Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, published 2014. A Chinese-American family of four tries to befriend themselves and outgrow failed expectations of each other. It’s a thriller with some stock elements – a lake, a missing girl, a bad boy – but the personalities and resentments of the characters turn the read into four separate little mysteries. It’s mid -1970s, a small Ohio town where they are called chink and classmates make slant eyes.
Lydia Lee is the middle and favorite child of James and Marilyn. (They really can’t be bothered with the other two.) The mother lives vicariously through Lydia, pushing her toward difficult physics and chemistry classes in the hope that she’ll choose medicine as a career. The only gifts she receives are anatomy books. Her running one-sided phone conversations with friends greatly please her father, but actually there are no friends.
The father sees his family as the town and townies do. Living question marks of whether an Asian man and a white woman should marry and if the children are indeed third-generation Americans or still immigrants. He pushes the children to have the life that he always wanted.
The story is about being a first, about struggling to find your place, and understanding why these types don’t always survive. You learn of the story’s ending in the first chapter but getting to the end is a page turner. The story unfolds through Lydia’s own voice and the other’s assumptions. Beautifully written. In the Cool Mona rating system, I give it 4 margaritas.
Cool Mona Note: Check out The Cool Mona Book List. Lots of reviews and suggestions. http://www.coolmona.com/?page_id=127
I knew she was a Christian because she was concerned for my health and asked me if I had gained some weight. She wanted to show me others were concerned as well and that’s why she asked me in front of the choir members.
I knew she appreciated my mother’s beautiful glass eggs that I gave her. Mother moved into a nursing home and as I was going through her things, I remembered The Christian also had an egg collection. It was gut wrenching to thickly bubble wrap each egg – one was my grandmother’s, her mother’s, another had a dark-haired little girl hand painted on it, just like me. One I brought back from Paris. The Christian told me she appreciated them after I tracked her down. She had been very busy with a baby shower at the church and couldn’t get back to me.
She asked me if I was a Christian the other day and I said I wasn’t sure but I hoped she liked the iris I brought her from my garden. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UoIMwQEgL8
It is not the critic who counts;
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
Who strives valiantly;
Who errs, who comes short again and again;
Who knows great enthusiasms;
Who spends himself in a worthy cause;
Who at the best knows in the end
The triumph of high achievement,
And who at worst,
If he fails,
At least fails
While daring greatly.
Before you tell me how much you love your God, show me in how much you love all His children.
Before you preach to me of your passion for your faith, teach me about it through your compassion for your neighbors.
In the end, I’m not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as in how you choose to live and give.”
Senator Cory Booker
April 24, 2012
A really powerful piece by Lexi Herrick of The Huffington Post.
Depression often goes unseen, unrecognized, and undiagnosed. A person with concealed depression is someone who is conditioned to deal with their inner demons in a way that doesn’t make them clearly visible. They may or may not be diagnosed, and this may or may not be something they’ve shared with even their closest of companions. The problem is that the world becomes darkest when we all stop being able to understand each other. We tend to believe that hardship is worn openly upon one’s chest like a battle scar, but many of these wounds do not easily reveal themselves to those that do not take the time to look.
1. They may intentionally make efforts to appear OK and maybe even seem exponentially happy and upbeat. The idea that those with depression all have one similarly dreary personality is false. Depression is more than just a mood. Those who live with depression have learned to alter their apparent moods, and may even be some of the most seemingly “happy” people that you know. Personalities can vary. Often those with depression try to stick with the positive and public parts of their demeanor regardless of what they’re going through on the inside. No one wants to bring others down, even if that means hiding how he or she is truly feeling.
2. They may have habitual remedies. There are serious ways to treat depression, including therapy and medication. However, in addition to these remedies, there are lifestyle habits that those with depression use to treat their everyday state-of-mind. This can be in the form of music, exercise, driving, walks, or basically anything they know can get themselves out of a sinking set of emotions. Concealed depression has a lot to do with the ways people try to personally conquer their own demons.
