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BREATHE: A Memoir of Motherhood, Grief, and Family Conflict ~Kelly Kittel

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat writes that there’s a group of people who carry the sky on their heads.  They are the People of Creation.  Strong, tall, and mighty people who can bear anything. Their maker gives them the sky to carry because they are so strong.  These people do not know who they are, but if you see a lot of trouble in your life, it is because you were chosen to carry part of the sky on your head.  We understood this burden, but frankly, my chunk of sky was giving me a headache.”  Page 340

BREATHE is a story about healing, understanding, revealing, forgiveness, and all the junk swishing around in extended family dynamics and conflict.  I am told that the most healing process one can undertake is to tell your story, understand the lessons, and allow other people to see that there are transitions and possibilities.  The story needs time to mull and ferment to make sure it includes the truth the writer knows to be real and not just reaction and emotion.  Kelly Kittel took her time, and numerous workshops, and lots of counseling and it took her another seven years to actually write the book.  She did not do it alone and she thanks so many for helping her hold her piece of the sky.

The story line is thus: 2 people are starting their journey in the Peace Corp; one from the East Coast of the USA and one from the West Coast of the USA.  They fall in love, are happy together and they are celebrating their family; enjoying their 4 children.  They are living on a street in Oregon which is dominated by the husband’s family and they are not so fond of the Eastern Interloper who is a scientist.   Much of the huge extended family is gathered at the Oregon Coast when the 16 year old niece backs a Chevy Tahoe over the 15 month old child who she cannot see.  It is a harrowing accident with helicopter airlifts and drama. It creates huge family tension and brings the blame game out into the open; the author becomes an unfit mother.   Noah is gone and buried and the family grieves and works on counseling and keeping the remaining 3 children growing and loving. The in-laws keep acting up and out.  Kelly becomes pregnant and has high blood pressure problems and too soon Jonah is stillborn.  The grief is magnified and the support groups continue and the family works on their own healing.  The in-laws evict the family and they move back to the East coast nearer Kelly’s family.  Once again the author is pregnant and miscarries.  The emotional stress is elevated and they are caring for each other, and the family is enjoying being a single unit of love and support.  Another pregnancy and Kelly finds a High Risk Pregnancy Expert, who says Jonah did not need to die, her medical records indicate negligence. New medications and better timing and test results- care – and Isaiah is born and doing fine.  The family decides to prepare a lawsuit against the Physician and Midwife Clinic in Oregon – a five year endurance test.  The in-laws testify against the family and yet the jury decides for the family.   Bella was born after the lawsuit and the family is complete.  Lots of love, communications, forgiveness and breathing are between the covers of this story about conflicts.

The writing is full of details, emotions, and water. The writing is beautiful-memorable.  The author is not tepid or angry about her experience.  She is working it through and finding her own answers and recovery.  She is not vindictive.  It is also a study in how family communications get misconstrued and can develop a pecking order which stops being useful and cuts off any growth.  When one cannot communicate with others, there is no bond, responsibility is sidestepped and the only pathway open is to BREATHE and separate.

This book touched me personally, as I share life with a child who had 12 major surgeries and my own life full of healthcare that was not workable and no insurance; maybe we all have family members who want to control and make our lives a competition; it was good to see it from another angle and so graciously stated.

tlc logoTLC Online Book Tours   and She Writes Press shared a finished signed copy of this book for me to review.  I know you know someone who would benefit from reading – BREATHE

Kelly Kittel’s Blog
Kelly Kittel’s on Facebook

So Far Away
Little Island
The Fault In Our Stars
Wild- Plate  (We need more comments on this one for the Giveaway!)

DARING GREATLY: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead ~Brene’ Brown

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

I am a reader and life practitioner who just wants the best for people and I feel DARING GREATLY is one of the best reads and guides I could possible share with you.   I believe Brene’ Brown is defiantly on to something great and good for humankind’s best interests and outcomes.

I have reviewed Brown’s other major work The Gifts of Imperfection and was drawn into her research modes and interpretations.  Yes, I could find my own self and struggles in her words. I was not ashamed to look at my own feelings of shame, those times when I block my feelings of vulnerability, and I was challenged to evaluate my words and actions improving my outcomes and resilience.  I liked her fine-tuned definitions of words and responses; I could certainly understand how they made a difference in our conversations.  I have watched her TED TALKS numerous times, and listened to her full interview on the radio program ON BEING at least 3 times.  I have great praise for Brown’s ability to explain her data and what she understands in such incredibly human terms, so that all of us can comprehend and find useful her lessons.

In DARING GREATLY, the author has taken her research further by adding men to the studies and more interviews and by teaching and leading numerous workshops which have honed her vast knowledge into even more expository and useful words.  DARING GREATLY is a useable workbook not only for social workers but for anyone who looks to be a parent, a teacher, a human in a loving relationship and/or a leader.  This book pinpoints our control issues and politics – actually, it covers just about every way we as a people keep our actions from matching our values.

