Must read book

Now read this: The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker

If you only read one book this year, read The Gift of Fear – And other survival signals that protect us from violence by Gavin De Becker. 

The opening scene grabs you by the throat and tells the story of a violent attack in progress and then twists the narrative in such a way to confirm the author’s authority on the subject of fear.

To me, fear is a negative thing. Violent crime happens all the time. Shouldn’t I be afraid of that?

According to the author, no. And yes.

This book takes a close look at what fear is and how recognizing fear can be life-changing.

As I listened to the audiobook, I found myself rewinding over and over because I didn’t want to miss a single bit of insight he had to offer about the gift of fear.

Here are some of those insights (noted from the audiobook :

“Trusting intuition is the exact opposite of living in fear.”

“Unwarranted fear has assumed a power over us…It need not be this way.”

“Understanding how fear works can dramatically improve our lives.”

“Real fear is not paralyzing. It is energizing.”

“Worry, anxiety or panic, concern are not fear.”

“Worry is the fear we manufacture.”

“When worrying, ask yourself, ‘How does this serve me?’”

“What you imagine, like what you fear, is not happening.”

“Though the world is a dangerous place, it is also a safe place.”

Intuition vs. fear

I believe in the power of intuition, but always thought of it as a internal compass for making life decisions and choosing life paths in a big picture way.

But the author doesn’t touch on intuition in that context. His take on intuition takes more of a practical, in the moment, small picture way. 

That feeling you get when you walk into a room and something doesn’t feel right, for instance. You don’t know what it is and can’t explain it, but you don’t feel comfortable there. Something tells you to leave.

Do you listen? Or do you deny the feeling and rationalize that you sound like a crazy person because it’s fine. And you come up with a handful of reasons you are right to suppress that feeling. 

The author analyzes how victims of violence saved themselves by listening to their intuition.

As I listened to the book I thought of exact instances in my life when I did the latter and realized that I had failed to see that “feeling” as my intuition, failed to recognize its power. 

I recommend this book for everyone, especially people who tend to worry or fear things that could happen, but aren’t actually happening. 

So, tune into your intuition, listen to it, and act accordingly.

The Gift of Fear is a quick read. I listened to the approximately 3-hour long audiobook (abridged) on Libby.

To learn more about Libby, read Want to read more books? Maybe Libby can help on the blog.

3 Audiobooks well worth a listen

3 Audiobooks well worth a listen

I read each of these audiobooks via my local library Libby app and they are all well worth a listen.

Two non-fiction memoirs and one novel. There are similar topics in each of them – family, poverty, memory – but they address each in different ways.

Educated – A Memoir by Tara Westover

Tara Westover was raised off the grid. She had a non-conventional upbringing, including working in her father’s junkyard, not attending school, never seeing a doctor, helping her mother prepare herbal remedies, and assisting her mother on midwife calls.  Her father prepared the family for “end of days” and distrusted all forms of government. 

But she wanted to go to school, so she studied on her own and got help from an older brother. 

She had never set foot in a classroom before her first day of classes at Bringham Young University. It was then that she discovered how much she had to learn.

I found her story incredible. It brought to mind how we are each formed by our experiences and how the beliefs, attitudes of those who raise us also make a deep and lasting impression. Those attitudes help define who we are and what we believe. 

She says the book is an account of her memories, which may be different from her sisters’ or brothers’ memories.

My sister and I can remember an incident from our childhood but we remember it with vastly different details. We’d each swear we were right about it.

Such is the nature of memory. 

But how does a person raised in this way go on to excel academically at BYU, Cambridge, Harvard? 

It’s a fascinating story.

For more information about the book and author go to tarawestover.com

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy is a memoir and commentary about what it took for the author to break out of the cycle of poverty and abuse.

His story exemplifies a deep cultural divide between many poor American whites from the Smoky Mountain region and middle class America and the American dream.

He points out that it’s very hard for a child to see his way out of a bad situation unless someone shows, teaches, and believes he can. 

