Book Review: Into The Magic Shop by James Doty

Book Cover for Into the Magic Shop by James Doty, MD

“Into The Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart” by James R. Doty (MD) has a bit of magic that everyone should know. 

Magic – What more could a young boy, on the cusp of adolescence, want?

Magic is something that Doty has chosen to share with the world and I am ever so thankful that he did. Doty has a sincere, and yet objective, tone throughout “Into The Magic Shop”, even as he recounts his past. A past that is no doubt painful and difficult. Yet, his retelling of his childhood family experiences are portrayed with the child-like lens that he experiences them through.

“My family had little money, and I was often hungry. I didn’t like being hungry. I didn’t like being poor.” (pg 13)

As he paints a picture of his nowhere town, it is clear that Doty was quite aware as a young child – although this could be contributed to his abusive and neglected upbringing, as a hyper-awareness can develop in the name of safety. Doty recounts the negative and positive about his childhood and the full perspective truly helps to bring the story to life.

I found early on that we had something in common: we each had a wooden box where we would keep prized possessions. For Doty, his items were: a notebook of doodles, poetry and random facts, along with a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People. I found it fascinating that someone so young had a copy of a book that most adults won’t even bother to read today. Knowing he cares enough to study himself at a young age, I am more than happy to join him on his adventure to the magic shop.

Enter Ruth (or rather, enter Jim).

Before he enters the magic shop in town to find another thumb (if you do magic tricks, you’ll understand why losing your thumb can be a bummer), Doty has only been known by Bobby. When he enters the shop though, he tells the older lady behind the counter that his name is Jim. Instead of a thumb, he finds Ruth casually sitting behind the counter of the store, admitting to hold a seat until her son returns. Ruth is quite the intuitive and Jim is inherently drawn to her. They converse about how often Jim practices magic and as they continue to discuss magic’s inner workings, with Jim’s aware nature at the fore, Ruth’s first bits of mind blowing wisdom bubble up:

” “I think the magic trick works because people see only what they think is there rather than what’s actually there. This thumb tip trick works because the mind is a funny thing. It sees what it expects to see. It expects to see a real thumb, so that’s what it sees. The brain, as busy as it can be, is actually very lazy. And yes, it also works because people are, as you said, so easily distracted.” ” (pg 21)

Quote - Everyone should have their minds blown once a day Neil deGrasse

Ruth’s insight into the mind is a tell for the wisdom she passes on to Doty. Once he agrees to her teaching him the ultimate trick, he anticipates learning but… not exactly the lessons that Ruth has in mind.

Ruth’s Tricks

Ruth teaches Doty daily for the duration of his summer and passes on to him the following four tricks:

Trick #1 – Relax the body

For anyone who practices meditation, this is the first step. Using breathing techniques paired with muscle relaxation, Doty learns to relax from toes to head (yes, in that order).

Trick #2 – Tame the mind

Thoughts are traffic in the mind. There are ones that we are very aware of (“I need to get out of bed”) and some that are automatic or learned (“Breathe in, breathe out” or “I’m just like my mother”). This step is difficult to get your head around, especially if you are someone who wants to action/fix/tend to each thought. Taming the mind is not about clearing it but watching it. Your mind will think regardless of whether you attend to it or not. Let it go. This is where Doty learns about mantras.

Trick #3 – Opening the heart

Ruth’s lesson here is succinct but this lesson is the hardest for Doty (and arguably anyone) to grasp: “But here’s the trick about the things that hurt us and cause us pain – they also serve an amazing purpose. When our hearts are wounded, that’s when they open. We grow through pain. We grow through difficult situations. That’s why you have to embrace each and every difficult thing in your life.” (pg 90). Something that we need to do may be simple but it may not be easy. It could be leaving a non-fulfilling but comfortable friendship. It could be forgiving someone. This trick is all about unconditional love, giving and receiving it. “What matters is that you have an open heart. An open heart connects with others, and that changes everything.” (pg 105).

Trick #4 – Clarifying your intent

Today this would be called manifestation or visualization. I love this title for the exercise, as it gets to the human side. It’s about the feeling that is achieved when the goal or mission is carried out. Digging deep into belief, this exercise shows the practitioner that they are capable of achievement and, most importantly, they are capable. Taking the time to add details to the vision every time creates a compounding effect that helps the vision to become a reality.

