Sunday, June 18, 2017

Kari Wagner-Peck on Learning from An Unusual Parenting Journey

Kari Wagner-Peck talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her book, Not Always Happy: An Unusual Parenting Journey.



“All communities have disability. It is a natural part of our human experience.” ~Kari Wagner-Peck

Kari with Thorin.
Kari and her husband had agreed, when they were looking for a child to adopt, to get one without a major disability, but while they were looking for a child, their foster care worker, in January 2009, left a voice mail that described a child and added casually that he had Down syndrome, and it was when they were told that when Kari and her husband felt a sense of calm and they decided to get the child in question. They didn’t see Thorin until April 2009, and in all that time Kari described Thorin’s presence as an ache within herself and her husband. Thorin’s conditions didn’t add to any of the requirements asked of Kari and her husband, and the pair eventually adopted the child, who was named Thorin, and Kari and her husband then decided to raise Thorin the same way they would any child.

Kari started writing about her family in 2010, on blogs, the day she and her husband adopted her son, Thorin, which she points out that she couldn’t do so until then because Thorin was a ward of the state. Kari noted that she is a storyteller and seeks a response from people, and she wrote her blogs accordingly. Thorin had Down syndrome, and Kari and her husband quickly realized that Thorin’s main disability was what people thought of him, rather than his actual disability, itself. It was after six years of writing the blog that Kari realized that she was making an impact on her blogs’ readers, a third of whom aren’t parents and most of whom weren’t raising children with Down syndrome, and she eventually decided to write the book. She got an agent who helped her find a publisher for whom her family’s story resonated and from there she wrote her book, one of the reasons for writing which was her avocation that people include those whose neurological conditions are different from the norm. Writing the book was a learning curve for her, as her blog posts had an arc, and she found that she could go deeper into her stories, including her emotions and the emotions of people involved, as well as subsequent impact, in a way that she couldn’t within the short confines of her blog. She wanted to make a reader feel like Kari was telling her a story face-to-face, making her stories immediate and involving, which she was successful in doing, as her husband remarked that she had captured the person and the feelings involved in the stories she told.

While writing the stories were easy and fun for her, Kari admitted that writing an incident, when Thorin was two-and-a-half years old and she had had Thorin for only two months, and she went to Thorin’s pre-school to find him strapped to a chair, hysterical, while a teacher sat beside him and read a book calmly, claiming that she was doing speech therapy on Thorin, was one of the hardest things for her to write. Kari then noted that restraint and seclusion are things that people with disabilities know well, as the illegal use of restraint was inflicted on children with disabilities is commonplace.

Kari remarked that raising Thorin is like that of any other parent, in that he’s a typical boy and that there is nothing wrong with his essential intelligence. He likes learning, as he likes reading and math, and Kari remarks that the concern with Thorin is with how quickly he processes information. Thorin apparently doesn’t know what to focus on because so much information is given, and it takes time for Thorin to process and reply to a question, with Kari noting that it takes Thorin around thirty seconds to formulate a reply. Kari analogized that, for Thorin, it’s like having a whole bunch of stuff swirling around which can only go through a straw, and pointed out that Thorin’s problem isn’t intelligence but intelligibility. She differentiates that intelligence is the capacity to learn, understand and integrate information, while intelligibility is about being understood, which is a shared communication concern between the speaker and the listener, and that both need to be responsible for the proper communication to be conducted.

Kari noted that a holistic approach to a human being is the space where she comes from, where a human being is about having the ability to understand and to be understood. She remarks that Thorin lives with Down syndrome, and that he is not Down syndrome, which means that Down syndrome is a part of Thorin’s experience, rather than defining who he is as a person.

To those who are thinking of adopting a child with special needs, or parents who have children with special needs, Kari advises that they see their child holistically, rather than as their diagnosis, and that they should keep the bar high, allowing their children to grow into their own futures rather than one decided by the parents.