His grandparents were that force in his life, and while their’s was an abrasive and tough-love type of nurturing, he learned how to figure things out, work for what he wanted, and see that he could break the cycle of poverty and addiction. 

For more information about the book go to to the publisher’s book page at harpercollins.com.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Kya is a young girl abandoned by her family and left alone in the marshlands of Norh Carolina. She comes to be known as the Marsh Girl by the people in town. 

But she stays away from nearly everyone and trusts only a select few.

The marsh is her refuge. Kya loves her home in the marsh and finds connection and solace there.

Her days are filled observing, listening, and drawing what she sees. In this way she creates her life’s work of chronicling life in the marsh—birds, insects, soil. 

When a dead body is found near her home, Kya becomes a murder supsect.

I found myself engrossed in the mystery and didn’t want to accept the possibility that she could be removed from her beloved marsh.

Owens’s writing, especially her descriptions of the landscape as seen through Kya’s keen eye, allows the reader to see, feel and love the relentless cycyles of the marsh.

I couldn’t help but feel that pulling her from it would be the real tragedy. 

The audiobook, read by Cassandra Campbell, is beautifully done. She performs each character’s voice distinctly.

For more information about the book go to the author webpage at deliaowens.com.

So if you’re looking for a good book, you can’t go wrong with one of these books.

For more information about Libby, see Want to read more books? Maybe Libby can help

The Radium Girls

Book recommendation: The Radium Girls

The Radium Girls, subtitled The dark story of America’s shining women, by Kate Moore is the true story about a group of young women, employees of the Radium Dial company in the early 1900s, who sounded the alarm about the dangers and health risks of radium. It’s an incredible story of courage, friendship, and resilience. Despite repeated setbacks, they fought their employer to tell the truth about what made them sick. 

A heartbreaking story. 

Imagine you’re a young girl living in a town with few opportunities for work. You’d like to help your family and yourself because you dream of getting married and starting your own family, but without money, that seems like a far-off dream. 

Then a clock making factory opens up in your neighborhood. They make a sought after watch whose dial numbers glow in the dark and they need young, hardworking girls to paint the dials. The job pays well and you’d be working with your friends. It’s perfect. You’re happy to contribute to your family and you love your work. 

When you begin to experience strange symptoms, like a sore jaw and aching teeth, you go to the dentist and he says your tooth must be pulled. And then another. Then another. And then your hips and knees begin to ache and the doctor has no idea what’s wrong with you. 

Your symptoms grow worse and most of your earnings, because you’re still dragging yourself to work, go toward doctor visits and medicine to relieve your symptoms.

But the cause of it all is a mystery. Then your friends start dying and you wonder if you’ll soon follow. 

This is the story of The Radium Girls. 

I found the story fascinating and horrible. Meticulously researched. The author, Kate Moore, explains in the Author Notes that she first heard of the Radium Girls when she directed the play that dramatized the story: Radium Girls: A Play in Two Acts by D. W. Gregory in London. The story so intrigued her she wanted to learn more. In the writing of the book, she researched historical records, interviewed descendants, some of whom shared letters, and journals of the women involved. 

When radium was first discovered by the Curies in the late 1800s, people didn’t know what to make of it. Products, elixirs, and serums containing radium had snake oil, cure-all claims. No one had made a connection to radium and radioactive poisoning. 

The glow in the dark property of radium made it an indispensable tool for soldiers on the battlefield during WWI. And the glow in the dark radium dials became a big money-maker for Radium Dial Company. 

Lip, dip, paint

In order to get a pen-like tip of the brush, they would lip, dip, paint.  

It meant bringing the tip of the brush up to their lips, moistening the brush with the tongue, and twist the handle as they pulled the brush away, making the tip fine like the point of a sharpened pencil. Then they’d dip the fine point in the radium and paint the dials. 

The lip, dip, paint went on all day every day.

Radium exposure is deadly, but they didn’t know that then.

