Sunday, August 18, 2013

Recent Reads

I wonder what a professional would say about my book read choices... I probably don't want to know...

Still Alice is a compelling debut novel about a 50-year-old woman's sudden descent into early onset Alzheimer's disease, written by first-time author Lisa Genova, who holds a Ph. D in neuroscience from Harvard University.
Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer's disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away. In turns heartbreaking, inspiring and terrifying, Still Alice captures in remarkable detail what's it's like to literally lose your mind...
Reminiscent of A Beautiful Mind, Ordinary People and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Still Alice packs a powerful emotional punch and marks the arrival of a strong new voice in fiction.

Still Alice was very interesting considering my grandmother had Alzheimer's disease, and I definitely feel my passion for memory-keeping is produced by some kind of "fear of forgetting."  It was a book club pick and I read it in just one day on Adam's ipad (all copies were checked out of the library.)  The only surprise is that as emotional as I am, I did not tear up once?  I definitely felt a lack of "emotional connection" with the characters (although I liked them) but that may be because Alice is not the most "emotional" lady?  Or maybe the disease has something to do with that?

On the other hand... Until I Say Goodbye had me balling over and over!  A friend loaned it to me and it was very good.  I definitely am still thinking about it almost daily... almost everytime I use my iphone... as she wrote most all of it on her phone.

Susan Spencer-Wendel’s Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of Living with Joyis a moving and inspirational memoir by a woman who makes the most of her final days after discovering she has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
After Spencer-Wendel, a celebrated journalist at the Palm Beach Post,learns of her diagnosis of ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, she embarks on several adventures, traveling toseveral countries and sharing special experiences with loved ones. One trip takes Spencer-Wendel and her fourteen-year-old daughter, Marina, to New York City’s Kleinfeld’s Bridal to shop for Marina’s future wedding dress—an occasion that Susan knows she will never see.
Co-written with Bret Witter, Until I Say Good-Bye is Spencer-Wendel’s account of living a full life with humor, courage, and love, but also accepting death with grace and dignity. It’s a celebration of life, a look into the face of death, and the effort we must make to show the people that we love and care about how very much they mean to us.

A friend and I swapped books after chatting at the pool.  I can't even remember which one I gave her and she loaned me Switch.  I LOVE it!  While I have not finished it, I love the content and it is my kind of book.  I was a Political Science major in college but over the years have felt jaded by politics and government and "freakonomics."  This book just might give me the energy to find that passion again.  Very interesting read :)

Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives?

The primary obstacle is a conflict that’s built into our brains, say Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the critically acclaimed bestseller Made to Stick. Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems—the rational mind and the emotional mind—that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie. The rational mind wants to change something at work; the emotional mind loves the comfort of the existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort—but if it is overcome, change can come quickly.

In Switch, the Heaths show how everyday people—employees and managers, parents and nurses—have united both minds and, as a result, achieved dramatic results: 
●      The lowly medical interns who managed to defeat an entrenched, decades-old medical practice that was endangering patients.
●      The home-organizing guru who developed a simple technique for overcoming the dread of housekeeping.
●      The manager who transformed a lackadaisical customer-support team into service zealots by removing a standard tool of customer service
In a compelling, story-driven narrative, the Heaths bring together decades of counterintuitive research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can effect transformative change. Switch shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or changing your waistline.

My mother in law loaned me this book and I love it!  I am going very slowly and underlining a TON.  I love how in the very beginning he explains what has always mystified me about "evolution."  (Hint: it depends on how you define it.)  I also love how so much of what he writes coincides with what I remember reading from Dr. Eben Alexander in Proof of Heaven!  I am such a dork that I would love to be back in college writing a paper comparing and contrasting the two books!