Kari’s website is kariwagnerpeck.com

Purchase from Amazon: Not Always Happy: An Unusual Parenting Journey by Kari Wagner-Peck

Friday, June 9, 2017

Gurutej Khalsa & Her Yoga for Couples Book, A Slice of the Beloved

Gurutej Khalsa talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her book, A Slice of the Beloved: Yoga for Couples.



“Nobody else can fill that void. It’s a huge void, and nobody can fill it for you.” ~Gurutej Khalsa

Gurutej’s journey into yoga began when, in college, she went over to the place of a man who was courting her friend when he invited the two young women over for dinner, and when the man mentioned that he was a vegetarian and did yoga, Gurutej was puzzled, as these weren’t commonplace in the late 1960s. She then did a speech assignment on yoga, and while doing research on the subject realized that she could do the poses that she had seen. Later on, she joined a yoga group in a nearby park, where she just got what yoga was all about, particularly how useful the body was to achieving well-being, as opposed to the teaching that the body was bad, and it was from there that she embarked on a decades-long journey into practicing and teaching yoga, studying under Yogi Bhajan and familiarizing herself with various types of yoga as well as investigating other types of meditation. Gurutej then went on to become a yoga teacher herself, applying the principles of yoga to everyday life, building yoga communities in Canada and building a community in the United States.

Gurutej mentioned that there are many different types of yoga, and the Asuna part of yoga focuses on the physical experience, while Kundalini yoga, which is the kind of yoga behind A Slice of the Beloved, focuses on chakras and the body’s systems, such as the nervous system. She also mentioned that breathing is a very important part of life, and that there are also many kinds of breathing, such as what she called the “Four Part Sipping Breath,” where one inhales in four parts and exhales in four parts.

A Slice of the Beloved: Yoga for Couples, is intended for anyone who is in a relationship or is ready to attract a relationship, and she points out that people say that they want a relationship but don’t define that which they long for and might not be able to meet the other person at that place of longing. Gurutej wrote the book out of her experience of counseling couples and hearing and seeing the same thing over and over again, she realized that she had a tool kit that others could make use of. The book also contains the lessons she has learned over the course of her life and all of the challenges she had experienced.

A Slice of the Beloved has four parts to it. The first is enabling oneself to connect with oneself, while the second is one connecting with others. The third is about building the soul of the relationship between the two, while the last part is about how the two in that partnership can serve the world, as one cannot serve when one is empty. Gurutej points out that, most of the time, people talk at each other rather than talking to each other, and it is to address this that Gurutej has included several exercises, meditation as well as talking, designed to enable the connection between the two people as well as to enable one to realize the subconscious driver of the other person, with the latter being the “beloved” in the book’s title.

Gurutej points out that the essence of a good relationship is when both are in the same place so that both talk to each other, rather than at each other. This enables people to live for each other, which Gurutej points out is not about losing oneself but about living for the soul of the relationship, and thus honoring the other person. She notes that, while there are certain relationships which are not workable, people, in general, are in a relationship not for ease but to grow, which requires people to bump up against each other. Gurutej points out that people who “fall out of love” actually “fall out of connection,” and that cheating actually begins well before the actual physical act of cheating itself, when one doesn’t show up in the relationship. She then mentioned that ignoring a relationship is like ignoring a plant – both will die when that happens, and that showing a partner that one cares is important.

Gurutej notes that people are geared to connect and relate with each other, and that one should connect with oneself before connecting with others, rather than seeking others to fill any voids that might be within oneself. She also notes that we “huemans” have our own inner light.

Gurutej points out that the book is a tool that is intended to be used, and that keeping it on the shelf or just in memory without doing the exercises in it make it pointless. She points out that the principles and the work espoused in the book work, and that there is no other book that like it in terms of depth and practical effectiveness. To couples, Gurutej recommends that they sit on a couch across from each other, hold hands, look into each others’ eyes, and take turns saying, “I love you, I love myself,” to oneself and to the other.

Gurutej’s website is gurutej.com.

Purchase from Amazon: A Slice of the Beloved: Yoga for Couples by Gurutej Khalsa

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Ryan White on Writing Jimmy Buffet: A Good Life All the Way

Ryan White talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about his book, book, Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way.



