Showing posts with label autobiography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label autobiography. Show all posts

Saturday, February 9, 2019

"Our Teenage Years" by T. J. Wray

Our Teenage Years:
Growing up in a small town in the 80’s
by T. J. Wray

Our Teenage Years: Growing up in a small town in the 80’s by T. J. Wray

Our Teenage Years: Growing up in a small town in the 80’s is the first book in T. J. Wray’s My Life series. The author stops by today to share a giveaway and an excerpt from the book, which is FREE on Kindle Unlimited. Also available: The '90s: Life on the Road.

The '90s: Life on the Road by T. J. Wray

This is the first book in the My Life series. This book is about two best friends growing up in their teenage years in a small town. All the wild adventures and stories from my childhood. After my parents divorced and we went on the run for 11 years. This book includes my first job, girlfriend, prom, driver’s license, my first car and many other firsts we all did in our teenage years. But really this book is just about LIFE. It will make you laugh, and it will make you cry. Please enjoy.

Howdy, my name is T. J. I was born in 1968 in Texas. Things sure were different in 1968 than they are today. I think the population explosion has created all the new laws and rules we have to live by today, and taxes are much higher today. Sometimes I wish I had been born in 1868 where things seemed much simpler. In those days if you had a problem with someone you went outside and settled it like men.
Anyway, in 1968 we lived in Burkburnett Texas, where my dad and granddad worked in the booming oil fields of west Texas. Across the street from our little rented house lived my dad’s mortal enemy (Sam). He was five or six years older than my dad, and according to dad, he never liked this guy. But he was always hanging around.
When I was two years old my dad was twenty-six and my mom was twenty. I had a sister Katie, who was two years older than me. So in 1970 when I was two and Katie was four, my parents got divorced. After being together for six years and being married for four years, they were finished. Dad said that he used to come home from work and Sam would be setting at his kitchen table. He hung around a lot and spent a lot of time with my mom while dad was at work.
They got into fight after fight about it, but dad said for months that he would come home and Sam would be in his house. So after a number of fights, they decided to get divorced. After working out the details they decided that dad would take me and leave my sister with my mom.
So one night after supper and another huge fight, probably about Sam, he put me in the car and left. He drove around the block, parked, sat there and thought for a few minutes. Then, leaving me in the car (at the age of two), he ran up the yard behind our house, jumped over the fence, and went through the back door to our house. He grabbed my sister Katie and ran back out, jumped inside the car and took off. He later said to me, “I didn’t want Sam the idiot raising my kids!” We spent the next eleven years on the run! Me and my sister recently sat down and figured it up.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“In my local library there are many books of memoirs on the shelves. The majority of those books are about the rich and famous. This book however contains the memoirs of a very ordinary man who was anything but ordinary. No matter what life threw at T.J he was always positive, worked hard and achieved. […] This book will make you laugh and make you cry. I couldn't stop laughing at the memory of the fishing trip and the alligator. […] Thank you for sharing your memories with everyone T.J. A very special book that I enjoyed reading.” ~ Shirley Revill
“My first thought after reading this book was that this is proof that no matter what someone has been through, they can overcome and continually strive to move in a positive direction. The narrator (and author), T.J., describes his adventures and ‘misadventures’ in a small town in Oklahoma in the 1980's. Most of these were with his best friend Terry. The friendship and unbreakable bond he had with Terry is a gift that few people are lucky enough to experience in life. If anyone remembers the 80's, they will certainly be able to reminisce as the author relays his anecdotes from this period in time. […] There is a common thread throughout the book based upon the life lessons that are relayed either directly or indirectly by the author through the stories. They are worth noting and were some timely reminders to me of what is really important in life. I want to thank T.J. for this as I needed these reminders in so many areas.” ~ Leslie Ray
“… many of the stories in this book were echoes of my own childhood. […] TJ's adventures made me smile, made me laugh, made me sad, made me nod my head in agreement and made me wince. […] I almost felt like I was reading my own life story. […] I could relate to 90% of this book, and to be honest it felt like I was reading a book written by a close friend. A close friend who went through an awful lot more and tougher times than I did, but still came out smiling and regardless of religion (race, colour, creed or nationality) with a proper sense of right and wrong and the understanding that treating people with respect and tolerance is the way to make the world better. Thanks TJ for sharing that with us all, it was a blast. And now bring on the 90s.” ~ Adrian
“T.J. Wray is going to tell you a story about his life as a teen and you know what? It is going to make you laugh, break your heart and have you thinking back to your own life as a teen! Our Teenage Years: Growing Up In A Small Town is the story of what made T.J. Wray the father and man he is today. It’s the story of friendship, dysfunctional families and having to grow up far beyond one’s years too fast. It’s also the story of love and loss and mistakes and triumphs. […] Told completely in his own words, no fancy phrases, just from the heart writing, this story is sweet, heartwarming and a testament to the strength of the human spirit to overcome obstacles and pushing forward without whining or blaming the world for their lot in life. Seriously, we read fiction to be entertained, this is our chance to read a true story filled with heart as one man exposes his very soul in an effort to entertain and give each of us a chance to look back on the life that we, too, survived and grew from! A real hidden gem that deserves to be read from an author who puts on no airs!” ~ Dianne