They also didn’t know that their company had another factory in NJ whose employees suffered similar symptoms and fought a similar battle.

These women chose to stick together and fight for what they believed was right. They found a champion, attorney Leonard Grossman, to fight their case against their employer in the courts. Their cause became a battle for social justice, truth over profit, corporate responsibility, and employee safety. 

Author, Kate Moore, did a beautiful job researching the stories and breathing life into the brave women and their families who lived with the misguided belief that they could trust what their company and government told them, that they would be protected from harm and that their company would never intentionally put them at risk for profit’s sake. 

For more information about the book and author, go to theradiumgirls.com

The story of the Radium Girls are soon to come to life on film. Go to radiumgirlsmovie.com for more information.

End of Your Life Book Club

Book recommendation: End of Your Life Book Club

This is a book recommendation for The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. (I listened to the audiobook version read by Jeff Harding.) 

Last December, I was looking for something good to read and found this title on my running list of books someone has recommended, either somone I know or some other source, like a magazine or newspaper.

I didn’t remember what the book was about or who had recommended it, but the audiobook was available on Libby so I decided to check it out.

A 2-person book club?

The book is the story is of a mother and son, both readers, who start their 2-person book club when the mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. They will spend many hours in conversation as he accompanies her to doctor appointments and chemo treatments and agree to read the same book so they can talk about it.

Judging from the title alone, it seems like the story would be gloomy and sad, but I didn’t find it so at all. 

Here are a few things I loved about it:

I love that the core of the book is conversations between a mother, Mary Ann Schwalbe, and her son, Will Schwalbe, the author of the book.

Through the long hours of chemo treatments with his mom he gets to know her like he never had before. He learns about her younger years and life choices, and what shaped her into the woman who became his mother. 

Through these conversation the reader learns about this extraordinary, smart, humble, and compassionate woman. She believed she had a responsibility to help people if she could. And even though she knew she couldn’t do everything, she knew she could do something. And so she did. Alot, including working with refugee families in Afghanistan and work tirelessly to build a library there. 

And, oh yes, books

As you might have guessed, The End of Your Life Book Club is about books, how reading can change your life. It’s about how stories relate the shared human experience. 

I’m grateful for the opportunity to sit in on this 2-person club. And I’m grateful for a chance to meet someone like Mary Ann Schwalbe. Her legacy lives on through this story.

If you’re looking for a good read, I recommend it. 

End of Your Life Book Club is available in audiobook, ebook, and print. I encourage you to look for it at your local library and Libby.

For more information about the Libby app, read Want to read more books? Maybe Libby can help.

Listen to this

“Becoming Wise” podcast offers morsels of wisdom

I was looking for a podcast to listen to, something short, but packed with insight. That’s how I stumbled on the podcast called “Becoming Wise”

The name intrigued me because, How do you become wise? And what is wisdom anyway?

But as I perused, I saw that the podcasts are short, around 10 minutes long, so they’re like morsels of wisdom, and feature big-idea people like Brené Brown, Seth Godin, and Desmond Tutu.

The last episode was published July 2019 so it looked like the podcast may be done, but I decided to give it a listen anyway.

Compassion changes everything

One segment title caught my attention: Compassion for Our Bodies. I thought, Oh yeah. Let me check out what they have to say about having compassion for my ever-changing, menopausal body.

The podcast host, Krista Tippett, introduced Matthew Sanford, an innovator of adaptive yoga who’s been in a wheelchair for 30 years, since an accident that killed his father and sister when he was 14 -years old.

Mr. Sanford says, “Your body, for as long as it possibly can, will be faithful to living. That’s what it does.” This from a man who has endured numerous operations and painful recoveries. He says of his experience, “My body didn’t ask to get hammered and break, and to have its spine shredded, and many bones broken. But it went, ‘Ok. Let’s regroup. Let’s go.’” He also says, “I look at places — skin on my body, old pressure sores and old stuff that happened — where you can see the skin is struggling to stay and hold. I don’t think, ‘It’s not holding, dang it.’ I feel like, ‘Man, it’s working as hard as it can.’

