You may be familiar with the name Jenny McCarthy but I must admit that I haven’t been following her career too closely. McCarthy is a comedic actress, television personality, playboy playmate and a best selling author. McCarthy has written books about pregnancy, motherhood and marriage in Belly Laughs, Baby Laughs and Life Laughs.
I never thought Jenny and I would have anything in common other than our mutual appreciation for Jim Carrey movies. As it turns out we both have sons with autism. In her recent book Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey In Healing Autism McCarthy takes a departure from her usual humourous writing. In this book she gives the reader a brutally frank and honest account of her struggles dealing with her son’s autism, failing marriage and more recent spotty career.
The author starts out describing a harrowing tale where she finds her two year old son Evan laying in his crib having a life-threatening seizure. McCarthy later reflects on this incident as a giant wake up call. Dealing with the wrong diagnosis of epilepsy Evan then goes through a terrible ordeal experimenting with two different seizure medications and dealing with the resulting side effects. At one point McCarthy wondered if she would have to choose between Evan the psycho kid or the zombie kid. Readers go on a very bumpy ride along McCarthy’s journey to the world of autism. After her son’s delayed diagnosis, the author gains insight through another celebrity, Holly Robinson Peete, who has an older son with autism. Robinson Peete tells McCarthy to imagine her son is stuck behind a window that she needs to pull him through. This image works well if you consider the common belief that there’s a limited window of opportunity to get through to autistic children.
McCarthy teases that she deserves a degree from the "University of Google"after all the internet searching in her quest for answers and treatments to help her son. One thing the author swears by is her son’s gluten free and casein free diet which limits wheat and dairy products. Evan, now five years old, still maintains this diet today. She also credits her son’s continued improvement to Intensive Behavioral Intervention a.k.a. IBI therapy. McCarthy gives her opinion on a variety of treatments, therapies and sounds off on the long waiting lists and inordinate costs to treating autism. McCarthy tries to keep a level head throughout her ordeal but continues to question why or how her son developed autism in the first place. As far as the controversial vaccine theory she weighs in on this topic too. McCarthy wishes there were a test available to assess a child’s vulnerability before they get a vaccine.
McCarthy credits her tenacious drive to her strong maternal instinct and deep connection to her son. McCarthy sees herself as a messenger of hope and help. She wants autistic moms, as she calls them, to find faith that their child can get better. McCarthy isn’t wearing a pair of rose colored designer shades here either. She notes that there are children who never seem to improve or advance in therapy and warns that early intervention is crucial. McCarthy insists that all parents and pediatricians need to be aware of the signs or red flags that could be characteristics of autism. First time mom’s might miss the signs because they are not as familiar with early childhood milestones or development stages. They may see their child’s behaviors as cute or unique traits to their child and just brush them off. This is where the professionals need to be educated and alert. McCarthy reflects on missing her son’s signs of autism like his excited hand flapping, tip toe walking, lack of eye contact, spinning objects and fixating on moving parts, just to name a few. If anyone made a comment about her son’s behavior or remarked on his shortcomings then she went into what I would call defend and denial mode. To add to her confusion Evan had an amazing memory and he was verbal which is contrary to one popular myth about autism. On the other end we have the movies "Rain Man" and "What’s Eating Gilbert Grape." These are both excellent movies but they neglect to represent the less obvious cases on the autism spectrum.
McCarthy wanted to share her story not to evoke sympathy but to raise awareness and to encourage parents to become strong advocates for their children with autism. If you are a parent, care giver, family member or friend of a person with autism there is so much to learn from reading this book. If you don’t know anyone with autism then I will still recommend this story if you want to gain an insight into the world of autism. McCarthy insists that the best way to help a family with an autistic child is to give them your time. My advice to parents would be to hold onto hope and harness every bit of help you can. I will save my son’s story for another time. Come to think of it, maybe it’s time I write my own book.
Something to think about...
Wanda Lynne Young
Optimism In The Face Of Autism was published in the Jan/Feb '08 issue of Real Women Magazine in the Reader's Corner column.