About the Author
T. J. Wray
T. J. Wray grew up in a small town. He grew up quick and got his first job at only thirteen years old. He knew people depended on him to do his job every day. So, for two years he never missed a day. No matter the weather conditions, he always got the job done. He learned responsibility for his actions at a very early age. He was very active in his church and with his youth group. He learned a lot from the positive role models in his church, like his youth pastor and his Sunday school teacher. He didn't drink or party in high school. He was responsible and went to work after school. He got his driver's license at age fourteen and drove himself everywhere, while the other kids still rode the bus. Even though he was a teenager, he was an adult. He said, in a small town, people wave as they passed by and said hello as they passed on the sidewalk. He said, in a small town, people ‘actually shook hands’. In his teenage years, he was an avid fisherman. He once said he would ‘rather fish, than breath’. There's nothing that compares to hooking a largemouth bass. He was quoted as saying, ‘If they don't ride motorcycles and go fishing in heaven, I don't want to go!’.
Nowadays, he lives in the Big City. He says nobody knows anybody, and they don't want to. Everybody is always in a big hurry and would rather run over you then wait for one minute for you to move. No one ever seems to slow down and enjoy life, in the big city. He says he really misses life in a small town.

Enter the Amazon giveaway to win one of 50 Kindle copies of Our Teenage Years: Growing up in a small town in the 80’s by T. J. Wray (US only; ends 18 February or when all prizes have been awarded).

Amazon (Kindle Unlimited)

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Friday, September 1, 2017

"Everything You've Ever Done" by Amelia Marie Whalen

Everything You've Ever Done:
A Memoir of Unconditional Love and Spiritual Discovery
by Amelia Marie Whalen

Everything You've Ever Done: A Memoir of Unconditional Love and Spiritual Discovery by Amelia Marie Whalen

Author Amelia Marie Whalen joins me today to share an excerpt from her memoir, Everything You've Ever Done.

By the time she’s twenty, Amelia has survived an unconventional childhood and experienced darkness and death. She relishes the carefree life she finds with Dave, her rock star soul mate. The couple lives fast and full - getting married, traveling, adventuring, and creating.
The story turns to heartbreaking drama and medical mystery as Dave’s bizarre personality changes cause their lives to spin out of control. Forced to face a terrifying reality, Amelia and Dave buckle in for a rocket blast through cosmic truth and spiritual discovery.
This book is about the worst things happening. It’s about falling and breaking and making mistakes and being bad. And it’s about everything being OK and everything you’ve ever done being right and true. It’s about light and dark existing simultaneously.
Amelia and Dave each got knocked down again and again. They each lost love and felt abandoned. And they were saved by love. They learned a new depth of human connection. They saw each other through.
Everything You’ve Ever Done is a story for both the doubters and believers. It shows that we can be seen through and that faith really works, even when (or maybe especially when) we feel like giving up, when we are destroyed by life. It demonstrates facing both life and death with an open heart, and confirms we have the power to choose bold survival in the face of devastation. Death isn’t the end. Love isn’t temporary.