“It’s fun, and it should be fun, and if it’s not fun, you’re doing a disservice to the subject.” ~Ryan White

Ryan spent sixteen years at The Oregonian, a newspaper, which was something he always wanted to do. He spent ten years as a sports writer and covered music for five and a half, and in 2013 he was contacted to co-write the book which eventually became Springsteen: Album by Album. Ryan remarks that getting on the project enabled him to stay cool when, a month after he signed up to co-write Springsteen, he was laid off along with a third of the staff at The Oregonian, and writing out the book gave him valuable experience which he was able to apply with Jimmy Buffett.

Ryan had been thinking of writing the book that became Jimmy Buffett even as he worked on Springsteen, and he got to working on it after finishing the latter book. He got off to a bit of a false start when he wrote the book initially from his perspective, and after his friend Peter Carlin told him that he wasn’t that interesting, Ryan stripped himself out of the book and focused on the stories and the themes around Jimmy Buffett. Ryan remarked that, so far, people seem to enjoy Jimmy Buffett, and he noted that writing the book was similar to what he used to do as a reporter, although the notes were more copious, as were the number of drafts and the file sizes.

Ryan remarked that he used to drive with his family, as a child, to Florida, and his friends in college listened to Jimmy Buffett, so he was somewhat familiar with the man and the milieu around which the song “Margaritaville” was built. He became attracted to the song after he was laid off from the newspaper while listening to it on the radio while driving his daughter to daycare, and noted the message of the song as well as that getting it on the radio was a challenge and that it is now the basis of a two billion dollar fortune, despite the song being his only Top Ten hit.

Ryan gave a thumbnail sketch of Jimmy’s life, as well as those of his parents who were, themselves, intentional businesspeople, and remarked that Jimmy gained his sense of fun and worldliness from the experiences he gained in his life. Ryan also commented that Mobile, Alabama, had a Mardi Gras tradition that was older even than that of New Orleans, and this was also one of Jimmy Buffett’s likely influences. Ryan also remarked on the various items and brands associated with “Margaritaville,” all of which reflect his sense of fun and adventure. Ryan also remarked that Jimmy understands who he is and what he can provide and that people genuinely like him, pointing out that, after two years of interviewing people about Jimmy Buffett, he hadn’t come across even one person who spoke ill about Jimmy. He also noted that Jimmy’s organization is full of people who have been there for decades, as they enjoy doing their jobs, which enables Jimmy to do his job.

The biggest surprise Ryan got was that, while the stage character of Jimmy Buffett isn’t that much different from the Jimmy Buffett as a person, Jimmy the person always was able to step outside of his character and focus on what needed to be done, and that is a key to his longevity. He also noted that Jimmy had made his peace with being associated with a single song, and advises people to stick with what they’re doing, figure out the questions and search for the answers.

Purchase from Amazon: Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way by Ryan White


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Cheryl Krauter on Surviving the Storm of Cancer

Cheryl Krauter talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her book, Surviving the Storm: A Workbook for Telling Your Cancer Story.



“Have a lot of compassion for yourself, because you deserve it.” ~Cheryl Krauter

Cheryl has been a Existential Humanistic psychotherapist for nearly forty years, and as such focuses on the whole of the person, particularly a person’s potential and drive for authenticity, when dealing with their concerns, rather than just parts of the person. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, and the cancer she had was very aggressive, as it infected her lymph nodes as well, which is are vital for the body’s immune system’s functioning. Cheryl noted that her diagnosis came as a complete shock to her, and as she had been practicing meditation for as long as she has been a psychotherapist, she acknowledged that both her training and her meditating helped her through the process.

Cheryl notes that the definition of “remission” depends on the source, but that her own survivorship began when her scan was clear of cancer, and she notes that a lot of people, even though they had been diagnostically cleared of cancer, don’t feel that they are in the clear for quite some time. Cheryl also notes that the most prevalent concern of cancer patients, based on surveys they complete, is that of living with uncertainty. She notes that there is a growing number of people who could be afflicted with the disease, particularly with the ageing baby boomer population, and that one out of two men and one out of three women will get a cancer diagnosis within their lives. Cheryl remarks that the methods of detecting and treating cancer have become more sophisticated, which improves the chances of survival, and that the most common types of cancer are prostate, breast and lung cancers. Where age is concerned, Cheryl notes that cancer is more easily managed when the person who is diagnosed with it is elderly, compared to those who get cancer when they are in their prime.

