Sunday, January 21, 2018

Lisa Overcash and Her Fur-ever Family

In this interview, author Lisa Overcash talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, My Fur-Ever Family.

“Remember their instinctual nature, and work with that, not against it.” ~Lisa Overcash, on pets

As a child, Lisa always wanted a dog and she got a red dachshund puppy for her fifth birthday. Before she married her husband, Lisa told him that animals would be part and parcel of their married life, should they do so, and while Lisa is thankful for his acceptance she also credits him with keeping her balanced where pets are concerned, as Lisa remarks that he is the one who keeps the family from getting too many animals for them to handle.

My Fur-Ever Family sprang from her passion for dogs and is based on her emotional support dog and certified therapy dog, a Yorkshire Terrier who has been with her for fourteen years now. The book tells the story of the Yorkshire Terrier from her point of view, and it grew out of people being interested in the Yorkshire Terrier and suggesting that Lisa write a book about the dog. While it is a children’s book there are some things in it, such as faith, love, compassion, cooperation and the importance of daily, healthy routines, that could appeal to adults as well, as there are concept within which can apply to adoption, be it for the four-legged or the two-legged kind. Where routines are concerned, Lisa notes that these create a comfort level for both children and pets, which helps create unity for the family unit itself.

She also remarked that the dogs helped her out by lying around with her as she wrote it out and listening to her when she read it out loud as she was writing it out - something that Lisa notes helped her catch any mistakes that needed to be corrected. Lisa also wrote the Spanish version of the book after publishing the English version, which is called Mi Familia Para Siempre, and she donates part of the proceeds of the sales of her book to national animal rescue organizations.

Lisa has gotten pets from breeders as well as have been rescued from animal shelters. She hasn’t had trouble with her rescued animals, as she has chosen those which were calm and relaxed, and once these get to her home the rescued animals are given love, time and attention as well as a space of their own, one where they can feel safe. Lisa has learned that establishing respect amongst the animals and her children is important where harmony was concerned, and emphasized that she has worked with the instincts of the animal, rather than against it. She then gave the example of young children wanting to hug a rescue dog once it comes in, which might overwhelm the animal. Lisa noted that she had the children sit on a couch until she brought the dog in and introduced the animal to the kitchen individually, with calm voices and touch, with the children reaching out with the wrist or back of the hand as well as to take note of the physical cues from the animal itself.

Lisa conducts the same sort of individualized introduction between dogs, cats and peacocks, and remarks that, most of the time, the cats stay upstairs while the dogs stay downstairs, and that the cats don’t go downstairs unless the dogs go to another part of the house, particularly if a dog doesn’t like cats. She got her present cats, both rescued animals, while they were kittens, which enabled the latter to become familiar with people, and she recommends getting animals young so for reasons of that familiarity in particular.

Lisa remarks that love and companionship are the big payoffs of having an animal nearby, as these give a lot of affection and tenderness; and if they are calm themselves, one can experience peace as well. She also notes that pet owners, as proven by research, have a greater sense of well-being and that pets alleviate depression, as the latter is linked to losing one’s purpose in life and that having a pet to look after gives that sense of purpose and motivation. Lisa remarks that therapy dogs bring a sense of contentment, satisfaction and companionship.

To would-be pet owners, Lisa recommends that they know what they are like, particularly where personality is concerned, and to look at different breeds of dogs to match the dog’s personality with one’s own personality; one would not choose a sedentary dog if one had an active personality and lifestyle, for example. She also notes that the would-be pet owner should do the homework in knowing the dog’s needs as well as such logistic matters as cost of veterinary services, as having a pet does entail some financial expenses.

Lisa is a proponent of adopting from a shelter and notes that she has seen such animals as pigs and chickens that were surrendered to the shelter, and she has had a lot of great experiences with these, where getting information on the adopted animal was concerned.

Purchase from Amazon: My Fur-Ever Family by Lisa Overcash

Friday, December 15, 2017

Anna Gatmon on Gifting for the Soul (Recommended for the Holidays)

In this special AuthorStory interview for the holiday season, Anna Gatmon talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her Wholly Trinity Tips for Holiday Fulfillment & Balance. The PDF is available through the links here, as a free download.

PLAY the VIDEO: Learn about the 3 aspects of the Wholly Trinity Holiday Tips

“Be creative.” ~Anna Gatmon, on gifting for the holidays

Anna Gatmon has spent the most recent part of her life finding a balance between the spiritual and the material, and presents ways by which the average person can achieve this balance. She calls one of these ways, the “Wholly Trinity” which is comprised of personal tips for holiday fulfillment and balance which are based on her own life experiences. Anna remarks that, because people live in the material world, they focus on the “to do” list of things to buy and activities to do, such as cooking meals, rather than getting in touch with the spiritual aspects of such celebrations.