He’s been hanging out with me all day,” Dave said with a nod to the dragonfly perched on his shoulder. He was bare-chested and his cut-off jeans hung so low on his skinny hips it was obvious he wasn’t wearing underwear. The sun had gone down an hour earlier. Illumination came from red and yellow party lights dangling from the trees.
We stood in timeless silence: Dave watching the dragonfly, me watching Dave. He was deeply, evenly tanned. It was mid-August, and I figured he must have spent a lot of time outside with his shirt off that summer.
“His wings are generating light,” Dave said, his eyes wide and staring at the bug as it crawled down his arm. “You’re a light generator. Do you see that?”
He didn’t look up from his arm and I couldn’t tell if he was talking to the bug or to me. I stepped in and looked closer at the dragonfly. It stopped moving when it reached the spot on Dave’s arm where the clock face would be if he were wearing a wristwatch. He slowly turned to face me and raised his arm so the bug sat between us at eye level. We stood barefoot, only inches apart, and I noticed we were almost exactly the same height. I raised my arm so my fingertips touched Dave’s and my stance matched his.
For some reason, in that moment, I thought of my mom. She’d been dead thirteen years, and I’d mostly stopped thinking about her. When she did come to mind, it felt more like a visitation than a memory. When she entered my mind, it wasn’t a choice I was making, more an act of her will.
So, there she was, suddenly present. I felt her standing in the party crowd Dave and I were on the edge of. My mom had been a gorgeous, outgoing, and popular girl. She was twenty-four when she died, so eternally a hipster, still just the right age to be hanging out at the house party with all the other artists and hippies and punks.
“Let’s go swimming,” Dave said. My thoughts interrupted, I followed him to the pool, forgetting my mom and the dragonfly. He pushed his cut-offs down his body without unbuttoning them. In the not-quite-total darkness, backlit from a yellow floodlight aimed at the water, he stood naked and facing me.
I strained to see his eyes in the shadowy darkness as I pulled off my clothes. Dave took my hand, and we stepped to the pool and jumped. As my feet left the ground, time slowed and energy swirled. With a momentary flash of concern, I pictured the dragonfly resting on Dave’s skin, and then with a wash of relief I imagined it flying away. I visualized my mom, too, flying—no, swimming—through the air like it was water.
My mom and I loved to swim together. When I was small, in the summers after she died, I believed she was alive under the water in my grandparents’ swimming pool. In my mind, the pool connected to the ocean that connected to the Earth’s core that connected to an infinite universe. I’d dream of diving into the pool, deeper and deeper, until I found her. Together, we would swim to a radiant light above the water’s surface.
In my first memories, it’s clear everything is connected and beyond human understanding, like the pool to the ocean to the universe.
Dave and I smacked the cool water and our hands released. With my eyes open in the underwater darkness, I sank until my bare ass bounced on the floor of the pool and then floated back up toward the yellow light glimmering above the water’s surface.
I’ve always had an airplane-about-to-take-a-nosedive understanding of my life and the world around me. Part of that understanding, though, is the airplane doesn’t explode in a fiery crash. Instead, it rights itself just before impact and glides into the swimming pool.
Dreams and visions matter. Relationships and experiences are cosmically intertwined in a flux of time and space. Dave’s dragonfly was generating light. And so was I. He was talking to us both.
That night was important, but there was never an official start to our relationship.
We met when I was twenty and Dave was twenty-four. We knew each other through a handful of mutual friends who met up to see live music or party. That night Dave’s band, Giant Ray Soda, headlined a four-band lineup at a house party in the suburbs. He’d been chomping on psychedelic mushrooms and palling around with the dragonfly all day.
The next morning, after partying all night, he asked me, in an old-fashioned, gentlemanly way, “Would you like to rendezvous with me sometime?”
Of course I wanted to rendezvous with Dave. He was adorable and hilarious. He was charismatic and energetic, a contagious force to those around him. Dave was as cool as they come. And I sensed he was genuine and kind.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Had a hard time putting it down. Inspirational and heartbreaking it's a story of selfless love with all the gut wrenching, soul searching decisions that come with it. This is a true life romance without the happy ever after." ~ jen
"It's a page turner that you will not want to put down. The raw emotion Amelia demonstrates in her writing is gut-wrenching yet tender and beautiful! We can all learn something from Amelia's journey! She is a true testament to the fact that you don't know how strong you really are until you are put into a situation that tests the very core of your being." ~ Judy R. Harvey
"Amelia is a beautiful writer, and I can't imagine the depths she had to endure to put this personal journey to paper. I immediately connected with the story as Amelia penned her joyous, humbling, difficult, frustrating, and rocky journey and turned it into a stirring read. I am inspired by how she stepped up to all that life delivered to her and tells her story with dignity, humor and wit. This is an amazing love story and testimony to faith, life's connectivity, and the author's personal strength." ~ Jennifer
"I loved this story! So much heart went into the writing and such tenderness shown. Losing your man, no matter how it happens, is completely devastating. Reading this book you will laugh out loud one moment and reach for tissues the next." ~ Amazon Customer
"There are not adequate words to describe ask the emotions I felt reading this well written book. It touched me. Enough said." ~ ann sikes

