Sunday, August 31, 2014

Confessions of an Overwhelmed bibliophile

I love to read, but lately reading has become more like a chore for me.  I have so many books on my kindle and piles of books on my nightstand, that I am feeling overwhelmed.  I feel pressured to finish reading books, because there are so many more books I want to read – it has taken some of the fun out of reading. 


Part of the problem is that I have been doing book reviews for other aspiring authors like me.  I listed my name on a website called ‘Book Tweeting Service” which helps authors find folks willing to read and review books.  As soon as I listed my name and contact info, I was inundated with requests, so much so, that I couldn’t keep up.  While I do enjoy some of the books, to be honest some of them are just not books I am interested in, and a few of them have been awful (which presents a whole other challenge of whether to post a bad review or contact the author, and it is always awkward).  I have had to turn authors down lately because I simply cannot read every book that people ask me to.  I also really want to maintain perspective, so I try to alternate one review request with a book that I have chosen to read. 


I have also started getting daily and weekly emails about free books available through Amazon.  Many authors provide free books as a way to increase the visibility of their books and gain reviews, there are just so many choices available today – literally thousands of new books each week, and I just can’t help downloading a few free books that look interesting, but now they sit on my kindle just waiting in my to-read pile.  I really do want to read all of them, and I try to read some, but I would have to read 24 hours a day to keep up with all the great books being published. 


In addition to the free books and review requests, there are also new books released by my favorite authors, books that are on the best seller list and look really interesting, and books that I somehow did not hear about until the movie comes out (and I know the book will be better).   Inevitably some of those books will make their way to my kindle or night table.  Balancing my desire to read with the other responsibilities that I need to get done can be tricky.   


I really do want to read them all.  I also want to enjoy them – not to rush through them just for the sake of finishing them.  I really believe a good book should be like a vacation – getting lost in the pages and savoring the story – something that shouldn’t be rushed. 


On that note, I am going to post this on my blog and then get back to my reading….thank goodness I have a nice long holiday weekend to spend reading.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Sandwich Generation - Stuck in between

I had a busy week, and while that’s nothing new - the reason I was so busy is something new that I am getting used to.  Feeling stuck in between.  

This week my Dad got a pacemaker.  It was strange and a little scary for all of us.  I starting thinking about the challenges of what people refer to as the sandwich generation. This isn’t something brand new.  My dad is 85 years old and he has a few health challenges.  He is a pretty amazing guy, he lives with my brother and his wife, because our old house was too big for just him after my mom died.  He is fiercely independent, but he is willing to ask for help if he needs it.  The other night he told my brother that he wasn’t feeling good and they brought him to the hospital.  Well, long story short, his heart wasn’t really beating correctly so they scheduled surgery and put in a pacemaker.  

I spent the morning of the procedure texting updates to my husband, my daughters and my siblings who were too far away to be there.  My dad is such an amazing guy, and he is loved beyond measure by his children, grandchildren and now even his great grandchildren.  It is so hard to think about my dad being ‘old’.  I drove back and forth to the hospital to share visiting times with my brother and sister-in-law, so he wouldn’t be alone. 

 When he left the hospital, dad needed to borrow my daughter’s nebulizer machine so I had to cancel my plans to take a trip up to the mountains with my hubby.  I really didn’t mind canceling my trip to help dad, I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself anyway if I was worried about him, but I realized that this is really what people mean by the sandwich generation.  I am not even doing primary care for Dad, and he is still very capable, but he worries about being a burden to this kids.  The funniest part of hanging out with dad this week was when he told me to get going because it was getting dark - I am 50 years old, but he doesn’t want his little girl to be out alone at night.  

but dad wasn’t the only thing going on this week…

I also spent part of my week making sure my younger daughter was registered for classes in her last year of college.  College financial aid has been a great blessing, but it can be challenging and frustrating.  We were making sure all the required forms were turned in so she can start her classes on time.  I am excited that she is almost finished with school, but it is a very different world than it used to be, and even finishing school is no guarantee of a good job.  I can’t help it, as a parent I worry.

