The Long Blink: A Must-Have Book

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When I first read about The Long Blink, I became really interested because I thought this book would illustrate what I, as many other family members and advocates for families of individuals with disabilities, have always been saying:  That a “disability” can be acquired by anyone, at any time, and can change a life in a moment.  The Long Blink surpassed my expectations. This is the story of a family, the Slattery family, and for Ed Slattery and his family, it only took a blink of an eye, a long blink that would change his and his children’s lives forever.

Ed Slattery could not have imagined that a phone call in August of 2010 would turn his life upside down.  The voice on the other line was telling him to get there immediately:  His family had been in an accident.  He would later learn that while both his children had been severely injured by this accident, it was his younger son’s prognosis that was very worrisome.  He would also learn that his wife, the love of his life, Susan Slattery, had died in this accident.

I wish I had enough space to talk about the many reasons why I think this book should be read by the entire world, but since this is not possible, I will try to illustrate in just a few points why I think this book is an absolute must-have for anyone who wishes to understand our community:

  1. Life can change in an instant:  Anything can happen to anyone, at any time.  For the Slattery family, it was Matthew who from one moment to the next, went from a normally-developing young boy, to battling for his life, to making heart-wrenching efforts to be able to hold objects with his right hand.
  2. Special Needs need Special Attention:  Even though well-meaning people may have the best intentions at heart, and may think they can define what our community needs, it is only our community that can and should be an active participant in decision making.  For Ed Slattery, it was building a new home so that Matthew can fully participate in daily living.  For me, it was being able to get a gate pass to accompany my brother to the gate when he flies.  I can’t say enough how frustrating and depressing it was for me to have to work in places where I was told what “script” to follow when dealing with families in our community.   Once, I was reprimanded for giving a parent options.  This practice is humiliating, demoralizing, and just plainly wrong.  In his journey, Ed Slattery discovers how important it is to adapt to his son’s new life and how much growth can result from this adaptation.
  3. Our Community is Inspiring:  Matthew not only inspired and moved his father, Ed, to a whole-new life, but he also changed the lives of so many people around him.  It is easy to see how learning about Matthew and the Slattery family was a transforming experience for Brian Kuebler, the journalist and author of this book.  He was sent to report on this accident first but never lost sight of this family’s experience.  The result was this brilliantly written book and the message of hope and solidarity that it inspires.
  4. Change is Difficult:  As members of this community, we tend to understand firsthand how we got here and what changes need to be made so that others do not have to suffer.  The community at-large, however, may have a much more difficult time absorbing this knowledge.  Since the accident that changed his son’s life, Ed Slattery has been a tireless advocate for trucking safety regulations, as it was a truck driver who dozed off on the road and killed his wife.  As frustrating as this has been for him, he has yet to see the full results of his arduous work.

Reading this book was a very personal journey for me.  It often reminded me of my family, growing up, the challenges and obstacles that we faced.  I’m thankful that because of our advocacy over the years, life has become a bit more manageable for families today.  Reading about the Slattery family leaves me full of admiration not only for Ed and his family, but also for the incredible families out there whom I’ve worked with, and who deal with these issues, day in and day out.

It also deepens my already gigantic admiration for my parents, because it is only through their love that I learned to love our very special village.

Get this book!  Share it with the World!

two trucks on the road
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The Manager Mom Epidemic: Book Review

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When I first picked up a copy of this book I expected it to be descriptive of what I have been observing lately:  Households where the mom is in charge of everything, in other words, the phenomenon that Dr. Thomas Phelan calls “Manager Mom.”  However, I was very pleased to find out that this book includes not only a description of what the phenomenon is, in detail, but also offers many examples and suggestions on dealing with this situation at home.

What is a Manager Mom?  In short, it is a mom that does it all:  The childcare, the cleaning, the food preparation (which includes buying and cleaning up afterwards), the laundry, the appointments, the after-school activities….You get the picture.  How did this happen?  How is it that moms are the ones who bear the burden of everything household related?  Dr. Phelan refers to the original bond between mother and baby as well as the strong message that has been passed down from generation to generation, from mom to mom, as the culprits for this type of behavior.

In fact, Dr. Phelan calls the strong identification with “mom duties” as Mommy ID, and explains how moms tend to feel a strong sense of guilt when their perceived “responsibilities’ are not taken care of (by them!).  This concept was quite enlightening to me as I often hear moms tell me that if they don’t do it all, things don’t get done “right.”

If you feel this way, then this book is for you.  If your family falls in what most people call “traditional,”  mom takes care of all the responsibilities in the house, whether she works outside the home or not, and dad works outside the home but does not contribute to household duties, then this book describes you.  If you are tired of living like this, and would like more “me” time or you are a dad or a partner who would like to be able to make decisions and share the burden of responsibility, then this book is for you.