3.They may have trouble with abandonment. Anyone who has experienced depression understands the burden it can be. It can also be a burden for those closest to them. Sometimes when you let someone in enough to see the struggles you have, they walk the other way. Though it’s hard to blame these people for leaving, it creates a serious feeling of abandonment for those with depression. It forges a need for secrecy, out of fear of the recession of those they love. There is nothing more heartbreaking than finding out your ugliest layer of self is too ugly for someone you love to handle. (Cool Mona Note: I know. This is like taking a jack hammer to my heart.)
4. They can be pros at “cover-up” stories. This can be for anything from the cuts on their arms to the reason they skipped dinner. People who live with different forms of depression experience various hardships that can at times impede the normalcy of their daily lives. In these low instances, they know what to say to avoid attention from others to those displays of pain. Often they don’t want to recognize that they are hitting a low point either, so they know how to hide it.
5. They may have abnormal sleeping and eating habits. This may seem like a small sign or factor, but it has a grave effect. Those who live with depression in an unrevealing way can sometimes only let the little signs show. Sleeping too much or too little are textbook examples. The same goes goes for eating too little or too much. Sleep and nutrition are two critical elements to health. They are also two elements that the human mind can attempt to control. Depression creates a suffocating lack of control, and being able to control at least something, can be all a person has. Sleep can be nearly impossible, or it can be the only escape. The same goes for eating.
6. They may understand substances differently. A person who handles their depression also knows how to monitor what they put into their body. They know alcohol is a depressant, and drinking it over an extended period of time can create a mental state of low that they are less equipped to handle than the average person. They know that caffeine and sugar are uppers for their moods. They know what medications do what. They know what doesn’t mix well. They know all of this because altering their state of mind in any way is much more of a responsibility than it may be for other people.
7. They may exhibit a very involved perception of life and death. Not every person with depression has felt suicidal. However, depression often invokes a unique and complex thought process about life in general. Facing one’s mortality often comes at moments of desperation. It happens when you are furiously seeking answers to all of life’s questions. Being dragged in and out of horrible mindsets can cause these kind of thoughts to be more frequent.
8. They are often uniquely talented and expressive. Many of the most inspired and life-changing artists, musicians, and leaders of this world were also plagued by mental illness. I use the word “plagued” in a contradicting fashion, because having a serious depth of emotions can also lead to profound greatness. People who live with depression that may not be visible to the naked-eye, often express themselves in incredible ways. They are in touch with the good and bad pieces of their souls. They are able to formulate and illustrate beauty through the shadows of the emotions they carry.
9. They are often searching for a purpose. Everyone wants a purpose in life. We want to know that what we are doing is worthwhile. We want to know that we are moving in the right direction. Those who live with unseen depression want this as well, and in a way that attempts to satisfy something inside of them that may always be hungry for more. Feelings of inadequacy and fear are no stranger to the depressed mind. People with hidden depression are almost always trying to compensate in their life for the frailties that they have inside. They may change directions often. They may become incredibly involved in the pursuit of true happiness. They are also striving and searching for more.
10. They at some times will release subtle cries for help. Even a person who knows how to live with the burden of their own mind can need help. Outcries from people you aren’t expecting are easily overlooked. Sometimes it isn’t safe for people to be on their own with their depression; as much as they say differently. Sometimes they will reach out. Sometimes they will open up. These moments are the most crucial, because they are especially powerful. They are what builds a bridge between people who have different levels of emotions and mindsets. They are what creates a closeness and trust among friends and lovers that isn’t always easy if some feel they have to camouflage their true selves.
