The Seasons of My Mother by Marcia Gay Harden

The Seasons Of My Mother by Marcia Gay Harden

My Review:

In The Seasons of My Mother, Well known actress from stage and screen, Marcia Gay Harden, tells the story of her life in the context of memories she has with her mother. Their close relationship is so beautiful and all the more painful as her mother’s memory fades with the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Their mother-daughter bond is unbreakable and based on love, and due to the progression of the disease and the author’s fear that all would be forgotten, it became imperative that stories were recorded.

Remembering the past with family and friends is how we all stay connected, and I applaud Ms. Harden for writing this book honoring her mother, her wisdom, advise, strengths and hobbies in this loving tribute, so her mother can be known and connected to her children, grandchildren and those that come after, and the memories are never forgotten.

This memoir struck a chord with me because my father is living with dementia and although our situations are different, I know from experience, the disease hits hard, stealing memory little by little until there is no recollection of people, language, how to get dressed, how to eat, really anything at all…truly devastating for family and friends to see the person they know and love and not be recognized or acknowledged.

Marcia Gay Harden says “In this book, I do for my mother what she can no longer do. I remember.” I enjoyed getting a glimpse into Marcia Gay Harden’s life and background, and witnessing though stories their powerful mother-daughter relationship. I am a big fan and love her in the movie Pollock and on the TV series Code Black.


For another memoir about dementia, CLICK HERE.

Goodreads Summary

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About Marcia Gay Harden Courtesy of Wikipedia

 

A Marriage in Dog Years by Nancy Balbirer

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My Review: 

A Marriage in Dog Years author, Nancy Balbirer takes us with her on the rocky journey of life as we see her joy filled marriage filled with hopes and dreams blossom then fizzle, at the same time her beloved, terminally ill beagle, Ira struggles to defy the odds and live another day.  From LA to NYC, single to married with a child, from puppy to old dog, and dreams of second chances, so much of life’s ups and downs happen and Nancy keeps you laughing through your tears.

A Marriage in Dog Years is a touching true story is told with honesty and humor, stirring up so many different feelings including love, anger, forgiveness and hope, well written in the author’s unique voice. Balbirer’s story is reminiscent to Sarah Jessica Parker’s hit show, Divorce on HBO – the good, the bad and the ugly truth about the slow death of a marriage, a complex relationship crumbling with regrets and infused with hope for peace and a bright future, with the added bonus of actual puppy love – unconditional and unwavering mutual support and devotion in man’s/woman’s best friend. If you love love, and if you love your pet, this emotional ride is for you!

As Seen on Goodreads:

When Nancy Balbirer learns her beloved eleven-year-old beagle has kidney failure, she’s devastated. She and her husband had gotten Ira as a puppy—a wedding gift to each other, and their first foray into “parenthood.” Now, her dog is terminal, her marriage is on life support, and Nancy is desperate to save them both (whether they want it or not). In a single year, she loses her two best friends, but Nancy’s life is about to take yet another unexpected turn.

With humor and heart, Nancy Balbirer shares her story of relationships, loss, and canine friendship in this illuminating memoir about the lengths people will go to keep love alive…and the power of finally letting go.

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About the Author:

Nancy Balbirer is a writer and performer of stage and screen. She is the author of “Take Your Shirt Off and Cry.” She lives in Los Angeles with her family.

Educated by Tara Westover

Educated by Tara Westover

My Review:

The author’s coming of age in Educated is incredible, tragic, praiseworthy and monumental.  From a young girl loving and believing everything her parents tell her to questioning their logic and actively pursuing different answers and other ways of thinking, Tara Westover has the inherent desire to know more.  Reminiscent of The Glass Castle, Tara lives with her survivalist family in the mountains of Idaho, and similar to  Leah Remini’s account of her time as a scientologist in Troublemaker, Tara begins to realize all she is told may not be the truth and although she is fiercely loyal to her parents and siblings she feels trapped and begins to question their nonconventional, way of life. Continue reading

Option B is a heartbreaking story of loss as well as an inspirational guide to living.

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam M. Grant.

“From Facebook’s COO and Wharton’s top-rated professor, the #1 New York Times best-selling authors of Lean In and Originals: a powerful, inspiring, and practical book about building resilience and moving forward after life’s inevitable setbacks.” Goodreads.
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My review:

Sheryl Sandberg suffered a tragic and unthinkable loss when her husband died on vacation, and just like anyone else, she had to develop coping strategies and solutions to problems in order to work through her grief, comfort her children and get back to living.  Her personal story is honest, devastating and inspiring as she, along with her friend and co-writer, Adam Grant, present a lot of great information and ideas for those who have experienced a loss, also providing advice and suggestions for friends, family and coworkers on how to be supportive and understanding in Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.

