Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Lisa Sniderman on How She Kept Shining & Thriving Even With Chronic Illness and Limited Energy (You can do it, too!)

In this interview, Lisa Sniderman talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her virtual summit, Keep Shining: How to Thrive With Chronic Illness and Limited Energy.



“Where you are and who you are right now is enough.” ~Lisa Sniderman

Lisa, in 2019, collaborated with some 20 artists to help create an animated video and song about her illness and recovery, and during the same year, her book, A Light in the Darkness, had been converted to an audiobook with her as the narrator and had been considered for the Grammy awards, which she went to in January 2020. The awards were an experience, as she needed to rest between awards events – an experience which she remarked as feeling “surreal.” (Lisa implemented a “no hugs” policy during that event, due to her autoimmune condition, which she remarked was a forerunner for actions that need to be taken during the Covid-19 pandemic.) She had been honored with over 20 awards for both audiobook and video, and has been home-bound since early 2019 due to a flare-up of her condition. Although Lisa has been receiving infusions intended to moderate her symptoms, she has decided to discontinue these and use diet and activities such as yoga, due to the present Covid-19 pandemic and concerns arising from this.

Lisa has focused on creating and had been working on the free virtual summit since July 2019, which created a challenge where creating time and balance between work and self-care were concerned. She thus limited herself to conducting ten interviews a month, with a maximum of two interviews a day. Lisa is also creating a spoken-word album in collaboration with her Producer and an ensemble, which focuses on grief and thriving – a process which is challenging, given the present sheltering conditions around Covid-19. That said, she remarks that those with chronic illnesses might be more adapted to the present conditions of self-isolating, and could thus be in a better position to help others adapt.

Lisa has been living with dermatomyositis, a degenerative, inflammatory muscular disease whose symptoms include skin rashes and which causes muscular weakness and attacks the immune system, since April 2008, and in addition to helping manage this with medicine and therapy, has also been managing her condition with creativity. She realized that she presently has challenges creating and connecting with others while creating a community while at home and with a limited amount of energy, and this is the seed of her online seminar, along with the video and the book that she had helped create. Lisa intends to inspire others in a similar condition as herself to thrive, and this is the purpose of her two-week, 60-talk summit. The summit itself starts on July 10, 2020, which is Chronic Disease Awareness Day, and this also plays into seven out of ten people in the United States living with chronic illness (7/10).

The summit’s expert speakers consist of medical experts, artists who are battling illness, alternative practitioners, thought leaders, spiritual leaders, healers, creative therapists and members of online support networks. Lisa focused on speakers who can address familiar issues which face those living with chronic illness, such as how to address one’s emotional, spiritual and mental well-being – things which, she notes, “fall by the wayside,” given the emphasis on physical well-being. In addition to 60 interviews, two speaker panels will also be involved, where the questions asked by summit participants will be answered by experts, participants can interact with each other through Facebook, and drama therapy workshops will be conducted. Although the summit is intended primarily for those with chronic illness, Lisa believes that anyone interested in improving their health and well-being during these times of pandemic can get something out of this seminar, as the emphasis of the summit is how to thrive during challenges.

Some of the topics that Lisa is excited to present include holistic nutrition (which includes practical strategies on what to eat and how to reduce inflammation); using meditation to relax, heal and transform; and using expressive arts to heal and transform. She also noted the involvement of Amy Oestreicher, whose stomach had exploded; who, after coming out of a months-long coma, learned she could not eat or drink; and who gives practical advice on thriving, based on the lessons she learned from her experience. Lisa also notes that one of the topics in her seminar is on sex and intimacy while living with chronic illness, which isn’t much talked about but which is important to the relationships in one’s life.

To those who are impacted by chronic illness, Lisa recommends finding a trusted disease-related organization or a disease-focused support group, as well as a doctor who takes the situation seriously. “Don’t go at it alone,” she emphasizes. Lisa also remarks that one should grieve when one is suddenly confronted by the reality of chronic illness, as this is necessary to eventually keeping one’s dreams alive.

BUY on AMAZON: 
A Light in the Darkness: Transcending Chronic Illness through the Power of Art and Attitude Paperback by Lisa A. Sniderman





















Links from Lisa Sinderman:

Sign up for the Keep Shining virtual summit (July 10-24, 2020) and learn how to thrive with chronic illness and limited energy

Join the How to Thrive With Chronic Illness and Limited Energy Facebook Group 

View/download Lisa’s Life Lessons for Living Well With Chronic Illness 

Watch the Keep Shining summit trailer 

Watch Lisa Sniderman's Keep Shining Music Video which shares her personal story and struggle with illness, disability and her recovery   


Saturday, May 23, 2020

Isabella Michon: Wagging Tales: Changing Lives on Facebook One Tale at a Time

In this interview, Isabella Michon talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her Facebook column, Wagging Tales: Changing Lives One Tale at a Time.



