• Book Reviews,  mental health,  parenting,  Writing

    Love Her Well: a book review

    About: Love Her Well

    Paperback: 240 Pages

    Publisher: Thomas Nelson (August 18, 2020)

    Moms are eager for tips and wisdom to help them build strong relationships with their daughters, and Kari Kampakis’s Love Her Well gives them ten practical ways to do so, not by changing their daughters but by changing their own thoughts, actions, and mind-set.

    For many women, having a baby girl is a dream come true. Yet as girls grow up, the narrative of innocence and joy changes to gloom and doom as moms are told, “Just wait until she’s a teenager!” and handed a disheartening script that treats a teenage girl’s final years at home as solely a season to survive

    Author and blogger Kari Kampakis suggests it’s time to change the narrative and mind-set that lead moms to parent teen girls with a spirit of defeat, not strength. By improving the foundation, habits, and dynamics of the relationship, mothers can connect with their teen daughters and earn a voice in their lives that allows moms to offer guidance, love, wisdom, and emotional support.

    As a mom of four daughters (three of whom are teenagers), Kari has learned the hard way that as girls grow up, mothers must grow up too. In Love Her Well, Kari shares ten ways that moms can better connect with their daughters in a challenging season, including:

    • choosing their words and timing carefully,
    • listening and empathizing with her teen’s world,
    • seeing the good and loving her for who she is,
    • taking care of themselves and having a support system, and more.

    This book isn’t a guide to help mothers “fix” their daughters or make them behave. Rather, it’s about a mom’s journey, doing the heart work and legwork necessary to love a teenager while still being a strong, steady parent. Kari explores how every relationship consists of two imperfect sinners, and teenagers gain more respect for their parents when they admit (and learn from) their mistakes, apologize, listen, give grace, and try to understand their teens’ point of view. Yes, teenagers need rules and consequences, but without a connected relationship, parents may never gain a significant voice in their lives or be a safe place they long to return to.

    By admitting her personal failures and prideful mistakes that have hurt her relationships with her teenage daughters, Kari gives mothers hope and reminds them all things are possible through God. By leaning on him, mothers gain the wisdom, guidance, protection, and clarity they need to grow strong.

    Review:

    Talk about a timely book.

    Yesterday was the first day of school and it was a start to Chaney’s junior year that I could have never imagined. Never did I think that two of her high school years would be impacted by COVID. On Monday we drove 3 hours round trip to get her driver’s permit. The DMV in Texas is by appointment only after shutting down due to COVID and when I first looked the earliest appointment in our area was in 2021. And to top it all off, her love – theatre – looks drastically different than anything I’ve ever seen.

    This is the current state we are all living in and on top of that, our family is still trying to balance freedom with well-being while realizing that the transition from a teen to an adult is already happening. And this transition, to me at least, feels even more abrupt because so much is out of our control.

    So what can I control? My actions, my thoughts, and my dialogue with my daughter. Easier said than done, I know. But Love Her Well made it a little easier by drawing my attention to certain aspects of my own personality and heart that could use some work.

    This book was an enjoyable read. However, it was not one that I flew through, despite loving every chapter. It’s an interactive book with Q&A at the end of each chapter which made my writing heart delight. I had years of thoughts and feelings bottled up and was able to unwind many of them chapter by chapter, page by page. This book is an experience.

    If you have a teen daughter, this book is a must. It covers everything from friends, to body image, to mental health – something I feel like a lot of these types of books miss. This one is going on the reference shelf because I have a feeling I might need it more than once during these next few years.

    Thanks to Thomas Nelson and TLC Book Tours for my gifted copy in exchange for my honest review.

    This book is available now from your favorite bookseller!

    Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

    About Kari Kampakis

    Kari Kampakis is a mom of four daughters who writes about everyday events and significant moments that reveal God’s movement in our lives. She loves girls and believes many world problems can be solved by music, dancing, and deep conversations with friends.

    Kari’s work has been featured on The Huffington Post, The TODAY Show, EWTN, Yahoo! News, The Eric Metaxas Show, Proverbs 31 Ministries, Ann Voskamp’s blog, Hands Free Mama, and other national outlets. Her two books for teen girls, 10 ULTIMATE TRUTHS GIRLS SHOULD KNOW and LIKED: WHOSE APPROVAL ARE YOU LIVING FOR?, have been used widely across the U.S. for small group studies.

    Connect with Kari

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

     

  • Book Reviews,  mental health,  Personal,  Writing

    Wednesday Words & More: Untamed

     

     My therapist’s memo. I wouldn’t burn this one…

     

    What if we had missed The Memo?

    Or if the first person who got it, looked at it and realized it was a terrible idea and burned the memo?

