Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Last weekend I did something I have never done. I finished a book in under 4 hours. While sitting at a wobbly table at the local skating rink while trying to block out Hannah Montana and The Jo Bros, no less.

I am the world's slowest reader. I love to read, but apparently am very easily distracted. A mountain of reading was assigned in graduate school, and I struggled daily to get through it all. I learned a few tricks, lost a lot of sleep, and persevered.

But last weekend I got Maya Angelou's Letter to My Daughter, and I couldn't put it down. She begins by writing, "I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters. You are Black and White, Jewish and Muslim, Asian, Spanish speaking, Native Americans and Aleut. You are fat and thin and pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered, and I am speaking to you all. Here is my offering to you."

The book is autobiographical in nature, filled with humor and pain in Angelou's personable tone. Like any good Southern Lady, she gently invites you in and welcomes you as if you are an old friend. And like any good Southern Lady, she tells just enough to make you feel connected and stops just short of making you squirm.

Her stories affirm that one's past does not have to dictate one's future. That vulgar treatment need not be answered with vulgar behavior. It gives me hope for myself, my loved ones, and my clients.

Hope was the theme for the weekend, for as soon as I bid Angelou adieu, I dove into The Brain that Changes Itself. Scientist, physician and rehabilitation expert Norman Doidge and his colleagues refute widely held beliefs that the brain is a machine in which different areas are assigned to specific functions and that damage to any of these areas results in permanent loss of those functions.

Through anecdotes and case studies, Dr Doidge demonstrates the neuroplasticity of the brain. By refusing to believe that individuals who have suffered catastrophic birth defects or injuries are doomed to remain "damaged," he and his colleagues set out to teach brains how to compensate for loss. The patients are diverse, and their recoveries are inspiring.

It will no doubt take me more than 4 hours to finish this book, as Dr Doidge is a wee bit more cautious about who he invites into his domain. But maybe if I am really quite and promise not to touch anything, he will allow me to peek in through the blinds and see what he is up to.

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