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Available in large print paperback format
Author: Azmaira H. Maker, Ph.D.
Reviewed for the NABBW by: Anne L. Holmes
 
Today’s world is not as safe as the one we grew up in, in the 50s and 60s. Back then, we did not read about school shootings on a regular basis, for example. Yet an  article by Polly Mosendz, published in Newsweek reports that between the beginning of 2013 and October 6, 2015, there were 142 school shootings. (The source for this information: an index created by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.)
 
And of course, there have been more school shootings since then. Sadly, they have become almost commonplace. But these school shootings are not the only way young children today might be exposed to traumatic or violent death. Sadly, today there are so many other ways for a person to die traumatically that we won’t even begin to try to list them.  Accidents, violent weather, murder… You need only to turn on your TV news to learn the latest.

Which brings us to the point of this fine book: How to explain death to a young child.

I’ve only had to do this once, thankfully, and the children involved were older than the focal point of this book. Still I remember that the initial explaining process left me feeling totally inadequate.

But then there were the questions that come afterward.  And the natural concerns:

  • How to make them feel safe.
  • How to ease their fears.
  • How to make them feel better.
  • Help them feel whole again.
  • How to explain that death is part of the cycle of life.
  • How to answer when they asked if I, too, was going to die…leaving them alone.

Of course, in the case of a traumatic death, it is our job to help involved children feel safe again. We need to know how to ease their fears that a traumatic death might also happen to them. How to help them work out their fears. Even to begin to be able to express them…

Questions about death are hard – even for an adult. These are questions theologians and philosophers debate. Trying to explain death in child-size words is guaranteed to make any parent, teacher, counselor or caregiver feel inadequate.

Thankfully, though, we now have this book to help us. It tells – in simple words and graphically enhanced photos – a simple story of a child losing a treasured friend. In writing it, clinical psychologist Azmaira H. Maker, Ph.D. provides a method for talking to children aged three to eight about traumatic death in a way that helps them feel safe again.

She offers discussion questions at the end of the book, which are used to encourage the child to write, draw or even act out their emotions and questions. The interventions also provide ways to help children explore their feelings and fears, learn to cope – and hopefully come to understand that can can once again feel safe.

Author Azmaira H. Maker, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, speaker, and expert consultant on child development and parenting, who has been working with children and families for twenty years.
 
She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Vassar College, and received her doctoral training at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, her post-doctoral fellowship training at the University of Michigan Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, and specialized training at the Child Advocacy Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School.
 
Dr. Maker specializes in child development, parenting, and psychotherapy and has extensive experience working in hospitals, schools, clinical agencies, and nonprofit organizations. She has also taught and supervised graduate and undergraduate students in play therapy, family therapy, and parent guidance, and has published several research and theoretical articles in scientific, peer-reviewed professional psychology journals.
 
With both Where Did My Friend Go? and her debut title, Family Changes, Dr. Maker offers young children a safe way to explore loss and grief. Both are written with an eye toward educating, enlightening, and empowering both children and their parents.
  • WINNER: 2017 PINNACLE BOOK ACHIEVEMENT AWARD, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BOOK ENTREPRENEURS.
  • FINALIST: 2017 BOOK EXCELLENCE AWARD.
  • FINALIST: 2017 BEST BOOK AWARDS: CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOK SOFT COVER NON-FICTION.
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Title: Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children
Available in large print paperback format
Author: Azmaira H. Maker, Ph.D., Illustrated by Polona Lovsin
Reviewed for the NABBW by: Anne L. Holmes
When our daughter was five and our son two, my former husband and I had to explain to them that we were divorcing. The term “conscious uncoupling” hadn’t been invented yet, but we did everything possible to separate ourselves from the marriage with as little angst as possible, precisely because we didn’t want to cause trauma and pain for our children.
I’m not sure they emerged totally unscathed, because regardless of our intent, the five year old asked us essentially all the same questions Zoey Bunny asks in this excellent book designed to help children aged 4-8 understand divorce. Especially heart-wrenching, as I recall, were my daughter’s concerns that had she been a more well-behaved child, the divorce might not have happened.  Also, like Zoey Bunny, she initially felt sadness and anxiety.
We were advised by counselors that there was no need to tell the two-year old about the divorce. They said he wouldn’t notice. Not true! While he didn’t have the verbal skills to ask questions, he exhibited signs of separation anxiety. Things like trying not to sleep at night, so nothing further could alter his world, without his knowledge.
Children DO notice when parents separate and/or divorce, and it is critical to help them deal with the issues at hand. This book, which features Zoey, a cute bunny who has been hearing the words “separation” and “divorce,” does an excellent job explaining the ramifications of divorce, using simple words, large type and engaging illustrations. The Note to Adults at the book’s front, and the list of Process Questions at the back are excellent adjuncts to the storyline.
I appreciated the fact that Zoey Bunny is not always sad, that sometimes she forgets about the divorce and is simply a young, fun-loving bunny. That’s quite realistic, in my experience.
The one thing I wished the book included was more of a presence for Daddy Bunny.  And, I wished Mama and Daddy Bunny had talked to Zoey in advance of the divorce. It appears that Daddy Bunny has simply moved out, with no explanation.  But perhaps the book is written as it is because it’s more evocative of divorces which are not as friendly as mine was.
 
