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 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

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 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

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 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