Defining Sanity and Humanity

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I’ve been away from my blog for some time. Knowing it exists, and that I would return, was always a comforting thought. I am pages from completing a fascinating, enlightening, true story and could wait, no longer, to share it.
I am grappling with the term “forever changed” by this book. Instead, I think it is more accurate, in my own case, to say “finally aware” or “forever defined”.
This is a firsthand story of a brain scientist’s stroke. There is a wealth of science about symptoms and perceptions, from the victim’s view. It is an essential part of the story and, really, not hard to learn and appreciate but the overall message and “insight” into the human psyche will “blow you away”!
We are a single being which operates, through our world, by using two separate, yet connected, brain hemispheres. The story exposes the purpose and function of those hemispheres in enlightening detail. The author’s conclusions about the necessity for both to function in unison in order to offer a life “rich” in a common conscientiousness are extraordinary, possibly, life changing.
As I read this book, I was thankful for my years with children for my primarily hopeful perspective about living “in the moment”. Jill Bolte Taylor hits the “nail on the head”, in my opinion, about how much of our own happiness is a matter of how we CHOSE to perceive the world. Embracing how ordinary events make us “feel” (emotionally and physiologically) just may be the biggest tool in the counteracting of everyday depression and sadness.
The author does not disregard the fact that our mental health is subject to chemical reactions beyond our control. The awareness that we CAN control much of it, though, (beyond brain damage and illness) offers a primer in a more fulfilling, happy, existence.
Incidentally, the carefree, forgiving, nature of man’s best friend seems to further explain why our Left Brains (containing speech and ego) can be our worst enemy if left to control too much of our time. On the other hand, who wants children, or dogs, making critical decisions?
As with everything we learn about life, balance is the best medicine.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of the wisdom between the covers of this book!

  • How to recognize a stroke.
  • How to treat stroke victims.
  • The recuperative power of sleep.
  • How our brains interpret the world.
  • The importance of patience and kindness.

I give this book 11 stars out of 10.

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks…Book Review

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An amazing story that needed telling!

This book is a non-fictional glimpse of scientific advances and the horrid racial inequality in our “not very distant” past. It is a riveting read. The story chronicles the struggles of poor black folks during the 50’s and 60’s, in a way, that will leave you forever changed. The sacrifices of those who advanced medical research are present, along with, the greed which always follows the money.

Many of the legal, and ethical, dilemmas, exposed in this text, are unresolved to this day. The author does not attempt to decide the “right” from “wrong” but, very effectively, invites the reader into the lives of real people. I laughed, I cried, and I feel enlightened by this book. A must read for those who endeavor to be educated and informed.

Going Wild

51gpiNPzMPL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)As I’ve stated before, this blog is meant to be a journal for my grandchildren. I wish I could have one from my grandparents. I would love to see their inner thoughts and principles documented to be shared with future generations. I was lucky. I spent a great deal of time with my grandparents. Their memories and principles are a part of who I am.

Even though I spend an enormous amount of time (by today’s standards) with my granddaughters, I still enjoy accumulating thoughts for their pleasure and reflection one day.

I am currently reading a book which touches something very dear to me. It is The Nature Principle by Richard Louv. I suspect there will be a greater need for the wisdom, presented between these covers, in the future and want to document my first impression of this book.

The connection between human beings and “Mother Nature” is fading. I believe that we must not allow our kids to grow up in, what I believe, is a two-dimensional environment. When we are out-of-doors and surrounded by natural things, we absorb an appreciation of our worth and rejuvenate our sense of well-being. Just the other day, my granddaughter (age 8) was feeling ultra-emotional about being left behind by her mother. I said, “Why don’t you go outside for awhile?” She did. The transformation was immediate. She calmed and came back indoors wearing a smile. This method, of adding balance, works for me everyday. I sometimes just step outside for a few moments yet find my mood benefits very much.

I’ve hardly dipped into the book but already know what, I believe, the author knows about our integral connection to the natural world and its importance to human health. I have described my feelings in the forest as “comfortably insignificant”. Somehow, the realization of forces and life struggles outside of one’s own “bubble” put things in a wonderful perspective.

The first evidence this book cited, was the “instinctive intuition” available to those who have had a nature connection in their lives, as opposed to, those who have not. A study of soldiers who have avoided roadside bombs simply from their “whole view” of their surroundings is quite revealing. Those soldiers who came from rural settings, and/or had hunted or hiked the wilds, somehow noticed the “something’s wrong with this picture” element. Their success in identifying “trouble”, well out weighed, those who had spent their youthful time in front of TV and video realities. I call the latter, a “two-dimensional” view. These people are not accustom to using ALL of their senses in order to navigate the world. They have never felt fully vulnerable like one does in the wild. Total safety, allows us not to need the details and detective work of survival. Interestingly, the other group who was “in tune” with danger, and had highly developed instincts, were those from rough neighborhoods in the cities. Feeling vulnerable, obviously, makes us wise and sharp.

