Spring Equinox and Intentions for Spring

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The first time I really thought about spring as a time of renewal was in my first year English class in University. We were studying Chaucer. The second time was during Fallas when I lived in Valencia. It seems odd to me that those were the first times I really gave it much thought considering I grew up celebrating Easter and come from a country with very distinct seasons where a gentle spring is a much needed reprieve from long, hard winters. Still sometimes it takes another perspective to really make us think. Modern Christian traditions don’t tend to focus on the earth and nature but, city girl that I am, the smells of spring, the longer days and warmer weather, the promise of more time spent out doors make me feel closer to God/the world/the Universe. Fallas is a festival where, besides drinking and dancing the night away, Valencians construct massive structures representing political and cultural figures and norms and after parading them through the streets, set them on fire. The symbolism of irreverence for politics and culture, and spring cleaning and of course just having a lot of fun wasn’t lost on me. This spring I need to be more patient, to enjoy the moment and to find ways to make the world a better place.

The sun is shining here in Ireland but there are dark clouds too and bursts of rain and isn’t that what spring and growth are about? When we grow and learn it isn’t painless, the darkness is there but like any birth or rebirth there is pain but there is joy too.

On that note here are my intentions for spring:

1.) To not throw away any food

2.) To buy what’s in season

3.) To spend time in nature

4.) To meditate more

5.) To continue to learn

6.) To spring clean

7.) To make a habit of taking breaks from social media

8.) To spend money conscientiously

9.) To listen to others, especially to voices that aren’t often heard in mainstream media

10.) To love

Lastly I leave out with your this quote fromfaithandworship.com

May the blessing of light be on you – light without and light within.

What are your spring intentions? How do you want to make the world better this spring, this year?

My 2016 Book Round-Up

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”-Oscar Wilde

My goal for 2016 was to read more/only books written by women although I did read a couple male authors . I wanted to see if it would change my perspective of myself as a woman and it did. I’ve come into 2017 with more compassion for myself, with an understanding that the challenges and experiences of women are unique and important. Even more than that, I feel stronger than ever that what we read is important to our activism, to the way we show  and learn about what is valuable to us.The books that most impacted me most this year and stayed with me long after I read them were the first two books in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet,  Hausfrau by Jill Alexander EssbaumAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey. As I start on my reading for 2017 I want to keep that in mind, to read more authors that challenge my view or teach me something.  Without further ado, here is my list of 2016 reads.black heart

1.)The Party Season-Sarah Mason
2.)Radical Self Love-Gala Darling
3.)The Looking Glass House-Vanessa Tait
4.)A Desirable Residence-Madeline Wickham
5.)Where’d You Go, Bernadette?-Maria Semple
6.)The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty-Amanda Filipacchi
7.)Americanah-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

8.)Beautiful Ruins-Jess Walter
9.)Beautiful Broken Things-Sara Barnard
10.)Still Mine-Amy Stuart
11.)Beware That Girl-Teresa Toten
12.)Reconstructing Amelia-Kimberly McCreight

13.)My Life In France-Julia Child
14.)Celebrate-Lauren Conrad
15.)Me Before You-Jojo Moyes 
16.)A Darker Shade of Magic-V.E. Schwab
17.)Still Life-Louise Penny

18.)The Cruellest Month-Louise Penny
19.)The Care-Taker A.X. Ahmad
20.)Hausfrau-Jill Alexander Essbaum
21.)The Couple Next Door-Shari Lapena
22.)The Chemist-Stephenie Meyer
23.) My Brilliant Friend-Elena Ferrante
24.)The Story of A New Name-Elena Ferrante
25.) Wuthering Heights- Emily Bronte
26.) The Cuckoo’s Calling-Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling
27.) The Silkworm-Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling
28.)Milk and Honey-Rupi Kaur
29.)Introducing Agatha Raisin-M.C. Beaton
30.) Ulysses-James Joyce

What books had the biggest impact on you this year? Let me know in the comments!black heart

 

The Chemist Doesn’t Belong in 2016

cover of The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer in a review of the bookThere’s something for everyone under the sun when it comes to literature and that’s a good thing. As we know, Shakespeare’s works, in his time weren’t particularly high brow literature but mass market culture with something for both the upper and lower classes. In fact it is believed that his plays were popular stories of the time and Shakespeare’s versions weren’t the only ones, simply the best ones. All this is to say that it’s long time we get rid of the idea that the only books really worth reading or-or praising-are classics or exclusive, experimental literature or some man writing tirades against society or his mother. One of the best novels I’ve ever read about domestic violence and alcohol abuse is This Charming Man by Marian Keyes a book marketed as chic lit with festive purple cover art. Writing within a genre is a skill and the fact that something is consumed en masse doesn’t make it bad. Therefore, The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer could be forgiven for it’s stilted writing, a plot that is vague and not always fully fleshed out and a sentence referring to bedding as a unicorn mane. But what it can’t be forgiven for is the fact that Stephenie Meyer hates women.