Where the celebrations and holidays are concerned, Anna Gatmon’s Wholly Trinity Tips for Holiday Fulfillment and Balance can allow people to give themselves and those around them a “spa for the soul” treatment. The “Wholly Trinity” consists of three aspects, each of which has a material component, a spiritual component, and a person to bring these two components together, with all three components needed to create the whole. Anna notes that the material is an expression of intention, which springs from the spiritual aspect.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Kate Lund on Helping Your Child Build Resilience and Thrive in School, Sports, and Life

Kate Lund talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, Bounce: Help Your Child Build Resilience and Thrive in School, Sports and Life.


“Focus on the relationship with the child.” ~Kate Lund

Kate is a mother, clinical psychologist and university instructor who is interested in resiliency and wrote Bounce from the perspective as a mother and university instructor, and based on her own childhood experiences with hydrocephalus. Kate noted that resiliency is particularly important where children today are concerned, as they face a lot of challenges. The book came out of her years of experience as a clinical psychologist and with her own curiosity about resiliency and is designed to be an easy read for parents, teachers and coaches. One of the times that she recalls was when she was working in Shriners Burn Hospital in Boston, where she encountered children who had serious burn injuries, children who needed a great deal of resilience in their lives after receiving their injuries.

Kate notes that resiliency is important mainly because children will face challenges, and the ability to get up after being knocked down by a challenge enables them to move on and eventually realize their potential, rather than getting stuck. She also remarks that resiliency varies from child to child, with some being naturally more resilient than others, and notes that it is important to help less resilient children shift their perspective to one which enables greater resiliency.

Kate remarks that children can become more resilient as they learn and grow, where the environment and the people around them can help out. She points out that helping a child manage their emotions and, thus, their frustrations, which will keep those children from shutting down. Kate remarks that kids learn in different ways and at a different pace, and that separating their classroom performance from how they feel about themselves enables greater resiliency in children.

The pillars of resilience that Kate notes in the book are

· the ability to tolerate frustration and manage emotions;
· navigate friendships and social pressures;
· sustain focus and attention;
· develop courage;
· build motivation;
· find confidence; and
· create optimism.

Kate believes that building the skills espoused by these pillar will create more resilient children. She notes that the model she uses is based on her experience and analysis, as well as on the research done on resilience, and that these pillars are the core elements of resilience. She gave an example of a situation where navigating friendship and social pressure was the concern, remarking that, by helping a child do so, they can be taught skills which would enhance their confidence and emotional intelligence, what their own strengths and values are and accept and understand individual differences in others.

Kate notes that, at the end of each chapter, are bullet points – action steps – that parents and teachers can do to help foster resilience in children. Teachers and parents, for example, can help by creating a positive, focused state of mind and identifying the way by which a child learns, as different children learn in different ways. Parents also need to be connected with their child’s strengths, passions and aptitudes, and then focus on these in daily life.

Purchase from Amazon: Bounce: Help Your Child Build Resilience and Thrive in School, Sports and Life by Kate Lund

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Nancy van Dyken on Dealing with Everyday Narcissism

Nancy van Dyken talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, Everyday Narcissism: Yours, Mine and Ours.

“It’s important that we be honest and direct, but we do so with kindness and graciousness.” ~Nancy van Dyken

Nancy is a licensed psychologist and licensed independent clinical social worker who has been practicing for nearly 35 years now. She specializes in working in relationship issues, specifically abusive dynamics. She wrote Everyday Narcissism for just about everybody, as the concerns within affect everyone. She began talking about narcissism in relationship with co-dependency, and as time went on, she discovered the patterns of everyday narcissism as she investigated the matter; and as she didn’t want to keep teaching the same thing over and over again to her clients, she decided to write the book.

Narcissism, according to Nancy, is a spectrum. The “personality disorder” type of narcissism is on one end and describes people who are self-centered, need to be right, and don’t accept disagreement. “Everyday narcissism” is on the other end of the spectrum, with people being pleasers, doing things to be liked and are fearful of rejection.