“Never give up hope, always try to look at the positive. We’re all in this together.” ~Isabella Michon


Isabella feels “blessed” to have always held jobs which she liked, where she felt she can send a message and help people change their lives. She is particularly glad that she was able to use her Journalism degree to get work related to it, and as she has always liked anything to do with entertainment, as this offers the opportunity to inspire people. Isabella points out that a TV producer is essentially the person who conducts such activities as booking the guests, writing the introductions and working with the script and the host, while the director handles the technical aspects of the show, such as figuring which cameras would go live and so on. She has also, throughout the course of her career, met such people as Mickey Rooney, Jane Fonda and Oprah Winfrey.

Isabella remarked that, when she was with Harper San Francisco, she focused on religion and spirituality based books, although she was also exposed to other kinds of books. It was after she left Harper Collins, to look after her newly-born son, that she set up her own publicist business so she could spend more time and look after him. She points out that being a publicist was something that could be done from home, with the requirements, when she started out, essentially being a phone and a computer. Isabella counts herself to be fortunate, as her extensive contacts, built up over the years have enabled her to create the necessary connections – such as producers and reporters – to get her clients the bookings they need. She also mentions that, as passion and creativity are important for the work, being a publicist is “a great place to be,” as “publicity,” according to her, is another way of saying “public relations” and maintaining relationships, as it is a way to let the outside world know about whatever it is that one is promoting.

Isabella reflected that, as a producer, one of the first questions she asks is: “Do you have your own, personal story?” This comes into play with her being a publicist, as knowing what goes on with an author also makes it interesting for her. Isabella also remarks that, with novelists in particular, what they write about springs from their own lives, which is where the interest in the author’s personal story can be important. Being a good publicist, she notes, is about being curious, having an interest in, always asking questions about, finding the unusual about, and what the motivation is, for people.

Wagging Tales is a column that Isabella posts on her Facebook page, mostly because she was already familiar with that social media platform; that said, she is will onto different platforms in the future. The name comes from her dog, Joey, and she came up with the column after feeling down during the present time of shelter-in-place during the Covid-19 pandemic. She then researched on any good news she could find, was amazed with what she discovered and then decided to highlight some of these positive, good deeds and create a column out of that. The column honors popular people as well as those who have made an impact but who aren’t well-known throughout the world, such as her son’s music teacher and Lesley Bradley, CEO of Western Bradley Electric, which spearheads a “Random Acts of Kindness” committee. As of this writing, she hopes to feature such people as Fr. Brian Costello, the pastor of Our Lady of Loretto Church in Novato, who has refused to retire early, despite his being diagnosed with terminal cancer, as well as Captain Thomas Moore, who is a British veteran who did 100 laps for his 100th birthday to raise money to support efforts to fight the present pandemic.

Isabella has looked into how doing positive things can affect one, and she notes that doing good deeds and being grateful are good for one’s health, according to all the articles and references she has researched. She remarks that her column not only covers her community, but also that of the world at large. Isabella also loves the flexibility that her column affords her, as she can highlight various kinds of good works conducted by different kinds of people, such as nine-year-old girl Aria Luna, Lady Gaga and the A.J. band, which does a nightly complementary free online show, and she also honors members of the medical profession with all the work they are presently doing in her column.

Isabella points out that businesses are now working out different ways to make a difference in their industry, and for those who want to help out during the present pandemic, she points out that there are a lot of different organizations that one can volunteer for. She also remarks that monetary and blood donations are helpful, as is picking up a phone to call up a senior citizen to check up on them. “Think about the talents you have and what you can share,” she advises to those who think about what they can do. Isabella also remarks that, during this present pandemic, social media platforms can play a great part with keeping people connected. That said, Isabella remarks that one should take care of oneself first before being able to help others.

See the Facebook column: Wagging Tales: Changing Lives One Tale at a Time by Isabella Michon

BUY on AMAZON: 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Christine Brown-Quinn on Unlocking Your Career Success


In this interview, Christine Brown-Quinn talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, Unlock Your Career Success: Knowing the Unwritten Rules Changes Everything.



“Take ownership of your career.” ~Christine Brown-Quinn

Christine Brown-Quinn has spent thirty years in the corporate world and has become a Managing Director in International Finance, moving from the United States to London to pursue her career, as part of a wave of people who were recruited to London to strengthen the financial industry there. It was in 2010 when the bank she was working for launched a Women’s Network, which Christine had no idea what was about, as she was used, by then, to being “the only woman in the room.” When Christine asked why she was being asked to give a talk at that summit, she was told that she had a successful career as well as a family, and women would be interested to know how she did it. It was from this that she realized that the skills she did at work were ones which she transferred to her home, and vice versa, remarking that people actually become better parents and partners because of the skills they can pick up at work. Where things brought from personal life are concerned, Christine remarks that it is the values that are taught at home are the things which one brings to work, and gives an example of when her children called her out on her not doing something which she said she did.

