Using a Traveler’s Notebook as a Bullet Journal (and more) – first impressions

Collage Traveler's Notebook closed and open

The new Traveler’s Notebook in black – already customized 🙂

As I stated in my last post regarding my February update, I bought a Traveler’s Notebook to use as my new main Bullet Journal and Notebook system. There are two main reasons for doing so.

For one, it’s a question of size and format. While I absolutely love my Dingbats Bullet Journal in regards to paper quality, design, and handling I find the width of 16 cm a bit too much – though this is a standard format for notebooks and suits most users just fine. I like notebooks that are a bit smaller, but since the Dingbats checked all my other boxes, I didn’t bother any further – until I found the Traveler’s Notebook on Instagram.
The other reason I wanted to switch notebook systems has to do with how I use my bullet journal. I will go into detail further below. 

After fuzzing about it for several days and discussing the issue with Wonderguy, I gave in. Because of my low buy challenge, I didn’t want to act like spending 65 € on a notebook and inserts is fine, but in the end I decided it’s worth it, which I explain in my last post (LINK). In the end, I purchased a regular sized Traveler’s Notebook in black as well as three additional inserts.

A new way to bullet journal

I use three notebook inserts in my TN as well as the zipper pocket für everyday stuff like post-its, rubber bands, and other things I might find useful. Of those three notebooks, I use one as a bullet journal, one for everything related to Ph.D. and academic issues and one for anything blogging and (creative) writing and reading. This separation of noteworthy fields will make it easier to keep an overview of the different parts of my life I need to focus on. Furthermore, if I fill up one of my notebook inserts quickly, I will only have to replace this single part of my planner and not the notebook as a whole. The other notebooks can stay where they are until I use those up as well.

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My three notebook inserts and my favorite pen, a Kaweco Classic Sport.

By thematically sorting my inserts, it will be easier to navigate through my notes once the books are full and filed. Additionally, it will also make my life easier because I don’t need to transcribe countless list and collections from one notebook to the other since I use my bullet journal insert mainly as a planner and for short-time lists, but still have my Dingbats notebook for curated collections like my reading list, book shopping list, diary writing and the like. I don’t have to care anymore to not waste pages or space in my bujo because otherwise, I have to do a lot of transcribing with all my list and collections. I can use my bujo insert anyway I want and if I have to replace it in a few weeks no harm done, I just start a new notebook. My longtime lists and collections are not affected by how fast I fill my bujo insert and how often I switch notebooks.

Back to the roots …?

When I started bullet journaling one of my main incentives was to bring everything together in one notebook. Monthly, weekly and daily planner, notebook, diary – all in my bullet journal. Mostly, this worked best for me. But because using my bujo as a diary too, my notebooks filled up faster than I expected and this affected how I kept lists and collections. More often then not I was too lazy to transcribe whole lists to new journals, so I just kept them in my old notebooks. As you may remember, when it comes to my ADHD riddled brain, out of sight is out of mind. So most of the lists in my old journals are simply forgotten.

Another issue Wonderguy frequently mentioned is the fact that my bujo is also my diary, which means that I should definitely NOT forget it anywhere lest I want strangers (or worse: friends or colleagues) to read about my innermost thoughts and struggles. While working at home this was no concern of mine, but once I started working at an office 5 days a week I realized what Wonderguy meant. While it might not be a good feeling knowing someone else could possibly go through your bullet journal because you forgot it somewhere, the feeling gets significantly worse when your bujo is also your diary. Having everything in one book has advantages, but there are also some downsides. And right now I’m about to find out which mix is perfect for me.

Regarding my diary and handling my lists, the split is working well. Knowing that I won’t have to transcribe my lists any time soon I work on them with more enthusiasm. When journaling I also have a better feeling knowing that this notebook won’t leave my home and there’s no need to stress about forgetting it somewhere anymore. And because it’s still in some way my bujo and not ‘just’ my diary, writing about my day doesn’t feel too much ‘dear diary’ like. So, for now, I’m fine with using separate notebooks for separate matters.

The planner setup

By splitting my bullet journaling habits up again it’s back to square one in some instances. In regards to the layout of my monthly, weekly and daily spreads I’m back to figuring out what works best for me. Right now I’m with a layout I’ve used before, but I’m not sure if I like it in this smaller setting. I might switch back to the style Ryder Carroll recommends and uses. On the other hand, I need a weekly layout to note appointments and dates, which is the reason I started mainly working with weekly spreads.

