It was just the way he walked, with that self-assured, cocky stance that said he
was in control. Or was it his ready smile and quick wit that reminded me
of his father? Vern’s comment made me realize that Brian was
not just another normal kid, like Vern’s kids were.
He was Ed’s son. It was just the way he walked.
In her second memoir, Kathy Pooler tackles two difficult issues in her life. She refers to poor personal choices made in her marital life. These choices affected not only the author but also the lives of her children, Brian and Leigh Ann. Here she tells the story of her son Brian’s addiction and her simultaneous battle with cancer. It is a love story, one filled with hope and healing.
Concerned about Brian’s addiction, Pooler worries Brian will end up like his father, Ed. This is a common worry among parents of children in a marriage or partnership with an addicted partner. But how to watch and
help turn a person away from what another presents as normal?
Pooler tries as hard as a parent can try to help Brian, but we all know the various emotional stages of growth. The “I’m wholly knowledgeable” teen years, the “I’m an adult now” years, and the “I don’t need you in my life any more” years. How does a single parent cope with knowing a child is struggling with addiction of any type? Coping with this problem alone is difficult, as Pooler shares in Just the Way He Walked. She holds back nothing.
The strength of her faith is a bolster for her hopes and desires to help Brian. Helpful is a stepfather willing to step up and help Pooler with both battles. Pooler shows how at times we have to let someone step in to help through strengths we may not have. She shares her use of journaling, belief in prayer, and strong faith—a powerful toolbox.
Pooler’s memoir is well written. Her story is written with others in mind trying to help a family member or friend struggling with addiction. Descriptions of her emotions are honest and painful for the reader. But, we must expect reality to shine through in a tough story such as this.
In the synopsis of Just the Way He Walked, Pooler shares the goal in writing this book:
The message of resilience and faith in the face of insurmountable odds serves
as a testament to what is possible when one dares to hope.
I recommend Just the Way He Walked to those looking for the hope of helping an addict to turn his or her life around.
It is rare that I give a 5-star rating to books I review. Yet, often I make exceptions as I have done with Pooler’s new memoir. It is indeed a 5-star book.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review and nothing more. Opinions expressed here are solely mine.
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Yesterday was a bit different from other days since my recovery began. I had an unexpected visitor arrive. Despite plenty of books to read, knitting to knit, and writing to ponder, the days are often somewhat boring. And it doesn’t help that I’ve had a minor setback that limits my activity level.
Back to my unexpected visitor. Looking out the large window into our backyard, I noticed the leaves on our vine maple fluttering. If there was a breeze blowing, none of the other trees were joining in.
And then I spied him. A small squirrel bouncing from limb to limb. Stopping here and there to find a nibble of something. Then off he’d go either higher or lower on a branch, all the while bouncing as he went. I found myself giggling with joy. Laughter bubbling up inside me. This little fellow was so entertaining. At one point, he jumped from a branch and it came right back and hit him in the keister. Double laughter!
Tell me God doesn’t know when we need a boost, and I’ll tell you why I know otherwise. Here sat a woman wishing for a day brightener. And into her backyard came a squirrel with a routine at the ready. As he munched and danced his way through the tree, he also performed acrobatics. And all for this one woman-audience.
I felt lighter as he bounded on his way to his next assignment. His little impromptu performance filled me with gratitude.
Children have a way of catching you off-guard, don’t they? Specifically, they have a way of asking the wrong question at the wrong time, literally.
The following incident happened several Easters ago. Yet, each Easter since it’s a memory I still recall with a combination of joy and trembling.
One of our choir members had brought his four-year old granddaughter with him to the early service (8:00 a.m. *yawn*). Her grandma was home preparing Easter dinner for the family. Monica, the granddaughter, and I were good buddies so her grandpa asked if she could sit with me while the choir warmed up and during the service. Not a problem!
As the service progressed, our pastor stepped forward to bring the Easter message. In it, of course, he made reference to Jesus’ death and resurrection.