You will find many actual examples of couples that have moved from what seemed to be the tiring routine of the house to a schema that works for everyone!  It is possible!

To pick up a copy of this book, please click here.

We All Benefit When Work is Shared!

As always, if you have any comments or questions, please drop me a note.

Thanks!

Dr. Klimek.

Listful Living: This book by Paula Rizzo will have you living your best life!

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When I first saw this book’s title, Listful Living, I immediately thought “a book about making lists.  I’m in!”  I was captivated.  After all, who couldn’t be better organized?  More efficient?  As a new entrepreneur, I value efficient use of time, and completion of tasks in a timely manner. I also recognize that as I approach the 6-month mark as an entrepreneur, my responsibilities have only grown, but my 24-hour day has remained the same: Still 24 hours!

Little did I know that Listful Living was much more comprehensive than that.  If you think that you will be making “to-do lists,” please note that this is not what Listful Living is about. This book is about taking a realistic look at your life, evaluating it by being able to set your priorities, from top to bottom, and envisioning where you want to be a year from now.  This book is about action.

In fact, Listful Living has pages and pages of “homework” to help you visualize what’s already in your mind.  Putting it on paper is a kind of agreement with yourself, and it really helps to pinpoint where you are, where you want to be, and the way to get there. It sounds like work, but it will only save you time, energy, and will allow you to make your priorities a reality.

Listful Living by Paula Rizzo

As I read, I felt strongly connected to the author’s experiences, Paula Rizzo, as she described having visualized a better future for herself, realizing this future, and then having to step back to make room for her life and her priorities.  Sometimes, it takes a door closing to realize that the window was opened all along.  In Paula Rizzo’s case, it was a real health scare that landed her in bed for weeks.  In my case, it was the professional realization that if I stayed where I was, things would never change.  I had to produce the change myself. I had to BE that change.

Listful Living is the perfect gift for yourself, for busy moms and dads, for working parents, entrepreneurs, or simply anyone who wishes to improve their lives by being realistic, simplistic, and looking to a better, more fulfilling future.

Here’s to a more fulfilling, rewarding 2020!

Melissa & Doug Toys

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What can I say?  When it comes to giving toy recommendations, one of the brands that immediately comes to mind is Melissa & Doug.  I love toys that are not only made for entertainment, but that are also didactic in nature, in other words, provide with a learning opportunity as well as being fun. Melissa & Doug’s products provide just that.  Their products are 1) creative, 2) versatile, 3) durable, and 4) fun. 

There is no substitute for creativity.  Children’s brains are plastic, and as such it is imperative that we use all tools available to cover all kinds of possibilities.  Take wooden blocks, for example.  Parents/teachers can use blocks in a variety of ways, for example, to encourage free play while building structures and to encourage observation skills by having children imitate block designs.

Versatility is a great quality and it is present in these toys.  What does this mean?  I always encourage the parents I work with to select toys that can be used in many different ways.  Puzzles, for example, are a great way to start.  If you are working with an alphabet puzzle, you may be concentrating on just learning letters, recognizing them one by one, but you could also work on letter sounds, labeling objects (the pictures on the puzzle), counting (the letters), and transitioning (putting letters and puzzle away).  You can come up with any number of activities based on the toy that you have in front of you, but rest assured that Melissa & Doug toys are made to be versatile.

Melissa & Doug toys are made to last!  I have had some of their toys for over 10 years!  Just make sure that you save all the pieces, and the toy you bought will be yours for years to come.  And last but not least, these toys are fun!  Who would want to play with toys that aren’t fun and engaging? We want children to be able to stay focused on those toys, fully enjoying them and playing with them.

When you are out shopping for fun toys this holiday season, think of all the positive skills that children can learn while playing with their toys.  I recommend this brand whole-hearteadly!

If you have any questions about this post of any other, please leave me a comment!

Pets and Emotional Strength

Raising A Doodle

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It is not secret that I love animals, and by that I mean not only the commonly-found animals in cities across America, but also the ones that people do not typically find  cute and cuddly and they’d rather eat.  I love and protect them all.   I’m an animal lover, vegetarian, can’t-live-without-a-pet (especially a cat) type of person.  I am also not shy in sharing my love for my four-legged children with the world.  As a person, I have experienced the one of a kind benefits that stem from having a bond with a pet. 

As a professional, I’m always encouraging the families that I work with to teach their children to love and care for someone else in the world by encouraging them to welcome a pet in their lives. There is simply no substitute for caring for another being, than the opportunity to provide this caring and affection to a pet.

Theresa Piasta, the author of Raising a Doodle and owner of Puppy Mama, shares her own experience as she dealt with the aftermath of serving in the military, to working in the high stress environment of Wall Street, to dealing with her own experience with PTSD. She found healing in her dog, Waffles, and quickly understood the unique relationship and bond that comes with this type of relationship.

