Book Review Ordinary Magic by Cameron Powell

Ordinary Magic Promises I Kept to my Mother Through Life, Illness, and a Very Long Walk

Ordinary Magic: Promises I Kept to My Mother Through Life, Illness, and a Very Long Walk on the Camino de Santiago

Cameron Powell describes the delicious as well as the sadder moments that comprise life as ordinary magic. His story has a magical draw that I think my readers will enjoy.

Are you planning to walk the Camino de Santiago?

Several of my friends have added this famous walk to their bucket list. I have not, but I’ve contemplated going with them. If you are considering the journey, PLEASE read this book first, Ordinary Magic: Promises I Kept to My Mother Through Life, Illness, and a Very Long Walk on the Camino de Santiago. I think now that I had better be committed and really WANT to go.

The Impact of Travel on Dynamic People

Cameron Powell’s mother wanted to go on the 500-mile-walk on the Camino de Santiago even though she had cancer. He agreed to go with her even though he didn’t always get along with her perfectly. (What adult child ever gets along perfectly with his or her parent?) As he describes their experience on the Camino, he shares the fascinating story of his life with his mother including the reason she changed his name. Powell’s powerful tale reminded me of my friend Chuck’s memoir, April in Paris Rendezvous with my mother, a tumultuous relationship with his mother, and a trip to Paris.

Attention Authors

I highlighted tons of his descriptions and a few things I thought was funny because I am so bad at writing them. Here are a few I chose.

“We passed her sayings around like nudie magazines, like samizdat, like Lemonheads candy.”(Can’t you picture young boys doing that?) 11%

I could have swallowed the moon.” (after he survived his divorce) 15%

“…an accent as sturdy as the stone of a Spanish villa.” (described his new friend Julio)

“We have arrived in St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, henceforth “St. Jean” so as to ration our hyphens for the rest of the trip.” 20%

“Pilgrims crinkle plastic bottles while they whisper, stomp around in their boots (while whispering), or even call out to their fellows in the next bunk in the sort of library voice that would be most appropriate if one were in a library to which one had accidentally set fire.” 26% (Can’t picture sleeping in a room of strangers along the road? This did it for me.)

The Unhighlighted Words

Eventually, I quit highlighting every few words that were funny or well phrased and immersed myself in the book. Cameron went through what many people in their forties to sixties endure, taking care of parents or being with them towards the end of their life. I could identify with his experiences, both the good, the sad, and the hard to write.

The final part of his book was filled with pictures of the people you met on the journey through his life with his mother. It felt like sitting on the couch with your best friend looking at the pictures of their family after you’d heard them talk about the folks for years.

Videos

I think you will enjoy this book.

Cameron PowellAuthor Biography

“Cameron Powell is a writer, six-time startup entrepreneur, consultant and coach, a largely repentant lawyer, and a semi-pro karaokist. Once upon a time, as a young lawyer, he got to say “Your honor, I represent the United States.” In early childhood pictures, there is evidence of his mother committing lederhosen. He is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder and Harvard Law School. A rugged indoorsman, he nevertheless spent the last five years skiing and hiking around Telluride and Boulder, Colorado, and he’s now chosen to live in San Francisco.” Goodreads

Related Reviews

https://tchistorygal.net/2017/03/02/easy-read-memoir-conflicted-hearts/

https://tchistorygal.net/2017/12/11/medical-students-perspective-didnt-get-frazzled/

https://goodreads.com/review/show/2337926936/  Brigid Gallagher’s review of Walking Home.

Featured Blog: A Writer’s Path

Ryan Lanz, author of the blog, A Writer’s Path, has attracted an impressive 7,274 followers since July 2014. I am one of them. I like its simple organizational structure. He limited his categories to:

His menu is different, but still simple and to the point:

  • Home
  • About
  • Contact
  • Writer’s Toolbox
  • Advertise your book
  • Newsletter

If you write, this blog is a great place to learn.

 

Tuesday Review: Interview with JT Weaver

the interview

As I continue to try to find my voice as a blogger, I find myself drawn into the role of book reviewer.  As I continue on this pathway, a next step that I notice among other blogger reviewers is the INTERVIEW.

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Since I am blogger friends with JT Weaver, who authored Uphill Both Ways, he’s my interview guinea pig.  Thanks JT  🙂

Hi JT,

Let’s begin with an ice breaker question.

jt

What makes you laugh?

I guess I like intellectual humor; the kind of story that has you going in one direction and then at the last-minute gets you laughing at what you missed.  I’ve never been a fan of slapstick Three Stooges type of humor.  The Bill Cosby “Himself” album still cracks me up.  I was raised on the droll tangentially humorous stories of my father and it became easy for me to adapt any of my own stories into the format that he used. 

What do you think contributes to your success as an author?

To be honest, I don’t know what “success as an author” really means.  I wrote some stories and then discovered that, without any approval process from the world of “Big 6” publishing, I could self-publish my book at almost no cost.  Years ago being a published author meant you went through several gateways, signed your rights away, hired an agent, hired an editor, and were accepted and printed by Houghton-Mifflin.  Because of these gateways, the title of “published author” carried with it an aura of prestige that perhaps no longer exists.  While my stories were individually lauded and my book is 5-star rated and reviewed, it is also doing well in the marketplace.  