Mariner's Compass - Pointing South EastNow that he knows what to do, what does Doty do with his lessons from Ruth?

Doty’s Journey

Ruth’s lessons and her time with Doty is only the first half of the book.  Doty’s continues on his journey into the medical profession. He creates a Goliath set of mistakes for himself. Then he returns to the employ of each of Ruth’s tricks. This makes up the second half. The latter part of the book is as important and impactful as the first. I am thankful for his work with the practitioners that he is fortunate enough to partner with. The second part is where Doty truly finds meaning in opening his heart and clarifying intent.  Don’t miss out on that – it’s a beautiful journey. If you want to go on your own journey, there is a plethora of extra information: exercises, podcasts, and a reader’s guide.

What I love most about this book is how it integrates so closely with what I’ve learned in The Happiness Advantage, Emotional Overeating, and The Thank You Economy. Learning about different ways to work with my mind and enhance my experience of life exhilarates me and encourages me to keep going.

Certainly a must read for anyone who is interested in: meditation, creating life goals or purpose, exploring how their mind works, and/or is curious about whether or not the tricks work.

 

Book Review: My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises Cover - a little blonde girl is standing next to a large black dog looking out into the distance

A Girl, Her Grandmother, Their Fairytale

I read Fredrik Backman’s My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises as the May selection for The Girly Book Club. If you’re a gal who loves to read and you’d like to get together with other gals in your area to read a book that the club is reading internationally, find your club here. Reviews for other GBC books can be found here and here.

Relationships are important

The key point in this book is that relationships are the cornerstone of one’s life. Don’t underestimate them and ask questions so you can build understanding about the other person. Elsa’s grandmother patiently answers all of Elsa’s questions with an honesty that is gifted to grandmothers. Their relationship is clear and strong, as Elsa is bullied at school and struggles to make sincere connections with others.

“…life saving and driving people nuts are Granny’s superpowers. Which perhaps makes her a bit of a dysfunctional superhero.” (pg 3)

Granny is the catalyst to everything in this tale. She’s the true protagonist (and possibly antagonist, depending on which character’s point of view you take). Elsa and her Granny get into all sorts of troublesome situations, which I personally enjoyed. I loved that Granny would do what she pleased, even go so far as to fling poop at police. She protects Elsa in her way, using her super powers of story-telling and detail to weave an alternate reality for Elsa. This alternate reality is called the Land-of-Almost-Awake. It is a reflection of reality: elaborate kingdoms, citizens that are tangled up in wars, royals that rule the lands.

The Gift

As a knight in the Land-of-Almost-Awake, Elsa is required to take on missions and complete them. Her grandmother conjures the most detailed quests for Elsa, putting her utmost faith in her ability to complete them. Elsa, curious about the meaning of the missions, takes them on due to her knightly pride. She is a knight of the Land-of-Almost-Awake and she will not forsake her duty. Plus, her only friend in the world (her grandmother) is trusting her to complete them, regardless of how hard they may seem to an almost eight year old.

“You’re not a little kid Elsa. You always say I should treat you like a grown-up. So stop answering me like a little kid. Why do you fight?” (pg 61)

Wanting to be treated like an adult is one of Elsa’s most endearing traits. What child doesn’t want to be a part of the adult conversation? To have their voice heard and their opinion respected as part of the decision making process? I was like Elsa as a child. I loved listening to adult conversation, trying to navigate what they were talking about, enjoying listening to different points of view and deciding which camp I fell into. Blessed to have a mother who would indulge in my quest for knowledge, my questions were answered. Had I also been blessed with internet at the time, Wikipedia would have been my best friend as well. However, my tool is the dictionary. I loved looking up words to figure out a new context, a new piece to the word puzzle.

Delivering Letters

As with all good things, they must come to an end. It is fairly clear from the beginning of the story that Elsa is going to experience her own loss and coming of age. Elsa is set to go on the greatest scavenger hunt of them all while dealing with the new emotions of grief, loss, anger and forgiveness. She sets out on her journey to deliver the first letter, along with Granny’s regards and apology.

