The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison – Fiction Book Review

If you’re searching for A-1 fiction to read in the New Year, begin with award-winning author Jonathan Evison’s 2012 release, “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving,” a story of love, loss and hope.

Trevor Conklin, 19, lives with his mother, Elsa, on a small farm in Washington State; and suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a degenerative disease requiring a wheel chair and round-the-clock care. His father, Bob, left when he was 3, two months after Trevor’s diagnosis.

Ben Benjamin, 39, is estranged from his wife Janet, after a horrific accident claimed the lives of their two children, Piper and Jodi, over two years ago.

Ben blames himself for the tragedy and it’s forever changed his perspective on life: “Who wants to live in a world where suffering is the only thing that lasts, a place where every single thing that ever meant the world to you can be stripped away in an instant?”

Struggling to regain direction in his life, Ben enrolls in, and graduates from a 28-hour caregiver night course at the Abundant Life Foursquare Church.

Trevor and Ben bond when Ben applies to be Trevor’s daytime caregiver, allowing his mother to work the farm.

Ben aspires to help Trevor transcend his life routine, which includes flaxseed waffles, three daily hours of the Weather Channel, and a Thursday matinee at the mall.

A super-enlarged Triple A map, inspired by an “American Back Roads” travel channel show, dons a wall in the Conklin living room. There, Ben places push pins on North American roadside attractions Trevor can only dream of experiencing.

Bob Conklin sporadically travels from Salt Lake City, Utah to see his son; and his un-announced visits upset Elsa and Trevor. Although, deep down, Trevor still loves his father: “Trevor will hoard his advantage until the very end, withholding the one piece of evidence that might ever absolve his father, namely that he still loves him.”

Driving in the desert, Bob crashes, typical of his misfortunate life. Ironically, he temporarily becomes wheelchair-dependent; and Trevor can’t help but gloat.

Trevor and Ben convince Elsa to allow them to travel to check in on Bob; and thus their southwestern USA trip begins.

Vicariously enjoy the duo’s excursion as they visit popular landmarks, including Yellowstone National Park.

Along their journey, Ben and Trevor meet some interesting people, including Dot.

Dot too is a teenager, who’s hitching her way to Denver; and her free-spirited, sassy ways allure Trevor. Despite Trevor’s physical limitations, Dot too finds him attractive. Dot joins Ben and Trevor as they continue their travels.

The newfound trio spots a beatnik Isuzu on the shoulder while traveling through a downpour. There, they befriend a very pregnant young lady named Peaches who’s changing a tire, while her loser boyfriend, Elton, is sitting in the passenger seat smoking a cigarette.

“Elton’s got a bad back,” she explains. “That’s why I’m changing the tire.”

Meeting the young adults en route, Ben naturally wonders what might have been had his children survived.

Adding mystery to the entourage’s journey is a beat-up, brown Skylark with crooked plates, conspicuously trailing their van.

Throughout the story, Evison deftly captures bittersweet moments we’ve all experienced in life.

The phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” applies to “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving.” Look beyond its busy, psychedelic sleeve to discover a rich narrative, sure to complement your reading in 2013.

EMDR – Breaking the Cycle of Abuse – Treating Adult Victims of Childhood Abuse

As children, we are innocent. We have no power and are therefore, unable to protect ourselves. We look to our caregivers to nurture, care for, guide and teach us about the world. Unfortunately, due to their own issues and problems, many parents and caregivers are adequate custodians but they are not always able to provide all the best parenting. Then there are those parents who are abusive to their children or are unable to protect their children from abuse.

In any case, most of us come out of childhood with some hurts, but other children experience more than hurts. They are left with deep wounds and scars that affect their ability to trust, relate, engage and function in the adult world. Verbal abuse, neglect, physical abuse, emotional/mental abuse and sexual abuse come in many different forms, and these assaults on the child may result in adults who experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

The extent, the frequency, the severity, and the longevity of the abuse all affect how and to what extent an individual may be affected by childhood abuse. The stress of living with, denying and trying to overcome causes different reactions in different people.

