Category Archives: Book Club

Daring Greatly: review of Brené Brown’s latest book

Daring Greatly by Brené BrownVulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me and the first thing I look for in you.
— Chapter 4: The Vulnerability Armory

Such is the crux about being authentic, of being in relationship, of being vulnerable of being human.

Brené Brown, PhD, she of the famed TedXHouston talk, has a rare talent of being able to take extensive research and make it accessible, applicable and interesting to academics and non-academics alike. The title of her newest book comes from a speech made by Theodore Roosevelt, a sentiment my dad shared with my sisters and me while we were growing up.

It’s not the critic who counts…the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…if he fails at least he fails while daring greatly.

Or, in my dad’s words, “Don’t listen to (or be) the critic. It takes nothing to criticize; it takes a something to create.”

I’ve pulled some quotes from Daring Greatly that resonate well for me:

  • On shame: Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. This is exactly why I advocate for openness in adoption. No secrets and no shame. Let’s keep things above board and in the open where mold and rot don’t grow.
  • On courage: Give me the courage to show up and let myself be seen. Brené Brown’s vulnerability prayer is a salve for me when I start to angst about what people will think and say when they read MY book.
  • On ownership: If I own the story I get to write the ending. Great advice for a recovering victim. It makes me the playwright of my life rather than merely an actor.
  • On joy: Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary. Yes! This is why I host Perfect Moment Mondays (coming up next week — why don’t you join in? If ever there were an occasion for a shameless plug, this is it!).
  • On worthiness: Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else. This pearl from a team of 8th graders interviewed by Brené Brown.

If you are a parent, a manager or supervisor, a blogger a teacher or a leader, if you are looking for deeper meaning in your life or if you’re dealing with the shadow of shame, I recommend you read this book. Take your time with it, though. The revelations Brené Brown shares in easy, conversational style are both simple enough to make you say, YES! but also deep enough that you’ll want to give them time to percolate through your mind and spirit.

In what area of your life would you next like to dare greatly?

I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review and my opinions are my own.

Open Adoption Examiner Book Tour: Found, a memoir

Today kicks off the latest Open Adoption Examiner Book Tour. With this third outing of the OAExaminer Book Club we are discussing Found: a Memoir, by Jennifer Lauck.

Adoption plays a major role in Jennifer Lauck’s memoir, but the book has appeal beyond those who are connected to adoption. You do not have to have read the book to read along on this tour.

As I read Found and the author’s revelations about herself, I discovered that Jennifer Lauck and I have many things in common:

  • We were born a year apart, almost to the day.
  • We are the same height
  • My husband and her significant other have the same name
  • We are both yoginis and meditators
  • A person close to me placed a daughter for adoption in the same time period and geographic area as the author’s birth mother did. This was a big secret and I found out about it only recently, as an adult.
  • We are both writers (this I knew before I read the book)

Perhaps these points explain why I felt a certain resonance with Found. The gripping story she has lived includes being orphaned at 9 by her adoptive parents and suffering abused by later caretakers, searching with almost mystical guidance for her birth parents and healing from her early traumas. I appreciate that Lauck presented not only the tale of her primal wound but also chronicled her journey in healing from it.

One paragraph gave me a new way to frame the age-old issue why some people seem to have more than their share of bad things happen to them:

If we are talking about cause and effect — karma — what is the energetic power of the traumatized brain? Is it a force of its own, like a magnet that drags terrorizing circumstances, people, and events into its path in order to reexperience traumatic responses that have become familiar and even comforting? If terror is what the mind knows, is terror then sought out? Is this how predators identify victims? Is this power what attracts cruel people into the lives of trauma victims and has them stick around year after brutal year? Had my brain — with its unique wiring and built-in responses — been drawing me into situations that resulted in rape, abuse, neglect and cruelty? (p116)

I ultimately value the book for the fact that Lauck explains how, with awareness and mindfulness, she turned her karma around. She now teaches others, especially adult adoptees, to do the same.

Here are the discussion questions I chose to answer.

On pp 17-18, Jennifer talks about a baby searching for her mother after being born. How did this sensory-rich passage strike you? What thoughts did it trigger about the role you play in adoption?

This was a painful passage for me, a mother by adoption, to read. I was there the moment Tessa was born. I watched her snuzzle with Crystal that first 36 hours in the hospital. And then I brought her home (albeit with a detour). In my memory, Tessa was a calm, happy baby. I recall no frantic searching, “outrage, panic or terror.” Did I simply miss it?

With Reed, I wasn’t present for his first three weeks, one of them being in the NICU, one with Michele and the other with cradle-care parents. Was he then and does he remain in a state of “amnesia — shock-based unconsciousness”?

I hesitate to say a flat-out no because of the “thou-doth-protest-too-much” thing, but I didn’t see signs.

The passage had the effect of making me look. And to be on the lookout.

Assuming the loss of a first mother is extremely painful for an adoptive child, is there a way to empower or help an adoptive child heal if an open relationship with their first mother is not an option?

Yes. An adoptive mom (or dad) can foster such an open and trusting relationship with her son (or daughter) that he feels safe feeling his emotions and allowing her to witness him doing so. For the mom to do this, she must work through any botheration* she may have about her role in her son’s life as a second mom, and be aware of her own feelings of sadness, grief, jealousy or guilt she harbors for her son’s first mom.