Elsa’s Granny is the best schemer of all time. She has taught Elsa that everything has meaning, even if she doesn’t understand it right now. In order to have no fear during that time of ambiguity, Granny sends her on this journey to meet people that she’s been living around her whole life but doesn’t know who they are. As she delivers letter after letter, Elsa discovers people. She discovers their messiness, stories, and love. As each of the surface level characters are taken to a depth of 1000 feet, it is apparent that Elsa is meant to come of age with a community that has been encouraged to circle her with what love they can give.

Receiving Love

Elsa is experiences love from the adults closest to her – her mother and Granny. However, she’s the subject of the bully’s attention at school. If you haven’t ever been bullied or witnessed it, the account that is in this novel is a fairly accurate one. You learn to run, quickly. Learn to avoid certain places at certain times. Perpetuate the fear outside of the bullying environment. Being bullied results in being hyper-aware and distrustful of people. Elsa is keenly aware of her predicament and wants to have friends her own age, to feel the friendly love that familial love cannot provide. Outside of your immediate circle, it is an incredible blessing in life is to receive love.  Friends love you for who you are, who you are becoming and, most importantly, they grow with you.

Through Granny’s letter delivery quest, Elsa begins to realize that she has an ability to connect with people. Her interpersonal skills aren’t always on point but what almost eight year old has refined that super power? Elsa begins to cultivate the respect that her neighbours had for her Granny, sometimes changing it into love for herself, as she worked through her grief. This mature little girl receives love in so many ways: people taking the time to drive her, hearing the content of the letters, saving her from bullies, accompanying her on walks. It was an impressive coming together of the characters from the Land-of-Almost-Awake. As Elsa discovers each of them as their characters, she has an automatic connection with them. After all, the master tale spinner has been helping her to understand them in fairy tale form for most of her life.

Overall…

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologizes is a book that takes the reader through the Land-of-Almost-Awake and drowns them in the theme of humanity, particularly relationships. Elsa’s story picks up steam with the final quest, this book is an impressively simple read that is slow to start. Start to finish this one!

Four stars!

(PS I picked up the British version and loved it. Reading it with an accent and learning some new vocabulary was fun!)

Book Review: The Silent Cry by Cathy Glass

Book Cover for The Silent Cry by Cathy Glass - a girl is sitting on a swing looking up over her left shoulder at the camera

Mental Health is pervasive and Kim’s story adds to the discourse.

Regular readers of my blog know that I am in absolute love with the Cathy Glass collection. In “The Silent Cry” by Cathy Glass, mental health has a large focus and Cathy’s approach to it is amazing. As this is a book set in earlier years, I am pleased to be part of Cathy’s younger world as I am guilty of having read her books horribly out of order. I enjoy the different dynamic between Cathy and her young children, Adrian and Paula.

However, this capturing of Kim’s story is truly a story about the interconnect of relationships that each of us go through, along with the thought process that a friend has when there are clear signs that her friend is struggling. This is the first in the series that I’ve seen a disrupted and changing storyline in terms of the children that are coming into Cathy’s care. In this book, you get to experience her mainly providing respite (short term care). As she is doing this, she is also worries about Kim’s mom. Cathy’s experiences with Kim’s grandmother, which are quite cold, do little to quell her concerns.

After quite a length of time, Cathy is able to get through to the family that is covering up a mental illness. Finally, Kim’s mom receives a diagnosis of post-partum psychosis. This is a rare development that can occur after pregnancy and is treatable. After all the adults involved come together to help, Kim’s mom is on the road to recovery and health.

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Mental health is an important matter! Please ensure that you and your loved ones encourage each other to receive help when it’s needed. There are qualified, professional people in your area who are able to help by phone, email or in person.

Need help? Google “*City Name* Mental Health”. 

Book Review: The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

The jist – Thank your community.

A shoutout – This review is courtesy of my brother. Thank you G for turning me on to Gary, he’s been influential in the way I approach life and grind. I’m pretty blessed to have a brother who motivates, inspires and runs alongside me.

Onto the book.