Hope For The Holidays

If you are a fan of the Chicken Soup For the Soul series of books then you would enjoy reading the work of Christine Pisera Naman. The author is a contributor to the afore mentioned series of books and now writes her first work of fiction, Christmas Lights. In this novel, Naman tells us the tales of ordinary women living extraordinary lives. She takes us through the heartwarming stories of seven women. Their lives are filled with struggles and triumphs; all met with faith, hope and love. We meet each woman on Christmas Eve, each waiting for a sign of Christmas spirit or looking for a reason to celebrate the holiday. The author captures the essence of the holiday spirit with her poignant story telling style and through her relatable characters. As readers she leads us to feel as if we already know these women. In each story the unique characters get a chance to reflect on their events of the last year and eventually rediscover the magic and wonder of Christmas. As Christmas Eve approaches each woman realizes that the holiday season is a time to be thankful and fill their home and hearts with love.
I won’t get into the individual stories or the women’s connections since that should be left for the reader to experience. I wish I could tell you the relevance of the book’s title and the wonderful ending that unfolds but I will restrain myself once again. I will say that the seven women have more in common aside from their collective choice to don a red sweater on Christmas Eve. This novel is aptly suited and inspiring for the festive season and sure to conjure up a sleigh full of memories. So set aside a long, quiet afternoon and cozy up to this read but I suggest you have a box of tissue on hand. No matter the trials and tribulations or stress and strife in our life we can and should take some time to count our blessings.
Something to think about...

Wanda Lynne Young

Hope For The Holidays was published in the December '07 issue of Real Women Magazine in the Reader's Corner column.

"It's A Good Thing" We're Not All Martha Stewart

Unless you’ve spent the last 20 or so years living on a deserted island, you would be familiar with the name Martha Stewart. I was thinking "unless you’ve been in prison" but that wouldn’t make much sense since this might make you a Martha fan considering her recent activities.
I must admit to viewing the occasional Martha show and I do flip through her magazines in waiting rooms from time to time. As I’m writing this review Martha is making pumpkin place cards and obsessing over cute canine costumes. It’s hard to watch the show and stay focused on the crafting steps since I keep rolling my eyes. I imagine that most women have thought about or taken on one of the domestic diva’s recipes, crafts or household tips. Am I right? I’m definitely guilty as charged.
Over the summer months I happened upon a couple of television interviews of Canadian bestselling author Janice Wells. I was eager to read her book called Definitely Not Martha Stewart: Domestic Tales Of Starting Over. The author is a down-to-earth woman who writes a newspaper column in the style of Erma Bombeck. In Definitely Not Martha Stewart, Wells compiles a group of her columns into a wonderful read that’s full of witty thoughts, friendly neighborhood gossip and name dropping. Reading her book is like spending time chatting with a good girlfriend. Wells would be the first to point out that she has a love/hate relationship with Martha even though she tries like some of us to hold up to her impossible domestic standard. Wells contemplates, "deep in the heart of every woman lives a Martha Stewart. It doesn’t matter how liberated or non-traditional we are, the only differences in any of us are the circumstances of life that have nurtured or sublimated or completely eradicated our nesting instincts."
After the author’s twenty year marriage ends in divorce we see Janice Wells start over from scratch. Through the pages we follow the author and her two daughters across a dizzying number of moves schleping between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Wells considers herself to be somewhat of a gypsy in practice but tends to hunker down and give in to her nesting nature when she feels for the comforts of home. Picture a woman whose decorating style includes hanging a hammock in her living room. Wells gives her readers tips on how to furnish a home with yard sale deals and dressing in fashion finds with thrift store style. With an indomitable spirit and drive to renovate, time and time again, Wells laments over household projects gone awry and invariably makes do with her humble abode. One tasty tips recommended by Wells is, "To loosen a rusty bolt, soak a rag in Coke, wrap it around the bolt, add the rest to a couple of ounces of rum, drink, then try the bolt." This reminds me to read the author’s bestseller The Gin And Tonic Gardener. The author goes through a few stints catering to boarders and gives us her best Thanksgiving culinary tip. Stressing the importance of gravy she insists simply that we "make lots of it." Practical and to the point much like the author herself. When it comes to Martha inspired crafts, Wells ends up cajoling her friend into making their own concrete planters. The author reflects on her failed planter and quips, "...if the feeling ever comes over me again, I should just lie down until it goes away."
Wells credits her good humour for getting her through life and basically laughs through her tears. In her columns the author writes her stories making sure not to take herself or her circumstances too seriously. I’m sure we could all take some advice from Wells and try to focus on the positive things in our everyday lives instead of stressing over all the nitty gritty details. Maybe Martha herself should take a break from all the fuss and bother and read Definitely Not Martha Stewart. I dare say Martha could use a tip or two from Janice.
Something to think about...