I also spent part of my week helping my older daughter navigate the confusing world of real estate as she tries to purchase her first home.  Between the mortgage documents, the house inspections, the appraisals and the real estate contracts I feel like I am drowning in a sea of paperwork and red tape.  She is feeling very overwhelmed right now.  I know my daughter is looking to me for guidance, but real estate has changed a lot since I bought my house.  

I am officially part of the sandwich generation and I am realizing its hard.  It is hard enough growing older, my body is no longer willing to do the things it used to do with ease.  I grin and bear it through hot flashes and my husband thinks its hilarious, but its also an inevitable sign of getting older.  Those well earned gray hairs that I try so hard to hide are a badge of honor for making it this far in life.  


I am grateful that my dad is still around, that he still worries about me, but its my turn to start worrying about him now.  Someday I will feel just like my dad, and I won’t want to be a burden to my kids, but I hope they will feel like I do about caring for my dad - its not a burden, I love him so much and I am glad for anything that I can do to help him and help repay a fraction of what he has done for me all these years.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Book versus the Movie

I love books!  It is pretty clear that books have always held a special meaning to me, so it is not surprising that when I hear about a new movie being made based on one of my favorite books, I am anxious.  Recently I saw the advertisements for the movie version of “The Giver” by Lois Lowry.  I am a big fan of this book and Lois Lowry has been a highly influential author for young adults.  I am extremely apprehensive about the idea of a movie version of this book.  Will this movie show the character complexity and the nuances that make it such a great book?  It is a question I have pondered about so many of the beloved books I have read.

Along with so many others, I was on pins and needles prior to watching the Harry Potter movies and was pleasantly surprised, that although the movies could not possibly include all the genius that is JK Rowling, it was a spectacular effort.  I was amazed at the choice of cast which truly brought the characters to life, thanks to the efforts of not only the movie's very talented director, but the oversight of JK Rowling herself – who brought her vision to the big screen.  But as many of us know, a really good adaptation is often the exception and not the rule.  Even in the case of the Harry Potter series, movie goers who never cracked open one of the books will never get the depth and love for the stories the way the readers do. 
As amazing as it sounds, sometimes a movie adaptation can actually enhance the book experience.  I did not particularly enjoy the acclaimed novel “The Book Thief”  So many people recommended the book, but to be quite honest I found it dark and depressing (yes I know that was the whole point of a war/holocaust themed book) and I found the ‘death’ character to be odd and even confusing at times.  I have read dozens and dozens of holocaust books, but I didn’t see what everyone else saw in that particular book.  When I first heard that a movie was being made based on that book I was intrigued, I wondered how they would adapt the story and if it could be done successfully given the odd structure of the story, from death’s perspective, but to my surprise I actually enjoyed the movie and to be brutally honest I enjoyed the movie more than the book (gasp).  This might be the only example where I can say that has happened. 
Movie adaptations do present challenges for bibliophiles like me, but sometimes they are surprisingly good, so I will try to keep an open mind and keep my fingers crossed that Hollywood has done justice to Lois Lowry’s work. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Review: Together Apart by Natialie Martin

Together ApartTogether Apart by Natalie Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this novel, the story of Adam and Sarah who both struggle to come to terms with Sarah's secretive past. The author is English, so at times there are some language and culture reference challenges for American readers, but nothing that got in the way of the story. The main character Adam is likeable enough, but Sarah's character is elusive and distant, which makes it hard for the reader to feel connected to her. The author does a good job of drawing us in to find out what Sarah is hiding and why she won't marry the man she obviously loves.   Overall it was a good book, and I would recommend it

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Are you an e-sister?