It was during the talk, however, that Christine realized that her work was now to coach other women about how to have both a career and a family life, given the framework of both aspects of one’s life supporting each other. It was during the summer after that talk, which took place during the financial crisis of 2010, that she left the banking industry and set up her own career consultancy business, then turned that into her first book. Unlock Your Career Success is her second book, and the seed of this was planted when several of her clients mentioned that she needed to write it. “I woke up in March 2019, and the whole book was in my head,” Christine confesses, adding that what the book’s subject matter covered was essentially what she had been talking about for the past ten years.

Christine admitted that, when she left the university, her idea of career progression was all about “doing a great job;” that said, she remarked that that is only what starts off one’s career, and that it is up to the person themselves to ensure that their careers progress, as a company’s HR or a person’s manager is not responsible for that.

Christine offers the following question for women who have both family and career: “As a parent, how am I at my best?” She notes that everyone is individual, and that a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work, so people need to think about the ways by which they will be happy, remarking that her being at home with the children all the time isn’t something that she could do well. Having a career was thus very necessary for Christine, as work stimulated her and fulfilled her being a mother.

Where work is concerned, Christine notes that the issue is that of having a mismatch in culture, noting that, when women enter the workplace, they want to feel good about the value they’re bringing as well as feel good about their organizations, working in a way that “feels more natural” to them. She notes that a lot of women look for leadership role models in the corporate world, leaders who are willing to collaborate and bring the best out in others, and that this is more of the issue than anything else. Christine also remarks that people want their work to be meaningful in that, if one has children, one desires more that the time spent away from family counts.

Christine’s most targeted audience is women in corporate environments, as she helps women navigate the issues and leadership styles in such an environment – something she has had a lot of experience with, given her corporate career. She gave the case study of one of her clients, Candida, who worked for a technology company who had worked very hard but whose career stalled out. Christine was able to coach Candida into getting the kind of position she liked, by focusing on a digital start-up department that she was interested in getting into and by using her network of contacts to send the head of the department some suggestions. These suggestions interested the department head and, thanks to Christine’s coaching, Candida asked open-ended questions which gave her more insight into concerns within the department that she could help out with. As a result, Candida is now in a position, in that department, that fulfills her.

Christine notes that the rules in the book are intended to establish career-enhancing mindset and behaviors which are needed to achieve career progression, within the context of what makes one happy. She notes that one has to plan one’s career and nourish one’s network are critical to helping one’s career progress; and the latter is particularly important when getting a broader understanding of the challenges facing the company, as one can then provide suggestions which can address said concerns. The unwritten rules, Christine also remarks, resonates more with women than with men, as the way women navigate the world is different from the way men do so. That said, men can also pick something up from knowing these rules as, while they know those rules, it articulates those rules and gives an awareness of the way women think, as the viewpoint the rules show is an alternative one which they can use to help others.

“The best way to sell is to understand the need of the client, and then address it,” Christine notes. She also remarks that, in today’s environment, the challenges of technology and the pace of change is very fast. That said, the chaos that exists in today’s environment also creates opportunities, Christine believes, and this gives people an opportunity to align the needs of the organization with one’s own values and the value that one can add to the organization. “That’s what job security looks like, now and in the future,” she concludes.

Purchase from Amazon: 
Unlock Your Career Success: Knowing the Unwritten Rules Changes Everything by Christine Brown-Quinn

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Judy Bebelaar on Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown

In this interview, Judy Bebelaar talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about his/her book, And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown.



“Trust your own perceptions.” ~Judy Bebelaar

Judy has a Master’s in creative writing who wrote her first book of poetry while in third grade, and it was largely because of the support of her teacher at the time that she decided to become a teacher, herself. She has taught creative writing for decades and has published books with her students’ poetry in it, some of which have won awards. “Literature is not only the voices of others but their own voices and their own stories,” Judy says about her students’ writing. Her classes included her sharing her own writings whenever her students did so, remarking that “it was only fair.” She also commented that sharing her feelings and thoughts with others was somewhat scary, but it was through such sharing that her classrooms became a community. Judy also remarks that it is by sharing their stories that children realize that others have undergone something that they, likewise, had undergone. It was under her guidance that the students under her produced literary and art calendars which contained their writings, calendars which garnered national awards and attention.

Ron Cabral, who had, like Judy, taught teenagers of the Peoples Temple at San Francisco’s Opportunity II High School, remarked that it would would be good to write a book about the teenagers from the Peoples Temple that they knew after watching a play in 2008 where the name was spelled as “The People’s Temple,” as a way to memorialize them. And Then They Were Gone is thus a story about the students, and while Judy and Ron didn’t initially really know what went on inside the Temple in detail until they did research on for the book, when they spoke with survivors and other sources who filled them in. Judy points out that teachers rarely lose a lot of their students all at once, and writing the book also helped her and Ron come to terms with their grief.

“Don’t drink the Kool-aid” is a phrase which has reached common currency, and Judy points out that using it without knowing the horrific circumstances behind the phrase. Where the killing was concerned, Judy notes that the babies were killed first, which was something that Marceline Jones, the wife of Jim Jones, would very likely have objected to.