TN Bujo weekly spread

My weekly spread for March. There’s room for improvement …

Again, YouTube came to my rescue. Watching videos by Cissy’s Art Cafe and Sarica Studio, I found some inspiration on how to make my new notebook system work best for me. I will try this out in April. Maybe I just need to minimize the weekend segment of my weekly spread. I don’t use my planner on the weekends apart from jotting something down for the upcoming week, so I don’t really need “Sat/Sun” in my weekly spread. On the other hand, sitting down every weekend and doing a weekly spread like the creators in their videos do/suggest will give me a chance to get a better overview of the week ahead. I will see what works better for me.

Overall, I like the look, feel, and handling of my Traveler’s Notebook. I really like it. I even started a bit of scrapbooking and being more creative in my spreads. After all, I can use a different design and layout in my next notebook insert – which will probably come rather sooner than later, especially compared to my other bullet journals. But that’s one reason I chose to use a TN, isn’t it?


P. S.: It took me more than a week to write this post because I’ve been sick (not Covid-19, just a regular cold). I did my best, but if I sound incoherent or slightly off at times – I’m sorry!

Reading: “Rooms” by Lauren Oliver

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I know Minna had a rough start. All those years in that crusty basement practicing piano until her fingers ached and God knows what else. But listen, we all get served a deck with some cards missing. Get up and get on with it, is what I say. I’ve done my reading about all of it: neuroses, psychoses, anxieties, and compulsions, blah, blah. I used to work for the Dr Howard Rivers, of the Rivers Center for Psychiatric Development, for God’s sake. And I’ve seen my fair share of churches and twelve steps.
It all boils down to the same thing: are you going to play the cards you got, or are you going to fold?

This is Sandra talking about Minna (obviously). Sandra too had a difficult childhood, which led to a rather difficult adult life – you may have already guessed that from the way she talks.

But who is Sandra? Or Minna?

Richard Walker is  dead. His estranged family – ex-wife Caroline, daughter Minna, teenage son Trenton and Minna’s daughter Amy – arrives at their former home to sort through his things, look for valuables and collect their inheritance – after all, Richard was a wealthy man. But they are not alone. The old house is haunted by former occupants, Alice, a stereotypical housewife from the 1940s/50s, and Sandra, a raunchy woman in her mid-forties, who tried to drown her difficult childhood and youth in too much alcohol and relationships with the wrong men. The living Walkers hardly recognize the two ghost, only Trenton – who barely survived a near-fatal car crash – senses their presence and sometimes even hears their voices, though he cannot process what he’s actually hearing and fears he’s finally going crazy.

We accompany the Walker family on their trip down memory lane, with each other and on their one.  Each chapter focuses on someone else, mostly told by Alice and Sandra – they intermingle their own stories with the past and present story of the Walker family, which paints an interesting portray of Caroline, Minna, and Trenton and also adds interesting yet spotty insights into Sandra’s and Alice’s lives. I love this technique of telling a story little by little from different perspectives and this is what I really liked about this book – though it did not always live up to the huge potential this technique offers. Oliver knows how to build up suspense so you want to find out how it all ends, even though you may not find every storyline all that convincing… Because this book has its shortcomings, and it actually has quite a few and rather important ones.

For one, a lot of the characters are not all that easy to grasp or likable because they represent a world of cliches and short hints rather than in-depth descriptions or portrayals. That said the question of whether you like a character or not depends on if you sympathize with the stereotype it depicts. Furthermore whether you understand most of a character’s motivation or her/his perspective on something depends on your respective knowledge of said stereotype and the cultural implications it conveys. So Minna, depicted as a surgically enhanced nymphomaniac, beds every guy she meets only because she wants to fill the void she feels deep down inside her with love and attention – or at least sex. This is why Minna is the least interesting or likeable character, because the cliche she represents is of no interest to me (I saw 4 seasons of SATC thank you very much …). Also Caroline and Trenton, both more likable because more tangible for me, represent their respective stereotype just as clearly and obvious as Minna; the same applies to Alice and Sandra. There could be so much more connection with all characters on various levels, but instead it all depends on whether or not you like the stereotypes that are used to depict them in this book.

