Most of us don’t seek advice or reach out to others for help very easily. In part, it’s because we’re conditioned to see life as an individual endeavor rather than a team sport. Or because we believe that asking for help makes us look weak or incapable. We regard self-help as by-yourself-help. News flash: no one in the history of the world has ever achieved any level of happiness or success totally by themselves.
In his 1976 book The Long Run Solution, Joe Henderson suggested that becoming truly accomplished at running (or at anything) doesn’t typically require us to perform superhuman feats. In fact, success is frequently realized by those who simply do the things anyone can do that most of us never will.
In What Anyone Can Do, with the help of Leo Bottary’s Year of the Peer podcasts guests (and playful illustrations by Ryan Foland), you’ll discover that if you surround yourself with the right people, you’ll do the things anyone can do far more often. And when you do that, you and the people around you will realize more of what you want out of business and life. It’s that simple.
The Power of Peers (2016) made a strong case for how and why formal peer groups are so effective. This book steps outside the formal peer group arena to examine all the important relationships we have in our lives (parents, teachers, spouses, mentors, children, mentees, etc.) and provides a practical approach and specific framework for harnessing their power for your benefit (and theirs). It’s what anyone can do. You’re anyone, right?
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With Angel’s Wings, by Stephanie Collins, is one mother’s raw and heart-wrenching account of her life with two daughters with special needs. Written as a third-person account with name changes, the author describes each and every obstacle encountered as she struggled to come to terms with her daughters’ challenges while simultaneously dealing with a long string of physicians, specialists, and therapists. Laura, as the author calls the young mother, fights an uphill battle from the moment she is told her days-old infant has a heart defect–the first of many. While facing a seemingly unending barrage of personal hurdles, Laura somehow learns to cope with the endless physical and emotional demands placed upon her family by tiny Hannah’s diagnosis of Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome.
This author’s life story as a work of fiction is almost indescribable. I do not believe I have ever read a book that kept me as breathless and as anxious as this one. Laura’s laundry list of traumatic events ranging from her newborn’s purple feet and hands to her seizures lasting for hours on end is mentally exhausting to read. Her life is so full of twists and turns and drama surrounding Hannah’s diagnosis and subsequent health scares, the author has no need to embellish with flowery language and lengthy stretches of narrative. There is, literally, no room or time left to dress up her text. This book reads as a journal of heartache peppered with true love.
Collins is honest and open with her feelings about her daughters’ diagnoses. As Laura, she sugarcoats nothing. As strong as she is, Laura reveals her vulnerability as an overwhelmed young mother. The reader aches to watch her contemplate, time and again, a way out. Her frustration as a parent fighting her way through the healthcare system is one with which many readers will be able to relate. In addition to her day-to-day battle with fevers, seizures, hospital visits, and mounting financial woes, Laura faces the virtually indescribable audacity of an ex-husband who lacks not only both sympathy and empathy but a soul, as well.
As a parent and a teacher, I have never read a more authentic and touching account of life as a mother or a more revealing account of what caring for a child with special needs truly entails. Emily’s early signs of autism hit home with me as a teacher. No one knows the struggle of helping a child on the autism spectrum like a parent. Laura begins accommodating for Emily’s needs long before her diagnosis. She modifies, plans, and tries to remain several steps ahead of meltdowns from early on in Emily’s life. Parents of children with autism will appreciate reading about the way Laura intricately weaves a web of plans on a daily basis to compensate for Emily’s developmental delays.
Though the book is primarily focused on the battle to save Hannah and come to grips with her many needs, the author does a beautiful job of illustrating the relationship Laura develops with Daniel. Daniel, the one shining light in her darkest days, is a rather unlikely saviour. Their love, apparent from early in their friendship, is one that only intensifies through the rigors of identifying and finding ways of successfully coping with all Emily and Hannah’s needs.
There aren’t any options for stars beyond 5, so I am restricted to giving With Angel’s Wings 5 out of 5 stars. The author’s life story, now Laura and Daniel’s as well, is an absolute must-read for any parent, teacher, or caregiver of a child with special needs. There is a love like no other born out of a relationship with these children, and Stephanie Collins has handed readers everywhere the key to unlock hearts and minds and build a better understanding of the struggles faced by many of our family members and friends who have children with special needs living lives like Laura’s.
Pages: 304 | ASIN: B01DL9AXAI
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Elizabeth Antonucci’s Fractured details the author’s own revelations and strides toward bettering herself both mentally and physically. Her idea for the book stems from a car accident which cost her dear friend his life and almost took her own. Antonucci, a successful entrepreneur in the world of theater, begins her story with details of the car accident and the ensuing trauma that brought her closer to those around her. Throughout the book, Antonucci touches on several intensely personal events from her teen through young adult years which ultimately helped her evolve into a young woman who has learned to find peace, satisfaction, and happiness within herself.
