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Summer Reads

No matter how crazy my life gets, I always find time to read.  My Kindle is usually in my purse for whenever I have a few free minutes.  And, summer is the perfect opportunity to read more. Beach trips and vacations practically scream for something juicy.

As we always like to remind our readers, it is important to find that balance in your life. Books are a great way to escape from your day-to-day routine, fantasize, get inspired and maybe a little motivated to make changes in your own life. No need to feel guilty. Put your feet up and enjoy.

Below, is a list of some of my favorites- both old and new.  I am not a literary critic, just someone who loves a good story from all different genres. images-1

Light Summer Reads

Double Bind, by Chris Bohjalian

When Laurel Estabrook is attacked while riding her bicycle through Vermont’s back roads, her life is forever changed. Formerly outgoing, Laurel withdraws into her photography, spending all her free time at a homeless shelter. There she meets Bobbie Crocker, a man with a history of mental illness and a box of photographs he won’t let anyone see. When Bobbie dies, Laurel discovers a deeply hidden secret–a story that leads her far from her old life, and into a cat-and-mouse game with pursuers who claim they want to save her. A page turner.

Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty

A line from this book’s summary drew me right in.  A wife stumbles across a letter written by her husband, which begins “My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died…”

What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty

Yes, same author. She is great for quick-paced summer reading.  In this novel, Alice falls and forgets the past decade.  She is surprised to learn that she has three children and is getting a divorce.  The last thing she remembers is being pregnant with her first child and being madly in love with her husband.  Sounds like a cliché, but really makes you stop and think.

Before I Go To Sleep, by S.J. Watson

Watson’s main character, Christine, struggles with a big problem: Every time she goes to sleep, she forgets her name, her identity, her location, even her husband (due to a rare kind of amnesia).  Christine starts to keep a journal to remind herself of the basic details, and through it she learns her husband, Ben, is keeping facts from her. Is he trying to protect her from a dark past, or is he concealing something more sinister? A real thriller!

Great Stories  (A little deeper than your average summer beach read.)

The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Differbaugh

A story of an 18-year old girl who grew up in foster care and now struggles to survive as an adult. The story weaves between past and present and forces her to confront a painful secret.

Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes

This story brings together two very unlikely people and breaks your heart.  Just read it – so good!

The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer

A promising student of architecture leaves his native country of Hungary to study in Paris in the late 1930s — until his scholarship is revoked when anti-Jewish laws go into effect.  He returns to Hungry as the war escalates.  The character’s happiest days, and later, their struggles, are rendered in a sweeping, epic fashion.  I have read many books on the Holocaust and  hesitated to read another as they can be so heart wrenching – but it was so worth it.

Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

This unique story of a Nigerian girl and a British woman is not at all your typical novel.  The story challenges you to think about concepts of civility and ethical choices.  One of those books that keeps you thinking afterwards.

Memoirs

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

This moving memoir draws you in from the first pages.  Cheryl lost her mother and her marriage and with nothing else to lose, she embarks on a thousand mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail hoping to heal and find herself again. Strayed’s honesty and humor made this book a page-turner for me.

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s, by John Elder Robison

Ever since he was young, John Robison struggled to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits had earned him the label “social deviant.” It was not until he was forty that he was diagnosed with a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome. That understanding transformed the way he saw himself—and the world. A fascinating read – Robinson is a born story-teller.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingslover

Kingsolver and her family abandoned the industrial-food pipeline to live a rural life—vowing that, for one year, they’d only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves or learn to live without it.   Don’t be afraid of the title; Kingsolver is a gifted story teller.  It reads like a novel and is full of wit and humor.

On My List to Read This Summer  

Since I have not yet read these, I am not able to offer an opinion, but they are on my reading list for the summer.

I’m Having So Much Fun Here Without You, by Courtney Maum

In this reverse love story set in Paris and London, a failed monogamist attempts to woo his wife back and to answer the question: Is it really possible to fall back in love with your spouse?

We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart

According to the New York Times, this novel is ”Haunting, sophisticated . . . a novel so twisty and well-told that it will appeal to older readers as well as to adolescents.”

The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, by Marja Mills

Harper Lee wrote one of America’s best-loved novels, To Kill a Mockingird.  She has not written another novel since and has not granted any interviews for the past fifty years.  That is, until she invited Marja Mills to move in next door to her and share her life story. 

All Fall Down, by Jennifer Weiner

On the outside, she’s got it all: money, a beautiful family, and a nice house.  But an addiction to prescription pills could erase the lovely picture.