The book has expertly woven Sandberg’s personal stories with a more technical approach to grief.  Based on research, Sandberg and Grant suggest recovery from a tragedy can be stunted if you tend to think what happened is your fault, if you believe the bad thing that happened will affect all areas of your life and if you think the feelings of unhappiness will never end.  Once you realize none of these are true, you are better able to cope and are on the road to recovery.

They talk about the benefits of journaling to work through feelings and how to focus on the positives.  Sandberg says “Journaling helped me make sense of the past and rebuild my self confidence to navigate the present and future.”  “Adam suggested I write 3 things I have done well today”.  They suggest that “contributions are active” and they “remind us that we can make a difference”.   Also the suggestion of writing down 3 moments of joy experienced each day helps to remember there are still good things happening.

Another area of helpful advice revolves around building resilience in children and helping them develop 4 core beliefs: “1) they have some control over their lives, 2) they can learn from failure, 3) they matter as human beings, and 4) they have real strengths to rely on and share.”  Sheryl shares conversations with her children and although each person and situation is unique, it gives the reader ideas of how to help children process a death and cope with a painful situation.

In the wake of tragedy and loss we also learn about some possible positive repercussions.  At this crucial time there is opportunity to change your thought process and dig deep.  Post traumatic growth includes “finding personal strength, gaining appreciation, forming deeper relationships, discovering more meaning in life and seeing new possibilities.”

In Option B there are lots of great examples based on experts and research of how to face adversity head on and come out ok on the other side.  In addition, Sandberg talks about her experiences, how she made decisions about the children without her beloved partner, how humor is necessary and plays an important role in resilience and what is helpful to receive in terms of support and kind words from friends, coworkers and others.

This inspirational book is Sheryl Sandberg’s personal story along with fantastic suggestions for things to do and ways to think about life when faced with adversity.  It is a book everyone should read…a great gift as well.

 

As stated in Goodreads:

After the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. “I was in ‘the void,’” she writes, “a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.” Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, told her there are concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. We are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. It is a muscle that everyone can build.

Option B combines Sheryl’s personal insights with Adam’s eye-opening research on finding strength in the face of adversity. Beginning with the gut-wrenching moment when she finds her husband, Dave Goldberg, collapsed on a gym floor, Sheryl opens up her heart—and her journal—to describe the acute grief and isolation she felt in the wake of his death. But Option B goes beyond Sheryl’s loss to explore how a broad range of people have overcome hardships including illness, job loss, sexual assault, natural disasters, and the violence of war. Their stories reveal the capacity of the human spirit to persevere . . . and to rediscover joy.

Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. Even after the most devastating events, it is possible to grow by finding deeper meaning and gaining greater appreciation in our lives. Option B illuminates how to help others in crisis, develop compassion for ourselves, raise strong children, and create resilient families, communities, and workplaces. Many of these lessons can be applied to everyday struggles, allowing us to brave whatever lies ahead. Two weeks after losing her husband, Sheryl was preparing for a father-child activity. “I want Dave,” she cried. Her friend replied, “Option A is not available,” and then promised to help her make the most of Option B.

We all live some form of Option B. This book will help us all make the most of it.

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SHERYL SANDBERG is chief operating officer at Facebook, overseeing the firm’s business operations. Prior to Facebook, Sheryl was vice president of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google, chief of staff for the United States Treasury Department under President Clinton, a management consultant with McKinsey & Company, and an economist with the World Bank.

Sheryl received a BA summa cum laude from Harvard University and an MBA with highest distinction from Harvard Business School.

Sheryl is the co-author of Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resillience, and Finding Joy with Wharton professor and bestselling author Adam Grant, which will be released April 24, 2017. She is also the author of the bestsellers Lean In: Women, Work,  and the Will to Lead and Lean In for Graduates. She is the founder of the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to build a more equal and resilient world through two key initiatives, LeanIn.Org and OptionB.Org (launching April 2017). Sheryl serves on the boards of Facebook, the Walt Disney Company, Women for Women International, ONE, and SurveyMonkey.

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To learn more about Adam Grant click HERE.

Fractured Memories by Emily Page

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Fractured Memories:  Because Demented People need Love, Too by Emily Page.

