Review – Show Me Your Scars

MENTAL WELLNESS

Show Me Your Scars: True Stories of Living With Mental Illness
by Lee Gutkind
In Fact Books, 2016
Review by Tijuana L. Canders
Apr 27, 2017

Mental Illness is often kept secret, or hidden in the ‘closet’ because of stereotypes and stigmas the world protrudes on the sufferer. Mental illness is also misunderstood which leaves the sufferer not only to battle the effects of their illness but also to feel the need to rid themselves from the mind-sets of others who aren’t educated to know that individuals living with mental illness can be valuable, viable, and productive citizens in the world along with the rest of the society.

Lee Gutkind a licensed child and adolescent therapist who also works with adults compiles stories from others dealing with mental illness in the book, Show Me All Your Scars: True Stories of Living with Mental Illness, in hopes to bring awareness and alleviate the painful reality of discrimination, and emotional sufferings from stigmas. As former US Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy writes in his introduction: “The only way for this to change is for people to share their truth. Total honesty is essential not only for recovery, but also for changing societal attitudes and enacting public policies.”

Each writer provides the reader with a different story, a different illness, a different perspective, and a different battle of the mind. The deeply personal essays are full of courage, resilience, and recovery shred the stigma of mental illness and challenge our indifference toward the ‘mentally ill.’ Show Me All Your Scars is an intense human exploration of the lived experience of mental illness. The book is beautifully written and displays hope to encourage others to dare to tell their story for the soul purpose of standing against their silence within themselves, in return changing the culture around them.

Trying to understand what it is like to be mentally ill or what it’s like to live with someone who is mentally ill is a challenge for all of us. After all, if one hasn’t “been there,” the behaviors of those living with mental illness can sometimes be annoying, scary, or embarrassing.

Having suffered from anxiety myself, I could relate to the stories. I am a firm believer that we need to bring mental illness out of the closet. Once society starts to accept that it is truly part of daily life, maybe then we will begin to see the necessary changes needed to take place not just in research or medicine but also in our relational boundaries, holistic views and stigmas that will make it easier for the sufferer to live with some of these issues. My personal hope is that one day others and myself who suffer from a mental illness can not only “show others our scars” as part of the process of living with mental illness, but that we will also “live with mental wellness.” 

Show Me All Your Scars is well-written, brave, and honest with unique stories to impart healing, encouragement, and stark realities of mental illness for the soul. The book is a poignant read for those who suffer from mental illness and for those who want to understand mental illness.

 

© 2017 Tijuana L. Canders

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW – Why We Write About Ourselves

RELATIONSHIPS

Why We Write About Ourselves
by Meredith Maran
Plume Publishing, 2016
Review by Tijuana L.Canders
Apr 10, 2017

Why We Write about Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and others) in the Name of Literature offers everything a reader might wish for from twenty diverse and talented memoirists, including some perennial favorites from the memoir genre.

Each author gets their own chapter, which begins with a sample of their writing and a brief and delightful overview of that memoirist’s career and contributions written by Meredith Maran, the book’s editor. There are also two boxed features: “The Vitals,” with biographical details and fun facts, and “The Collected Works,” which lists the author’s works. The heart of the chapter comes next – the memoirists’ answers to the key question of why they write about themselves, and much more. Each chapter ends with one more boxed feature – the author’s “wisdom for memoir writers.”

The memoirists’ reasons for writing about themselves were sometimes highly distinctive. For example, Ishmael Beah, child soldier and author of A Long Way Gone, said that writing about himself was a way of establishing his existence: “Apart from my passport, I had no physical objects or documentation to do so.” He also wanted to correct misperceptions about his country, Sierra Leone.

Although the authors gave reasons for writing memoir, all of the authors had one motivation in common: they wanted to write about themselves in ways that would resonate far beyond themselves. I was most moved by authors who said they wish they wrote the book they could have read when they were struggling. In her teaching, Anne Lamott turns that into a lesson. She tells her students “to write the book they’d like to come upon.” Sandra Tsing Loh said, “Whatever I’ve been through, I want to make it better for someone else.”