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Are You A ’Glass Half Full’ Person?

images-3Positive thinking is no longer just a soft and fluffy term thrown around in psychology classes.  Reams of research are beginning to reveal that positive thinking is about much more than just displaying an upbeat attitude and a smile.  Studies have consistently shown that a positive attitude can have a beneficial effect on our health and success.  A recent article from the Mayo Clinic cited the following health benefits of positive thinking:

  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

But how does one become a positive person?  Are we born seeing the glass either ‘half full’ or ‘half empty’?  And, are we destined to go through life this way?

Recent research says, ‘no’. Scientists have learned that the brain continues to adapt and rewire itself throughout our lives and our thoughts and behaviors directly influence this process.

So how do we actually become more optimistic?  One technique is by consciously and actively practicing gratitude.  At the end of every day, make a conscious effort to remember and write down 2 or 3 things for which you are grateful.  You can record them in a journal or on pieces of paper that you drop into a jar.  At first, you will most likely begin with the big stuff like family and a house over your head.  But as you continue, you will be forced to carefully look back over the day and remember the little things, such as the great lunch you had, or the phone call with your mom or even a thoughtful text from a friend.  Your brain can only hold a certain amount of information at a time, so by focusing on and reinforcing the positive events of the day, you crowd out the negative thoughts.

Over time, this way of thinking will actually rewire your brain. Just think of your brain as a dynamic, connected power grid, with billions of roads and pathways lighting up every time you think or feel.  The well travelled roads are your habits and your established ways of thinking and feeling.  Every time you think in a certain way or feel a specific emotion, you strengthen those roads and make it easier for your brain to travel along them.

However, when you think about something differently or choose a different emotion, you carve out a new road inside your brain.  If these new thoughts and emotions are reinforced frequently,  a new pathway gets stronger and becomes the preferred path.  The old pathway becomes used less and less and weakens.  (This is the concept of Neuroplasticity.)

One recent study published in the Journal of Research in Personality confirmed the impact of positive thoughts on one’s health.  Ninety college student were spilt into two groups, one of which wrote about intensely positive experiences three days a week, and the other group wrote about a control topic.  After just three months, the students who wrote about positive experiences had better mood levels, fewer visits to the health center, and experienced fewer illnesses.

I have been planning on using a gratitude jar with my kids for years and never seem to get around to it.  But as I write this blog, I am making a public promise to make gratitude part of my family’s life.  It only takes minutes a day and can lead to a happier more satisfied life.  Think about doing it for your family and send us a comment to tell us how it is going.

Also, if you are interested in learning about living a more optimistic life, Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC, conducts Optimism Workshops locally and by web.  Check out her link at http://www.maximize-wellness.com/workshops.html.

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  • Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC

    Love the blog post! I can say from personal experience ( my family and I have been doing ” 3 things” every night for years). I also have had great response from coaching clients who have incorporated gratitude into daily activities.

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Going to Beautiful Lengths

I am constantly looking for inspiration – for Heels to Laces, for my Yellow Bloom marketing business and in my relationships with others. Funny, sometimes you realize fia w girls croppedthe inspiration is right in front of you.

My 10-year old daughter Sofia had a goal to “grow her hair long” for over a year. The longer it grew, the more she realized her long hair could actually serve a purpose. So, her new goal was to grow it long enough to donate it to those who have lost their hair to cancer. We asked her what helped her come up with this idea and she said when her cousin Ben was diagnosed with Leukemia and lost his hair, she knew how much it upset him; “If I can help one person feel better when they lose their hair, I can make a difference in their life.”

So, we found a program called Pantene Beautiful Lengths that encourages women and men to grow, cut and donate their healthy hair to make wigs for women who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments.  The donated hair is used to craft beautiful, high-quality wigs by Pantene’s partner HairUWear. And they only need 8 inches (the deal closer in Sofia’s eyes ;-).

We called one of our favorite salons, Hair Salon in Summit, NJ, to ask them if they could help us cut the ponytail and avoid destroying Sofia’s hair ;-). Not only did they gracefully and generously offer to help with cutting the ponytail, they also donated a fresh, new haircut for Sofia.  They said “it would be our pleasure to be a part of such a great cause.” So this Memorial Day weekend, we made the cut.

hair salon beforeAs we beamed at our daughter and her new look, we were inspired – inspired by our daughter independently wanting to help others, inspired by Pantene for creating the program that can make a difference in people’s lives and inspired by Hair Salon for genuinely wanting to be a part of something good. There lies a fresh outlook on life – kindness does exist and often if you look right in front of you, you will find it. When you focus on the good, it spreads miles and miles.

hair salon after

 

 

 

 

Many, many thanks to Hair Salon and Pantene for making wishes come true.

To leave a comment on this article or any other blog entry, please fill in the “Leave a Comment” box under each blog entry on our site: Heels to Laces

  • Robert

    Well done Sofia! Your hair looks great and certainly a worthy cause;-)

  • Sharon Priore

    Your daughter is beautiful. What a wonderful thing to do.

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