Jones was charismatic and appealed to the idealism of young people to pull them in and also had people who assist him in the process. He recruited people by showing the beauty of Guyana and the paradise that they would live in, but didn’t mention such details as the nearest grocery being a 27-hour trip, including a leg by boat, from their camp, or that nobody would be allowed to leave. Jonestown, in Guyana, was essentially a jungle prison camp where Jones ruled through fear and terror. The community’s members were mostly good people who wanted world peace, but the place itself was overcrowded, where the elderly were kept in bunk beds in a single dormitory, and where horrific punishments were meted out. He would hold meetings which would last until the early hours of the morning, and no matter what one’s age, nobody was allowed to sleep, no matter how sleepy or tired they were, and those who did so were punished. Jones would also conduct fake suicide rituals, where people would knowingly drink a supposedly poisoned drink and find, afterwards, that what they drank was actually harmless. People from within the Peoples Temple escaped and attempted to get word out of what was going on, in an attempt to avoid some future tragedy, particularly since people they loved were living there without their permission. This eventually led to a congressman and some members of the press actually visiting Guyana to see what was going on. Jones also loved taping his speeches, and Judy notes that, in the available recording made during the night of the mass suicide/murders, Jones stopped the recording 32 times, likely so that the sounds of people screaming and protesting and suffering wouldn’t be recorded.

When Judy and Ron researched their book, they reached out to people who had known people there, and Judy mentions Steven Jones, who was Jim Jones’ sole biological child and who was particularly helpful with their research. Judy relates that Steven remarked that he was more likely to carry a rifle than a baby on his lap while at Jonestown, and that the event and its aftermath weren’t easy for the survivors. She also notes that people undertook acts of kindness, such as not even saying that one was homesick (which could be told to Jones by someone who wanted to get on his good side), or of a boy who grew food outside the compound which he traded with the local people (he got punished when he got found out), which Jones would have considered treason. Judy also mentioned that, despite Jones’ strict rules and consequent punishments against such, some Temple children, who weren’t allowed to ride such conveyances as motorcycles, eagerly did so when invited, and that non-Temple teenagers got involved romantically with Temple teenagers.

In the book, Judy included works from the Temple teenagers she and Ron taught, to give a sense of what kind of children the Temple teenagers were. She remarks that people are now wanting to know more about such things that happened in the 1970s, such as the war in Vietnam, and which was the decade when the Jonestown murder/suicides took place. To those who might be involved with organizations like the Peoples Temple, Judy refers to what Steven Jones refers to as the power of peer pressure where, if one sees that everyone is doing the same thing, even if it feels wrong, then they must be doing something right.

At the end of the interview, Judy repeated passages from the book’s foreword which, for her, gives the rationale for remembering such horrific events.

Purchase from Amazon: And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown by Judy Bebelaar and Ron Cabral

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Ellery Akers on Environmentalism, Feminism, and Resistance.in Poetry

In this interview, Ellery Akers talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about his/her book, Swerve: Poems on Environmentalism, Feminism, and Resistance.



“If you love Nature, it’s really important to try to protect it.” ~Ellery Akers

Ellery was exposed to poetry early, as her mother would do so while working around the house, which made poetry a normal part of her life. She loves being in nature, and Nature has been her inspiration for all of her artistic endeavors. That said, she doesn’t hesitate about writing about such serious matters as child abuse, believing that Nature is the greatest healer; as she quotes, “Earth has no sorrow that Earth cannot heal.” She thus doesn’t shy from topics that people might not want to talk about, saying that Swerve is also about climate change, as she believes that talking about such things is the only way for people to make a difference.

Ellery spent twenty years camping while the weather was good, and it was while she was doing so that she wrote out her books and felt a sense of connection with Nature as a whole. She remarks that Nature is the original teacher of meditation, and remarks that studies have proven that those who are in touch with nature experience less stress. Ellery also remarks that getting in touch with nature also helps with such conditions as diabetes and ADHD, and that doctors are now issuing prescriptions for people to spend time in nature, adding that, in Japan, “forest bathing” is a system of medicine where those who participate in it have better immune systems.

Ellery chose “Swerve” as the title of her book in recognition of our presently being in a “swerve” part of our history, albeit one which is catastrophic. (NB: This interview was conducted at the height of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020.) She notes that there have been positive swerves in the past, such as the downfall of the Berlin wall, the deconstruction of apartheid. Ellery counts as one of her heroes the conservationist, Rachel Carson, whose work helped establish the importance of natural ecology.

Ellery admits she’s and “environmentalist, a feminist and an activist,” and she wrote about these themes as a way to recover feminine values, which recognize interdependence and cooperation, rather than the masculine values of competition and win-lose. She notes that such outstanding women as Wangari Malaathai (who created a movement which planted 51 million trees in Kenya) and Barbara McClintock (a scientist who discovered the secret of the corn genes, which all worked together rather than being controlled by a “top gene,” which was the masculine-oriented context of the day) are mentioned in her book, women who have made a positive difference in the world. She also remarks that, at the end of the day, action is what makes a difference. Her outlook on the need for a feminine outlook to be included in the mainstream came from her admiration from women who have made a difference, and this comes to bear on the present urgency to turn around the negative trend of climate change.

