Current reading

June 9, 2015

currently reading 090615A screenshot of my current reading.


Know your teenager is one of those books I need to read for work. I’m enjoying parts of it and learning about how to manage adolescents.

Awakening the dreamer by Phillip Bromberg is a self-psychology book for my small psychology reading group. A bit too academic in parts but I’m also really enjoying some of the insights. At the moment Bromberg it talking about bringing in the dreamer to the therapy. He says that whenever a patient brings a dream to therapy his goal as the therapist is to bring the dreamer into the process. An interesting change from focusing on what the dream means to encouraging the dreamer (as a different self-state) to enter the therapy space.

The man who couldn’t stop is a book about OCD. I’m struggling here since there are more urgent books and more enjoyable books that I’m busy with. But it’s well-written and a very accessible and personal book about the writer’s struggle with OCD as well as a general discussion about it.


The Narrow Road to the Deep North (audiobook). Looks like a really good one. Interesting characters and story. But to find the time to really get into it is a challenge.


Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (audiobook). Sedaris is brilliant. Funny, poignant, excellent story-teller. I keep thinking that he will be too frivolous but he’s not.


One Hundred Favourite Poems (audiobook). I’m listening to this in the car and I wish I had a long car journey to savour them all. Great to hear some old favourites and some new poems, read beautifully as well as part of a Classic FM compilation.


Right to the Edge: Sydney to Tokyo by any means by Charlie Boorman. This is my stuck-in-the-car-with-a-sleeping-child book. Charlie’s a likeable chap and, to my surprise, this book actually makes me want to don some suitable clothing and take to the road on a decent-sized (but not too powerful) bike. I’ll let you know if I ever get that sorted!


Which book would you choose for your coffee mug?

May 18, 2015
Penguin classics coffee mugs

Penguin classics coffee mugs

I saw these Penguin classics coffee mugs over on Pinterest and I really want one. Not one of these titles particularly – although I think drinking my tea out of a “Pride and Prejudice” mug would be pretty cool. One title that springs to mind is “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. If I want to go with a psychology theme then I would have to choose “The Interpretation of Dreams”, but that’s not a Penguin title. Personalised mugs come at a price though (as do vanity plates) but I think not more than R100. I do think they’re more playful than pretentious. Any thoughts on what you would choose for your daily beverage?

How to eat a raisin

May 13, 2015

One of the highlights of the conference I attended this past week was the “mindfulness of raisin” exercise which the presenter borrowed from Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn, professor of medicine at Massachusetts University and who founded Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) uses it to give people a first taste of mindfulness meditation. It’s very simple.  Take just one raisin, hold it on the palm of your hand, look at it, touch it between finger and thumb, smell it, chew it with your teeth, taste it on your tongue and then …. finally  ….. swallow it. The exercise takes at least 5 minutes and my fellow attendees agreed that it was the tastiest raisin we’d ever had.

mindful raisin meditationThis exercise was particularly pertinent to me because over the past few weeks I’ve been having tummy issues. I won’t bore you with the details suffice to say that I’ve lost a few kilograms, I had a colonoscopy (clear) and now I am scheduled to see a dietician next week. I have IBS and need to follow a more restricted diet. I’m still working out what my tummy will tolerate but it clearly doesn’t like sugar and dairy for a start. Gluten is an obvious suspect (although I’m not sure). And then other food stuffs which are high in fermentable sugars. At the moment I’m trying to follow a low FODMAP diet but the trouble is that I get bored and so end up trying to eat normally again. I keep thinking that if  hunger is anything to go by, then I’m well on the road to recovery.

One thing I have noticed is that when I’m stressed and anxious then my digestion suffers. Being anxious about my eating certainly doesn’t help! So I’m trying to slow down a bit (not easy with two small children) and savour my food. At the time that things started going downhill, I was feeling really down — right about the time of my 45th birthday. A whole of issues seemed to overwhelm me at once. I was stressed about getting older and not having achieved half of what I would like to achieve. I was terribly frustrated with the demands of parenting small children and never having enough time for myself. I also quit therapy and we were stressed about money. Not to mention feeling the pressure at work and the acquired stress of worrying about my parents. My mom is not always in such good health and my dad, although retired, had a massive work project which was coming to a head.

A month later I’m feeling so much better. I do love my food and so even snacking on healthy things such as rice cakes and bananas and rooibos tea can be enjoyable. I’m certainly not depriving myself, which is why it’s a cruel irony that I should have lost weight whilst other people struggle to lose anything at all.

Today it’s also Leah’s turn to do Bakerman at school and so last night the house was full of the smell of Nutella and Marie biscuits. I should really have taken a picture of the biscuits beautifully decorated with chocolate spread, sprinkles and tiny marshmallows. Completely illegal in terms of my diet but quite delicious! I forgot to take one as I was so busy trying not to eat any while at the same time doing the normal, endless cleaning-up routine.

On the book front I have managed to read a few short stories and I’m almost finished with Ali Smith’s How to be both which I’ve enjoyed immensely. But that can wait for another time. I think it’s time for lunch!

