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”.