Whoa! How true! 

That philosophy is something I’ve tried to practice for a while now, but what a great reminder. The interview got me thinking, How can this idea help me as I age and my body changes and I’m less able to do what I used to do?

Mr. Sanford’s insight opened me up to have more compassion for my body and gratitude that it “for as long as it possibly can, will be faithful to living.”

How can I dislike any part of my body when it does nothing but work for me, even when I eat too much, skip my workout(s), or don’t get enough sleep?

The episode had me saying, Thank you, body. You’re amazing and wonderful and I’m sorry I don’t treat you like it sometimes.

A small bite of food for thought

If you’re looking for a small helping of something of substance, I recommend “Becoming Wise” Podcast. I like to listen to an episode and mentally chew on it for a while.

Here’s a sample of some other episode titles:

Courage is Born from Struggle with Brené Brown
Beauty is an Edge of Becoming with John O’Donohue
We Choose Our Own Tribes with Seth Godin
Healing Through Story with Desmond Tutu
The Everyday Gift of Writing with Naomi Shihab Nye
Evil, Forgiveness, and Prayer with Elie Wiesel

That’s quite a sampling, don’t you think?

There are a total of 37 episodes. Happy listening!

For more reading on the blog about “Aging” read Getting older and how to be okay with it

For more information about Becoming Wise or Krista Tippett’s other work, go to The On Being Project at onbeing.org.

If you have a chance to listen, share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Read more books

Want to read more books? Maybe Libby can help.

If it’s been a while since you read a book or just think it’s time for you to make the time to read more, allow me to introduce you to Libby.

“What’s Libby?” you ask. 

Read more books with Libby
This is the Libby App

Libby is a free app where you can borrow ebooks and digital audiobooks from your public library. You can stream books with Wi-Fi or mobile data, or download them for offline use and read anytime, anywhere. All you need to get started is a library card. 

https://help.libbyapp.com/6144.htm accessed 1/27/2020

If you want to read more books, Libby may be able help. You can stream or download magazines, ebooks and audiobooks in a wide range of subjects and genres.

Screen shot of The Dutch House Audiobook

I’m currently enjoying the audiobook “The Dutch House” by Ann Patchett, read by Tom Hanks. The book is beautifully written and I’m toward the end of it now. (I have a feeling I know what’s going to happen, but we’ll see.) Tom Hanks is a great narrator, though I admit, at times he sounds just like Woody from Toy Story : ) 

With Libby, you can read ebooks anytime, anywhere on your phone or tablet and listen to audiobooks while driving or cooking dinner.

To get started with Libby. 

1. Get a library card from your local library. 

2. Download the Libby app on your mobile device. 

3. Link your library card to Libby. 

4. Find a book or audiobook on the app.

5. Start listening/reading.

While I use Libby a lot these days, I’m finding it important to keep reading print books as well.

For these reasons:

1. I have to hold a book in my hands and focus on the text. That means no multi-tasking. 

2. I give the writer my full attention. It’s only courteous if you think about it. He or she is talking to me!

3. It forces me to practice reading the words on the page, instead of skimming the text, a bad habit I’ve developed by skimming headlines online.

Take a look. It’s in a book.

If you really want to read more but haven’t gotten started, Libby can help you “turn the page” toward a more robust reading life.

For more information about Libby, availability, and how to get started, go to LibbyHelp

Think listening to an audiobook is cheating? Sometimes it kind of feels that way to me too, but this article in Discover magazine offers an interesting insight to reading vs. listening: Audiobooks or Reading? To our brains, it doesn’t matter

Have you been thinking about reading more? Do you have a book you’ve been dying to read? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Photo by Mark Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

A small victory outside my comfort zone

I had a Book Signing at the Barnes and Noble store in Corpus Christi a few weeks ago and it was a big deal for me for a couple of reasons.

First, it was my 1st ever Barnes and Noble event and, to me, brick and mortar stores are still really important. (See my post 4 Ways in person shopping is good for your health). There’s nothing like talking to other people who love books. (Somehow I hadn’t realized what a major book-nerd I am!)

Second, I would be among strangers. I was not in my hometown and my friends and family wouldn’t be there. I would be talking to people I’d just met. Except for my husband, Mark, who patiently sat and listened to me read from my book  : ) I’d be meeting all new people.

Here are my top 5 takeaways:

Opportunity lies past your comfort zone.

Maybe it helped that my husband was with me and I knew I’d have at least one person in the audience. I loved being there and seeing my book among a bunch of other books. It didn’t matter that I was in the Cookbook section and near the toys and games.

It was a great reminder about why I write and what that’s all about.

I sold 2 books (yay!) and the 2 women who bought them could relate to my novel’s plot for different reasons. It was a really great reminder that even though my story’s not for everyone, it’s for some people. I have to get out of my own way and just tell the story. Then I have to work to help people find it.

Practice, practice, practice.

Only 3 people stopped at my table and I was there 2 hours, so I read from my book and did a Q & A session. That’s right, my husband asked me questions like, “How do you come up with names for the characters of your book?” and “Do you know what’s going to happen when you write? Do you know how your story will end?” I used a small sound system and read random chapters of my book, which was great practice for my audiobook recording.

Here’s the thing that’s really interesting about that: My husband, Mark, knows this story, A Song for Jessica, and my process better than anyone else. But he asked questions he was genuinely curious about.

I learned that it’s very different to know something in my head and another thing entirely to talk about them. Speaking to an audience of one was very good practice.

Nothing’s wasted.

A writer commented on Twitter the other day about coming across a story she’d written years ago and had never developed but then fell in love with it again. And she said, “Nothing’s ever wasted.” That’s kind of how I feel about the Q & A and reading to my husband.

Everyone has a story.

When I first decided to self-publish my book and started learning about marketing, one of the people I follow said, get out of your office and meet people. She said authors tend to do great online and in ads and marketing, but we struggle to get in front of people. I’ve been the opposite. I love meeting and talking to people, even if they don’t want to buy my book. I’m always amazed by the compelling and fascinating stories of regular people and the choices that determine outcomes. I’m reminded that I’m still writing mine.

A small victory

When it seems like you’re not making much progress and your efforts feel pointless, remember that small victories can be hugely satisfying.

And bear in mind:

  • Opportunity lies past your comfort zone.
  • Practice is good.
  • It’s okay if your work isn’t for everyone.
  • Nothing’s wasted.
  • Everyone has a story.

Thanks to Jessica and the Barnes and Noble Corpus Christi staff for welcoming me to their beautiful store. I’m grateful for the opportunity. 

Woman facing sunrise published on strong-woman.com

Book Review – Life Reimagined The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife

I was browsing the books at a local book festival when I came across Babara Bradley Hagerty’s book released in March 2016 entitled Life Reimagined The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife.

Life Reimagined Cover published on strong-woman.com
Life Reimagined

Being in my early 50s and having some midlife awakenings of my own, the title intrigued me. Written as part memoir, part feature story, part scientific study, Hagerty focuses primarily on the mental, physical, social, and emotional experience of people at midlife and beyond. She interviews scientists who’ve studied aging and people who are maneuvering through the challenges of midlife.  The questions about this life-stage are numerous, but here’s a sample: Is there such a thing as a midlife crisis? What determines if a person will thrive at midlife and beyond or simply survive? Is Alzheimer’s preventable? What about dementia? How can one make the most out of this stage of life?

She addresses all that and so much more, including resiliency, purpose, “generativity”, attitude, midlife marriage and friendship, altruism, and work. In all of these areas, she interweaves her own experience, the experiences of others, and the research. This intermingling makes the text flow easily and never sounds like a news report or clinical research paper.