My time in the woods has offered me the view, of a deer approaching, from my sense of smell alone. On a few occasions, I have smelled the wet fur (somewhat like a wet dog) before I have heard or seen the animal. We humans have many amazing abilities that our indoor existence has atrophied. These instincts are not simply meant to be kept alive but, may be crucial, in keeping us alive.

As far as detective work, I use it all of the time. Until now, I thought everyone did. For instance, this may seem weird, but I have a bird feeder within view of my bathroom window. It is very close to my parking area behind the house. In the morning, I am often in the bathroom when my day care friends arrive. If I believe I hear a car in my driveway, I look to my bird feeder. If the birds are still boldly feeding, I know a car really did not enter the area. If the birds scatter, then I expect a door slam to follow.

Everyday, I tell my kids to be detectives. Just last week, I was changing a diaper, right after the “drop off” time. I turned to one kid and said,” Your mom left the diaper bag in the car last night, didn’t she?” The 6-year-old was surprised and said, “Yes…she did!”

Then I asked her, how did I know that fact? She shrugged.
“It’s in the clues. Your brother’s diaper wipes are very cold. If she had just put them into the car, they would be warm.”

We use the “detective method” all day long. I believe it is very much a part of keeping kids really engaged with their environment. The skills for logical deduction are very important.

So, I will post other enlightening finds from this exceptional book. In the meantime, make time to be “wild”. 😉

In The Lake of the Woods- Book Review

41E95Y1K45L._SS500_Just finished this book and I’m in the usual fog that follows. Gripping and disturbing are often adjectives applied to books. They fit completely in this case.

There are historical references, many of which I remember in real-time. The old understood fact, that society is forgetful, certainly has me reeling. I had also forgotten those events.

Forgetting is necessary in order to carry on after atrocities. But when we forget, do we place understanding in the hands of historians? Then again, there are some things, like the recent tragedy in a Connecticut school, that can never be understood. It will never be known how many people were wounded…scarred forever, and the lack of understanding of such events fester forever in our subconsciousness. Never Solved…Never Resolved…EVER.

So what do we do? We wait. Time doesn’t ever heal anything. It just allows for those scarred individuals to, one day, all turn to dust and, with them, the direct, hurtfulness of the unimaginable.

This book returns us to the time of the Vietnam War through the life of John Wade. It reintroduced atrocities that have yet, in 2013, to become dust. It skillfully asks the question, How can we forget? It produces characters that are directly and indirectly victims of things that they don’t understand. Most of those things, they don’t want to understand but the effects are real enough to destroy their lives. The horrific ripples are toxic and live on and keep destroying as if the horrors faced are living beasts attached by an umbilical to the witnesses.

Tim O’Brien obviously was/is one of those scarred by the war. He makes a case for living beyond personal nightmares, especially when they are the only ones faced in a lifetime. But John Wade has endured a piling on of nightmares. His hauntings intermingle and grow larger and fiercer with every attempt he makes to forget them. Not having answers, as an adult, is troubling. Needing answers, as a child, can leave a person hopelessly lost.

I couldn’t put this down. I was a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car. Some might say, the ending asks more questions than it gives answers. I believe this book was about the gray area between what is real and what we cannot understand. It certainly made me feel powerless to ever make things right. Happiness is an illusion after tragedy and the best survivors are merely “magicians”.

Book Review: Crow Lake

I just read a book that I want to recommend very highly. Usually, I take an exception to foul language, unbelievable characters or a message that is not my own.

None of those apply with Crow Lake.

The reverence for a rural life, the comfort that can be found when one embraces a love of learning, and the possibilities for triumph over tragedy, are poignantly clear in this story. It also taught me that strength and success can take many shapes and come from unlikely places. Mary Lawson‘s description of the emotional effect of tragedy upon children was outstanding. Her story, about the unfairness of circumstance, a reminder to us all that good people can make all the difference.

If you are in awe of Nature…this book is also “right up your alley”.

This poster sums up the book better than I.

Book Review ~ The Lost Mother

I have already mentioned that my vacation (last week) was less than wonderful due to relentless heat and humidity, yet, I keep finding wonderful snippets rising, like cream, to the surface of my memory of it.

I read a gripping story while perspiring in a shady spot. This was another of my “browsing for books off of the library shelf” finds. I thoroughly enjoyed this story as I laughed, cried and bit my lip in anger. The sweltering heat and humidity did not exist for me while I was immersed in this tale of hard times for two children during the Great Depression. The overall theme of the powerlessness of children to direct their own lives could be applied to any time period, though, and reminds us that the blessing of family and loved ones is not necessarily afforded to everyone.

The story does have a superb ending after a roller coaster ride that envelopes the reader and makes this book unable to be put down. Just when things couldn’t get worse, they do, in a totally believable way. Not unlike To Kill a Mockingbird, The Lost Mother is told primarily through the vulnerable mind and naive heart of a twelve year old named Thomas. His hopes and sorrows become the reader’s. Tears streaked my face as the story concluded with a few surprises …I intend to read more of Mary Mc Garry Morris’ work.