First, Mr. Vaynerchuk owes me a neck massage. While reading, my head bobs like I’m constantly checking to make sure the sky and ground are still there. His message is simple, straight forward and courageous. I say courageous because there are so many executives, business owners and leaders who are afraid. Afraid to lose control of their brand, afraid to change. When you have courage, you have the ability to stand for what is right, regardless of how hard it is.

When you’re a:

-Leader, part of your job description is to be courageous (even if it doesn’t say it in the black and white).

-Good community member, you talk to your neighbours.

-Great friend, you take care of your friend’s cats when she’s away.

Bingley the Cat trying to read The Thank You Economy

We’ve gone back in time

All of those courageous and kind acts are reminiscent of a time when we said “hi dee ho neighbourino” and waved at the neighbour who was mowing their lawn. As Vaynerchuk points out, consumers used to have a lot of power. Over time, that waned and the consumer didn’t have a customized or even friendly experience with their retailers any longer. They were numbers with dollars and little sense. With the advent of social media, we’re back in the driver’s seat in a different way – and business is slow to respond. Government is even worse. They’re still trying to “engage” with letter drops. (Seriously).

When the consumer has the power, they have the capability to talk. To have an opinion. After being quiet for so long, having a global platform to stand on and either sing praises or expose an injustice is a right.

I think that building these expectations back into our consumerism is a step in the right direction. Being heard is a basic human need and we want to be heard by the people and companies that we invest in. Additionally, putting down a foundation of manners, trust, and courage in our business practices and economy will determine how our next cycle goes. There is a significant shift coming in the workforce and to ignore the direction the ship is turning in is a mistake.

What’s that? Millennials?

Yep, we’re here and we’re most definitely reading these type of books. Those of us who want to grind, who want to work, who want to build our surroundings, are nose deep in these books. Millenials pay attention to where we are going, to what the successes who came before us said to do and, most importantly, we experiment then leverage. We take the time to do something like creating an Instagram account and saying thanks to everyone who gives us a heart. We tweet a thousand times during one election night and respond to others who are also reacting. The reality is that, because we’re more connected, we expect to be able to connect in our jobs, our homes, and our families. At work, we expect that we are going to be good brand ambassadors for the company, if we’re given some latitude to do so.

For example, during a sales job when I was younger, I was activating two cell phones. One for a father and another for his daughter. Usually an activation like this would take an hour, max. Well, turns out this gentleman was new to Canada, therefore he had no credit. The company I was activating him with was risk adverse but I worked with them to get both activated with a reasonable deposit. The total time? 8 hours. Every time the gentleman walked in the store from that day on, he refused to let anyone else help him. We had shopping appointments.

The moral? Anyone who is worth their ilk has their own equivalent of Gary’s wine delivery and making dinner stories.

The question? What’s your story? What has someone profusely said thank you to you for?

These people are your rock stars. You don’t need to worry about them or their work ethic. Likely, those people will grow… and leave the company.

Investing in Others

I learned that people will leave your team. It’s how you welcome new people and thank the ones leaving that matters. Our practice is cake, lunch and a card – no matter if you’re coming or going. Sometimes we have cake because it’s Tuesday. Most importantly, we train and work together as if we’re going to be together forever. We take the effort to build high performing people and treat each other as team members because that’s what we’ve proven we deserve. Vaynerchuk explains why this type of behaviour is imperative to building a Thank You Economy:

“It’s okay if you put this effort into employees and they still choose to leave for bigger and better positions at other companies. You want ambitious people on staff, and it’s inevitable that ambitious people will be on the lookout for new opportunities. Even if they leave, your efforts will not have been wasted, for you will be developing your company’s reputation as a place where people in your field can grow their careers. That’s the kind of reputation that attracts the best and brightest, which is exactly what you want working with you.” (pg 101)

 

The Takeaways

I’m a big believer in takeaways. Any time that I spend intentionally I expect to have a return. With The Thank You Economy, there were so many takeaways that I would simply be giving you the book.