Wanda Lynne Young

"It's A Good Thing" We're Not All Martha Stewart was published in the November '07 issue of Real Women Magazine in the Reader's Corner column

Dedication vs Dignity

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall or wondered what really goes on behind your back? Working mothers have to consider out sourcing some of their motherly duties from time to time. Whether it’s a neighbourhood babysitter, staff members in a daycare setting or a live-in nanny, it’s every mother’s nightmare to imagine the worst about their child’s care giver. Parents can succumb to suspicious fears and desperately resort to spying tactics with the use of nanny cams and the like. Trust is a very important issue for parents but we rarely get to see things from the caretakers point of view.
In The Nanny Diaries, former nannies Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus combine their years of childcare experience and writing talents to weave a fictitious, satirical tale about a middle class nanny working for a filthy rich family. Recalling their nanny job interviews, the authors speak through the character suitably named "Nanny." She describes the interaction "much as I imagine a john and a call girl must make the deal, while trying not to kill the mood."
Set in New York, the story is told through the eyes of a childhood development grad student at NYU. Nanny manages to fund her education and a small apartment waiting for sporadic envelopes of cash working for a family known as the X’s. A predictable movie plot, the story unfolds with humorous accounts of struggles and strife between Nanny and the out of touch mother, Mrs. X. Tensions grow as Nanny’s list of duties starts out typically as a part time caretaker for the X’s son Grayer but quickly grows into full time servitude as Mrs. X’s "errand girl". Nanny develops an ongoing battle between her dedication and her dignity. Nanny ends up with chores like looking for Christmas gifts for the X’s service providers and filling their envelopes with bonuses. Financially strapped and looking forward to her own bonus, Nanny is consumed with anger and frustration over Mr. X’s thoughtless gift to her. She opens the box to find earmuffs.
One of the sad parts of the story is the fact that Nanny has to continually try to keep things together for the psychologically scarred son. Desperate for his fathers attention and approval, four year old Grayer wears his father’s tie somewhat like a proverbial hair shirt.
Nanny finds herself torn between being "at the ready" for service and remaining tight- lipped about the family drama unfolding around her. Nanny knows the X’s secrets. One of the contentious issues for Nanny comes up with her discovery that Mr. X is having an affair with a co-worker. Nanny spends time trying to cover up for his indiscretions in futile attempts to protect Mrs. X from the sordid details. In addition, Nanny also ends up dealing with the unconscionable demands from the mistress to stock the fridge for her rendevous with Mr. X. She also warns Nanny that telling Mrs. X would only prevent her from needing to leave her panties out to be found.
The story reads like a movie script with dialogue and scenery set up just ripe for a chick flick. This is where I mention that a movie based on The Nanny Diaries is due to hit theaters this September. I usually prefer to rent movies and watch them in the comfort of my home but in this case I will be waiting in line to see this one played out on the big screen. I’m sure the female characters will be as colorful as the book portrays but hope the males get better attention than developed in the book version. There is a romantic interest here with Nanny’s "Harvard Hottie" but not given much momentum to keep the readers interest going.
Nanny’s charge Grayer begins as a test of her patience but eventually she grows too attached to him. One interesting comment about working as a nanny is stated right at the set out of the book saying "to do the job well is to lose it." The ever present threat to the mother is that the Nanny will do the job too well and eventually replace her in the child’s heart.
Something to think about...
Wanda Lynne Young
Dedication vs Dignity was published in the July/August '07 issue of Real Women Magazine in the Reader's Corner column.

Imagination Is Everything

The Chinese food was getting cold. We were stuck waiting at our second red light when I exclaimed, "we will get green lights all the way home!" My husband laughed and said something like "sure, whatever" and resumed his driving. I kept the thought and truly believed that we would sail all the way home without interruption. Six green lights later we were laughing! I know most people would say that was just pure luck or an insignificant test of my new special powers, but I know different.

