March 2016 Must-Reads

March 31st, 2016

March 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I am so excited to share eight books that I read this month with you.  It was a really incredible month of reading and we have even got to feature a couple of these authors in our Sundays With Writers series before revealing this month’s list. Sometimes I just can’t wait for a monthly round-up to connect you with a good book!

Regardless of your taste, I have something for everyone this month. Selections range from true crime to fantasy to historical fiction to contemporary to a memoir-type advice column.  I am hoping one of these books finds its way into your stack since I try to add a lot of variety to each month’s round-up!

As my daughter & I embark on a Spring Break trip together (just us two!!), I am sure I will have many more books to share with you while we are on our break.  Let me know if there is anything that you think I should read while we are on vacation. I’d love to hear your recommendations.

Let’s not waste any more time! Here are 8 new books that I indulged in this month! 

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

If you are a regular reader on the blog, you know I have talked, and talked, and talked about this book. What I want to say is that you should only read my brief description below and go into this one without knowing anything. It will make the book so much more enjoyable- I promise.

This book reads a bit like a mystery as you try to solve the puzzle of a child’s unusual first years of life. The story intertwines with a doctor nearing the end of his career due to a deadly diagnosis and he could be the only one who could make Noah and his mother’s life better. What Noah is suffering from is beyond what any parent could comprehend.

Gripping, thought provoking, and and an excellent pick for any book club!

After you are done reading it, you can read my interview with Sharon Guskin as we discuss her debut novel. It’s a REALLY interesting interview and it gave me a lot to think about! 

5 Out of 5 Stars

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Good grief, Be Frank With Me, was just adorable from start to finish- I can’t recommend it enough!

Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff-style ponzi scheme, she’s flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. The prickly Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy-Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.

When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders.

As she slowly gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who Frank’s father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.

Frank is one one of the sweetest characters that is so perfectly formed that you just want to give this sweet little boy a hug when you get done with this book. I found myself giggling through some of Frank’s antics and well up when he just couldn’t fit in with his peers. I can’t imagine the research that went into forming all of Frank’s numerous thoughts about actors, movies, and all the fun facts that he had gathered over the years that seemed to consume him. The supporting characters were just as fascinating especially Frank’s eccentric mother.

The only criticism with this one is the ending felt unresolved and wasn’t wrapped up very tidy- it just left me dangling. I am wondering if that is because the author plans a sequel. If so, I can’t wait to read it because I already miss Frank.

I am so excited that Julia will be joining us this week for our Sundays With Writers series. You won’t want to miss it- she’s absolutely charming! Be sure to check back on Sunday! 

5 Out of 5 Stars

Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan

Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan

This book was selected by my local book club and was, admittedly, a book that I probably would not have picked up on my own. I am so incredibly glad I read it though and I think you will be too.

I just love when a book educates you on a time in history that you have been completely unaware of. Ryan pulls off a magnificent literary feat by tackling six decades set in Taiwan over the course of the twentieth century. It is horrific what so many endured during this time and begins with the story of the unnamed narrator’s father being captured because he is suspected of Communist activities. He is kept for over a decade in brutal and inhumane conditions. It then follows his return home, the unkindness of others, the stress of feeling watched, and the other generations that continue to struggle through the decades with their own issues. It’s far too much to go into in a quick review, but you will learn a lot along the way!

Things I would note with this one. First, I wish I would have educated myself a bit before diving into it. I knew nothing about the Chinese nationalists or the history of Taiwan and the author offers no real introduction into the history of that, assuming the reader can follow along. After a browse through Wikipedia, I was able to understand better, but it was a confusing time in politics and reading that first would have helped me through the book.

Secondly, the book did lag for me in parts, but the good parts in this far outweigh the slow parts. Power through and I hope this time in history is as eye-opening for you as it was me. She is a masterful storyteller and I’m glad I read this!

I am also so very honored that Shawna will be joining us this next month for Sundays With Writers. While researching for this interview, I am astonished at the level of commitment she had to this book. I can’t wait to share that with you! 

Editor’s Note- This book does contain graphic violence that was inflicted on these prisoners. 

 4 Out of 5 Stars

Columbine by Dave Cullen

Columbine by Dave Cullen

I have been wanting to read this one since Laura, from Hollywood Housewife, shared her list of best true crime novels.

It is impossible to read this book and not learn something new about the devastating Columbine tragedy. Cullen dedicated a decade of his life compiling the real facts around this case and the lives impacted by this senseless tragedy. Working from what is happening currently and flashing back to the preparations for this crime, we are able to get a clearer understanding of motive in a very eye-opening way.

Cullen also opens our eyes to the fictionalized stories that were shared by the media and the true psychological problems that these shooters had, their motives behind the shooting, and those dealing with the aftermath of these tragedies as students, teachers, parents, and community members. After you read how the media botched the reporting up on so much of this, I guarantee it will make you feel differently about what is reported in the world.

The psychological research on these two killers and how so many of these victims reclaimed their lives again makes for a truly compelling read.

Editor’s Note- This book does contain graphic violence and language. 

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White

The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White

I have loved reading the GoodReads Choice Award nominations this year. If you haven’t taken a peek at the list, I have gathered the nominees for you!

The Perfect Son is a beautiful story of a struggling father and son relationship and the mother that holds them together. When Ella has an unexpected heart attack, the result of a heart condition, and must be hospitalized the men in the family must come together to help her and themselves. As a strained relationship between a father and son becomes further strained Felix finds himself suddenly in charge of his son who has Tourette’s and needs more assistance than most teenage boys. Forced to reconcile their differences, they find comfort in unlikely friends and in each other.

It was such an honor to chat with Barbara about her book and about parenting a child with an invisible disability.  Even if you don’t grab her book (which you should), I gained so much wisdom from asking her about the letting go process as you see your kids off to college. It’s a really good read! 

I hope you love her book as much as I did!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth

I am one of those people that has a hard time committing to series books. Are you that way too? When I was asked to help promote the new movie though, I thought I better get familiar with the series.

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences.

I loved this book even more than I thought I would, although I know I am a bit behind on the times embracing this one. I had been avoiding it because so many had compared it to the Hunger Games series and I doubted much could live up to that. Although there were similarities, I loved the world that Roth created, the factions that divide society and limitations they create in relationships, and the love story. I’m really happy I read this one!

Should I keep continuing through this book series? Let me know!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams

Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams

Have you joined our book club yet? I hope you can join in on the fun this year!

This past month our book club selection was Tiny Little Thing. I was so excited to dive in since I enjoyed A Hundred Summers so much!

In the summer of 1966, Christina Hardcastle—“Tiny” to her illustrious family—stands on the brink of a breathtaking future. Of the three Schuyler sisters, she’s the one raised to marry a man destined for leadership, and with her elegance and impeccable style, she presents a perfect camera-ready image in the dawning age of television politics. Together she and her husband, Frank, make the ultimate power couple: intelligent, rich, and impossibly attractive. It seems nothing can stop Frank from rising to national office, and he’s got his sights set on a senate seat in November.