As her bond with Waffles grew, so did her emotional strength, and the desire to share this knowledge with other women. Hence, Puppy Mama was born. Raising a Doodle delves into Ms. Piasta’s personal experiences, the experiences of hundreds of women who experienced the healing effects of caring for a dog, and the community that they formed since the creation of the Puppy Mama community.

If you are interested in learning more about how a pet can help you heal, and teach your children the importance of caring, grab a copy of this book here.

Cheers,

Dr. Klimek

Dr. Vanessa Lapointe’s latest book: Parenting Right from the Start

It was nothing but refreshing to read Dr. Lapointe’s professional take on attachment and development.  Let’s just say that many of the ideas that she talks about in her new book Parenting Right from the Start are the very same ideas that I have been teaching my families for quite some time.  This is all especially true when dealing with special needs families, and at the same time, harder to crystallize.  It is worth pointing though, and I can firmly say that this will be one of the first books I will be recommending to my families from now on. 

The wholistic, and at the same time, individualized approach that she teaches the families she works with very much approximate the message that I try to instill in the families that I work with, namely:

  1. You got this!
  2. Don’t let fear of judgement by others take over!
  3. Don’t let judgement of yourself take over!
  4. Relax and enjoy the ride!

My knowledge is not only based on years of experience but also on years of working on the connection between Eastern and Western thought.  I can only summarize it with what a parent told me this morning, as we were talking about his daughter’s traumatic past, “worrying and dwelling are like a rocking chair, they give you something to do but you won’t get anywhere with it.”  Those wise words carried me through the day, and they can get you through the worst crises as well as the not-so-terrible ones:  temper tantrums, defiant behavior, resistant behavior, and normal developmental challenges that all parents are exposed to. Did your child have a tantrum?  Did you yell when you shouldn’t have?  Forgive yourself and move one.  Learn from this experience and take a step back next time. 

Parenting Right from the Start focuses on exactly what the title claims:  Parenting way before you decide to have children, but in a non-judgmental, caring way.  It explores common milestones from the parents’ point of view and from the child.  It teaches parents to look at the world through the child’s eyes.  The result is a more confident parent who is in control and understands that it is normal for parents to feel overwhelmed sometimes.  It teaches parents to deal with those feelings of defeat and provides an avenue not only to help the child grow, but to help parents grow.

To get a copy of this book, click here.  The paperback is out on October 8th, 2019. 

Highly Recommended!

If you have any questions of comments, drop me a note!

Cheers!

Dr. Klimek

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Confessions of a Plastic Surgeon: Life and Living

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Like Dr. Jeneby, I also have a confession.  I wanted to read Confessions of a Plastic Surgeon even though it had no relation (or so I thought) with what I typically write about on this blog.  But then, I read the book, and I realized that this doctor’s outlook on life has more in common with mine than I want to admit.

For starters, in his book Confessions of a Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Jeneby refers to his childhood, his journey through school, his different, “one-of-a-kind” personality, that made him stand out, and all these things reminded me of my life.  Like Dr. Jeneby, I often felt like an “outsider,” whether in school or at work.  I mostly felt like the odd one out of the bunch.  I was never part of the “cool” clique, and most days I was called the “nerd.”  Dr. Jeneby talks very candidly about how this phase in his life gave him the fuel he needed to stay motivated and prove everyone wrong.  Like him, I do have an insatiable drive to show everyone what I can do, and in my case, what WE, as a special village, can do.  We have a similar story, even if on the surface it looks very different.

Dr. Jeneby is very close to his family and takes the opportunity to show us his life.  He credits his mother for providing the strong role modeling of a strong, motivated, professional woman.  Her strong guidance spearheaded him into a successful life, but the support of his family through thick and thin is what keeps him afloat. In Confessions of a Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Jeneby talks about his desire for success, his motivation, and his realization that he could only be himself if he worked for himself.  In this particular regard too, I felt connected to what he describes.  I spent so much time working for “others” when it didn’t suit me, that my only regret is not having set myself free sooner.

He dedicates a good amount of the book talking about his charity work, which he pours his heart into.  Like him, I cannot live without this aspect of my life, which is why I pour my heart into The Bocha ProjectConfessions of a Plastic Surgeon is the unveiling of a world that I you can only see in television programs like Botched, plus everything that comes with this world:  the craziness, the unstoppable hours, the constant running for time.  If you like to watch plastic surgery shows on television, you will definitely like Confessions of a Plastic Surgeon, and you will get to know an awesome professional as an added bonus.

Woman with face covered by a hat.
Confessions of a Plastic Surgeon

Treat yourself! 

