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.


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: Crash by Carolyn Roy-Bornstein, MD

January 2, 2013

Crash was an amazing read. Carolyn is a fabulous writer who was able to draw you into her experience of her son’s serious accident by a drunk driver. Being a doctor she explores her struggle of dealing with her son’s injuries, the tragedy of being hit by a drunk driver, the girl-friends’ death, the medical issues that arise and making sense of her experience from both a doctor and family member perspective. She is honest, thoughtful, and inspiring.

One thing that struck me was the randomness of the accident. Many things in life can seem random, in the sense that everything can change in a moment. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a simple decision that turns costly. Even those who make poor choices, have a sense of randomness. Many people pay costly for their mistakes, or cause great harm, while others pay less outer consequences. Life isn’t always fair from our reality point. This can be a hard one for me to swallow. I strive for integrity, yet it doesn’t mean my life will be easy or pain-free.

Carolyn’s story was inspiring in the way she was able to grow from her experience and find the gold nuggets in all the losses. She strived to find the balance between doctor and patient, and to use this experience to make her a better doctor. The tragedy of her son’s injuries was brought in perspective by the death of his girlfriend. Her recognition of own lack of understanding of depression and brain injuries is very humbling, as she strives to learn more about a subject so relevant to her son and later becomes an advocate for people with Brain Injuries. She is honest in the struggle, yet looks for the positive, and grows closer to her family in the process. In the heart of the story, is Carolyn’s evidence of grace. “I don’t believe in fate. I believe we deal with the hand we are given. We make our own meaning. We find our own grace. Grace as a kind of acceptance. Grace as thankfulness. Grace as new meaning for a changed life.”

What a way to begin 2013, to move forward in grace. The year 2012 had many challenges and blessings, yet grace is what brings growth, love and humility. Through the health challenges, the healings, the relationships and losses, may grace help me live in the moment in a place of love, acceptance, gratitude and deeper understanding. I don’t know what 2013 will bring me. I can feel fear at the possibilities of financial struggles, health problems, and learning to navigate through relationships. At the same time, I trust that whatever arises, I will walk into it, grow, and becoming a greater person, more aware of the spirit within, around and above, and find the gold nuggets to receive and to give.

Happy New Year everyone. May grace abound to you.


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.


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.


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