At the words, “Jesus died on the cross…,” she turned to me and in a whisper others could hear said, “Jesus died?”
The stricken expression on her face told me I needed to quickly respond with something comforting. But what would a four-year old understand about death and resurrection? Talk about feeling put on the spot!
Quickly I asked God’s help and just as quickly received an answer.
Giving Monica my full attention and getting down on her level, I quietly told her that yes, Jesus died on the cross as a gift for us. I also told her God brought Jesus to life again.
I then indicated we needed to be quiet and encouraged her to ask Grandpa more about it once they got home.
Her response? “Amazing!”
Yes, Monica, it is amazing and stays so year after year.
Have you ever been put on the spot by a child asking similar questions? Perhaps you’ll be willing to share below if you have.
Header image attribution: Via Pixabay/no attribution required
Before beginning this book review, I want to point out that my scheduling of this book for review was well in place before the Executive Order signed on Friday, January 27, 2017, went into effect. However, Divine Providence likely knew of the events to come, and as D.L. Mayfield’s memoir shares the author’s experiences working with and living among refugees and immigrants in my hometown, Portland, Oregon, it is definitely a good time to look at what Mayfield’s thoughts and reactions are to her experiences. AND this is a good time for all of us to begin to search for ways to help the marginalized among us, no matter who received your vote in November. We are needed now more than ever before to stand up and share the goodness and generosity that made America great in the first place.
A social justice activist and writer shares her personal experience working with refugees and the ways her faith has been challenged and strengthened—leading her to experience the power of God’s love and find her true spiritual calling.
Determined to save the world, one soul at a time, nineteen-year-old D. L. Mayfield left her conservative Christian home to become a missionary to Somali Bantu refugees in Portland, Oregon. But after a decade proselytizing, she realized that she had not converted one single Muslim. “I am pretty much the worst missionary ever,” she despaired.
Yet in her time working with these displaced people, Mayfield’s eyes were opened to something much bigger. “I started to read the Scriptures with new eyes, informed by the people who the Bible was written by and to—the people at the margins of society. And it was so much better than I could have believed. The blessings of Jesus were to be found in the most unexpected places. The kingdom is real, alive, and changing everything—liberating, setting free, healing, and preaching news that is actually truly good, in the here and now.”
Assimilate or Go Home is the story of her awakening. Mayfield shows us how God’s love is transforming lives, and makes clear that instead of saving the world, we can join God’s party by loving all of our neighbors—especially those on society’s edge. With vulnerability and a touch of humor, Mayfield reflects upon how her faith was challenged, and urges all of us to reconsider our concepts of justice, love, and being a citizen of this world—and the kingdom of God.
Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith by D.L. Mayfield Published: Harper One (August 16, 2016) Source: Purchased Format: Paperback, 224 pages
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“I used to want to witness to people, to tell them the story of God in digestible pieces, to win them over to my side. But more and more I am hearing the still small voice calling me to be the witness. To live in proximity to pain and suffering and injustice instead of high-tailing it to a more calm and isolated life. To live with eyes wide open on the edges of our world, the margins of our society.”
The quote above sums up what D.L. Mayfield shares with her readers in a collection of essays on her life as a missionary serving refugees and immigrants in Portland, Oregon. Mayfield’s experiences are many and at times stun her into wondering why she is doing what she is doing.
Mayfield struggles to communicate with non-English speaking people, and she herself does not speak any of their languages. How do you help those who don’t understand you when you ask if they are hungry, or thirsty, or feeling sick? How do you cope with the feelings of uselessness you feel when you can’t understand these people or treat their needs.
All of these things are the subject of Mayfield’s memoir which explores her feelings of failure and inability to do what she has believed to be the work of missionaries since her childhood.