Cooking with your Family: One Dish Four Seasons by Jordan Zucker

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I remember years ago, when I first discovered my love for cooking.  Up until that point I was somehow “afraid” of the kitchen: Afraid of being judged by my inability to produce masterful dishes; Afraid of being categorized as the brainy girl with no desire for practical things.  But as luck would have it, I ran across a good cookbook (or two, or three…) and it showed me that cooking is an experience, one that starts way before we enter the kitchen.  The culinary journey starts in our minds, imagining what we are in the mood for eating or drinking, and then, it continues while we shop, selecting those ingredients.  The end result is us settling at home, or with friends, while we cook with our family and enjoy the company of our loved ones.

As a therapist, I often get asked what activities to use to promote the transfer of skills from one activity during therapy to everyday activities at home. Cooking with your family and including your child every step of the way is one activity that I recommend very often.  There is simply so much to learn during the process of getting together to prepare a meal!  Jordan Zucker’s new book, One Dish Four Seasons, supplies us with the elements we need to make this engaging, social-emotional activity as enjoyable as possible.

There is no replacement for such an opportunity to share a bonding experience, while being able to engage with your child at a cognitive, social-emotional, and gross/fine motor level, labeling objects such as food items, cookware, utensils, following directions, as in following the recipe step by step, and having the patience to see it through.  Furthermore, One Dish Four Seasons is color coded so that each recipe honors a particular time of the year.  Jordan Zucker takes one dish and prepares it four ways, so that each variation is thought out and seasonal.  This provides a unique way to teach children about what grows during what times (i.e. why we eat pumpkins in the Fall, for example), and the importance of seasons.

Jordan Zucker’s recipes are both extraordinary and simple.  The pictures are incredibly yummy and an opportunity for children to see the dish they are preparing ahead of time, the finished product.  For me, the pictures are just mouth-watering.  Ms. Zucker, who grew up in a very creative family that also placed a great deal of importance on family and food, makes it even more interesting by adding the wine pairings for every recipe and the record you should be playing while cooking!  For me, these are two very important points:  I tend to sip wine and listen to music when I cook! 

If you asked Ms. Zucker what she is likely to do on a Friday night, she will say that Friday nights are just the same as any other night.  You might just find her cooking!  And like me, there is one book she cannot do without:  Siddartha by Herman Hesse.  Definitely a classic!

You can take a look at her book, and buy it, right here.  If you are interested in learning more about Jordan Zucker and One Dish Four Seasons, you can learn more at onedishfourseasons.com

One Dish Four Seasons

Victoria’s Voice: Book Review

I recently read Victoria’s Voice:  Our Daughter’s Wish to Share her Diary and Save Lives from Drugs.  I have to admit, it was tough for me to even pick it up and start to read it.  Don’t get me wrong:  I’m an avid reader, but to read the diary of a young girl who had died of an overdose and to have her parents, through their agony, share their experience, was an emotional adventure.  Victoria was only 18 years old when she passed away.

The book is a very personal account by Victoria’s parents, David and Jackie Siegel, of what their daughter was like and the experience of emotional stress that they went through as they saw their daughter struggled with anxiety, addiction, depression, and anorexia, and the inevitable fallout that all of these issues led her to.  They also share the agony of their daughter’s passing, and the struggle to figure out their next steps, as they tried to make sense of such a tragic event. 

It was right after their daughter’s death that the Siegels received a text from Victoria’s friend that changed the trajectory of their lives.  Victoria had asked this friend to share the text with her parents, in case she ever died.  In this text, she directed her parents to search for her diary, and to share it with the world.  The Siegels struggled with this decision, but ultimately they decided not only to share her diary with the world, but to become educators and advocates, so that no other parent would have to go through what they went through.

They shared that since their daughter’s death, they learned so much.  In fact, they wish that they would have known what they know now before Victoria’s passing.  They can’t turn back the clock, but they can help save another family from tragedy.  They want everyone to learn about this issue so that it is not too late for a family who is experiencing this issue.  They want everyone to recognize the signs:  Addicts can become very good at hiding their addition.  They want everyone to advocate for a safer environment for young lives. 

David and Victoria Siegel have worked tirelessly to promote laws that protect children, implement ample access to Naxolone (a drug that can save lives from overdose), and advocate for safe-keeping of even day to day drugs.  They have testified before Congress and have advocated for more comprehensive rehabilitation for individuals who are suffering from addiction. 

Victoria’s Voice is full of insight.  I recommend it as a family reading.  Families who are going through the pain of addiction are very special families that need the support of our entire village. 

If you are interested in the book, you can buy it here.  Proceeds from the sales of the book benefit the Victoria Siegel foundation.  Please visit their website (here), to learn more about drugs, addiction, the Siegels, and their advocacy, or simply to get help.

Victoria Siegel

Thanks!