The impetus of the project was to document the important parts of my life for my children in such a way that they could understand who I am.  At the beginning of the project, there were no ideas or discussions about compiling these stories into a single volume; that discussion came later.  The mere idea that someone outside the family might have the slightest interest in these stories is somewhat shocking to me.  I am, of course, delighted that people enjoy them and even want to buy them, but that was never my intention.

 Since you wrote this book to your kids, what is their reaction to your its publication?

“Congratulations Dad, what’s for dinner?”  I haven’t really discussed it with them.  I have a sense that they may be a bit uncomfortable with it all.  From their point of view, this was supposed to be my “letters” to them.  Now the world has access to it.  It somehow has lost it’s personal appeal to them I think.  Many of the stories in the book are familiar to them already.  Some of them probably make them a little uncomfortable. Just because I was documenting my life for them didn’t mean that they had to read it now.

Another part of the emotions of a document like this is the finality of it all.  I think to them it signals the beginning of the end.  Kids grow up thinking their parents will be around forever and only when something happens, an illness or an accident, do they ever think that their parents are even mortal.  They have both moved away from home and are leading their lives to the fullest.  In their minds, they can visit Dad and Mom anytime they want.  Reading this memoir may signal to them that a time will come when they won’t be able to do that.  And to me, that’s OK.  When they’re 60 and I’m long gone, this will be something I hope they will enjoy reading.  I think they’ll like to reflect back on things and this will help them do that.  Perhaps they’ll even want to read some of these stories to their own grandchildren, who knows?

What part has your wife played in getting this book off the ground?

At first, I just began writing a story.  My wife, Karen, really wasn’t involved.  Then I wrote a little something about Social Security and then something about the 2nd Amendment.  Then I found the picture album my parents had made for me and wrote a story about one of those pictures.  I honestly was just fooling around with it.  As I was writing, Karen and my college roommate John were both reviewing each piece.

 Then a discussion started among John, Karen, and I about what it was I was doing.  They thought these stories were better than I did.  At one point John said that he thought he was looking into my soul, and because he knew me so well, he was a little uncomfortable with it.  From that came the idea came the thought from Karen that this would be a nice gift for the kids and it was then that I wrote the letter that would become the Prologue to the book.  When I published that letter, the blogging community took notice and my readership exploded.  At that point Karen got involved with every aspect of the writing.

What obstacles did you run into as you went through the process?

Generally, the writing was very easy.  All I had to do was remember things that happened and write them down.  It wasn’t like writing fiction where you have to make sure everything fits.  In a memoir, if it happened, then it fits, plain and simple.  The difficult part was the rigorous editing and publishing.  I had no previous experience with any of these things so I had to learn it all for the first time.  I am a consummate researcher so I spent many hours trying to understand everything.

I did have some difficulty with some of the chapters.  Recounting military school and the death of my friend Rick was one, some of the experiences in my teen years were some others, and the last chapter was very difficult.  What I found was that a wonderful healing that occurs when you commit these things to paper.  I was surprised and gratified that the weight had been lifted.

Do you have another book in mind?

As I continue to write, I may consider compiling a large series of essays into a book.  That would depend on the enthusiasm of my blog readers.  If the quality of my writing stays up, and people want it, I can publish another book.

What place in the larger picture of American history do you think your book holds?

 From my point of view, the answer is none.  It’s something that we cannot know.  The wonderful letters home from the Civil War are a perfect example.  They were simple and innocent when they were written however; now give so much insight into life at that time.  I cannot know what people will interest people in 100 years.  To me this is a good look at what it was like to grow up in the 1950s and 1960s.  It wasn’t an ideal life perhaps but then no one knows what that is.  I just lived my life in the best way I could, married a wonderful woman, and raised two great kids.

What was your favorite period in your life?

 The best part of my life began on August 22, 1984 and has continues every day.  That was the day that I met Karen in San Francisco.  

What surprised you as you went through this writing process?

Everything!  I’ve never written anything before.  I’m a pretty good storyteller like my father before me.  In my mind, I simply placed myself in a favorite chair by the fireplace and enjoyed the warmth it gave me.  I would enjoy some fine wine and aged cheese and daydream into the past.  When the children came into the room before bedtime, I would tell them a story.  What you read in my book are those stories; nothing more complicated or fancy about it.  It was extremely easy to write these stories down because I had lived them.  I think the most surprising thing for me was that there are people who like these stories. 

 What would you change if you were going to write another book?

The process would be the same, I think.

What are your favorite songs?

This is the “record” he wore out as a teen.

If you enjoyed learning about John T. Weaver, then you will enjoy his website.  You can go on his site and see what he’s working on now.

memoirs

Have any of you written your memoir?  It’s amazing how little our children actually know about our lives before they were born.  Do JT’s motivations to write his story remind you your own?   Would your children read it?  How did the events in history touch your life? Let me know what you think!  🙂

Book Review: The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony

This book, The Elephant Whisperer, kept me on the edge of my seat the entire two days it took me to finish it.