Author Azmaira H. Maker, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, speaker, and expert consultant on child development and parenting, who has been working with children and families for twenty years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Vassar College, and received her doctoral training at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, her post-doctoral fellowship training at the University of Michigan Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, and specialized training at the Child Advocacy Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School.
Dr. Maker specializes in child development, parenting, and psychotherapy and has extensive experience working in hospitals, schools, clinical agencies, and nonprofit organizations. She has also taught and supervised graduate and undergraduate students in play therapy, family therapy, and parent guidance, and has published several research and theoretical articles in scientific, peer-reviewed professional psychology journals. She brings a wealth of experience working with divorcing families to her debut title, Family Changes, which is certain to educate, enlighten, and empower both children and parents.
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By Linda Ballou, NABBW’s Adventure Travel Associate

NOTE: My sojourn in South America began and ended in Buenos Aires where half the population of Argentina reside. Like most Americans, my knowledge of the geography of South America is a bit fuzzy. The journey took me to less-traveled parts of Argentina and Chile providing an overview of the landscape and high points I will be sharing in a series of pieces. This is the second:

 Puerto Varas, nestled sweetly on the south shore of Llanquihue (“yan key way”) the largest lake in Chile, is the adventure hub of the Chilean Lake District.  On the far shore, the snow-tipped Orsono Volcano offers head-spinning vistas for hikers in the summer (November-March) and in winter, thrilling downhill ski runs.

In the glacier moraine valley below lies the gateway to Vincent Perez National Park where you can explore the Petrohue Falls. Puerto Varas is also the headquarters for the Pumalin Park, a pristine wilderness area with native forests laced with cascading waterfalls.

A fun day trip is a short ferry ride to the Island of Chilo’e that garners penguin sightings. Outdoor activities like, horseback riding, fly fishing, birding, trekking and wind surfing are popular pastimes for locals and tourists alike.

The ride to Orsono takes you on a highway framed in brilliant yellow Scotch Broom spiked with magenta foxglove. The road loops around sparkling Llanquihue, as puffy white clouds float in crystalline heavens and the snow-frosted peaks of the Andes glisten in the distance. Up, up you go on switchbacks snaking the flank of the volcano through stunted pines and flaming red fire-bush to the chair lift and ski hut.

The path through the barren lunar landscape to stunning vistas is composed of slippery crumbled lava that requires focus and sure-footedness. The head spinning panorama takes in the width of Chile, a string bean-shaped country flanked by the Andes on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west.

Dead ahead, the bad boy, Calbuco Volcano that blew its stack in 2015, looms on the horizon. This region is in the ring of fire with 2,000 volcanos, 43 of which are active. The threat of eruptions is real.  Far below, the silver strand of the Petrohue River spiraling through a verdant glacier moraine valley would be our next stop.

At the very “touristic” Petrohue Falls we shared viewing spots with other visitors. The water charging over black lava boulders reminded me of the power of the water that continues to sculpt our planet.

The minerals in the water coming down from glaciers high in the clefts of the mountains churns from aquamarine, to a foamy mix of turquoise, opal and moonstone. There are trails fanning out from the falls that take hikers to tranquil lagoons. Rafting trips are popular further downriver, below the rapids. Continuing up the narrow track tracing the river we met Alex, a fisherman who ferried us over to his home on the river where we were treated to a lunch of local trout.

There is a movement in Chile, spearheaded by the late Douglas Tompkins and his wife Kristine, American philanthropists, who have battled for the last 25 years to preserve the wilds of Patagonia. They donated 2-million acres of land to the Chilean and Argentinian government that includes Park Pumalin in the Chile Lake District. Their hope is that creating parks will bring people into nature and inspire them to protect and preserve the natural heritage of the gorgeous region.

This act spurred the Chilean government to designate an additional 11-million acres of wilderness to what is slated to become the “Route of Parks.” The plan is to have campgrounds with facilities, well-maintained trails and scenic drives modeled after the National Park system in the United States. The information center in Puerto Varas provides brochures and maps for those who have time to explore what is one of the hottest destinations for outdoor adventurers.

A 30-minute ferry ride landed us on Chiloe, and island that has evolved insolation from the mainland.  Our welcoming committee was a pair of black necked swans with a trio of cygnets trailing behind. In Castro, the largest city on the island, the San Francisco church is a UNESCO World Heritage site built entirely of wood and painted bright yellow to offset the gloom of rainy days.

Carvings inside the church show how the mythology of the island’s people was integrated into the teachings of the Jesuits.  We sauntered down to the shore lined with colorfully painted pole houses. With the tide out, the table was set for shore birds picking the mud for morsels of food.