Every memoir is a story not just of the person doing the writing, but of other people in their lives. People who are flawed and complicated and human, but who may not appreciate being portrayed in all of their humanity. Each author grapples with this issue, and they come up with very different solutions. Edwidge Danticat worries about what her family will think: “I’d rather have relatives than a book…I try to tell my version, but if others object to it, I tell their versions, too.”

That’s now how A. M. Holmes sees things: “I didn’t ask anyone’s permission to tell the story the way I experienced it.” Pat Conroy explained why he will “always choose the writer over the person who suffers because of what’s written” because “If a story is not told, it’s the silence around that untold story that ends up killing people.” And several authors admitted that they often cannot predict how someone they’ve described will react. For instance, Jesmyn Ward said, “I wrote the memoir as a love letter to our family. She [her mother] read it as a condemnation.”

One of the reasons I wanted to write about this book review is that so many of the writers and readers on the site write about themselves, or enjoy reading people who write about themselves. Yet all of the authors in Why We Write about Ourselves who addressed the issue of blogging and tweeting insist that memoir writing was something different. James McBride (whose chapter includes a wonderful discussion of how writers of color are treated in the publishing industry) says that “memoirists have to speak of deeper things.” It is not just unedited spilling, either, of the sort you might do in your personal journals. As Cheryl Strayed said, “I’m not interested in confession. I’m interested in revelation.”

Why We Write About Ourselves is written with relevant expertise and can be used as a discussion platform at book conferences, writing groups or literature classes to give support to authors who desire to impact the world with literature and have always wanted to see their words in print.

© 2017 Tijuana L. Canders

Review – Messy Grace

MEMOIR

Messy Grace
by Caleb Kaltenbach
Foreword by Kyle Idleman
WaterBrook Press, 2015
Review by Tijuana L. Canders
Feb 19, 2017

Author Caleb Kaltenbach speaks openly about his experience of having gay parents, coming to Christ, subsiding stereotypes, and loving others. Kaltenbach talks about a messy grace, which is ‘tension’ between grace and truth. The Author’s message inspires readers to lessen these tensions, find common ground with the LGBT community, and let others know that the Church needs to be a place where you can ‘belong before you believe.’

If we have a Church filled with people who are honest and vulnerable about their shortcomings, then the gospel will know no boundaries. Showing grace and truth to people in the LGBT community is crucial. If we don’t have churches that also know how to show grace and truth, we’ll never fundamentally overcome the hostility between the Christian community and the LGBT community. Messy Grace brings a message to communities not to be afraid of people who are different. Reaching others is hard when you’re trying to ‘run’ from them.

Caleb Kaltenbach says the Christian community needs to own the fact that people are deep, struggles are real, and people are working through them. Most importantly, Christians need to stop trying to convert people’s sexuality. It isn’t their job to change someone’s sexual orientation. You and I are not called by God to make gay people straight. People in the LGBT community can go from being ‘them’ to being our friends.

Messy Grace is a twelve chapter book with subtitles, reflection and discussion questions to engage the reader. I would recommend this book for small groups, colleges, churches, youth camps and for personal reading. Caleb Kaltenbach is ever so brave and gracious to bring his life into the lives of others in order to positively impact communities to address their fear of differences and the unknown.

© 2017 Tijuana L.Canders

Review – Mindfulness on the Run

PSYCHOTHERAPY

Mindfulness On the Run
by Chantal Hofstee
Exile Publishing, 2016
Review by Tijuana L.Canders
Feb 13, 2017

Mindfulness on the Run, is written by Chantal Hofstee, a clinical psychologist from New Zealand. Mindfulness is a released meditation practice which permeates consciousness as not belonged to me, allows for a long period of unlearning and questioning ownership and nature of thoughts.

The book is exceptionally arranged. Hofstee includes insights into how our brains work; to identify the causes of our stress; and to teach us mindfulness techniques. She offers explanations and ideas that, if we follow them, may result in these objectives being met. Her examples often present two sides to a situation to help readers see how using mindfulness compares to not using it.

