Mom’s Day Out at the Great Valley Bookfest – it was awesome!

Two weekends ago I had the awesome opportunity (thank you, my dear husband!) to go to a local book festival for a few hours BY MYSELF and it was amazing. I truly could have stayed there ALL DAY LONG. I met and chatted with some interesting local authors, bought some indie books (I’ve already finished two of them!), and picked up some used books from the Friends of the Library sale (I was there for the closing of the Bookfest and all the used books were free!). I also have some ideas for next year’s Bookfest: 1) bring business cards (duh!) – I missed out on some great opportunities to leave my info with authors; 2) sign up to offer a workshop on editing; 3) block off the whole day and go earlier so I can sit in on some of the speakers. So much potential!

I took some pictures, but then my phone broke and I got a new one soooo they’re not accessible at the moment. Instead, I will share some links! First, the Bookfest itself:

GVBF logo The mission of the Great Valley Bookfest is to create a family-friendly festival that celebrates literacy and promotes the written word in the heart of California’s Central Valley. It benefits the following local literacy organizations: Friends of the LibraryGreat Valley Writing CampsGive Every Child A Chance; and San Joaquin County Office of Education (SCHOOLS)

Next, some of the books I picked up and authors I met:

Britt Nunes – Etched  – I met Britt Nunes, her twin sister, and her adorable baby nephew at the Bookfest and bought her first book, Etched. While it wasn’t flawlessly executed–it read like a first book–it was interesting and engaging, and I enjoyed it very much. When I finished it, I bought myself the e-book versions of the sequel and the prequel, and I look forward to reading more from Britt Nunes in the future! Find her here: brittnunes.com

Britt Nunes  33844215. sy475

Susan Lowe – Josie – I met Susan Lowe and her husband, and just had to buy the book — which I read in one day! It is the story of Josie, Susan’s mother, and her experiences as an ethnic German in post-WWII Yugoslavia. It’s spectacularly well done and I’m thankful to have met Susan and had the opportunity to read her book. Find more info here.

Susan A.  Lowe Josie: A Story of Faith and Survival

Major Mitchell – The Dona (historical fiction)

The Doña

Kathy Goosev Howell – The Perfectly Purple Sneakers (picture book)

The Perfectly Purple Sneakers

Brian Weisfeld – The Startup Squad – Find Brian here: www.thestartupsquad.com

The Startup Squad

 

I met a lot of other authors whose books I did not buy that day, but I’ll certainly be looking out for – and maybe I’ll see them again at next year’s Bookfest! 🙂

Most Useful “Mental Health Books” I’ve Read

I’ve been mulling a post of this sort for a long time–maybe as long as I’ve been blogging–but never really got up the courage to write it. This will be far from perfect and probably emotional, but I thought that it’s a good time to share. So, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’m sharing here a list of books (with commentary – I always have commentary!) that I have found useful on my mental health journey.

The Postpartum Husband: Practical Solutions for Living with Postpartum DepressionThe Postpartum Husband: Practical Solutions to Living with Postpartum Depression by Karen Kleiman

I read this book and then shared it with my husband and my mother while I was going through a serious bout of perinatal depression during my pregnancy with my second daughter. It is very simple and easy-to-read, mostly written in bullet-point format, which makes it perfect for when you’re in the midst of dealing with the day-to-day business of depression. Most of my depressive episodes have been perinatal in nature (postpartum, during pregnancy, during weaning, etc.) and I read this five years ago so I’m not sure how much translates to other types of depression. HOWEVER. I will say that for me, it validated how I was feeling. I read the whole thing, nodding to myself, “THIS IS HOW I FEEL.” I was able to hand it to my husband (who was doing a wonderful job of supporting me, btw) and say, “Read this and you will understand me better. THIS IS EXACTLY HOW I FEEL.” He had already implemented many of the strategies in the book, but I felt like it enabled me to explain to him more accurately how I was actually feeling, which I can only imagine helped him cope with the craziness of our life as we battled through. I’ve since recommended this book to many people and will continue to do so. It has to be the single most useful book I’ve read on the subject.

31312The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner

Despite the title, this book is useful and enlightening even if you don’t consider yourself to have “anger issues.” I’ve struggled myself with depression and anxiety, though in my earliest, undiagnosed times I did express myself through anger. I read this years on, though, and found it illuminating in a couple of ways that have really stuck with me. First, the book describes anger as a secondary emotion, meaning that it is an emotional reaction to some other, more basic emotion. For example, if I’m angry because my husband “got to” sleep in, it’s an emotional reaction to me feeling overtired or overburdened. This lesson then taught me how to cope. Instead of being resentful and mad at my husband, what I need to do is communicate to him that I feel overtired and need a break. I started doing this sort of thing and it has had a huge beneficial impact on my own mental health and in our relationship. This was one of those books that was full of practical lessons for me – which I think, partly, I may have been open to because I’ve gone through years of psychotherapy and self-analysis. For this book to be useful to you, you have to be able to recognize your own faults and willing to implement practical changes.