11. They seek love and acceptance, as every person does. Shielding the world from one’s personal demons is not done so for the sake of dishonesty. People who live with depression in a private and undisclosed way do so for protection. This is for the protection of their hearts. This is for the protection of the people around them. This is for the protection of the success of their dreams. Some of those reading this may have felt an eerie connection to these habits. Whether you have been treated for depression, or you simply have treated yourself, you know how easy it is to feel alone. I entitled this article about those with unseen depression, but the truth is that most depression goes unseen by our human nature. We live in a world that encourages us to hide what is dark and unpleasant. We don’t have to.
The most important habit and motivation of those with unseen depression to understand is that they search for love and acceptance. We all do. The only way to gain it is to spread it. Never turn away from a person who seems to be struggling. Love when it’s difficult. Cry when you need to. Reach out when someone closes the door. Open your heart, even if it feels terrifying to do so. If we keep forcing the bad to go unseen, the good will also go unseen.
Cool Mona Note: If you’re feeling alone, stick with us. This welcoming community of seekers and strugglers who have already been around the block. For some of us, many times around the block. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g69labQKuuU
I am up to my eyeballs in snow, living in Boston with my wife, Jan and my dog, Mr. Ted. If you think this weather is hard on humans, it’s doubly difficult on our four-legged pals. But we’ll make it. In this coldest of cold weather, please check on your neighbors (elderly) and make sure that no animals are left outdoors. I just read yesterday that the National Humane Society found 45 dogs in Arkansas living on a man’s property, all outdoors with no housing, in 9 degrees. We’re all responsible for each other and I thought this was a great place to get the word out.
Thanks for your wisdom and humor! And thanks for your concern about the animals. We love them too.
The journey of Therese Brochard (Everyday Health) and her husband started with the book Eat to Live, by Joel Fuhrman, MD. They bought a used Vitamix, those ridiculously expensive blenders, and they were off: kale smoothies in the morning, homemade almond butter with celery for snack, and black bean soup for dinner. I know you’re surprised to find Cool Mona writing about healthy eating – it’s boring – but this time it caught my attention. Healthy eating could help depression.
Her busband began eating better and his hives went away within a few weeks. The hives for which doctors just dispensed irritating creams. Apparently the white flour and processed foods were causing the inflammation all over his body. Her inflammation is in her brain – depression – a rather complex organ, so her result took much longer — like nine months. But she’s finally starting to feel the real benefit of their diet changes. I find her information to be fascinating and encouraging stuff.
Here is a list of 10 foods I eat every day now in order to feel good. These foods provide the nutrients my body needs to fight off inflammation in my brain, which leads to depression.
1. Dark Leafy Greens
If you were to choose the healthiest food of all, the most nutrient-dense item available to us to eat, it would be dark, leafy greens, no contest. Spinach. Kale. Swiss chard. Greens are the first of the G-BOMBS (Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, Seeds) that Dr. Fuhrman describes in his book, The End of Dieting, the foods with the most powerful immune-boosting and anticancer effect.
“These foods help to prevent the cancerous transformation of normal cells and keep the body armed and ready to attack any precancerous or cancerous cells that may arise,” he writes. They fight against all kinds of inflammation, and according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry, severe depression has been linked with brain inflammation. Leafy greens are especially important because they contain oodles of vitamins A, C, E, and K, minerals and phytochemicals.
Walnuts are one of the richest plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and numerous studies have demonstrated how omega-3 fatty acids support brain function and reduce depression symptoms. A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry is especially interesting. The lead authors ask the question, Why is the vast biological research — from genetics to psychopharmacology — concentrated on neurotransmitters, when the mammalian brain is approximately 80 percent fat (lipids), and there is a growing body of research demonstrating the critical role of lipids to help brain functioning? What’s more, the shift in the Western diet away from these necessary omega-3 fatty acids over the last century parallels the large rise in psychiatric disorders in that time.
I eat a whole one every day in my salad for lunch. Avocados are power foods because, again, they contain healthy fat that your brain needs in order to run smoothly. Three-fourths of the calories of an avocado are from fat, mostly monosaturated fat, in the form of oleic acid. An average avocado also contains 4 grams of protein, higher than other fruits, and is filled with vitamin K, different kinds of vitamin B (B-9, B-6, and B-5), vitamin C, and vitamin E-12. Finally, they are low in sugar and high in dietary fiber, containing about 11 grams each.
