Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Walk for Sunshine

A Walk for Sunshine: A 2,160 mile expedition for charity on the Appalachian Trail by Jeff Alt is a unique kind of adventure story. When Jeff Alt set out on his expedition, it was not for any selfish purpose of self-discovery. He wanted to take something that he loved, and use it to help someone he loved. He chose to make his journey, raising money for the Sunshine Children's Home outside Toledo, OH. His brother, Aaron, was born with cerebral palsy and mental retardation, and lives at the Sunshine Children's Home. This fundraiser was a great way to say thank you, and he was able to provide money for purchasing communication devices and other equipment that improves the residents' way of life. This story holds a special place in my heart, as I am originally from the Toledo, OH area, and know the Sunshine Children's Home quite well.

The 36 chapters contained within the book break up the journey into entertaining little blurbs about life on the trail. You feel like you are right there with Jeff as he makes his way through every kind of weather imaginable. He shivers through sub-zero temperatures, then swelters in temps above 100 degrees. He gets saturated in rainfall that lasts for fifteen days, then has endless sunshine allowing him to truly view the natural beauty of the trail.

Maps precede each chapter, charting Jeff's progress along the way. He shares his problem solving techniques, and strategies designed to make his hike as successful as possible. Two of these include having packages regularly sent to him along the way, and meeting up with friends and family for a day or two of joined hiking.

Along the way, Jeff encounters a range of characters that vary in temperament almost as much as the weather. Even the briefest encounter allowed for a lifelong memory and learning experience. He learns from people and animals, even having some of each as bed mates. He also discovers a new sense of power and courage that had been hibernating until this point.

Adding to the story are tips about both cerebral palsy and hiking. One appendix provides information from the United Cerebral Palsy organization, while another goes into more detail about the Sunshine Children's Home. He also shares an epilogue about life lessons learned from the trail, as well as checklists for going hiking with or without family.

A review copy of this book was provided via my association with BookPleasures.

Purchase A Walk for Sunshine: A 2,160 Mile Expedition for Charity on the Appalachian Trail, 3rd Edition

What Happy Working Mothers Know

What Happy Working Mothers Know: How New Findings in Posilktive Psychology Can Lead to a Healthy and Happy Work/Life Balance is a self-help book for mommies that is based upon scientific research. Authors Cathy L. Greenberg, Ph.D. and Barrett S. Avigdor, J.D. have compiled workplace statistics with stories from successful, happy mothers. Stories are about real people in real situations, with real solutions to their real-life problems. Some contributors are unknown working moms, such as Yolanda. Others are more widely recognized such as First Lady Michelle Obama and Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, the first U.S. African- American to win Olympic gold in the 100-meter hurdles.

Happiness isn't about smiling all of the time and laughing out loud. It is about finding a sense of peace and joy in one's own life. How one achieves these will depend on the individual. Some mothers base it on personal success in the home and wokrplace. Others may view it as flexibility or being a role model. However it is defined, it is about a positive attitude in life.

Women need to be happy in order to be healthy. Unhappiness leads to stress, which leads to several health issues. Also, an unhappy mother leads to an unhappy family. Mom is the one who sets the tone for everyone else. Those who worry about the impact of the mother working outside the home can have their fears put to rest. It isn't the fact that Mom is working that influences the children - it's how she feels while doing it.

The authors have created an easy-to-read format with numerous bits of information. Everything is divided by subtitles, lines, lists, or boxes, to separate each type of information. Research statistics are bulleted. These smaller blurbs are much easier to read, especially for the busy mommy for whom this book is intended. Read explanations of various facets of happiness, followed by a real-life example from a mother. Be inspired by interspersed quotes. Then take the small self-coaching breaks. These are exercises designed to help Mom really think about what she wants out of life.

Also included are physical exercises that allow for meditation and relaxation. Complete with a list of good food choices, the authors strive to help Mom become a happier, better person from the inside out. 

A review copy was provided via my association with BookPleasures.

Purchase What Happy Working Mothers Know: How New Findings in Positive Psychology Can Lead to a Healthy and Happy Work/Life Balance

Saturday, January 2, 2010

10 Things I Hate About Christianity

The title alone is especially eye-catching:  10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. Also appealing was the headline of the PRWeb article that introduced me to this work by Jason T. Berggren: "Ex-pastor And Punk-rocker Challenges The President's Position On Healthcare Reform As A Moral Imperative".What kind of wisdom can an ex-pastor and ex-punker have about Christianity?

Let me start by clarifying that Jason is, in fact, a Christian, even though he is an ex-pastor and ex-punk rocker. He is just willing to acknowledge some of the flaws that exist within the Christian structure, with which many Christians can identify. Ten chapters cover the ten biggest areas of malcontent amongst Christians at any stage:  Faith, Prayer, The Bible, Sin, Rules, Love, Hell, Answers, Church, and Christians. Most Christian writers like to tell YOU what is wrong with YOU and how YOU need to change yourself. Here, Jason implies that the fault lies not totally in the self, but in human nature. Because humans are in charge of Christianity here on Earth, and humans are fallible, it is logical that Christianity has problems, as well.

Jason uses real-life examples to back up any of his opinions, which makes him very easy to read and understand. He delivers his message in a way that isn't preachy, which is very appealing to those of us who are not fans of being told what to do on a regular basis. He bares his soul in many areas, such as addressing questioning God after his first child died. When he asks his questions, you often find yourself pondering your own conflicts and questions, as well.

The books is a very easy read. In fact, I read most of it in one day. (And yes, I read fast, but for a book to hold my attention that long, and to inspire me to finish it in one day, says a lot.) I recommend reading it with a journal by your side, so that you can take notes on your own thoughts and observations as you read Jason's. You can't help but to be inspired to question your own faith, and writing your thoughts is the best way to reflect on them. I would like to reread this book at a time when I can really reflect on the message, and perhaps attack some of my own issues.

Purchase 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith

After reading the book, be sure to also check out Jason T. Berggren's blog or follow him on Twitter @jasonberggren.

I received a copy of the book directly from the author, for the purposes of reviewing on my blog.