But as the season gets underway at the family estate on Cape Cod, three unwelcome visitors appear in Tiny’s perfect life: her volatile sister Pepper, an envelope containing incriminating photograph, and the intimidating figure of Frank’s cousin Vietnam-war hero Caspian, who knows more about Tiny’s rich inner life than anyone else. As she struggles to maintain the glossy façade on which the Hardcastle family’s ambitions are built, Tiny begins to suspect that Frank is hiding a reckless entanglement of his own…one that may unravel both her own ordered life and her husband’s promising career.

This was a fantastic historical fiction escape as the curtain is pulled back on a high society couple striving for power as a politician. You need not read William’s’ first books to follow along with this plot. I really appreciated the final plot twists in this one and the author ended it in a completely unexpected way. A wonderful escape with juicy secrets!

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson delivers another solid read with her latest novel, The Opposite of Everyone.  I was such a big fan of Someone Else’s Love Story that I was anxious to dive into this new one.  With this one though, I admit , it took awhile for me to connect with the characters in the beginning of this story.
I blame it a little on the set-up of her book.
Rather than alternating past and present in chapter format, Jackson weaves the two stories of past and present into one chapter smoothly without transition. At first, this can be confusing, but it is worth the confusion as she weaves her reader through plot twist after plot twist of a girl growing up in a group home due to her mother’s incarceration to her powerful role as a lawyer finding out that her mother has kept a big life-changing secret from her.Follow the story of a broken little girl who feels she made the one mistake that cost her a relationship with her mother into a grown woman seeking desperately to connect with family members she never knew, with many surprises along the way.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Once again, our book club pushes me to try another new book.  This month’s read was, Tiny Beautiful Things

I, honestly, would have never picked this book up if it had not been selected as a book club pick. Dear Sugar was an anonymous online advice column that Stray answered letters she received online under the name of Sugar. This book is a collection of some of her greatest answers to life’s questions.

The thing that made it so different is typically advice columnist do not interject their own stories and opinions into their advice, while Strayed wrote honestly about her own struggles in a way that was raw, gritty, and real. Shocking at times were her own struggles that spilled on the pages, but beauty & truth was weaved into these answers too. It would be impossible to not a get a nugget out of each answer, even if the situation didn’t relate to you. Her advice to her younger self, a letter written to graduates, and the struggles of when someone should start a family were three of the pieces that really stood out to me. Not for the faint of heart if vulgarity isn’t your thing. If you can handle it though, it’s worth the read!

I still have not picked up her book, Wildyet. What did you think of it? Please let me know if it is worth the read!

Editor’s Note: REALLY graphic and graphic descriptions of sexual abuse.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Read With Me

Read With Me This Year:

My 2016 Book Stack

March 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

 

 

What should I be adding to my library bag?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

 

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Amy’s Notebook 03.30.16

March 30th, 2016

Risotto Lorraine via A Beautiful Mess

Source: A Beautiful Mess

 

A new spin on risotto.

25 things you should do before you turn 50 – what a great list!

Started following these accounts on IG- such eye candy!!

Spring capsule inspiration!

I need to try this on my oven- so easy!

7 mobile apps to help you become a time management guru.

14 psychological thrillers that bend your mind. YES!

A colorful guest bedroom.

How incredibly brave!

Bookstagrammers via Modern Mrs. Darcy

Source: Modern Mrs. Darcy

 

10 favorite bookstagrammers to follow.

In love with this DIY blanket ladder!

#1 tip for your new pressure cooker- I’ve been thinking about getting one of these. Bookmarking!

15-minute Mexican pizza- this looks like a great weeknight meal!

Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for a little honesty. She never gave up hope- a good message for creatives!

Justin would be proud.

Anna Quindlen’s 10 favorite classics about growing older and wiser.

3 words that can turn anxiety into success. I need to try this!

Pretend you’re being told a ghost story around a campfire with these 10 excellent horror audiobooks!

Are you a procrastinator or are your kids? Watch this TED Talk!

“When the rest of the world was building bigger and bigger, we decided to buy smaller. And that decision has freed us to do many wonderful things.” I could not have said that better!

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

March 29th, 2016

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

My family has been on a sheet pan supper kick these days. It started with my Sheet Pan Ranch Chops and Veggies meal and then we evolved into a weekly double batch of Sheet Pan Lemon Paprika Chicken and Veggies that were shared over dinners with friends and warmed on busy weeknights. This week it was a Roasted Salmon & Asparagus with Pistachio Gremolata that captured our heart.

How in the world did I come up with this combo?

Well, I didn’t!

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

Word must have spread how nuts our family is about these meals and the publishing house for the, Sheet Pan Suppers cookbook reached out to see if they could send me  copy of the book to review. I had mentioned it had been on my radar, but my biggest struggles with cookbooks is that I don’t know how many gluten-free offerings are going to be in them and I have to stick to gluten-free meals in our house.

I was pleasantly surprised that the cookbook was well-balanced between gluten-filled offerings and gluten-free offerings. From appetizers to meats to vegetarian to brunch to dessert…this cookbook offers a little something for everyone. My biggest struggle was picking which recipe to start with. I figured the cover dish had to be a winner if it was showcased on the front of the book so we went with that.  A delicious fish dish with fresh veggies tossed with a pistachio gremolata sounded like a winner for our house.

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

What is a Gremolata?

This was my first gremolata and I was intrigued by the pairing of pistachios with fish. If you haven’t heard of a gremolata before, you need not worry that this is out of your level of cooking expertise. This is a simple Italian condiment that is traditionally made with herbs, garlic, and lemon zest, and sometimes an accompaniment like pine nuts (or in this case, pistachios- YUM).  You can use your food processor and pulse a few times (this is the one I have), but I prefer to avoid washing the food processor and opt for a quick hand chopper, which has been worth its weight in gold in my kitchen.

To save even more time, I purchased the pistachios already out of their shell at our supermarket. Although a bit pricier per pound, it saves a great deal of time on a busy weeknight or on a tired night with my vino in the evenings after a long day of running kids.

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

If you live somewhere where you have access to great fresh fish, the author utilizes Arctic Char in this recipe. In Indiana, salmon fillets are affordable and easy to come by in our frozen section of the store. Resting these on top of fresh asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and topped with lemons, this is a sheet pan guaranteed to satisfy all your taste buds. The gremolata adds the final touch on the cooked fish, adding that salty crunch that takes this from a basic meal to a restaurant-worthy one!

I really loved this cookbook and my family is already looking forward to us eating this again in our house! Thank you to the publishing house for sending us a copy of, Sheet Pan Suppers by Molly Gilbert to give a spin in our kitchen! We are big fans!

