Genre: Non-Fiction


Book Review: Rising Strong

September 3, 2015 Book Review 4

Book Review: Rising StrongRising Strong by Brené Brown
Published by Spiegel & Grau on August 25th 2015
Genres: Non-Fiction, Wellness
Pages: 336
Source: complimentary review copy


To say that I am awed by Brene Brown would be an understatement.  Her compassion, knowledge and sheer storytelling ability have me captivated.  I’ve seen her TED talks on shame and vulnerability at least a dozen times; taken her online wholeheartedness workshop; and read all of her books, most recently, Rising Strong.  

The genius of Brene’s book is her ability to weave stories through the teaching of critical new information.  She has her ‘writing voice’ down and it’s so relatable, so humble and at times so raw.  The personal stories she shares in Rising Strong to illustrate the process of becoming wholehearted are the epitome of vulnerability.  She practices what she preaches.

Having read The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly, I knew Rising Strong would be filled with valuable insight. Although I learn best by reading, the new concepts have taken lots and lots of practice to implement.  I still have to go back and re-read sections to be sure I truly understand.  I’m big on lists and steps so having the steps written out for me would have made learning the rising strong concept much easier {I think}.

Reckoning is HOW we walk into our story.

Rumble is to get honest about the stories we’re making up about our struggles, to revisit, challenge and reality-check these narratives as we dig into topics such as boundaries, shame, blame, resentment, heartbreak, generosity, and forgiveness. Rumbling with these topics and moving from our first responses to a deeper understanding of our thoughts and feelings, and behaviors gives birth to key learning about who we are and how we engage with others. The rumble is where wholeheartedness is cultivated and change begins.

Brene uses the quote below as an analogy throughout Rising Strong.  If we allow ourselves that moment when we are face down in the ring to rumble, to get real with the stories we tell ourselves; to silence the self-talk we inflict upon ourselves then we shall be on our way to becoming wholehearted.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.  ~Theodore Roosevelt

Wow.  Reading those words out loud to yourself is like a pep talk from the greatest coach of all time!  Makes me want to dare greatly more!

As the self-proclaimed queen of disengaging and blocking things out practicing this process has been quite eye-opening to me.  Below is the list I made to satisfy my list-making craze:

Rising Strong Steps
1.  Recognize that something is going on within ~ I’m feeling wonky ~ sad, angry, resentful, etc.
2.  What story am I making up about the situation? What conspiracy or confabulation have I invented about the situation? {isn’t that the best word ever? confabulation!}
3.  Figure out what my key learnings are by analyzing the story I make up.
4.  Moving from process to practice = revolution.

I can see Rising Strong becoming an integral course for psychology, sociology and social work majors. It truly would be revolutionary if as individuals, families, employees and leaders we would internalize the process and change the stories we tell ourselves to what is actually true and real. I may be telling myself that you are angry because you’re being quiet and withdrawn when in actuality you are thinking in your head about building a deck. If I had acted on the story in my head and gotten angry or upset because I thought you were angry or upset then the day would have been ruined. may or may not be based on an actual recent occurrence 😉

This book, in fact, all three books should be required reading.
Do yourself a favor and read it. and share it. and do it. revolutionize your life.

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Book Review: Conquer Your Pain in 9 Steps

July 14, 2015 Book Review, Life Well Lived 6

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review: Conquer Your Pain in 9 StepsConquer Your Pain in 9 Steps by Carole Staveley
Published by Influence Publishing on May 1st 2015
Genres: Non-Fiction, Wellness
Pages: 220
Format: Paperback
Source: complimentary review copy


Chronic Pain.  Everything from chronic back pain to chronic toe fungus is like a debilitating descent into Hell.  When first approached about reviewing Conquer Your Pain in 9 Steps I knew I had to get on the blog tour {even though I really try to stay away from tours because of my crazy schedule}.  But, I knew this was a book I needed to read.