Message from the Author
My husband, Dave, was an impassioned creator. He saw art and inspiration everywhere. I sometimes saw him as a rich character in an amazing story. I thought the world would want to hear about his valuable lessons and intriguing life. I wished he could share his story through his art, and make music or create a screenplay about his experiences. Since he couldn't, I started thinking maybe I should. Writing about Dave seemed the best way to honor him.
As I wrote, I realized I had a story, too. A story of faith and discovery and love. And I realized a lot of the experiences in my life were worth sharing. Over the years, I've learned some stuff about life and death, and darkness and loss, and love and light.
I want Dave's and my story to spread love and light! It's honest and real. It tells the truth: love conquers all and death isn't the end.

About the Author
Amelia Marie Whalen
Amelia Marie Whalen encourages people to let go of fear and allow love. Through her experiences she has learned to face death and grief with an open heart.
She is a rock climber and mountain bike rider with a deep appreciation of nature and adventure. She works as a technical writer and graphic designer.


Friday, September 30, 2016

"Night Ringing" by Laura Foley

Night Ringing
by Laura Foley

Night Ringing by Laura Foley is currently on tour with Worldwind Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review and an excerpt. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Sensual language and alliterative verses make this poetic celebration of traumas and triumphs a meaningful read. Poet Laura Foley’s strong fifth collection, Night Ringing, ruminates on romance and family via autobiographical free verse.
Midway through the collection, a poem poses an important question: "How shall we make sense of these images, lapping over us, day and night…" The answer seems to come in the transformation of autobiographical vignettes into a variety of alliterative poems. Gently erotic language and moments culled from everyday life are used in poems that commemorate family members and lovers, lost and found.

Ode to My Feet
For years I've thought them queer,
hiding them
in steamy boots and sneakers,
but recently, I've begun to like
their well-worked lines, blue veins,
tapered, skinny elegance.
Funny-looking, yes, oddly
protuberant, awkwardly angled,
unlike anyone else's,
models for a medieval statue's,
ancient granite feet
on a church facade,
thoroughly unmodern.
Yet, how well they climb steep cliffs,
work my slinky kayak's rudder,
how they tingle, tapping to music
across a wooden floor,
dangling below me
when I sit on high seats,
and turning pink as we wade
the cool mountain pond,
warming, as they carry me
faithfully home to rest.

Not Drowning
On my back like a corpse, enjoying buoyancy,
I drift downstream as Amtrak, hooting, passes over.
I wave at passengers from the city,
peering down at me with concern.
All my life I've waved at passersby,
now I wave so they know I'm not dead.
All my life I've been swimming, not drowning
despite any appearance to the contrary.

Praise for the Book
"'I revel in the genius of simplicity' Laura Foley writes as she gives us in plain-spoken but deeply lyrical moments, poems that explore a life filled with twists and turns and with many transformations. Through it all is a search for a fulfilling personal and sexual identity, a way to be most fully alive in the world. From multicultural love affairs through marriage with a much older man, through raising a family, through grief, to lesbian love affairs, Night Ringing is the portrait of a woman willing to take risks to find her own best way. And she does this with grace and wisdom. As she says: 'All my life I've been swimming, not drowning.'" ~ Patricia Fargnoli, author of Winter, Duties of the Spirit, and Then, Something
"I love the words and white space of poetry. I love stories even more. In this collection, Laura Foley evokes stories of crystallized moments, of quiet and overpowering emotion, of bathtubs and lemon chicken. The author grows up on the pages, comes of age, and reconciles past with present. Almost. Try to put the book down between poems to savor each experience. Try, but it won't be easy." ~ Joni B. Cole, author of Toxic Feedback, Helping Writers Survive and Thrive
"Plain-spoken and spare, Laura Foley's poems in Night Ringing trace a life story through a series of brief scenes: separate, intense moments of perception, in which the speaker's focus is arrested, when a moment opens to reveal a glimpse of the larger whole. Memories of a powerful, enigmatic father, a loving but elusive mother, a much older husband, thread Foley's stories of childhood, marriage and motherhood, finally yielding to the pressure of her attention, as she constructs a series of escapes from family expectations, and moves toward a new life. In these lucid, intense poems, Foley's quiet gaze, her concentration, and emotional accuracy of detail, render this collection real as rain." ~ Cynthia Huntington, author of Heavenly Bodies
"Foley's voice rings with quiet authority undercut by calamity, examining a life so extraordinary, she seems to have lived several people's lives, setting a high bar for poetic craft she meets, in great mystery perfectly expressed in the tiny, quotidian, 'spent matches pressed on wet pavement', to soulful beauty, 'as wind lifts/every shining wave'; in wisdom rooted in humor, from the deliciously funny 'Flunking Jung', to self-deprecating wit, misreading 'poetic' as 'pathetic', reminding us wisdom is love, grown from self-compassion." ~ April Ossmann, author of Anxious Music