There’s a fantasy that women are taught to have that if we are different enough and special enough, if we eschew make up and fashion, if we laugh at sexist jokes and “aren’t too sensitive” and if we prefer stereo-typically masculine activities over feminine ones then men will love us and treat us better, that we will be able to change an abuser and become the heroine of our own story. It’s been 10 years since Twilight , a series I will admit I enjoyed despite it’s flaws, was released and in that time Stephenie Meyer has learned nothing. A lot of the criticism directed at Twilight was about the fact that the only good woman in the book is Bella a beautiful but tomboyish book worm who has no use for any other women.Furthermore it is only she who can interest-and change- Edward for whom she is the only equal. But here we are 10 years later and she’s still writing the same story. In The Chemist we meet Alex, a torturer who belonged to a super secret unnamed intelligence agency but is now on the run for her life for reasons that are unimportant. She decides to take one last job where she picks up a suspect who isn’t what he seems. The fact that Meyer would make her heroine a torture specialist is odd considering what we all know about torture and considering current events. In fact, it’s more than odd, it’s wrong. For the past 50 plus years we’ve been inundated with films, books and television that tells us there is a clear right and wrong and that if the “good” people are doing it than anything goes. It’s this kind of blase thinking that encourages a world view that has increasingly little relevance to the actual world. But I digress. Alex is the hero because,as we are reminded continually, she is “ugly”. She has a flat chest! She’s short! Her face is scared because she’s been doing battle with various killers for the past four years!She is however, smart and the best that ever worked in her mysterious department. And she’s not good at relationships either. Foundation and lipstick are  the greatest mysteries of the cosmos to our intrepid heroine. All other women in this book are mentioned only in passing but with utmost derision. A women in a bar is a tramp. A clerk in a corner shop is too flirtatious. A middle aged woman is stupid and annoying. An ex-wife is a gold digger.  The only other woman who actually plays a part is a “hooker” who swans around trying to seduce Alex’s love interest for a few minutes before begrudgingly helping them out. To be fair the male characters don’t fare significantly better with one who’s only character trait is how nice he is and one who’s character is best described as boorish manly-man. Characterization has not particularly been the strong suit of spy novels but we already have James Bond and that’s outdated enough.

As women we should be gracious with each other. As feminists we need to fight internalized sexism and bring each other into the fold. We can cut the Twilight series some slack because I believe that Stephenie Meyer didn’t intend to write a misogynistic series. However 10 years have passed. The sexism in Twilight has been pointed out. Fifty Shades of Grey (which began as Twilight fan fiction)has been analyzed by reviewers and survivors as intimate partner violence alike. There’s no excuse for Stephenie Meyer to be writing and releasing a novel like this anymore.

A December To-Do List For A Better World

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December is here and I can’t believe 2016 is almost over. It’s been a kind of disappointing year personally and a pretty horrible one worldwide. I love the holiday season but I feel, and I think many others would agree that this year more than ever we need to be conscientious about our celebrations and our impact on the world. Here are a few things that I want to do this month with the goal of making myself and the world around me  a better place.

Buy Less
A few years ago my family started deliberately buying fewer gifts for each other and it’s been wonderful for all of us. It hasn’t diminished our enjoyment of the holidays at all and in fact has made us less stressed and more appreciative. Buying less takes us away from the consumerism of a holiday like Christmas, helps us focus on each other, reduces waste and encourages us to not spend money we don’t have.