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
 
An easy sheet pan meal with salmon and veggies topped with a quick pistachio gremolata for a fancy crunch to this beautiful dish. Company-worthy and easy? Winning!
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch asparagus (roughly 1 pound total)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 skinless fillets Arctic char, salmon or trout (5 to 6 ounces each)
  • ½ medium red onion, sliced into ¼-inch-thick half-moons
  • ½ lemon, sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds
  • ½ cup cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup roasted, salted, and shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 350 with a rack in the center position. Mist a sheet pan with cooking spray or line it with parchment paper.
  2. Gently bend one asparagus spear between your fingers and snap off the bottom where it breaks easily. Line up the rest of the bunch and slice off the bottoms at the same distance from the tips. Place the trimmed asparagus on the prepared pan, drizzle with the olive oil, and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Toss to coat, and spread the asparagus in an even layer.
  3. Place the fish fillets on top of the asparagus, evenly spaced apart, and sprinkle with an extra pinch of salt and pepper. Scatter the onion, lemon slices and cherry tomatoes around and on top of the fish.
  4. Bake until the asparagus is crisp-tender and the fish is almost opaque (20 to 30 minutes if using char, other types may vary). For my salmon, I cooked thawed fillet for just 12-15 minutes!!
  5. While the fish cooks, mix together the lemon zest, garlic, parsley and pistachios in a small bowl- this is your gremolata.
  6. Sprinkle the gremolata over the fish and asparagus before serving warm.

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though!! xo

 

 

 

Sundays With Writers: The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White

March 27th, 2016

sundays-with-writers-1

Parenting a child with an invisible disability is something that today’s featured writer is no stranger to. Barbara Claypole White’s book, The Perfect Son, has been on my list of books to read since this year’s GoodReads Choice Awards nominations came out. I knew that it would be such a treat for us all to hear about Barbara’s incredible book and also a little about her parenting journey as the parent of a child with an invisible disability.

The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White

The Perfect Son is a beautiful story of a struggling father and son relationship and the mother that holds them together. When Ella has an unexpected heart attack, the result of a heart condition, and must be hospitalized the men in the family must come together to help her and themselves. As a strained relationship between a father and son becomes further strained Felix finds himself suddenly in charge of his son who has Tourette’s and needs more assistance than most teenage boys. Forced to reconcile their differences, they find comfort in unlikely friends and in each other.

Now grab that coffee and settle in with this incredibly open, honest, and funny Barbara Claypole White today!

Barbara Claypole White

The fictional Ella & Felix are raising a son with Tourette syndrome which puts a lot of strain on their marriage, particularly when Ella becomes sick and is unable to help. You have shared that you are a parent of a child who has battled obsessive-compulsive disorder and even have a genetic heart issue yourself that inspired Ella’s journey. Were you able to channel a lot of your own struggles as a mother and wife into this story? How do you keep your marriage healthy when your children’s mental health comes with so many challenges?

Great questions, because the original story seed came after a mom in our local support group for parents of OCD kids asked why my marriage had survived when most of the marriages in the group had failed. I think it was a combination of factors: our marriage was well-established, we only have one child, I was a full-time parent, and we’re good at tag teaming in a crisis. Plus the three of us communicate well with each other. Of course all this lovely knowledge comes with hindsight. The early days of undiagnosed OCD were hell. My husband and I had very different parenting styles, which made the situation a thousand times worse, and our first child psychologist was not an OCD expert. When our son was around nine, we hit crisis point. I researched the heck out of OCD, found a local psychologist who specialized in exposure therapy, and told my husband that I would take on the treatment one hundred percent if he would agree to never countermand me. This is exactly what Ella did: she compartmentalized the family.

Dividing up our roles—I was the caregiver; my husband was the breadwinner—worked, and we managed to force the OCD into submission (until the stress of junior year of high school retriggered it). But I always knew that my husband was my safety net. I remember one evening when I’d run out of coping skills and he had a dinner meeting. I called him and said, “I’m losing it. I need to walk away.” And he drove straight home. Ella never had that luxury. Or rather she never trusted Felix enough to ask for help.

I also encouraged our son to be open about his struggles—as Ella did with Harry.  There is no shame, and sharing information with other kids and teachers helped our son. Too many people with invisible disabilities suffer in secrecy and isolation. I was determined that would not be his path.

Ella’s journey, learning to let go, was definitely my journey. Our son was awarded a full-ride to an in-state college, which I secretly hoped he would accept. But his heart was set on Oberlin—three states away and a ten-hour drive. He’s thriving there, although the first few weeks were rough. He was homesick, and my husband and I were terrified (OCD can morph quickly). At some point, however, you need to trust that you’ve done enough good work to enable your child to monitor and take responsibility for his illness.  Once our son had settled in, my husband and I discovered we quite liked being empty nesters.

I love that when you wrote about Harry’s struggles with Tourette syndrome you did not go the typical route associated with the disorder, which is involuntary swearing or the utterance of obscenities (coprolalia). I read, in fact, that only ten percent of people with Tourette syndrome actually exhibit this symptom and that Harry’s tics are more common to this syndrome. Was this a conscious decision to not include this? Did you want people to think differently about Tourette syndrome or do you think that a dialogue like that would have been a distraction to the story you had crafted?

It was a conscious decision. One of my early readers was the mother of a teen with Tourette’s, and she thanked me for not giving Harry coprolalia. That’s when I knew I was heading in the right direction.

My goal is always to create complex characters, not stereotypes that scream, “I am my disorder.” When I started doing book clubs for The Unfinished Garden—a love story about grief, OCD, and dirt—I was shocked to discover how many people interpret OCD as a fear of germs. (Thank you, television detective Adrian Monk.) Symptoms of OCD and Tourette’s are highly individualized; there are no textbook cases of either. The same is true for the bipolar disorders.

My first introduction to Tourette’s, however, was the stereotype. Remember that episode of LA LAW when the firm had a client with coprolalia? I wrongly assumed this was the standard version of Tourette syndrome, and after my son was diagnosed with OCD, I kept telling myself OCD wasn’t as bad as Tourette’s. These days I can’t decide which scenario is worse: that you can hide OCD or that you can’t hide Tourette’s.

Felix, Harry’s father, was a character that I found to be unlikable for a good portion of the book. We later learn that Felix has struggled with many demons, including abuse from his own father, which make it hard for him to love his own son. Since you are a parent of a child who needs extra help in the world, did you have a hard time writing these scenes with Felix and his irritation with Harry’s disabilities or did a part of you relate to his frustrations as a father?

I was rooting for Felix from day one, but the trick was hoping readers would stick with him long enough to see the amazing decisions he makes as the story unfolds. When the novel starts he’s an outsider in his own family and definitely an anti-hero. But then you witness him attempt—three times—to create the perfect sandwich for Harry’s lunch, and realize how hard he’s trying to cope. Even though other characters in the novel misjudged him constantly, I always understood Felix. I heard his voice from the beginning, and I knew exactly how he would react. More importantly, I knew why.

