Book Review: Before the Ever After

Before the Ever After Book

Happy Football Season! Well, it doesn’t really feel like the season at all with curtailed seasons under the COVID pandemic. Yet, it is still the start of Autumn and with that, if you are in America, football is called to mind. I guess it may be the season that has me so intrigued by Jacqueline Woodson’s latest book Before the Ever After.

It’s a novel about a boy and his father, but not just any father. ZJ has a football star for a Dad. He is beloved by the kids in the neighborhood and to many millions more. He is an athletic star. Life is good and glorious — until it is not. The book moves into exploring his Dad’s CTE diagnosis when he stops remembering and starts forgetting their lives.

It’s an interesting topic to take on quite frankly. In America, we hold up our athletes as invincible heroes on and off the playing field. Most of us know, by now, how dangerous playing football is to the health of the players, but no one is around when their health declines. We are around to watch them play. Yes, even though we know they are risking their health and lives, we show up and watch them play week in and week out.

Once their glory days have passed, we often hear a news headline that somebody or other that we once cheered for with all of our hearts is now ill with a diagnosis like CTE. We feel bad, but our attention has flitted to the next great athlete on the field. This is why I think this book is edgy, as it takes you into the life of the family that has to deal with their glory days being over and how it is to live with someone so crippled by memory issues. All of a sudden it’s not the glory days the family yearns for, but the person who made those days up.

For our society that worships sports stars without a care toward their future ill health, this is a great book to begin to extend our understanding and empathy toward the consequences of these games we so cherish. This is a perfect book to give your middle school child and a great one to read together. There is a lesson from ZJ and his Father for all of us.

Book Review: The Hidden Life of Trees

The Hidden Life of Trees Book

I did something unique this summer and joined the “world’s largest book exchange” on a social media channel. Often I feel like these on-line exchanges with people whom I don’t know won’t go so well and so I never participate. Yet, when I thought of the chance to send a book to a stranger and then perhaps receive books from other strangers — my enthusiasm for the idea outweighed my suspicion. I sent off a book and then forgot about the whole thing.

Then, I came home and there was a box waiting for me with my own book from a stranger. It turned out to be The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Now here is a perfect book for me given I live in a Treehouse in the Pacific Northwest. We are surrounded by the magic of trees at home and in our area. So, of course, to learn more about their secret life completely intrigues me.

There are chapters on their family life, their luck in life, their communication, and more. It’s all about the trees that surround us quietly and yet have a rich life that often goes unnoticed. As I take a little break during this mid-summer week, this is the perfect book for me to be reading, especially as I appreciate the trees in their full summer bloom. Within weeks I will start to see Autumn on the horizon and the Trees’ leaves will appear tired readying to droop and soon drop to the ground.

Nature is a marvel. Grab this book and read all about trees and then marvel at their glory that surrounds you each and every day.

Book Review: Daily Rituals

Daily Rituals Book
What are your Daily Rituals?

Are you an artist? When I hear the term I think of a writer, or a painter, a cartoonist, and any other number of artistic fields that people endeavor into for creative fulfillment. On some level, this makes each one of us an artist. As artists we compose and all of us compose the days that make up our lives. We are creators!

As my own person, I think of myself as an artist — not only because I write, but because I am constantly creating the world I am dwelling in — from my home to my clothes to the things I watch and read to the subjects I take interest in to the way I move my body and more. I am creating my life each and every day.

Guess what? So are you!

That’s why a book like Daily Rituals by Mason Currey is so intriguing to me. This little book is a compendium of many artists and their daily rituals as related to creating their art. Although it is about their lives as artists, really it is about life. Peeking into how others create rituals that help them create is interesting to me. It makes me feel less alone on the path I am on.

I know my daily rituals, habits, and patterns — and I am sure you know yours as well. But what can I glean from another’s that causes me to think about something new or sparks interest in a new ritual to change up my days. Thus, creating in my days. Some of them are surprising — as some had no rituals at all, but rather an attitude toward the day. Others remark on how the ritual is not external, but rather within as to how one disciplines self to create.