When I was assigned the task to read and review The Secret by Rhonda Byrne I was decidedly pessimistic; basically I had a negative attitude toward the book. Noting the flip-flopping support from some media reviews, and even with the thumbs up from the well respected Oprah, I was prepared to expose the book as a bunch of bunk. My approach was quite interesting if you know that the book is about the law of attraction and the power of positive thinking. Clearly I had some things to learn!

The author started out with the idea to bring the secret of The Secret to the world. Byrne compiles an impressive group of past and present thinkers who follow The Secret teachings. The book includes personal accounts of success, healing and personal growth using the 3 step Creative Process of Ask, Believe and Receive. The book quotes Matthew 21:22,
"Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive".
The Secret teaches many things but the main idea is that everything starts out with a thought and the universal mind is listening. There are plenty of creative analogies describing us as magnets and being able to write what we want on our blackboard of life. To condense it in all in one phrase; our positive or negative thoughts are delivered back to us. Buddha says,
"All that we are is a result of what we have thought".
The book includes several good quotes from great thinkers and avatars. To support the Visualize to Materialize power the author uses a quote from Albert Einstein which declares,
"Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions".

There is some concerns with the books, mainly with the claims to cures from the healing mind. The book does present some stories in support of the "laughter is the best medicine" approach to healing but it also gives modern medicine its proper place in curing disease. The author is careful to include a disclaimer at the start of the book. There is little mention of the topic of mental illness and the book neglects to explain why bad things happen to the innocent. For instance, a child can be born with a fatal disease so how do the infants thoughts come into play? I would also like to note the uncomfortable feeling I experienced with the frequent use of the word perfect used to describe our attainable aspirations. Maybe we are not supposed to take it that literally.

I would recommend this book for anyone who might be questioning their purpose on the earth or just in search of a good self help book for a change. I’m going to go as far to say that there is something in The Secret for everyone. It just depends on how receptive you are to the new way of thinking and open to a different level of awareness. The teachings of The Secret should speak to everyone in some way. Actually, the book will speak to you personally with the capitalization of the word 'You' throughout.

I have a few suggestions on how to go about reading this book. Make sure you have a quiet space to read in order to give the book your full attention. Read the biographies for the contributors before you get started. Once you start the book be ready to take notes. If you get any of those "light bulb moments" then be compelled to write them down. After each section take the time to absorb the teachings and reflect on how it fits into your life. You may feel the need to read the book again or be left wanting more so there are the options to visit the website, see the movie and listen to the audio cd’s. The author recommends opening The Secret at any random page to find answers when seeking guidance.
The one teaching I would like to incorporate into my life is to begin each day listing or reflecting on my blessings. In other words we should live our lives with an attitude of gratitude.

Something to think about...

Wanda Lynne Young

Imagination Is Everything was published in the October '07 issue of Real Women Magazine in the Reader's Corner column.