The flashback scene to Felix’s relationship with his own dad was framed within a recurring nightmare I’d had as child: I saw a black study at night, with a cold fireplace, a black wing chair, and an open window with black curtains blowing in the wind; and I sensed evil coming through the window. I took all that fear and gave it to poor little Felix. I could forgive him anything after that scene.

Do you think that Ella is a helicopter mom or do you think that her actions were necessary to insure that Harry was able to function well through his life? Do you think overprotectiveness is really necessary for kids like this and what has helped bring balance to your own life as a mother?

Ella raised an amazing young man. She gave him the confidence to be Harry and that’s his armor in a judgmental world.  I hope I’ve given my son the same gift. And yes, I think parents of children who process the world differently need to be overprotective. Our goal posts keep moving, and half the time we don’t even have a rule book.

When our son developed horrible sleep patterns, I gave up trying to keep him in his bed and created a permanent nest for him on our bedroom floor. Some of our friends were horrified and expressed their opinions quite loudly. I became good at nodding and ignoring, because I was doing what worked for my family. (I’m witchy when sleep deprived. A happy Barbara was best for all!)

Once I’d learned how to be my son’s OCD coach, I gained confidence in the knowledge that I could help him. When he was accepted to a small private school in Durham, North Carolina, not unlike Harry’s school in the novel, the admissions officer told me they’d never had a pupil with OCD before. My response was to type up an information sheet for the teachers and staff called OCD 101. And I always gave the OCD update at parent-teacher conferences. Some of those teachers are still family friends. Man, I loved that school…

I was our son’s advocate throughout grade school, although I did back off in high school. And I had nothing to do with the college search. My husband and son handled that without me. (An excellent exercise in father-son bonding.) Now that our son’s an adult, I’ve had to learn that I’m no longer his coach. Only he can do the work to manage his anxiety; I just cheer him on from the sidelines.

Being open, finding acceptance, knowing that bad days end…all these have helped me find balance as a mother. And I garden, which is the best therapy. Did I mention I also drink gin every Friday with my best friend? Girlfriends rock.

Barbara-Claypole-White-2

Ella struggles with Harry moving away and going to college on his own, and I understand that you have also gone through the same experience letting your son go off to college as he struggled with OCD. As a parent of a child with invisible disabilities, do you have any advice for moms about letting kids go when you have spent a lifetime monitoring them so carefully? Even thinking about this creates anxiety for me!

I think the first step is always to listen to your child. I was hoping our son would stay in-state, but I never imposed that opinion on him. And thank goodness, because he would have driven home every weekend to hang out with his BFF. Instead he learned to live outside his comfort zone and tackle many of his anxieties, including a terror of flying. We also followed his lead on mental healthcare. Although we researched options on campus, he chose to keep his mental health team here. It turned out to be a wise move. He does phone consults as needed, and I make appointments whenever he’s home on break.

Keeping the communication lines open is also essential. We text every day, and the three of us Skype once a week.  We also have an open policy that he can text or call us at any time of the day or night if he’s in crisis. And I told myself—from day one—that if things didn’t work out and he had to leave, I would be proud of the incredible achievement he had made by going there. So many teens with OCD can’t leave the house, and now he’s a junior in college. My crazy, off-beat son—what a guy.

You have created such an incredible supporting cast. As someone who is very particular about spelling and grammar, I REALLY loved Max and his need to always use punctuation in his text messages. Did you have a favorite supporting character that you loved writing?

Thank you. I love writing secondary characters.  Max was tons of fun because he has none of Harry’s anxiety. Every time I hear Green Day’s ‘Troublemaker’ I think of Max. He’s such a generous soul and so devoted to Harry. But if I had to pick my favorite, it would be Eudora. Writing her was a hoot. She came to me fully formed wearing the hat from the final scene, but I couldn’t see how she would fit into The Perfect Son. I put her aside for a future story…until I was spitting out my first draft, and she appeared in Ella’s garden with a pair of clippers. Then I knew she had to stay.

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 The Perfect Son has received absolutely glowing reviews on Amazon and was selected as a GoodReads Choice Award Semifinalist for Best Fiction in 2015 and as a Kindle First selection. What is that like for you as a writer and do you feel more pressure with your next book to deliver something as equally fantastic?

No pressure, right? Twitch, twitch. The success of The Perfect Son has changed everything, and the demands on my time have skyrocketed. Right now I could work 24 hours a day seven days a week and never be on top of everything, but I’m finally making a living as a novelist and can afford to hire a cleaner. Yay.

When I’m researching and writing, I think only about my characters, not my audience. I’ve also learned that each novel has its own rhythm and I can’t compare my stories. The new manuscript has a very different feel, so I’m intrigued to see how fans react. There’s more dark humor, it’s definitely busier, and I have four strong characters who each insisted on having a voice: Marianne, my record producer heroine—a complex woman who has manic-depression; her almost-daughter Jade, a former teen runaway; Darius, Marianne’s devoted husband, a music legend with anger management issues who got kicked out of AA because he wasn’t an addict; and Gabriel, the English vicar who was Marianne’s first love. Called Echoes of Family it’s due out in late September, and it’s the reverse of The Perfect Son, which is a story about how you can’t escape genetics. This time I’ve created a family without blood ties—a social group that came together out of need and supports each other in a gloriously dysfunctional way. I’m big on dysfunction.

You have said that The Perfect Son has been your most challenging to write. Why did you find this book more challenging than the previous two you wrote?

This was the first novel I wrote entirely to contract, with the deadline clock ticking. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong: I had endless problems with the research—it took me seven months to find a cardiologist who would talk with me; I lost more titles than anyone should have to lose; and I turned the manuscript in to my first publisher only to learn my contract had been cancelled. Fortunately I have the best agent in the world, and two weeks later I had a new contract with a great publisher and a terrific team. Then I came up with the right title and there was no looking back.

Vivienne_Westwood

source: wikipedia

Our readers might be unaware that you were part of the first British Designer Show and have worked for Vivienne Westwood. Are you still passionate about fashion now that you are a writer? Which celebrity was your favorite that you dressed?

I don’t follow trends anymore, but the fashion world has crept into my characters’ backstories. Ella, for example, was a jewelry designer. I’m still a wee bit of a clotheshorse, even though I work in leggings and sweatshirts most of the time. And I love my fuzzy slippers. But I do enjoy clothes retail therapy, and planning author outfits is way too much fun. As for celebrities…I measured an English singer in her bra and knickers once (not telling who!) and she was lovely. But my favorite story from that time was seeing Princess Diana at the first British Designer show. She was wearing pink suede by Maxfield Parrish, one of our clients, and the entire exhibition hall went silent when she walked in. Surrounded by men in black suits, she was taller than most of them and her blonde hair stood out like a beacon. It was an incredible moment; she had such presence.