In his book, “When the Body Says No”, Dr. Gabor Mate draws on a wide range of scientific research, to illuminate the interplay between the body’s emotional, nervous, hormonal and immune systems. He shows how people whose lives are marked by suppressed emotions and excessive, unacknowledged stress, especially the buried stresses we all carry from our early childhoods, can become physically and mentally ill. Dr. Mat explains the importance of assessing and treating not only the body but the mind.

This mind/body connection is essential to EMDR treatment and especially the treatment of early childhood traumas such as physical and sexual abuse. EMDR essentially “targets” childhood traumas and disturbing events, and uses all the five senses to “activate” and reprocess the disturbing and traumatic thoughts, feelings, body sensations and memories.

Although it is sometimes difficult to comprehend how our present-day problems and issues are rooted in our childhood hurts, my experience has been that the connections begin to present themselves during the therapy. With EMDR, there is a connecting of the dots, so to speak, and sometimes the “capturing” of those hidden stresses. Once these hidden stresses are remembered, they can be processed and released. This allows for a natural “letting go” process to occur. Once we begin this healing of childhood wounds, there is rapid emotional and psychological growth, acceptance and peace of mind.

If more adults would take the time to deal with and resolve their own childhood traumas, more children would grow into their full potential… and fewer parents would have painful regrets.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy that was developed to resolve symptoms resulting from disturbing and unresolved life experiences. It uses a structured approach to address past, present, and future aspects of disturbing memories.

The theory underlying EMDR treatment is that it works by helping the sufferer process distressing memories more fully which reduces the distress. It is an integrative therapy, synthesizing elements of many traditional psychological orientations, such as psycho-dynamic, cognitive behavioral, experiential, physiological, and interpersonal therapies.

Although controlled research has concentrated on the application of EMDR to PTSD, EMDR is effective with other problems and issues including anxiety disorders, depression, relationship issues and childhood disorders.

Utilized since 1988, EMDR is now recognized by the American Psychiatric Association & the American Department of Defense/Veterans’ Affairs, as well as by many regulatory bodies in the UK, Europe, South America and the Middle East.

EMDR is an excellent way of releasing the pain from the past, to free up your resources for the present and future.

Book Review – Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents

Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents is an indispensable tool for parents and professionals who want to have important knowledge to make wise decisions about video game use in the lives of children and teens. One of the most exasperating challenges about trying to communicate about the negative effects of violent video games is that well-intentioned adults often say: But the verdict is not in yet on whether violent video game play is all that harmful. Video games are too new to have acquired any compelling data. Anderson, Gentile, and Buckley comprehensively slice through this, and other inaccurate and misleading arguments, that have been used to prevent parents, professionals, and policy-makers to deal productively with this critical issue.

Divided into three parts, the book can be picked up at any juncture to enlighten the reader on the complexities of interpreting the research and in understanding violent video game play in the context of bio-social and developmental factors. Part 1, The Introduction, provides a background on the history of violent video games; a well-documented summary of the effects of exposure to violent media entertainment, with clear definitions of physical, verbal and relational aggression, and important considerations of three types of research methodologies. This section also describes The General Aggression Model-a model developed by Anderson, Bushman, Carnagey, and Huesmann (p. 40) to integrate ideas from earlier models and to help distinguish between variables and processes that operate in immediate contexts and those that operate over a long-term. Part 2 explains and discuses three new studies that “were designed to address knowledge gaps in the video game research literature.” (p. 59) Part 3, General Discussion (What Does it All Mean?) provides critical links between theory, practice, and public policy, providing even more reasons for urgent action at both micro and macro levels.

The authors begin with, and consistently keep, a refreshingly honest and clear approach. For instance, Anderson and his colleagues call “a duck a duck” and discuss the c-word-causality-with academic rigor grounded in common sense.

