Ontario Education: My thoughts in a letter that turned into an essay


Dear Ontario Politicians,

First of all, I want to congratulate all of you on your wins in your ridings and your appointments to your new roles. Welcome to your new positions. Congratulations.

I know you’ve just started your jobs. It is probably overwhelming, as any new job is. It’s hard to start new things. But there are a lot of big changes ahead in this province, and I cannot just sit and hope the adjustment period is smooth for everyone while things happen that I can’t stomach. I did that when Justin Trudeau took office federally, and while not everything he’s touched has been horrible, I wonder if things would have been different if we, the people of Canada, had stood up sooner and voiced our concerns. I did the same thing with Kathleen Wynne, hoping that she could not possibly have as negative an impact as Dalton McGuinty, only to watch her carry on his legacy. I will not do it now.

I am an educator. I have been teaching for ten years, going into my eleventh. This is not a new game for me. To say that in the last few weeks I’ve grown concerned about what education will look like by the time I get back to it in the fall would be a dramatic understatement. In fact, concern isn’t anywhere close to the right word. I am afraid. I do not like to live in fear, but I see a lot of changes coming that are very negative for the children I work with.

This letter is long, so I will add some headings and subtitles, and below I will try my hardest to summarize my thoughts before I go into greater detail. The trouble I’m having with being succinct is that these are complex, difficult issues. They merit more than a paragraph each, and I want to make sure my voice is heard. But in the event that you simply cannot spare the time to read the whole text, please find my summary below, followed by an in-depth examination of the issues at hand.

  1. Please do not cancel the school repair fund. Schools are filled with asbestos, and they have heaters, washrooms, and water fountains that don’t work properly. Humidity makes it hard for students to work. Many aren’t adequately accessible for the needs we have in this province, which becomes a Human Rights issue. Students need to work and learn in comfortable work spaces that meet all of their needs.
  2. Please do not cancel the Indigenous Education addendum to the Social Studies, History, and Geography curriculums. These are important issues that students need to learn about. A great deal of time and money has already been spent on this issue, and it will go to waste if it is canceled. Trust has been built with the members of the Indigenous communities who helped create this addendum to add Indigenous perspective, and scrapping this addendum will communicate a message that money is more important than relationship and trust, adding further insult to injury for members of this community. Please find another way.
  3. Please do not scrap the Health and Physical Education curriculum. It is not a good use of money, as a great deal of money was already spent to create this researched, consulted, and approved document. I know there are many concerns from parents about it, but I have read it, and I read it again while I sat to write you this letter. Below I have gone into detail about the issues I’ve heard of. I strongly believe that the issues come from people who either have not read the document, or who believe that cancelling the document can cancel issues they do not agree with. This is a dangerous reversion for students in Ontario who need education on the issues of today — issues such as consent, harassment, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, ethnicity, culture, race, religion, body shape, substance abuse, and weight and healthy eating. The 2015 document teaches proper names for body parts, and proper developmental stages at the time students are developing. It gives students language for issues they face in 2018 that did not exist in 1998 like the internet, easy access to pornography, media, sexting, dating apps, online predators, cyberbullying, cyber stalking, and identity theft. OPHEA and OASPHE, the associations responsible for helping teachers deliver the health and physical education curriculum, are equally disappointed by this regressive shift.

It is my hope that you continue to read below. I spent hours writing this letter (which, admittedly, has turned into an essay), and I hope you will do me the courtesy of reading a letter from a concerned resident and educator of this province.

The School Repair Fund

The first issue that I want to address is the cancellation of the $100,000,000.00 school repair fund. This is a significant blow to students and educators. There are buildings filled with asbestos. There are buildings that are not accessible to those with disabilities, and denying this money to create those improvements is a Human Rights issue. Every student has the right to attend school, and I know of schools where there are no elevators but there are certainly many sets of stairs. There are buildings with leaks, heating that doesn’t work properly, poorly sealed windows, washrooms and water fountains that repeatedly malfunction, and the list goes on. The humidity alone in some of the classrooms I work in is unbearable during the hotter months. Kids try to focus. They try to get their work done. But you and I both know that it is hard to do when you sweat without moving. It is also hard to do when you’re very cold, and that is also a reality in some of Ontario’s classrooms. There is already a backlog of school repairs needing to be completed. School boards will need to draw money out of student programming just to complete necessary repairs. I understand that any work already started will be covered, but what about work that is still necessary?

“’Losing $25 million is a big deal to us,’ [Toronto District School Board Chair Robin Pilkey] said. ‘Our repair backlog is so large that every piece counts. We’ll have to make decisions in the next few weeks whether we don’t do those projects or we take the money out of … other funds and scrap something else.’” (source) This instance is just one example from the Toronto District School Board. This is merely one board of many.

The fund has disappeared because it was revenue from cap and trade. I understand that. What will replace the revenue that Cap and Trade provided the province? Canceling cap and trade because it was what the people wanted only works if we won’t have to lose every program and fund that we rely on as a province as a result. I personally am not interested in saving the expense of cap and trade if this is what it means. Ontario’s schools need investment, not cuts. I am disappointed that education seems to be the first place Ontario’s Conservatives go to make cuts. It happened under Mike Harris and it appears to be happening again.

Readers:  Please click here to sign a petition to stop this withdrawal of funds organized by the Building Better Schools campaign.

The Indigenous Education Addendum

The second educational issue that concerns me is the immediate halt of the writing work and therefore the rollout of the Indigenous-focused addendum to the Social Studies curriculum. I am not Indigenous. But in my teaching role these past few years, I have been involved in significant learning that has shed light for me on why it is so important that our students in Ontario have an education that reflects actual history, and that contains the voices and perspectives of actual Indigenous people. When I learned social studies in elementary school, we barely talked about this issue. I knew there were people here before settlers arrived, and I knew there were problems that came out of settlement, but I came into my role as an educator with a lot of bias that I didn’t even know was bias. It was there because I was ignorant, and I was ignorant because no one had taught me what had really happened. Through the last few years of significant learning, I have developed empathy that has shifted my perspective from that of someone who thought this wasn’t my problem because it happened so long ago, to that of an ally who firmly believes that we need this education in our schools. I work in schools close to a federal reserve, and yet my experience in our schools has been that many students have no idea how that reserve came to be, what happens on the reserves, or how they work. They have no idea the impact that residential schools had on our Indigenous neighbours, and many have the attitude that I once had — “it happened so long ago. Why does it matter?” Well, it matters because the last residential schools closed a mere 22 years ago. That means that people who attended them may be my age or just a bit older than me. That is devastating to me.