Lastly, what is one of your all-time favorite books? (This will be added to one of our most visited posts of must-reads from the authors featured in Sundays With Writers)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It has everything: a spunky heroine, a messed-up sexy hero, a mystery, a dysfunctional family, plus love and madness in the English countryside.  And Jane makes Rochester cry. I aim to make all my heroes cry. Yes, even the vicar in Echoes of Family.

The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White

You can connect with Barbara Claypole White on her website or through Facebook!  I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads, through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!

 

 

It’s the 3 Little Things: Food Doc, Shiny and New, & Touch-Ups

March 25th, 2016

color

I hope you have some wonderful things planned for this Easter weekend. The kids & I are spending our Good Friday helping package meals for Pack Away Hunger  with our church today. We are really looking forward to doing this together. Although the weather got cold, I’m making preparations for spring with fresh linens on the bed and tulips from ALDI (just$4.99 for a little bouquet).  I’m moving forward with spring, Indiana, maybe you should too!

Here are a few other things that are making me happy this week!

Just Eat It Documentary

A Documentary To Watch With Your Family

I ran across Just Eat It when browsing through the documentary offerings on Prime and our family watched this together one evening. This is a truly eye-opening look at how much food we are wasting in an effort to only provide the most beautiful and appealing foods at our grocery store. In efforts to illustrate how much perfectly good food we are wasting, they take on a challenge to eat only discarded food with some surprising results.

REALLY thought-provoking and it made me more aware of my purchasing habits and how our family could do better to waste less food. It’s a must-see and something you definitely should watch with your kids. It lead to some great discussions in our home.

TouchBack Root Touch-Up Kit

Root Touch-Ups

I sure talk a lot about my gray hair around here, don’t I? Sometimes pesky gray hairs show up randomly between colorings and I found this TouchBack Instant Root Touch-Up tool to conceal the grays until I color my hair again works wonders on my grays. They have one that looks more like a mascara and then this one (pictured above)  that looks more like a marker. I have only used the one that looks like mascara, but it works REALLY well hiding the occasional gray that I get between my hair coloring. It just rinses out when you wash your hair and is super easy to put on and can prolong your time between getting your hair colored. I highly recommend this to save money! You can find it at ULTA or at CVS!

Baptism

Baptism

A Baptism

This happy was just for me. This past Sunday our daughter was baptized and it made my heart so happy that she has decided to follow Jesus. I can’t wait to see her journey unfold and it was so special to have both sides of our family there for this special day!

This week I’m…

Reading: Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan (I was blindingly unaware of what was happening in the world during this time. It’s been really eye-opening).

Eating: Linguine With White Clam Sauce (I used these gluten-free noodles)

Laughing: Over this article. Each time I read it, I laugh harder!

Happy Easter, everyone! xo

 *this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of  It’s the 3 Little Things

 

 

 

Community Reads for March

March 25th, 2016

Community (2)

I love getting book recommendations from our readers and the new Community Reads section of the site is quickly becoming my go-to for new books to pick up from our local library. I hope you are loving it too!

If you are a part of our MomAdvice Hangout Group, each month I will ask about what you are reading and ask for a short blurb on a book.  You can also email books you are loving to me to amy(at)momadvice(dot)com and I can also add them to our monthly lists. By joining this group, you can also take part in a REALLY awesome online book club- I wouldn’t want you to miss this fun discussion and exploration of a new book each month.

My hope is to inspire you to connect with at least one incredible book this year and I hope you will enjoy this new feature with even more reads each month!

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Read It: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Recommended by: Enid

This book is magical- a word I don’t often use. I picked it up because I so enjoyed A Man Called Ove, and this second book by the author is even better. I loved the precocious 7 year old main character and her exploits, and I don’t feel that she acted “too old”, considering she spent so much time with her eccentric grandmother. I was almost sorry to finish the book as I enjoyed spending time with these characters. It is one of those books where if I try to explain the plot at all, I am afraid I will ruin the story for you, and I don’t want to take that risk. If this author writes more books, I will even be willing to pre-order them- something I rarely do.

One caveat- if you have recently lost someone dear to you, then you might want to consider postponing picking this book up for a bit- it can hit you hard in a couple of places.

Second Life by S.J. Watson

Read It: Second Life by S.J. Watson

Recommended by: Tanya

I read this psychological thriller in less than a day and kept telling myself just one more chapter. A sister is murdered. The other sister stops at nothing to find the killer. Lots of secrets and twists and turns.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

Read It: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Recommended by: Enid

I really liked this- good mystery, great characters. The clues were there, along with lots of red herrings- I like it when the reader actually has a chance to figure out the case along with the detective. I will read the second book in the series in the near future.

Find the Good by Heather Lende

Read It: Find the Good by Heather Lende

Recommended by: Angie from Just Like The Number

Lende is an obituary writer for a the paper in her small Alaskan town. The book is a compilation of essays about family, friends and the people who have crossed her path in life and death. Some are sad, some are sweet, and all of them brought a smile to my face.

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Read It: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Recommended by: Monica

This is a story about a girl with distorted views about her body image and what constitutes a successful life. But as the flashbacks to her high school life unfold, the unfortunate series of traumas endured begins to explain her present day self.

In the beginning I was disgusted with the main character. I thought about how she embodied all that we want young girls not to see. By the end you are rooting so hard for her that when the story ends you are left wanting more.

Editor’s Note- Be sure to check out our interview with Jessica Knoll in our Sundays With Writers series

An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff & Alex Tresniowski

Read It: An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff & Alex Tresniowski

Recommended by: Bridgett

This is a true inspirational story about a relationship between an 11-year old pan handler and a NYC advertising executive. It is inspiring the difference she was able to make in his life by just noticing him on the street one day as he is begging for change. She turns back and asks to take him to McDonalds which begins a weekly meeting and a lasting relationship/mentoring that spans decades.

An amazing look at how one person can make an impact if we just take the time to notice. Get the tissues, this one is a tearjerker and a great read. I could not put it down and had it read in two days.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Read It: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Recommended by: Enid

This was a re-read for me for a book club. I enjoyed the book quite a bit, although this time the character of Hannah annoyed me a bit. I love the forensic detective work of discovering what the different bits of things and stains are that have gotten into the book over 500 years.

Since I knew what was coming this time, I didn’t find some of the historical bits as disturbing as I did the first time- but torture during the Spanish Inquisition is still not my idea of good bedtime reading.

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Read It: Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Recommended by: Laura

I just read Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls (author of The Glass Castle), a “true-life novel” that tells the incredible story of her grandmother’s life. It was fantastic, full of grit and spunk and set in the wild southwest. It made me want to be a bolder woman.

Community Picks for March

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get these books and read them myself! What did you read this month that you loved? Feel free to recommend your favorite reads below or join us in the group to chat about your favorites! We love new friends!

This post contains affiliate links. I fully trust and back my community of readers and their opinions on their favorite books!

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

March 23rd, 2016

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

This post is sponsored on behalf of BHG at Walmart.

