has been based on strength, grit, toughing it out, learning to lock away her emotions and overcome desperation to help her family survive. Her identity is the hunter, the provider, the one who doesn’t care about anyone but her family. The idea of letting her heart out of its cage frightens her, because she couldn’t defend it with violence, as she can her life. Her happiness would be out of her control.

As I said, love is the ultimate vulnerability; the more you love someone, the more their loss can hurt you, and in her precarious world this is a real danger. This is in a way the real tragedy in her world, that the freedom to love is choked by fear. But if we can’t love, are we really alive anyway?

When the baker’s son Peeta is repeatedly kind to her, she is suspicious. His willingness to repeatedly sacrifice himself for her causes confusion and shame; she can’t understand his actions. Only when he is severely wounded, and she can come to the rescue, does she allow herself to feel more. When he is strong, her pride rebels; when he is weak, she yearns to heal him.

It is similar with her best friend and hunting companion Gale; her strong attachment to him only becomes clearly romantic when he is flogged and near death. She only feels comfortable as the saviour, and gets evasive whenever love is expressed between equals. This changeable nature of her heart is extremely frustrating, and in a way, very realistic. After all, she’s a teenager!

Anyway, you can see what I’ve been doing in spare moments when feeding the baby, and what I’ve been obsessing over while doing the dishes. Yup, I’m hooked, and rooting for Peeta, the kind, generous, giving one who lays down his life again and again for Katniss. He reminds me of my husband. The nice guy whose strength lies in self-giving, as opposed to the dark, brooding hunter that is Gale.

But don’t tell me what happens; I’ll be crushed if my little crush is crushed…which given the awful nature of the world of The Hunger Games, is very likely.