The five core beliefs that Nancy notes we have been taught from a very young age - beliefs that drive emotions, thoughts and behavior throughout one’s life are:

  1. I am responsible for, and have the power to control, how other people feel and behave.
  2. It’s your responsibility to take care of how I feel and how I behave.
  3. Your needs are more important than mine.
  4. Rules are more important than I am.
  5. I’ve got to follow all these myths, or I’m not likeable.

Nancy notes that these five beliefs are reinforced daily, and these are so intrusive that we aren’t even aware of their influence these lies have in our lives. These lies are what Nancy refers to as “hazy trauma,” being akin to continuous paper cuts that are inflicted upon a person over time, rather than the kind of major trauma inflicted by such things as sexual abuse. Nancy gave two examples of a subject named “Nancy” who is influenced, while still a child, by some of these myths, which resulted in role reversal, where the child “Nancy” becomes the parent in the social role. She points out the phrase, “I’m so disappointed in you,” when told to a child, being an example of shaming, which plays to everyday narcissism.

Nancy notes that all parents are doing the best they can, and that they are merely passing on the methods they learned and experienced. She notes that narcissism is created from being injured, and how one relates to narcissism - be it following these five beliefs or recognizing this and healing from them - will determine whether or not its effect on one’s life is negative or positive. Nancy also gave some examples about how situations were dealt with in a manner different from how these would be dealt in a way that encourages everyday narcissism - one about a math teacher who had read her book, and another about an example in her own life when she spoke with her own daughter.

Nancy points out that teaching children these five myths, or lies, teaches these children not to respect themselves. As a concrete example, she notes that these five myths drive home to women and girls that their body doesn’t belong to them, which is why they don’t speak up about being sexually harassed. Nancy also gave the example of abusive relationships where the second myth is used to justify the abuse, and she notes that, when these myths and lies are given up, freedom and joy are acquired. She notes that accepting these myths will most likely be best addressed by reading her book, but she believes that narcissism is a state of wounding, rather than it making people awful.

Nancy notes that people have learned not to trust themselves by buying into the five myths, and that we must trust our own inner wisdom to tell us what does and doesn’t work for us. She also wants people to know that they are likeable and loveable as they are, and don’t need to please everyone.

Purchase from Amazon: Everyday Narcissism: Yours, Mine and Ours by Nancy van Dyken

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Monique Darling and the 11 Basic Rules of the Cuddle Party (Beyond Cuddle Party)

Monique Darling talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, Beyond Cuddle Party: How Pajamas, Human Connection and 11 Rules Can Change Your Life.


“When they hear your ‘no,’ then they actually start trusting your ‘yes.’” ~Monique Darling

Monique grew up in a Mormon family and culture and didn’t fit in any of the “boxes” that those around her fit into. She eventually went over to Los Angeles to help out on conventions for TV shows, and as the designated sober person she was asked to create a safe space for people to cuddle in during these conventions. She then came up with her own version of a cuddle party, as she didn’t know what a cuddle party was at the time, after which she got involved in the world of cuddle parties. She then got involved in her first cuddle party a short time later, where the facilitator asked if she could hug Monique; and it was only some time later when Monique realized that she had been asked to be touched, or hugged, in her life.

It was really only after attending two hundred such cuddle parties that Monique truly began unpacking the experience and what it meant to her. Before attending cuddle parties, Monique was outwardly successful, with all the trappings of apparent success, such as the children and the dogs, but she felt there was no room for herself, for even though she worked to perfect her model of being a “good girl” she felt more and more “like a fraud.” After eleven years of involvement in cuddle parties, Monique notes that she now has the option to figure out what she truly wants and who she truly is.

Monique has become a cuddle party facilitator, and she notes that cuddle parties create the space for people to re-contextualize rejection, noting that a lot of people don’t want to say “no” because they don’t want to disappoint others. Cuddle parties are essentially a boundaries and touching workshop, with the emphasis on it being a non-sexual environment, and introduces people to being touched outside a sexual context or environment. Removing sex from the context creates a space that enables people to figure out what kind of touch they like and to figure out what it is that they really want where touch is concerned.

Monique gave an example of a woman who had been in an abusive marriage and who had been abused sexually who attended a cuddle party. She was aloof at first, but as the party progressed she began to open up more, and by the end of the cuddle party she lay in the center of the room and had everyone present touch her with their pinkies, which made her sob, as she realized that touch didn’t have to be abusive in nature.

Beyond Cuddle Party is for anyone who wants to expand themselves in asking for things they want and saying “no” to the things they don’t want. Monique wrote the book out over a two-year period after being asked, several times, by people how to do a cuddle party, and in response to their requests Monique realized she could write a book out. For her, the experience was one where it seemed that what she wrote wasn’t coming from herself, but that she was, rather, a conduit for what was being written.