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries are some of the highest antioxidant foods available to us. I try to have a variety for breakfast in the morning. In a study published in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, patients were treated for two years with antioxidants or placebos. After two years those who were treated with antioxidants had a significantly lower depression score. They are like DNA repairmen. They go around fixing your cells and preventing them from getting cancer and other illnesses.
Here are two good reasons mushrooms are good for your mental health. First, their chemical properties oppose insulin, which helps lower blood sugar levels, evening out your mood. They also are like a probiotic in that they promote healthy gut bacteria. And since the nerve cells in our gut manufacture 80 percent to 90 percent of our body’s serotonin — the critical neurotransmitter that keeps us sane — we can’t afford to not pay attention to our intestinal health.
You won’t find this item on most lists of mood foods. However, it’s included in Fuhrman’s G-BOMBS because onions and all allium vegetables (garlic, leeks, chives, shallots, and spring onions) have been associated with a decreased risk of several cancers.
“Eating onions and garlic frequently is associated with a reduced risk of cancers of the digestive tract,” explains Fuhrman. “These vegetables also contain high concentrations of anti-inflammatory flavonoid antioxidants that contribute to their anti-cancer properties.” Again, if you consider the relationship between your digestive tract and your brain, it is understandable why a food that can prevent cancers of the gut would also benefit your mood.
I try to eat at least six baby tomatoes in my salad each day for lunch because tomatoes contain lots of folic acid and alpha-lipoic acid, both of which are good for fighting depression. According to research published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, many studiesshow an elevated incidence of folate deficiency in patients with depression. In most of the studies, about one-third of depression patients were deficient in folate.
Folic acid can prevent an excess of homocysteine — which restricts the production of important neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine — from forming in the body. Alpha-lipoic acid keeps coming up as I read more about nutrition and the brain, so I have begun to take it as a supplement, as well. It helps the body convert glucose into energy, and therefore stabilizes mood.
“Beans, beans, good for the heart. The more you eat, the more you … smile.” They make the G-BOMB list because they can act as anti-diabetes and weight-loss foods. They are good for my mood because my body (and every body) digests them slowly, which stabilizes blood sugar levels. Any food that assists me in evening out my blood sugar levels is my friend. They are the one starch that I allow myself, so on top of a salad, they help mitigate my craving for bread and other processed grains.
When I’m close to reaching for potato chips — or anything else that is yelling “I will take away your pain!” — I allow myself a few handfuls of sunflower seeds or any other kind of seed I can find in our kitchen. Seeds are the last food on Fuhrman’s G-BOMBS list.
Flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds are especially good for your mood because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Fuhrman writes, “Not only do seeds add their own spectrum of unique disease-fighting substances to the dietary landscape, but the fat in seeds increases the absorption of protective nutrients in vegetables eaten at the same meal.”
An apple a day could — if eaten with the rest of these foods — keep the psychiatrist away, at least for stretches of time. Like berries, apples are high in antioxidants, which can help to prevent and repair oxidation damage and inflammation on the cellular level. They are also full of soluble fiber, which balances blood sugar swings. A snack I have grown to love is almond butter on apple slices. I get my omega-3 fatty acid along with some fiber.
Cool Mona Note: Hey, I’m no nutritionist, no MD but this could make sense. And in the interim, you’ve got this vibrant community of support right here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycbgHM1mI0k
Reunions are always sweet but this one is glorious. I am overwhelmed at the bond animals make with their human friends but check out this reunion between a now wild 10 year old lowland gorilla, Kwibi and British naturalist Damian Aspinall who raised him from infancy - 5 years.