23878688The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman

At first glance this doesn’t seem like a book that’s “mental health” focused, per se. And it’s really not — but what it did for me was allow me to better understand myself and my husband, and therefore to better accept myself. I learned that people show and feel love in different ways, and that’s ok. Rather than seeing differences between my spouse and me as failures or defects on my part, I learned to appreciate and understand myself. Ultimately, this was and continues to be a huge help to me in battling through bouts of anxiety and depression.

The Temperament God Gave Your SpouseThe Temperament God Gave Your Spouse by Art and Laraine Bennett

This is another one that is indirectly related to my mental health journey, but has been crucial to my own self-acceptance. Anyone who understands and has experienced the feelings of utter worthlessness that accompany severe depression knows that it’s important for long-term recovery to continually work on self-acceptance. I learned to understand myself and my own communication styles better, as well as my natural emotional tendencies (the “temperament”). A basic self-understanding is key to being able to implement the cognitive behavioral techniques I’ve learned in my many hours of counseling.

36235186100 Days of Mental Health by Paul Green

This is a very different book from those described above in that it is literally a 100-day journal of Green’s mental state. Truth be told, I did not finish the book; I couldn’t. I found that his descriptions so accurately reflected the unpredictability and pain of living with a mental disorder that it was slightly triggering for me. Coupled with the fact that I was reading it just about the time I was weaning my third child (a very sensitive time for me emotionally), I couldn’t emotionally handle reading about his struggle. I remember very clearly a description he writes about depression being like having 1,000-pound rock on top of you; no one would expect you to get up if you had a literal 1,000-pound rock on top of you, but that’s not the case with depression. It’s so often unseen, and sufferers are expected to just get up and live life as normal – except to them, the rock really is there. I recommend this book to anyone who is living with a relative or friend suffering from depression, as a way of potentially understanding their loved one. It won’t perfectly explain everyone’s situation, but it just might grant some insight.

39331472Spaghetti Head by Sarah Tyley

Regular readers might remember I recently reviewed this book here on the blog and commented on how the mental health aspects of the book particularly struck me. Ms. Tyley later told me that people who have undergone therapy are part of her target audience (though the book, I think, does have wider appeal). I won’t rehash everything I said in my original review, but I will say that it’s one of the best fictional portrayals of intensive therapy (futuristic techniques notwithstanding!) that I’ve read. It speaks to the depth of personal struggle, the variety of forms mental illness can take, and the incredible effort it takes to commit oneself to therapy and to implementation of the techniques learned. Therapy, in many ways, is just the beginning – if you can’t take what you’ve learned and apply it to your life, recovery remains out of reach. This book illuminates so much of the struggle without being “a mental health book.”

The Private War of Corporal HensonThe Private War of Corporal Henson by E. Michael Helms

I won a free copy of this book via Goodreads giveaway a few years ago (Goodreads tells me I read it in November 2015), and I am forever thankful. The semi-autobiographical novel follows Corporal Henson, a long-time PTSD sufferer from his time spent fighting in Vietnam. He is persuaded to participate in a PTSD support group for veterans and we follow him through his struggles to come to terms with what he experienced at war, how that has haunted him for decades since, and how to move ahead with his life and allow himself happiness. The greatest takeaway for me was perhaps a glimmer of understanding of what life was like for my maternal grandfather, who suffered with undiagnosed PTSD for 53 years (!) after fighting with the US Army in the Korean War; beyond that, it illuminated for me how his mental illness may have impacted the lives of his wife and children (my mother included). I don’t know his full story or theirs, but I felt like reading this book provided me with just a nugget of understanding and resulting compassion for their collective struggle. Because, I know, mental illness doesn’t only impact the person who is ill: it has far-reaching consequences for others, especially close loved ones; this reality alone provided most of the impetus for my efforts at recovery when I was at my lowest points.

So, those are my books and the smallest window into the struggle my family and I face as I continue to struggle with mental illness and accept it as a part of our life. St. Dymphna, patron saint of the mentally ill, pray for me and for all of us who suffer!

Top 100 Catholic Books of all time?

I came across a really interesting post on Aleteia today called, “Confessions of a Catholic book hoarder” that reposted a list (credited to Fr. John McCloskey) of the supposed top 100 Catholic books of all time. I can’t vouch for whether that’s true, as I have not read most of them, but I enjoy lists like this and thought it would be interesting to share. I’ve noted the ones I’ve actually read, as well as those I own but haven’t read.