A Guardian For Mothers

In the month of May we celebrate mothers. We all share the universal experience of being born from a mother. One way or another we entered the world any way ranging from a natural birth at home to a cesarian section operation in a hospital.
In The Birth House author Ami McKay takes us back to the basics to visit the closely knit community of Scots Bay, Nova Scotia. Set in a WWI backdrop the people of "The Bay" are raised on brown bread, shad and tea. With no electricity, telephone or automobiles in the town, the community relies on the healing powers and advice of a midwife for a variety of ailments and childbirth assistance.
The story is told through the eyes of teenaged Dora Marie Rare who finds a kindred spirit in the towns old midwife, Miss Marie Babineau. A victim of gossip and somewhat of an outcast in social settings Miss B. is known as a witch, or an angel "as long as she’s got the gift whenever they need it." Free-spirited Dora considers herself to be a black sheep of sorts being the only girl born after five generations of the Rare family name. Dora was also born with a caul over her eyes. Miss B. sees this as a sign that she "sees more than us all." The old midwife decides to take Dora under her wing and teaches her the art of "catching babies.’ Dora learns tricks like blowing cayenne pepper off a feather to encourage a tired mother to push!
Contentions arise when Dr. Gilbert Thomas opens up a maternity home in a nearby town. The womens social groups topics soon turn from knitting and idle gossip to concerns about issues of women’s rights and control over their bodies. There ensues debates between the doctor encouraging the latest scientific medical procedures, metal tools and drugs and the traditional midwife who uses common sense intuition, prayers and natural herbal remedies.
The novel is wonderfully written with an interesting mix of characters, scenes and period references to a time of prohibition, rum running, book banning and burning. The author takes us along with Dora to visit Halifax at the time of the explosion and Boston during the suffragist movement for the women’s right to vote. The reader gets to follow Dora on her coming of age journey and witness her devotion to her craft despite modern time influences.
McKay draws you in to the story as if you are reading from an old scrapbook with the addition of newspaper clippings, advertisements, letters, herbal concoctions and even a recipe for Groaning Cake. I might try to bake this one myself but I won’t be mixing the batter in between contractions as traditionally recommended!
The author writes with a down to earth style and treats her story with a good dose of Acadian folklore and maritime traditions. Being from the East Coast myself I really enjoyed the local dialogue and colloquialisms. Like the midwives depicted in the novel McKay also displays a great deal of insight with her writing. Miss B. advised Dora "No matter what you do, someone always knew you would."
One thing for certain is we all owe some gratitude to midwives who act as spiritual guardians for mothers and help bring us into the world.
Something to think about...

Wanda Lynne Young

A Guardian For Mothers was published in the May '07 issue of Real Women Magazine in the Reader's Corner column.

A Prayer For Peace And Pasta

I awoke this morning to see a mourning dove couple sunning themselves on the fence. It’s a sure sign of Spring! This particular change in season tends to bring on a quest for personal renewal. Many of us try to refresh our spirit and hurry the warm temperatures with tropical vacations. If you don’t have your passport in order, I can suggest escaping it all by delving into a book like Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

In this nonfiction novel the New York based travel journalist writes a personal account of her year long spiritual journey to the three I’s, namely, Italy, India and Indonesia. The reader shouldn’t expect this read to be anything like a tourist guide or one of those self-help books either. The book reads much like a diary. That being said, it’s no surprise that the author managed to fund her travels with an advance on the novel yet to be written. Well, lucky her, just jealousy talking here!
Throughout the course of the book Elizabeth spends most of her time eating, meditating and contemplating life more so than taking in the sights. She is on a soul- searching mission with the main purpose of healing herself. Coming off a long drawn out divorce, a failed rebound romance and a suicidal depression the author decides she needs to find some sort of balance to her existence. In her self- deprecating style Liz describes her depression with humor, "my life had gone to bits and I was so unrecognizable to myself that I probably couldn’t have picked me out of a police lineup." She begins her year of travel with a four month stay in Italy. It is here that Liz wants " to explore the art of pleasure in Italy"and learn to speak Italian to boot. She eventually drops out of language class and decides instead to learn from the locals and tour several restaurants in search of the best pizza in the world. It turned out to be in Naples, but I digress. Liz manages to leave Italy feeling full and a little less empty inside.
After her carb overload in Italy the author heads off to immerse herself "in the art of devotion in India." She checks herself into a yoga Ashram where she enjoys a cleansing vegetarian diet and prepares herself to be enlightened. Her whole state of seclusion in India could be described as an emotional and spiritual rehab of sorts. After much struggle to quiet her mind Liz discovers her own mantra and learns to meditate to a point of pure bliss. To tell you the truth, this section of the book dragged a bit for me. I guess I had to be there to "get it". Anyway, moving on. The author’s final destination is Indonesia, Bali to be more specific. She views this culture to be the utopian answer to her "pursuit of balance." This is where Liz tries to blend her desires to enjoy the pleasures of life with her need to stay spiritually connected.
The author’s view is not so much religious but spiritual in her outlook. As a reader, an interesting idea came up when the author noted the many people of differing faiths joined together for the similar purpose of reaching divine grace. She suggests the concept that all religions could fit together like pieces of a grander puzzle forming the picture of God.

Something to think about...
Wanda Lynne Young
A Prayer For Peace And Pasta was published in the April '07 issue of Real Women Magazine in the Reader's Corner column.