Beyond Cuddle Party goes into great depth of the eleven (11) rules of a cuddle party which, according to Monique, are:

  1. Clothing stays on the whole time.
  2. No one has to cuddle at a cuddle party, ever. This creates a space where things don’t have to happen.
  3. You must ask and get a verbal “yes” before touching anyone. This enables people to reclaim their own voice.
  4. If you are a “yes,” say “yes,” and if you are a “no,” say “no.” This enables people to verbalize what they really want to ask for.
  5. If you are a “maybe,” say “no.” This enables people to stop doing anything because they “have” to do it.
  6. Changing one’s mind is encouraged. This enables people to figure out where they want to be at the moment.
  7. Please stick to inter-relationship boundaries and agreements already made. This is applicable to married people who attend a cuddle party without their partner, for example.
  8. “Come and get me, ‘cause I’m the lifeguard on duty.” This applies to people who want to seek assistance from the cuddle party facilitator, and they can ask for help at any time during the party.
  9. Tears and laughter are welcome.
  10. Keep the others’ privacy and confidentiality around cuddle parties.
  11. Keep the area clean. No one wants to “cuddle in a puddle.”

The rules in a cuddle party can also apply outside a cuddle party, and Monique gave the example of her presently asking other people for permission to touch them at times. She also doesn’t feel offended when others say “no,” as she understands that this is due to others’ taking care of themselves. Monique also remarked that these rules enable people to reclaim their bodies as their own. She also notes that, based on her experience, cuddle parties produce the same “magic,” regardless of culture.

Monique points out that one is in a relationship with oneself, first and foremost, and that the more one finds ways to get to know and honor oneself, the greater the life one can lead. She notes that people being “selfless” is an erroneous concept, as doing so will drain oneself. Monique notes that, by knowing what one wants in each moment, one can relate with the world at large better than if one were “selfless.” She notes that, the more one focuses on oneself, one loves and takes care of oneself, and this enables others to be who they are in the world as well as to have permission to be that.

Purchase from Amazon: Beyond Cuddle Party: How Pajamas, Human Connection and 11 Rules Can Change Your Life by Monique Darling

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Becky Thompson on Teaching with Tenderness Toward an Embodied Practice

Becky Thompson talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, Teaching with Tenderness: Towards an Embodied Practice.

“We need to be able to breathe with each other.” ~Becky Thompson

Becky is a poet, activist, yoga teacher, mother and grandmother as well as a professor in sociological theory in various universities for several years. As a teacher, Becky is familiar with what is presently going on in classrooms today, and she brought her academic discipline to bear on the topic of tenderness, which she defines as a capacity of humans learning and being with each other - a capacity which she remarks is being undermined by social inequality, such as racism. Becky remarked that she was in Greece when the first refugees from Syria and Afghanistan arrived, and she remarked that some of the first refugees she met were students no different from those she had dealt with in the United States, save in their experience of fleeing. Becky has returned six times to work with the refugees and the experience has enabled her to gain a deeper understanding into what tenderness is all about.

Becky notes that tenderness requires one to have an open mind which can embrace complexity, community and paradox, where rituals of inclusion are done along with habits that encourage deep listening and where memory is an antidote to alienation. Tenderness, in her opinion, is something that encourages people to realize that there is something more than oneself and where people are engaged on a deeper level. She also remarks that people need to be able to tap into the feeling at times of stressful disagreement, and notes that, at present, any kind of disagreement produces a sentiment where violence is likely to happen.

Becky wrote Teaching with Tenderness for students and teachers, and while she starts by talking about tenderness in the classroom, she goes beyond that by speaking about what it means to practice tenderness throughout one’s life. She mentioned a story of her fellow teacher who wondered about the kind of support available for teachers who could get worn out--support which is widely given at present, and where the stress teachers face is concerned, Becky gave the example of her own mother, who was a teacher, and she didn’t have time to go to lunch or have a bathroom break between classes several times. She also noted that teachers also sometimes pay for classroom improvements from their own pocket and that the teachers in college are under a great deal of stress to ensure that their students are able to apply their skills immediately after graduation.