What about you? Have you read any of these? What do you think – do they belong on this list? Is there something you would add? Subtract? Let’s chat!

Fr. McCloskey’s Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan:

Catholicism Explained/Theology

The Spirit of Catholicism by Karl Adams
Spirit and Forms of Protestantism by Louis Bouyer
Christianity for Modern Pagans by Peter Kreeft
The Lord by Romano Guardini
Essay on Development of Christian Doctrine by Cardinal Newman
Parochial and Plain Sermons by Cardinal Newman
End of the Modern World by Romano Guardini
Rome Sweet Home by Scott & Kimberly Hahn
Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott — read parts for a class, own
The Four Cardinal Virtues by Josef Pieper

History and Culture

The Great Heresies by Hilaire Belloc
How The Reformation Happened by Hilaire Belloc
Survivals and New Arrivals by Hilaire Belloc
Christendom I: Founding of Christendom by Warren Carroll

Holy Men and Women

Something Beautiful for God by Malcolm Muggeridge
Apologia Pro Vita Sua by John Henry Newman
Journal of a Soul by Pope John XXIII
The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day
St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox by G. K. Chesterton
St. Francis of Assisi by G. K. Chesterton
Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
Mary of Nazareth by Federico Suarez
Cure of Ars by F. Trochu
Thomas More: A Portrait of Courage by Gerard B. Wegemer
Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II by George Weigel

Literary Classics

Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson
The Diary of a Country Priest by George Bernanos
Hopkins: Poetry and Prose by George Manley Hopkins
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri — own this, but have not read it
Christianity and Culture by T. S. Eliot
The Idea of a University by John Newman
Silence by Shusaku Endo
Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz
Lost in the Cosmos : The Last Self-Help Book by Walker Percy
Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy
Kristin Lavransdatter I: The Bridal Wreath by Sigrid Undset
Kristin Lavransdatter II : The Wife by Sigrid Undset
Kristin Lavransdatter III: The Cross by Sigrid Undset
Flannery O’Connor: Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien — read this a LONG time ago; also own it
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Spiritual Classics

Confessions of St. Augustine by St. Augustine — read!
Little Talks with God (modernized version of “The Dialogues”) by St. Catherine
City of God by St. Augustine
The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis
Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross
Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis — read!
The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis — read!
The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton
Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton
The Greatest Story Ever Told by Fulton Oursler
Meditations from a Simple Path by Mother Teresa
Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila
The Way of Perfection by St. Teresa of Avila
Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux — read!
My Way of Life/Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas — read portions for classes, own – it’s numerous large volumes, which I cannot imagine just reading through like a book!

Spiritual Reading

The Great Means of Salvation and Perfection by Alphonso Liguori
Uniformity with God’s Will by Alphonso Liguori
Spiritual Theology by Jordan Aumann
Frequent Confession by Benedict Baur
In Silence with God by Benedict Baur
Difficulties in Mental Prayer by Eugene Boylan
The Tremendous Lover by Eugene Boylan
Covenanted Happiness by Cormac Burke — I own this, and started reading it but I found it incredibly hard to get through and gave up pretty early on
The Soul of the Apostolate by Jean-Baptiste Chautard
Friends of God by Jose Maria Escriva
Christ Is Passing By by Jose Maria Escriva
The Way, Furrow, The Forge by Jose Maria Escriva
Way of the Cross by Jose Maria Escriva
All for Jesus by Frederick W. Faber
Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre De Caussade
Introduction to Devout Life by Francis deSales
Treatise on the Love of God by Francis deSales
Three Ages of Interior Life Volume I by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange
Three Ages of Interior Life Volume II by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange
Sinner’s Guide by Venerable Louis of Grenada
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis
True Devotion to the Holy Spirit by Luis M. Martinez
True Devotions by Louis-Marie Grignion De Montfort
The Hidden Power of Kindness by Lawrence G. Lovasik
The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
The Sadness of Christ by Thomas More
Conversation with Christ by Peter T. Rohrbach
Spiritual Combat by Lorenzo Scupoli
Theology and Sanity by Francis J. Sheed
Theology for Beginners by Francis J. Sheed
To Know Christ Jesus by Francis J. Sheed
Life of Christ by Fulton J. Sheen
Three to Get Married by Fulton J. Sheen
The Spiritual Life by Adolphe Tanqueray
Abba Father by Bonaventure Perquin
Transformation in Christ by Dietrich von Hildebrand

Miscellaneous

Crossing the Threshold of Hope by Pope John Paul II
Companion Guide to Rome by Georgina Masson
The King’s Good Servant but God’s First by James Monti
50 Questions on the Natural Law by Charles E. Rice
The Intellectual Life by A. G. Sertillanges
Essays on Woman by Edith Stein