Heart-shaped Box ~ Book Review

I picked this book off of the library shelf because I liked the cover. Yes, that is what got me to look it over. With all the books to choose from it can be THAT simple.

Well, I’m always struggling to decide what makes me like a book. Sometimes, it’s just because they hold my interest and have an ending that doesn’t disappoint me.

This book is a modern ghost story. I love a good ghost story. This one had me turning pages at a furious rate. There was frequent bad language and a few sexual references that make this not for youngsters but it fit into the story of an aging rock star with a seedy past.

I found the dilemma that the characters faced believable enough to follow and enjoy. Their internal voices and instincts were not silly like those who always chase “bumps” in the night. The ghosts were creative and cool too.

This book won’t go down as a classic but it kept me happily entertained and wanting more. There are some lessons, the famed “Be careful what you wish for.” and the destructive power of money and fame along with the indiscretions of youth literally coming back to haunt the protagonist. I’ve put a few Stephen King novels down due to sexual content that seemed misplaced and for shock value only. In my opinion, those brief references in this story are not like that. I say this only as a warning to those who find such material impossible to get past in any story.

I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys a scary thriller. Anyone who loves Stephen King might find this one right up their alley.

Revisting My Expectations

It’s very hard to recommend books since I find our enjoyment of them is such a personal thing. They touch us somewhere in our brains where dreams, hopes and disappointments reside.

This morning I took a good look at my bookshelf. It is small. I keep it that size because I know my inner hoarder would overwhelm my living room otherwise. The small size (about 30 books) makes me re-evaluate their value to me on a frequent basis.

One thing I’ve rarely done is to reread a book. If I’ve enjoyed them and kept them, they hold a mystique not unlike our memories of high school. We filter those memories, keeping the best parts, and often sugar coating them.

I’ve wondered before whether our timing and attitude make a good book a great book in our minds. Seems we take what we need and overlook the rest. What we need evolves with time. I’m going to reread a few books that have stuck with me and have spent a silent, dusty vigil on my shelf of honor. I am afraid that they’ll let me down in the same way a high school reunion does. Those valued and happy memories are open to a new awakened place. Their charm and value are put up to scrutiny that I’m not sure I want to give them. (BTW- I don’t do high school reunions.I love my memories to stay just as I have protected and perfected them.)

The books that I will revisit are: Cry of the Panther by James P. McMullen and The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland. Both have to do with experiencing Nature on an intimate level. That subject runs deeply through my bookshelf starting with my first love The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling.

Each of my rereading choices have some raw elements. Nature does too. I guess that’s why they felt genuine. They also have characters who have a focused and obsessive search that is very personal. Based upon true stories and actual events, they both offer real-life heroic adventure.

I will definitely write a follow-up post about how they weathered the storm of reappraisal.

Summer Read – “It’s a mystery to me.”

This post is not intended as a book review because I have not finished the book…yet.

I am wondering if a “good” book is more a reflection of the reader’s frame of mind or the well-written nature of its content?

There are some books which I’ve said that I have enjoyed fully but were a bit of a struggle to get involved in and the details faded away ever after.

There are some books from which passages revisit me when I least expect it. Images haunting me. Yet they weren’t always from my professed favorites.

Then there is Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith.

I was drawn to the topic of mystery stories after reading Harlan Coben‘s The Woods for book club. I enjoyed it but realized there were more famous and more stimulating examples of mysteries still unknown to me.

In 7th grade, our English class read, And Then There Were None~ Agatha Christie‘s novel also known as, Ten Little Indians. I didn’t like it…in 7th grade, I didn’t like reading very much either, though.

As I recently strolled down the aisle at the library, hoping to find a rare gem, I happened upon a section by Patricia Highsmith. Her photo jumped out at me. She looked like a writer. Her appearance was of a woman who spent more time on her thoughts than on her outward appearance. (I don’t think she would have been flattered by that observation but I mean it in the best way.)

Ah, now that an author was chosen, which of her works might I sample?  Why not start with her debut novel? The jacket mentioned that this book was the inspiration for an Alfred Hitchcock film. Good old Al knew what a good mystery was.

I started reading the book last weekend. I really like it…really. My normal approach to reading is an “all at once” or “not at all” mind set. I don’t want to put it down and lose track of any subtle clues or characters, especially with a mystery.

This one has remained a wonderful daydream. I’ve had busy stuff interfere with my reading time, this week, but the half read story has remained with me. The characters are clear and visible beings in my head. The story begs me to continue but what I have read is all still waiting!

Now, my own mystery is in this question.

Is this the most well-written novel ever or am I exceptionally clear minded and focused this week?

Let me say this:

There aren’t too many characters…there is a wonderful (dark) story unfolding…I understand everything so far and want to know everything yet to come. I suspect it’s a great book.

Since this is not an official review…I’ll leave you with my observations, as well as, whole-heartedly recommending it for a summer read.

Maybe reviews should be written during the experience of a book not from an after taste, after all.