A major facet of mindfulness is, of course, our thoughts, and Hofstee has included a couple chapters focused on this. As we process our thoughts, it is important to evaluate them for truthfulness and accuracy. It is helpful to identify their source and then to work to change the inappropriate thoughts. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a cornerstone of this effort.

Hofstee explains, “Your brain is constantly changing and adapting based on your experiences. Changing old habits and creating new ones comes with directed and repeated practice of the new way of thinking, feeling and doing. By doing this over and over again, the new pathways will become strong and take over until the new way of thinking and doing becomes second nature.”

In helping us to understand our brain function, Hofstee uses simple, non-medical terms. For instance, she explains that either our brain feels safe (“green state”) or unsafe (“red state”). An in-between “orange state” exists as a neutral ground where ideas and goals are formulated that will move us into a green state, and Hofstee provides many good examples of movement between these states.

The final chapter titled, “Mindfulness and Self-Compassion” encourages readers to recognize and acknowledge the need for greater personal mindfulness. ‘A busy life, one which needs Mindfulness on the Run, is also likely full of stress and self-criticism.’ For those who have not explored mindfulness much, especially because they haven’t had or made the time, Mindfulness on the Run can be a good read and place to begin.

© 2017 Tijuana L. Canders

Review – Voices of Caregiving

SELF-HELP

The Healing Companion: Stories for Courage, Comfort and Strength
by The Healing Project
LaChance Publishing, 2008
Review by Tijuana L. Canders
Jan 27, 2017

Voices of Caregiving subtitled The Healing Companion: Stories for Courage, Comfort and Strength is a comprise of congenial collective stories strategically introduced under the umbrella of The Healing Project, in an act of other caregivers’ surrendering their openness to serve as a focal point of connection to the community through stories of compassions, vulnerabilities, fears and victories in order to provide awareness of the role of caregiving and the permeable aspects of such a role as well.

Preludes of four to five short stories are followed by highlighted segments on the subjects of Palliative and Hospice Care with a continual flippant of the educational awareness for someone searching for such material for a loved one and then shares the intimate stories again for the benefit of emotional healing for the reader.  Cynthia X. Pan the author of this section on Palliative and Hospice Care uses an indebt educational tone in thorough overview which helps give a clear presentation of careful researched material regarding common resources used, relations in medical coverage and the patients’ needs of medical entitlement in connection with both areas.  Pan explains that Palliative care begins very early on as soon as a serious illness is diagnosed, working alongside primary doctors, geriatricians, and neurologists should not be finalized as the withdrawal of care or giving up, but should be thought of as the involvement of intensive, highly sophisticated medical interventions intended to relieve suffering, improving the quality of life stating that Hospice closely follows the same adherence of comprehensive team based services for the last stage of life, and follows the bereaved caregiver for continued support.

The book contains three forewords, Barry Katz ‘The New Frontier of Caregiving’, James Huysman, Psy.D., LCSW ‘America’s New First Responder: Prisoners of Love Today,Sacred Heroes’, Laura Bauer Granberry, MPA ‘The Caregiving Crisis in America’ and an introduction written by Debra LaChance creator and founder of The Healing Project who shares her own personal story of redemption of oneself through the vital connections of others stories that helped her overcome while battling thru her own journey of breast cancer.

Heartfelt stories written from a streamline of love to grief from other caregivers could not be mirrored in emotion to this book.  If I were to write about and rename them all it would be an injustice to the readable material book wise hindering the effect of such a work of art, but I will expand on a few.

In ‘My Own Sixth Sense’ Toni Weingarten, a caregiver as a veteran chaplain, has witnessed a wide spectrum of patients’ family members reactions to the reality of death, from utter turmoil of vicious words spoken relentlessly while grieving to the far end of the celebration of life where the joy of memories balance with the emotions of grief, who learned early on from a wise teacher that as chaplain he was there to be the centering force for them, not to take on their pain. As chaplain today Weingarten holds an optimistic view that this process of life and death is hewn in the love of God and His natural process of human life.

