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An Unnatural Choice by Mary Hodder Ross "Adoption is two sides of a single coin. One side is the gift. The other is sacrifice."  -- from An Unnatural Choice by Mary Hodder Ross
What we believe we are meant to be is not always what we become. Some lives turn course on a dime  into a defining story that begins with a single, heartrending decision. For Mary Hodder Ross that turn was an unplanned pregnancy at the age of 21. 
Born and raised in a small town in Newfoundland, Ross was "child number five" of six. She would be the first in her family to go to university. 
It was in her final semester before graduating as an English honours student from Memorial University that Ross learned she was pregnant. She crossed the stage at convocation without the sense of elation and possibility of those around her, but silently grateful for the gown that hid her growing secret.

For the first 22 weeks of her pregnancy, Ross "...led a double-life, that of a scholar and that of …
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"The Game of Life" by Rosalys Buckles Thorndike Wilson

“The game of life has been enjoyable and rewarding, and I have competed to the best of my ability.”—from The Game of Life by Rosalys Buckles Thorndyke Wilson
A long life, as Rosalys “Rosie” Buckles Thorndike Wilson looks back upon it, is like a basketball game. It’s played in four quarters (a sport she learned growing up in rural Indiana, where all you needed was a was a hoop on a wall and a ball that had some bounce) with a little time-out in between.

Rosie’s first quarter started out on a small, 20-acre farm near Etna, Indiana. Baths were taken once-a-week in a galvanized tub in front of the kitchen wood stove. There were the requisite chores including chasing down dinner (which, on a fried chicken night, involved catching and decapitating a hen before dipping it quickly in boiling water and then plucking off all its feathers). There was a pony named “Beauty”; “Fluffy” the long-haired cat; “Spot” the rat terrier; “Fuzzy” the baby raccoon and “Duke” a horse retired by the U.S. Caval…

“Something is Always on Fire: My Life so Far” by Measha Brueggergosman

“What I want now is to trust God to bring me through the fire and know that what doesn’t kill me makes me mad, and what makes me mad keeps me moving, and if I’m moving, I’m going to do so with purpose and effectiveness…” from Something is Always on Fire: My Life so Far by Measha Brueggergosman (c. 2017)
A world-class soprano’s highs are very high indeed. Singing for The Queen. Performing the prayer hymn at the 2010 Olympics. Her breathtaking voice and charismatic personality have made Measha Brueggergosman a star many times over.

But then there are the lows that should be out of register, except that they are not. The end of her marriage. Stillborn twins. Open-heart surgery.

And the middle range, that is, daily life. Struggling to fasten the car seat buckles of her two young sons. Never ending bills to pay. The daily exhaustion of balancing family and career. The sandwich that “doesn’t make itself while you binge-watch Scandal.

“Yes, I may create the illusion that the energy is there…

“Lead Yourself First: Indispensable Lessons in Business and in Life” by Michelle Ray

If life and career proceeded in a steady upwards trajectory, fuelled by energy alone, leading oneself first would be little more than putting one foot after the other. But they are not in tandem, and as we advance in our careers, so too do our parents advance in years, our families grow and change and our life choices resolve to possibly take us far from home and into new, uncharted territory.

As an internationally recognized motivational speaker, Michelle Ray has been telling stories and sharing the wisdom of a career that’s had its share of ups and downs, but has rarely been without forward momentum for long. She graduated from university in a recession—when jobs were thin on the ground. Some thirty years on, Ray has collected her thoughts in Lead Yourself First: Indispensable Lessons in Business and in Life. Self-motivated, self-employed and self-driven to help others, she challenges her readers and listeners to apply leadership where it matters most—their own lives.

What gives Ra…

"Mr. Rochester" by Sarah Shoemaker

Of English literature’s romantic heroes, it's hard to find one more disconsolate than Edward Fairfax Rochester. In Sarah Shoemaker’s re-imagining of Mr. Rochester, we can better see why. Edward’s mother dies giving birth to him, his older brother is a menacing tyrant, his father a manipulating merchant with little feeling for his second son. Edward’s ties to home are severed at an early age, his closest friendships end in tragedy, his torturous marriage in Jamaica is the result of a business scheme concocted by his father when Edward was but a boy.

And we thought Jane Eyre had a grim youth.
How bitterness takes root and drives a good man to grievous wrongs is meticulously unravelled in Mr. Rochester. In this comes a soul-searching empathy for the depths of Edward’s feelings for Jane (herself hardly a ray of sunshine amongst literature’s most enduring heroines). 
There are two sides to every couple’s story . At long last, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre has a worthy companion reveale…

"The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness" by Paula Poundstone

Happiness is a funny thing. If you’re comedienne Paula Poundstone, searching for it is even funnier.

In the The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness, Poundstone cleans out the junk drawer; learns how to email and taekwondoes herself down a dress size. She picks up a nifty nickname—“Sugar Push”—by  taking swing dancing lessons, hugs every audience member after a live taping of NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”; talks to lizards while backpacking with her oldest daughter in the Angeles National Forest; spends a day petting her 16 cats and another watching mostly horrible movies with her three kids.

In the “get positive” experiment, Poundstone sticks motivational sayings in eye-catching places, but only the ones she can’t argue. Fear of scraping off the underside of the Lamborghini she rents for a day puts a damper on its happiness-effect. Volunteering at a senior’s home is “balou-ful”, but bittersweet.

In the meantime, her kids grow, laugh and talk back on their …

"Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy" by Anne Lamott

One afternoon a few years ago, two friends and I sat on my porch and mourned the gradual loss, over the years, of our nicer selves. “Where has she gone?” we each wondered. Reluctantly, we came to the conclusion that our “niceness”—our mercy—had simply worn down—an inevitable by-product of aging.

We are not the only ones lamenting our winnowing of mercy. Anne Lamott does, too. Enough to write a book about it.

There is hope, yet. We are not so far gone, my friends and I, that we have become the dogs in the famous New Yorker cartoon Lamott recalls in Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy: “It’s not enough that we succeed. Cats must also fail.”

What if we are just out of practice? And, age aside, what if we, as a society, are all a little rusty on the mercy front? “Mercy, grace, forgiveness and compassion are synonyms” writes Lamott.  “And when we practise mercy, it is restored to us."

And what if mercy is not a constant of character, some have it, some don’t, but retrievable when t…