“Blaming, gossiping, favoritism, name-calling, and harassment are all behavior cues that shame has permeated a culture.”

I found myself releasing old feelings about my childhood and forgiving myself for my imperfect parenting skills when reading DARING GREATLY.   I firmly believe that children are hardwired for struggle and adversity and those are the tools which assist us in learning to be shame resilient and wholehearted people. (Author’s terminology)

This book can change lives and has changed lives and I recommend this book to everyone.  DARING GREATLY is a gift of change and an innovative approach to being the best that one can be – INSPIRING.

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s from this site, I will receive a few blooms for my bouquet.  Thank you.

This book is from my own library and I thought it was worth sharing with you.  I have already created a workshop using the information gained from Brene’ Brown’s work.

“I am Enough!”  

From Powell’s review page:
”Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. An award-winning teacher and speaker, she is also the author of The Gifts of Imperfection and I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t). Her groundbreaking work has been featured widely in the media, including a PBS special.”

TED TALK on Vulnerability

Related Reading:
The Gifts of Imperfection
The Wisdom to Know the Difference
When Women Were Birds
Search Inside Yourself

The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation ~Jon Gertner

Monday, March 12th, 2012

THE IDEA FACTORY is an incredible read, it is a powerful read; I was so excited by the title when asked would I review the book on my blog.   I thought the IDEA FACTORY was about opening up the reader’s creative ideas and creating opportunities, rather it is a work of History.

The book does excite the creative juices and get one to do some poignant thinking; it was wonderful to fire up those skills and enjoy such a well written book.  Gertner  has  a command of words that was refreshing.   The book is about the period of history 1940s to 1970s when Bell Laboratories, Western Electric, and AT&T had a benevolent monopoly on communications in the USA, particularly as they related to the development of superior telephone service.  The innovations which came out of this monopoly are still being visited today and are creating massive amounts of new technology at an even faster pace.  The innovations that were established by the Bell Labs are the foundation of our technological world today.

Bell Laboratories wanted communications services, “the best, the fastest and the most economical” in the world.   So they went about finding bright young minds who loved the sciences and mathematics and engineering, and inventing and were CURIOUS.   Most were from rural settings and were encouraged by a teacher to find grant money and get themselves to a good school.  Then the Bell Labs set about discovering the “best among the best”, usually referred by their faculty and hiring them to create and invent and produce the equipment they needed to keep communications growing, being more successful and meeting needs.  They paid each young man $1 as they entered the work force for any patents they might develop and gave them a lab – Doors must remain open so other disciplines can wander in and get involved – they were given a problem to solve or several problems to solve.

How to get long distance services across the whole country – from coast to coast.

How to develop a cable that would survive under the ocean?

How to use a single cable to carry 1,000s of calls – clearly

These young men found each other and metallurgists, and chemists, and mechanics to start discussion groups and to problem-solve.   They wandered around and wrote on blackboards in the various labs.  They challenged each other and teased each other until a solution immerged.   The list of what they produced is amazing and the stories of how they came up with these solutions fascinating:

  • Switches
  • Cables
  • Masers to lasers
  • Water proofing
  • Transistors
  • Secret Codes for the WWII
  • Calculators
  • Computers
  • Radar
  • Microwave Antennas
  • UNIX
  • Atomic Bomb
  • CCE = Digital Photography
  • 13 Nobel Prize Winners!

Although institutions such as Microsoft, Apple, Google, and others have great minds working together, they are similar but not as innovative or inspiring with the new, they are creating within a niche. “….the NET is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation.” Nicholas Carr.

The downfall of this experiment was when they had to give up their monopoly and break apart the different sections so that they were not all working together without need for grants.  With the monopoly the BELL LABS did not have to learn how to find funds or market.  The biggest problem was that the USA downgraded education as a priority particularly math and sciences; modern society wants rules, answers, and control and thus curiosity is not encouraged.

“I just don’t think they make people like the kind of people we had; not that nature doesn’t make them just that the environment doesn’t make them.”   Dr. Lucky

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to be amazed by history and to jumpstart their curiosity.   I also enjoyed this book because it made me feel closer to my Father who was one of those brilliant, curious, intelligent young men of those times, who came from a similar background and created an education system that outshined anything else that was in existence and it came to the attention of the Kennedy family.  When President Kennedy was shot it burst the trajectory my Father was on and other people just did not have the foresight to comprehend his work, though many prestigious universities called him to teach and promoted his concepts.

I was also fascinated with the chapter about the Seattle and New York World’s Fairs as I attended both and went to the Bell Lab’s displays and house of the future.

So has anything surprised you recently and been different from your expectations?  Would you have read the book if it had turned out to not be what you expected?   Were you pleased with the outcome?