Reading to a 4-year old

March 23, 2015

Here are three books that I’ve been reading to our four-year old recently. They are actually pretty good, apart from the princess pop-up book. Oh boy, do I get sick of those princess stories!

c&l_sizzles_300 dr xargle sleeping beauty pop up

Leah is going through a toilet-humour phase at the moment so I’m seriously considering investing in one of the Captain Underpants books. Yesterday we sang the “Diarrhea song” and managed about 12 verses. It is terribly silly and also quite addictive. Google if you don’t know it – or rather don’t since it may become an ear-worm!

Any other book recommendations for this age group? I downloaded an audio version of Charlotte’s Web but I think she’s too young for that.

As for Tessie, she just wants to rip out the flaps in all her books. I wish she would direct her energy towards something useful such as crawling!

Here’s a pic of the two of them this week. Tessie was not feeling great but she’s still a cute bunny.

Two bunnies


October 23, 2014


‘Do you like the race so far?’

I looked at her, trying to find sarcasm, but she was serious; she really wanted to know. And I thought of how to answer her.

I had gotten lost, been run over by a moose, watched a dog get killed, seen a man cry, dragged over a third of the teams off on the wrong trail, and been absolutely hammered by beauty while all this was happening. (It was, I would find later, essentially a normal Iditarod day — perhaps a bit calmer than most.) I opened my mouth.

‘I …’

Nothing came. She patted my arm and nodded. ‘I understand. It’s so early in the race. There’ll be more later to talk about …’

And she left me before I could tell her that I thought my whole life had changed, that my basic understanding of values had changed, that I wasn’t sure if I would ever recover, that I had seen god and he was a dog-man and that nothing, ever, would be the same for me again, and it was only the first true checkpoint of the race.

I had come just one hundred miles.

Gary Paulsen is an award-winning writer of adventure stories for children and young adults and Winterdance is a wonderful account of his experiences on the world’s greatest dog-sledding race, the Iditarod.

I absolutely loved this book and it made me want to run the Iditarod for myself. I appreciate that there is controversy about how some of the dogs are treated (over 140 dogs have died since the race’s start in 1973) but if Paulsen’s account is anything approaching a typical experience then the majority of the dogs are treated extremely well. Part of this is pure survival – your life literally depends on these dogs.

Two of the things I loved about this book was the bond between man and dog as well as Paulsen’s prose style. Paulsen describes in wonderful detail the change that he undergoes as he lives with the dogs all the time and really gets to know them (including the aptly-named crazy Canadian Eskimo dog Devil) in preparation for the race. The second part describes the race itself – from the ‘phony start’ in downtown Anchorage to the treacherous descents of Rainy Pass, the bone-chilling cold of the Yukon and the starkly beautiful Norton Sound.

This is an adrenalin-filled, funny, life-affirming account of a 43-year old Minnesota man’s journey with 15 dogs on the ultimate dog-sledding race. Easily one of the best books I’ve read this year.


I would also recommend watching a clip of the type of sledding that the mushers experience on the Iditarod. Having read Paulsen’s book, I was expecting  a hair-raising crash-filled dash with larger-than-life dog-wolves. The reality is a lot more sedate – until they get to the downhill part. And bear in mind that this clip is taken by one of the experts, a four-time Iditarod winner.

Empathy Tuesday

September 23, 2014

A shout-out for Empathy today. Great short clip by RSA shorts and Brené Brown.

I’m also interested in looking at the roots of empathy in childhood. Two clips which I sometimes show my students are the “Still Face Experiment” and the “Emotional Baby”. In the “Still Face Experiment”, a mother initially reacts to her baby’s distress with a non-responsive face. She then comes alive again in the interaction and it’s a moving example of disruption and repair. The “Emotional Baby” video shows a baby crying in response to the emotion of the mother’s voice singing a moving song.

Our own ‘baby experiment’ is ongoing. Tessie is almost five months old now and is doing well. Both L and I are doing less well and are suffering from sleep-deprivation. Those night-time feeds are a killer (for L – I get to change a nappy and go back to bed). Tonight will be the first time I get to feed Tessie in the middle of the night (if she wakes up, which has become her norm now). I’m really not looking forward to that, but if it means that L gets some sleep then it will be worth it.

I suppose it does help that Tessie is a cute baby (aren’t all babies?) When she gives me one of those smiles then I can get over my need for sleep (at least for a while).


Which brings me round to this. If you don’t see me around the blog – commenting, reading, posting – then this is why. We’re hanging on.


Words and Music

August 25, 2014

Three good discoveries for me on the music front – two recommendations from authors I’m currently reading and the third from a therapy client.

 John Green, author of The Fault in our Stars (see my Goodreads review), recommends Mountain Goats. Here they sing “This Year”. This is the sort of song that grows on me – and it recreates the life of a 17-year old really well.

 Haruki Marukami, author of the running memoir What I talk about when I talk about running, recommends The Lovin Spoonful. Here they sing “You didn’t have to be so nice”. Marukami often listens to them on his long-distance runs.


And then the last band, something of a welcome surprise from a client struggling with depression, is My Chemical Romance. He actually listed one of their songs “The End” as the song he would choose for his funeral! I prefer “The Black Parade”.


Any band recommendations from authors that you enjoy?