Do you remember when outdoor furniture looked like…  well, outdoor furniture. Now outdoor furnishings rival those inside my home and I have started looking at these pieces differently than I used to. I now see the true potential for outdoor pieces in indoor spaces and I wanted to chat a bit with you about that today!   I am partnering up with the BHG Live Better Network this month to show you the fantastic offerings they have this year for your outdoor (or indoor) needs.

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

A couple of years ago, we created the cutest spot in our house that isn’t in our house. My dreamy she shed makeover is one of the best ideas I have had to utilize a hidden space in our home. I wanted something that we could really lounge on and originally thought a daybed would be a great idea. The truth was though, I really needed something that could stand up to a lot of abuse and the idea of changing linens in a shed did not appeal to me at all.

Let’s be honest, I can barely change the sheets on my own bed.

Outdoor Bed Ideas

I did a lot of research on smart bedding solutions and discovered this Better Homes and Gardens Providence Outdoor Day Bed while browsing and just knew it would be so perfect for our space. This piece was coated in durable outdoor fabric since it was intended for outdoor use, making it perfect for a mom with two busy kids.

When I saw that it was available again this summer (YAY!), I just had to share it with you because it makes me so happy!

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

This outdoor daybed has become THE spot in the house for anyone who needs a little retreat. The generous size of this piece really is as deep and as long as a true bed would be, making it a fantastic place to take a nap.  I have been known to take many a blissful Sunday siesta on this bed. Curled up with a throw and and a good book, it’s the perfect retreat right on our very own property. When the kids and my husband can’t find me, they know that I am out here taking a little time for myself.

Although I loved the bed itself, I wanted to add a fresh accent color to this piece so I switched out the pillows with a few cute options I scored on Groopdealz as one of their deals-of-the-day and added a Too Legit To Quit pillow from Michelle Dwight Designs to add a splash of fun to the bed.

Even if you source your pillow covers somewhere else by supporting a fellow crafter, I have found inexpensive pillow forms from Walmart to create cushions with style for the back of this bed.  The pillow forms are two for $5.15 and feel like expensive cushions and line the back of our bed. I love that we can switch pillow covers on this piece to bring in a new accent color or simply to freshen things up.

outdoor-bed-ideas-2

We were lucky enough to have a very mild fall and winter so we were able to use this shed more than we usually do, as you can see by this cozy picture of my daughter nestled in blankets. I found a string of outdoor lights and hung them from the canopy to create a beautiful glow in the evenings.

Twinkle lights make any space magical, don’t you think?

I am so happy my kids have this spot to read in.

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

As a child, I only dreamed of places like this to curl up with books and I try to never take for granted such a special retreat!

I hope this inspires you to look at outdoor furniture a little differently. Whether you have a spot in your basement for a little nook for your kids, if you are looking for an alternative to couches for a patio space, or if you are making your shed into a dreamy bonus room, this bed is for you.

Live-Better-Network-Badge

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received compensation from BHG at Walmart for my time and participation in the BHG Live Better Network. Although we have material connection to BHG, any publicly stated opinions of BHG and their products remain my own.

Amy’s Notebook 03.23.16

March 23rd, 2016

Orange Soy Glazed Ribs via Shutterbean

Source: Shutterbean

 

Orange soy glazed ribs- these look fantastic!

Can’t wait to see this film!!

Great tips for making the most of your Netflix account.

Kate Middleton’s style formula- I really love her style.

Great advice on creating smarter to-do lists. I can’t wait to read this book!

This tap dance routine to Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ is amazing.

Small Entry Makeover via The Inspired Room

Source: The Inspired Room

 

Gorgeous small entry transformation!

As a big Mo Willems fan, I loved reading more about him and his techniques.

Simplify childhood and protect your child.

How different people spend $100 at the grocery store.

A good reminder during this political season.

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

4 Things Potty Training Reminded Me About Life

March 22nd, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

What Potty Training Reminded Me About Life

Even though she just turned two in January, we’ve been attempting to potty train my youngest daughter. She’s been fascinated by all things potty-related for months now, and the other kids that her babysitter watches are either potty trained or in the process. So when the babysitter asked for Pull-Ups, it only made sense.

Except – UGH. Potty training is kind of the worst. (I mean, not the literal WORST. I’m not clueless, you guys. But it’s up there on my list of Bad Things I Don’t Like At All right now.)

This lovely stage has its positives, of course, just like any stage in life. Seeing my toddler beam when she has a potty success is pretty awesome, and so is hearing her chant, “Mommy proud of me. Daddy proud of me. Sissy proud of me. Grandpa proud of me. Who else proud of me?” And as I talked about the torture that is potty training with some friends today, I realized that this annoying parenting project has reminded me a few things — things that are true about life in general, not just for parents and not just about potty training.

It’s reminded me of truths that are encouraging no matter what challenging season you’re facing, so I thought I’d share them with you today.

4 Things Potty Training Reminded Me About Life

1. A sense of humor goes a long way. I don’t care how old you are or how mature you fancy yourself, the truth is that poop is funny. And so are naked toddlers, potty dances, and all the many ways we beg and bribe our kids to just use the darned toilet.

But bathroom matters aren’t the only awkward or difficult things we can laugh about. When my husband and I can laugh together, we are automatically closer and less likely to argue (or more likely to resolve those arguments quickly). And sometimes when my oldest daughter drives me to the point of pulling out my hair, the only thing to break the tension is a joke or a funny face.

Sometimes life is hard and challenging and serious. It is. But other times we make things harder than they have to be, and a little humor can go a long way toward helping us get through a rough time.

2. Your kids are not the enemy. Just like I have to remind myself that my husband and I are on the same team, rather than fighting against each other, I occasionally need to remember that my children are not actually plotting against me. Yes, they often foil my efforts at organization, timeliness, cleanliness, being well-rested or having family fun time, but they are not the enemy.

Remembering that the people I’m dealing with – whether it’s my husband, my children, my co-workers, my friends or my extended family – are not out to get me is a game changer for me. When I step out of the role of victim and realize that, “Hey, they aren’t even THINKING about me, much less planning my demise!” I can see things much more clearly. And that’s the truth, you know? In most cases people are not sitting around, coming up with ways to ruin our days or our lives. They’re not making lists of ideas for irritating us or insulting us. They’re just living their lives — their lives that sometimes don’t look the way we want them to and might even affect us in less than ideal ways.

My daughter — brace yourselves for some TMI [too much information] here — is partially potty trained. She’s all over using the toilet for one bathroom function, but refuses to use it for the other one. [Is that too vague? Should I use the terms “number one” and “number two”? Oh my word, who thought it would be a good idea to use potty training as a metaphor for life???]

ANYWAY. The point is that, so far, she has not cooperated for the most disgusting of her potty business, and it’s made me so upset. But she’s not trying to hurt me. She’s not doing it to inconvenience me or gross me out. She’s just trying to learn how to be a person, and sometimes being a person (especially a little person who potties in the right way in the right place) is hard. She’s not the enemy, and we are in this battle together.

