Memoir Review My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell

December 2, 2012

I loved reading My Sisters the Saints.  A great spiritual memoir, learning about the different saints and what makes them special.  Colleen writes an interesting book, as she shares her own spiritual questions and learning to apply spiritual principles to life’s challenges.  I could relate to many of her challenges, infertility, aging loved ones, making relationship decisions, and balancing personal desires when they seem to conflict.

Reading spiritual memoirs is one of my favorite ways to grow spiritually.  I love stepping into another person’s life and hearing how they live out their own beliefs and the way they process through them.  As she used books to learn about her mentors, I also use spiritual memoirs as role models to learn from.  Her book gave me both, memoirs in a memoir – gotta love that!  I am blessed to learn from her humility, her ability to dig deeper into the questions, and her desire to follow her heart and her values.  Thanks for a great read.


Memoir Review of Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu

December 2, 2012

I enjoyed reading the book Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu.  She honestly tells of her story in gymnastics and the struggles she experienced.  She is open and aware of many of her own battles, sharing her challenges in a self reflected way as she seeks to work through them.   It can be a hard book to read at times especially when hearing about the way she was treated by her father and professional coach.  She had some incredible coaches at times, and you can easily see how the positive influences impacted her.  Even the people who weren’t always kind, taught her valuable skills and traits that enhanced her career as she was open to learning from them.  It is encouraging to hear her story and her ability to succeed and find herself in spite of all the challenges.

Watching gymnastics is something I am often inspired by and am amazed at the dedication and heart many athletes have for the sport.  Often I want to give up in the personal and physical challenges, yet athletes learn how to work through these in order to accomplish their goals.  The passion they show for their sport seems to compel them to move forward.  Her story is a great reminder to me in learning to pick your battles, learning the lessons along the way, loving yourself, striving for the goal, and the great relationships that make all the difference.


Loung Ung Memoir series

September 23, 2012

When I am looking for Memoir books to read, I often scan the latest memoir books for something that speaks to me.  I came across Loung Ung’s book Lulu in the Sky (book 3) and later read First They Killed My Father (book 1) and Lucky Child (book 2).  I appreciate her writing a series of books, because I seek to understand how people make it through difficult circumstances and how it impacts them later.  Often a book will share feelings not always shared when talking to people one on one.  The beauty of writing is that it can capture the heart of our story and the intense emotions and thoughts that exist within us.

Loung Ung’s books share about her horrible experience in Cambodia with the Khmer Rouge and her travels to America.  Loung and her family had to leave their home because her father’s work in the government threatened their security.  They led secret lives, hiding their status and moved around frequently. They often had little food and lived in fear of dying and losing loved ones.  Loung encountered extensive trauma and challenging circumstances, even being trained as a child soldier.  As I read about the deep pain she encounters, I am all the more drawn to her spirit and the struggles within.  Her two later books, continue her story and her relocation to America.  Unfortunately the struggles don’t end, as she adapts to a new culture and the losses of leaving loved ones behind.  The last book shares about finding and receiving love and working through her traumatic experiences.  Though an extremely difficult read at times, it truly is a story that needs to be shared.

I could relate to the humanity of Loung. Her struggles to make relationships work, to deal with things she wished she didn’t have to experience, and her desire to make a difference out of the darkness.  I can’t say I have the ability to fully understand the impact of such trauma which can make it easier for me to ignore the realities of war all around us.  Reading memoirs is a way for me to be educated about what is going on (past and present) in different parts of the world and to find a way to make a difference in spite of my fibromyalgia and other limitations.  My day-to-day life has been enriched by her books, my ability to see what matters in life, how the small and big things do matter, and how much my life is enriched by people of other cultures and experiences.  It makes me aspire to work through my own challenges and being willing to look honestly at things I would rather not face. I am thankful Loung was willing to share her story with us – it won’t be forgotten.


Rocking the Pink Memoir review

September 23, 2012

I really enjoyed reading Laura Roppe’s book Rocking The Pink.  It is a story about her journey with breast cancer and how it inspired her to follow her dreams.  I love her honesty in a compelling and humorous way, allowing me to laugh at the darker aspects of life, while recognizing the grief of it.  Her story to becoming a rock story reads almost like a fairy tale, except of course the big C wood.  Laura writes in a witty way about people and life’s circumstances, sharing her experiences without every criticizing other people.  I enjoyed her positive stance and her strive to follow her heart in a way that considers other people.  Her relationships with her husband, daughters, cousin and fellow cancer survivor, Jane revealed her loving  and kind manner and made you love her all the more.

I connected to Laura’s story by her illness, her dreams and her positive aspect.  Though I can’t say I share the successful rock star life, it doesn’t prevent me from dreaming of making a difference through writing.  I was inspired by her ability to find the very best in her close relationships and made me love my husband all the more for his love and support.  Having two daughters, I connected with the motherhood piece, the fear of not being there, not giving enough, and balancing your own dreams.  I generally feel less alone reading the stories of others experiencing some kind of medical crisis, learning from their ability to capture their feelings, hopes and fears.  So thank you Laura for sharing your story through your book and music.