At age 18 I was in an auto accident that left me in ICU for three weeks, hospital for three months with a traumatic brain injury,  my entire face reconstructed with titanium plates; I needed a new cornea and eye socket and subsequently required cataract surgery; my left hand and wrist were crushed and had to be re-built and 5 thoracic vertebra were crushed as well as 2 cranial vertebra {I went from 5’2 to 5’1 in an instant – talk about fast un-growth!}.  Although the doctors were incredible miracle workers, there was nothing they could do to prevent the lifetime of chronic pain I was now prescribed.  It’s just something I’ve dealt with.

Fast forward 10 years and a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.  The simple explanation of what is MS?  Multiple scarring of the myelin sheath of the brain which leads to a host of problems, including, but oh so not limited to, chronic pain.

Finally, one of the effects from the accident that I talk about here is chronic migraines.  Did I mention chronic pain is a debilitating descent into Hell?

With all that depressing gunk out of the way, on to the hope-full stuff!  I wanted to summarize how I know what I’m talking about when I talk about chronic pain.

So, there was nothing Carole Staveley could have thrown at me that I didn’t already know.  For the most part, if you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I”m a relatively positive, easy-going kind-of gal.  I have to be in order to keep those pesky triggers away, like stress and pessimism and depression and frustration and anger and, well, you get the picture, right?

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It was refreshing to read a real account of overcoming chronic pain.  Her struggles with diagnosis, treatments and doctors were all completely relatable, especially “it must be in your head.”  Well for me, yeah, it literally is!  I’ve had fun making a joke out of it for years ~ yeah, my brain has been bounced around in my skull and it has a few scars so yes Dr., it IS in my head. 😉

Beginning with “discovering your why,” we learn that developing our ultimate life purpose helps to focus our efforts externally rather than internally.  And on to the chapter to “Never, Ever Give Up” that reminds us it is in overcoming adversity where we find our strength.  The quotes included along with the action steps are both motivating and encouraging.

In my thirties I came to the realization that self-worth is at the heart of so many human behaviors, particularly those behaviors affecting our health and wellness.  If you don’t value yourself, then why would you take on behaviors that are good for your health and self-esteem? (p. 19)

A couple of issues I have with the book is that not everyone has a history of physical activity to fall back on as did Staveley.  She talks about growing up participating in sports and of playing tennis through her twenties.  While it is partially an excuse and partially a handicap, it is difficult to put that first foot forward.  Also, her tips on healthcare professionals to engage with is, while fantastic in that it encourages natural methods as well as western medicine, there’s really no magic wand of how in the world one can afford an acupuncturist, massage therapist, yoga teacher, nutritionist, etc.  The recommendation is to make healthy living a priority and weighing the value of missed work versus the value of a service.

For the most part, Conquer Your Pain in 9 Steps is filled with positive actions to take in order to move from feeling sorry for yourself to making the most of the life you have been given. Staveley has an engaging voice, the book is easy-to-read and broken up into bite-sized pieces.  And there really are great action steps for chronic pain-ers to incorporate into their lives.  I’m not certain the IronMan is for me, but a 5k is in my sights!  Recommended for anyone who suffers from chronic pain.

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To learn more about Carole Staveley visit her Website | Facebook | Twitter.

Many thanks to iRead Book Tours for inclusion in this Book Tour!

For additional thoughts on Conquer Pain please visit the blogs on the Tour Schedule.

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Book Review: An Addict Within

May 17, 2015 Book Review 3

Book Review: An Addict WithinAn Addict Within by Mark Lipp
Published by Naama Group on October 31st, 2013
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 227
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonBarnes & Noble

Full disclosure ~ I received a complimentary copy of An Addict Within from friend and author, Mark Lipp.  These are my own thoughts and opinions and not influenced by our friendship.