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Night Ringing is an autobiographical collection of 63 poems, both in verse and free-form. The book is divided into five sections, each one dedicated to different parts of the author's life.
Part I catalogs her childhood memories: her parents' divorce, a friend's suicide, eavesdropping on strangers, her mother's drinking, her father's abusive manner, life after her parents' divorce, a skiing holiday with her father, horse riding, her mother running over a dog, and her first sexual encounter.
Part II focuses on early womanhood: abortion, her elopement and wedding to a Muslim, their meeting and courtship, a friend being convicted of murder, falling in love all over again, her relationship with her father, pregnancy, family vacations, and the death of her sister and father.
Part III deals with marriage and parenthood: her marriage to an older man, life on the farm, divorce, starting anew, and online dating.
Part IV covers aging: her mother's stroke, the death of her mother, discovering a new love with a woman, seeing a therapist, health problems, and another breakup.
Part V is mostly about carrying on: her ambiguous feelings about her breakup, raising a teenage daughter, her son's wedding, and sharing custody.
The poems celebrate the themes of family, love, marriage, and parenthood - all the while accompanied by the ever-present dog. They cover such diverse topics as suicide, murder, getting left behind at a rest stop, starting a fire, lapping up maple syrup, observing turtles, grinding coffee beans, homosexuality, erections, shopping, dreams, flunking exams, crying in front of a waitress, feet, floating, and drinking coffee. The titles are a very important part of each poem, e.g., "Leaving Him", in which the title says it all. The author manages to evoke taste, smell, and the changing weather with just a few choice words. My favorite line: "All my life I've been swimming, not drowning, despite any appearance to the contrary."
A beautiful concept beautifully rendered.

About the Author
Laura Foley is the author of five poetry collections. The Glass Tree won the Foreword Book of the Year Award, Silver, and was a Finalist for the New Hampshire Writer’s Project, Outstanding Book of Poetry. Joy Street won the Bi-Writer’s Award. Her poems have appeared in journals and magazines including Valparaiso Poetry Review, Inquiring Mind, Pulse Magazine, Poetry Nook, Lavender Review, The Mom Egg Review, and in the British Aesthetica Magazine. She won Harpur Palate’s Milton Kessler Memorial Poetry Award and the Grand Prize for the Atlanta Review’s International Poetry Contest.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

"Climbing the Mount Everest of Depression" by Laurie Jueneman

Climbing the Mount Everest of Depression
with the Help of Strong Cleats
by Laurie Jueneman

Laurie Jueneman is one of 14.8 million adults in the United States suffering from depression, but that doesn’t mean her voice is lost in the crowd. Nearly every weapon in modern psychiatry’s arsenal has been utilized forming some of the "cleats" necessary for her to climb what she describes as the Mount Everest of depression. Having written her memoir, Climbing the Mount Everest of Depression with the Help of Strong Cleats, Laurie is using the power of writing to share her journey and her message of hope.
Laurie stops by today for an interview and to share an excerpt from her book. You can also enter read my review and enter our exclusive giveaway for a chance to win a Kindle copy of Climbing the Mount Everest of Depression with the Help of Strong Cleats.