The Chilote’s are sea people. The most important character in their mythology is the Siren. If she faces the sea it will be a good fishing day and if she turns away the fishermen will return empty handed.

After a lunch of delicious seafood soup with all manner of shellfish laced with seaweed we were off to see the penguins.

Our driver careened through lush emerald pasturelands to the Punihuil Wildlife Sanctuary on the Pacific side of the island where Magellanic and Humboldt penguins, sea otters, sea lions, and sea birds reside.

We boarded a skiff and circled the sea stacks where hundreds of the flightless birds breed and find shelter from predators like sea lions who attack the chicks and gulls who steal their eggs. Chiloe’s catch-phrase is “No rain – No rainbow.” We were blessed with both on this spectacular day of bird watching.

Back in Puerto Varas, a stroll along the lake front is a nice way to end a full day. Sailboats ply the azure water as lovers stroll by hand and hand and the sun casts a pink glow that blooms into deep purple.  It’s an easy walk from there over to my favorite café hidden inside a rose garden where I enjoyed King Crab in avocado salad with oyster and salmon ceviche for starters.

Thank you to Overseas Adventure Travel for including Puerto Varas in my Andes to Patagonia itinerary.

To learn more about her foundation and the work Kristine Tompkins continues to create and re-wild parklands go to TompkinsConservation.org

Note: The penguin image above is courtesy of Susan Pendrick. All other images by Linda Ballou.

For a complete bio as well as published on-line clips with photos go to my website www.LindaBallouAuthor.com. Your reward, aside from learning about me and my work, will be to discover the secret to youth! Follow my blog or friend me on Facebook to keep up with my latest adventures.

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Title: Baby Boomer Women: How to Form a Lasting Relationship With Them
Available in both paperback and Kindle formats
Author: Jay Ferry
Reviewed for the NABBW by: Anne L. Holmes
Using US census data covering nearly four decades, researchers from Bowling Green State University’s Center for Family and Demographic Research have determined that the percentage of unmarried Baby Boomers rose from 22- to 34-percent between 1980 and 2009.
Also, say I-Fen Lin and Susan Brown, the researchers involved with this work, more Baby Boomer women than men are unmarried. And, since women live longer than men, the percentage of formerly married women who have become widowed is also increasing. Furthermore, women typically spend more time being single, found Lin and Brown, although this gender gap in declining.
Apparently there are a number of statistically significant reasons for the high numbers of middle-aged and older people who are single, but the “why” doesn’t really matter, according to author Jay Ferry, himself a Baby Boomer who’s been twice widowed and is currently in a committed relationship.
Instead of analyzing the raw data, he’s pragmatically written a very practical book whose sole purpose is to help befuddled Baby Boomer men learn how to form long-lasting, successful relationships with Baby Boomer women.
Any Baby Boomer who’s just getting back into the dating game knows there’s a need for this book. The rules have changed since we were young. 
Ferry begins with the basics. He suggests that Boomer men remember four basic concepts to start. These concepts are well-explained in the book, but in short, they are:
  • Grooming = Impeccable Personal Hygiene
  • Manners = Respect
  • Loyalty = Truthfulness
  • Integrity = Character
Next, he reminds the reader that counselors advise that there are “Four C’s” to a successful relationship, and it is his goal to help guide single readers into a “Four C-worthy” relationship. The four elements, which again are well-documented in the book are:
  • Chemistry
  • Communication
  • Compatibility
  • Commitment
Beyond a doubt, the best part of Ferry’s book is the stories he tells. All are true, although, unless he’s telling a story on himself, the names have been mercifully changed to protect those involved.
In closing, let me say that I have read relationship and dating books by highly credentialed experts, marriage counselors, and the like. This is not one of those books. Instead, it’s heartfelt advice from a man who’s been in the proverbial trenches, and come back to report to his fellow Boomer Men what has worked for him.
This book is a fun, entertaining and insightful read, even for those of us Baby Boomers who are currently married. (After all, a relationship is a living thing and must be nurtured. Ferry’s four basic concepts and four C’s apply to everyone. )
 
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Title: Academic Affairs: A Poisoned Apple
Available in both paperback and Kindle formats
Author: Peter Likins
Reviewed for the NABBW by: Anne L. Holmes

I am a huge fan of the cozy mystery genre. When I’m not reading and reviewing books on behalf of the NABBW, I’m always deep into a cozy of my choice.

So I was delighted to be invited to dig into Academic Affairs: A Poisoned Apple, by Peter Likins, which is described as a “whimsical murder mystery novel.” (In other words, a “cozy.”) If you’re not familiar with the genre, think Jessica Fletcher. The “Murder She Wrote” series has all the genre requirements.