There are 22 million addicts in the United States today.  If the average family is four people, then, at minimum, 88 million people in this country are affected by drugs.  That means the epidemic of drug use is surpassed only by the epidemic of shame and damage that an addict’s usage causes to the family.  The damage done to the lives and relationships surrounding the drug addict is almost unimaginable to those who have never experienced it.  It is profound and real to the family, every single minute.

An Addict Within is a parent’s nightmare. Imagine working tirelessly to provide your family with every comfort only to learn your 15 year old beloved first born has been doing drugs since the age of thirteen. Then imagine that no one believes you, as the parent ~ even your partner, your wife, has doubts about your fears ~ then imagine learning your daughter has graduated from the easy stuff to shooting up heroin before the age of 20.

What would you do? Who do you turn to when even your spouse is not concerned {and then later you find out she even enabled and encouraged the drug use}?

When you’re living in the moment trying desperately to fix a situation that no parent CAN fix, how do you cope? How can you continue to be there for your other children when your every waking thought is consumed by the child in trouble? Hardest yet ~ what boundaries do you put in place to protect the rest of the family from your daughter? And how do you protect your own heart?

In this very real journey of one parent’s nightmare through the past eight years of his daughter’s addiction, Mark confronts these very questions. Raw, powerful, and introspective, An Addict Within is like watching a car wreck happen in front of you ~ you can’t look away; you’ve got to know if anyone survives.

Still needing a bit of refinement An Addict Within is not without merit. I would not hesitate to put this book in the hands of any parent I know dealing with an addicted son or daughter. Overlooking some repetitiveness and general “show don’t tell” writing standard to the meat of the story, and you’ve got a great resource for other family members in the same situation. Just knowing you’re not alone makes a world of difference.

I’m not sure how much knowing Mark, with his larger-than-life personality, helped me to see past the arrogance expressed toward his ex-wife and mother of his daughter and son, to the underlying anger, fear and self-recriminations. The arrogance took away from the narrative and focus of the story ~ Mark trying to save his daughter and himself. Mark’s overwhelming need to ‘fix’ his daughter is a clear underlying theme. How Mark learns to deal with his inability to ‘fix’ her is just as revealing.

Mark is a successful business executive, smart, educated, successful and yet, he was not immune to how addiction can tear a family and a father into pieces. An Addict Within is not for everyone. It can be difficult to read, as a parent, the horrors of watching a child struggle with heroin addiction. Reading this book certainly highlights the devastating consequences to an entire family when one struggles with an addiction. The honesty Mark shared in writing this book and sharing with other families is nothing short of courageous.

Learn more about Mark Website | Facebook | Twitter

Nar-Anon Family Groups  Resource to family members of loved ones addicted to drugs.

Al-Anon Family Groups Resource to family members of loved ones addicted to alcohol.




Becoming Clutter-Free While Creating a Capsule Wardrobe

April 26, 2015 Book Review 13

Becoming Clutter-Free While Creating a Capsule WardrobeThe Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up Published by Ten Speed Press on October 14th, 2014
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 207
Format: Hardcover
Source: purchased
AmazonBarnes & Noble


Since purchasing The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I’ve been digesting bite-sized pieces in preparation for a giant overhaul.  Part of my hesitancy in diving into the KonMari concept was that we were moving and renovating our little cabin in the woods.  We are still renovating, so I’ve been mindful of everything I’ve put into the cabin.  My sweetheart; however, has not bought completely into the Kondo method – he’s pretty much the king of pack rats!

Recently, my oldest, Erica, turned me onto the capsule wardrobe, which goes hand-in-hand with the Kondo method.  If you’re thinking {like I did} that a capsule wardrobe is similar to a time capsule you’d only be marginally correct.  Caroline at developed a whole blog around her capsule wardrobe and included handy dandy worksheets for those of us new to the concept.

If you haven’t heard of Marie Kondo’s method of clearing out and cleaning up and if you’re in the market for changing your life, then you need to pick up this tiny book that packs a powerful punch!

[Tweet “If you’re in the market for a life-change, pick up this tiny book that packs a powerful punch!”]