Cheryl remarked that, had someone told her, ten years ago, that she would be involved in treating cancer as a psychotherapist, or that she would have written a book around the topic, she would have doubted it very much. That said, she wrote Surviving the Storm out of her own experiences with cancer and the realization that not everybody who has cancer, had cancer or was close to someone who has or had cancer has a venue through which to express themselves and their stories about the impact the disease has on them, and thus discover who they are. The book came out of her own needs and wants, and offers a narrative structure to enable survivors and those in the community around the patient to express what they are going through. Surviving the Storm came out of both Cheryl’s realization for the need for such a book, and she also had to think long and hard about remaining involved with cancer, and the time came when she finally decided to write it. The writing process itself was challenging and also gratifying, and Cheryl remarked that she has an image of a pair of hands, other than hers, holding her book, which she takes to mean that the book is no longer hers and now belongs to others.

Cheryl remarks that giving up hope is one of the worst things one can do, and that someone diagnosed with cancer being told, “You have to fight or you’ll die” could create stress and pressure in that person which would exhaust that person and hinder the healing process. She notes that the best thing people can do is to be supported or to give support to the person who is diagnosed with cancer, as those who are totally isolated find the going to be difficult. Cheryl also remarks that just sitting right next to someone with cancer and asking them, “Tell me how you feel” is a big deal.

Cheryl remarks that people should give themselves room to feel what they feel, and that what is going on is just where they are, in a situation that is neither negative or positive. She also complements those who live with cancer for putting one step in front of the other,

Purchase from Amazon: Surviving the Storm: A Workbook for Telling Your Cancer Story by Cheryl Krauter

Monday, May 29, 2017

Carlyn Montes de Oca on How a Dog Can Be Your Doctor & a Cat Be Your Nurse

Carlyn Montes de Oca talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her book, Dog as My Doctor, Cat as My Nurse: An Animal Lover's Guide to a Healthy, Happy and Extraordinary Life.



“All animals, really, can help us.” ~Carlyn Montes de Oca

Carlyn had grown up amongst dogs as a child, and had always wanted to be an author since then. She might have worked in the film industry for a time, and even then she felt pulled to do something that was more meaningful to her. She eventually went into Chinese medicine and holistic healing, and it was while she was developing herself in these that she heard stories from people about how their animals helped them. Carlyn realized then that there was a connection between health and how people related with animals, something which she, herself, had experienced after going through a divorce, as her cats and dogs helped her out during that time. This connection, Carlyn opines, is important for humans, as people die from chronic illnesses nowadays, with one in four people dying of heart disease, which is preventable through lifestyle choices, and a relationship with an animal can enable that kind of a healthy lifestyle.

Carlyn remarks that Dog as My Doctor, Cat as My Nurse is all about the beneficial effects that dogs and cats have on human beings, which includes decrease in stress and blood pressure, boost to the immune system, emotional wellness as well as a wide range of other positive health benefits. Carlyn mentioned that she has 103 references in her book which scientifically back up the benefits health have on people. Although the book has been somewhat long in coming, Carlyn remarked that the kicker was when, while she was walking with her dogs, the words “dog as my doctor” hit her, which she thought would be a good title for her book. After she got home, the cat leaped on her back while she was relaxing, and “cat as my nurse” then came to her as a good title.

Carlyn became interested in cats when she lived on her own, in an apartment that was too small for dogs, which was why she got cats, and it was from them that she realized that all animals have the capacity to love and interact with human beings, pointing out that pot bellied pigs and horses are also pets. She opines that cats have become popular because the places people live in don’t allow for dogs, and that cats don’t need that much companionship compared to dogs and might be easier to take care of. She notes that a pet can be any animal, that the benefits are particularly pronounced when the person had a deep relationship with the animal involved, and that this is most likely due to pets being a manifestation of unconditional love.

