Book review: What I know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey

February 10, 2015

I have always admired Oprah Winfrey and the difference she has made in so many lives.  She shows honesty, vulnerability, spirituality and wisdom.  When I saw her book at the library, I thought it might be a good read, but wasn’t expecting the degree of insights this woman shared.  She also had a way of making me feel like I was sitting next to a good friend, who understood my journey.  Some of the topics she discusses are possibility, gratitude, connection, and power.

Though I have heard it before, her writings on gratitude, made me start looking at things in a different way, and I have started to pay more attention to what I am grateful for.  “Here’s the gift of gratitude:  In order to feel it, your ego has to take a backseat.  What shows up in its place is greater compassion and understanding.  Instead of being frustrated, you choose appreciation.  And the more grateful you become, the more you have to be grateful for” (page 79).

Lately, I have been experiencing more physical pain and fatigue. Much of this is do to some increased stress in my life as a result of some choices I made.  It can be hard to see the gratitude when I can feel so empty inside.  Yet, when I look around, every day brings something beautiful and a source of life.  I see this through calls and texts from friends, through looking outside at the trees blowing in the wind, and through reading books that make me go “aha”, I want to live this way.

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Memoir Book review: The Invisible Girls

August 24, 2013

I enjoyed reading the book Invisible Girls by Sarah Thebarge.  Her memoir read like a diary, where I felt like I entered into her world and hardships.  The memoir was an interesting contrast and comparison between her personal struggles with breast cancer, spirituality, relationships and infertility with the struggles of a family (mother and five daughters) she met on the train from Somali.  Her honesty and ability to dig deep into her thoughts and feelings pulled me into her book, gaining new understandings along the way.

I have had many encounters with people from other countries including refuges.  Sarah, however, allowed me to really picture the culture and language clash with her details of everyday situations.  I was inspired by Sarah’s humility of what she didn’t know and her willingness to keep trying to help in a situation that wasn’t simple.

I could relate to many of the spiritual challenges Sarah talked about in her story.  Though I can see blessings all around me, it can be hard to feel God with health issues, unemployment and Cancer that is abundant with family and friends.  My mind and heart don’t always connect with the questions that only seem to provide a glimpse of answers when I look at the Sun and the Stars.  Many of the spiritual clichés that I have grown up with seem to bring further disconnect from the God in which I hope is watching over me.  I could feel my heart’s brokenness yet a glimpse of encouragement as her memoir seemed to illustrate a Spirit that resided within her.


Book Review: Manifest Injustice by Barry Siegel

July 4, 2013

Manifest Injustice is a true story regarding a convicted murderer and the people who tried to bring him freedom.  It is a compelling and disturbing read and a perfect one to write about on the 4th of July.  The story is captivating in that it illustrates the complexities of our legal system and how certain evidence can change the overall picture.  How this man was able to get convicted still amazes me, as the amount of doubt in the story was incredible.  I was deeply disturbed throughout the book at the number of obstacles and people not interested in at least hearing all the facts of a case (another person’s confession to the same murders).  Though it is truly difficult to evaluate he said, she said situations, especially when those in charge of the investigation were so sloppy in gathering evidence and recording “confessions”.  His ex-wife was able to both testify against him and had access to evidence.

The beauty of this story was the number of people who were fighting for his case.   The people at the Arizona Justice Project fought for his story to be heard, and spend years trying to investigate his case and bring justice.  Perkins Coie also joined the fight (I used to work here – too funny).  Eventually one of his sons reunited with him, and became one of his advocates.  The accused, Mr. Bill Macumber was portrayed as a strong inspiring man, trying to make the most of a bad situation.

Barry Siegel is an incredible writer, bringing to light difficult issues to process.  He brings you into the lives of the people, pulls you into the story emotionally and intellectually.  You can’t finish reading this book, without a greater understanding of the complexities and fallacies of the legal system.


Memoir Review: Runaway Girl by Carissa Phelps

June 7, 2013

I haven’t written a review for a while.  I have read through some powerful books, but can’t always recall the details when I am in writing mode.  The book Runaway Girl is not one to forget.  An incredible woman, beating the odds, and taking her experience and making an impact.

Carissa Phelps did not have an easy life.  Family problems led her to run away at 12 where she was led into prostitution by a pimp.  Many years on the streets, in people’s homes, institutions, and with family members was problematic.  It is a highly emotional book, especially having two daughters ages 12 and 14.  The heartache and struggles of Carissa puts you into her story.  throughout her book you see patterns of moving forward (away from destruction) and backwards as she continues to work through her trauma and current challenges.  Though it can seem like she is encountering some of the same situations again, you can also see the growth in her as she develops some coping strategies, understanding, strength and support from people who care about her.  It is a great portrayal of the slow path that leads to healing.  As she continues to develop confidence and find herself she pursues a path as an attorney and advocate.  A courageous woman who chose to humbly enter her own story to help others.