Older couple romantic published on strong-woman.com
Romance is important at any age.

One note about the content –

The book has many, many footnotes, nearly 60 pages of very small print. They often include elaborations that offer additional perspective on the subject being discussed. Even with those details in the footnotes, the book is 378 pages. Lengthy, but loaded with memorable stories, characters and conclusions about midlife and well worth the read.

Takeaways

I had lots of takeaways, but the most memorable one touches on a topic that I blog about regularly: exercise. Specifically, exercise and mental acuity.

In the section “How to Build a Younger Brain”, the author spoke to Kirk Erickson, researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, who found that brain training and other mental exercises “help people preserve their cognitive abilities” but when he started conducting exercise studies, “He realized that nothing will keep you as mentally acute as raising your heart rate a few times a week. Nothing.” Exercise is good for your brain, from preserving brain tissue to improving memory. (p. 203)

runningpulsegraphic
“…nothing will keep you as mentally acute as raising your heart rate a few times a week. Nothing.”

Fork in the road

Midlife feels like a fork in a road, but at this fork, I feel a little more urgency. After all, I’m not getting any younger. What if I wind up in the weeds?

I liked Life Reimagined because it explores midlife from lots of angles and tells stories about what others have done, how it’s worked out for them, and what researchers have learned about how to continue to be happy and healthy for all your days.

Woman facing sunrise published on strong-woman.com
Consider the possibilities.

Bette Davis once said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” In the end, it’s for each of us to decide our path and, by the Grace of God, live life to its fullest. Midlife is a good time to re-examine what that means.

Have you read any good books lately? Please share in the comments.

Book cover published on strong-woman.com

Book Review: ‘The War of Art’

At a recent work training, a few of my peers and I chit-chatted about various things and we started talking about what we’d really like to do with our lives – what we want to do when we grow up. We each talked about our aspirations and dreams we’ll pursue some day. But when?

How does a person get from the desire to do something to going for it and just doing it? To taking a leap of faith and getting out there?

War of Art CoverSteven Pressfield’s The War of Art answers those questions and serves as a call to action, starting with the section entitled, “The Unlived Life”. He writes, “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

Pressfield’s book is a non-fiction manual of sorts in which he calls each of us to do what it is we have been called to do, for which we have God-given gifts, and it is our responsibility to use them: write the music; paint the scene; write the work; start the business; improve your health, spirituality, education, etc.

What I love about the book is that he explains his theories with stories, interpretations of other works of art, and personal anecdotes. He also develops a cast of characters in this work of nonfiction: Resistance, the muse, and the person who will bring forth the work (artist, genius, entrepreneur, etc.) and identifies the conflict between them. He writes, “Any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long term growth, health, or integrity. Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these will elicit Resistance.”

Pressfield presents his ideas in a deeply spiritual way so that the reader is left with the understanding and knowledge that whatever calling, gift, talent, inclination to a higher calling we have is not of our choosing. He calls it “genius, in the Latin sense of ‘soul’ or ‘animating spirit’. It is a gift that requires action from a human being to express it, to make it real.

The beauty of this book is that it describes Resistance with the knowledge of experience. He’s identified it, totally called it out for us. Like any formidable foe, Resistance has many devices, disguises, forces that work for it. He knows Resistance because he’s seen it. When I heard his description of Resistance, I knew that I’d seen it too and, in fact, see it every day.

The War of Art is philosophy, psychology, analysis, how to guide, and a little autobiography. Pressfield presents his discovery in an effort to enlighten us all to do our work, to know all about Resistance in all its forms and to get busy anyway.

If you’ve ever wondered why you do what you know isn’t good for you instead of doing what you know is good for you or if you’ve ever procrastinated, caved to peer pressure, talked yourself out of an awesome idea, or been paralyzed with fear that prevents you from getting started, The War of Art will help you battle Resistance so that you can begin living your “unlived life”.