Critics of violent media research like to remind us that we can never establish causality. But the authors refute this argument eloquently by helping us understand the probabilistic nature of causality:

“The old Logic 101 principles regarding the establishment of a factor as being necessary and sufficient cause of an effect simply don’t apply to most modern science (Anderson & Bushman, 2002c). We know that smoking tobacco causes an increase in the likelihood that one will contract lung cancer, but not everyone who smokes gets cancer, and some who don’t smoke get lung cancer. The probabilistic nature of modern science is largely due to the fact that multiple causal factors are involved in most medical, psychological, and behavioral phenomena. And for this reason, the old necessary and sufficient rules simply do not apply. Thus every time people argue that violent video games can’t be considered causes of aggression because they have played such games and haven’t killed anyone is committing a major reasoning error, applying the ‘sufficient’ rule to a multiple cause phenomenon.” (p. 21)

The authors go on to systematically explain aggression in terms of contextual factors over time, heightening this reader’s awareness of the profound contribution violent video games are making to increased aggression. Reading about the General Aggression model, in particular, brought me several ‘a-has.’ The model is based “on the assumption that human memory, thought, and decision processes can be represented as a complex associative network of nodes representing cognitive concepts and emotions.” (p. 41)

The General Aggression Model is a powerful tool because, like our work at the PCI, it takes into account multiple environmental factors when attempting to determine causality. I am drawn to the elegance by which it clearly addresses the complexities of living systems. In fact, the authors point out the General Aggression Model can be used to incorporate variables within what we call at the PCI, The Child’s and the Parent’s Growth Sphere. The authors cite the work of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological levels (p.45), providing a comprehensive framework for understanding the impact of violent entertainment that many parent educators, and certainly PCI Certified Parent Coaches, will immediately grasp, helping them to better explain to parents the inherent risks of children and teens playing violent video games.

Extreme acts of violence such as the Columbine shootings are never isolated from past and present bio-social interactions. The authors point out that habitual aggressive tendencies are most likely to develop in children who grow up in environments that reinforce aggression, provide aggressive models, frustrate and victimize them, and teach them that aggression is acceptable and successful. (p. 47) As our society becomes more violent, as more children are bullied, as more are victimized, as the news keeps amplifying these incidents, it only stands to reason that increases in aggression will continue as the world “mirrors back” violent mental models. Fortunately there are many ways to intervene so as to disrupt this cycle, but they all require a focused intent and an open willingness to make consistent choices that many parents can’t make because they don’t have the necessary information and that many professional don’t make because it is too difficult to help parents to make choices that are considered “weird” or “different” from the mainstream.

After finishing the Introduction section most readers will sit back and say to themselves: What in the world are we doing to our children? How can we stop this madness?

Luckily the book answers these questions.

The next section discusses three important studies. If the language is too technical, the authors have provided an “in a nutshell” explanation of each study. By reading the one-two page brief, readers can understand what happened and consider the implications. I love the questions that the authors include: “What worries us? What gives us hope?” For instance in one study, what worries us is that no one is immune to media violence. Yet, what gives us hope is that Again, parents are in a powerful position. Setting limits on the amount and content of screen media appears to be a protective factor for children. Truly, our work with families can be the most transformative work we do. For every child who grows up not playing violent video games means that the larger social structure is impacted by more peace and sanity and that the next generation will have greater possibilities for bringer even more peace and sanity to the family, the community, and the world.

Reading Section 3 helps to think about important consideration and once again, the urgent need for action. After all, the authors are first and foremost researchers and have at their fingertips it seems ways to connect the dots so that the reader cannot but help to be motivated to do something! For instance, they distinguish between old and new violent media. I did this as well in my book, Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill. However, since 1999 when that book was published, violent video game entertainment has gotten much more sophisticated and certainly more available to younger children. The questions and points raised by Anderson and his colleagues in considering the differences and issues between older and the newer forms can help the reader understand the processes involved, in the challenges, as well as in the solutions. This entire section, to me, is like taking a retreat and reflecting on important issues in order to determine one’s priorities. One can get renewed commitment and feelings of energy for the issue by contemplating the compelling ideas the authors discuss.

I am very grateful that they refute the catharsis argument-that playing violent video games can help youngster “get out” their aggression. Nothing could be further from the truth. Citing brain research-we do know that repeating experiences is one effective way to learn them-the authors squelch this myth. They also point out that aggression is not a drive, but learned behavior, and that violent video games cannot help “vent” because catharsis carries with it feelings of pity and fear. In other words, the player must also identify with the victim and understand the entire narrative. Players are identifying with the murder. With such a reinforcing metacognitive script, there is no catharsis.