If you’re too young to remember Jessica and unfamiliar with the cozy murder mystery “formula,” it generally boils down to this:

  • Someone (or possibly more than one person) living in a small community — a place where everyone knows each other — dies unexpectedly. The death usually happens in an unusual manner (such as eating a poisoned apple).   
  • The police and coroner are called in of course, but they don’t immediately rule the death a homicide. Though they will most likely consider it suspicious, they don’t initially rule out accidental death.
  • There is always a highly likable townsperson – generally a woman – who is both a business owner (dog trainer, bakery owner, hair stylist, caterer, realtor, personal chef, etc.) who has legitimate reason to talk to a lot of people, and who also enjoys being somewhat of an amateur sleuth.
  • This person is in a position to have the ear of the town’s medical examiner, detective or police officer, so is able to “pump” them for information, or gain access to documents and medical  reports even while the case is actively under investigation.
  • The people in charge of the official investigation usually don’t take the amateur sleuth’s efforts very seriously, and quite often request that she stand down and “let the police do their work.”
  • Of course, the amateur sleuth ignores this request, often because she’s personally impacted or implicated in some manner, and may actually worry that she’s in danger.
  • As the book closes, our cozy heroine correctly and triumphantly solves the case. But only after overcoming some personal peril and well before the police manage to figure things out.

Likins newest book, Academic Affairs fairly well fits my unofficial cozy formula: Specifically, the tale is set at Chickamin Christian College, a small religious academy located in tiny Spartan, Alabama, sometime in the 1930s. The murder weapon is a poisoned apple; one of many which the reader learns are daily gifted to our story’s “dead guy,” Executive Dean for Academic Affairs Jerry Pilkington, by Mary Belle Dawson, a young coed he tutors. (Of course there are rumors their relationship is more personal.)

The investigation falls to Sheriff Jake Muffet, assisted by his staff, who happen to be his children, Jackson and Bonnie. Unfortunately, our local constabulary doesn’t have the support of the mayor or his circle of friends, who include newspaper publisher B. C. Whiteside. Muffet immediately knows solving the case expeditiously is imperative to keeping his job come next election.

To bolster his deductive capabilities, Sheriff Muffet recruits the skills of spunky Katy O’Halleran, Assistant Professor of English and Journalism, who he conveniently finds shooting documentary photos of the Dean’s office when he arrives, the morning the murder is discovered. O’Halleran is not there in her collegiate role, but as aspiring reporter for Sparta’s only newspaper, the Spartan Spectator.  As you might expect, Sheriff Jake threatens to confiscate the camera unless she volunteers the filmed evidence. She does, of course, as the opportunity to showcase her work is in Katy’s best interest.

And for the role of amateur sleuth, the book offers us Sally Brown, proprietor of Sally’s Salon; and her posse, the three “James girls” — Etta Mae, Elva Rae and Divinity. These women of color all work in keys parts of the community, but in the 1930’s era South, they are essentially invisible. Which means they have the opportunity to hear and see things. And since all three James women have college degrees, they’re actually better educated and more literate than either the sheriff or the mayor. 

There are a few key differences between this book and the typical cozy novel. First, it’s extremely short and very tightly written. Almost terse. Most likely that’s because the author is trained to think analytically. Peter Likens initially earned degrees at Stanford and MIT and worked as a spacecraft development engineer at the Cal Tech Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the first years of space exploration, when JPL was launching the first American earth satellites and space probes.

Later he joined the faculty at UCLA as a professor of Engineering and applied science. He has served as president of Lehigh University and was dean of engineering and provost of academic affairs at Columbia University! He is now President Emeritus of the University of Arizona.

Likins dedicates the book to his daughter Lora, saying he hopes to match her creative imagination with this whimsical murder mystery. It’s not his first foray into non-scientific writing, but it’s his first mystery.

Prior books include Coyote Speaks: Cross Country Run and A New American Family: A Love Story.

The latter is a memoir. It tells the story of how he and his wife Patricia adopted six children in the 1960s, building a family beset by challenges that ultimately strengthened all their bonds. Some reviewers says that since this story includes threads of inter-racial adoption, mental illness, drug addiction, unwed pregnancy, and homosexuality, it’s is actually more that a family memoir—it’s a story of the American experience.

In closing, let’s return to Academic Affairs. Though it’s both terse and uncharacteristically brief for a book of the cozy genre, the tale does not disappoint. There’s more to the story than just following the evidence trail – the apple. There may actually be two murders.

It is entertaining to watch a crime being solved in an era prior to the acceptance of DNA evidence. Also prior to the use of cell phones, traffic cams, and the widespread use of fingerprint evidence. The identification of the actual killer will probably take the reader by surprise. But here’s one thing that is not unexpected: the posse at Sally’s Salon absolutely saves the day.

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By Linda Ballou, NABBW’s Adventure Travel Associate

NOTE: My sojourn in South America began and ended in Buenos Aires where half the population of Argentina reside. Like most Americans, my knowledge of the geography of South America is a bit fuzzy. The journey took me to less-traveled parts of Argentina and Chile providing an overview of the landscape and high points I will be sharing in a series of pieces. This is the first:

First Stop: Buenos Aires to Bariloche, Argentina

Church bells ring outside my window and remind me that Buenos Aires is a strongly Catholic town.

You may recall that Pope Francis is from Buenos Aires and and he often returns to speak at the Metropolitan Cathedral, considered the heart of the city—a city that is a frenetic beehive of activity. 

You cross the busy boulevards with extreme caution because the constant flow of huge trucks, tourist busses, commuters in economy cars, and thousands of scooters bolting in and out will not stop. It is up to you to navigate streaming hordes of pedestrians on their way to who-knows-where in a hurry.

July 9, the six-lane motorway with tree-studded median and greenbelts, is so named because that date marks the day that Buenos Aires got its independence from Spain in 1816.

The 4 million people who live in the city proper are mostly Spanish with an Italian accent. The result is a devilishly handsome, passionate, animated population. In the turn of the century there was a program put forth by the government to encourage workers to come from Europe promising them land and a future.

Six million took advantage of this generous offer that turned out to be a false promise. Many stayed and made their way, but just as many returned to their homelands. The result is a cosmopolitan city with European architecture, a host of art galleries, and a thriving theater district. Porteños, as the people of Buenos Aires prefer to call themselves, are very proud of the Colon Opera House touted as possessing the best acoustics of any opera house in the world.

A stroll along the Rio Plata (River of Silver) on a balmy summer eve brings to mind a night in Paris. The lights strung on the yachts tied along the dock and atop the Women’s Bridge (Women’s Bridge is depicted at far right) reflect the many colors of the city in the river below. Young and old lovers stroll hand and hand while tango dancers and musicians add to the romance in the air.

Bariloche, (see the view from my hotel window at near right) a two- hour flight away in the Lake District of Argentina, is where Porteños go for a respite from the city. In the early 1900s Perito Moreno, a geographer and naturalist, rode here with our very own Teddy Roosevelt.

Under his influence Lake Nahuel Haupi (pronounced “Noel Wapi”), the heart of the Lake District, and 3,000 scenic square miles of surrounding forest were designated Argentina’s first national park.

The rich and varied landscape of lakes, glacier-fed rivers, and rolling meadows is laced with hiking trails and campgrounds. My gracious, old world hotel sat high on a knoll overlooking manicured grounds framed in blood red roses and this gorgeous region with hiking, boating, fishing, horseback riding, river rafting, and skiing options.

Founded in 1902, Baraloche was first populated by colonies of Swiss, Italian, and Germans. In an attempt to re-create the alpine resorts at home, they planted evergreen trees like Douglas fir, cypress, and flowering plants that love abundant rainfall. Today mounds of cheery yellow Scotch Broom (see photo at left) brighten the shoulder of the two-lane highway wrapping the immense lake. Meadows are infested with lupine. Swiss chalets are at home here and dark chocolate is the town’s claim to fame.

A chairlift to a ski hut provided a panoramic view of the Moreno and Nahuel Haupi lakes framed in mountains sheathed in green. We took a walk in an indigenous forest with our naturalist guide. There were few blooming plants with the Amazon fig-like tree predominant. This was followed by an energetic hike through a bouquet of introduced wildflowers to a vista of the fingers of the lake framed in snow-streaked mountains.

The early settlers had a penchant for beer. We visited a micro-brewery (yellow building at right) where a young man explained to us the detailed process of making his artisan beer. He uses water fresh from the nearby glaciers that form in the towering rock faces surrounding his valley. He goes to a valley surrounded by mountains protected from the fierce winds and stinging rains to get his hops.

His father owns the adjoining rustic restaurant with rough-hewn beam ceilings and hundreds of empty bottles framing the bar. The sun glistened on the leaves shiny from a recent rain while we enjoyed a warming lamb stew with a delicious squash soup for a starter and chocolate ice cream with a raspberry topping for dessert.

On the north shore of Nahel Haupi we took a lonely drive on a dirt road tracing a rushing creek to an Estancia where we were treated to a traditional asado, or BBQ, of beef, lamb, and sausages. Stunted shrubs spiked with flaming fire brush brought Wyoming to mind.

Plots of land 10,000 acres strong were given to early settlers, but today the land does not support families. Limits of 50 sheep per family have been placed upon them. Gauchos, like our American cowboys, are a vanishing breed. The land is being bought up by billionaires like Ted Turner who purchased thousands of acres of undeveloped land in the Patagonia steppe for a song.

However, there is a big sticking point that should be mentioned. This entire region was given to the indigenous Mapuche Indians by the Spanish who ruled until 1819. The Mapuche resisted subjugation and extermination policies by the Spanish for 350 years. They won many battles and the Spanish finally had to admit that the war with them was too costly in men and treasure and agreed to a land treaty with the Mapuche leaders.

Sadly, for the Mapuche, the declaration of independence from Spain in 1819 voided that agreement. Today, they are struggling to obtain legal title to their lands, but are in competition with foreign investors.

(Note: In the angst-filled photo at right, an emotional local guide is actually telling Evita Peron’s story, but I like to think she would look the same were she sharing the wrenching Mapuche story.) 

In closing let me share that a young Mapuche man protesting the loss of their land was killed the week before I arrived. The Mapuche are people of the earth with a respect for the harmony of nature and all living things.

It is mainly because of them this unspoiled region where a person’s spirits are uplifted by unending beauty is still there for us to enjoy. It is my hope that the Mapuche will be given safe haven. They are not asking for more.

Websites to know should you want to take my trip:
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Title: Curse of the Coloring Book: A Novel Inspired by a True Story 
Available in paperback
Reviewed for the NABBW by: Anne L. Holmes
Anyone who came of age during the era of the Vietnam War will resonate with this book. Curse of the Coloring Book tells the story of Herald Lloyd who, in the Fall of 1967 recklessly quits college to join the Army.  Once signed up, he mocks the war and his decision to sign up, with the purchase of a GI Joe Coloring Book and half-gallon of whiskey. Then, with his induction papers in his pocket, and along with a set of crayons stolen from a Denny’s restaurant, he heads home to his SAE frat house, for a drunken send-off with his collegiate brothers and their girlfriends.
Though we may have pushed the memories down into the deep recesses of our brains, most of us Baby Boomers recall what it was like on college campuses across the country during these days.
As I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, home of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where anti-war sentiments were high – and yet there was also an active ROTC program – reading this book brought back a lot of memories, both good and bad. On my campus, the late 60s brought antiwar protests so violent the Governor called out the National Guard. University of California Berkeley was just as violent, as were many other campuses across the country.
Of course, Vietnam hurls Herald into a world he never anticipated, and he grows up fast. Amazingly — but yet not unlike the characters in the Robert Altman directed movie and later smash hit TV show M.A.S.H — he becomes a decorated combat platoon leader, commanding stressed oddballs and misfits like Dogman, who walks point and only barks to communicate.
For Herald, the worst of the war comes after he’s mustered out, when he begins suffering from debilitating PTSD. As all of us recall, there were no parades for returning Vietnam vets, and very little help with reassimilation back into a non-war society. This book very effectively describes the very human experience of surviving a year in the war, then returning home and trying to hide your experiences deep inside some internal box, so that they don’t destroy the rest of your life.
In Herald’s case, as with most vets, he’s not able to keep the emotions totally under control, and as he moves forward in life, with marriage and a joint law practice with his wife, the traumatic experiences recur. Always at times of stress and when he feels less in control of his life.
As you read the book, it helps to know that it is heavily inspired by the author’s personal experiences. Author Howard L. Hibbard quit college in 1967 to volunteer for the Army during the escalation of the Vietnam War. He rose through the ranks, and was discharged at age twenty-two. By then he was a paratrooper, a first lieutenant combat platoon leader, and briefly a company commander.
Among the medals he received were two Bronze Stars, one W/V Device for heroism in ground combat, one Oak Leaf Cluster, and an Army Commendation Medal. After the Army, he graduated from college and law school, and practiced as an attorney for thirty-four years. Curse of the Coloring Book is based on his combat and legal experiences, along with his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

As Hubbard says in his blog:

Influences that inspired my writing of the story include the film, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, with Gregory Peck playing a World War II veteran, trying to balance the demands of a new job with family life, while dealing with the aftereffects of his war service, and the comicalness of the book/film Catch 22. My ‘catch,’ is that Herald, the protagonist, at times misplaces the blame on everything going wrong on the GI Joe Coloring Book, yet other times invokes the magical coloring book to protect him from danger. Humor lubricates this story, expanding the reader’s ability to empathize with the emotional finality of the legal and combat sequences. Whether it’s the platoon members’ imaginary Marlin deep-sea fishing inside a Vietnam War firebase-barbed-wire-ocean; a drunk lieutenant buddy falling out of a moving jeep; or a tavern exhibition of a bar-parachute landing fall gone awry—humor creates the lightness to allow the reader to understand the day-to-day life of a combat soldier on the battlefield in a foreign land, and life when he comes home.

It’s my hope that people connect with this story, to help them find their own courage and humor, face their demons with dignity, and empathize with other’s trauma, like that of a combat veteran living with post-traumatic stress disorder, (PTSD).