 
 
While I was doing some networking and promotion for my books, I came across something interesting – a group of women who have labeled themselves as esisters.   The esisters refers to women who have used the essure™ birth control device.  These women are frustrated because apparently they have had complications with the implantation, use and/or removal of their essure™.  This issue has even gained the attention of Erin Brockovich, known for her advocacy efforts on behalf of individuals which inspired a Hollywood movie. 
(For more information here is Erin’s website http://www.essureprocedure.net/ )
Well after reading some of the complications that women are reporting from their essure procedure, I was concerned.  As many of you may know, I am also an esister, I had the essure device implanted several years ago.  If you have read my book, “The Misadventures of Me and My Uterus” you might recall that I refer to my spring-loaded uterus and describe my experience with this procedure.  According to Conceptus Inc., the company that manufactures and sells essure™, it is “a non-surgical, permanent method of birth control. Essure consists of two flexible metal fiber coils that are placed in the fallopian tubes through the cervix in a 10-minute procedure. Over three months a natural barrier then forms.”

After learning about the problems that so many women have been having, it is difficult to accurately assess whether some of the problems I have attributed to peri-menopause might actually be related to my spring-loaded uterus.  At this point I think I need to do some additional research.  For me personally, I have never been an alarmist, and one of my pet peeves are pregnant women who read "What to Expect When Your Are Expecting" and 'suddenly' get each new symptom they read about, but I have been struggling with some unusual challenges with my body for the past few years.  I simply shrugged it off as peri-menopause, yet it is very possible that some of these symptoms have a different cause.  
Below are links to some web resources about the essure™ controversy.  I am not typically nervous, but the more I am learning about this device, the more concerned I am becoming.  I think this is a topic that we should all be watching closely. 
 
 
 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dying to be thin


Thanks to my Amazon Prime membership, I watched a documentary called “Thin” about women with eating disorders and it was sad and disturbing.  For me this movie brought back memories of my years working in eating disorder treatment programs. 

This documentary did a good job of describing the challenging journey these women go through and the incredible hardship and frustration of eating disorders.
While working as a recreational therapist, I had the privilege to work at a treatment center for women with eating disorders.  Although it was difficult at times, I do consider working there a privilege.  I was able to meet and work with some of the most amazing women that you could ever hope to meet.  They were bright and funny and creative and talented and they were struggling with a severe eating disorder that was making their life awful. 
 
When someone would ask what my job was, I explained where I worked and often people would jokingly say, “I wish I had a little Anorexia.”   To me and to these women struggling, this was no laughing matter. 

Do you all remember the huge controversy over the biggest loser contestant Rachel?  Her shocking appearance brought eating disorders into mainstream discussions, at least for a few days.  We have a society hyper-focused on being the ‘thin’ ideal, but we are ashamed and appalled when someone goes too far in their search for thin and becomes anorexic or bulimic.   The contestant Rachel was a perfect example of our society's out of control obsession over weight, rather than a focus on health. 
We have such unrealistic airbrushed & unhealthy beauty standards. What’s worse, we are passing these ideals along to young girls, and eating disorders are being diagnosed in younger and younger girls each day.  My former employer has added a special unit for girls from 8-12 years old, and they are not alone. 

Here are some shocking and sad facts about eating disorders

       

·        Approximately 11 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder
·        Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder
·        Anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents
·        Eating disorders kill.  Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, upwards of 20%.
·        Eating disorders can lead to major medical complications, including cardiac arrhythmia, cognitive impairment, osteoporosis, infertility, and most seriously death.
·        Suicide, depression, and severe anxiety are common during the active illness and treatment.
·        Eating disorders can be successfully and fully treated to complete remission, but only 1 in 10 people with eating disorders receive treatment.
·        Eating Disorders  have Doubled since  the 1960s 
·        Eating Disorders  are increasing in younger age groups, as young as 7 years 
·        Eating Disorders  are occurring increasingly in diverse ethnic and sociocultural groups 
·        40-60% of high school girls diet 
·        13% of high school girls purge 
·        30-40% of junior high girls worry about weight 
·        40% of 9-year-old girls have dieted 
·        As young as 5-year-old girls are concerned about diet 
 
Eating disorders are a serious issue, and we all share in the responsibility to combat unhealthy stereotypes and work toward a future where these young girls and women won’t have to struggle every minute with an eating disorder.  Eating disorders are cheating all of us out of the chance to see these young women thrive. 
 

