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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: 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: 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: 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.

Book Review: Swear On This Life by Renée Carlino

Swear on this life

3 Stars – Quick, somewhat romantic read. (I swear).

Swear on This Life by Renée Carlino was chosen for a book club that I host, the Edmonton Chapter of The Girly Book Club. Yes, that is a shameless plug.  A “beach read”, which is a novel that I could lay in the sun with and drink slushie drinks while travelling along with Emiline, Trevor, Cara and Jase. The story within a story format is enjoyable and is clearly written for a young adult audience, given its blatant predictability. I appreciate that Emiline’s childhood hardships are explored in a depth that garners sympathy for her adult character. However, that doesn’t dismiss her inability to make decisions or be very self aware into her late 20s.

Late Bloomers

This is a late-bloomer book written in the young adult genre (teenagers as the main characters) since the adult versions of Em and Jase hadn’t had the opportunity to truly come into their own due to their circumstances as children. There is a type of strength that comes with having to grow up when you are still a child and a craving for safety that can be very hard to break out of. Emiline demonstrates this need for safety through her relationship with Trevor. Oh Trevor. Trevor and Emiline. Sigh. They’re that couple that you know. The ones that, from a hundred yards away, strangers can tell that they shouldn’t be together. They’re simply too wrapped up in themselves to care about anyone else. For example:

“He assumed his standard position as he slouched against the cushions, his feet kicked up on the coffee table, his hands clasped together behind his head. It struck me that there was something wrong about his casualness. We had just had a fight, yet his body language suggested that nothing had happened.” (page 95)

Em has her past and Trevor lost everything before he had the opportunity to really have anything. Together, they make a passive aggressive and angry pair.

In Swear on This Life, Carlino made some interesting choices in how she concluded the story (or didn’t). The neat bow Carlino places on many of the characters near the end of the book is surreal.  Real life isn’t like that and maybe that’s her playing with her fiction factor. Overall, a fun, fast read. Solid 3 stars.