The Distance Between Us book review

September 11, 2012

I was so captivated by The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande that I read the entire book in a day.  Great opportunity for a day of heat and ice to ease my chronic pain while reading an amazing book.  Reyna is a great story-teller, having the ability to put the reader into the story, visualizing the scenery while feeling the strong emotions and conflicts that Reyna struggles with.  Her story is a difficult one to hear, separation from parents and siblings, betrayal, abandonment, physical and mental abuse, poverty and lack of the basic necessities.  However, Reyna continues to hope for something more, to be loved, to learn from her experiences, to have opportunities and to find the positive in difficult situations.  Her sister,  Mago, is her lifeline at many times.  Giving unconditional love and support at such a young age.  Reyna takes us back to her history, sharing the culture of Mexico and her long transition to America.  She brings us to her childhood state, while also sharing of things she sees more clearly as an adult.

Reyna is an amazing writer.  I would highly recommend her book.  I am hoping she will also continue her story as I would love to hear about her life after graduating from college.


The Long Run Book Review by Matt Long and Charles Butler

August 28, 2012

I love reading books about physical recovery.  It inspires me to keep healthy and fit in spite of challenges and continue to move forward even when I have set backs.  I also learn new medical information, resources and coping methods.  The Long Run is a great read about an elite athlete and firefighter who was involved in a bike accident (he was hit by a bus).  Even though he wasn’t expected to live, he miraculously began the road to recovery.  Matt shares both his struggles and milestones in an honest and compelling way.  I was captured by his story, moved by his pain and encouraged by the people who supported him.  I was also amazed by the body’s ability to not only heal itself, but how Matt Long was able to still push his body to the limit.  Though the struggles didn’t end, he found a way that helped him continue to live in spite of his new circumstances.

Though I personally haven’t seen the healing that I would hope for, I believe that growth is essential to my well-being.  I must strive to move as much as I can each day to help my body heal.  Even if my day or my week makes it difficult to exercise or accomplish what I wish, I must avoid dwelling in self-pity for too long.  In general I love being active when my body is feeling well.  I enjoy a walk, a run, a hike, playing soccer with the kids, lifting weights, doing yoga and racquetball.  What can be harder for me is finding the time and energy to exercise when so many things in life seem to jump in the way or I have too much pain.  The most consistent way that I am able to exercise is when I involve my friends and family in my activities.  This keeps me from being isolated and becoming depressed.  When involved in personal exercise like running, it is generally best done in the morning.  Rarely do I come away feeling worse than I did before exercising.  At times the pain can increase or my symptoms will intensify, but overall I will feel better in the long run.  It is always helpful to remember that others have been here too, and I can press on.  Thanks Matt for sharing your story.


Wisdom Under the Bridge book recommendation

July 21, 2012

I just finished reading the book Wisdom Under The Bridge: The Prophets From Skid Row by Linda Ross Swanson.  I really enjoyed hearing the wisdom from people who have struggled with homelessness and the many people who have teamed up with them.  Linda does a great job of sharing the wisdom of everyone’s story and allowing us to learn from their experiences.  As a reader I found value in recognizing our common struggles as well as our common hope.  It is a book that many could benefit from, both in learning more about ourselves and in helping others in their challenges.  Being an Oregonian, I found it really interesting to learn more about our city and the resources we provide (or don’t provide) to help those who are living on the streets.  Sometimes what we believe is a solution to a problem, isn’t always the right chapter to healing.  Our best practices must always include a degree of understanding, compassion and respect for the people we want to partner with.


Anne Lamott with Sam Lamott, A Journal of My Son’s First Son (Memoir review)

July 9, 2012

I always enjoy reading Anne Lamott.  She honestly shares about the joys and challenges in life, and trying to be the person she wants to be.  In her latest book she writes about her first grandson and her love as a grandparent.  She talks of her desire to be less controlling in the way the parents decide to raise their child and to be open to the changes in her relationships.  Her son, Sam Lamott shares his experiences as well with being a new farther, balancing work and school, and growing up with more responsibilities.

I love the introspection that comes with reading a Lamott story.  Anne and Sam have a way of bringing you into the story and evaluating the way you think and behave.  It brings more awareness to my own life and the times where I prefer to hold on to what was instead of following the path given to me.  I highly recommend her books.

 


Recommended Memoir: A Chance in the World

July 8, 2012

I just finished reading A Chance in the World by Steve Pemberton.  What an incredible inspiring book about perseverance and strength.  The story is about the life of a man who was abandoned, neglected, and abused but found a way to make something of his life.  He was willing to look directly into the past, regardless of the disappointments it brings in order to learn about himself and his journey.  He seeks the truth and an ability to accept the reality of what is his as well as recognizing what shouldn’t be.  He speaks with honesty, humility and great insights, and is able to find gratitude in the many people who made a difference along the way.


Reading Memoirs

July 7, 2012

I have found a great sense of comfort and wisdom from reading memoirs.  I love hearing people’s stories and how their lives unfold.  I can see a glimpse of how people live in various time periods, cultures and circumstances.  I have the privilege of entering into the minds, thoughts and emotions of other people and to expand my own world.

I began reading memoirs in order to make more sense out of my own life.   When working through my own challenges, including health problems and family issues, I found that I didn’t always have the skills in order to sort through it.  As I started to read other people’s stories, I began to feel less alone, laughed more, and had more hope.  I realized that most successful people have gone through numerous challenges and failures, but continued to move forward in spite of it.  I could enter people’s stories, and like an AA meeting, could take what I want and leave the rest.  A story allows me to listen, absorb, change and challenge my own thinking.

For the past five years or so I have been logging some of my favorite memoirs.  Many of these are memoirs of mental and physical recovery, relief organizations, famous people, war, history, and people from all over the world.  I will begin sharing this list in a new section called Reading.  I hope you will be inspired as much as I have.

Elissa


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