It takes a book to explain this issue. It takes long sentences, technical ideas, and complex ideas. It takes well-thought out, impeccably conducted research studies. Therefore, the suggestions given at the end of the book are sound and good ones. But they are the “what” of the situation, not the “how.” These suggestions have been given for over fifty years now and so few can make them a part of their lives. For instance, telling parents and grandparents: Don’t allow access to violent video games, is absolutely important. Yet, in our work with thousands of parents as educators and parent coaches, we know that most moms, dads, grandparents, and care-givers are not doing this even though they are well-intentioned and love the children. The reasons for this are as complex as the effects of violent video games. I would encourage these researchers to begin here with the next research imperative: Since we know violent entertainment is harmful, what works to assist parents, grandparents, and care-givers to make the daily, tough secondary choices that align with their fundamental choice to limit the harmful effective of violent media entertainment?

Copyright Gloria DeGaetano, 2010. All Rights Reserved,

Gloria DeGaetano is the founder and CEO of The Parent Coaching Institute, (The PCI™), the originator of the parent coaching profession.

An acclaimed keynote speaker, Gloria is a sought-after favorite for major national and international conferences because she is a recognized leader in family support, media/digital literacy who provides very specific and practical tools for parents to successfully navigate the stresses of modern day culture. An innovator in parent education, Ms. DeGaetano often trains parent educators and agency staff on how to best help moms and dads in our digital age which often divides family life, making it even more difficult for healthy parent-child relationships. Gloria’s popular Best Solutions Programs are tailored to the specific needs of participants, resulting in positive outcomes for the agencies and the parents they serve.

Ms. DeGaetano, a best-selling author, has written Screen Smarts: A Family Guide to Media Literacy; Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie, and Video Game Violence (with Lt. Col. Dave Grossman), and manuals for parent professionals. Her latest book Parenting Well in a Media Age, has won the 2007 i-Parenting Media Award for excellence. Ms. DeGaetano’s books and articles have been translated into Spanish, German, Danish, Romanian, Korean, Chinese, and Turkish.

Ms. DeGaetano’s ideas and articles have appeared in numerous publications including McCall’s Magazine, American Baby Magazine, The Boston Globe, the American Academy of Pediatrics Newsletter, and Catholic Faith and Family Magazine.

Great Books For Kids Who Want To Learn How To Draw

Many kids love to draw. But they get stuck and frustrated when what they see in their heads, or what they want to create on paper, doesn’t match what comes out of their hands. With a little practice and some simple instruction, any kid (or adult, for that matter) can improve their skills. Here are some great books for kids who want to learn how to draw.

The basic difference between drawing instruction books aimed at kids versus adults is that books for kids can get extremely basic. But that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes adult how-to-draw books are too advanced, and adults can get frustrated.

But a great thing about kids how-to-draw books is that the examples and exercises are a lot more fun than those for adults. Sure, you might find the typical circle with shading and shadow to make it look like a sphere. But a kids’ drawing book will then turn that into a space mobile or part of something else fun and interesting.

One of the best books like that is Mark Kistler’s Draw Squad, recommended for ages 6 and older. He does not oversimplify things for kids. He presents real art terms and techniques, like foreshortening and shading, but he does it in a simple, easy-to-understand way.

Kids will begin immediately by drawing a foreshortened circle as the top of a 3D cylinder. Then he turns it into a simple birthday cake. The second drawing incorporates a horizon line, to show depth and start adding perspective.

Throughout the book, there are small blank areas that kids can do their drawings in, but I suggest using a sketchbook separately. He also includes lots of examples of other kids’ work, which is a great motivator and shows the kids that it is possible to draw really well.

If you want to go a step simpler, How to Draw 101 Animals will work for the younger kids, ages 5 and up. There are simple line drawings for kids to follow along with. Most animals kids know are in here, like cow, zebra, crab, plus a bunch of made up silly ones that kids enjoy, too.

Even more basic is Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book: Make a World, or anything else by the same author. This is your basic combining of shapes to create simple, easily identified objects like ships, cars, and dragons. He uses rectangles, dots, curvy lines, and squiggles, plus letters like C, L, S, and U, to make the objects. Kids old enough to manipulate a drawing tool will be able to work with this book.

There you have three basic drawing books that are proven favorites. They are great books for kids who want to learn how to draw. Pair them with some pencils (crayons for the younger kids) and a sketchbook, and you have a gift most any kid will love.