I believe that feelings get stuck and rot only when they are squashed beneath the surface of consciousness. When a son is allowed to feel and process sadness, grief or anger, with the support of someone who loves him deeply and is unimpeded herself, he is more likely to be able to release and be free of painful emotions — in essence, to heal, to be empowered.

It takes a lot of self-work to provide that space to a child, because you have to have that space within yourself.

If a first mother is not willing to have contact with her child or adoptive family, is it prudent to attempt to compel the first mother into an open relationship?

No! The “open” in openness refers not only to the type of adoption but also the spirit of it. To compel someone to do what she doesn’t want to do is a recipe for resentment, disappointment and heartache all around.

However, I’m all for persuading people into open adoption relationships. By using logic — it will be better for your child in the long run if you can have a steady and positive presence in her life — or by using emotion — you’ve already done the hardest thing out of your love for your child; now stay in her life so that she can continue to know herself better through you — I wholeheartedly support gentle and repeated reminders about why the first mom (or dad) should participate in an open adoption.

I realize, however, that not all birth moms are open to being open. My son’s birth mom has such tendencies toward closedness, and sometimes the most I can do is stay Friends with her on Facebook. We adoptive parents are the caretakers of the relationship between our children and their birth parents until it is able to happen on its own.

What I suggest in these cases is that adoptive parents make it clear to a first mom that they desire an Open Door adoption, in which the first mom can walk through when she’s ready. For one thing, it shows that adoptive parents see in her the potential to heal and to return to the relationship, and for another, people change and grow. Having an open door adoption leaves a way to accommodate that growth and create or resume a relationship.

* It’s a word!

To continue to the next stop of this book tour, please visit the main list at The Open Adoption Examiner.

Last day to sign up for Found book tour

While there are only hours left to DECIDE to be part of this book tour, there’s still plenty of time to get and read the book before we discuss it in mid-January.

Find details on this post about the book and the book tour. If you want to know more about captivating memoir take a moment to watch this video by author Jennifer Lauck.

(A tip of the hat to Tortoise Mum for alerting me to this video.)

Everyone is welcome on the tour — people interested in adoption and people who just like a good story, people who have a blog and people who don’t.

I hope you join us by including yourself.

Book Tour: Found, a Memoir by Jennifer Lauck

November is National Adoption Awareness Month and is just a few weeks away. To mark it, I invite you to join me in reading a memoir written by an adult adoptee from the closed era.

I selected the book Found because:

  1. knowing and understanding adoptee perspectives helps me to know and understand parts of my children that they, perhaps, aren’t able to articulate yet; and
  2. I just began reading this book and boy! — it’s blowing me away with its eloquence, insight and resilience. I was hooked from the very beginning, and I think you will be, too.

Much as we did with The Primal Wound Book Tour, LifeGivers Book Tour and the Life from Scratch book tour, I open up now the Found Book Tour.

How does this Book Tour work?

  • Sign up for the tour by November 30. Everyone is invited, whether you have a connection to adoption or not. There is a limited number of tourist spots available and they are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Get the book. Buy it or get it from the library. Begin reading it. Easy, no?
  • Come up with up one or two discussion questions (not Yes/No), which are due to me by December 15. You will receive reminders to do this.
  • By January 3, you’ll receive a list of questions asked by fellow participants. From this list you will choose any three to answer on your own blog or space. You do not have to have a blog to participate (there is a Book Tour site for participants who don’t have a blog).
  • Have your answers to your chosen questions ready to post by January 13. The tour takes place mid-January — January 13, 15 and 17, with one-third of participants posting each day. I will do my best to accommodate date requests that are made known to me.
  • On the tour days, links to participants’ answers will be on the Open Adoption Examiner. You can then read and comment on the answers from others who have read and are discussing Found . The tour is designed so that each person reads and comments respectfully on the thoughts of other participants.

Sounds good, right? But wait — there’s more! We are honored with author participation. Jennifer Lauck will read along with us, and she’s available to answer questions from book tourists. After the formal part of the book tour is over, Jennifer will share her answers to your questions with us.

Here’s what Nancy Verrier (The Primal Wound) says about Found :

This story will resonate with anyone who has felt loss — loss of family, loss of self, loss of hope. The lesson here is resilience, keeping the hope alive, and knowing that no matter how desperate things are, they will get better.

Kirkus Reviews says:

Lauck’s literary achievements — voice, characterization, pacing — are as extraordinary as those of Frank McCourt and Dave Eggers, if not more so.

Jennifer Lauck is an award-winning journalist and the author of the memoirs Blackbird*, a New York Times bestseller, and Still Waters*. Lauck has been featured in several magazines such as Newsweek, Glamour, People and Writer’s Digest. Before becoming a writer, speaker and teacher, Lauck worked for eight years in television news. Her investigative reports have appeared on CNN and ABC Nightly News.

I hope to be discussing Found with you early in 2012. There are a limited number of spots available in this book tour, so reserve your ottman in my virtual living room soon, then spend November reading a very compelling book and jotting down your questions and thoughts. In January we’ll discuss.

What to do next? Sign up here.

Author photo by Staci Vriese

~~~Cross-posted on the Open Adoption Examiner.~~~