My top five were:

  1. Be human – and remember that you’re interacting with other humans. They aren’t dollar bills and they appreciate honesty.
  2. Companies need a Chief Culture Officer – This person can help take your company from okay to amazing.
  3. TRUST YOUR PEOPLE – I had to yell that one. Your people are your business and they’re the ones who your customers rely on to deliver. Trust them with your brand and if one makes a mess, don’t punish the rest.
  4. Invest in a social media team – It’s not a fad or “all the rage”. Social media is part of the fabric of our society and if you’re not on the train, talking to people, you’re not going to know what they want.
  5. Give quietly – Don’t give money because someone hearts your Instagram photo. That’s slacktivism at its finest (Google is your friend). Give to initiatives and charities that matter to you. Donate your time to gain experience in your community. Stop shouting from the rooftops that you’re doing a thing and just go do it.

Is this book for you?

I would highly recommend anyone to Gary Vaynerchuk’s content, including this book. The reality is that, as a community, we are lucky to have someone like Gary to lead us through the fold of social media. We need to make sure that people who are visionary are listened to because they know what’s coming. They see it before we do.

Social media is here to stay. Doing business in today’s world means that you have to be in tune with the people who haven’t spent a dime in your store but want to know about your company AND in tune with the customers who are already buying from you. It’s all about relationships and relationships aren’t easy, they take dedication and effort. Sincere effort that is.

If you’re looking for advice on how to use social media in your company, I would recommend taking this book and studying it. Gary makes all the points you need to know and if you follow it, you’ll still be miles ahead of the competition.

Solid five stars from this gal.

 

Book Review: Another Forgotten Child by Cathy Glass

Another Forgotten Child by Cathy Glass

A true story about a girl named Aimee.

Aimee is a child who slips through the cracks of the foster care system. As with Faye and Lucy, Aimee comes into Cathy’s care. Throughout the book, I am spellbound by the sheer amount of difficulty that Cathy has with this placement. “Another Forgotten Child” is unlike the other two Cathy Glass books I have read in that Aimee’s mother is well versed in the foster care system, as her other children were taken into care earlier in their lives.

Aimee should have followed her siblings into care. With her family history, she should have been in care from the time she was young. Unfortunately, she is not and the level of social knowledge that Aimee brings with her to Cathy’s home demonstrates her street smarts. This includes, at a tender young age, a knowledge of men that she discloses to Cathy and could be triggering for readers.

Difficult, to say the least

Cathy’s experience with Aimee in the household living alongside her two older daughters is a trying one. Aimee reminded all the family members of a previous foster child who suffered from mental illness. The interesting part of this placement is the role that Aimee’s mother wanted to play. Due to her previous involvement with the system, Susan is well aware of her rights and exercises them. Additionally, she encourages Aimee to game the system as well. It is not surprising that Aimee adheres to her mother’s requests. Her normal is with her mom.

As an experienced foster carer, Cathy reflects on this mother-daughter relationship throughout the book:

“Having met Susan, I guessed Aimee and her mother had thrived on the drama of confrontation and I wasn’t going to be drawn down that path. Aimee needed to learn to do as the adult looking after her asked, as it was for her own good.” (pg 89)

Even though she loses ground with Aimee after every interaction with her mother, Cathy dutifully tries to work with Susan. She tries to speak directly with her. She tries to reason with her. Encourages Aimee to have positive interactions with her mom. Unfortunately, Susan isn’t having any of it.

Getting to Something Better

The entirety of this journey is not lost. Cathy eloquently takes the reader through the ending of Aimee’s story. Given the delicateness of the situation and her personal struggles with this family dynamic, it is an incredible and beautiful ending.

Recommend for anyone who is interested in: the experiences of foster carers and will not be triggered by stories of child abuse, sexual abuse or neglectful parents.

Book Review: Broken Angels by Gemma Liviero

Broken Angels by Gemma Liviero4 Stars. Pull on the heartstrings.

Broken Angels by Gemma Liviero was chosen for a book club that I host, the Edmonton Chapter of The Girly Book Club. This is the third book that I have read as part of the international book club and I am more impressed than I was with Swear on This Life by Renée Carlino.

I’m a sucker for novels with different points of view in them.  Using this skill speaks to the author’s ability to weave tales from the same tapestry, pairing with their imagination to bring each of those characters to the forefront. In Broken Angels, we have three characters: Elsi, a girl left in the ghetto; Matilda, a girl ripped from her home; and Willem, a Nazi doctor.