 Several retired military officers who have reviewed the book offer high praise for its realism. And, thankfully the book is not all “sturm und drang,” there’s a lot of humor as well. I’d say anyone who lived through the 60s and 70s – whether or not you were a part of the military experience, will both enjoy and benefit from reading this book.
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Title: Mink Eyes
Available in both paperback and Kindle formats
Author: Max McBride
Reviewed for the NABBW by: Anne L. Holmes
The time is the mid-80’s. October 1986, to be precise. As the book opens, we meet Peter O’Keefe – described to the reader as being taller than 6 feet, and a physically scarred and emotionally battered, divorced, Vietnam vet – and his daughter Kelly. It’s just after 5 A.M., as O’Keefe, who lives in the lower level apartment of a Victorian house, in a regentrifying neighborhood, wakes up, climbs out of bed, dresses and begins his usual, punishing, hour-long physical workout. A former Marine, we’re told his does this routine daily — except when he’s too hung-over.
Kelly soon awakens, and the two of them quickly and happily leave the apartment for breakfast at one of the few local restaurants open his early, a place called The French Bakery. It quickly becomes clear that Kelly adores her father, even though he often has to cancel plans to be with her, due to the demands of his work. (He’s a P.I., and a van stakeout is just not a place for a child.)
We learn that Peter O’Keefe is not just a lone gumshoe, he’s the head of an investigative agency that’s actually doing pretty well.  Where it’s located is never totally clear, but it’s in a large Midwestern city near some big lakes. My guess is Chicago.
We soon realize that we should imagine O’Keefe as a bit of a “classic film noire” type of detective. He’s a tough guy who, along with childhood best friend Mike Harrigan, grew up wanting to become a knight of the Holy Grail. These days, he’s grown dissatisfied with his life, often having to take on work he doesn’t enjoy, because of the reality of having to meet payroll. And of course, fitting the paradigm, he often ends up finding solace in a bottle.
Harrigan, meanwhile, didn’t end up serving in Vietnam. Instead he finished college and became a powerful and successful attorney, with offices in the city’s tallest skyscraper. His office is intentionally intimidating, we learn, designed to give him the psychological edge in client negotiations. He and O’Keefe are still friends and often work together.
As the story unfolds, Harrigan invites O’Keefe to meet his newest clients, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Lufkin. They are men in their mid-fifties, we’re told, who “look like church elders.” Harrigan quickly explains that they are board members of a company called Prosperity Farms, Inc., which operates a mink farm “in the lakes area.”  It develops that Anderson and Lufkin are victims of a Ponzi scheme, and have hired Harrigan to file a lawsuit. Harrigan taps O’Keefe to do the necessary investigative work.
The job initially sounds simple and straightforward, but the reader soon discovers it is not. To begin with, it seems Prosperity Farms is run by a guy named Mr Lenny Parker, and while Anderson and Lufkin are on the board, they don’t have a clue what goes on in the company. Nor had they cared, it seems, as long as the money kept flowing.  But now the money has stopped, Lenny Parker has disappeared, and there’s no money in the firm’s account. Which not only means Anderson and Lufkin aren’t making money, it also means there’s no money to buy feed for the minks, who apparently are voracious eaters.
O’Keefe agrees to investigate, and almost as soon as he does, the story starts to morph: We learn from client Anderson that Lenny Parker is actually his son-in-law. That Anderson and his daughter, (uniquely nicknamed Tag), aren’t on speaking terms. And worse, Anderson thinks Tag and Parker may have run off together. Possibly to Tucson, Arizona, a place Tag loved. Or else to somewhere in Florida.
As O’Keefe digs in, the Ponzi scheme scenario turns into so much more — there are murders, some scary criminals, a mysterious man named Mr. Canada. And we soon realize that the Ponzi scheme scenario is just the tip of the book’s felonious iceberg. As O’Keefe tracks down Lenny and Tag, we discover there is a cocaine connection – and both are addicted. Worse, once O’Keefe and Tag meet, there is instant physical attraction. She seems to be his kryptonite, however, and he soon finds himself deeply and personally involved. No longer merely the investigator.
While the reader might wish this wasn’t the case, the story arc makes some sense, since we already know that O’Keefe and Harrigan have lost their idealism, their sense of joy and meaning in life, and have reached a nadir point in life, where they both use mindless sex and alcohol to fill in for their lost idealism. (Hey, this is the 1980s, remember?)

And – spoiler alert – he thankfully lives to see daughter Kelly again.  Given that my beloved author Sue Grafton has just died, leaving the Kinsey Mulhone alphabet series permanently stuck on the letter Y, we can all hope that McBride might step in to fill the current void in the world of mystery detective novels.

This book isn’t perfect. But it is also McBride’s first novel. He proves that he has the ability to write great action scenes that pull you in and make for a fun read. In fact, it’s my opinion that the writing is good enough that you’ll not only finish the book, you’ll actually hope for a second detective novel featuring Peter O’Keefe, the reluctant hero. Which might be possible. Because though O’Keefe almost dies in this saga, he does pull through.

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Title: The Bankruptcy Alternative: Close Your Business Your Way, Without Bankruptcy. Save Time, Save Money, Save Your Sanity!
Available from Amazon in hardcover, paperback and Kindle formats
Author: Bruce Bowler
Reviewed for the NABBW by: Anne L. Holmes
This is the fascinating – and almost incredible – personal story of Bruce Bowler, a serial entrepreneur who, faced to the fact that his business must close, decides to do a self-managed liquidation instead of filing for bankruptcy. It’s a story full of uncertainty and angst, but equally brimming with hope and resilience. Bowler writes that he began the process of closing down Phoenix Custom Apparel in 2009. The process didn’t end until early 2012. It’s a story of two things: first, knowing when to “throw in the towel,” and second, not quitting. And it’s a good one.
 