Buy Ethically and Support Small Business
Buying ethically is something that has become increasingly important to me and I believe should be important to everyone.In the past I’ve often used the excuse “well how do I know which companies are ethical” but I feel strongly that, especially with the internet that we can do the research to find good companies. We know that when we buy fast fashion, for instance or need the latest technology that someone somewhere is being paid less than they should or even being kept in modern slavery. As consumers we have power and we need to use it. Spending more on individual products and buying less overall are important steps to take as well as shopping at second hand stores,  taking care of our clothes and other belongings and recycling as much as possible. Which leads me to my next goal…

Reduce Waste
Reducing waste is important all year round but with holiday baking and gift wrapping coming up it’s important to not get slack. I found the following article had some great tips. 5 Simple Tips To Help You Start Living Waste Free Right Now

Give Time or Money to Charity
The holidays are an important time to give back but we have to be careful that we don’t throw our money at charities that do more harm than good or misappropriate funds. I started giving to  Amnesty International Canada several years ago because I read several reviews that said they used their money well and were trustworthy and I believe in the work they do. Volunteering can also be beneficial but again we need to research reputable volunteer organizations in our areas and make responsible choices. For instance, the Vancouver Sun had THIS piece a few days ago about the importance of giving money to food banks instead of canned goods.

Take Time For Yourself
Taking care of yourself is vital to affecting change. I know this is something that can rub some people the wrong way, after all how is caring for yourself anything but selfish? Ultimately, though, the idea is that we can not be effective when we have not taken care of ourselves and perhaps more importantly that, especially for marginalized people, valuing yourself in a world that so often doesn’t is a radical act.  Often when we talk about self care we think of it in terms of consumerism (buy this relaxing candle! go to the spa!) which are activities that are great if affordable but not the central goal of self care. Rather it is about setting boundaries, saying no to things we can’t handle or accept and cutting out or reducing time with toxic people. On the lighter side, taking time for yourself with a cup of tea or coffee, talking to a friend, disconnecting from social media, going for a walk, or making a homemade face mask or body scrub are some ways to take care of yourself this holiday season.

Speak Out About Issues
Even though self care is important it is also important for us, especially us white folks to speak up. I’ve often gotten angry or just left conversations when I felt that I couldn’t make progress with a racist person but now more than ever and especially at times when we will all be surrounded by people we need to call out racism (and, of course, all discrimination) when confronted with it. We need to stand up for what’s right regardless of how it makes us feel because in the end our discomfort is minuscule and irrelevant to what others are going through. Here are three articles that I found useful and there are many more out there.

Talking Racism with a Racist Relative in 4 Easy (Um NO) Important Steps

How to talk to other white people about race (and why it’s necessary)

I, Racist

Write Letters or Cards or Make Something
This year I’ve made matching scarves for my boyfriend and I, bought some beautiful handmade cards to give out this Christmas. Taking time to let the people in our lives know they are loved and supported is so important, whether they are partners, friends, co-workers or family. Making something can also be a valuable part of self care and writing something by hand is a nice break from typing.

Happy December everyone! black heart

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

picture of nieghbors 2 sorority rising in a review about the film

Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising is a summer comedy with a surprisingly feminist twist. Lately I’ve seen some feminist complaints about the fact that feminism is “mainstream” now, that it’s become a commodity, another product for society to sell to young girls who may or may not know what feminism really is. I really can’t get behind this view at all. First of all because it smacks of “young people these days” and secondly because the young women I know (including ones quite a bit younger than me) do know what feminism is. They’re not buying “feminist” T-shirts and hoping that cuts it. Their feminism is intersectional and outspoken and I’d say that they also have an understanding of their role as consumers. I may be in the minority here but I think that women using social media to post selfies and pictures of their fabulous lives understand perfectly what they’re doing and their performance of femininity is just that-a performance. Anyway this is all to say, that I like the feminist bent to Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising. The film revisits Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), young parents who have bought another house without selling their other one. When they find potential buyers their house goes into 30 day escrow at the same time as Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersy Clemons)and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) buy the dilapidated former Fraternity house next door. You see, they wanted to join a Sorority but after discovering that they couldn’t hold parties and that Frat parties were a place where you don’t drink the punch they decide to create their own  sorority.  One where they hold feminist icon parties, smoke weed and can dress however they want. When Teddy (Zac Efron) is asked to move out of his house after his roommate gets engaged he becomes a mentor to the girls, imparting invaluable advice like “you need 5 buckets of money”. Of course this means war between the neighbours and lots of laughs for the audience. The jokes are, for the most part, successful but it’s the heart that makes this film really work. Mac and Kelly may not be perfect parents but they love each other and their daughter. The girls are smart and likable and the progressiveness is sincere and funny. It’s weird to say but the world presented in this comedy is one that is better than ours. One where men, even former frat boys, openly celebrate gay marriage, where sororities are a place to kick off your high heels, smoke a joint, discuss gender roles and dance with friends. One where even dads smoke weed, no one knows the first thing about buying a house and friendship prevails.