    I burned the memo that defined selflessness as the pinnacle of womanhood, but first I forgave myself for believing that lie for so long…Selfless women make for an efficient society but not a beautiful, true, or just one. When women lose themselves, the world loses its way. We do not need more selfless women. (p. 75)

    I did a short review of Untamed here but I have a lot more to say. Specifically around anxiety and Glennon’s thoughts on the subject.

    Real talk: my anxiety is often all-consuming. Some of it comes from the belief that I must be selfless and available at all times. The rest of it is that I have lots to worry about.

    Some of it is real. Some of it is imagined. Some of it is planned – it is my worst case so I plan. Not because I want it to happen but because several of my worst case scenarios are no longer scenarios. They happened, I survived, but I must be on guard so they do not happen again to my family members or myself.

    I put on a good face and I try and stay busy. I love to read and I love to write. But the second life begins to flirt with the almost worst case scenario, I am not OK. I don’t read. I don’t write. And if it’s bad enough it can take me time to recover. I have always felt bad about this downtime.

    Maybe I shouldn’t.

    One of my favorite words is selah.

    Selah is found in the Hebrew Bible seventy-four times. Scholars believe that when it appears in the text, it is a direction to the reader to stop reading and be still for a moment, because the previous idea is important enough to consider deeply. (p.136)

    What are my reflections?

    What can I learn from the almost?

    What boundaries need to be set?

    What do I need to do to take care of myself?

    I live with two people who take up a lot of space. I love them and love the space that they inhabit. But with those large spaces come a huge desire to control on my part. It comes from a place a love for sure but it isn’t healthy for anyone.

    My answer? Selah. Be still.

    If I ever got a tattoo, that’s what it would be. A constant reminder that the text, the email, the phone call – they all can wait. Because if I’m not healthy I’m not going to be any good for the person on the other end.

    This book came along at the perfect time for me but I hesitate to call this book self-help. It’s far closer to a memoir or a collection of short stories. Whatever it is, her openness around addiction, anxiety and mental health are worth their weight in gold.

    Untamed is a book I will continue to revisit because there is so much good information in this book. From white privilege, to racism, to raising confident kids, to creativity – it’s all there. No, I don’t agree with everything but I don’t believe it’s the job of the author to put something out there that everyone loves and agrees with.

    But that’s another post for another day.

     

     

     

     

  • Book Reviews,  Bookish,  mental health,  Writing

    Wednesday Words: trigger warnings

    Can we all take a moment to agree that saying “I am triggered” as a joke is actually not something that is funny?

    We don’t do this with physical illness and if you do well…. that’s not funny either.

    Because this is something I am intimately familiar with, let me explain what it’s like as someone who can be triggered; as well as a caregiver of someone of the like.

    You are going about your day. Maybe you are in Anthropologie, your favorite store. Or maybe you’re in the library. 

    A person walks past and you catch a whiff of their cologne that most love.

    You break out into a cold sweat. Tunnel vision sets in and the exits disappear. You are transported back to “that place” where the worst thing happened to you. Your heart is racing and you can’t breathe. 

    Now you’re making a self-perceived spectacle of yourself in one of your favorite stores or places. 

    If you are lucky you have someone with you who can remind you to breathe. They see what is happening. There’s the five-finger trick where you have something associated with each finger that grounds you. You use your hands to feel the floor, the chair, the person you are with and you are slowly transported out of your worst nightmare and back to current reality.

    But you still feel like shit and the public embarrassment isn’t even part of that. A surge of adrenaline does incredible and also devastating things to your entire body. An occurrence like this can render one worthless for the rest of the day.

    But what happens when you are alone, reading a book at home that everyone has raved about – or even worse, a public place?

    The same thing.

    There are movies and TV shows my family and I avoid because they have content warnings. We know the triggers and take the warnings seriously. Some rated R movies are fine while others are not because the details for the rating are listed below the “R”.

    Ninth House is a wildly popular book that is shown all over Instagram. I saw it in countless top lists of 2019 – which is fine – but I never saw a single mention of a warning about the content that quite frankly, would have upset people who don’t even have PTSD. Instagram is huge so it is always possible I missed a mention of this but it’s not just this book.

    I don’t know why books don’t carry warnings. It would take up so little space to include: child r@pe, extreme hazing, violence against women including drugging and assault… you get the point. And all of these and a few more should have been included in a blurb for Ninth House. Not to mention, the author of Ninth House is a popular young adult author. She has made it clear that this book does not fit that genre but I have seen this very book in the young adult section at multiple bookstores.