 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Midlife musings

 
It’s a perfect afternoon.  Sitting in my backyard, reading a book by the pool, I am overwhelmed with feelings of contentment and gratitude for all the wonderful things in my life – don’t worry, those feelings pass quickly when the dogs jump out of the pool and begin shaking off, spraying water all over me.  Next the pool pump starts making a weird hissing noise, and I know that this is not a normal noise, I envision the hundreds of dollars in repair bills. 
I realize I am starting to turn pink, despite applying gallons of sun block and I think to myself, I really should make that appointment to see the dermatologist.  Getting spots surgically removed or frozen off my skin has become such a regular occurrence that I now consider it a hobby.

I head inside to the quiet solitude of my house, only to be greeted with the sound of gunfire as my husband and my daughter’s boyfriend play yet another round of Call of Duty. 

I admit, I am envious of my friends who complain about their empty nest, mine has never been empty for very long.  My two daughters have moved out and back in to my house so many times I should install a revolving door.  When I hear someone talk about having an empty nest, I usually offer a sarcastic retort like “I wouldn’t know what that’s like” but to be honest, I don’t mind that much. Currently my youngest daughter lives at home with her longtime boyfriend.  They are both just finishing up college and they have no idea what they want to do with their lives, but since I am still working on figuring that out, I try not to judge them too harshly. 
While I would like some space and privacy, and a lower grocery bill, living with my grown children can be fun.  I learn so much from them.  I can proudly boast that I have a Pinterest, Instagram, and a snap chat account.  I know what a Vine is (which is something I do not think most people my age can say).  I can actually name at least one electronic dance music group.

I head to the kitchen to make a small salad for lunch, ever mindful of gaining weight, which happens so easily nowadays.  I think about things like getting enough fiber and it frustrates me to face the relentless march of Father Time.  I watch with envy as the kids scarf down a full bag of potato chips, knowing that even a handful or two will add pounds on the scale. 
 
I head upstairs to color my hair, something I do every few weeks in a valiant attempt to keep to keep the gray at bay, but the gray is persistent and it looks like the root touch up kit won’t be enough this time.  I make a mental note to call the hairdresser, which I will promptly forget to do.
 

I just don’t want to acknowledge that I am indeed getting older.  Can I really be turning 50 this year?  Like most of us, when I was growing up I thought 50 was really old – it’s amazing how you can change your perspective on that issue.  Yes, I know my bones crackle and make more noise than they used to, and I do get tired by 10:00 o’clock at night, but that doesn’t mean I’m old…does it?
 

On the bright side (and I do believe there is always a bright side, thus the name of this blog) being almost 50 has some tremendous advantages.  As I approach this big half-century milestone, I want to celebrate all that I have accomplished. Somehow in the last almost 50 years I raised two amazing daughters, I travelled across this incredible country and most of Europe, and I mastered the skills for three different careers (so far).  I have so much to be proud of.  Fifty can be a scary number for some folks, but I want to look at fifty as an amazing celebration of everything that I have achieved.  I also want to look at 50 as the start of a whole new outlook on life. 

I think 50 means reaching an age where I get to embrace being exactly who I am.  I can do and say what I want, I am ready to face 50.  Bring it on!
You can read my comical book about health challenges during menopause, available on Amazon


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: The Reasons Why by D.S. McKnight

The Reasons WhyThe Reasons Why by D.S. McKnight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fun short story, exploring an unlikely love that develops between two step siblings in a newly blended family. This fun little novella is upbeat and lively. I really enjoyed the characters of Brit and Michael, but my favorite is Brit's outspoken best friend Ashley. I would have enjoyed hearing even more about the courtship of Brit and Michael's parents, but the real story is the growing attraction between Brit & Michael and of course the scheming Danica trying desperately to break them up. This fun little book is worth the price.

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Okay - I wrote my book, now what


If you are new to this Indie book publishing business like me, then you have been busy spending your valuable writing time searching for ways to promote your book.  I have to admit –self-publishing is harder than I realized, especially in the area of marketing and promotion.  With a very limited marketing budget – you have to find way to get the word out about your new book without breaking the bank.
 