Little tidbits of wisdom float up from this book. I happen to love books like this because you don’t not need to read it cover to cover, but rather just pick it up and open to a page and read about one artist’s daily rituals and put it down again. Another fun idea is to open the book to a random page and read about that particular artist. Most likely, your energy picked that page and that artist. The message is specially made for you at that moment. Take it in.

I bought myself this book on my Birthday five years ago. I must have been looking for an artistic muse and I found so many in one little book. Which I recommend to you for artistic inspiration.

What are your daily rituals? How are you using them to craft the life you truly love?

Book Review: The Blue Day Book

The Blue Day Book

Do you have blue days? Those days where it’s difficult to get out of bed, where it’s hard to rally a smile, or to even see anything as positive in your life.

We all have these days — I don’t think we would be human if we didn’t feel blue. And that’s why I love this little book from the 1990s that is called The Blue Day Book. It’s a quick read with lots of pictures of animals with a few words meant to cheer you. What I love is it takes less than five minutes to read and just gives a jolt of something funny and fun to lift one’s spirits on blue days.

I keep this little book on my bedside just so I can reach for it for a laugh or a positive message that cheers me up with some lighthearted humor and animals that make me smile. Often a bad day can just turn on something as simple as a Blue Day Book. We often forget to reach for simple things like this thinking it cannot help.

However, being able to do this simple act – like reading this book – can actually open you up and out of singing the blues and into a more positive frame of mind. Laughter can also do this and this book invokes laughter. Sometimes when we are feeling depressed though it is beyond difficult to reach for a book or a laugh. That is why it is no easy step to take.

However, I do recommend having a few fun and funny books within easy reach on any given day to lift your spirits in case you need them. It may not completely cure your blues, but it may take your mind away from them and allow something new to come in to feel during the day.

All these old books I am reaching for this summer learning that these oldies still offer a lot of wisdom for today’s pressures and feelings. Some days and things do not change.

Book Review: Gift From the Sea

Gift from the Sea Book
A Perennial Summer Favorite Book

Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh is a perennial favorite book of mine.

Although there are many print runs of this book, my book looks like this one, which was printed in the 1960s. My Mother gave this book to my Grandmother. She must have read it but it sat on her bookshelves for most of her life. However, one day she gave it to me. She tracked who gave the book to whom and on which date. Family history via a book.

In any case, Gift From The Sea is an absolute favorite book of mine. Anne heads to the ocean in the book and enjoys a few weeks of her summer there as she reflects on life via the shells she finds on the beach. It is definitely written in a different time, and it is very obvious that Anne Morrow Lindbergh was a woman of great means and privilege. She had many children, but had the ability and means to remove herself from her family and spend weeks during the summer contemplating what life meant to her, especially her path as a wife and mother.

Although dated, her ideas, thoughts, and the metaphor of the seashells that she uses still resonate. I pick up this book each summer and I underline the ideas and words that resonate with me that summer and I put my initials and the month and year beside what I have underlined. In this way, I am able to track my years by what was resonating at any given time for myself. It’s become a very cool way of looking at myself and the meaning I am making in my world through the years.

This book makes space for contemplation, reflection, and gentleness as we take this journey to find the meaning of our own lives. Reading this book annually is a tradition that I look forward to each summer.

Is there a book that calls to you and that you return to year in and year out? For me, it has to be Gift From the Sea. I highly recommend it to you.

Antiracism Books for Teens

Antiracism Books for Teens
Photo Credit: Washington Post

Antiracism books for your teen is a brilliant idea this season!

Your teen has probably been home and studying for months by now. Hard to believe that school is almost out — given school is home and home is school. Still, summer reading season is almost upon us and with everything going on in America, this may be a great summer to have your teens read books that speak to themes of antiracism.

Whether working for social justice, seeking further understanding of the immigrant experience, or gaining knowledge around America’s unique racist ideas that are embedded in our systems, this list offers something interesting that will add appeal to your standard summer reading list.

Do you have younger childre? Then check out this list of antiracist books for children featured in the New York Times. Love this list as it breaks down books by age-appropriateness.

And for all of us, here is a great list to read through and that I believe teens will also appreciate as well. How many have you read?