Several years after Kwibi was released to live in Gabon, West Africa, Aspinall traveled there to see if he could catch a glimpse of his old friend. Aspinall and his brother floated down the river calling out to Kwibi, “C’mon! C’mon!” (The woman overseeing the area where Kwibi now lives discouraged the men from going in. After all, there had been no human contact for over 5 years.)
Caught by Jane Schwartz, published 1985. A story that will never tire. Brooklyn, 1950’s. Rooftops were full of pigeons and for the men who birded, their world seemed huge. Every conversation began and ended with recounting the day’s flights: how many you lost, how many you caught, how much seed you need from Joey’s. It was a rough and tumble style of living with a mob-infused job market, eased only by the love and challenge of caring for wild things. The names of characters add to the flavor: Piggy, Diamond Jim, Bennie, Junior, Fish. (If it was a movie, think Marlon Brando and Paul Newman.)
Louie (Louise according to her mother) was a misfit, a 10-year-old who talked her way into being the first girl chaser in the area. 38 year-old Casey showed her the ropes and life blossomed. Other odd jobs came through for her including the making of seed bags down at Joey’s and getting coffee for the card players. Her parents worked long hours and her brother was busy being a teen. This was no place for a girl, hanging out on rooftops with a bunch of men, but it was the place for her.
It was a rich time in history although not well-known, a fascinating sub-culture with the rules constantly changing. Birding gave hope to adult misfits. Birds didn’t ask much of you, they didn’t judge, they didn’t remind you that you never left the neighborhood.
This is a taut read with some mystery, suspense and life affirmation. The title, Caught, could possibly represent the birds living in the coops or Casey’s lot in life. It’s a beautifully written book and I am the richer for having read it.
Case stood up and rubbed his hands against his jeans. “Yeah. I know what you mean. But this ain’t the real world, baby. This here’s just a game.” He jerked his head in the direction of the street. “You gotta have some kind of life down there.” He walked over to the edge of the roof and stood there for a long time, looking down.
The author moved to Brooklyn, NY years ago and lives there today. She’s also lived in Afghanistan and India where she worked as a journalist and teacher. This was her debut novel
In the Cool Mona rating system, I gladly give it 5 margaritas. It can be ordered through http://amzn.to/1FTc7CB.
Cool Mona Note: Want some more great book suggestions? Check out Cool Mona’s Book List. http://bit.ly/17HE7Ot
Me + me is the very best relationship I’ve ever had. I’ve never missed my own birthday, been disappointed with my Valentine’s Day gift and always knew that Stouffer’s Mac And Cheese would comfort me after disappointing conversations. The secret to having such a (marvelous) relationship is knowing how to love yourself.
Natalie Edwards, transformational coach and Forrest yoga teacher, says to allow ourselves to just be with and accept the person we truly are. It took me a long time to accept myself and find beauty in my own reflection and it’s still something that takes daily work. I had spent my entire life editing myself for other people rather than being confident enough to believe that the true me was absolutely enough. (The current post-it note on my bathroom mirror: Hey, you beautiful thing in those leopard leggings – I love you!)
What does self-acceptance really mean?
Well, it means not trying to change the way we live our lives for other people. It means allowing ourselves to be truly seen for who we are. It means letting go of feeling that we have to be someone that we’re not, or trying to speak or act in a way that doesn’t feel aligned for us.
Many of us have been conditioned to believe that we have to live by someone else’s rules or fit into a specific box so that we can find the right job or the right partner or whatever it is that we’re searching for. In reality of course, we are all unique and we all need to accept and fully embrace our individuality.
I spent many years doing things that I didn’t believe in or that weren’t aligned with my core values, but it took me a long time to realize that underpinning this was the fact that I didn’t really love myself very much and had stopped being kind to myself, emotionally and physically.
A lack of self-acceptance and self-love turns up the volume on our negative thoughts. We start to have internal conversations with ourselves about how we can change to fit in or become stronger or more beautiful. The problem with this is, it moves us further away from what we really want, what we believe in, and what we value in life. And that’s when we become stuck, unhappy and doing things we don’t want to do.