The book has a lot of stories in it, and one of the cat-related stories Carlyn mentioned is a couple where the husband has Parkinson’s disease. The wife liked taking walks with him, and she was saddened when they could no longer do so. During one such solo walk, she discovered that one of their two rescue cats was walking with her, and the cat went on walks with her after that, which helped her out greatly. The two cats they had also seemed to sense when the husband wanted to be alone and when he wanted to interact, and when they sensed the latter they began playing and essentially entertaining him.

One of the dog-related stories Carlyn mentioned was that of a widower who had lost his wife after a long struggle with disease. The man intended to kill himself, as he was depressed, but before he could do so he had a dream where he saw their dog waiting for him outside their house, and when he woke up he realized that, if he had killed himself, the dog would most likely have waited for him until the day she died. The man then packed up and took a long walk to California, taking the dog with him, and after that walk Carlyn said that he was a changed man, particularly since he credited his dog with helping him save his life along the way.

Carlyn remarked that she had a “six pack” of dogs and cats, but at present only two old dogs remain from that pack, as the other four had passed away during the five years she took to write the book.

To those who would have a cat or a dog as a pet, Carlyn recommends that they go to a local shelter or rescue and tell the personnel there their concerns, and then go with their instincts when it came to adopting an animal, as it is often the animal who chooses the human.

Purchase from Amazon: Dog as My Doctor, Cat as My Nurse: An Animal Lover's Guide to a Healthy, Happy and Extraordinary Life by Carlyn Montes de Oca


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Joe Navarro on the Worst Espionage Breach in US History

Joe Navarro talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about his book, Three Minutes to Doomsday: An Agent, a Traitor and the Worst Espionage Breach in US History.



“You don’t have a responsibility to be victimized at any time.” ~Joe Navarro

Joe and his parents were refugees from Cuba, and he grew up in Miami. He spent twenty-five years in the FBI working for counterintelligence and is presently sharing his insights in human behavior, and notes that, as an immigrant kid growing up, he needed to hone his skills at reading nonverbal cues because he initially didn’t know any English, which he further honed as he entered the FBI. Joe has written other books, but when he realized what was going on with Russia and current events he decided to write Three Minutes to Doomsday, as he pointed out that the present crop of leaders in Russia today were grown in the KGB during the Cold War and apparently still maintain their attitude of the West being “the enemy.”

Joe remarks that “war by other means” is a tactic which is familiar with those in counterintelligence, which deals with identifying and countering the efforts of enemies to gather information that has a benefit of tactical or strategic purpose - the definition of “intelligence” - to the United States. He notes that those who would release sensitive information aren’t necessarily spies, and that whether or not people like Julian Assange are spies should be determined by the courts. Joe notes that FBI agents are essentially paid by the public to become paid observers for criminal activity and decipher the information which could lead to prosecutions.

Joe remarked that it took him, on the average, two or three days to prepare for his interviews with Ramsay, and the interviews lasted anywhere between two to twelve hours. Joe had to play this very carefully, as he couldn’t afford to make a single mistake and Ramsay had genius-level IQ with photographic memory and could talk on a lot of topics and, even more importantly, was not under custody and could thus bolt at any time. Joe points out that Ramsay was just one of many different personality types that he encountered over the course of his career, and he points out that the information that Ramsay passed to the Soviet Union not only included a large quantity of documents but which, if war broke out between the Soviets and the West, would have caused hundreds of thousands of Western casualties and would have enabled the Soviets to gain a swift victory. Joe also remarked that, after the damage assessment was done, the breach was so significant that this was the only time in American history that such potential damage could have been inflicted.

Joe notes that the question of whom to trust, where sensitive information is concerned, has been around since ancient times. Joe notes that people who would do great harm, in the form of leaking sensitive information to the enemy is concerned, won’t be easily spotted, pointing out that mass murderers have functioned in the societies they lived in and that, when their identities were revealed, the people around them were caught by surprise. Joe also points out that the Internet has made handling sensitive information more challenging as, prior to the Internet, it was relatively easy to keep people away with locked doors and patrols, whereas, at the moment, someone with know-how can hack into a computer to stalk a person or to down a nation’s entire system, such as traffic or emergency services.