From Japan, Marie Kondo’s claim to fame is helping individuals organize their homes, clear out clutter and ultimately become more productive.

I’ve culled, de-cluttered and donated virtually my whole life it seems, and still, I have allowed the clutter to build up time and time again.  Thinking back to when my kids were much younger and all at home, we would go through cycles of de-cluttering and donating their toys and my books and having just about a day of a blissfully clean and clutter-free home.

In The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up Kondo has developed a specific method to organization and de-clutter that has worked so well for herself and her clients that she can boast to NO client ever falling off the proverbial wagon.  Wow! That is what I call an incredible success.

In her book, Kondo goes into a bit of history of how she came up with her clutter-free method.  It’s interesting to read how alike yet also how different the Japanese culture is from American.  One of the similarities is how we all find ourselves bogged down with clutter and “stuff”  I daresay this has become a universal problem the world over.

With all that said, in my circular Southern manner I promise I’m getting to the point!

My daughters and I have challenged each other to develop our own capsule wardrobes and create a bit of breathing room into our lives.

Using the worksheet and the following questions from Kondo’s book, I have started creating my Spring/Summer capsule wardrobe! I’m saying Spring/Summer because if you’re  at all familiar with Georgia you’ll recall that come about May the temperature is hot and by July it is suffocatingly hot and muggy and stays that way through October.  So rather than creating a 3-month wardrobe, it made more sense for mine to cover about 6 months or May – October.

In the chapter ‘Tidying by Category Works Like Magic’ we learn to begin with our clothes in the KonMari method; starting with shirts.  Laying out all of our shirts on the floor and then picking each one up individually and asking the question “does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it. This is not only the simplest but also the most accurate yardstick by which to judge.”

How does this actually translate into the idea of a capsule wardrobe?

I’ve planned out 46 items that I need in my closet.  Now, once I’ve selected those 46 items out of my current clothes and purchased any items that I’m missing, then I’m on a clothes-spending freeze for the next 6 months.  I won’t need to shop for clothes because I will have a good number of outfits already planned out.  It’s a bit of work on the outset, but I really think having these outfits figured out will save me time in the long run and be so incredibly liberating.

Below is the list of items I decided I would need for the next 6 months.  I’m going ‘shopping’ in my closet this week and packing up what I want to go through for my Fall/Winter wardrobe and donating the rest.  This way, I will only have 46 items on display in my closet.  I also plan to take some photos of outfits I’ve got on hand and tape to the inside of my closet; thus the effortless/easy part of my wardrobe!

My Go To Pieces:

  • 1 boot leg jean
  • 3 capris {jean, khaki, white}
  • 3 shorts {jean, khaki, white}
  • 2 sundresses
  • 2 shift dresses
  • 10 shoes
  • 2 bathing suits
  • 2 cover ups
  • 10 shirts
  • 2 lightweight jackets {jean & ?}
  • 2 purses {red small one + tote}
  • 3 workout pants/shorts
  • 4 workout tops

46 total pieces!

I’ve always been a shirt and jeans and, even more recently, a yoga pants and tank top kind-of-gal, but in this year of living deliberately and adjusting to being an empty nester + young grandmother + I can’t raid my daughters’ closets anymore, it’s probably time I get deliberate in an effortless, comfortable style that is ‘me’ instead of always wearing the latest thrift store find. {whew! what a long run-on sentence! forgive my lack of grammar!}  Also, according to Marie Kondo “If sweatpants are your everyday attire, you’ll end up looking like you belong in them, which is not very attractive. What you wear in the house does impact your self-image.”

This time next weekend I’ll have some images for you.  If you’d like to follow my process of cleaning, clearing, and organizing follow me on Instagram or Facebook.  I’d love to know if you’ve ever considered a capsule wardrobe or if you’ve got one currently {my daughters and I can use all the tips we can get!}.

and if you haven’t picked up Marie Kondo’s book, it’s an education in Japanese culture, organization and a darn good resource to have on hand if you’re tidying up your home, closets or life.