The effects of such trauma are long-lasting, and have a major role to play in what our society currently looks like, but by cancelling the work on the addendum to the Social Studies curriculum, we are telling an entire people group that their history doesn’t matter. We have worked hard to build trust with Elders, Knowledge Holders, and survivors of Residential Schools. In order to help us educate correctly and properly, in a way that reflects what actually happened and the impact that it has had and continues to have, that group of people changed a lot of their plans over the summer, and had to drag up old memories I’m sure they would rather forget. This work was supposed to give us the necessary voices — voices of those with lived experience, the only ones really qualified to share their perspective — on issues such as residential schools, treaty issues, Inuit relocations, land sovereignty, The Sixties Scoop, The Millenial Scoop, and genocide of Indigenous people over the years since European settlement.

But the Ford Conservative government, very shortly after taking the reins, canceled all that work. What does that communicate to the Indigenous people who were helping us create an education system for our students that would tell truth, that would help reconcile, and that would create shared understanding? It likely tells them that their efforts do not matter, and that we never really wanted this reconciliation and understanding — that it was all imposed on us by the Liberal government and that now the Conservative government can’t afford it so we will just put it on hold another number of years.

How long is long enough to go without a solid understanding of this very important issue? What breaks my heart here is the knowledge that we have something almost within reach that will help communicate an Indigenous perspective clearly to students so that they can gain a well-rounded education that is inclusive of a big part of our country’s history, and it is being taken away from them. Students have a right to know what has actually happened in our country. In our province. In their own communities. I have since been on tours of former residential schools and sought to understand, but I feel that the curriculum we currently have is lacking the voice of those actually affected. I am perfectly capable of teaching history — it is what I studied and went to school to do. But I cannot share a voice and an experience that I didn’t live. I’ve taught Social Studies, and while there are currently points in the document that tell us to teach on Indigenous issues, I don’t have the knowledge or the understanding or the perspective to do it well. That is what we were trying to accomplish. Understanding breeds empathy. Empathy creates allies. We need to be allies. There are far too many injustices still occurring to our Indigenous people groups that could be aided by understanding and empathy, and where will students get that understanding if their parents and guardians went to school in a system that didn’t adequately teach the issues? I sure didn’t learn the issues adequately in school.

The Health and Physical Education Curriculum

The last issue — and I’m sure you can see this coming from the way I’ve been writing — I need to let someone know that I am devastated about the decision to scrap the Health and Physical Education curriculum of 2015. I need you to hear me when I say that this is not acceptable. The curriculum that was put in place in 2015 took nearly 5 years of research and consultation with experts, parents, educators, and older students to put in place. The curriculum that was put in place in 1998 is not an acceptable fallback. I am sure that it was researched and developed with experts as well, or at least I sincerely hope that it was. I was in Grade 8 when it was implemented. My “sex-ed” experience involved learning about my period, how pregnancy happens, and sexually transmitted diseases. I don’t remember all the details, since it was 20 years ago. My most vivid memories though were of being separated from the boys because it “wasn’t appropriate” for the boys to hear about female development and it “wasn’t appropriate” for girls to hear about male development. I didn’t learn the other side of it until I was in grade 9. By then, I already knew friends who were having sex. My “sex-ed” experience stopped after a two week stint of it in Grade 9 Health (part of Gym class) where I learned how to put a condom on a banana, and my teacher uncomfortably told us that the best way to avoid pregnancy and disease was to avoid sex. But I knew for a fact — we all did — that many in the room were already having sex, yet that is where the conversation ended. We were also still separated from the boys, because it was still “inappropriate” even though kids at this age were sexually active.

The curriculum put in place in 2015 includes elements like proper names for body parts, so that if students are being abused and/or touched inappropriately, they are able to tell a trusted adult in their life what is happening. Certainly not in all cases, but in many abuse cases, the parents or someone very close in a child’s family are the ones committing the acts of abuse. There is an argument I keep hearing that suggests that it’s the parents’ responsibility to teach a child the proper names for his or her body parts. That may be true, but it’s not always happening, and there’s no way to enforce that. There is a way to ensure that students have proper terminology — that is to teach it in schools. It may take a child longer to get the help they need if they don’t have the vocabulary to tell a trusted adult what is happening to them. Court proceedings are difficult if a young child is using vague terms to describe their genitalia, and the child does not know the proper terms. Of course, the abuse cases are not the majority, but I am having a hard time understanding why this is a bad thing.

Please click here to watch a video of a CUPE member sharing her experience about the value of this curriculum.

Another argument I have read against this document is that it encourages gender confusion and confuses children who weren’t already confused. As I have mentioned, I’ve been teaching for ten years. I have encountered one student with some gender confusion in that time. Teaching the students in this child’s class that this exists did not encourage any of the other children in the class to switch genders or to decide that they themselves were also confused. The accusation that teachers are indoctrinating children with a “homosexual and transgender agenda” is appalling and unfounded. That is not what is happening. What is happening is that students across Ontario learn that there are different expressions a person can identify with, and like I said about the Indigenous Curriculum Addendum, education kills ignorance, and the death of ignorance leads to empathy and understanding. Empathy and understanding fight against hate. Is that not a world we want to live in? I don’t need to share my own personal beliefs or feelings on the subject. They’re irrelevant. What students in this province need to learn is that regardless of their personal feelings or beliefs about a subject, every human being deserves dignity, respect, and to be treated well. The language in the 2015 document gives teachers ways to have conversations that are uncomfortable and awkward, and to do so in a way that respects all children. The same argument that goes “shouldn’t parents be allowed to teach their children their own beliefs at home??” is also applied to this topic. I would offer the same response. Yes, parents have every right to teach their children their own belief systems at home, but no child or person has a right to be hated or mistreated or harassed because who they are and what they believe does not line up with someone else’s belief system. There are many people in this world, in this province, in my community, even in my circle of friends whose lives don’t reflect my personal belief system. I still owe them dignity and respect because they are human beings, just as they owe it to me because I am a human being.

I have heard arguments that parents hate the new curriculum because it teaches 6 year olds about anal and oral sex. It does not do that. I am looking at my copy of the curriculum as I write this, and that is nowhere in the print. If a teacher were to teach this to six year olds, I would share those parents’ concerns. That is not age appropriate. The 2015 document does, however, address those concerns in the grade 7 portion of the document, where research has shown that it is happening. I’ve heard similar arguments about drugs — that it teaches six year olds how to do drugs. It also does not do that. Again, I am looking at the document as I write. It does, however, teach students in Grade 3 and older that some substances can be addictive and harmful to our bodies, and what the ramifications of those choices might be. It teaches students that it may be difficult for someone dependent on alcohol to take care of their families. This is truth. And this has been true for many students I’ve taught over the past ten years. This is also something that was never talked about when I was in school, despite the fact that it was happening all around us.

