Food For Thought

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Here we go. It’s the first edition of Food for Thought in which I share articles, books, blogs I’ve been reading or that you’ve shared with me. You know, just stuff to think about. And I didn’t even bother with a fancy graphic, not only because I wouldn’t know how, but because we have plenty of pictures from our beautiful garden. Please keep your submissions coming. I’m always looking for ideas. 

September 16, 2013 Edition

 I finally read The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. Wow. Just wow. It’s a dense book full of well researched information. The chapters alternate between the story of one Hmong family who has a daughter with Epilepsy and the history of the Hmong culture. This family experiences much more than just a language barrier in their dealings with the medical community. The family’s and the doctors’ approaches to healing are worlds apart and clash constantly to the detriment of the child. I highly recommend this book to basically everyone in the medical community. As a parent of a child with Epilepsy it was emotionally challenging to read but well worth it.

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The Autistic Brain by Temple Grandin is a fascinating read. She’s a highly accomplished professional who has Autism. In this book she addresses the neurology and genetics of Autism. My favorite part was her descriptions of how she thinks and how she sees her world. Grandin includes images from her own EEGs and explains how they translate into her everyday life. She also discusses the changes in the most recent edition of the DSM and the ramifications of the new classification of Autism.

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Thanks to Reader Jim the History Buff for this submission. I haven’t actually read November by Kent Gramm but Jim sent along an excerpt that seems appropriate in light of current events. This was to be part of a speech delivered by JFK

     We in this country, in this generation, are–by destiny rather than choice–the watchmen on 
     the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and 
     responsibility–that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint–and that we
     may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of peace on earth and good will 
     toward men.

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I’m sure you’re all reading Beth’s blog by now because it’s hilarious and encouraging, but if you’re not than you will have missed the super cute picture of Aidan there. Go check it out.

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Have a great week!

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How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp – Book Review

Shawn Smucker is an entrancing story teller. His latest book, How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp,  beckons you to sit around the campfire and listen to tales of adventure complete with grand scenery, internal conflict, heartwarming characters and at least one death defying experience.  Shawn, his wife Maile who co-wrote the book, and their four young children set out on a four month long road trip on a bus. Yes, the idea sounds a little bit crazy to me, but after reading this book, I believe anyone could be game for adventure. This is much more than a book that takes you to New Orleans, the Grand Canyon, Teton Pass and places in between.  It’s the tale of how one family chose to boldly move forward in the face of major life stressors (changing careers and leaving their home). Shawn writes:

So many feelings surfaced as I considered heading east: relief that the trip was almost over; dread that the trip was almost over; excitement to see what the next few months would hold; fear about what the next few months would hold. Heading east meant returning to friends and family, a community that we missed and the place I had grown up. All good.

But the adventure, in its messiness and its fast pace and its immediacy, sometimes allowed me to overlook the pressing sorts of big picture issues I’d rather not think about. Such as the fact that my current projects ended in June. Such as the fact that at that point we did not have a home of our own to go back to. Such as the fact that our travel expenditures had exceeded our budget by a good bit (thanks, diesel prices). Returning home from such an adventure would mean laying aside the exciting for the practical, the unexpected for the everyday.

But I concluded that this, also, was a good thing. The adventure, while it lasted, had broken many areas of my life down to their most basic elements, then allowed me the space and time to build those areas back up. My marriage. Being a dad. Writing. Mile by mile, I reconstructed myself. 

His wife Maile somehow manages to stay sane with four little ones in cramped quarters and turns this adventure into a great educational experience. Can we take a moment to let that sink in – four young children on a bus. Clearly, she is rock star among mothers. She writes so honestly:

Now I, like my mother so many years ago, sit on the beach, cursing the sand and pooh- poohing all the requests from my children to “help me make a sandcastle” or “splash inthe water with me”. All the frivolity is simply too taxing for me. I hide under my sunhat, avoiding eye contact and playing deaf with anyone under the age of 20.

How did this happen? When did I make this evolution from the frolicking child to the boondocked mama? I’ll tell you exactly when it happened: 8 1⁄2 years ago when I became the mother of a blue-eyed little baby boy. From that moment on, he, and our children that would follow him, slowly soaked up the child that I had been. In 24 years of life, I’d created quite a sea of energy, sleep, and creativity. And they, like 4 gigantic sponges, laid themselves upon my surface and started absorbing, till what is now left is a quickly evaporating puddle leftover after a mid-summer rain.

I love that the child in me is carried on in them. I smile as I watch their spindly, pale arms packing down buckets of wet sand to build castle walls the way I did decades ago. I laugh as they discover the warm thrill of peeing in the ocean, a tactic I often used to take the chill off the icy waves. Still, I look forward to the day when my puddle increases again as they, one by one, wring out their sponges to create a vast sea for children of their own, just as my mom created an ocean for me. 

Shawn writes about history, poverty, meeting other “creatives”,  sex on the bus (because you know you were wondering), and loss. It’s a great read and will leave you itching to get more out of life.

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Shawn can be found on his blog, Facebook, and Twitter and Maile can be found on her blog.

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Yes, I received a free copy of this book for review but the opinions are all mine.