From No Excuses to “Get Pumped Up” or My Top 5 Excuses & The Tips I Use to Overcome

March 11, 2015 Book Review 9

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

From No Excuses to “Get Pumped Up” or My Top 5 Excuses & The Tips I Use to OvercomeThe No More Excuses Diet by Maria Kang
Published by Harmony Books on March 10th, 2015
Genres: Non-Fiction, Wellness
Pages: 224
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonBarnes & Noble

Excuses validate our choices.  They let us off the hook and give us permission to fail.  While psychologically soothing, excuses limit our ability to create opportunities to progress toward personal health.  ~Maria Kang

Somehow I have ended up with a couple of books this month that are all about motivation, habits and the dreaded {by me at least} exercise!  The first one of the month is with the From Left to Write virtual book club.  Not a typical review – more my thought process while reading the book!  Do share your tips in the comments cause I need all the help I can get!

My top 5 exercise excuses of the moment

1.  I don’t have time. . .or like what happened tonight: I’m going to be late to yoga class, and I don’t want to disturb the others.  Then I tell myself I’m being considerate which validates my justification for turning the car around to head home!

2.  I’m too tired. {but why am I tired? is it tired from the day or is it from the multiple sclerosis?  With the first, I should push through; with the second, only legitimate rest helps – which leads back to the question of why am I tired?  It’s an awful loop!}

3.  I’m too sore. {same as above.  Am I sore from the previous day’s walk or is it the multiple sclerosis?}  notice how I snuck in there that it was “from the previous day’s walk” meaning that yes, yes I did get my exercise {hopefully}  it could also be that I’ve told myself the next one ~

4.  There’s always tomorrow. . . .also known as the Scarlett O’Hara syndrome.  A very bad bad syndrome to get caught up in and one that has a habit of drawing me into its’ clutches!

5.  Play the justification game ~ “well, everything I read says it’s 30% exercise and 70% nutrition…I’ll just eat {insert either less or better depending on the moment!}

Now, my top 5 get pumped up resources

1.  Loud music.  Typically the first few songs on the Pink channel of Pandora are enough to get me moving.  Once I turn the music up it’s impossible to not move.

2.  Listen to motivational podcasts.  Michael Hyatt and Chalene Johnson are my current go-to’s for motivation.  In fact, Chalene Johnson has one podcast just for me that gets my behind in gear!  {I’m happy to share it with you though if you’re in need of a motivation boost as well}

3.  Five minute rule.  I can do anything for 5 minutes.  Typically once I start {usually it’s walking} then by the time 5 minutes is over I tell myself I can at least walk 1 mile; hopefully once I reach 1 mile I’ve talked myself into going for that full 30 minutes . .my short-term goal is to get in 30 minutes of exercise daily.  I’m only focusing on the short-term goal at the moment and not that long, far away goal of total health!

Photo Credit, David Niblack,

Photo Credit: David Niblack

4.  Pay attention to my self-talk ~ it usually goes something like “why didn’t you. . .” Once I recognize that I’m in a negative loop I change my self-talk.  This month’s mantra is “I am enough.”  Believe me, I’ve said those three words a hundred million times and we are only on Day 11 for March!

5.  To keep myself motivated, I’m following several fitness experts and fitness junkies on social media ~ I’ve always told my children that who surround yourself with is what will motivate your actions – it’s no different for adults.  Seeing certain fitness folks who are also motivating is incredibly helpful to me.  I’ve also unfollowed some because their feeds were counter-productive.

What is your go-to resource or idea that gets you pumped up to exercise {or tackle any task you’ve been procrastinating?}


This post was inspired by The No More Excuses Diet by Maria Kang who shares her no-excuses philosophy that motivated her to become more fit. Join From Left to Write on March 12th as we discuss The No More Excuses Diet. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.