    Back to ratings: it’s not that difficult. But that may mean that a group of people don’t buy a particular book. I would hope the publishing industry isn’t as calculating as this seems but one has to wonder when all other forms of media carry warnings.

    With a warning, some may skip the book entirely. However, I would argue that a simple trigger warning would allow a reader to chose to buy the book and then come back to it when they are in a good mental place. Everyone wins – the reader is respected and the author is read.

    The last thing I will mention is context. Because as a writer that is something to be considered. Does the graphic description do something to advance the plot? Is it integral to the character and their personality? Is it being used as a message to be shared? I will still argue that graphic content may not be necessary – we leave readers to their own imaginations all the time with far more innocent plot lines.

    I don’t know what the answer is and I don’t know how this changes unless more readers speak up. But until then, my reviews will include trigger warnings. Because I know from personal experience that a praised book can take me to a dark place fast and that is certainly not the point of reading and I never want to be responsible for transporting a fellow book lover back to their worst moment.

    The world is scary enough already.

  • Bookish,  mental health,  Writing

    Reading & Mental Health

    This post was meant to be my June wrap-up. I wrote it, edited it, deleted it and finally started over.

    I love posting big stacks of books read just as much as the next bibliophile. But what happens when that stack represents far more than books completed?

    When that stack represents a month marked by struggles?

    You write about it.

    May was mental health awareness month and I felt great. I even wrote about it to increase awareness. But then June happened and how disingenuous would it have been to pretend that I felt good and June was just another month?

    I couldn’t do it.

    I’m a slow burner. Things happen and I go into crisis mode. I hold it together and make sure everyone around me is taken care of first. The crisis is endured and once everyone else is back to “normal”, I implode – long after most think to ask how I’m doing. And that’s my fault, not their fault.

    There are many studies out there on the benefits of reading and the correlation to mental health. I have found those studies to be true with one exception:

    What do you do when you feel so bad that you can’t concentrate enough to read a few pages?

    My answer is audiobooks. They engage a different part of the brain, are a great distraction, and dull the roar of anxiety in your mind. This has been my experience at least.

    So here’s my honest wrap-up for June:

    I struggled with depression and anxiety. I needed my medication adjusted. I saw my therapist more and I read when I could.

    I listened to three audiobooks this month and they made a difference in my days – and sometimes even nights when I couldn’t sleep.

    I still read four books this month. I finished The Recognitions at the very beginning of the month and the other three I finished towards the end.

    I’m feeling a lot better now and all in all, I’d say June was a good reading month.

    Here’s to July and a little extra vitamin D!

  • Lists,  mental health,  Top Ten Tuesday,  Writing

    Top Ten Tuesday: Mental Health Awareness

    May is Mental Health Awareness month – a cause near and dear to my heart. So for Top Ten Tuesday, I have a list of ten books that highlight mental health, the need for it, or one that takes steps forward in removing the stigmas of mental illness and/or asking for professional help.

    1. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – This book highlights grief, loss, the stigmas of suicide and tackles all of it in an unconventional wellness retreat setting. While I definitely do not recommend a wellness retreat with a crazy director, the messages were not lost in the story.
    2. There There by Tommy Orange – One of my favorite books this year, this book highlights addiction, mental health, suicide, and the overwhelming need for better mental healthcare in the Native American community. It’s a must-read.
    3. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan – This is a beautifully written young adult book that addresses severe depression, the aftermath of suicide, grieving, and healing. I have read this book twice.
    4. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh – The definitive guide on how not to pick a psychiatrist. This is not a book to read while actively dealing with depression. But on the other side, it is one of the more accurate depictions of what it’s really like to struggle with severe depression and loss.
    5. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel – This book takes on the stigmas of having a transgender child and highlights the importance of family and community support. This story can make you a better person.
    6. Stitches by Anne Lamott – Anne is one of my favorite writers. I read this book during an enormous season of change in my life. She addresses change, loss, and grief with both humor and candor. It’s a short book and I recommend it often to those in the midst of change.
    7. Normal People by Sally Rooney – I finished this book in a few sittings earlier this month. It tackles abuse, loss, suicide, depression, and asking for help through therapy and medication. I found this story to be very raw, honest, and helpful in addressing the stigmas around asking for help and what can happen when help is not received.
    8. Dry. by Augusten Burroughs – One of my favorite memoirs. Too often I feel that addiction is left out of the mental health discussion. There is an overwhelming need for understanding and education around what addiction is and how to support a loved one dealing with addiction.
    9. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal – While this book will raise some eyebrows when reading it in public, it highlights the need for community, loss, grief, and the power of telling your story.
    10. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – Despite the public uproar over throwing away your house, this book and method really did change our lives. I have become a big believer in less physical clutter = less mental clutter.
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