Ellery presented two of her poems, and she then remarked that poetry isn’t particularly mainstream. That said, she remarks that “poetry is the soul of the culture,” as it’s short and cuts to the core. She remarks that her process for poetry is the same as when she is creating a painting. When her subject is a tree, for example, she desires to know what it is like to be a tree “from the inside,” which means that she will spend hours with the tree, trying to connect with it. Doing so, Ellery admits, requires humility, as she wants to learn from the subject how to write about it or how to paint it. Such a process does take time, she admits, but it is worth it, as she wants to be a “voice for Nature.”

“I think that poetry can inspire people,” Ellery remarks, adding that poetry can inspire people to create change. She notes that people can feel overwhelmed about what to do to change the way things are going, and follows up with a quote from the Dalai Lama: “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” To those who want to make a difference, Ellery remarks that sending an e-mail or postcard to their representative, saying that they care about climate change and reforestation, to make a difference. “This is a dark time for the Earth,” Ellery notes, “but we have come through dark times before and come out victorious,” after which she gave the example of Rachel Carson, who worked against the large, polluting corporations of the day.

Ellery’s vision of the world is that of reforesting the world to buy humanity time to reverse climate change, as well as transforming cities to use sustainable energy. She would also like feminine values to become more front-and-center, and while she believes that such a future is possible, we should move now to achieve this. “We are not powerless,” she points out, adding that there is hope and that only 3.5% of the population is needed to effect a reversal of climate change.

Purchase from Amazon: Swerve: Poems on Environmentalism, Feminism, and Resistance by Ellery Akers

Friday, March 27, 2020

Wanda Swenson on Everyday Self-Care and the Art of Pain Relief

In this interview, Wanda Swenson talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, The How of Ow: Everyday Self Care and the Art of Pain Relief.




“Just take a deep breath.” ~Wanda Swenson

Wanda took up physical therapy in part to know about her own injuries, as she had some knee injuries from practicing judo for years as well as a back injury prior to even starting judo, as well as to know about how the body heals. Wanda eventually wound up in orthopedic therapy, after initially considering pediatrics, which became “a good occupation” for her to follow. That said, Wanda became a therapist at a time when pain science was being applied to how physical therapy was done. (Wanda points out that physical therapy was born out of the 1920s polio epidemic, as a way to help those who were afflicted with polio recover.) Wanda remarks that orthopedic physical therapy focuses on pain in the joints, while pain treatment is more about the nervous system and how thoughts and emotions affect the pain itself.

Pain, according to Wanda, is an unpleasant sensation which has an emotional experience and component associated with the actual tissue damage. Avoiding it is natural, but chronic pain is not about injured tissue but more about the fear of pain and anxiety associated with uncertainty. She notes it is important to respond to pain, rather than ignore it, and that it is also important for people to know what to do when pain hits. Wanda’s own injuries inspired her to investigate what to do when pain hits, and this enabled her to help out those who had chronic pain from injuries similar to her own.

Where injuries are concerned, Wanda remarks that some sort of weakness is always involved. According to Wanda, one of the misconceptions about pain is that a pill will make the pain go away; and this is false, in that all the pill does is make one not care about the pain as much. Another is that somebody other than oneself can fix one’s pain, as it is up to one to do what needs to be done - such as strengthen and move one’s muscles and body to ensure the proper coordination amongst all of these - to manage or eliminate the pain.

Emotions can make a pain feel worse or better, Wanda remarks. In the past, people believed that there was a “pain center” somewhere in the brain, but research has shown that there is no such thing. As pain is a subjective experience, Wanda notes that using pain scales for patients to describe pain might be important, but also using a scale which “catastrophizes” pain. The questions related to this scale are related along the lines of, “How often do you think about this pain?” and “How much has this pain changed your life?” This scale indicates how prone one is to chronic pain, with those who give higher rankings being the ones to most likely experience chronic pain. That said, having an emotional reaction is part of the process, but acknowledging and recognizing one’s thoughts and being present to these, as well as taking a few deep breaths, triggers a relaxation response, in contrast to the fight-or-flight response that pain automatically brings on. This can enable one to handle one’s perception of pain and enable one to do what needs to be done to recover.

The present opioid crisis in the United States was one of the inspirations for her writing her book. Wanda remarks that, up until the 1990s, pain was under-treated, and part of the impetus of that time was to make pain the fifth vital sign (in addition to heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and respiration rate) for physicians to take note of, even though, as she notes, “Pain will not kill you.” Oxycontin was given as a pill to relieve pain, as it was supposedly non-addictive, and from then it became socially okay to be on pain relief medication, which led to opiate-based drugs being increasingly used to manage pain. Opioids, however, make pain worse, as these affect one’s sleeping patterns and digestive system, in addition to one focusing more on one’s pain rather than on such other things as doing the things one loves.

Another inspiration for the book was the ageing population, as moving one’s body is just as useful and just as important in one’s old age. The book has a lot of exercises and advice on how to move one’s body and thus reduce pain. Prior to all her realizations that are the basis of her book, Wanda focused on the physical aspects of physical therapy, but over time, as the demands on physical therapists increased, she found she couldn’t spend as much time with her patients as she used to, so her practice shifted towards educating a patient and empowering them with what they can do for themselves. This meant that she did less manual therapy and still got good results.

Wanda notes that the book came out of her own deepening understanding of pain. Wanda’s writing of the book was the result of years of “brewing,” and grew out of her desire to tell her patients more about how to help themselves. The first person she mentioned the idea of the book to was a patient who was a writer, and the latter told her that writing the book was a good idea. Wanda later mentioned the idea of the book to several others, all of whom agreed that writing it out would be a good thing to do. She began working on the book after retiring in 2013, and finally wrote it out after years of work. She admits to being “surprised” by people who she hadn’t seen at all but who have read the book, people who have gotten something out of it to relieve the pain they feel.

One of the exercises that Wanda swears by is Postural Isometric Lengthening, which is for any problem with the spine, shoulders, neck and back and which can be done in any position. The intention of the exercise is for one to get as tall as one can. The essence of the exercise is for one to pull one’s belly in and then keeping one’s shoulders one and back while taking deep breaths. This exercise works the coordination amongst various muscles and is helpful for everyday activities.

Wanda notes that, no matter what one’s age, one can always strengthen one’s body, as our bodies have an innate ability to heal.

Purchase from Amazon: 
The How of Ow: Everyday Self Care and the Art of Pain Relief by Wanda Swenson

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Kari O'Driscoll on How Truth (of Caretaking) Has a Different Shape

In this interview, Kari O'Driscoll talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about his book, Truth Has a Different Shape.



“It’s all about showing up for people in the way that they need me.” ~Kari O'Driscoll

Given Kari’s background in healthcare, it would seem, on the surface, that her looking after her mother in the latter’s old age would not be much of a challenge, but this isn’t the case. In her childhood, Kari had to essentially become the mother to her younger sibling as well as to her own mom. At the start of her caring for her mother, Kari felt angry and resentful about doing so, but as time went by, Kari went on a journey which enabled her to deal with her mother with love and compassion. Kari also notes that some parents, once they become the one looked after, become resentful at the reversal of roles, even as the children wonder how to get their parents to do things.

For Kari, the definition of caretaking and being a caretaker evolved. Initially, caretaking for her was very much frantic and survival-based, having to do with everyday needs, such as food. Shedding that kind of fear-based caretaking became hard for her to do when she became a mother, and over time she realized that the most profound kind of caretaking is the one which comes from listening and accepting the person for who they are, so she can be with that person in that moment, compared to the previous paradigm of constantly trying to head off disaster.

Kari admits that the circumstances of her introduction to caretaking were “unique,” in that, in the space of three months, her family fell apart when she lost a brother, her parents got divorced, her father remarried and moved away and her mother fell into a deep depression and couldn’t function. Kari stepped up, at the age of eight, and became the primary caretaker for the entire family, influenced by the fear that, if things didn’t appear normal to everyone else, everyone would get taken away. “These expectations were internal,” Kari admits, and there was additional stress in that, as a child, she couldn’t let any adult know what was going on. She attempted to be the mother she thought mothers should be, as well as resented her mother for not being the mother she should have been. When Kari became a mother herself, she fell into the kind of rigid expectation of what a mother should be, one who provided three hot meals a day and stayed home with the children so they could be constantly stimulated and involved with various activities so they would develop properly.

Kari reflects that the expectations of mothers in today’s society are not reflected in the expectations of fathers today, and a lot of expectations laid on mothers aren’t sustainable - “a recipe for disaster,” she adds. Kari notes that she was initially “certain” she wasn’t going to have kids, and when she finally had her first child, she figured she had already “walled off” her experiences from childhood. This wasn’t true, and this insecurity manifested itself in the phrase she constantly heard in her head: “What makes you think you can do this?” It was a voice that she constantly ran away from until she “broke,” at a time when she felt exhausted and realizing she could no longer fight things, after which she went into depression to the point of feeling suicidal. This realization made her seek help and, eventually, therapy for her concern, particularly as she didn’t want her children to experience what she, herself, experienced when her mother went into depression. Seeking help took a lot of courage from her, as she didn’t want her children taken away from her in a repeat of when her brother was taken away from her while she was a child.

Kari’s present way of caretaking, she reflects, creates a relationship between the caretaker and the one being taken care of while enabling the latter to have a voice in what is going on. Doing so, she notes, enabled her mother to deal with the latter’s own grief about her loss of independence, which is reflective of a relationship. Kari also notes that, in the old paradigm of caretaking, those being taken care of aren’t given credit for what they actually might need, and in particular, where children are concerned, the latter don’t get the space they need to explore and learn and grow. Kari’s present style of caretaking is all about creating, with her daughters, for example, a foundation of a relationship where they know that she is there for them whenever they need her. She also notes that her guest room is open for kids who need a place to be, and that she also volunteers for community service and is on the board of an organization that provides employment for adults with mental illness, which are expressions of her present paradigm of caretaking.