Three people, living through World War II, each with their own fears and perceptions. Each needs to know exactly is happening and their role in it. With something as large as war, the need to know is unsatisfied and each chooses to embrace their situation. They fight their own war, with hope of continuing their lives in peace.

Liviero is an artist with emotion. She encourages you to read a little further which propels you into the next character’s storyline.  You get some answers you beg for in the previous chapter but fulfillment comes upon return to that character.

In a novel with revolving viewpoints, each character has their own inner life and Liviero delivers. The following three quotes are from the Elsi, Matilda, and Willem respectively.

A thick cloud of smoke hangs above the city. Someone yells that there is another fire. There are whistles in the distance. A fire truck speeds down the center of the road, narrowly missing an elderly man who is crossing. One more life gone would not make a difference. (Elsi, pg 111)

 

Since we have come into the house, we have not discussed our future escape, thought the thought is still there. Commander once asked me about my parents and to describe where I lived. The officer who stole me did not write down where I came from in the brown file that has my name on the front. I did not tell Commander anything in case one day I do escape, and the child thief, Herr Lehmann, has hopefully forgotten where he has stolen me from. (Matilda, pg 346)

 

It was no one’s fault – a premature birth, a medical anomaly – and yet I remember the promise I made to be with her at the hospital. Perhaps I would have noticed her fever before it was too late. (Willem, pg 221)

The novel teems with structure and chaos on a background of loss. Each character loses along the way and each gains. It is a tale that is for those who are interested in the human perspective of World War II, have a strong stomach (there are quite a few ghastly scenes), and want a great read.

I am now a fan of Liviero’s and will look forward to more books by her in the future.

Book Review: Can I Let You Go? by Cathy Glass

 

Can I Let You Go? Cathy Glass

A true story about a girl named Faye.

After reading about Lucy in “Will You Love Me?”, I am hooked on Cathy Glass’ books. She creates intrigue about her career as a foster carer. I am drawn in by the histories of the children she fosters, and am inspired by her ability to work through many difficult issues with grace and dignity.

Faye’s time with Cathy is different. Cathy cares for younger children and teenagers, not adults. Faye is cognitively disabled and comes to Cathy’s care when she is in the third trimester of her pregnancy. She is like a child in many ways.

“Reassured, Faye turned her attention to what was going on outside, gazing through the window with the intrigue and wonder of a child.” (pg 71)

A lot of Cathy’s previous training and experience with younger children is used during Faye’s stay. Thankfully, Cathy’s three children (including Lucy) are older, in their late teens and 20s, and are able to help support Faye wherever they can. Cathy explains in each book that fostering is a family experience and choice. The decision to take on Faye and her baby eventually poses challenges for each of the family members and they make it through each difficulty as a team.

Spoiler alerts below!

When Faye first meets Cathy and her family, she is adamant about not referring to her baby. She is avoiding emotional attachment and prefers to avoid the topic all together. Cathy struggles with how she is going to help Faye prepare for the final trimester of her pregnancy and ultimately the delivery. Also, there’s the aspect of who-dun-it. Who is the father of the baby? Was Faye taken advantage of?

Faye continues attending her prenatal appointments and experiences changes in the baby’s physiology, she broaches the subject of wanting to keep her baby. There are concerns as to whether or not Faye would make a fit parent but those on her care team oblige with her wishes. They work diligently to have her trained and evaluated after the baby is born at a centre and take on the task of informing her grandparents and the adoptive parents of her decision.

There is little time for Faye to learn an immense amount of information that new parents are expected to. Her delivery is soon. Cathy is by Faye’s side as she goes through labour. She hopes that the new information shared and practiced with Faye has stuck. A few days after the birth, Faye confides in Cathy:

“There’s too much to learn…lots and lots of things I can’t remember.” Page 265

The reality of her ability to care effectively for her child is apparent to Faye. She agrees to go through with the original adoption.

Sounds like a happy ending for all right? Well, there’s one more plot twist but I’ll let you find out what that is.

Onto my next Cathy Glass book!