Climbing the Mount Everest of Depression with the Help of Strong Cleats, published by Friesen Press is both an inspirational memoir and self-help book. Laurie started her struggle when she was thirty-five years old, and the most difficult times lasted about twenty years. She wrote, "As time went on, I found out that depression was a callous illness that had no understanding that I had other plans for my life."
During the course of her treatment she experienced many hospitalizations, medication trials, over four hundred electroconvulsive treatments and two neurological surgeries. She shares with her readers her struggle and personal thoughts on a variety of subjects with hopes of decreasing the stigma of mental illness.
She ends her book by saying, "If I could have one wish today, it would be that all people could have access to the mental health care they need, when they need it. I am very lucky to have received the help I did. It seemed that many people never stopped believing I could get healthy again. I hope that I can be one of those people for someone else."

It is difficult to know how to conclude my story. In I live in Minnesota where we experience nature in four seasons. As in other places the seasons can be very distinct. The temperatures range from 20° below zero to over 100. The seasons are necessary in order for re-creation to occur. After a long winter I frequently have to remind myself that spring will come again because I am a fan of warm weather. But I also have friends who like the cold season much better. I am sure that the person who can actually enjoy all four seasons is better off. I compare this to a rainbow. Rainbows have many colors that make it beautiful. I think my life can be compared to a rainbow also. I would call my dark colors sadness, anger, fear, insecurity, guilt and shame. I think that my light colors would include faith, self-worth, strength, courage, happiness and serenity. Others may change their colors around but it takes all the colors to make a beautiful rainbow.
Happiness is not just the feeling that all is good in my life. Every day there is something to be happy about. It may be that I got ”cleaned up, dressed and ate breakfast before exhaustion told me I needed to take a nap. It may be that I saw a bluebird at my bird feeder or that my spring flowers are blooming. A friend or family members call may have brightened my day. It may be because today I learned to be a friend to myself and gave myself a complement such as you look nice today or you did a good job.
Starting to write this book was painful at times and rewarding at others. The pain was caused by looking at over 20 years of mental illness. I had to realize that I had tried many different medications and combinations of these, had many hospitalizations, had thoughts of suicide almost constantly for years and made several attempts at ending my own life. I had close to 500 ECT and two brain surgeries and still struggle at times. Reviewing each hospitalization felt like another black eye.  I had to acknowledge that sometimes I was a cooperative patient and at other times I wasn’t. I often denied an increase in my symptoms. I would refuse extra ECT when it was recommended. I didn’t always eat healthy etc. I thought I knew what was best for me. There were times when I was writing that I became quite anxious. I let the feelings of shame and inadequacy overwhelm me. At first I had a few nightmares. One night I dreamt that I was endlessly lost in the subways of Mayo Clinic. Now it is true that someone who is not familiar with the subways of the Mayo Clinic could get overwhelmed, but I have been around them for 30 years. When I first started writing I did take some extra Ativan in order to relax. Normally I can go months without taking it. The rewards came when I saw how far I have come. I am alive. I do contribute to my community. I am a good volunteer and consider myself a good friend. I am still close to my friends and family who stood beside me. I own my home and I maintain my finances independently. I am getting positive encouragement for the effort I am putting into this writing. I have come to realize that pain whether physical or emotional is important. It lets me know that I have a need that has to be taken care of. I must try to take care of my brain and my body. After what I have been through, they are miracles in the true sense of the word. When I think this way I will take better care of them. I will eat better, exercise appropriately and treat them to a rest once in a while. I will ask for advice if any of the organs including my brain need assistance. I still have my faith in God. I’m experiencing serenity. I have come to realize that maturity and growth is a never ending road. I often find myself asking what happened after 2008 that I have not had to be hospitalized again. I really don’t think that any one thing changed. I believe that I gained more acceptance of my illness. Acceptance is never easy. Accepting my mental illness didn’t mean it was good or bad. I did some things throughout my worst times that were harmful to me and embarrassing. I needed to forgive myself, accept this and really start seeing the good parts of me too. Often in the past I struggled to be something I wasn’t. I was able to decrease the constant thinking about what others thought about me. I cannot always expect people to see the good in me, the efforts I have taken to get well and stay well, along with the risks. I don’t need to be overly concerned about this. Thinking this way has allowed me some emotional freedom. I had to realize it was not too late to try again and to begin again. Acceptance in itself allows us to take action. Action is the essential ingredient in progress. Besides acceptance I think that forgiveness was essential. I have been trying to forgive those who have hurt me in the past or haven’t been able to walk the walk with me. It is only through this that I have been able to live a life more calm than it has been in the past. It is possible that the medication changes made in 2008 contributed to my sense of well-being. I will never know exactly but with this serenity I have been able to cope with the problems that arose in my life a little differently. I know this to be true at least twice in 2011 alone. I experienced two major deaths of family members that I both loved and respected a lot. These were my aunt Betty and my mom. I also experience the death of my birth mother whom I had gotten to know over the years. There are still difficult days or weeks. However these bad days are so much better than the days I called good when I was in the midst of a severe depression. I realized that my true happiness doesn’t have to come from employment, my career or having extra things. I can be grateful for where I am now. I don’t have to analyze my feelings or run from them. I need to accept them for what they are, just feelings and react appropriately. This may mean taking a deep breath or going for a swim. I could take a half-hour nap or go out and shovel snow. I can volunteer, call a friend, pray or journal. I think I have come to realize that my past isn’t as important as my future. Senator Paul Wellstone once said, ”The future will not belong to those who sit on the sidelines.  The future will not belong to the cynics. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. I have come a long way! What is in my future? I cannot predict. But today is a good day. I am realistic that I must not become too complacent with how well I feel now. I have a chronic form of depression. I know that if I do not take care of myself and ask for help at times, I could get in trouble. I am ready to do that. Now I have finished writing my story. Nothing increases self esteem like having a goal and meeting it!