Kari O’Driscoll, as a person when living in the old paradigm of caretaking, was a compulsive perfectionist, a Type-A personality whom others viewed as being “hyper-competent.” She ground her teeth and didn’t sleep a lot and made sure that the house was always clean and that every last detail was looked after. “Ninety percent of my decisions were made out of fear,” she points out.

Kari O’Driscoll now is someone who is more grounded, calmer and more likely to take a break. She’s now more likely to say that she doesn’t know the answer and is willing to help someone find the answers to their questions. She only takes on roles where she feels called to do and doesn’t really care about what other people think, knows that she doesn’t have to know, all the time, that things are going right, and trusts more that the Universe is holding her.

Where her book is concerned, Kari remarks that her story is unique and different. Also, she notes that a lot of kids in the 1970s were “latchkey kids,” who essentially raised themselves while their parents were out, and that kind of environment, when growing up, creates a lot of “baggage,” which is something that a lot of people, particularly those who were former latchkey kids, could relate to. In addition, her concern of raising children at the same time as looking after an elderly parent is something baby boomers is likely to be something the latter are presently undergoing, and as navigating this situation is tricky, Kari hopes that her memoir might have some information or perspective that might be able to help them.

To those who are overwhelmed with looking after someone, Kari recommends creating their “to do” list of all their activities that they should be doing, and then seeing what activities they can either outsource or eliminate. “We make assumptions that all of these needs to be done,” Kari notes, adding that eliminating some things enables people to have room to breathe and have time for themselves.

Truth Has a Different Shape from CavanKerry Press


Purchase from Amazon: 
Truth Has a Different Shape by Kari O'Driscoll


Links to Kari O'Driscoll's Previous AuthorStory Interview:

Kari O'Driscoll: Developing Self-Awareness and Critical Thinking in Adolescents (YouTube)

One Teenager at a Time: Developing Self-Awareness and Critical Thinking in Adolescents (AuthorStory Blog)

One Teenager at a Time: Developing Self-Awareness and Critical Thinking in Adolescents (AuthorStory Videos Blo)

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Joan "Joni" darc Shepherd on How Her Dog Rio Saved Her Life

In this interview, Joni darc Shepherd talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, Rio - A Love Story: How My Dog Saved My Life.



“Dogs are little angels with fur.” ~Joni darc Shepherd

Joni has liked dogs ever since she was a little girl, as there had always been one dog in their family’s house at all times. Much as she wanted to have a dog of her own, it wasn’t until she lived on her own that she got a dog for herself, as her mother prohibited any other dog but her sister’s to live in the family home. Her first dog, Marley, was a rescued black Labrador mix, whom she really bonded with.

Joni remarks that the right dog comes along to a person at the right moment. To those who would own a dog, Joni recommends that they do their homework, creating a list of things that will and won’t work for one, such as the dog’s energy level and the dog’s age, a puppy will be very demanding. Once the criteria are set, one should check out dogs, such as during a dog exhibit set by a local dog club, so one can see how the dog behaves. That said, dogs also have their own personalities, and she encourages rescue dog adoption. “You need to take it [dog guardianship] seriously,” Joni remarks, “because it is for your life and the dog’s total life.” Where giving dogs as presents is concerned, Joni notes that the person receiving the dog might not be ready for one at that point in his or her life, and while the dog might be a nice one for the giver, it might not be the right one for the recipient.

Rio, according to Joni, is a “real person,” and has done things for her that humans haven’t, helping her go on the journey she is presently on. Joni’s sister, aunt and Marley died in quick succession. The stress didn’t stop there, as Joni needed to look after her 91-year-old mother and both her sister and the latter’s dog, when both contracted lymphoma. Joni then fell into depression, feeling lost and that her whole world had fallen apart, with her waking up some days not wanting to do anything but hide. It was shortly after Marley’s death that she looked for a dog and found Rio, and the dog’s cheerful, endearing, friendly nature pulled her out of that depression and got her living life once again, as well as opened up doors and commit to doing bigger goals than she was used to.

Rio is a Belgian Tervuren, and Joni notes that, in the United States, there are four recognized Belgian breeds (Malinois, Tervuren, Groenendael, Laekenois) that are very similar to each other, but that, in Belgium and the rest of Europe, those four breeds are treated as a single breed. Where Belgian dog breeds are concerned, Joni notes that these can “do it all,” whereas other breeds might specialize in sniffing, while others would specialize in herding, and still others in obedience.

Joni remarks that Rio is an exception to the breed, as he is sweet, friendly and endearing. Joni cites examples of Rio going up to animals such as camels, rabbits and supposedly ornery horses, and getting friendly greetings from these. Rio is also a flirt, as he manages to find at least girlfriend at each meet he goes to, with the girls occasionally fighting over him. Joni remarks that Rio’s energy is infectious, particularly when her alarm rings at 3 a.m. and, while she’s wondering whether to get up or not, Rio gets her attention and asks: “Where are we going today, Mom?”