Considering that I was reading it on my cell phone the whole time because my Kindle needs to be emptied before I can load any more books, it’s amazing that I even stuck it out.   Out of forty-two chapters, there wasn’t a single dud.  I read it because I was intrigued when someone  wrote that when Lawrence Anthony died, the elephants mourned.

We all have problems and obstacles when we follow our dreams, but this man had more than most.  He bought a 5,000 acre game reserve in Zululand, South Africa called Thula Thula.  He had the ability to get, not only wild elephants to listen to him, but also local police, local political leaders including tribal leaders from warring tribes.  He conquered poaching problems, floods, and built a thriving lodge in the midst of this reserve full of all kinds of wild animals, the largest being the elephants.

These desperate, wild elephants uprooted trees weighing several tons and crashed through electric fencing to escape the reserve and run free in towns and countryside where EVERYONE from poachers to police wanted to shoot them.  The logistics of capturing, transporting and keeping animals of this strength and determination were mind-boggling.  His story of training and taming them without domesticating them kept me transfixed and absorbed for about two days.

One of the major characteristics that comes out about Lawrence Anthony besides his ability to work hard in horrible circumstances, is his humility.  He credited everyone for the wonderful ways they contributed to his project, and in so doing inspired immense loyalty.  Possibly just as amazing was his companion, Franςoise.  She combatted snakes, and nursed a dying 280 pound baby elephant in her spare bedroom – well the run of the house, actually.  She ran the lodge, made and served gourmet French cuisine, and finally after living with the man who didn’t mind having elephant slobber all over his body for 15 years planned and executed their surprise wedding.

Elephants and the Common Core

Remembering that the Common Core is all about non-fiction, and integrating science, social studies, and technology, this book will do it all – especially if students are reading it on their iPhones as I was.  In spite of it’s length this is an engaging read for upper elementary students and above.  It is also a great one to engage male readers, who statistically respond both to animals and adventure.

Anthony’s story of survival, love, adventure, drama, and caring for both animals, the environment and culture of the people will inspire and challenge everyone to meet their own challenges with courage and innovation.

Featured Blog

Featured BlogThe perfect blog to feature today is one of another adventurer, Amy at shareandconnect.  I have heaped awards on Amy’s shoulders, and I have enjoyed her company, her uplifting comments on my blog for many months, but tonight I spent time just thumbing through her blog, reading the back pages, and the more I read, the more I liked.  This wonder woman has been everywhere.  If it has a trail, she climbed it.  If it’s beautiful, she’s photographed it.

Here’s a peek.  You are going to want to set aside some time and just go browse in her museum of photos.

You can thank me later because you’ll be richer for it!  Enjoy Share and Connect, you’ll be glad you connected.  🙂  Marsha

 

Just Finish It

Such the Like motivated her with her blog post about what books she is reading.  I, too, love to read, at least I think I do.  If it’s not fiction I love to start reading.

That’s why I read so little fiction.  I can’t stop reading fiction until the end of the book – even if I keep my scratchy eyes open until 2:00 a.m.  Unfortunately, there is so much else on my list to read, so I feel guilty reading heart-stopping, bone-chilling fiction.  I did take time to read all of Cristian’s book, Remember,  because it was short, and I wanted to see what kind of writer he is since he is writing about how to write.

I like reading on Kindle because it keeps track of what you are reading, and how much of you read.  Kindle would tell me if I read 100% of Cristain’s book because all the dots should be blackened to the end, but since I read it on my iPhone while I was waiting for an appointment, the dots won’t be filled in until I sync my Kindle.

When it comes right down to it, I’ve been ignoring one of my favorite hobbies, reading books, and substituting it for reading on the internet.  It almost seems like I’m not reading when I read the internet because I’m just scratching the surface.  I read for information.  My friend has an ailment, I look it up.  I read a post on Facebook about a movie I’ve don’t know, so I stop and look it up.   I have friends who are way over my experiential head, and I can’t stand that, so I check things they write about out – on the internet.  I’m at a lecture, and the speaker says he has a web page – I visit it.  He makes a comment about the newest thing that the Igeneration is using.  I google it.  It’s five years old, and out of production.  Good thing he’s entertaining!

http://media.zeromotorcycles.com/press-2012/small/ds/location/2012_zero-ds_action-02_1680x1200_press.jpg

My step-son wants me to buy a Zero.  We check it out together.  I can’t even read the specs without his expert help.  I don’t think I’m ready to own a Zero, but I’m intrigued.

http://www.hgtv.com/decks-patios-porches-and-pools/creating-privacy-on-decks-and-patios/pictures/page-4.html

My husband wants to put up an awning.  We check out the newest things on HGTV’s blog.

But I can’t finish my books.  Here they are, and I like them all.

Now that I’ve confessed to you I promise that I will finish one of them today.