Elizabeth Antonucci’s life seems equally filled with tragedy and victories. For every horrific experience she has had, she has been able to triumph. The basis for her book, the accident which took her friend David’s life and so greatly altered her own, draws the reader in during the first chapter. Antonucci has done a wonderful job of engaging the reader in a conversational style of writing and is straightforward with her descriptions of the accident, her recovery, and the therapy that followed.
The writing of Fractured itself appears to have been a type of therapy for the author. As I read, I could feel the cathartic effect it had on Antonucci. She gave herself many permissions, and, as she says, she “spoke her truth.” Antonucci reveals a past riddled with body dysmorphia and a life-long struggle to find her own voice. As a young woman making her way successfully as an actress and entrepreneur, she spends many years finding it easier to be others than to be herself.
As a mother and a woman who battled anorexia in her teens, I thoroughly appreciated Antonucci’s candor regarding her addiction to diet pills and the long uphill battle she faced tearing herself from them. There is no sugar-coating the impact dieting had on her both mentally and physically. She clearly expresses her hope that her words will find their way into the hearts of her readers. I believe she has more than accomplished her goal.
Romantic relationships are yet another area about which the author bares her soul. More men and women than we would all care to admit are involved in emotionally abusive relationships. Antonucci was one of those women. Remaining attached to a boyfriend who controlled her every move changed the dynamic she had with her own family and, ultimately, changed her as a person. She relates a genuine account of how she overcame that obstacle with her father’s gentle words and guidance.
It is difficult to find anything lacking in the author’s personal account of her life-changing events. The introduction was powerful, the conclusion drives home each point Antonucci strives to make throughout the retelling of her life and the many revelations she has had. Her chosen style of writing makes this an easy recommended read for anyone who finds him or herself faltering on the road of self-discovery.
Pages: 258 | ASIN: B072M3TYXG
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Bar Nights by Dave Matthes is the first book of the Mire Man Trilogy, a chronicle of the life of Arlo Smith. Arlo comes home from work to find his wife and another man in the throes of passion on the kitchen counter. He decides that’s as good as a divorce decree, packs a bag, and walks out. In the driveway, his daughter and her boyfriend spark his rage, and he trashes the young man’s car with a baseball bat before he leaves. Arlo drives until his car breaks down, walks to a roadside bar, and stays. The owner, Vance, hires him as the janitor and gives him a tiny apartment above the bar.
Arlo doesn’t want to start over. His soul is already crushed by his former life and marriage, and in this bar, ironically named Purgatory, he has the freedom to be as drunk and indolent as he cares to. His only pleasure is in music. While he gets drunk in his apartment, the piano player downstairs fills his room with music. almost every night. He clings to the music but doesn’t want to meet her. When they do meet, she becomes the catalyst that forces him to face his life, his lies, and the hell he created along the way.
The plot of the story is simple, but there are so many nuances that I’d compare it more to Jazz than literature. Some of the barflies that come and go are character studies of people on the edge, or close to it, and reflect Arlo and Vance’s personal demons. The flow of the chapters adds texture and rhythm. The language is lyrical, sometimes pulling me out of the narrative just to appreciate the prose. Finding these gems was something I enjoyed while reading the novel.
Outside my window, the snow fell like the ash from a volcano…. I remembered looking out my window on Christmas morning as a child, and seeing the snow…. Little moments like that stole me from time to time. Burps and hiccups of nostalgia. A staple of regret temporarily sewing the rips and tears shut.
The author uses chapters in an unorthodox way, some as short as two words. Sometimes this works beautifully, but on occasion, a chapter seems more like a side note, or stray thought. I felt that the novel was repetitive in places, revisiting events and even phrases a few too many times, but in retrospect, some of that was clearly intentional. Addicts can be stuck on emotions or trauma, and that broken-record effect gave more realism to the characters.
Arlo is locked in a vicious cycle of self-hate, addiction, and depression that is reflected in the people he meets. Through Arlo’s eyes, we meet the patrons at the bar, his interactions with them colored by his personal misery. He’s afraid to meet Constance, the piano player, for fear that his illusions will crumble. Of course, fate intervenes, and he finally meets her by accident. They’re not in love, but they need each other to get through the desperation of their lives. Constance shoves him toward rehab, trying to save his life before he kills himself or becomes just like all the other drunks at the bar called Purgatory. Even that irony isn’t lost on Arlo.
This is a book for adults, as the language and situations are not for readers who are easily offended. It’s an examination of addiction and desperation that doesn’t sugar-coat anything. The author doesn’t spare any of the senses on this dive into skid row, and I could see, feel, and smell every detail. If you like Bar Nights, also pick up Paradise City, the next book in the trilogy.
Pages: 209 | ISBN: 1506198961
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