Kay Cavanaugh a nurse who drives to the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the story ‘Ben and the Snow Storm’ though hesitant through a heavy snowfall trudges through the snow to aid her patient Ben, builds a relationship of warmth in times of making home visits there, forgetting the sting of coldness once clinging to her body, embraces the realness of gratitude between herself the caregiver and Ben the cancer patient.  Realizing that if Ben is settled and at peace with the situation at hand himself, then she is more apt to rest herself once leaving his presence.

Or Carla Joinson a Nurse’s Aide in the story ‘Love Is Never Too Old’ whose empty cupboards and bank account initially motivated her to take the position and whose only exposure of the elderly had been to her grandparents realized that she was being prepared for a lesson.  When meeting her patient Eddie, despite the shouts, retardation and crippleness, as with so many other patients residing there, began to appreciate his unique personality.  As time went on through her practice of caregiving she could see Eddie’s gentleness between the shouts and yelps.  She became endearingly flattered of his recognition of her despite his impairment and learned profoundly before moving on to a more successful position that love can come from the most unlikely places.

In ‘Mom Had Alzheimer’s’ Ruth A. Bradwein writes openly about the experience of her mother’s bout with Alzheimer’s disease, recalling points of importance as the designated caregiver for the Alzheimer patient.  Noting that most times her mother’s care involved mutual agreement from her sister which helped ease the decision making task a lot.  Also adding that the time came when an additional need of in home care was trusted to come, in order for her to accomplish other tasks outside of the home greatly, appreciating the respect, self-worth, and allowance for independence shown towards her mother from the extra care received.

Two afterwords were written by Rosemary Laird, MD, MHSA titled Caregivers Seeking Advice: A Doctors Prescription and by Ooi-Thye Chong, RN, MPH, L. Ac. titled When Angels Appeared: Narratives in Complementary Medicine.  Laird’s focus includes five steps to help the caregiver take the proper steps towards comfort and confidence of the patient through illness and possible recovery.  While Chong’s focus is on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), it’s therapies (yoga, meditation, exercises, acupuncture, and herbs) and the use of Complementary Medicine in working capacity with conventional medical treatment.

Voices of Caregiving: The Healing Companion is a text that can be used for physicians, students, patients, family members, and caregivers alike. A wealth of information and resources are located in the back of the book for further knowledge on this subject.  This book was well thought out in order to bring about the right blanket of tones in collaboration with one another for a good read.

© 2017 Tijuana L.Canders

Mad to Glad

CHILDREN’S LITERATURE

Mad to Glad: Mindful Lessons to Help Children Cope With Changing Emotions
by Angie Harris
Mindful Aromatherapy, 2016
Review by Tijuana L. Canders
January 25, 2017

Author Angie Harris highlights children experiencing common daily interactions which may constitute tantrums from children, such as wanting a toy and being told no. Through the eyes of the five ethnically diverse characters, the reader is guided through positive ways of managing common emotions to help children learn ways to identify and handle negative emotions in an effective and focused manner.

The five negative emotions explored are anger, sadness, frustration, fear, and loneliness. With each one, a different possibility to handle the emotion is explained. The emotion is named, then an example of how this emotion might arise is shown through situational experiences. Afterwards an easy action which the reader can imitate is given. The reader is then asked to repeat a simple phrase which will lock into their minds. At the end, there is a Mindful Diary, for children and adults to keep track of the child’s progress.

The lessons in the book include using physical movements to change negativity into positivity, using imagination and dreams to reach goals, using praise and unconditional love to boost your child’s self worth and confidence and teaching the child to stay in the present moment.

Mad to Glad: Mindful Lessons to Help Children Cope With Changing Emotions is a calming book with good advice for parents, teachers or other leading figures to use to help kids deal with their emotions. The advice is sound, and if nothing else, readers will enjoy imitating the methods. A nice plus is the diversity of characters in the illustrations. The illustrations are nicely done and go well with the text. Through them, it’s easy for young readers and listeners to understand the message of Mad to Glad. The writing itself is informative and easy for children to understand.

This is an interesting book for parents, teachers or others to share with children, who might benefit from a way to deal with more difficult emotions.

© 2017 Tijuana L. Canders

Review – Frientimacy

RELATIONSHIPS

Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness
by Shasta Nelson
Seal Press, 2016
Review by Tijuana L. Canders
December 24, 2016

Shasta Nelson has made a career out of understanding, encouraging, and helping women make and maintain healthy friendships. In Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness, she breaks down what we seek in intimate friendships and how we can do our part to attain them.

Friends are important, and developing fulfilling friendships is important. Frientimacy is a “relationship where two people feel really seen in a way that feels satisfying and safe for both of them,” Nelson writes. It is the Platonic ideal of friendship that we carry in our hearts: the friend who is always glad to hear from us, always game for an outing, always listens with love and wisdom. We seek those friends with the wistful longing of preadolescent love, waiting for our own favorite girlfriend to stumble into our lives and sprinkle the fairy dust of frientimacy on us.

When no perfect friend appears, we find ourselves stuck with the imperfect cast of characters already in our lives, our disappointing gaggle of friends. The ones who don’t invite us out enough, who talk about themselves too much, who forget to ask about important events, with whom we struggle to develop anything more than friendly acquaintanceship.

But these are the people, Nelson writes, we should look to for frientimacy. She says, “Many women remain lonely because they think having close friends is a product of discovering the right people. But the truth is that meaning friendship is actually the product of developing the right friendships.” And Nelson goes on to say, “We don’t need better friends, we need better friendships.”

Drawing from her own life, interviews with other women, and research, Nelson explains and provides strategies for developing each side of the triangle, while providing a wake-up call to the ways we ourselves might be contributing to our own dissatisfaction with our friendships. For example, in the chapter on positivity, Nelson examines perceived imbalances of giving and receiving and finds there’s a good chance that if you consider yourself the giver in relationships, other people are thinking the same thing about themselves. You just both might see giving differently.

Part Three examines “Obstacles to Intimacy” — what blocks and errors we might make or encounter that negatively affect our friendships, such as fearing rejection, jealousy, walking away from friendships too soon, or holding ourselves back. Though she writes with compassion, Nelson pulls no punches, urging us to consider whether we are defensive, demanding, or ungenerous towards our friends’ humanity, labeling people “toxic” and walking away too easily.

Nelson admonishes, “Let’s freely acknowledge that we don’t always present to our friends the most enlightened, healthy, and happy versions of ourselves — nor do they. The trick is to judge less, observe more, and continue working on ourselves.”

In Frientimacy, Nelson provides not only a new prism through which to view our friendships and our place in them, but also exercises, concrete ideas, and “Friendspiration” for transforming unsatisfying friendships into something more fulfilling.

 

© 2016 Tijuana L. Canders

Review – Mamaleh Knows Best

PARENTING

Mamaleh Knows Best: What Jewish Mothers Do to Raise Successful, Creative, Empathetic, Independent Children
by Marjorie Ingall
Harmony Publishers, 2016
Review by Tijuana L. Canders
December 21, 2016

Marjorie Ingall blends personal experience, humor, historical texts, and scientific research, in Mamaleh Knows Best to dispel stereotypes regarding Jewish tradition, motherhood, and parenting. Ingall shares Jewish secrets for raising self-sufficient, ethical, and accomplished children. She offers abundant examples showing how Jewish mothers have nurtured their children’s independence, fostered discipline, urged a healthy distrust of authority, consciously cultivated geekiness and kindness, stressed education, and maintained a sense of humor.

Mamelah Knows Best is a 256 page hardcover book written with a strong voice, has an excellent mixture of history, personal anecdote, theology, pop culture, and common sense. It’s an absolute delight to read. You don’t have to have an ounce of jewishness in you to get something out of this book. as the author says, ‘Jewish motherhood is a philosophy, not an identity’! The lessons here are not religious in tone, but they emphasize the jewish values of community, family, reading, awareness of the world around you and your place in it, independence, good deeds without the expectation of praise, and just general integrity.

I loved this book! It’s solid, practical information: building a relationship with your child in discipline and community, the importance of asking questions rather than giving answers, actions over lip service and beliefs, reframing from the actions of helicopter parent, the too-easy-to-praise parent, and valuing the action of tikkun olam (altruism without a superiority attitude), all contribute to shaping children who are kind, independent, ethical, hardworking, creative, generous, and engaged in the world. Mamelah Knows Best is thought-provoking, and Ingall delivers her ideas in a witty, straightforward tone that’s never afraid to point out her own missteps or lend her sense of humor.

Mamaleh Knows Best is an excellent read for expecting parents and current parents who may be searching for a well balanced parenting method to raise children successfully.

© 2016 Tijuana L. Canders

Review – Food With Friends

WELLNESS

Food With Friends: The Art of Simple Gatherings
by Leela Cyd
Random House, 2016
Review by Tijuana L. Canders
November 17, 2016

Food With Friends is written by author Leela Cyd who travels internationally for work teaching workshops and photographing hotels, chefs, and artisans. The book is filled with Cyd’s inspired ideas, beautiful photographs, and tips, from Beets in Coconut with Curry Leaves to Pistachio Rose Clouds and Whiskey-Pepper Magic Shell to drizzle over ice cream.

The book is a collection of Leela Cyd’s recipes gathered during her travels while shooting culinary stories and throughout her childhood in her family’s sunny California kitchen. Cyd learned early on that food and laughter are a universal language and the most valuable currency for making new friends. Cyd’s hope is that her words, tips, and colorful images inspire you to live better in the moment emphasizing eating healthy and expressing your creativity with food that looks and tastes good.

The intention of Food With Friends: The Art of Simple Gatherings is to refine the art of hanging out showing you how to to turn an everyday necessity -eating- into an intentional gesture that sparks creativity. The book includes an Introduction, Index and six chapters, Breakfast & Brunch, Teatime, Happy Hour, Potlucks & Picnics, Desserts, and Tiny Takeaways. Cyd’s  writing and pictures are uplifting, vigorating and pushes the most distant person who is not enthusiastic about cooking to explore the art of cooking with friends. The difference of food is exquisite in introducing vast amounts of culture through culinary. Food With Friends is a great read! Pick up your copy to use during special occasions, holiday seasons and summer events.

 

© 2016 Tijuana L. Canders

 

 

 

Review – Mother, Can You Not?

RELATIONSHIPS

Mother, Can You Not?
by Kate Siegel
Crown Archetype, 2016
Review by Tijuana L. Canders
June 24, 2016

Mother, Can You Not?, is a book written by Kate Siegel based off of the popular Instagram account @CRAZYJEWISHMOM, a collection of essays about life with the woman who she adores and yet feels is controlling many moments in her life. There is nothing more special than a mother’s love but only when that love is directed in giving Kate Siegel her space.

Kate Siegel understood the mother-daughter dynamic uniqueness between her mother and herself, creatively conveying those hilarious conversations on Instagram. After all, take lemons and make lemonade, right? Soon, hundreds of thousands of people were following their daily text exchanges, eager to see what outrageous thing Kate’s mom would do next. Now, in Mother, Can You Not?, Kate pays tribute to the woman who set a trend for the concept ‘concerned parent.’

From embarrassing moments, to outrageous stories, to hilarious celebrations, Mother, Can You Not?, expresses the lengths in which mothers will go to better our lives, even if it means to interject their concerns, opinions, or advice when it is most bothersome to their daughters during the process.

Kate Siegel is a writer and a social media guru. She has been featured on BuzzFeed, Elite Daily, The Huffington Post, Cosmo, Today.com, Vogue.com, in People magazine, and on Nightline. She previously served as an associate producer for Teen Vogue, Bon Appetit, The New Yorker Festival, Conde Nast Traveler, and Self.

Mother, Can You Not? is humorous, sentimental, and enlightening. Kate Siegel implores a message to readers that when you have a close relationship with your mother, you develop a kind of secret language that only you and she understand. Mother Can You Not? is worth the read to learn about a stand-alone relationship between a mother and daughter relationship.

 

© 2016 Tijuana L. Canders