3. Everybody (and nobody) has the answer. Oh my, have I been reminded of this one! I knew I was feeling desperate about this potty training business when I resorted to asking for advice on Facebook. (I KNOW. Why would I ever do that?!) All the answers I received were actually kind, but WOW were they diverse! Everybody had an idea or an opinion or some insight, but at the end of the day, I’ve come to realize that absolutely nobody has the exact answer for my family.

Which is so true about every single situation we face. This world is not lacking for opinions. And crowd-sourcing is a great way to learn those ideas and beliefs, as well as to find some new ideas and suggestions that might help you out. But the truth is that nobody knows exactly what you need — so the best thing to look for are those friends who say, “I don’t know how to fix this, but I will sit here with you.” I love those kinds of friends, don’t you?

4. This season won’t last forever. It won’t. Just like our physical therapist assured me that my oldest daughter would learn to walk and that she wouldn’t crawl into her kindergarten class (she didn’t), I know my youngest won’t graduate from high school wearing training pants. And I know that someday I might even long for these days when she needed me so much — but let’s be honest; right now I’m just grateful this phase of lifting her onto the toilet every 20 minutes is temporary!

Side note: Tonight I pulled out the book I ordered to read with my older daughter. The one about the birds and the bees, you guys. CLEARLY the season of potty dances and pigtails did not last forever!!!

And this is one of the most encouraging lessons I have learned as an adult:

Our lives are made of seasons, and they do not last forever.

Each season has its beauty and its gifts, but some of those seasons are hard or frustrating or depressing or challenging or disappointing — or sometimes all of the above! But no matter how dark the days are, we can find a glimmer of hope by remembering that this season won’t last forever.

You might be a million miles away from the potty training stage of life. You might not have kids at home, or perhaps you have kids with special needs who will never be potty trained. Changing diapers might seem like the smallest of irritations compared to the challenge you’re facing today. I know. Maybe your tough situation is one I can’t even imagine, much less list out in a blog post.

Even so, I hope you are encouraged to remember at least one of these truths that I’ve learned from – of all things – potty training. This won’t last forever. You can do this. And when you do? When you make it through to the other side, when you see the sun again and begin finding the humor again? Go ahead and do the potty dance. It really does work for celebrating all sorts of success and survival!

 

Sundays With Writers: The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

March 20th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

I have been SO looking forward to this interview with Sharon Guskin this month so I could share more behind her debut novel, The Forgetting Time.  It has been a very long time since I have finished a book in a mere 24 hours, but I could not put this book down and it grabbed me from the first lines until I finished the final page. I think what grabbed me the most is that the premise was something I had not read about before or really had given much thought to. Don’t you love when a book really makes you think or when you begin to question a previous held viewpoint? This book did that for me and I think it might do the same for you!  I can guarantee you will find this book on my top ten list this year- it’s that good!

Honestly, it is difficult to do this interview without any spoilers so if you want to read this one and come back, please do! I really enjoyed piecing this together so I don’t want to take that from you if you haven’t had the chance to read it yet! 

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

What would you do if your four-year-old son claimed he had lived another life and that he wants to go back to it? That he wants his other mother?

Single mom Janie is trying to figure out what is going on with her beloved son Noah. Noah has never been ordinary. He loves to make up stories, and he is constantly surprising her with random trivia someone his age has no right knowing. She always chalked it up to the fact that Noah was precocious―mature beyond his years. But Noah’s eccentricities are starting to become worrisome. One afternoon, Noah’s preschool teacher calls Janie: Noah has been talking about shooting guns and being held under water until he can’t breathe. Suddenly, Janie can’t pretend anymore. The school orders him to get a psychiatric evaluation. And life as she knows it stops for herself and her darling boy.

For Jerome Anderson, life as he knows it has already stopped. Diagnosed with aphasia, his first thought as he approaches the end of his life is, I’m not finished yet. Once an academic star, a graduate of Yale and Harvard, a professor of psychology, he threw everything away to pursue an obsession: the stories of children who remembered past lives. Anderson became the laughing stock of his peers, but he never stopped believing that there was something beyond what anyone could see or comprehend. He spent his life searching for a case that would finally prove it. And with Noah, he thinks he may have found it.

Soon, Noah, Janie, and Anderson will find themselves knocking on the door of a mother whose son has been missing for eight years. When that door opens, all of their questions will be answered.

This book reads a bit like a mystery as you try to solve the puzzle of a child’s unusual first years of life. The story intertwines with a doctor nearing the end of his career due to a deadly diagnosis and could be the only one who could make Noah and his mother’s life better. What Noah is suffering from is beyond what any parent could comprehend. Gripping, thought provoking, and and an excellent pick for any book club! 

Now grab your coffee and let’s settle in with Sharon Guskin today to hear more behind this incredible novel!

sharon-guskin

Your debut novel is absolutely incredible and the way that you write has an assuredness that can be unusual for a first book. I read in a past interview that you have described The Forgetting Time as “my third first novel,” following two earlier novels “that almost sold but didn’t.” You also have been a writer for twenty years which may explain how beautifully you captured this story.  How did you have the perseverance to continue after those books were rejected and what do you think finally clicked with this book that the first two novels seemed to be lacking?

It wasn’t always easy to keep going. There were plenty of days when I thought, “Maybe I should quit.” But I had a lot of support from friends and family.  And as time went on, the process became easier, because my intentions became clearer; I wasn’t writing a book to impress anyone with my sentences, or because I wanted to claim the identity of a “successful writer” or validate my life in some way. That’s the upside of all that disappointment: I became able to extricate my sense of my life’s value from any external success or failure.  So I became free to write what I wanted to write.  I started to work on a story based on a subject that I thought might be interesting to other people, and even eye-opening for them to think about. I think that’s why this book works, and the others didn’t:  my intentions were sound, so I was able to focus simply on telling the story.  My debut novel finally came out this February, a month after my fiftieth birthday, and it has been an entirely wonderful experience.

Dr. Ian Stevenson

Dr. Ian Stevenson

Dr. Jim Tucker

Dr. Jim Tucker

Your book was inspired by the work of the late Dr. Ian Stevenson and Dr. Jim Tucker at the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and the research they did on children who remember previous lifetimes. How did you stumble upon their research and why did you think adding these real-life cases before the chapters adds so much to your story?

I’ve always wondered about what happens when we die (who doesn’t?), but the question became more urgent for me about eight years ago, when I was volunteering at a hospice. My children were still quite young then, and I’d go from diapers and playdates to spending time with people who faced imminent death. And the experience really woke me up, and I started thinking: this can’t be all there is…why aren’t we talking more about this? Around this time, a friend was cleaning out her garage and handed me this book, “Old Souls,” which was by a reporter from the Washington Post who followed Dr. Ian Stevenson as he went about investigating his cases — and these cases really blew me away. Children who made distinct statements (with names, locations, etc.) about being another person in a previous lifetime — statements which were later confirmed after locating the dead individual. Amazing cases, in which children seem to identify relatives from a different life.