Penguin Press  and TLC book tours sent me a copy of this book and I promised them a review.

tlclogoIf you order anything from Amazon or Powell’s    I will receive a few beans in my bucket. (Kindle)

Related Reading:
Shiny Objects
The Swan Thieves
The Social Animal
The Procrastination Equation

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert ~By John M. Gottman, Ph.D. And Nan Silver

Monday, February 13th, 2012

This book was a gift from one of my daughters for Christmas 2011.  It had been recommended to her by a counselor and she had found it a valuable resource.  It was so important to her she wanted her sisters and her parents to benefit from the wisdom found within.  I made note that this book had been on my must read LIST for nearly 9 years.

I am not unfamiliar with Dr. Gottman’s incredible work on marriage, relationships and love as he and his wife have been ardent researchers at the University of Washington for many, many years and I have been graced with having taken several credit update courses from his team.   When I was teaching Marriage Preparation classes at the University where I was campus minister, we used his work extensively for our retreats we had tremendous success.

I also had tremendous resistance to reading this book.  As much as I knew that the information was valuable, I also understood that I would been exposed to my many points of failure within my own 34 years of marriage and I had to deal with the fact that I found it easier to live in a parallel relationship and had found it too difficult to build a team of my own.   I went ahead and read the book and I got angry with myself and with my partner who I am fairly certain will never read this book or do the exercises.

I do believe that this book is a powerful resource for young couples and for couples who wish to refresh their relationship.  All those folks who are now empty nesters have an opportunity to build their relationships also.   I think one just needs to have the desire, do the exercises, practice and the deeper connections will begin to change and take hold.   Just the simple act of changing a few words at the beginning of a confrontation or conflict can and may produce tremendous change and outcomes.

“Softening the start up of a discussion is crucial to resolving conflicts, because, my research finds, discussions invariably end on the same note they began.”

Dr. Gottman is able to predict within a 91% success rate, which couples will stay together and which couples will not stand a chance.  Usually it just takes him the answer to one question.

“Another important lesson I have learned is that in all arguments, both solvable and perpetual, no one is ever right.  There is no absolute reality in marital conflicts, only two subjective realities.”

I so enjoy listening to the CAR TALK fellows on NPR try and help so many couples work through their car questions – always the expectation of an absolute answer.

The book is very hands on and hopeful.  Concepts are explained clearly and simply and the examples are relevant.  Although being able to communicate well can be either a boon or a determent to a couple, this is not actually a book about communications skills.  It is about relationship skills and how to create and highlight your own skills, tweak, and eliminate those that are not serving you well.

I do like to take surveys and true and false tests and was just amazed at how clearly the little quizzes brought me to a truer definition of my style.  When I first meet a person I am more likely to use my counselor greeting to start the connection.  My family on the other hand does not like it when I approach them in the manner so I use a more questioning approach to getting the ball rolling.  This approach is similar to an “early warning” system and I find that they disappear or change the subject very quickly – actually they will do just about anything not to deal with conflict or problems and their greatest “weapon” is to ignore.

By participating in the quizzes, I can see my style clearly and I can practice some of their techniques and ideas and explore new ways of handling the conversation.  I have been working some new approaches on my partner for helping us to downsize and to look at our financial situation; planning for retirement.  By attending several classes about Retirement planning and Medicare, I have been able to get my partner to start the conversations and stay engaged in the process and even do some of the research!

“The basis for coping effectively with either kind of problem (perpetual or solvable) is the same; communicating basic acceptance of your partner’s personality.  Human nature dictates that it is virtually impossible to accept advice from someone unless you feel that person understands you.”  “If either (or both) of you feels judged, misunderstood, or rejected by the other, you will not be able to manage the problems in your marriage.”

The happiest and longest married couples from the studies, and now they have 40 + years worth of data, are those that like everything about their partners. They often joke about the foibles and are the first to tell tales on themselves of mistakes they made – usually with a twinkle in their eye and delight in the telling.  They have little tricks for overcoming the tough things and they are able to step into the conversation, modify intensity, and play with options.  Here’s an example:

My partner just runs about 15 to20 minutes late for everything,  I decided it was part of his biorhythm system and after a few years of frustration I just figured out to tell him the plane, train or event started a half hour earlier than it did.  Now we both know that I am doing this, but we never speak of it and we are not always late or missing the plane or making folks upset with us.  This removes the intensity of the frustration, cuts the analysis and discussion and gets us to events without ruining the party.

I think I will just keep this gem of a workbook on my shelf for a long time to come.  I believe it will become dog-eared and ratty over time, because I believe I am capable of changing to make my marriage experience even better over the next third of my life.  I think we are still capable of deepening our relationship and becoming even better friends.

How about you?  Are you thinking about being in a relationship?  Are you thinking about deepening your relationship?  Are you considering getting out of a relationship that is just not working for you?

(For those of you who prefer Powells’ Connection to the Amazon link above :)

Related Reading:
The Wisdom To Know the Difference
The Element
We Have Met The Enemy
After 34 Years My Husband is Leaving Me

I invite you to WiseEars  to explore the possibilities of listening and being heard and to ask you to sign up for my newsletter.

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.

No one paid me or offered me any product to review this book.  It is part of my own collection.

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