I was moved throughout this book.  A difficult read, that drew me in for more.  I am always encouraged when someone chooses to keep working through their trauma, and admitting its impact upon their life.  Sexual trauma has a significant impact, especially as a young child/teen.  I was struck by her ability to claim what happened for what it was:  A story of surviving sex trafficking vs her choosing to prostitute herself.  Many women and young girls are not really choosing this path.  Most of them have come from traumatic backgrounds (sexual and non-sexual) that make them vulnerable.  I have heard the term “I might as well get paid for it” before, and can understand this thinking.  Unfortunately this often involves way more than sex, and the road out isn’t always so simple.

I have had my share of traumas and situations where I have acted out of the trauma.  It isn’t easy to erase what can feel automatic at times, or to move in a direction that I believe is right, when I don’t always have guilt that should draw me away from destructive choices.  I see where much progress, understanding, and better choices have created much growth and healing in my life.  Learning from others’ stories is helpful.  Having a support network and people who love you with grace is huge.  When grace is given we can dig deeper to the darker places and find the light.

Thank you Carissa for sharing your story with us.  May we all find hope that there is a way out of any situation – no matter how bad it may seem.

 


Memoir Review: Promise Me by Nancy G. Brinker

March 19, 2013

Promise Me was an amazing book on so many levels.  Nancy G. Brinker is the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an organization launched in honor of her sister who died of breast cancer.  Nancy shares of the struggle of losing her sister to breast cancer, her own battle with breast cancer, her research about breast cancer and the relationships that hold her along the way.  It is a must read for anyone who has or knows someone battling with cancer or someone wanting to make an impact for a cause.

Nancy writes in a way that most captures my attention, she writes from her heart.  Whether she is giving medical information, or walking you through her story, her passion and love is evident.  She draws me into her family, into her relationships, and the promise she made to her sister about making a difference for breast cancer.  Her mother, instills the necessity of making a difference and finding joy in serving others which is integrated in the heart and soul of Nancy’s life.

Throughout the book, Nancy gives some incredible information on breast cancer and research.  She shares stories from other survivors and various treatment options as well as the importance of advocating for yourself in the medical system.  The end of the book includes 11 pages of resources regarding financial, treatment, trials, diagnosis, and prevention.

 


Memoir Review: Grace, Gold and Glory by Gabrielle Douglas

March 19, 2013

I really enjoyed reading olympic gymnast, Gabrielle Douglas’ book.  My family and I loved watching her spirit and skill in the olympics.  My youngest daughter’s name is Gabrielle, so it added an extra dimension to our interest in following her.

What I loved most about reading her book is the positive outlook she has at such a young age.  Though she has had many challenges, she was honest about her struggles, and grateful to those who helped her along the way.  It is amazing to see how many people supported her on her journey, and aided in her being the success she is today.  At the same time, she was able to persevere with her faith, and inner strength, holding on to her dream.

This is a great book for both adults and tweens/teens.  It is an inspiring book for an athlete and people who have high aspirations.  Gabrielle is an example of someone who continues to be true to her values, whether she is struggling with daily life or a woman of great success.  Thanks Gabrielle for sharing with us.


Memoir Review: Torn by Justin Lee

February 18, 2013

I love hearing Justin share about his process of searching for truth in the Gay vs. Christian debate with humor and grace. Though this feels like my most political post yet, it really doesn’t need to be. Searching for truth is always the right path, and this generally involves looking at our own beliefs and biases.

Justin is a conservative Christian who is gay. He initially seeks to find a way to change his orientation through ex gay turned straight organizations. He asks a lot of questions, trying to understand from an intellectual and personal viewpoint. He is surprised to discover much of the testimonies of the ex gays, are giving half-truths, trying to bring hope to others, yet denying the reality of their experience. He seeks answers through the Christian community, and through the LGBT community, not always fitting in well with either. He also studies scripture to learn more about the context the Bible verses against gays were written from.

Justin has a great way of sharing his journey without criticizing other people. He asks questions, and seeks to understand the perspective and wisdom of other people, and to find the right path for himself while following his personal Christian beliefs. I see a man always striving for integrity and relationships built on truth. I admire him for stepping out on this issue, putting himself in the line of fire, so others can understand we aren’t the judge of who can and cannot be a Christian.

Before I read this book, I have had many of the same questions Justin Lee has about this battle of Christians against gays. Though I am a heterosexual, I disagree with the cruelty that has often come about from a rather young age for people with different sexual orientations. Many years ago, I encountered some pretty severe criticism from people, because as a Christian I have been open on this issue, and couldn’t honestly say I thought it was wrong to be gay. Having had close gay friends in the past, I saw the same spirituality and challenges in them, as others who were straight. I questioned many of the scriptures he reviewed, also recognizing how often woman can be treated with the same disrespect throughout the Bible, and many people take this as a cultural issue, not a moral one. Because I am human not God, I believe that it is better for me to focus on what is loving than on what is right, and trust that my Higher Power can be the one to teach each of us what is right.

I highly recommend everyone read this book and share it with others they know. Regardless of whether you agree with his truth, you will learn much about compassion, grace, the personal struggles, and seeking truth.


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