I spent a bunch of time collecting some excellent resource links and I wanted to share them with my fellow Indie book authors.  A saying from one of my favorite authors is, “Karma is a boomerang”,  so here is a list of places to get reviews and promote your books that are inexpensive or even FREE.  If you know of any other places that work well – please share the love and leave them in the comments below.  We can all help each other along this book publishing journey.


















 

Monday, August 11, 2014

O Captain My Captain

Everyone who knows me knows that I have always loved Robin Williams.  His movies and his personality left a big impression on me, but of all the incredible movies he made, Dead Poets Society was my favorite.   That movie was so heart wrenching and moving - I  cry every time I watch it.  I think that movie, more than any other shows the frustration and futility of suicide.  I was completely heartbroken upon hearing the news about Robin Williams today, along with so many millions of his fans. What was even more challenging was the fact that he took his own life. 

People don't like to mention suicide, it makes the news briefly, but then it is only mentioned in brief comments, "wasn't that sad".  It is different for people who have experienced the suicide of a loved one or family member.  Suicide is a unique grief that is awful to go through, I know because 7 years ago my own husband took his life.  My heart breaks for the family of Robin Williams, I understand just a little bit of what they are dealing with and it is awful.  Anger, sadness, confusion and hundreds of other feelings are all mixed up in jumble of incomprehensible emotions. 
 We all feel like we lost a loved one today, Robin Williams was a person who uniquely touched our lives.  I will miss his beautiful spirit, his incredible wit and the world will never be the same without him.

We the people...

I went to a meeting last night – one of those ‘political’ meetings.  I admit it, I actually enjoy being active and informed politically. 

I am perplexed about why some people like to get involved and some people don’t.  I think this is an important question.  I am not talking about whether you vote red or blue, whether you like to share the latest Obama joke or you are appalled by them, I am talking in general terms – why do some people seem to care more about politics than others. 

1.    Some people will say they are just too busy to get involved.  It might be true that some people have a busier life than others.  I know for me I was much less active politically when my girls were very young, but even then I tried to watch the news or read the newspaper and I know I dragged a toddler or preschooler to the polls with me, so while that is an excuse, it’s not really the reason.

2.    Some people think their vote doesn’t count, and while I understand if you are a democrat in a highly republican district or vice versa, you might think that might be the case, but the election of 2000 taught us that indeed every single vote does count.  The presidential election came down to just a few hundred votes.  Even more than that – voting is our civic duty in a democracy.  It is more than just expressing your opinion, it is participating in the governance of this great country.  With all its faults, we have the longest continuing democracy in the world.  Our constitution served as a model for so many other countries seeking their independence (don’t get too puffed up – our leaders took most of the ideas for our constitution from the great French enlightenment thinkers who got their ideas from the great thinkers of Ancient Greece).

3.    Some people will tell you that they just don’t care, but often these are the same people who will complain non-stop about some aspect of the government (i.e. taxes, laws they disagree with, etc.) so clearly they do care.

4.    Some will say that it doesn’t matter because nothing will ever change.  These folks are obviously suffering from a short term memory deficit – things may not change completely overnight, but a quick look at history shows us that things do change and they change a great deal, just ask an African American who great grandparents were brought to this country as slaves, just ask a woman who now not only has the right to vote and own property but she runs for office, just ask a child who attends school instead of being forced into child labor.  it may not seem like things are changing, but we as a country have changed so much in our 200+ years and there is no doubt we will change even more in the future. 

I’m sure there are other reasons that people can come up with, but in reality they are just excuses.  We all need to do our part to make this country work, we don’t have to agree, but we MUST get involved and at the very least be informed about issues that affect all of us and be prepared to vote. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Book Review: Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer


Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of NaysayerPrince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer by Aldo Fynn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this fun adventure book, geared for 3rd to 5th graders, it is a perfect blend of action and interesting characters, extremely well suited to its intended audience. Adults will enjoy the quirky play on names, and kids will love Iggy, the unlikely hero of the tale. I would highly recommend this book to young readers.

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