Praise for the Book
"An incredible insight into the life of a woman in the medical field who lives with clinical depression. At times hard to read but harder to look away. It was written I believe as a cathartic endeavor for the author, a missile of hope for those who live daily with the pain of depression and for family and friends who want to be support and be the 'cleats' for those they love who may not be able to articulate yet what they are experiencing. Ms. Jueneman's accounting of her years is a gift to those who are struggling." ~ Kansas Girl

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
In 1985, aged 35, Laurie Jueneman was diagnosed with depression. At the age of 51, she decided to share her story about dealing with mental illness. The result is Climbing the Mount Everest of Depression with the Help of Strong Cleats, in which she uses the metaphor of climbing Mount Everest to describes her experiences with depression, with the strong cleats being her friends, family, and support system.
Laurie details how she has suffered from suicidal tendencies, coupled with unexplained abdominal pain, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, self-harm, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Sadly, because there was no recognized reason for her depression, friends and relatives, although supportive, didn't really understand what she was going through.
Because of her illness, Laurie undergoes extensive hospitalization, treatment with several different medications, electro-convulsive therapy, cognitive therapy, light therapy (for SAD), and even brain surgery. As time goes on, her treatment focus changes from seeking a full recovery to establishing a treatment plan for chronic illness. Her account is pieced together from her medical records, journal entries, and letters written at the time. Because of her nursing training the author is able to give a comprehensive description of her diagnoses and treatments. She finishes by sharing her thoughts on a variety of topics, such as her sexual abuse history, suicide, fear of relapse, spirituality, and the importance of her friends.
My only issue: the author mentions a few helpful books throughout the text and a list of resources at the end would have been handy. Thank you for sharing your story, Laurie. I hope it helps others out there who know someone suffering from depression and also those who may be suffering unknowingly. This book is a portrait of true courage and resilience in the face of overwhelming odds.