Mayfield’s writing is pleasant and at times lyrical in her storytelling. Some of her essays even hold a bit of humor and charm in them. However, the underlying facts are brutal to those of us who have never experienced extreme hunger, health needs, or poverty. I think the harshness of these needs also struck Mayfield harder than she ever expected.
The transformation Mayfield experiences during her time serving the Somalis in Portland is clearly one she found filled with an increased faith of her own. Her wisdom is ancient, found in the daily grind of life, and shared as the way she lives her days.
Mayfield teaches us that the benefit of working with those less fortunate is actually a two-way partnership. What she learned from her Somali neighbors and friends was a story of resilience and courage. What they learned from Mayfield was acceptance and kindness. What a lovely story in the end; what a difficulty journey to get there.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who believed as a young person you were going out and change the world. Read Mayfield’s Assimilate or Go Home and you’ll learn just how hard it is to do that. And she’ll show you just how much you’ll be the one doing the changing.
About the Author:
D. L. Mayfield lives and writes in Portland, OR with her husband and two small children. Mayfield likes to write about refugees, theology, and downward mobility, among other topics. She has written for places as varied as McSweeneys, Christianity Today, Image journal, and the Toast. Her book of essays, Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith is forthcoming from HarperOne in August 2016.
I know from personal experience that writing has a healing effect.
From the age of eleven when I received a pink journal with a lock and key, I have written my way through my life challenges. Writing in my journal always makes me feel like I have a safe place to go to unload my concerns and fears. And when I do, I can make sense out of what I am feeling. It feels like my concerns take on a different shape once they land on the pages. Often times when I go back to read my entries over, I will see something I haven’t seen before—a new insight or idea that might help me understand myself a little better.
What I didn’t know when I started writing but have since found out is there is scientific evidence that what I experience intuitively has a tangible health benefits.
Dr. James Pennebaker (http://www.utexas.edu/features/2005/writing/) is a noted psychotherapist who has studied the therapeutic effects of writing on health. Now a professor of psychology at the University of Texas and the author of Opening Up, he chronicled his own journey of healing from depression through writing.
Recent research suggests writing may even ease the symptoms of serious non-psychiatric diseases. For example, blood tests show that subjects have more robust immune systems several weeks after completing writing exercises. http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun02/writing.aspx this link refers to all material through quote on next page.)
Another leading researcher in this field of writing to heal is Dr. Joshua Smyth of Syracuse University. He is quoted by Bridget Murray, in this article as saying:
There is emerging evidence that the key to writing’s effectiveness is in the way people use to interpret their experiences, right down to the words they choose. Venting emotions alone—whether through writing or talking –is not enough t relieve stress. To tap writing’s healing power, people must use it to better understand and learn from their emotions.
In a landmark study which appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA, 1999), involving 107 asthma and rheumatoid arthritis patients, Dr. Smyth discovered that
70 patients in the stressful-writing group (wrote 20 minutes /day for three consecutive days) showed improvement on objective, clinical evaluation than the control group. He concluded that “writing helped patients get better and also kept them from getting worse.
Both Drs. Pennebaker and Smyth acknowledge that writing’s effectiveness in healing will be dependent upon several factors, including a person’s willingness to find meaning in the memory and integrate it into a healing process.
Writing’s power to heal lies not in the pen and paper, but in the mind of the writer.
The journals I wrote in throughout my trials became the seeds for my memoir. Writing my way through the painful memories helped me to get on the other side of them and find a new meaning for the part they played in shaping me into the person I am today.
But there were many days, I put my manuscript aside; walked away and came back to it when I felt strong enough to face my past mistakes. I’m not the same person I was back then and it was excruciating to re-visit those times when I could have, should have made different choices…
Eventually, with the support of mentors and fellow writers, I did find my way to the other side. I began to forgive the young woman in my story who made so many self-defeating choices that had led to untold heartache for not only her but her children. I shed the guilt and shame I had carried around for twenty-five years and started feeling compassion for her. She did the best she could. She acted in good faith, albeit naïvely.