Play with the idea of exploring your great qualities and beginning to use self-acceptance as a way to tap into your happiness. Now I don’t mean accepting the things you don’t like about yourself and just being OK with them. We got skilled at doing this so it also means we might not be good at accepting compliments or staying open to feeling abundant and receiving. How can you think in a more positive way about the whole you? I’m not talking about the things you DON’T like about yourself, but what about the things you DO like?
When you start accepting ALL the different facets of yourself and stop fighting the negative qualities you’ve been trying to keep submerged, you allow yourself to be seen for the whole amazing YOU that you are, rather than continuing to edit yourself for the world. Why should you have to be ashamed of some of the things you want to say or do just because you’re worried about what others will think? Stepping into your true nature and accepting the whole you means stepping into a happier, more powerful and authentic way of living.
Learning to be happy with who you are doesn’t come overnight. I believe a daily practice is essential to start to shift our mindset. Here are my 5 tips for maintaining a healthy relationship with who you are:
1. Practice Being Grateful for Your Body
When we come to the end of our lives, will we think about how we should have spent more time in front of the mirror obsessing about our looks or worrying about our weight? NO—because the important things in life are the times spent with our family and friends and being healthy enough to enjoy that. Take a few minutes in front of the mirror each time you get dressed and begin to practice gratitude for your body. Notice the beautiful things about yourself. Research shows that people who actively practice gratitude are healthier, less depressed, and more resilient during tough times. If you can’t think of anything at first, stand there each morning until you think of at least one—and I promise that eventually the list of things you love and appreciate about yourself will grow from there.
2. Be Kind to Yourself
Taking care of your body, treating yourself to a massage, exercising regularly and becoming mindful of what you eat will not only boost your self-confidence, but it’s also the practice of self-care. The more you treat your body with the loving kindness it deserves, the more you will learn to naturally love it over time AND the more it will love you back—you may very well find yourself living with more energy and less pain.
3. Let Go of Your Inner Perfectionist
Maybe you are a perfectionist. Maybe you spend a long time getting ready to leave the house and obsess over tiny details, putting pressure on yourself to look a certain way? Exhausting, isn’t it!? Well, I’m here to tell you to stop doing that. Studies show that perfectionism is strongly linked to depression. Save the time you spend telling yourself you’re not good enough or trying to hide your ‘imperfections’ and instead, learn to accept yourself for who you truly are, even with the parts that you deem to be imperfect. Someone who can learn to accept and love themselves will exude confidence and beauty inside and out, and will attract more positive people and experiences to them.
4. Let Go of Judgment
Sometimes when we are hard on ourselves and in our deepest moments of insecurity, we can be extremely judgmental of others. It’s a bizarre way of making ourselves feel better, but as we all know, it’s deeply unkind. Catch yourself the next time you notice you or those around you judging the way other people look or behave, and refrain from joining in with critical gossip if you find yourself surrounded by it. Practicing kindness and acceptance towards others is the first step to becoming more mindful about our own thoughts and actions.
5. Begin to Notice Your Internal Critic
Start to change those nasty internal thoughts and how you talk to yourself. How many times a day do you tell yourself something negative? Would you say these things to your best friend? (No way!) Start to learn to turn down the volume on your inner critic, swap your negative statements for positive ones, and begin to become your own best friend.
Get really curious about the qualities that make you unique and different from the crowd. Self-acceptance is about learning to love and accept the whole of you, every internal part of you that’s working really hard to keep you mobile and breathing every single second of the day! Remembering that you and your body are a miracle helps keep you connected to that fact that you are something to be celebrated. So stop wasting time worrying about the things you cannot change and start being grateful for all the amazing things you have instead.
Cool Mona Note: Love ME, love YOU, love the one you’re with. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSpXqjTR3u4