And I started to think, why are my children the way they are, with their particular attractions and dislikes? It happens all the time: two siblings come out entirely different. But why? Could it be related to a past life? Then I read “Life Before Life” by Dr. Jim Tucker, and I knew I had to tell a story inspired by these cases. I was very happy we were able to include parts of that nonfiction book in the novel; I think it grounds the book in a way, so the reader can see that I may have made up my story, but I did not make up this phenomenon. It’s real, and I think people might want to know about the real cases…But you don’t have to believe in any of this to enjoy the book!

The fictional Dr. Anderson is diagnosed with aphasia which affects his ability to understand written and spoken language. I understand that you have a family member who has this and it helped you craft the struggles of Dr. Anderson?

Yes, it’s been hard to watch his language deteriorate, and I hope some of my compassion for him came through in the writing of the character. But my relative is also astoundingly positive and present, despite the fact that he can no longer be understood very much by anyone except his wife. So I tried to keep a bit of that aspect, as well.

Return to Life by Dr. Jim Tucker

Almost all of the cases (real and fictional) of children experiencing past lives have happened in other countries and not in the US. In fact, when Noah shares his experience with the officers they are able to believe he has ESP, but dismiss reincarnation. Why do you think Americans have such a hard time believing in children experiencing a past life?

It’s true that most of the cases have been in Asia or in cultures that believe in reincarnation (for instance, the Druze in Lebanon). I think in large part this is because Americans simply don’t take their children seriously when they make comments that seem to indicate a previous lifetime, and the culture itself wouldn’t really encourage children to make that kind of connection even if they have strong feelings and specific memories from a previous existence.

But I think things are changing; everywhere I go, people tell me stories about statements their children have made (“Remember when we lived in China and took care of the babies?” “Remember when I was old and lived in the black house?”) that suddenly seem to make sense to them. And Dr. Tucker’s last book, Return to Life,” is entirely based on extraordinary American cases.

After researching this book, did you find that your own viewpoint changed on reincarnation? What was the most surprising thing you discovered while preparing for this novel?

When I began the book, I was mostly curious and fascinated…but after steeping my mind in these cases for all those years, and becoming familiar with the meticulous, extremely thorough methods of Dr. Stevenson and Dr. Tucker — and getting to know Dr. Tucker, who is one of the most rational and conscientious people you’ll ever meet — I started to think, what do I believe? Do I believe this is true? Actually, I think…. I do.  And that has led me further, to my own spiritual path.  But I think my job as a novelist isn’t to tell anyone what I think happens after you die, but rather to ask the question: What if it’s true? What does that mean for you, and for how you live your life?

One surprising thing: I didn’t have any past-life memories of my own, or at least I didn’t think so. But as I went about writing the novel, images arose on the page that are identical to certain Buddhist images and meditations. Very specific things. I wasn’t familiar with Buddhism while I was writing most of the book — I starting learning more at the end of the process — but by the time I finished I became convinced that I probably had practiced in a previous lifetime. (I guess that’s not so surprising, given my attraction to the material!)

If we are interested in exploring the topic of children experiencing past lives more, what are some of your favorite books or films that we could dive into?

Soul Survivor by Bruce & Andrea Leininger

BOOKS:

Life Before Life” and “Return to Life,” by Dr. Jim Tucker, give a very clear and engaging presentation of this work and of his methodology. “Return to Life” consists of American cases.

Old Souls” by Tom Shroder (a former Washington Post reporter) provides a wonderful portrait of Dr. Stevenson and his work.

Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation” and “Children Who Remember Previous Lives,” are slightly more academic books by Dr. Ian Stevenson about this phenomenon.

Children’s Past Lives” by Carol Bowman gives a different, more therapeutically- oriented approach to this topic; she does past-life regression therapy as well.

Soul Survivor” By Bruce and Andrea Leininger tells the gripping story of their young son, who remembered a life as a World War II fighter pilot.

unmistaken-child

Unmistaken Child

FILMS:

Not surprisingly, perhaps, most of the serious films on reincarnation concern spiritual subjects.

My Reincarnation,” is a documentary about Yeshi, the western-born son of a Tibetan Buddhist master. Yeshi is apparently the reincarnation of a Buddhist master himself, but struggles with integrating his father’s tradition into his modern Western world.

Unmistaken Child” is a moving documentary about a Buddhist monk’s search for the reincarnation of his beloved teacher.

Little Buddha” is a narrative, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, about a little boy in Seattle who may be the rebirth of a great Buddhist teacher, Lama Dorje.

I Origins, Birth, and Cloud Atlas are interesting, entertaining (if not really serious) takes on this topic. And on the completely silly front, I always enjoy watching the Albert Brooks movie, “Defending Your Life.”

Since the publication of the novel, you have begun gathering stories of readers who have reached out to you with their own extraordinary stories of children living past lives. What has the response been to this and, if we have a story like this, how can we share it with you?

I’ve been shocked at how many stories are out there. I’d say about a quarter of the people I’ve talked to about the book have shared something with me, usually a statement a child made or a strange or remarkable event that happened to them and changed the way they look at reality. I just started collecting them recently and will post on my website and my Facebook page. If you have a story you’d like to share, please email me at sharon@sharonguskin.com or submit your story here.

And let me know if you’d like to remain anonymous!

Stolen_poster

Our readers might be unaware that you are also a very successful writer and producer of award-winning documentaries! Do you have a favorite project that you worked on? As a documentary junkie, do you also have a few recommendations of your own personal favorites that you think we should binge on?

I worked on a documentary called STOLEN about the art heist at the Isabella Gardner museum that I think is a wonderful, rich, compelling account of Vermeer, Isabella Gardner, and the biggest art theft in America. And the film ON MEDITATION consists of lovely portraits of people who meditate, from my old writing teacher and Zen Buddhist Peter Matthiessen to Giancarlo Esposito and Congressman Tim Ryan.  I’m proud of both films.

Personal favorites? Any film by Albert Maysles (a humane, wonderful filmmaker). ARMOUR OF LIGHT, about an evangelical minister and the mother of a teenage shooting victim who join forces to oppose gun violence in the United States. THE CENTRAL PARK EFFECT, an utterly charming and fascinating film about birders in Central Park. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOPTWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM.

Lastly, what is one of your all-time favorite books? (This will be added to one of our most visited posts of must-reads from the authors featured in Sundays With Writers)

One book that really inspired me recently was Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, a novel about Cambodia. It is both dark and radiant at the same time. She finds meaning and beauty within the horror, which makes the book truly transformative.

You can connect with Sharon Guskin on her website or through Facebook!  I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads, through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

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