Where individual security is concerned, Joe remarks that one should take whatever security measures are necessary to protect oneself, or pretend that there are no threats out in the world.

Purchase from Amazon: Three Minutes to Doomsday: An Agent, a Traitor and the Worst Espionage Breach in US History by Joe Navarro

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mark Zupan on The Inside Job: How Government Insiders Subvert the Public Interest

Mark Zupan talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about his book, Inside Job: How Government Insiders Subvert the Public Interest.



“Government by the people doesn’t necessarily mean government for the people.” ~Mark Zupan

Mark is the son of immigrants who grew up in Rochester, New York and has embarked on a career in the academe, specializing in economics, and is presently the president of Alfred University in Alfred, New York. He began looking into politics from the point of view of an economist - supply and demand, in other words - in the 1980s, with another professor. Mark points out that the demand side of government interactions has been the focus of a lot of literature and blame, but looking at the supply side - the insiders in the government, such as a monarch or those in government - hasn’t been done, for the most part, and this is what Inside Job brings out.

Mark notes that autocracy was the norm throughout the world two centuries ago, and that democratic governments are now more commonplace, and the book shows that democracies are superior to autocracies when it comes to integrity in the public sector, pointing out the work of Transparency International, which shows that democracies, on the average, outperform autocracies where integrity in the public sector is concerned. Mark, also notes that there are around a dozen autocratic governments which rate high in this kind of integrity, as well as that, in some democratic governments, some people still have to pay bribes to get things done.

Mark points out that democracies have checks and balances within their systems that help maintain such integrity, and that there is a symbiosis between the supply side and the demand side. Mark gave an example of sugar lobbying, where the cost to the average American family is $50 a year due to import restrictions on sugar from other countries. The United States and its consumers thus lose anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion a year, and the reason this goes on is that the average family isn’t much concerned about losing $50 a year, and the sugar interests in the United States thus have more pull with the government.

Mark notes that, on the average, autocratic governments last nine times longer than democratic governments, yet produce poor results where prosperity and government cleanliness is concerned. Mark contrasts this with private enterprise, where good sales result from good products, and that power is the currency of governments. Some of the checks and balances that enable democratic governments to do better than autocracies are term limits and electoral competition, as well as a lower likelihood of “golden parachutes” and a greater confidence that anything that was created during the term of one government will be supported by the courts in being carried on into the term of another government.

Mark remarked, as an example of misuse of power on the supply side of politics, on the situation of the Janissaries in the Ottoman Empire, which started out as an attempt at a meritocracy, and which was egalitarian for one generation, which ended up seizing the power of the Empire to the point of being able to murder two sultans who were attempting to reform the Empire. Mark also gave the example of the sultans and the scribes losing power due to the printing press, which resulted in only 2% of the Ottoman Empire’s population being able to read at a time when literacy in Europe was 50%.

Mark notes that supply side power misuse is present in both China (the world’s largest autocracy) and in the United States (the world’s most economically developed democracy). Mark remarks that one in seven of the wealthiest men in China are political figures, which means that the party in power is unlikely to want to foster competition, as this would reduce the money they would get. Where the United States is concerned, Mark points out to the growth of public sector unionization, which has grown from 6% in the 1970s to 37% at present. This creates a large voting block which can exert electoral influence but also an imposition of power that can affect public trust and integrity. He points out the impact of such in the educational system, where the number of college-ready graduates have not improved despite increased spending, as well as unfunded pensions, which total close to $5 trillion, which makes this the second largest fiscal challenge of the United States.

Mark notes that the average person, in a democracy, has the power to affect the interplay between supply and demand sides of government, and that people have to be involved with the checks and balances to ensure that things don’t get out of hand.

Purchase from Amazon: Inside Job: How Government Insiders Subvert the Public Interest by Mark Zupan.