With the same extraordinary skill that he used to demystify scientific abstraction and the new physics, Gary Zukay, the award-winning author ofThe Dancing Wu Li Masters, here takes us on a brilliant and penetrating exploration of the new phase of evolution we have now entered.
With lucidity and elegance, Zukav explains that we are evolving from a species that pursues power based upon the perceptions of the five senses -- external power -- into a species that pursues authentic power -- power that is based upon the perceptions and values of the spirit. He shows how the pursuit of external power has produced our survival-of-the-fittest understanding of evolution, generated conflict between lovers, communities, and superpowers, and brought us to the edge of destruction.
Using his scientist's eye and philosopher's heart, Zukav shows how infusing the activities of life with reverence, compassion, and trust makes them come alive with meaning and purpose. He illustrates how the emerging values of the spirit are changing marriages into spiritual partnerships, psychology into spiritual psychology, and transforming our everyday lives.The Seat of the Soul describes the remarkable journey to the spirit that each of us is on.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Second Honeymoon!

Oh, how rejuvenating some time away in paradise is!  We love spending time with our children, but we really covet our alone-time, too :)

photo by The Fairmont Orchid

Hawaii was just lovely.  We loved the time change- 6 hours difference.  We were both out of bed each morning by 5am, worked out together (not typical for us), met friends at breakfast, and then got ready for the day where we: relaxed, read, snorkeled, zip-lined, luau-ed, drank fun drinks, and ate sushi all week!  We stayed at the Fairmont Orchid, which changed a few years ago from the Ritz Carlton.  Everything was so nice- the climate, resort, the people, the food...  I definitely understand why people have such a connection to these islands and their way of life.  Things seemed very low-key, calm and relaxed.

photo by The Fairmont Orchid
The ONLY down side to our trip was that some of the dates overlapped with an already-planned family  beach trip in Isle of Palms, SC with Adam's family flying in from all over.  Well, Adam's "tiger blood" (what we affectionately call his get-it-D.O.N.E personality) kicked in and we pulled all kinds of favors to make both trips happen.

My parents very graciously traveled to, and met us in, Charleston to stay with Mary Fowler and Davis for a few days while Adam and I flew to Hawaii (it's a long flight, but not as bad as 10 hours on a plane sounds).  Then, once our family arrived in Charleston, my parents delivered the kids to the family beach house and drove home.  Our kids had a blast with their aunts/uncles/cousins until we arrived mid-week.

And if this sounds super-simplistic, it was not.  Well, it kind of was, but I added a lot of worry, fear, and anxiety to the mix.

First, I worried about all the packing.  We were all going in different directions- some flying, some driving, and we were also bringing some larger items like pack and plays for other family members.  It was stressful- I am not a great packer under normal circumstances.  What helped: Lists.  Clean laundry.  Anything I could start grouping by the door days ahead, I did.  Games, technology items & chargers, life jackets, dry goods for the beach house, pack and play, etc.

Next, even though I have normally wonderful, well-mannered children, I felt very anxious that my children (or really ANY children) would be too much for others to care for and worry about.  It's just different when other kids, besides your own, are around.  Sometimes I have issues with pride- I'll offer to help out but won't always accept it, when offered.  What helped:  I made sure to remind my kids over and over about using their manners and trying to help out where they could.  We told them (and reminded ourselves) that these family members were doing us a great favor and that we hoped they would enjoy their time with their grandparents and cousins!  I always enjoyed spending time with my aunt and uncle and cousins when my parents traveled.  We told them we could Facetime if they missed us (despite the 6 hour time difference) but we would be back after a couple of days.

Funny enough, both kids were excited about mom and dad having some alone time:)

Finally, I feared the BIG catastrophes.  I worried that one or both kids would drown in the ocean, or even in the house's pool.  I worried that Adam and I would leave our kids orphaned.  And then I worried that we would miss a tight connection and delay our return.  Both of our kids are good swimmers, and we were leaving them with 5 family members who are physicians.  So, in all honesty, they were probably in better hands (lol) but the only thing that helped with these worries was prayer.  And every time we made a safe connection, or got a text that things were going great, some more of that anxiety was lifted.  Adam frequently has to remind me that that overwhelming feeling of anxiety is only helped by taking action.  So true.

Thinking back over the past two weeks leaves me feeling so blessed and thankful.  Our families shared such cute and funny stories and pictures about Davis and Mary Fowler while we were gone.  I am one proud mama!