Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

Betty Ford: First Lady, Women’s Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer (Lisa McCubbin)

Lately, I’ve found myself interested in reading more biographies. I suppose I am enjoying stories of the lives of others who have found success despite the odds. At the end of the summer, I was browsing the biographies in a local Barnes and Noble and the cover of the Betty Ford biography struck my eye. Mrs. Ford, dressed in a green pant suit, sits atop a conference table in the White House with her hands meeting just below her chin. With such an interesting pose, how could I resist reading her story?

What did I know about Betty Ford going into my reading? Very little. First lady who struggled with drug and alcohol abuse and ultimately had a recovery center named after her. That was it. McCubbin’s exploration of this remarkable woman’s life, struggles, and successes opened my eyes to all that this pioneering woman accomplished.

As a young adult, Ford was involved in the performing arts – a dancer who worked with Martha Graham in New York. After marrying her husband, she was quickly thrust into the public eye because of his political career. The Fords found themselves in the national spotlight when Jerry was appointed Vice-President after the resignation of Agnew due to scandal. Watergate would later bring down President Nixon, resulting in Jerry and Betty Ford taking up residence on Pennsylvania Avenue.

While in the White House, Betty was an advocate for women’s rights – most notably her efforts to see the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Mrs. Ford would battle breast cancer and brought the disease to the attention of the American public with dignity; her transparency and honesty about her diagnosis are credited with an immediate increase in women being regularly screened by their doctors.

The tragedy of her addiction to prescription drugs came at a time when the issue was not spoken of in polite society at all. What began as treatment for an inoperable pinched nerve that caused Betty tremendous pain, turned into a destructive force due to the fact that none of her doctors noticed the lethal combinations being prescribed to Mrs. Ford. After an intervention in their California home by her family and close friends, Betty defeated her personal demons and became clean. Rather than being satisfied with just her own personal sobriety, Mrs. Ford became an advocate for others who suffered and desperately needed help. Her efforts led to the creation of the Betty Ford Center and largely transformed the field of addiction recovery.

What do I think of Betty Ford now? I see her as a loving wife and impressive woman who spoke her mind despite the influence of others. She was incredibly compassionate and looked for opportunities to serve society before we even knew that we needed her leadership. Betty was charming and witty — always the ultimate hostess — who struggled with learning that it was okay for her to take care of herself first. After reading McCubbin’s biography of the first lady, I feel as through I know Mrs. Ford personally. I’m certain we would have enjoyed a laugh together and I would have cherished time spent with her. Our world could use another Betty right about now.

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The Whispering Muse (Sjon)

Under normal circumstances, I probably would not have picked up this book at all. However, several years ago after first relocating to West Texas, I embarked on a journey that I refer to as My Library Shelf. The concept is very simple at its core. Following a few guidelines that I had established (no more than a certain number of books by the same author and at least one classic novel), I selected a random shelf in my local library with the intention to read through all of the books housed there on that day. As a result, I have encountered some charming novels that I would have never read on my own. I don’t read exclusively from My Library Shelf; rather, I return to it when I simply don’t know what I want to read at the moment. With my busy schedule, the size of the novella was appealing. Unfortunately, that was one of the few things I enjoyed about the book.

The Whispering Muse is an Icelandic novella that tells the story of Caeneus, the second mate on an ocean freighter, transporting paper to India. Caeneus’ tale is tied up in the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts. I have never been a fan of mythology and could not get past the unbelievable plot with its many twists and turns. The only reason I continued reading The Whispering Muse was because I wanted to mark it off of my list. Turning the last page and realizing I was done was the best part of my experience with this novella. Now, on to something else that I will hopefully enjoy more!

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Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time (Brian Tracy)

With a title like Eat that Frog, how could I not crack open the pages of this book to see what in the world the author was actually talking about? I’ve been on a time management kick lately. I suppose it has much to do with the fact that it has been a constant topic of discussion with students this semester. I’m not a master of the discipline either, but since I was offering advice to others, I decided it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to get some other ideas.

Tracy’s thoughts can be summed up fairly easily into a couple of statements. Plan and prioritize your day before getting things started. Do the task you are dreading the most at the beginning of the day. (That’s what “Eat that frog” actually means.) Realize that 80% of your activity should be spent on the 3 or 4 tasks that only you can do that bring success to your company. Delegate and let unnecessary tasks go the way of the dodo.

Eat that Frog is clearly written from a business perspective. While some of its premises seem out-dated (especially the advice to refrain from using any type of electronic device during a meeting), the ideas are manageable to implement and seem like good advice. Personally, I really like the simplicity of Tracy’s planning process. List everything that needs to be done tomorrow and categorize into what A) must be done, B) would be nice to do, C) eventually needs to be done, D) can be delegated, and E) should be eliminated. Begin working in category A with the most important and then proceed down the list. No file folders to sort. No grouping according to location. Just put your head down and get the work done.

Tracy’s premise does seem problematic in the world of academia. How do you manage getting things done when you are constantly interrupted by classes, office hours, and meetings? I like the ideas, but I don’t know that they will actually hold up in reality for the majority of the workforce — including those outside of the academic realm.

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18th Abduction (James Patterson)

It was time for me to return to the stories of The Women’s Murder Club and I am so glad that I did. In this installment, Lindsey and the other women are attempting to find three young prep school teachers who have been kidnapped without a trace. Meanwhile, Lindsey’s husband, Joe, encounters of survivor of the Bosnian genocide who is convinced that she has seen the face of one of the soldiers on the streets of San Francisco who killed her husband and young son and held her captive in a rape hotel.

Is it possible that the two cases are intertwined? When the war criminal is discovered, it becomes necessary to catch him in a crime in order to see him deported and forced to stand before the ICC to answer for the horrors he has brought on so many. The first of the teachers is found dead in a rent-by-the-hour hotel….and Lindsey and the SFPD know that they are racing against the clock to save the other women.

Just when you thought you could easily predict exactly how Patterson’s novels would unfold, you encounter a brand new world in 18th Abduction. And this reader could not be more pleased with the outcome!

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