Emily and her father were extremely close; they had a unique and special father-daughter relationship. In this brutally honest and real book Emily first tells us about her larger than life father in a way we can really get to know and love him as she did; a vibrant, talented and colorful guy. Next, she brings us on her journey as a devoted daughter, caregiver and decision maker as we learn about how dementia manifested in her dad and slowly took him. She bravely offers up her thoughts recorded in her journal during this time and includes her beautiful artwork which depicts her dad, his faltering state of mind, and their relationship as it changed. I laughed and cried through this book as it touched my heart.

If you know me you probably are aware that my father has been living with dementia for almost a decade and my incredibly strong and brave mother is his primary caregiver along with daytime, lifesaving in-home caregivers. Day to day living is consistently stressful and worrisome; riddled with questions where no answers exist and little support is available. The doctors don’t know enough, many caregivers lack proper experience or intuition, most friends and family don’t come around often, and every little household chore becomes a huge burden to tackle. More recently Alzheimer’s and dementia have been in the spotlight due to publicity from news about Pat Summit, Glen Campbell, Ronald Reagan and Robin Williams, but the media (tv, movies, and books) had yet to present to me anything that resembles truly what dementia entails and what my family has been enduring…until Fractured Memories: Because Demented PeopleNeed Love, Too.

 
Its not always as simple as the person with dementia gradually just forgetting things and becoming quiet. It is so much more and so much worse. It’s more like watching your loved one go from being strong, independent, creative and reasonable to not driving, not knowing what to do with a pencil, unable to complete a sentence. Keeping your loved one clean, dressed, safe, fed, distracted, nonviolent, happy and occupied uses up every bit of energy. And if you are lucky to sleep at night you can recharge to be ready to do it all over again the next day, but often sleep doesn’t come because of the worries about money, medications, living situations, proper help, the future…Emily Page offers advise and tips for caregivers, dementia facilities, and friends and family of dementia patients…so many tidbits I have wanted to scream from the rooftops myself! She has touched on just how difficult this disease is for the patient and the family.

 

If you know anyone with dementia or Alzheimer’s – if you are a loved one, a caregiver, a friend, acquaintance, nurse, hospital worker or volunteer, YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK.
If you have lost someone due to dementia YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK.
And even if you have no connection to anyone with this disease YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK.

 

Education and understand can only help lead to new medications and hopefully a cure or preventions and better training, facilities and care for the increased number of people who end up with this devastating and debilitating disease that effects entire families as well as the patient. Kudos to author and artist Emily Page for being honest and truthful in her book and her artwork, and loving and loyal to her wonderful father. May his memory be for a blessing.

 

 

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About the author as stated in Goodreads:

Emily Page is a professional artist and part-time writer. Working out of Raleigh, NC, Page spends most of her time elbow deep in paint, but comes up for air periodically to share her art and thoughts on her blog. She translated her ridiculous musings about her family’s journey through her father’s dementia into a book, Fractured Memories: Because Demented People Need Love, Too, available at http://shop.emilypageart.com/. Follow her on Twitter at @EmilyPageArt23, and read her blog at https://emilypageart.net/.

Nonfiction recommendations for you!

It’s the doldrums of winter and you may have a vacation planned or you may be snowed in, but either way, use any extra time to catch up on your reading, expand your knowledge base, understand others’ perspectives and enjoy a little nonfiction. Here are some wonderful books not to be missed.

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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance
As stated in Goodreads:
From a former Marine and Yale Law School Graduate, a poignant account of growing up in a poor Appalachian town, that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class. Part memoir, part historical and social analysis, J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy is a fascinating consideration of class, culture, and the American dream.

 

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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
As stated in Goodreads:
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor making a living treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. Just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air, which features a Foreword by Dr. Abraham Verghese and an Epilogue by Kalanithi’s wife, Lucy, chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a young neurosurgeon at Stanford, guiding patients toward a deeper understanding of death and illness, and finally into a patient and a new father to a baby girl, confronting his own mortality.

 

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Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
As stated in Goodreads:
From Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo, a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century’s great, unequal cities.

In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human.

 

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Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World by Seth Siegel
As stated in Goodreads:
As every day brings urgent reports of growing water shortages around the world, there is no time to lose in the search for solutions.
Beautifully written, Let There Be Water is and inspiring account of the vision and sacrifice by a nation and people that have long made water security a top priority. Despite scant natural water resources, a rapidly growing population and economy, and often hostile neighbors, Israel has consistently jumped ahead of the water innovation-curve to assure a dynamic, vital future for itself. Every town, every country, and every reader can benefit from learning what Israel did to overcome daunting challenges and transform itself from a parched land into a water superpower.

If you want to learn more about how you can help with the water crisis check out Innovation Africa, a worthy organization that is making a difference.

 

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Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
As Stated in Goodreads:
Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.