Writing my memoir helped me find my pathway to healing. My greatest hope is that others who have struggled or are still struggling will find hope for their own healing on the pages of my story.
And, if and when I have the chance to talk with my readers, I will tell them that writing helped me to find my pathway to healing. It’s research-based.
Get to Know Kathy Pooler:
Kathleen (Kathy) Pooler is an author and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner whose memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, published on July 28.2014 and work-in-progress sequel, Hope Matters: A Memoir are about how the power of hope through her faith in God helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments: domestic abuse, divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.
She lives with her husband Wayne in eastern New York.
A young woman who loses sight of the faith she has been brought up with attempts to find her way in the world, rejecting her stable roots in lieu of finding adventure and romance. Despite periods of spiritual renewal in which she receives a prophecy, she slides back, taking several self-defeating detours that take her through a series of heartbreaking events.
When Kathy’s second husband, Dan’s verbal abuse escalates, Kathy finally realizes she must move on before she and her children become a statistic.
How does a young woman who came from a stable, loving family make so many wise choices when it came to career, but so many wrong choices when it came to love, so that she ended up sacrificing career and having to flee in broad daylight with her children from an abusive marriage? What is getting in her way and why does she keep taking so many self-defeating detours?
The story opens up the day Kathy feels physically threatened for the first time in her three-year marriage to her second husband. This sends her on a journey to make sense of her life and discern what part she has played in the vulnerable circumstance she finds herself in.
She must make a decision–face her self-defeating patterns that have led to this situation and move on or repeat her mistakes. Her life and the lives of her two children are dependent upon the choices she makes and the chances she takes from this point forward.
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The remainder of Kathy’s tour:
Monday, October 13 @ Women’s Writing Circle
Kathleen Pooler sits down with Susan Weidener for a friendly conversation about how Kathleen crowdfunded her memoir, Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. http://www.susanweidener.com/
Tuesday, October 14 @ Lauren Scharhag
Don’t miss Kathleen Pooler’s interview with Lauren Scharhag as these ladies discuss the hot topic of memoir. Find out more about Kathleen and her own Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. http://laurenscharhag.blogspot.com/
Tuesday, October 14 @ Vera’s Version
Join Kathleen Pooler as she guest blogs about “How Writing Memoir Helped Me Find Self-Forgiveness” at Vera’s Version and shares insight into her memoir Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. http://verasversion.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, October 15 @ About Amish
Kathleen Pooler and her memoir Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse makes a stop to visit Saloma Furlong at About Amish where you can read Saloma’s review and get in a giveaway for an opportunity to read Ever Faithful To His Lead for yourself! http://salomafurlong.com/aboutamish/
Friday, October 17 @ Jerry Waxler
Author, Friend, and Fellow Memoir Writer Jerry Waxler reviews Kathleen Pooler’s Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse This is a blog stop you won’t want to miss! http://www.jerrywaxler.com/
Monday, October 20 @ Romance Junkies
Join Kathleen Pooler as she stops at Romance Junkies for an insightful interview about herself and her memoir, Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. http://www.romancejunkies.com/rjblog/
Tuesday, October 21 @ Mary Gottschalk
Kathleen Pooler shares her latest project: Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse as she visits with friend and fellow author Mary Gottschalk and fittingly writes about “Girlfriends Matter”. This is a blog stop you won’t want to miss! http://marycgottschalk.com/home/
Wednesday, October 22 @ CMash Reads
Join memoir writer Kathleen Pooler as she guest posts at CMash Reads. Kathleen will share her story of “Writing Through the Pain” and tell more about her popular memoir Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. http://cmashlovestoread.com/
Thursday, October 23 @ Bring on Lemons
Hear what Crystal Otto has to say as she reviews Kathleen Pooler’s Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse Don’t miss this blog stop as Kathleen Pooler has graciously provided a copy of her memoir for one lucky reader to win via a giveaway! http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/