The only way these could have been the arguments is if people had not read the document. This is what I suspect is true of many people who take issue with the document — that they did not read it, and they reacted to sensationalized media (which is pretty much all media these days, on one side or the other) about it.

What the 2015 Health and Physical Education Curriculum does accomplish is to teach Grade 1 students the proper names for their body parts, hygienic procedures, food groups, personal safety (at home and in the community), and how our bodies work.

It teaches Grade 2 and Grade 3 students about allergies, respecting the differences of others, medication, bullying, standing up for yourself in a positive way, the dangers of too much screen time, violence, substance use and abuse, and emotional development and mental health. It highlights cultural food choices, so that an immigrant student in a class isn’t made fun of because her curry smells weird (this actually happened to one of my students in a grade 6 class).

In Grade 4, students begin to learn about puberty (which, for many students these days, is when it starts to happen), smoking, and the safe use of technology. The conversation about bullying increases, as does the bullying students face. When I was in school, our only conversation about bullying was not to do it. We did not talk about the different types. We did not talk about how to handle it, or at least not well. We were told to tell our peers “I don’t like it when you _______. It hurts my feelings.” That may be true, but a bully who sets out with intent to harm me is likely thrilled that whatever they did to me hurt my feelings, so my ‘I feel’ statement was usually incredibly ineffective. It typically increased the bullying and it was easier to just stay silent.

In Grade 5, the conversations about substance abuse escalate. Again, when I was in school, we did not talk about substance abuse. I knew many 12 year olds who were drinking and smoking. By grade 5, this is happening to our children, whether we like it or not. Not all of them, certainly, are smoking and drinking, but some are. And if some would avoid it because they knew what could happen to their bodies, is this not a good thing? The peer pressure may not be as strong for a student who understands the risks and consequences of such behaviour, and children are likely to take bigger risks in their friendships and report risky behaviour in their friends to trusted adults when they know the consequences. All I knew about alcohol growing up was that I wasn’t allowed to have it until I was 19. I didn’t know why. Grade 5 students also learn to discern media.

They are taught about how periods and spermatogenesis occur. This is not developmentally inappropriate. This is when it is happening in their bodies. Students are taught that these are natural processes that are not something we should be making fun of. Once again, education stamps out ignorance and a lack of ignorance breeds empathy. I would love to live in a world where a girl just learning to deal with having her period and new hormones isn’t made fun of for any emotional reaction to anything, and written off as being on her period. This was the argument used against us as children in school. If we were teased or made fun of, and expressed that we didn’t like it, we must have been on our periods because we couldn’t take a joke. The two are not synonymous, and perhaps if students are learning about what is actually happening in their bodies, they will not be so cruel to each other.

This 2015 curriculum gives language to students to help them overcome harassment because of gender identity, sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression, body shape, weight, or ability. Again, I see nothing wrong with this. And again, anyone’s personal beliefs about or feelings on the items in this list should not be relevant. The fact is that students in Ontario schools are experiencing confusion around gender identity. They are exploring their sexual orientation. They are of different races and religions. They are differently abled. When I was in school, anyone with any type of disability was in a special class. They were not integrated into the mainstream classroom as they are now. My classmates and I were barely exposed to differences the way that students are now. Students must be taught how to handle that appropriately, and the 2015 curriculum does just that.

In Grade 6, students are also learning about emotional eating and making healthy choices around food. Given the rates of childhood obesity in our country, this is something that needs to be taught. They are learning about mental health, which research is showing again and again is majorly affecting children. The 1998 curriculum did not address this. Students learn about specific drugs and their effects. They do not learn, as I have seen suggested, how to do drugs and where to get them. These arguments are coming from people who have either not read the document or are willfully ignoring what it says, and I cannot understand why they would do that. Emotional and mental health become an increasing focus as students get older. This, once again, was not taught when I was in school. Students are given language about how to handle relationships. This was not addressed when I was in school. But students are in relationships by grade 6. Not all of them, but many. And some of those relationships are resulting in sexual activity. Giving students language to express themselves, what they want, and what they do not want is important. Taking the language in the curriculum away will not stop students from having sex at 12 years old. But it might stop someone from going too far without consent, whether that is because the no is clearly understood, or because someone knows they have a right to say it, no matter what. I understand that the idea of children having sex or being sexually active is uncomfortable to many. I don’t like it either. But my not liking it does not mean it stops. The only way to make sure it happens safely is to give students language and information.

Students learn about “the effects of stereotypes including homophobia and assumptions regarding gender roles and expectations, sexual orientation, gender expression, race, ethnicity or culture, mental health, and abilities, on an individual’s self-concept, social inclusion, and relationships with others, and propose appropriate ways of responding to and changing assumptions and stereotypes.” Again, this is not impacted by my personal beliefs, or anyone else’s. Whether or not we think the things that are happening are acceptable, they are happening. And when students are given language to address them, they can be more successful advocates for themselves and their peers. Taking the language in the curriculum document away does not make the issues students are facing go away.

In grades 7 and 8, students continue to learn about the benefits but also the dangers of technology. The 1998 curriculum did not include things like easy access to pornography, identify theft, dating apps, internet safety, cyberstalking, sexting, cyberbullying, or online gambling because those things did not exist. Reverting to a document written 20 years ago does students a significant disservice because it neglects the world that we live in. The world that we live in now is very different from the one I went to school in. The 2015 curriculum talks about consent, clear communication, and sexually transmitted infections. Again, I don’t remember ever talking about consent and clear communication when I was in school. We were taught that it was best to abstain. And at 12 years old, I don’t disagree. Abstinence is best. But if children are not going to abstain, because some students will not regardless of what we tell them, they need to know what they are doing, what the risks are, and how to do so in a way that does not harm the other participants. They also need to know that they have a right to say no at any time, regardless of what the other person wants. This article tells the story of a Nova Scotia man who believes that if his daughter had received a curriculum like the one that Ontario just lost, his daughter would still be alive.  She committed suicide after the fallout from being raped.  Mr. Parsons says “I really wished there was something like that in Nova Scotia 10 years ago. Because if there was — and if consent and empathy and respect were being taught in schools in Nova Scotia — I honestly believe that I would still have my daughter with me today.”

This issue goes beyond personal beliefs. This curriculum protects children by arming them with important information. The 2015 document talks about harassment and bullying in contexts that did not exist in 1998. To revert to this document is dangerous for students.

Further, Grade 9 is the only year in which physical education is a requirement in high school. This means that at a time when many students are becoming sexually active, they’re not actively being educated about it if they are not taking Physical Education classes beyond the requirement. This makes their elementary education critical on this subject. I didn’t take any physical education classes beyond grade 9, and I know many of my peers didn’t either. I hated gym class. But that was the only place the health was even taught. So if we have reverted to a document that cannot do justice to the issues of the 21st Century, students risk entering a time in their lives when many simply are sexually active without being armed with information to help them navigate it, because we will have used a 20 year old document to teach these issues before they got to high school.

OPHEA and OASPHE are equally disappointed in the revocation of the 2015 document and the reversion to the 1998 version. Here is just part of their statement.

“Ophea and OASPHE are the provincial subject associations for Health and Physical Education and believe the curriculum has the potential to positively impact the health of 2 million Ontario students by helping them develop the knowledge and skills to become healthy, productive citizens.

Ophea and OASPHE are disappointed with the announcement by the Government of
Ontario and believe that Ontario students have a right to learn from an up-to-date,
research-based Health and Physical Education curriculum that includes human development and sexual health “sex-ed” education.

Sexual health education should address current issues facing students including online safety, informed decision making (including consent), self-esteem, mental health, healthy relationships, respect for others, diversity and equity. The curriculum should reflect all students including those with visible/invisible differences as protected through the Ontario Human Rights Code and related provincial policies such as Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy.

Sexual health education should be delivered in a developmentally appropriate manner and structured so that it meets the learning needs of students at different ages to build the skills they need to make healthy choices and protect themselves from potential harms.” (source)

Lastly, I understand that the Conservative government is interested in correcting the deficit and wastes of money that the Liberals left behind. This revocation, quite frankly, is a waste of money. This document took five years to create. It was consulted on, there was a lot of research put into it, parents and students were involved. Ontario’s students can’t afford to wait another five years for a new document to be put in place that the Conservatives feel is more appropriate when the current document is already designed to tackle the needs of the world our students live in. And Ontario’s taxpayers can’t afford to pay to do the process all over again when it was just completed three years ago and the document is doing its job. I beg and implore the Conservative government to rethink scrapping this document. Not starting again may even give you the money you need to leave the Indigenous Education addendum alone.

Conclusion

Please don’t think me naive here. I understand that this Conservative government has walked into a deficit and debt load that is unconscionable. After 15 years of Liberal leadership, there is a lot of work to be done. I understand that money has to come from somewhere, but I beg of you, the collective Conservative you, to please rethink what the cuts you make mean to education. What does this mean for the future generation of children coming through Ontario’s public schools? I was in school when Mike Harris was the Premier, and the cuts he made to balance the budget were devastating to my school experience. Programs were cut that I wanted and needed, all in the name of money. Are there not things that are more important than money? I understand that a budget needs to be balanced. Trust me, I know we cannot continue on the path we were on as a province and not suffer dire consequences for it. I know we could not afford most of the things that the Wynne Liberals put in place. I was not happy with that either, but I am not talking about partisan politics here. I am not interested in laying blame. The Conservatives have an official opposition in the NDP. Perhaps rather than seeing each other as working from opposite sides, which I understand that on many issues, you are… perhaps you could work together to find a solution that balances the budget and respects the programs and services you are trying to cut. Is there not a way to work together to come to a solution that works for everyone? Rather than forcing students to learn and work in buildings that are breaking down, can we not all work together to find a solution that stops the hemorrhage of money but also respects the work that was being done? Rather than revoke students’ ability to learn a culturally responsive Canadian history that has direct ties to today, can we not all find another way? Rather than waste money by taking away a document that addresses today’s needs, can we please find another solution? This is where I have to trust you, as our representatives in the Ontario Legislature, to stand up for what is right. I am not a politician. I don’t know what the solution to these issues could be. But I do know that for the sake of Ontario’s children, we need to find one.

Please consider standing up for Ontario’s students in your new roles as representatives of the people of Ontario. These students are under your umbrellas, too. They need you right now, and I hope you can see why.

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Soul Winter and a dash of Summer


Friends, if you know me, it is no secret that winter and I are not friends.  Winter came hard this year, and it had a death grip.  It refused to let go.  I’ve been teaching for a decade, and while there was the odd freak ice storm April 1st here and there that gave us a snow day because the roads were just too slippery, I’ve never had one April 16th.  Two weeks ago, that’s all it was.  Two weeks ago winter got its final battle cry in before it finally started to let go, and even then, it didn’t immediately release its grip.  We hung on in the very low single digits for almost another week.

But today, all of a sudden, it was 26 degrees, and the sun shone brilliantly.  The birds are chirping, the trees are finally thinking it might be safe to try to grow some leaves.  Barbecues are firing up, lawns are growing, I’ve had my bike out twice, I read in the hammock until I get cold, and I drove all the way home from work this afternoon with my arm out the driver’s side window.  Spring is here.  Arguably we may have jumped it and gone right to summer, but in my corner of the earth it isn’t really summer without 90% humidity, so we aren’t there yet.

There are many things I love about summer — the barbecues, the fires, the fireworks, the hammocks, the HEAT, the seasonal fruit (I could live off of peaches, concord grapes, strawberries, pears, and watermelon — and I nearly do for the whole summer, because for ten months at a time these things are imported from either America or Mexico because it’s too frigid to grow them here, and they’re just. not. the. same.)…. the BEACH.  This girl’s feet were made to dig into sand, and while it’s not the nicest water, you’ll find me on the shores of Lake Erie at any given opportunity.  I am itching for it.  This winter felt so long in so many ways, and I am longing for beaches, long days, parties and barbecues and fires… all of it.  My bare feet won’t be in a real pair of shoes again until October at least, you have my word (except to play volleyball or ride my bike).

But I’ve been in a season that has perpetually felt like winter for a long time — it’s been gloomy and dark and grey.  I’ve heard it referred to as “Soul Winter,” and at this point I don’t think I have any other words for it.  This may have less intrinsic meaning for those who love snow and crisp, cold mornings.  For those who thrive on the chill of Arctic air coming into your lungs and who live to hit the slopes and play in powder.  I am not one of those people.

What I personally experience after a long winter, I feel like my soul has been experiencing for a little over a year now, and it’s been very hard to put words to it because I don’t like to be still.  I don’t like to reflect on my feelings, sit with my thoughts, or face my fears.  I don’t enjoy being alone, and seeing as I live alone, you can imagine the frenetic pace that this would create for my life.  Last Easter I came to a place where I think my soul had finally had enough.  I tell myself that the ordeal was precipitated by too much caffeine, and I’m sure that that didn’t help, but what I know that I learned about myself in the aftermath is that I can’t manage the pace I’ve been living at…. but I haven’t done anything about it.

Because to sit with my feelings and face them is scary.  And to be alone, and still, and silent…. it means I have to.  And I don’t like that.  I can’t honestly remember the last time I really sat in silence.  Sure, I tell myself there are times when I’m silent — if I clean the house with no music on, that’s pretty silent.  When I lay in the hammock reading, that’s pretty silent.  But I was out there about half an hour ago, and that’s what prompted me to come in here and write.  It was silent for about two minutes.  There was peace and stillness and calm, and I laid in the hammock and didn’t even open the book.  I just basked in the silence.  The people around me might be right — I might need it more than I know.  But it didn’t take long before a motorcycle ripped down the street, my dog barked at the neighbour’s cat for being in her line of vision, and my neighbours came out to their porch to grill their dinner, turning on their radio and cranking some cheesy 90s pop music.  There went my silence.  And then I remembered that the beach, though I love it so deeply, isn’t much better, unless you go when it isn’t busy at all (aka on a weekday morning before school has let out) — because kids run around and screech while they love every second, and teenagers show up with their music pumping, and people fill in all around my sanctuary of space.  None of this is inherently bad, but if it’s silence I’m looking for, a public beach at a Provincial Park is not likely going to be where I find it.  If I’m being honest, I think the last time I let myself be alone, and silent, and just sit — somewhere I didn’t have my phone and I couldn’t hear other people or commotion — it had to have been last summer.  My parents live at a retreat centre at the beginning of the Rocky Mountains.  I just can’t even.  So last July sometime, I parked myself in the gazebo and sat alone and thought….. and I honestly can’t remember letting myself do it since.

One day, by myself, I hiked my way down to the river and I let my feet sit in frigid glacier water while I listened to only birds.  That day, I got time to process my feelings and my thoughts.

But the scary thing is, I haven’t really done it since.  Sure, I’ve had thoughts pop into my head, but I’ve shoved them away.  I read The Best Yes last winter.  I’ve listened to Podcasts and Audio Books.  I heard all the things about learning to say no and carving out space for my soul to breathe.  But I’m learning something I already knew.  There’s a dramatic difference between hearing and listening, between being aware and letting something sink down in deep.

I don’t want to talk about things that aren’t fun, and I don’t want to process them.  At best, I may process them with my therapist, because she has a unique ability to stop me from catastrophizing, but if I process them on my own, there’s no one to stop me, and the what ifs and the but what abouts will all come in a rush.

I was hesitant to even sit down and write this.  It’s daunting.  But I haven’t even really written anything more than book reviews since last winter either, because I process when I write.  I often don’t know what I think about something until I’ve written it down.  So a healthier version of me would be blogging or journaling all. the. time… But I’m not.  I keep the free book train rolling by writing reviews, but otherwise I tend to shove post ideas to the depths of my soul too.

I don’t know what’s different about today.  I’m reading Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect, which, while so beautifully written as to make it a very easy read in theory, is impacting me so deeply that I can only take it in small chunks.  I’d borrowed the book from a friend, and two chapters in I wanted to write all over it SO BADLY because I just know this will be a book I read again.  I don’t have many of those, but I’ll come back to this.  And like it was meant to be, the next day, I found it in beautiful, pristine, hard-cover condition at a used book sale for 2.50.  I gave my friend back her copy and mine is now well loved and irreparably damaged, all at the same time.

I think it might finally be time to lean in.  I’m ready to pray and process, to think and grow.  I’m going to need to find some silence, because my pastor has said it, my therapist has said it, my home church has said it, and my current book choice (which I’ve wanted to read for a LONG time) is saying it…. and my soul is crying from somewhere way deep down saying “please!  yes!  yes to this but not yes to everything that’s thrown your way!”  In Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist talks about how we’re the only ones who get to control what our lives turns out like in this way.  So if it’s frantic and hurried, frenetic and stressed, too stretched to really be enjoyable…. that’s no one’s fault but mine.  My soul is ready for winter to end.  My soul is ready to bloom and thrive and flourish like it’s summer, but I suspect it can only do that if I give it space to.  I think I need to give it some silence.  I think it needs room to breathe.

I Will Not Fear


Fear has been a topic that’s been following me around lately.

We’ve done sermons on it at church.
I’ve read a book about it (Fierce Faith by Alli Worthington ~ fantastic book!).
I’ve had conversations with friends about it because lately it seems my life is a wee bit characterized by it.

I was given the opportunity to read and review a book called “I Will Not Fear” ~ A book written by a lady named Melba Patillo Beals.  She was one of the nine African American students chosen to integrate into Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.  I can’t imagine what life would have been like — to have felt so unwanted, so other, so less than… and such fear!  I have studied American history, and I am aware of the records of what it was like in the 50s and 60s, leading to the Civil Rights movement.  I’ve read of the Klan, of the death threats….. but what I hadn’t read, until now, was someone’s first hand account.

This book will grab you and make you hold on tight.  The story this woman tells of how she was a “first” at so many things in her life — trying to integrate into a society that thought segregation was the only way to live, going to university, going to grad school, being a single mom, getting jobs where she felt “other” not only because of her skin colour but also because of her gender — it’ll grip you.

I know I’ve experienced a great deal of fear in my life, but as I read this I realized I’ve really had very little to actually be afraid of.  That’s not the point of the book, however, because Melba offers the wisdom she learned from her Grandmother throughout, and with every story of some sort of atrocious experience that would surely knock my foundation down at the knees, she tells of how she trusted God, trusted Jesus, and lived as though the protection of God were real (and it is)!

One of my favourite parts of the book, and what I found most encouraging, were the little nuggets of summary that she included at the end of each chapter.  My story may not resemble that of Melba Patillo Beals’ in any way.  I’ll never know what it’s like to live her story.  But I do know what it’s like to live mine, and fear has no place here either.  I can take just as much encouragement from her words, and from how she did not bow to fear, as anyone else can.

“… no matter what threatening evidence appears to be true, we need not fear because God is always beside us.” (p. 165)

“As complex and dangerous as a predicament may be, God is as close as our skin.  Although peril feels like forever, God is here now.  He will guide us through the jungle of fear, if we only listen and obey.” (p. 189)

I highly recommend this book.  It’s not long, only 200 pages, so it’s a short read.  And it’s written in a way that leaves you wanting to hear more of Melba’s story, to know that it comes to a happy ending just like we always wish.  Melba Patillo Beals is a remarkable woman of faith, and we would all do well to stand in the face of adversity and fear like she did and declare “not today.”

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Oath of Honor


I loved this one.  Lynette Eason does it again!  I was first introduced to Lynette Eason with her Elite Guardians series.  This book wasn’t any less gripping.

From the moment you’re introduced to police officer Izzy St. John and her family, you’ll be hooked.  When her partner, Kevin Marshall, is murdered, she has a bunch of decisions to make that I don’t wish on anyone!

A murdered partner. A missing brother. Will Isabelle’s silence protect those she loves . . . or delay justice?

Police officer Isabelle St. John loves her crazy, loud, law-enforcement family. She knows they’ll be there for her when things get tough. Like when her partner is murdered and she barely escapes with her own life.

Izzy is determined to discover exactly what happened, and her investigation sends her headfirst into a criminal organization, possibly with cops on the payroll–including someone from her own family. With her dead partner’s brother Ryan, a handsome homicide detective, shadowing her every move, Izzy’s head is spinning. How can she secure justice for her partner when doing so could mean sending someone she loves to prison? And how will she guard her heart when the man she’s had a secret crush on for years won’t leave her side?

This is a real page-turner, and I guarantee that if you are a fan of Eason’s work, or if you like suspenseful Christian fiction as much as I do, this will be one you won’t want to put down, either!  The characters are well-developed and likeable, and the story moves quickly, but is still easy to follow.  With a writing style that keeps you guessing with every page you turn, I will definitely be back for more of Lynette Eason!

oath of honor

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Judah’s Wife | A Book Review


It’s not often that I find a book I don’t love, but this one fits that category.  I typically know what I like, and I have a pretty good idea that something sounds interesting before I pick it up.  I’m not even completely sure why I didn’t like all of it, if I’m completely honest.  There were definitely parts that I did like, but it’s not something I grieved over finishing.

Don’t get me wrong, it was well written.  I felt many feelings in relation to those characters, and the characters were well developed.  The plot flowed well, and the story line made a lot of sense.

What I did really like, and what drew me into the book in the first place, was the historical setting — set in that vague in-between time between the Old and New Testaments in the Bible, the “silent years” — scholars say something like 400 years? — I was very interested to learn a little bit more about the way of life, being a pretty big historical fiction nerd.  It was very interesting to read about Jerusalem during the time of Alexander the Great.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find I don’t often connect the Biblical history to the Classical history and what I know about the two of them.  It never seems to occur to me that they would coincide, although obviously they have to.  I loved that part.  The story sets up the story of the Maccabees and the history around Hanukkah, which I did find fascinating.

Again, I can’t say that I loved it, despite it being well-written.  I’ve liked other works by Angela Hunt as well!  I’m just not sure.  I even waited a while after finishing to write the review, hoping it would come to me, but it hasn’t.  It took me a long time to finish the book, too.  Almost a month, actually.  And that’s not like me.

Anyway, I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has tried this book, and what you thought of it?

 

Seeking quiet and safety after a hard childhood, Leah marries Judah, a strong and gentle man, and for the first time in her life Leah believes she’ll have peace. But the very nation Judah was named for has been conquered by a cruel king, who decrees that all Jews are to conform to Syrian laws or risk death for following the laws of Moses.

Judah’s father resists the decree, igniting a war that will cost him his life. But before dying, he commands Judah to pick up his sword and continue the fight–or bear responsibility for the obliteration of Israel. Leah, who wants nothing but peace, struggles with her husband’s decision–what kind of God would destroy the peace she has sought for so long?

The miraculous story of the courageous Maccabees is told through the eyes of Judah’s wife, who learns that love requires courage . . . and sacrifice.

 

Judah's Wife

 

Book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Baker Publishing Group.

 

Free of Me


It’s not about you.

And how often do I make EVERYTHING about me?

“What about me?”  “Why didn’t I get…?” “Do they not like me?”  “Are they talking about me?”

So much of our insecurity is rooted in self-focus, in holding a mirror up to ourselves and trying to measure our circumstances around us in that light.

But what if it weren’t about you….

This book is about so much more than insecurity, though for me, that’s a big takeaway.  The idea that so much of my own insecurity could evaporate by focusing on God, and God’s plan in any given situation, is both comforting and incredibly challenging all at once.  I haven’t fully digested it yet, as I just finished the book, however, I’m sure there’s life application in it somewhere!

Sharon Hodde Miller talks about seven mirrors we use to reflect our lives, when we shouldn’t be using mirrors at all.  I promise the analogy will make piles of sense if you read the book for yourself, and for now you’ll just have to trust me.  But I was convicted and challenged about making church about me, making my friendships about me, making my appearance about me… and more.

Culminating in how loving God sets us free, and why we were designed to love and serve others… this book was so refreshing.

It’s no wonder Ann Voskamp has said that this book “may be one of the most important truths of our time.” (according to the front cover of the book… I don’t know Ann personally, though I wish I did, and I don’t think we live too terribly far from each other……. but I am not a stalker lol.)

I digress.  A lot, actually…. back on track here.

Our me-centered culture affects every area of our lives–our relationships, calling, self-image, even our faith–and it negatively impacts each one. The self-focused life robs our joy, shrinks our souls, and is the reason we get stuck in insecurity.

In Free of Me, Sharon Hodde Miller invites us into a bigger, Jesus-centered vision–one that restores our freedom and inspires us to live for more. Drawing from personal experience and Scriptural insight, Sharon helps readers

· understand how self-focus sabotages seven areas of our lives
· learn four practical steps for focusing on God and others
· experience freedom from the burden of self-focus

If you’ve been yearning for more than a self-help faith, then this paradigm-shifting message of true fulfillment is for you.

 

What others say about Free of Me:

“One of the best things for a healthy marriage, workplace, parent situation, or any calling is to realize the world is not orbiting around our axis. True joy is found when we realize there is a bigger story to tell. In Free of Me, Sharon paints this picture more beautifully than anyone I know.”–Jefferson Bethke, author of Love That Lasts

“Sharon spotlights the crippling disease of self-focus and shows us how to break free from its entanglements. If you want to walk in God’s life-giving truth, this book will help you do just that!”–Lysa TerKeurstNew York Times bestselling author; president of Proverbs 31 Ministries

“In a culture captivated by self, this book is a must-read.”–Christine Caine, founder of A21 and Propel Women

Sources:  All quotes came from the covers of the book.

Book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Baker Publishing Group.

free of me

2018 — An obligatory New Year’s Day post


It is 2018.  It is January 1st.  Actually, in the time zone I inhabit, by the time I’ve hit publish on this post, it’ll likely be January 2nd.  Thankfully, I’m currently chilling in the Rockies and Mountain Standard Time has gifted me with two whole extra hours — something I’m thankful for tonight, but was annoyed by at this time last night as I set myself a reminder alarm to remember to text my Ontario peeps at 10 pm to wish THEM a Happy New Year!

Anyway, I digress.  Where was I?  Yes; it’s 2018.  Nothing really feels like it’s changed from yesterday.  But yet, so much has, hasn’t it?  We do this yearly.  We wait til January 1st to start things.  We spend the last week of December eating all the junk food in our houses in hopes to start fresh January 1st.  I was a day late with this silly plan and made my last bag of chips my personal mission for today.

happy-new-year-meme-2018

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But it doesn’t have to be like this.  Futility doesn’t have to be our best friend as we launch into every single new year.  New Year’s Resolutions don’t have to be a to-do list that extends no further than the first week of January.

In the fall of 2016, my dear friend Rachel sent me a link to this thing she’d heard of called Power Sheets.  Lara Casey and her team make them over at Cultivate What Matters.  It’s designed for intentional life planning.  Intentional goal setting.  Progress.  Not perfection.  Rachel and I dove right in.  We each ordered a set and split the shipping (since it has to come from the States and the shipping is steep), and we dug in.  (This year 6 of us ordered and split shipping — highly recommend this if you’re Canadian and want your hands on a set!)  We did the prep work while discussing all of our goals together, and we were ready over the course of about a month of intentional thinking, planning, and praying to meet 2017 head on.  For me, it felt like 2017 was going to be the year I finally got my act together and stopped making resolutions I couldn’t keep.  Resolutions I knew even as I made them I wouldn’t keep.  But it’s what we do, right?

PowerSheets_Goal_Planner

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I can’t say that my Power Sheets were overwhelmingly life-changing in 2017.  Though maybe I can — it’s hard to achieve perspective since I don’t have a 2017 without Power Sheets to compare it to.  I don’t know.  It certainly wasn’t the productive year I’d hoped it to be.  The entire point to Power Sheets is to set goals, track your tending lists, make progress, and cover yourself in grace when you fall short of your own expectations.  After all, we don’t keep pushing into what we want to change when we feel defeated and like it’s hopeless, do we?  Progress.  Not perfection.  But I know they made some difference.  I was able to measure growth in some areas.  Some were more stubborn than others, and I’ve had to re-evaluate what I really wanted to see change in this year to make sure that I was choosing the right goals.  But more importantly, I’ve had to evaluate the why for my goals.  Why am I choosing this?  Am I choosing “be healthier” because I think people will like me more?  Or am I choosing it because I actually want health and I want to be able to do things I’ve only ever dreamed of — like learn to surf.  The prep work at the beginning of the planner for each year asks big questions and makes you look deep into the whys, and I know I got to the root of some of my wishes for 2018.

I don’t have my 2017 book with me.  I don’t have the list of goals I chose for 2017 with me because they’re in my book, and they’re in Ontario, and I am not.  But I do have the goals I’ve chosen for 2018, and I’d like to share them with you.  I’d like to be a little bit vulnerable and put them out into the air for the blogosphere to read.  This year, I’ve chosen bigger, over-arching goals.  There’s a Facebook group dedicated to Power Sheets users where a couple people have referred to them as “umbrella goals.”  They’re more like a topic where I want to do some work in my life this year, and then the more specific goals (which I have a lot of for 2018) will work their way into my monthly, weekly, and daily check-lists for each month.

Without further ado, here are my umbrella goals for 2018:

  1. Finances ~ Saving and not spending needlessly.  Obviously each month will have specific targets for this.  I’d been working on it throughout 2017 as well, and with some careful planning and some good timing, I managed to pay off a pile of debt in May, and have been relishing in the freedom of that ever since.  Can I recommend You Need A Budget (YNAB) to you?  Seriously, it changed my life in March of 2016.  Jesse Mecham, the creator, has written a book and it just released last week.  It’s on my list of things to do in January.
  2. Spiritual Growth ~ Depth.  I want a relationship with Jesus that is marked by reliance, listening, and trust.  That doesn’t come from just thinking about it and hoping it comes.
  3. Fun ~ Responsible Fun; Not running to fun to escape uncomfortable emotions.  This felt like a funny goal, but through a lot of introspection this year I’ve discovered something I don’t really love about myself.  Where I’d perpetually thought I just liked to have fun, it dawned on me that I’m prone to running to fun as soon as I don’t want to deal with something that doesn’t seem fun.  Awkward relationship situation?  I run away.  Work sucks?  I want to switch jobs — it isn’t fun!  Pain?  No fun.  Let’s go on vacation instead.  Where I want to goal-set around fun this year is to make sure it’s not my escape, as much as it is something that is just necessary to live.
  4. Mental Health — This is something I began to take very seriously in 2017, as I battled some anxiety that it turned out had been simmering just beneath my surface for a long time, and I’d never dealt with it.  I’ve started seeing a counselor, and I honestly can’t recommend a professional therapist enough — seriously.  You get to talk about yourself for an hour, and you don’t have to do anyone the social courtesy of listening back to them.  My goals here revolve around leaning into stress and anxiety and the situations that cause them so that I continue to get better at managing and reducing both of these things.
  5. Leadership — I am a leader.  For better or for worse, I’m in leadership positions in my church and at work.  I’m not sure how this happened.  I’m honestly not sure how I got here.  But people see potential in me, and I’d like to harness it for good!
  6. Health — this one is so common.  How many of us set healthy lifestyle New Year’s resolutions?  This one could be a whole post for me, but it’s a very raw spot at the moment, so… nope!  That doesn’t sound fun!
  7. Creativity — Brene Brown once said in a podcast interview I was listening to her on (For the Love with Jen Hatmaker) that “Unused creativity is not benign.”  It hit me to my core.  For a long time, I’ve wanted to write but have been too afraid people wouldn’t buy it.  I’ve wanted to paint but have been self-conscious because I’m not as good as someone else.  I’ve wanted to be a better musician but again, compare myself to others and always fall short.  But if unused creativity is harmful to me, then this needs intentional work as well.
  8. Bravery.  It has occurred to me that I am not that brave.  I’m a pretty big chicken, actually.  So 2018 needs to hone in on some of those areas where I could use some bravery the most.  I read Annie F. Downs’ book “Let’s All Be Brave” (buy it on Amazon here) in November, and I cried through parts of it.  I’m so ready to be brave.  So ready.  I highly recommend the book, but if you’re determined to stay seated in. your comfort zone, it may not be for you.  I’m doing her 100 Days to Brave devotional starting as soon as I get home (as it’s arrived in Ontario before I have).
  9. Adventure — I thrive on this.  It’s linked to my fun, and it’s linked to my finances.  I found a lot of my goals are linked to each other — I actually created a very messy flow chart that reflects that!  But I will have adventure based goals.  Where will I travel next?  Europe is calling — Scandinavia?  The South of France?  Switzerland (the land of my ancestral people)?  Who knows?
  10. Relationships — This is not just the romantic kind — though that’s pretty intrinsically linked to bravery.  I want to be intentional.  I want to be present.  I want to be brave.  In all of my relationships.