Many people feel like if they are not protesting in the streets then they are not doing anything for the movement. Yet, reading books that are on these lists is one of the very first steps all of us must take in order to educate ourselves on our history, our past, the movements, and where we are headed into the future. Being well read on these topics is critical in helping to make systemic change in America.

Another idea is to pass along your books after you read them — that is if you bought your book. Share and recommend these books far and wide to all whom you know. It is important work to read, use our language to distill the ideas, and share with your friends and community.

Happy Summer Reading!

Best Books to Read During Quarantine

Books to Read
What’s on Your Reading List?

So, what are the best books to read during quarantine?

The answer is simple: whatever you are drawn to — and perhaps, with more time on your hands to read, this is the moment to break out and read in a new genre. Say you love reading literary fiction. This may be the moment to try a mystery or something funny to change up what you are reading. Or you could just pick out a bunch of books that you read in the genre you love and dive in.

I always appreciate reading the Book Review section of the New York Times to inspire my reading choices, especially these days. I am not only sending books off to others that I think they may enjoy, but also downloading Kindle books that catch my interest, both in my field and just for fun. I am trying to bring in the new to my days that keep on and on one after the other in quarantine. A book takes me away from my world and envelopes me in another

Also, I find reading is different to watching a show. My mind gets to imagine the world that the author paints for me in my own way. It is not completely prescribed and so my imagination comes into play more when I read. And when I find an author who writes so well that I can’t put the book down, that is just so satisfying in a way that watching something does not deliver for me.

There are many lists of books to read during this quarantine time. Here are some:

  1. People Magazine
  2. Time Magazine
  3. Refinery 29

And there are many, many more lists like these that encourage you to read and give your mind a break from the quarantine many of us are still living in across the world. This also may be the time to revisit all of those books you were supposed to read in high school and college. You know, the classics! You may want to revisit the authors of the past to hear their tales of wisdom, even the master Shakespeare may be calling your name.

Read! Take time to read for fun, pleasure, to escape, to relax. Then share with me — what are you reading?

Book Review: Coronavirus: A Book For Children

Coronavirus A Book for Children

The longer this pandemic hangs on across the globe, the more there is a need for good books to help explain what is going on to the children, who have been impacted greatly by this virus. Children of all ages are now at home with their parents full-time. There is no going to school, playing with friends, outdoor activities and sports, Birthday parties, or even seeing caretakers outside of Mom and Dad. Their worlds have shrunk as all of ours have.

As adults we have a sense of what is going on in the world, the affects this is having on people’s health and pocketbooks, and can make some sense of the situation. Even though it is exhausting for adults to stay-at-home, it is stressful to be parenting, working, and home schooling all day long, and the “not knowing” when any of it will end. Adults have a lot to deal with even understanding the facts.

Now take the situation and give it to children, who may not really know at all why, what, and how this is all happening. At this point, it has been going on long enough for parents to have talked to their kids, for kids to have talked to one another, and for there to be some sense of the situation. However, I like the idea of a book that lays out the facts of this situation in a way that is easy-to-read, access, and understand for children. Even the title, Coronavirus: A Book for Children, tells you exactly what this book is about.

The illustrations are bright and colorful. The facts and recommendations are given in an easy-to-read and understand manner. I particularly like the part that focuses on how children may feel at home cooped up on their own. This part provides an opportunity to parents to hone in on how their own children may be uniquely feeling this situation, as well as share their own feelings.

A book that provides context and hope to children during this pandemic is an excellent resource. There is also more books that may be helpful to your child during this time. Here is an excellent round-up of these types of books. The more the better, especially for the littlest ones. Books help us understand our world and it also helps to slow down for a little while to tune in and process together what is happening in the world, in our homes, and in ourselves during this trying time.

Book Review: In Our Prime

 In Our Prime Book

I like the idea of “In Our Prime” — that prime means aging and not youth.

Currently, I am watching a show on HULU called Mrs. America, which takes us to the era of the early 1970s when the ERA movement was active, strong, and fighting for equal rights for all women in America. Phyllis Schlafly is the nemesis who fights against the big names, like Gloria Steinem, who we all know fought for the ratification of the ERA across all states in America. It is an interesting look at the era and how women fought one another in a fight that seemingly should have united the sex rather than divide.