I write from experience when I say this, because my husband and I lived through a similar experience. Our story began almost a decade earlier, in 2001, just after 9/11 hit. Exactly as with Bowler, my husband/business partner and I were faced with a huge decision: whether or not to declare bankruptcy. But our point of decision did not came upon us slowly, as Bowler’s did. Instead it literally came out of the blue.
As many people may remember, September 11, 2001 dawned with gorgeous, clear, blue, sunny skies. On that day we owned a successful public relations firm which specialized in web development. We had a staff of close to 20, and a correspondingly huge payroll that was supported by long-standing contractual agreements with all of our clients. We were considering whether or not to buy our office building. Life was good.
But 9/11 caused a seismic shift in our business world, even though we were located in the Midwest, far from the falling towers and crashed planes. Despite our geographic distance, the business world stumbled and lost confidence. Before the week was over, more than 90% of our clients had cancelled their current and projected projects, saying this was not a good time to be spending money.
Faced with a decimated income, we immediately consulted our accountant. Our question: how to move forward? Our CPA definitively advised immediately filing for bankruptcy protection. But I was strongly against it. How would our employees fare? And what about the few remaining clients we still had? They relied on us. Who would complete their work?
For those reasons, we pressed our accountant for an alternative. And thus began our own saga of recovery. In many ways, Bowler’s story and ours are similar: The economy tanked, clients disappeared, the decision to declare bankruptcy or not is faced. Decision made, the debts have to be settled.
Reading this book was a very personal experience for me, because I had visceral empathy for every step Bowler makes. And, because I know that the business world is one of cycles, I know there will again come a time when the economy tanks, and more small business owners will be faced with the decision of when and how to close down their “baby.”
 
For this reason, I highly recommend this book to all small business owners. Logic says there will likely come a day when they, too, have to make the decision whether or not to close down their business. If  the answer is “yes,” then of course the next big question is how to go about doing it.
Bowler says that the day he made the decision to close Phoenix Custom Apparel he literally felt like he had stepped into a black hole in space. He prayed he would be able to pull the light in with him. But when all was said and done, he notes that he kept his sanity, his credit rating, and his home. (Not to mention that he kept his spouse. It’s been my observation that a huge number of business owners whose businesses fail, also end up divorcing.)
Best of all, Bowler says he feels good that whenever he applies now for credit, he can still answer “no” to to the question, “Have you ever taken bankruptcy?” 
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Title: All Hands On Pet! Your How-To Guide on Home Physical Therapy Methods for Pets
Available in both paperback and Kindle formats
Author: Susan E. Davis, PT
Reviewed for the NABBW by: Anne L. Holmes
Author Susan E. Davis is a licensed physical therapist with over 40 years’ clinical experience. Perhaps uniquely, she has transitioned her professional practice from humans to animals. Since 2008, Davis has owned and operated Joycare Onsite, LLC, providing Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation services exclusively to multiple animal species. Her work may be performed in the pet’s home, on farms, in clinics, in animal shelters, and at a zoo.
In addition to her onsite patient care services, Susan provides distance/virtual consulting to pet owners beyond her geographic region. And to assist pet owners no matter where they live, she’s taken on article and book writing, public speaking and consulting. You’ll find Susan’s pet-related articles at Veterinarians.com and Dawg Business.
For the past five years Davis has also been a credentialed member of the media team for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City. She is an advocate for helping animals live active, happy lives through educating owners on all options available to promote mobility. All Hands on Pet! is her second book.
Susan’s first book, “Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation for Animals: A Guide For The Consumer,” was penned to help people understand the purpose of veterinary rehabilitation. As such, it is a reference guide to a variety of disabilities commonly experienced with companion pets. She tells us that while the feedback from the first book has been great, readers told her they wanted to see more ‘how-to” guidance, with photos. Which is exactly what All Hands On Pet! provides.
Truly a how-to guidebook, Pet! features 38 photos, many with directional arrows, showing basic stretches, massage techniques and offers other tips on practical and safe home methods to help a variety of animal species. The entire lifespan of a pet — from puppy and kitten-hood, through adult years and finally seniorhood — is thoroughly covered.
Davis says that while each of her books was written to stand alone, she hopes people with use them together. That’s why she’s endowed All Hands on Pet! with a series of content-based side bars she calls “Key Connections.” Each of these briefly explain a PT technique and ends by referencing the relevant section of her first book, complete with page numbers. This offers the reader the best possible understanding of what sort of physical therapy a pet might need, and why.
This integration of the two books is especially useful for those who might like to provide their pets with physical therapy, but find no qualified therapy providers within easy driving distance. (Apparently as pet owners have become more aware of the benefits of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation for animals, they’ve also discovered few qualified practitioners.) Davis says her true purpose in writing this second book is to teach pet owners physical therapy methods they can safely apply at home. And to know when physical therapy is not advised.
Should you be thinking this information is interesting, but doesn’t apply to your pet gerbil or rabbits, be aware that in addition to dogs and cats, Davis uses physical therapy to treat a wide variety of house pets including reptiles, birds, horses and farm animals.
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