When Joni got Rio, the breeder told her to show him in the confirmation ring, which was something she had not done before. Joni committed to doing that, with Rio winning championships at such shows. (Confirmations are shows where dogs are shown to judges who are familiar with such breeds confirmed, and the dog with the traits that best meet the standards met by clubs - and the standards can be numerous and specific - wins awards.) Joni mentions that an award-winning dog becomes most in demand for breeding, which has an impact on future generations of the breed.

For his part, Rio doesn’t want to keep doing the same thing over and over, which was why he has participated in several canine sports. Joni shared some incidents with Rio, such as with her losing her shoes during a sheep herding competition, and remarks that Rio has also participated in obedience trials as well as agility, where he was stopped by the dark, curved tunnel until one of his girlfriends was placed on the other end - after which he had no difficulty negotiating that obstacle. That said, Rio is also afraid of heights, which was why he stopped doing agility work. Rio has also done dog trick competitions, with one of his best tricks being mimicry, and has also done barn hunting competitions, where he has bested an Airedale, which have been bred specifically to find rats on riverbanks, to win first place in that particular competition. Rio has also done farm dog competitions, where the dog has to do twelve different things which simulate different tasks done around a farm, and doggie dancing. Rio is also a certified therapy dog, and the tricks he knows helps entertain and draw out nursing home hospice residents. Joni intends to have Rio do duck herding when he gets older, as ducks don’t run fast.

Where the book is concerned, Joni notes that the book is inspirational, motivational and upbeat, as well as touches on every emotion possible. “Through my journey,” Joni remarks, “one of the main things that I’ve learned is that the most important thing is love.”

Purchase from Amazon: Rio - A Love Story: How My Dog Saved My Life by Joan "Joni" darc Shepherd



Sunday, January 12, 2020

Beth Cramer on Dying to Live (Her Cancer Memoir - Why Didn't I Notice Her Before?)

In this interview, Beth Cramer talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, Why Didn't I Notice Her Before? A Memoir about Dying to Live.



“I don’t wanna do anything I don’t wanna do anymore.” ~Beth Cramer

Beth admits that she’s a storyteller, and film became a medium of choice. Being an editor gave her the leeway to learn not only about filming but also how to tell stories. Crafting commercials was one way for her to do so, as she needed to tell a story within thirty seconds. “I’ve always wanted to pull at the heartstrings,” she remarks. She also created a documentary on single women who wanted to raise children without a partner, and one of the reasons she set up Brain Films was to set up a brand for herself in the filming industry.

Beth remarks that she had actually been trying to write a novel on a woman with cancer, and had been finding it difficult to move the story forward when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer, when she came in for treatment for heartburn in 2017. “Ovarian cancer is called a silent killer for a reason,” Beth notes, as this type of cancer is mistaken for such benign conditions as bloated bellies (which was one of Beth’s conditions), and there is no diagnostic tool to determine its presence. Beth’s family has, additionally, had no history of cancer, which made the diagnosis all that more surprising. The cancer started in her fallopian tubes and had spread to her chest, neck and lymph nodes at the time she was diagnosed.

Beth notes that she had been suffering from anxiety since 2010, and the diagnosis offered her clarity and gave her an opportunity to live in the moment. Beth mentioned that she had close family ties, and that support was important where dealing with her condition was concerned. She eventually got most of her treatments in Washington, D.C., where her sisters and her mother lived, whereas she lives in New York with her family; and doing so made things a lot easier for her.

Beth remarks that her mother was “astounded” that she wrote a book that was “so raw,” as Beth is the most reserved of her daughters, and she notes that she had a lot of things she needed to overcome to essentially “target” her own cancer. She also noted how “funny” it was to use “the cancer card,” as it’s called, in various ways, which stems from being honest about the situation she found herself in, such as going into a hot yoga class while wearing a wig. Beth notes that such moments can be painful as well as comical, and remarks that her book isn’t intended to be a depressing book or a clinical book. She also remarks that, while cancer is the catalyst for a lot of the stories she wrote about, those stories are personal but also ones which a lot of people can relate to, which gives her book its appeal. “It’s about how we navigate this crazy world with crazy minds,” she remarks, adding that her book isn’t clinical or medical in nature.

Being released from the trauma that caused her anxiety was one of the things she got out of being diagnosed with cancer, and perhaps the biggest lesson she got was that things happen for a reason. She also remarks that she has not denied herself that which feels good for her, such as the foods she likes. Beth admits that she had always been idealistic and determined, prior to her diagnosis. “There was not a lot of self-kindness there,” she notes, and her diagnosis that she had cancer silenced her inner self-critic, as such concerns didn’t matter anymore. “I could see the essence of myself again,” she remarks, enabling her to live closer to her truth.

“Don’t second-guess yourself or your instincts,” Beth advises. “Go for it, and pay attention to the signs and try to laugh.”

Purchase from Amazon: 
Why Didn't I Notice Her Before? A Memoir about Dying to Live by Beth Cramer