 

And there you have it.  My over-arching umbrella goals.

Do you set goals?  Do you make resolutions?  Do you keep them?  If you’ve been a successful Power Sheets user, I’d love to hear from you!  I really want them to help me make big changes this year!

Even if you don’t use Power Sheets, I highly recommend both of Lara Casey’s books.  They’re less intensive than using Power Sheets, but still give you lots of great tips and encouragement for living a more intentional life.  Get Make It Happen on Amazon here, and get Cultivate on Amazon here.

A Dangerous Legacy


My last Elizabeth Camden book pulled me in thoroughly, so I was quick to get a hold of this one as well.  A Dangerous Legacy is first in a series Camden has named “Empire State.”  The characters drew me in right away.  I finished the book in two days.  I actually had even planned to spend New Year’s Eve reading it, but…. that would have been anti-social so I opted to be a decent human being instead 🙂

Like I said, I loved the characters.  Siblings Lucy and Nick Drake are endearing, hard-working, and brave.  I loved that about them!  Sir Colin Beckwith appears to be arrogant, but he’ll grow on you so quickly!  There are sinister characters at play too, though, and Lucy and Nick have to fight hard against a dangerous family fight waged before they were even born.

Telegraph operator Lucy Drake is a master of Morse code and has made herself a valuable asset to the Associated Press news agency. But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk. Colin is talented, handsome, insufferably charming–and keeping a secret that jeopardizes his reputation.

Despite their rivalry, Lucy can’t deny that Colin has the connections she needs to give her family an edge in the long legal battle they’ve been waging over their rightful inheritance. But when she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, the web of treachery they dive into proves to be far more dangerous than they ever could have known.

I loved seeing the inner workings of Reuters and the Associated Press agencies in their earlier years, and the part of me that always wanted to be a writer/journalist growing up wistfully imagined a life where I got to send transmissions into one of the agencies that I’d picked up from somewhere around the world.  I love the life I have, so I quickly put the thoughts to bed, however, it didn’t stop my love of this plot line in any way.  I also loved the historical details put into the early years of indoor plumbing.  I found it fascinating, especially having just finished another book set in Chicago in the 1890s (ten years prior to this one) where tenement housing was a reality for a couple of the characters.  Tenement housing (I had to look it up) was housing complexes built where multiple families shared tiny spaces, and there was no running water.  Families often had to walk good distances and up or down many flights of stairs for access to pumps to get water, and it was often unclean and the source of sickness and death.  This story involves pressurized valves that allow hot and cold water alike to flow up multiple stories in a building, and it was fascinating.

If you have a love of historical fiction as I do, please check out this book.  It’ll be a quick, short read if you give it a go.  I love love loved it!  Stay tuned in 2018 for Empire State # 2, which switches its focus to be more about Nick than Lucy.

dangerous legacy

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Where We Belong


Oh my stars, this book.  This beautiful, wonderful book.  Historical fiction is my jam to begin with, so I knew I was going to like this book.  But I didn’t know I was going to adore and devour this book.

Where We Belong is the story of two sisters, Rebecca and Flora Hawes, who do not fit the mold of the 1890s Victorian era society they were born into in Chicago.  They’re well-read, they’re intelligent, and they’re adventurous; and they’re determined to find what God’s purpose for their lives might be.

The story, crafted wonderfully by Lynn Austin, details so much of the adventure, in pieces woven expertly together.  Just when you feel like you need more information in order to understand what’s about to happen, Austin goes back and delivers exactly the information you need to continue.  The story criss-crosses through the lives of the sisters, plus their butler, Soren, and their ladies’ maid, Kate, as the crew travels across the Sinai Desert to find a rumoured ancient biblical manuscript.

I can’t give you more information than that, but I can tell you that at times I was so enthralled by this book that I couldn’t imagine having done anything but read.  It’s a good thing it’s Christmas break, because I spent the majority of my last 3 days (including being up WAY too late last night finishing) reading it.  I related so deeply to the characters, especially to Rebecca, that I couldn’t stop.  If I’m being honest, I have a bit of a book hangover now that it’s finished and I blasted through 470 pages so quickly.  I’ve taken a break for most of today, though I may start the next adventure tonight.  Time will tell.

There wasn’t a lot of romance, though there was an element of that woven throughout the characters’ stories… but I appreciated the lack of romance in this one.  I really wanted the adventure and the history, and I sure got both.

This is my first Lynn Austin book, but if the rest of her historical fiction is as delightful as this was, I’ll certainly be back.

I was even more surprised and delighted to find that the story, while truly a work of fiction, is based on the lives of two real-life sisters.  I won’t give you any more detail than that, because to do so would give away important plot points, and I know you don’t want me to do that.  But I promise, when you get to the end of the book, you’ll want to read the very last page at the back that gives you the details of the real-life sisters that Lynn Austin based her work of fiction around.

“Join two incomparable sisters on adventures that span the decades and cross the globe.”

where we belong

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

 

Dangerous Illusions


This book was full of twists and turns and I just did not see them coming.  I obviously can’t tell you any of them — it’ll ruin everything.  But know that it all flows together very well, and it will keep you turning page after page… after page… after page.  Especially toward the end, you will not want to stop reading.  I conveniently saved the end of the book for a 4.5 hour flight, so I had little to do BUT read, but nonetheless, it was a great read.

As usual, Irene Hannon crafts characters that will draw you in and make you care about them immediately.  She’s a master at her craft.  I think this is my third of her books?  But it’s my first of her suspense novels rather than just her contemporary romances.  I’ve read both of the books in the Hope Harbor series, and am looking forward to the third one coming out in 2018, but I digress.  This first book in the Code of Honor series has suspense, intrigue, and thrill galore.  I can’t wait now for the second one to come out in 2018.

Trish Bailey is on overload trying to deal with a demanding job, an ailing mother, and a healing heart. When a series of unsettling memory lapses leads to a tragic death–and puts Trish under police scrutiny–her world is once again thrown into turmoil.

Detective Colin Flynn isn’t certain what to think of the facts he uncovers during his investigation. Did Trish simply make a terrible mistake or is there more to the case than meets the eye? As he searches for answers, disturbing information begins to emerge–and if the forces at work are as evil as he suspects, the situation isn’t just dangerous . . . it’s deadly.

Bestselling and award-winning author Irene Hannon captures readers with a mind-bending story that will have them doubling back to retrace their steps–and figure out what they missed!

I highly recommend it, as I have with the other two books of Hannon’s that I’ve read.  I’m a bit in awe of a writer who can jump back and forth between two rather different fiction genres as she does as well.

Check it out, and please let me know what you think!

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.