Interview With the Author
Hi Laurie, thanks for joining me today to discuss your book Climbing the Mount Everest of Depression with the Help of Strong Cleats.
For what age do you recommend your book?
I believe my book could be read by the college age person on up. High school aged children could probably read it under the guidance of an adult.
What sparked the idea for the book?
The initial "kick in the butt" occurred sometime around 2002-2003 during a morning coffee outing with two friends. We had been getting together to chat for several months. We had all experienced the illness of depression in different ways and had met through various activities at the local NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) office. The chat that day went toward creativity and how using it could help with diversion and relaxation. Both Mary and Barb liked to paint pictures using different techniques. I was stumped because I didn’t feel like I had any creative skills. Eventually I opened up a bit by saying I didn’t like to paint or draw but I did like to write. I admitted that I had actually enjoyed writing my graduate research paper. I thought they would surely think I was crazy. Mary and Barb encouraged me to write my story. I continued to think about it but because of my illness, this turned out to be a long process.
What was the hardest part in writing this book?
The most difficult thing I had to do was go back through my journals and medical history. It was kind of like reliving the whole experience a second time. Sometimes it was difficult for me to believe that I had been that ill.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope this books provides hope for the reader whether it be the mentally ill person himself or the person’s family or friends reading it. I want the reader to feel less alone, more confident and better able to make it through each day.
How long did it take to write this book?
That is a hard question to answer. It sounds like it took me about 10 years if you go back to the very first time I thought of it. Because my depression was relapsing frequently over that time, I had to reach a stage of health in which I could actually sit down and do it! Then it took me about one year.
What was your writing routine?
When I was actively writing, I would either be doing research or actual writing and re-writing about six hours per day. I am not a computer whiz, so I probably spent more time actually getting it in print than the average person. There were times during the year that I had to take an emotional break because of the topics I was writing about.
How did you get your book published?
This was probably one of the things I feared most when deciding to publish my book. I really didn’t have much knowledge, so I depended on what advice I could get off the internet. I also read books on the topic of self-publishing. I knew that I was writing a "NY published book". I didn’t have a manager or any other professional working with me. I did have contact and met with a small publishing firm in Minnesota. They didn’t think that they had the market to sell the book. From there I did more research on self-publishing and chose one self-publishing firm from a few that I contacted.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Take some classes on publishing and marketing. If you are going to self-publish, see if you can find someone to be your mentor. Align yourself with someone who does have marketing skills if you really want to sell a lot of books.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Since writing is not normally on my daily schedule, especially since my book is finished, I keep busy with a multitude of things. My friends are essential in my life and I find many ways to keep busy. I am quite active in my church community. I belong to a book club. Another activity that is essential in my life is volunteering. I volunteer at several different places in the community.
What does your family think of your writing?
My family saw me through some very difficult times. They are very proud of this accomplishment. They have made that known to me.
Fantastic! Please tell us about your childhood.
I was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, My twin brother and I were adopted when we were two years old. Our birth family had fallen apart when our mother left the family. Our birth father was able to only care for our two older siblings. Our life was good with our adopted family. We grew up in SW Minnesota. We did a lot of camping, swimming, and had many family gatherings with cousins. My father was primarily a teacher and my mother was a secretary. My father passed away when my brother and I were fourteen and my mother took over as head of our family.
When did you first realize that you wanted to write your story?
I don’t know if I ever really sat down and decided to become a writer. It was because of my diagnosis and my feeling that I had something to share with others which might help them that I did sit down and start writing. Once I started, I found I enjoyed it. I had read other authors who shared their story about experiencing a mental illness. These books all gave me the inspiration to do it too. I found them very helpful. I do not believe that childhood experience influenced my writing in general, but life experiences did. I wanted some good to come from them.
What kind of things do your readers say?
Truthfully I have heard very positive things from my readers. They are glad to know that I have made it to a point in my recovery that I could share my story. Several of the people who knew me during this difficult time said they really had no idea what I was going through. Some people have told me that the book made them sad. I answer that I am sorry for that, but it was healing for me to do it, and I hope they can find the good in it. A couple comments from complete strangers were really helpful to me: One being, "Wow, I can’t wait to read your book. I am 49 years old, a business owner and former attorney with a wonderful wife and three sons. I too struggle with a treatment resistant depression." He went on to share some of his history. A second stranger commented, "Laurie, I am halfway through the book. I don’t know whether to say that 'there are no words' or 'I would have to write a long paper' to tell you how much I am getting from the book." Since I am really just beginning to try some new avenues such as reviews to get the word out about my book, I hope to hear from people across the world. Depression is everywhere.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
That is a big question. I truthfully don’t think that there will be a sequel. I do have a blog. I plan to get better at writing more frequently on it. So that is where you will probably hear from me. I plan to look into other opportunities to share my story and book. My main goal is to stay healthy and enjoy the rest of my life here on earth.
Thanks so much for stopping by today to share your story, Laurie.
Thank you for sharing my story on your blog.

About the Author
Laurie Jueneman is a registered nurse who finished her training with a masters degree in nursing education from the University of Minnesota. She worked in a variety of settings until her career was sidelined by depression. She continued to be active in her community by volunteering in many arenas including Mayo Clinic Auxiliary-Methodist Campus and the National Alliance on Mental illness.
It is not her nursing degree that qualified her to write her memoir/self-help book about depression, but her thirty year history of living with the illness. Laurie hopes to help those who struggle with depression or have loved ones suffering from the disease. She wants to share her story and help educate people about mental illness and the effects it has on one's life.

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