As it happens I have a soft spot for most of the characters apart from Minna, so I truly enjoyed the book and was curious to find out how it ends, hence I read it in one day. This interest and excitement however did not make me oblivious to further shortcomings of this book, like the fact that on several occasions Oliver hints at something but doesn’t follow through. There is a character who’s presence in the book does not make a lot of sense except for reasons that leave behind the bitter aftertaste of an overtly contructed narrative for the sake of pushing some matters ahead. Also, while we learn that Trenton was in a car accident and nearly died, we never find out what exactly happened – something that I would like to know, especially since the accident is repeatedly mentioned and referred to and seems to be an important part of his story. Amy, Minna’s daughter, seems to mainly be used as a sort of prop whenever its needed regarding the plotline. Alice once mentions that she turned her back on her family when marrying her husband, but she never explains what exactly happens – so why the hell even mention it? For the sake of pushing the clichè of her story even further? 

I imagined lying down with Thomas under a blanket filled with down, talking late into the night, waking up with the tips of our noses cold and the windows patterned with frost.

I imagined that we would be happy together, that together, we would be home.

This is Alice. And [spoiler alert] surprise, surprise: Thomas is not her husband.
Alice’s story was my favorite, maybe because it reminded me of other tragic characters I love, like John Williams’ Stoner or Willy Vlautin’s protagonists. Together with Sandra and Trenton she also get’s the best chance to spread her wings and try to evolve into something more than just another story tableau. You have to see for yourself how this works out for you – I loved her voice, they way she tells not only her own, but also the Walker’s story, and even Sandra’s. She is the oldest and the wisest, the first of them, at least as far as we know. It’s another cliche, maybe, but it also makes her the most sympathetic, at least in my opinion. Sandra too gets a opportunity to develop her story. Her at times vulgar language makes her even more likable, especially when she brings highly delicate issues to the point in her very own way. Thereby she is an obvious opposite to the tight-lipped Alice. Still: another clichè… 

Long story short: it’s entertaining, it’s gripping, and it’s interesting; though it may not always be easy to ignore certain ruptures within the storyline, I really enjoyed this book.

Reading: too many books at once …

so many books 1

Right now I’m reading about 5 books at the same time – different books for different moods, different mindsets, different levels of mental capacity. As you may have guessed this does not work out very well, meaning it does not look like I’m about to finish a single one of those books anytime soon – apart from Mari Kondo’s The life-changing magic of tidying up since I’ve already read that once and am absolutely eager to progress further with my decluttering/discarding project, hoping that her “spark joy” approach to discarding and keeping stuff will help me on my journey. But apart from that it will  be pure reading chaos for several more weeks or even months to come.

Well hello old friend – ADD and me

So why am I reading so many books when I know that this is usually not the smartest way to reduce my tbr-pile? Mainly because my ADD seems to be escalating right now and since I don’t take any medication I have to find alternative ways and mechanisms to cope with this situation. But don’t get me wrong, this has nothing to do with “oh my, I’m such a poor little unicorn suffering from *younameit* so I can’t handle my life”, oh no – I’m fine the way I am, with all the things going on, I’m just not the most efficient and calm person right now. And sometimes I’m annoying myself so much that I have to whine about it a little bit.

6 books and counting … 

Anyway, so there are 6 books going on – not included are the papers and books I’m working on right now in regards to my dissertation (yes, once again back on track, the never-ending saga continues) – as stated before, that’s a bit much. The largest of them all (see photo) is a collection of short stories regarding female detectives (yay for the feminist agenda in every way!) – it is a 900 pages+ volume with a small font and VERY thin paper, so I’m not sure if I will finish it in this lifetime BUT I’m quite sure I will not finish it if proceeding like that. Still, with short stories it’s much easier to put the book away and return to it than it is with a novel like I capture the castle. Additionally I rediscovered my Kindle again – this happens about every 6 months, because in the end the Kindle is just a book too, so it can be forgotten for some time only to be picked up again once I remember that it contains true treasures.

so many books 2

I forgot this one the first time around … mea culpa!

So with switching from two to ‘just’ one job – a feeling of stability and structure I hadn’t had in ages – the world is my playground right now, and while I’m already in the process of picking up my academic endeavors where I left off months ago, I still feel a bit overwhelmed by leading such a stable and structured life – and having so much time on my hands. This may be one reason why I can’t focus on one or two books right now, and it may also be the main reason my ADD-brain feels like exploding. I’m not actually bad or worse, I’m just a bit hysteric. Since I learned to tackle my issues when shit hits the fan and there’s a lot going on, I now have to strengthen my ADD muscles in regards to organizing myself and developing habits when my days are rather structured and relatively calm in regard to my job.

What now?

Anyway, as I said before, one of the books I’m reading right now is Mari Kondo. Over the last two years I’ve discovered that the idea of minimalism is not just a convenient trend in a (Western) world that is increasingly overwhelmed by itself BUT also works wonders for my ADD – less stuff, less clutter, less dramalamadingdong. Still, while I’m really enthusiastic about getting rid of my stuff, I also know I have to equip myself the best way possible for discussions with my inner post-war grandchild** (“I don’t need THIS now BUT I COULD use it SOMEDAY and I got it from *insert name of dead relative here* so I’m not sure I can be such a heartless bitch and really throw it away, can’t we find some place to store it until we can use it SOMEDAY??”) and that’s why I’m reading Kondo. May her “spark joy” approach work wonders …

So, what is the conclusion of this rather messy post?
I will finish Mari Kondo’s book.
I will proceed with my academic reading ‘plan’.
I will add the occasional short-story from the female detectives book for the next 30 years until a) I can’t decipher the small print any longer or b) the thin pages eventually pulverize.
I will read some more, maybe quitting one book while taking up another. You know the story.

It will get better, quieter, more organized (again) eventually. It always does.

 

 

** “Let’s keep this, we might need it someday” was my grandpa’s guiding principle and something I was brought up with – I still have a hard time acknowledging the fact that his and granny’s way of ‘keeping stuff just in case’ does not work for me.

On Losing and Missing

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Mea culpa, I always plan to write more regularly and then something happens and off I am with my mind, focus, and concentration. The last few months were great regarding my reading (and in some way also my thesis work), so I’m actually looking forward to quite some books and stuff to write about here; but then there’s always this thing called ‘life’ throwing stuff at you that at times is hard to work with…

Two weeks ago Wonderguy and I took our little kitty to the vet (more precisely, we took her to the emergency service and then to ‘our’ vet) because we thought she had a really ugly cold.
It turned out she did not have a cold but a pulmonary edema, with possibly even more fluid in her thorax area as well. There was nothing they could do. She was breathing like a 90-year-old chain smoker and it would have gotten worse within the next few hours and days. She already suffered from a chronic illness and was 14 years old, it was clear that the inevitable was just a question of time. But we were lucky for so long. Several times we took her to the vet not sure if we would take her home with us again. She got antibiotics daily and pain medication regularly for nearly a year, she was a fighter – we thought this could go on forever, or at least for another few months. She always pulled through, fought and won, was our strong little MacGyver kitty.
This time it was different. She was tired, I could see that when we were driving to the vet and instead of panicking and trying to get out of her travelbox, she just laid down and looked at me. The emergency doc said “She knows.” I’m sure she did, she was a clever little cat. We, however, did not.
We had no choice but to let her go. On a Tuesday two weeks ago we lost our little furry love. And I never thought it would hurt so much. Naive little me, who had never lived with a pet before, thought one could prepare for something like that, thought that by knowing she was already sick and wouldn’t ‘live forever,’ I would be prepared when the inevitable came. How wrong I was …

So my reading/mood obviously took a turn for the worse throughout the last two weeks. My weary mind could not focus on reading a book. I started Possession by A.S. Byatt shortly before our Kitty left us and I took me a while to get through the book even though I really liked it. After all, it’s not Ms Byatt’s fault that we lost our furry family member.

But it’s getting better with every day that passes – time doesn’t heal shit but it helps you to get used to the change … good-bye my little love ♥

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Reading:”American Gods” by Neil Gaiman

cover of Neil Gaiman American Gods

Yes, I know, there is no need for another sort-of-review of any of Neil Gaiman’s books because there are already thousands of highly qualified musings about his work out there. He is a prolific writer, has a wide, diverse and also devout audience (of which Wonderguy is a proud member) and countless different platform—a lot of them highly professional and influential—have already discussed his numerous works.

Still, thoughts are free and unicorns are a thing, so let me reflect on my personal adventure with Shadow, Wednesday and all the other blokes who are setting the stage for a reading experience that was by far not as smooth as The Graveyard Book (my favourite Neil Gaiman book so far, though I have some more reading to do), but still gave me one of my favorite characters.

Fantasy and me – no love story

First off, I have to confess that I do not “like” and therefore hardly read any fantasy novels. I never read the Harry Potter series or Lord of the Rings  and I was surprised to find out that Philip Pullman was NOT in Independence Day (though: kudos to a fellow atheist, may the bridges we burn light our way …).

Apart from an occasional Terry Pratchett I am hardly Neil Gaiman’s target audience, which might be a reason why reading The Graveyard Book, with its comparably small cast and fictional world, was ‘easier’ and much more enjoyable to read than American Gods. Another reason might be that Wonderguy told me to read Norse Mythology  before American Gods to be well-prepared and—truth to be told—this sort of preparation pretty much killed my vibe.

I am all for some deeper insight into the backgrounds of stories and novels, but my enthusiasm has limits and Norse Mythology exhausted these: starting with all the ridiculous names I never had a chance of remembering (for e.g. Gullinbursti the boar, Svadilfari the horse, or inanimate objects like a chain called Dromi), followed by the mind-boggling number of protagonists, I lost track of the stories most of the time and confused everyone with everything except for the main ‘characters’ Loki, Thor, and Odin.

[At the risk of sounding indifferent to fascinating historical knowledge: I’m an atheist which in this context means that religious and mythological symbols and/or characters are interchangeable and mostly irrelevant to me; the Norse mythology may be far more colorful than many of today’s religious symbols, stories and myths, but to me, in the end it is just another ‘metaphysical instrument’ for explaining seemingly inexplicable events and experiences while at the same time using this power of illusory knowledge to control the people seeking help and guidance.]

By the time I actually started reading American Gods I was already exhausted regarding the stories and adventures of Odin a.k.a. Wednesday and his various henchmen thanks to the enlightening ‘research reading.’

One of my favorite characters

But Shadow kept me going. Through all the exhaustive dream sequences and fantastic elements which would otherwise rather discourage me to continue reading a book, I wanted to know what would happen to Shadow. Of course I acknowledge and appreciate the immense research work Neil Gaiman must have accomplished for this novel—no one needs me of all people to state that Gaiman is a master of his craft.

Moreover, I loved the stories he tells in small subchapters throughout the novel about how the various gods and mythical creatures came to the US; they feature different voices and perspectives which introduce interesting and captivating insights in how myths and ‘gods’ can be created, transformed, and sometimes even killed off.
 
Though the book dragged on at times—at least for someone who is not that much into fantasy—there were of course quite a few surprising twist and turns that made it an entertaining read, not only for the sake of finding out where Shadow’s path would lead him. Gaiman is a great author and knows his way around language, which always makes him a great read, even when delving into a genre one usually avoids (yeah, the “one” is me…).

With Shadow, American Gods features a protagonist that seems familiar, even though I cannot thoroughly explain how and why; he reminds me of Bukowski’s Hank Chinaski, various protagonists in war literature (Joker in Gustav Hasford’s The Short-Timers, Walter James in Larry Brown’s Dirty Work, some of the guys in Tim O’Brien’s The Things they Carried and Paul Berlin in Going after Cacciato as well as Colby Buzzell’s depiction of himself in the midst of the Iraq War) and probably some others I can’t remember right now. Shadow is my perfect companion on a road trip (yeah I know, what a surprising remark considering parts of the book); he is the one I want to ask how to handle the ugly shit—even better, I want him to handle the ugly shit; in short he is the big brother I always wanted.
He is THE one invariable in the midst of an ugly and violently changing world—and I’m not referring to the sort of Ragnarok Gaiman describes in  American Gods. Maybe Shadow is in some ways an all-American hero which makes him seem so familiar; maybe it’s something personal in regard to ex-cons in literature, I don’t know. What I do know is that his character, his story, was the reason I finished the book. 

Again, this is in no way a book review; though I work in the field of literary studies, I don’t do what most would call ‘reviews’ here (or elsewhere, for that matter). Literature is art and art has no limits (sort of). Different people like different things, that’s all. It’s just another account of my reading experience and reading adventure, this time with Neil Gaiman. It was not the first, it won’t be the last, though it was a difficult one. But it was more than worth my time.

Something fresh…

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So the new laptop finally arrived!! UPS and I had some initial problems of finding some time for each other since our doorbell wasn’t working as it should (probably for the last months – which explains why we never get any parcels, but always have to fetch them at the post office), but in the end, THANKFULLY, everything worked out just fine. I’m always a bit nervous when waiting for a valuable item, especially with parcel services like UPS. It’s often hard to get a hold of the individual driver because it’s an international company, so they only offer ‘international’ customer service. ‘International’ in this context rarely means ‘professional’ but rather ‘hard to get.’ So I was really worried that something might go wrong and all my new hopes and good intentions would be crushed before I even get a chance to actively crush them myself with my distinguished lack of energy and drive.

So now I’m already writing on my new notebook, to get a feel for it (as stupid as it may sound, every keyboard is different), with all the fancy Linux stuff I don’t know shit about. I’m still in the process of getting used to Linux and the system with its various components, which is all new to me – though it’s not that difficult, still, in the beginning one is always careful, as if the device may suddenly burst into flames and cease to exist just because you entered one wrong command….who knows, there’s a first time for a lot of different things. I know I may need at least half a day to get acquainted with Scrivener, which sounds ideal to work with for my dissertation and other writing projects that need some organization. Furthermore, there’s still this huge variety of stuff that helps you (and your system) to work better, but I will need some more time to discover all of that. As you see, ‘bird person’ (my notebook’s name, because everything needs a name) and I are still getting to know each other…

I may have a new assignment which will keep me busy until the deadline in June – I will find out in the days to come if it is still on – so this is the perfect test for me working with ‘bird person’ AND with Scrivener. O course, it is also the perfect opportunity to get into the optimal regular-writing-mood I will need if I really want to give my thesis project another shot, like, finish it. I’m usually all about professional and perfectionist when it comes to paid writing/work assignments that come with a deadline. Not surprisingly, I’m also all about the perfect procrastination mode in regard to work that has no deadline in sight. So my good intentions may get some outside support from tech stuff, at least I hope so.

(FYI: You may find references to Rick and Morty and P.G. Wodehouse in this little text of mine. They are easy to detect and deliberate, so to make the repetitive elaboration regarding my incapacity to stick to my idealistic academic goals a bit more diverse and enjoyable.)

Reading: Miriam Toews “All my puny sorrows”

 

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I finished Toews’ book yesterday and I still have Elf and Yoli with me, somehow. I laughed a lot; I cried several times. This is a story about mental illness, surviving, and letting someone go. This is a story about suicide and survival, about intentionally leaving this world, even though there would be no need to do it just now (i.e. no fatal disease or other physical failings that would make life unbearable). This is a story about death and family and losing the people we love. In short: Elfrieda, Yoli’s older sister, wants to die. Her mother, sister, husband and a lot of other people want her to live. But for some people, being free means being able to leave whenever and however they want to…

Writing about death is always difficult, because it is a tense and emotional topic; even more so when writing about suicide. Most people do not understand why someone wants to die. Many of us experience difficult times, lose people we love and can have a hard time coping with all the shit life throws at us. Still, we move on –or, as Churchill once said “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” But it is not like that for everyone. Some just want to stop going, because they cannot do it any longer…and they have every right to do so, no matter how hard it is to understand for everyone else.

There are certain books that just seem to choose me – “All my puny sorrows” is one of those. Every time I read stories of mental illnesses, I get a bit frightened; I can all to well remember how I felt years ago when I myself had to figure out how to “keep going.” Sometimes I’m afraid all this could come back if I read too much about it, think too much about it – I can be overly empathic and emotional, not being able to distance myself from the things around me, and I’m still very much afraid of depression, that kind of depression I experienced back then. I never actively thought about taking my own life, because I believed that it would get better. To me suicide was a sort of last resort in case I would truly lose it – and I can understand when someone passes this stage and ends his or her life.

I love Toews’ language and humor, I think it is so important to not only keep going but also keep laughing, especially with topics like this, death and suicide and losing people you love. When the inevitable happens, you are still shocked and surprised – even though it’s ‘just a book,’ I still hoped. For all those around her and for herself. Because if you are not feeling and living in this very special void, you see hope, even in the darkest days. If you know this void – the multitude of voids –, have been there, seen it, felt it, you may understand that someone does not see any more sense in ‘keep going.’ I love Elfrieda, who is a survivor as long as she can take it. I love Yoli and Lottie, her sister and her mother, who ‘keep going’ after losing a lot, keep laughing because in the midst of a storm, you have to save yourself and those close to you, the ones that can and want to be saved. 

I want to thank Miriam Toews for lightning up my soul and mind. I prefer to block out anything that may remind me of darker days, but Elf and Yoli brought some things up that were not even half as frightening as I thought it would (or could) be. Thanks for making me laugh out loud. Thanks for writing a book about some of the roughest storms of life that feels like a warm and bright summer breeze…