Book Review: The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

The Happiness AdvantageThe Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work

I am a self-admitted self-help junkie and The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor is like those first few drops of rain after a hot week – refreshing and welcomed. Personally, I have found that work places are perceived as places to escape from and we seem to think that we’re clever in how we do that. Vacation, sick days, personal days, quitting.

Try taking a different approach to work – My mindset is that I’m there for a third of my day anyway, might as well make it great. That mindset has paid off. I love going to work. I love my job (and no, not just the people). Yes, I admittedly get frustrated, annoyed, and flabbergasted sometimes. It’s about 5% of the time. As with Shawn’s research, it has taken me years (not decades, I’m not old enough for that yet) to figure out happiness at work. I’m excited to share this book with you because it is based in science.

Bill Nye It's Science

Why is this book great?

  1. Accessibility – the language is plain, the actions are clear and manageable.
  2. Stories – there is a healthy smattering of relevant tales throughout.
  3. Actionable! – Bring each of the principles to life in a series of small actions.
  4. Acknowledges the human factor – written by a human, for humans. Not just those with big brains.

“Person-activity fit” is often just as important as the activity itself…Find a personally tailored substitute instead. (pg 51)

Achor expands on seven principles as methods for gaining the Happiness Advantage for yourself, if they work for you. However, if you try them and they don’t jive with your mojo, it’s okay. It’s a starting point. For me, yoga rocks my socks and my hubby thinks it’s awkward and breathing in a specific way is weird. Instead, he prefers to play strategy games. Find your thang.

The Seven Principles and My Findings

Dicing up the big idea of happiness into seven principles makes the idea of achievement much more real:

  1. The Happiness Advantage

    The Zorro Circle

    The Zorro Circle

  2. The Fulcrum and Lever
  3. The Tetris Effect
  4. Falling Up
  5. The Zorro Circle
  6. The 20-Second Rule
  7. Social Investment

First, readers can consume this book in bits. Achor writes for the average person and encourages taking a break from section to section allows for digestion of the material. I find that I get the most from self-help books when I take the time to read, relax, perceive and action.

Second, readers are encouraged to experiment, which I love to do. I personally tried The Tetris Effect and The 20 Second Rule. I’m still using them a month after reading this book and am seeing results. That is exciting for me. Here’s what I did:

The Tetris Effect:

One great way to train your brain to look for the positives is to practice reciting or recording gratitude’s. The best practice is to ritualize the task, choosing a daily time to stop and record or recite the things you’re grateful for. (p.102)

I started a ritual of taking two minutes during my morning routine to write down what I am thankful for in four areas of my life:

  1. Life – the grand, overarching narrative that I walk through every day.
  2. Career – the recording of my contribution to others. I include my writing career and my personal endeavours to help in here.
  3. Job – the tasks I do at work, the people I work with, the relationships I have in the workplace, the initiatives I’m involved in.
  4. Relationship – the intimate relationship I share with my hubby.

T

Personally, the afterimage is real. I discover more positive experiences throughout my day, I am more patient and calm with others and I smile each time I think then write what I am thankful for.

The 20 Second Rule:

If we can lower barriers to activation for positive activities, we can begin to form habits. Likewise, if we raise barriers to activation for negative activities, we can break those habits. (p.154)

Essentially, “make it easy to go right and hard to go wrong” (Gretchen Rubin). After clearing this experiment with the hubby, I moved our PS4 controllers across the house, about 15 seconds away from the living room, in an effort to curb my Netflix/Anime/TV habit. I placed books in the living room instead and within a few days, I was reading more. The controllers haven’t made it back into the living room and I’m more productive for it.

This principle is fun to try in other areas too! I aim to be focused in whatever work I am doing and my phone is a major distraction to that. So, I turned off all notifications except for phone calls, installed an app called BreakFree. The app tracks your unlocks, blocks notifications and alerts you after you’ve been using your phone for a preset amount of time. After tracking for two weeks, I have noticed habits of mine. For example, I will check my phone a LOT if I’m bored. I also don’t miss those Facebook, Instagram, email and other notifications. Nothing has been so pressing that it can’t be attended to in 20 minutes or more.