Becky remarked that people “left their bodies” during highly stressful events in their lives and that rituals are needed to enable people to reconnect and re-enter their bodies. Becky noted that slowing-down learning is necessary as an embodied practice, where the body and spirit and intellect are all related and interconnected with each other, as being embodied is a psychological, emotional, spiritual and political practice. She gave, as an example of the kind of compartmentalization that is present in the educational system, the attacks of 9/11, when the teachers didn’t speak about the event as if it was (“business as usual,” outside the confines of the classroom), despite that several of the students were affected by the attacks. Becky also noted that there is a lot of dissociation going on, presently, amongst members of the government in the United States, which is an example of compartmentalization, and notes that this also goes on in other countries, from the stories told to her by the refugees she works with. She also noted that people she spoke to in Bali couldn’t recall a time when there had been a murder and had never seen a gun, which indicates that it is possible to live in a place where the fear of violence isn’t present.

Becky’s vision for an education where tenderness is integrated is one where students feel energized and involved with the subject matter they are investigating, noting that her yoga practice helps, since yoga enables people to become present to, and within, their bodies. She gave an example of giving her students around twenty minutes to relax, and after the students woke up from that rest, the ensuing conversation was the most vibrant one she had experienced. Becky would like to see contemplative practices be integrated into education to help students engage and become productive and points out that she doesn’t compromise the rigor where her own teaching is concerned.

To others, Becky would ask about when they felt most alive, confident and available to learn and what enabled this, so that they can teach others to reproduce these in their own lives.

Purchase from Amazon: Teaching with Tenderness: Towards an Embodied Practice by Becky Thompson

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Resmaa Menakem on Racialized Trauma as the Subject of His Book, My Grandmother's Hands

Resmaa Menakem talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about his book, My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies

 “Trauma is a protective measure, not a defective measure.” ~Resmaa Menakem

Resmaa was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and as he lived in a diverse neighborhood he didn’t encounter racism and violence until the 7th grade, when he got bused to a school that was then integrating kids from various races. He got through college and became involved with social justice matters with his friend, now-Congressman Keith Ellison, and after getting his Master’s in Social Work got involved with victims of addiction and violence. He then went over to Afghanistan, helping with contractors who were in war zones and who were thus getting traumatized by the conditions they were working under. Resmaa wasn’t aware, until he returned to the United States, that he was likewise getting traumatized, until he spent around a year after getting back from Afghanistan doing all the things that traumatized people did, such as pushing others away and getting depressed himself, as well as wanting to get back.

Resmaa got the title of his book from a conversation he had with his grandmother, while he was a child, where he learned why his grandmother’s hands and feet were as big as they were - and these were big from picking cotton since the age of four. It was then that Resmaa first got a glimpse of how hard life was for one of his predecessors, and it was years later, after he learned of the shooting of Tamir Rice, that he put all of what he learned about the effects of trauma on the body into My Grandmother’s Hands.

Resmaa points out that trauma is a protective measure, designed to protect someone from perceived or real overwhelm, and he remarked that trauma affects the body’s limbic, or animal, system, which means that trauma couldn’t just be talked away, in the regular psychological, cognitive-based treatment. The limbic aspect of the trauma is so intense it goes beyond cognitive treatment and ability, and those suffering from such deep trauma usually can’t articulate it, as they only have a sense of what that trauma is.

Resmaa also notes that research is presently coming out on how trauma inflicted on past generations affects the descendants of those upon whom the trauma affects by learning, when a child learns how an adult moves and reacts to the trauma that had happened to that adult, and Resmaa adds that some generations of Jews who are descended from Holocaust survivors experienced the same kind of conditions as those who had experienced the Holocaust. He also noted that such trauma can also be triggered through storytelling, like a child reacting to an intense story told to him by one of his elders.

Resmaa also noted a new idea called epigentics, which is based on the idea that the environment affects the gene expression of what gets turned on and off which aids in survival, and that such expressions are carried on in future generations. He brought up the example of the “cherry blossom experiment,” when it was noted that the offspring of mice who were exposed to trauma, mice who associated and reacted to the trauma of a painful electrical shock with the scent of cherry blossoms, would react the same way that their parents did, even if they hadn’t experienced the electric shock themselves, as a protective measure, even though the offspring never came into contact with their traumatized parent. Resmaa notes that this idea is presently coming under increasing investigation by scientists today, and this opens up the possibility that trauma is protective in nature, and not a defect in the person himself.

To those who are experiencing generational trauma, Resmaa says that what they are experiencing is protective, not defective in nature, and that, when that person is ready, he should find someone to help him get through it. Resmaa also points out that telling someone that there is nothing wrong with him helps out greatly, and that getting to the incident, be it generational, or personal, where the trauma originated helps create healing.

Purchase from Amazon: My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem