musings from Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington ... home of The Write Spot

Monday, January 01, 2024

out of the depths . . . at last!

My 2022 and 2023 were years of highs and lows, days that sometimes flew by much too quickly and weeks that dragged their feet through endless muddy hours. 

In January of 2022, my adult son, J, was hospitalized for 12 days when he was suddenly and mysteriously unable to stand. Because he's non-verbal, I stayed with him 'round the clock, sleeping in chairs, taking bird baths in sinks, and advocating for his care as best I could. 

The hospital was overwhelmed with Covid cases at the time, and so we were relocated 7 times over those 12 days, moving from floor to floor to keep us safe as wards filled up behind us with contagious patients. 

Gradually, J regained his strength and we returned home with an enduring appreciation for the often thankless work of the men and women who care for us when we most need help. 

In the autumn of 2022, we braved a major renovation of our condo to create a more accessible bathroom for J. Coincidentally, our upstairs neighbour was renovating his bathroom at the same time. In a (not so funny) comedy of errors, the upstairs contractor managed to break the main water valve, flooding our freshly drywalled space and necessitating three days with the roar of a giant industrial fan to dry things out. While repairing the mess created in our space, the 'contractors from hell' broke my new vanity light. And then [cue duh-duh-duh music] cracked the replacement vanity light while attempting the installation. Three strikes and they were out. My own wonderful contractors made everything right and I'm still happily enjoying the bathroom of my dreams.

But wait! There's more! 

While temporarily staying elsewhere during the major phase of renovations, Covid finally had its wicked way with both of us. Fortunately, we're both fully vaxxed, our illnesses were manageable, and we had people who checked on us and brought us meals. We left quarantine just in time to return home.

Early in 2023, I began having intense pain in my shoulders, back, and hips that made walking, sitting, and even sleeping a struggle. After several months of tests, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis and started a treatment plan of physiotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, and medication. I began using a cane and, eventually, a walker/rollator to get around. Thankfully, the treatments are working, the pain is no longer constant, and (most nights) I can sleep again. And I've a new appreciation for assistive devices - not things to be avoided, rather tools that mean freedom!

And then, the very best thing happened!

In August of 2023, J achieved a long-time dream when he moved to his own home, shared with new friends and supported by caregivers who truly are the very best sort of people. 

He's so happy with his newfound independence - this smile makes my heart sing.

With so much going on, books were definitely my happy place and a comforting, welcome escape. I read and listened to some excellent stories last year, including Shadow Play, a terrific new release from Peggy Blair. She brings back some characters from her Inspector Ramirez series (Simon & Schuster). This book is set in Ottawa and features a bad guy hero you can't help but root for, and a teenaged hacker-girl who helps him … well, you should read the book and find out! 

I interviewed Peggy for The Write Spot here on the blog back in 2016. You can read that interview here.

Another favourite of my reading year was John Scalzi's fantastic Starter Villain. You guessed it. I came for the cat on the cover. But I stayed for the wildly entertaining ride. What a book!

You can check out the rest of my 2023 reads, all 40 of them, on my Reading Challenge page at Goodreads. If you poke around a bit, you'll find my 2022 list there, as well.

Thanks for visiting. Here's hoping for better things in this fresh new year: health, happiness, and peace in the world. Happy New Year! 

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Saturday, January 01, 2022

Has it really been a year?

I've definitely been letting the blog slide. I'll blame it on pandemic isolation and leave it at that... but I can't let the new year begin without a look back at the books I enjoyed in 2021. Follow that link to see them all. Meanwhile, here are a few of my top reads of last year.

Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest

The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield

The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny

Castle Shade by Laurie R. King

A Match Made for Murder by Iona Whishaw

The Postscript Murders by Ellie Griffiths

Stargazer by Anne Hillerman

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

Death on Tuckernuck by Francine Mathews

Murder in a Teacup by Vicki Delany

To Helvetica and Back by Paige Shelton

I'm always looking for my next great read, so leave a comment and share your favourite book(s) of last year. Happy New Year! May 2022 be good to you... and happy reading!

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Sunday, January 03, 2021

the strange year that was 2020 ...


However you experienced it, I think we can agree: 2020 truly was a year like no other. 

For me, it began with six weeks of recovery from major surgery. Then, in late January, my son J and I were both miserably ill with sore throats, fevers, and respiratory problems. Was it Covid-19? Probably not, but we may never know. The two of us were just beginning to get our lives back to normal when news broke about a dangerous new corona virus. Suddenly nothing was "normal" at all. (Lately I find myself wondering if we'll ever know that kind of easy-going normal again.)

In the early days of the pandemic my middle son and his wife, who both work in health care, were felled by the virus. Thankfully they were able to recover in isolation at home but it was brutal. Being unable to help them was brutal, as well. (And don't even get me started on the wickedly brutal 14 days in May when J was hospitalized and I wasn't permitted to be with him at all, even though he's non-verbal. What a nightmare.)

Those of you who've read this blog for a while may remember that J has multiple disabilities, putting him at risk for worst-case complications. Age and asthma put me as risk as well, so excepting those terrible 14 days, the two of us have been hunkered down at home since mid-March. As I write this, we've been apart from friends and family for 293 days with only a handful of masked and socially distanced outdoor visits. Groceries, prescriptions - just about everything we might need - can be ordered locally and either dropped at our door or picked up curbside. We reminisce about "the before times", he missing the friends and mental stimulation of his adult day program and me missing restaurant dinners, theatre nights, and road trips with friends. And hugs. We really miss the hugs.

Through it all, I've been so thankful for family and friends who call or text, just to check in; for the countless front-line workers who make it possible for us to shelter at home; for a new virtual day program that keeps J engaged and happy (yay, Zoom!); and for peace and safety at a time when so many have neither.

I'm thankful, too, for the books of 2020. More than ever, it was a year to escape, to visit times and places where people could still meet for coffee and laugh and sing and dance. I was surprised, though, to discover I haven't read nearly as much as predicted. I've been doing the Goodreads Challenge since 2015 and have always exceeded my goal. Until this year. Missed it by a lot! Maybe all that home cooking, bread making, and (thinking about) closet purging used up my book time. But I did enjoy a fairly long list of cozy mysteries and feel-good stories - no angst this year. The real world has quite enough of that! 

Here, then (in no particular order), are my 2020 five-star reads. Visit me at Goodreads 2020 Challenge to see all 57 books - I enjoyed them all. 

The Corpse with the Crystal Skull (Kate Morgan #9) by Cathy Ace
Forbidden Fruit (Corinna Chapman #5) by Kerry Greenwood
A Death Long Overdue (Lighthouse Library #7) by Eva Gates
All the Devils Are Here (Gamache #16) by Louise Penny
Closing Time (Stonechild and Rouleau #7) by Brenda Chapman
Acqua Alta (Commissario Brunetti #5) by Donna Leon
Tea & Trechery (Tea by the Sea #1) by Vicki Delany
Hid from Our Eyes (Fergusson & Van Alstyne #9) by Julia Spencer-Fleming
Umbrella Man (Inspector Ramírez #4) by Peggy Blair
Riviera Gold (Russell & Holmes #16) by Laurie R. King
The Vineyards of Champagne by Juliet Blackwell
Read and Buried (Lighthouse Library #6) by Eva Gates
The Stone Circle (Ruth Galloway #11) by Elly Griffiths
The Dark Angel (Ruth Galloway #10 by Elly Griffiths
A Deceptive Devotion (Lane Winslow #6) by Iona Whishaw
Meet Your Baker (Bakeshop #1) by Ellie Alexander
There's a Murder Afoot (Sherlock Holmes Bookshop #5) by Vicki Delany
The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper

What were your favourite reads last year? What books are you most looking forward to in 2021? Leave a comment or connect on Goodreads and let's share.

Happy reading... and stay safe out there. Wear a mask!

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Friday, April 10, 2020

spring at home...

On Tuesday, J and I left our apartment for the first time in more than a week – we really needed to breathe some fresh air and feel a little open space around us. It was unusually quiet in the park. We saw a few people walking dogs or jogging, all of them paying attention to the new rules of social distancing. We sat, enjoyed the fresh breeze, soaked up some sunshine, and sipped hot coffee from our thermos. And what a difference that quiet hour beside the lake made! As the song says, "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

Lake Ontario from Len Ford Park in Toronto

This little guy seemed to be wondering where all the
people (and peanuts) went. He ventured close to
beg a treat. Sorry. No nuts here.

In Toronto, as in most places around the world, all but essential businesses are closed because of COVID-19. We've all been asked to stay at home except for essential outings to pick up supplies from the grocery store or pharmacy, or for occasional walks where social distancing is possible. J and I have, so far, been fortunate to have delivery service available, so we've been able to avoid crowds and lines. This bounty came from a local start-up, a brother and sister whose graphic design business had to shut down. They partnered with one of their clients to make fresh food deliveries in our area. It's every bit as delicious as it looks. We were able to share some, some went into the freezer, and some will be on the table for our Easter dinner. 

Fresh delivery from - yum!

Easter Sunday will mark 28 days of shelter-at-home for us. A few hours ago, I looked out the window and saw a splash of bright yellow in the garden. The forsythia is blooming! I can't get out to take a photo, but it was a happy reminder that spring really has arrived and, even though our lives are necessarily very altered right now, the world carries on and nature is full of miracles.

Wishing you and your families all the blessings of spring and may your holiday celebrations be joyful (but apart). As Toronto's favourite medic, Dr. Eileen de Villa, tells us every day: "Stay home, stay safe, and take care of each other."  

Daffodils at Centennial Park Conservatory in Toronto,
March 7, 2020 - just before the park closures.

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Thursday, January 02, 2020

Books of 2019...

I read a total of 95 books in 2019 and binged a few terrific new (to me) mystery series. You can check out the entire list over on Goodreads but these few were my five-star favourites, listed in order read with most recently finished first:

The Dragon Lady by Louisa Treger
The Other Windsor Girl by Georgie Blalock
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

Silent Night, Deadly Night by Vicki Delany
A Sorrowful Sanctuary by Iona Wishaw
A Dance of Cranes by Steve Burrows

I Shall Not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming
A Better Man by Louise Penny
All Mortal Flesh by Julia Spencer-Fleming
It Begins in Betrayal by Iona Wishaw
A Fountain Filled with Blood by Julia Spencer-Fleming
An Old, Cold Grave by Iona Wishaw
Something Read, Something Dead by Eva Gates
A Killer in King's Cove by Iona Wishaw
The Lost Carousel of Provence by Juliet Blackwell
The Tale Teller by Anne Hillerman
The Prisoner in the Castle by Susan Elia MacNeal
Color Me Murder by Krista Davis
Malice in Miniature by Jeanne M. Dams
Just Killing Time by Julianne Holmes
The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

What were  your favourite reads last year? What books are you most looking forward to in the coming year? Leave a comment or connect on Goodreads and let's share!

Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year and happy reading in 2020! 

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