At the end of the day…

I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for ways to better themselves. It is so important to find useful information and methods that answer why and whether it will work. I would find something within the book that speaks to me, try it out and see if it works. I sincerely believe that what you get out of this book is truly going to be the effort that you put into finding with works for you.

Book Review: Stuffed by Patricia Volk

Volk Stuffed

Stuffed by Patricia Volk was one of those books I couldn’t finish reading.

As a reader, if I am struggling with a novel, I try twice to give it a chance to wiggle its way into my heart. Stuffed is one of those novels that had the change and doesn’t make the cut. The appeal to ead about a restaurant family includes the restaurant and less about the interpersonal relationships in a family.

I am a narrative reader, and in this book, the train of thought is a cataclysmic mess, with stream of consciousness taking place for the duration of my experience. Time and place have no context, no clear movement from one to the other. It is like a conservation with an elderly person who you’ve asked to share their life story. Now they are fifty and in the next breath nineteen. It is mind numbing to read.

Finally, the triggers in the book is what made me set it aside for good. The way Volk’s mother speaks and acts toward her is disgusting and I chose to not endure it:

“What she wantes for me is an even cleaner, thinner, happier life than she has. Mom made me, and now she will make me better. I’m unfinishes, something she can’t stop sculpting, something it’s her job to complete.” (pg 61)

While I can’t recommend this book, I would like to share something with you. Mother’s Day is right around the corner and while Volk had a mother that saw her as not good enough, not thin enough, not anything enough, I hope differently for you. Relationships are important to have and are important pieces of long, healthy lives. The research says so and I’ll share that in one of my upcoming reviews.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

Book Review: Will You Love Me? by Cathy Glass

A true story about a girl named Lucy.

Will You Love Me? by Cathy Glass is a true story about Lucy. She is in Cathy’s care after eleven long years. She experienced neglect, abuse and poor interactions with the UK’s foster care system. Over her mere decade on this planet, Lucy endured many challenges. Multiple moves, with her mom and in the foster system. A lack of proper nutrition.  Very little bonding with her mother. Adult figures came in and out of her life without any intention of parenting her appropriately.

The story follows chronological order, as best as Cathy could piece together. The basis is from the notes taken by various care and foster workers who are in the folds of Lucy’s story. Lucy starts off as an infant with her mother, Bonnie, and is soon in the transient lifestyle. Bonnie reflects on her days before she was a mother and recognizes that her perspective shifted:

“One of the girls had had a four year old child with her, and at the time Bonnie had thought it was wrong that the kindshould be forced to live like that and felt it would have been better off in foster care or being adopted, but now she had a baby of her own it was different; she’d do anything to keep her child.” (pg 19)

As her childhood progresses, Lucy experiences multiple moves – until social services steps in and works to get her into permanent care.

Through multiple interactions at different levels from social services, Lucy’s plight is well documented. Most of her experiences in and out of the care system is retold by Cathy:

“Lucy improved dramatically in the eight months she lived with Annie and her family. She gradually lost her fear of strangers, began playing and talking more, and was starting to catch up with her peer group.” (pg 73)

Understandably, Lucy has challenges and demonstrates ebbs and flows in her adjustment to her carers.

While at Cathy’s, there are serious concerns about Lucy’s ability to make sincere connections with her peer group, dealing with her anger, and her relationship with food:

“…one thing I did know was that the following day, when everyone was at school, I would go online and research eating disorders.”(pg 163)

As Lucy’s carer, Cathy is diligent throughout the book with her discovery and implementation of strategies; all efforts to make Lucy a member of her family. All members of the family love Lucy and express it openly:

“We were through to the living room where my parents gave Lucy her birthday present, and we all watched while she opened it. Lucy had previously told my mother that she wanted to be a famous beautician when she was older and do the make-up for film stars. Now, to Lucy’s unimaginable delight, the present from my parents was a large play beauty salon, set in a big red sparkling case.” (pg 233)

Will You Love Me? is a great book! It is full of moments that are wrenching, enlightening and tough to read. The book is interesting and recommended to anyone learning more about the fostering system, childhood adversity and interesting life stories. There are triggers throughout the book so I would not recommend it to anyone who may share a similar past.

Solid five stars and I am thankful to Cathy for sharing her stories with the world.