It is out of this context of thinking about this era and these great female leaders that I have picked up the book In Our Prime How Older Women are Reinventing the Road Ahead by Susan J. Douglas. The book focuses on women of the Baby Boomer generation and how they are perceived by society, politics, and media today. It has been close to 50 years since the fight to ratify equal rights for women played out. This book takes a look at where the movement is today for older women, i.e. post 50 years old.

As an aside, one thing that bothers me about this book is she groups everyone 50+ as a Baby Boomer. This is not accurate. It is about 56+ for women to be in this generation today. Perhaps this is because I am nearing the age of 50 and am proud to be a part of Generation X.

Douglas is looking at the perception of women from the different angles of society. American society has a “throw away” concept of older women, which is referred to as “gendered ageism” — that makes sense. It follows the old adage that men only get better with age like wine, unlike women. Douglas points to movies that perceive women in these ways. Old or older women really have no place.

The estrogen is dried up and gone, the woman’s baby factory is long since shut down — so now what is her use to society? I believe that this thinking hasn’t changed much even as the fearless women of the 70s fought to be seen as more than a choice to marry and have children. And, yet, as women age this is exactly the reason we are disregarded — the purpose of our sex is over. Men get better as they age especially if they can find a woman who is still alive with the potential for mating and reproduction.

This book argues for women to be seen equally in society as we age. Much like the women who fought in the 70s for women to have choice personally and professionally, now the fight is on for the older woman to be seen as one with dignity, purpose, and as an active, valuable part of society. The author provides some quick ideas for late age activists, like groups of women coming together to figure this out and then rallying around equity, particularly around healthcare.

It seems that we women will always have a fight on our hands with society and other women to try and establish a place in society that is fair and equitable throughout the lifespan. This book reminds us that the battle has never really been won, but is a continual one that needs attention, persistence, and activism throughout life.

It is worth a read — and there are a few more books that I want to highlight regarding aging woman, particularly one that focuses on elderly women and where we go when the end of life is near and the time is more for reflection and less about action. That time is also on its way.

Book Review: Hidden Valley Road

Hidden Valley Road

Hidden Valley Road Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker is a newly published book that looks at one family, the Galvins. The parents of this family had 12 children together – ten boys and two girls – and six of the boys were mentally ill with schizophrenia. Often a scary mental health diagnosis, schizophrenia is a pervasive illness across the entire world. It is a mental illness that the field and society are trying to understand happens when a person has this diagnosis.

This is a compelling family saga, chronicling the family’s history right alongside the history of how mental illness has been treated in America and how schizophrenia has been understood historically and into our modern day. The Galvin family, given six of their children had schizophrenia, were a pioneering family in mental health research. Their DNA aided science in understanding the disease, treatment, and perhaps even the ability to stop it from ever taking hold. This family’s contribution to research in this area is undeniable.

However, I most appreciated the Galvin’s family story and how this tracks alongside illness progression. So often mental health illness cannot be understood or tracked in such a linear fashion, but the Galvin provide a backdrop for not only reading about the history of schizophrenia, but also provided a case study in how it appeared and functioned in real life in their family. Also, given six children were not schizophrenic, the cost and pain on other members of the family is an angle explored and given credence to, which is often the forgotten part of schizophrenia, i.e. how others related and/or involved are affected. Of course, with six children in one family sick with schizophrenia the impact was great on the children and parents who were not.

This book offers a difficult story of one courageous family and it is worth reading for greater understanding of the illness both from those who suffer from schizophrenia and those who suffer living with a loved one who does. It also provides a very good historical lesson on how mental illness is seen and treated, particularly a disorder like schizophrenia.

When I was working on the local crisis lines in my community, each week during my one four-hour shift, I took a phone call from a person regarding a person having his first psychotic break. What was described to me on these phone calls was harrowing, disturbing, and radical. I could not believe how pervasive the illness is nor could I understand what these people were now on a journey to face with their loved one for the rest of all of their lives. It is real and it deserves our curiosity so we can be better prepared to understand the illness and those whom suffer with it and their lived ones.