Informative and useful summary of the science regarding our brains and our bellies.
The Day We Met: A Novel
by Rowan Coleman
This book moved me in a way that is hard to explain. Three—soon to be four—generations of women cope with the role reversals and the inherent tensions involved when Claire, a forty-something wife and mother is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Her world and her connection to it are rapidly disappearing into a fog. She tries to anchor herself to stay present in each moment.
While riding on a train, Claire explains to the reader, “And yet, looking at my reflection, in the window opposite, hollow and translucent, I see a woman disappearing. It would help if I looked like that in real life—if the more the disease advanced, the more ‘see-through’ I became until, eventually, I would be just a wisp of a ghost. How much more convenient it would be, how much easier for everyone, including me, if my body just melted away along with my mind… Then we’d all know where we were, literally and metaphysically. I have no idea if that makes sense, but I like that I remember the word metaphysical.”
Claire can no longer drive, teach, read to her three-year-old child, or be trusted outside alone. And while she remembers loving her husband, she no longer feels love for him. She worries that if emotions are so easily altered, if they are real at all. Her mother tries to reassure her.
“I think they are real,” Mum says. “I love you more that I have ever loved anyone—even your father, and I loved him very much. And Greg loves you, and that is real, much more real than I thought, I’ll admit. Esther and Caitlin love you. A lot of people love you. And all of the feelings they have for you are real. I think it’s love that lasts. It’s love that remembers us. It’s love that is left when we are gone. I think those feelings are more real than our bodies and all the things that can go wrong with them. This”—she pinches her forearm—“is just the packaging.”
The power and endurance of love and the ways in which we show it are reinforced through what could have been a very depressing tale, but instead is hopeful, uplifting, surprising and–at times–even funny.
“What will be left of us all, is the love we have given and received.”
Some wise and passionate words about the trouble with so-called “school reform.” There is a better way. Ask a teacher.
(A guest post by Caroline Lewis follows this introduction)
I just had the chance to be encouraged by seeing another excellent book written about education from a teacher who “gets it.” It was a very pleasant surprise. You see, I greatly dislike most self-help books, and especially books about teaching, because all too many come from either the perspective of endless Pollyanna platitudes (“…all is beautiful, things will be better in the morning, there is a silver lining…”) or are written by someone with absolutely no clue about the realities of their topic. As someone battling cancer, I see and hear that approach every day. And worse, as a teacher, like all of us, I have had to live through endless PDP sessions by some paid professional “educator” who has not been back in a school classroom since leaving high school.
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I like Amy Poehler. She and Tina Fey are two of my favorite Saturday Night Live writers and performers of all time. So, after reading (or rather listening to) Tina’s memoir, I thought it was only fair to read Amy’s as well. It too was made available to me electronically for FREE from my public library.
Amy offers some life lessons from where she stands at the middle of hers. In her mid-forties, she’s the divorced, sleep-deprived, working mother of two. Here’s some of what she’s learned.
1. Be kind. Don’t text anything you wouldn’t want the world to see. While she does drop a lot of names, if you’re looking for juicy, mean-girl gossip, you won’t find it here. Even her ex-husband is treated with kindness and gratitude. Furthermore, Amy apologizes very publicly for an unintentional (on her part) hurt she caused some fine people with an SNL sketch she did years ago, demonstrating that it’s never too late to apologize. It takes a weight off your heart.
2. Find your tribe. Surround yourself with smart people so you can learn from them about the craft you are pursuing. Amy, like Tina, credits years of improv for helping her learn to collaborate. No one does it alone.
“Do work that you are proud of with your talented friends.”
3. Be brave. Failure isn’t fatal. You will survive.
4. Decide what your currency is. Don’t fight it. Be true to you. Honor your innate and unique gifts by putting them to work.
5. Work hard. Amy credits her success to years of hard work and little bits of progress.
“You have to care about your work but not about the result.You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look.”
6. Give back. Teach others and allow them to have what you have.
While the book is not hilarious, it is humorous and touching and honest with some unexpected wisdom and a reminder that kindness counts, even in show business.
In World War II Germany, many good but frightened people kept quiet in order to survive. Jewish Edith Hahn, The Nazi Officer’s Wife, denies who she is to survive the Holocaust. Edith is saved, not only by her own determination, intelligence and ability to disappear, but also by the kindness of strangers. Furthermore, throughout this memoir, the decency of ordinary people shines through. While one cannot deny the horrific deeds done by cruel and abusive people, that only makes the acts of empathy and kindness shine brighter.
That being said, I think this is the last WWII story for me for a while. Something lighter, please.