Lady by the River is now available for sale on Amazon.
In the 2nd edition you will find coping tips and discussion questions, which were designed for small group discussion or personal reflection.
Q: What is Lady by the River?
Short Answer: Lady by the River is a self-help book with stories of perseverance from nine different authors. Lady by the River has wonderfully written personal stories, tips for coping, and discussion questions to stir up thinking and open the door for growth.
Long Answer: Lady by the River is a short book that will leave you moved and inspired. It makes a great bathroom book because you can literally pick it up and start reading it on any page and find something to grab your mind. However, it also makes for a great bedside book because the variety of stories will give you options for nightly reading. I have a friend who keeps a copy of the book inside of her teacher bag and she has whipped it out for “sponge fillers” with her high schoolers. This means that she uses small windows of time – like ten or fifteen minutes – to explore parts of the books with students who are learning more about self-awareness and personal growth. And let’s admit it – the self-learning journey never stops for humans. We are always growing – always learning more about who we are as we respond to the myriad of events that come our way. This book has a dynamic energy to it – and I am not just saying that because I edited it and helped get it going. Seriously, the feedback continues to remind me that we have done something special with our sharing here. My father-n-law had the ultimate compliment when he said he “could not out the book down” and he is not a book reader. I will share more of the “reader comments” later on this year (I am making a promo video with some local readers) and will post snippets on Priorhouse blog as well. But the ending story that I must share was after I talked to Doc Jeff. I wish I had been recording what he shared – but it was earlier this year and he just finished reading Lady by the River. He was moved and he went on about the inspiration he felt – the unity he felt among the different stories – and then he noted how “we are all lady by the river” and we all need encouragement. Well… I feel this way after I skim the book too. Completely encouraged and like ‘we are all lady by the river.” And I know that it should not be surprising – to feel uplifted after reading a book about perseverance – that was the aim. But it still amazes me to see people’s responses and to also feel that tinge of excitement inside. And so with that said, I encourage you to consider getting a copy of the book. It is available on Amazon and I will also have some copies for sale via this blog later this year.
Formal Answer: Lady by the River is a short book that offers everyday stories from everyday people who have persevered through everyday struggles. Nine authors of different ages, gender, race and faiths have dropped their guard and opened up about their experiences with the hope that you might be fortified. Each author shared a unique experience about pushing on and overcoming. Some authors shared specific tips and others gave narrative so that we might extract what we choose.
EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK:
Chapter by Chapter (pages 3-5)
Mark Bialczak shared about coping through divorce, death, and mounting setbacks. The image of Mark walking up a steep hill on a frigid, snowy night, during a season of great pressure, remains etched in my mind, especially because I know Syracuse cold. Mark shared his determination to stay anchored while humbly waiting for better opportunities. Mark also highlighted how timely companionship became part of his coping: “My dear wife is a good listener, helping me sort through those conflicted feelings about my father’s good influence and negative behaviors. She’s helped me find strength I never knew I had, too.” And one of my favorite lines from Mark’s chapter is this: “I could mourn, but I could not mope.”
Mabel Kwong adeptly brought us along on her journey of self- discovery. She shared about how she has pushed on to pursue her writing passion while she also managed everyday responsibility, noting that we have “to stand up to live before we can sit down and create.” Mabel descriptively allowed us to feel the changing seasons with her throughout her chapter. At times, we are right there with her in her room – laptop opened, keys tapping – as she embraces what makes her tick as a writer. Mabel also gave us snippets about societal expectations and reminded us to fight for what our heart wants, amidst life’s ups and downs. We are to not ever settle, but need to chase our passion and keep going: “With every moment that we experience, we learn. With every lesson, we gain a new perspective. Every new perspective shapes the way we live and create, and ultimately shapes and changes our voice.”
Ana Linden highlighted societal masks, pain from putdowns, and reality acceptance as she shared about the past connecting with today: “I haven’t battled life-threatening disease. I haven’t survived cataclysms. I haven’t been physically abused. What I had to do was simply survive my family and not become like them.” Ana’s sobering story about a close family member who had a “manipulative, selfish and cruel nature” reminds us that we don’t pick our bloodline, but we do pick our friends. And with masterful writing, she lets us feel depth and warmth found in genuine, lasting friendship. Ana also shows us how healing, over time, led to letting go of pain and even allowed her to administer grace to someone that hurt her to the core.
Jeffrey Simmons gave us a mix of prose and raw reflection about issues relating to race, faith, gender, and personal growth. He shared about his mother’s encouraging words for self-empowerment, his journey experiencing God, and how he learned about self: “Then an epiphany occurred. Drugs were not my problem. I was my problem. I had to accept me for me.” Jeff’s mature faith underpins his reflections on societal topics like money: “I didn’t come into this world with a dime and I sure am not taking it with me to the grave. But while I’m here I’ve got to have money.” His poems give us some rich cultural snapshots as well: “Pigskin degrees, big houses, fancy cars, strip clubs, bars, and big ghetto booties…”
Mahesh Nair brought us on along on his track “to get a hold of life” as he learned to let it be, live free, and accept others. Picturesque settings transport us back: “The path ahead was drunk in white, hosting the silhouettes of my parents and my brother who’d walked ahead, and I was following them at my own pace.” Weaving in humanitarian insight, Mahesh stirs our thoughts about the less privileged, superficiality, and acting without genuineness noting that he “was sending out happy vibes to please others” while “acting, not being.” He noted that we often “seek momentary happiness, choosing to move away from our vast inner worlds.” Mahesh gave us much to ponder, like when he noted, “happiness isn’t on greet mode, and we receive shocks and jolts, understanding life the hard way. Time hurts more than it heals our daily lives, but taking refuge in anger kills reasoning.”
Chad Prior fiction to illustrate that overcoming is successful with companionship, trust, and patience. He reminds us to at least try. His characters, battling the highs and lows while living on a summit, inspire us to persevere: “she uses everything inside of her to lift herself up in order to align her flight” and for flyers to be steady in the air “their mind and breath had to be stable even when nothing else was.” The similarity for life is substantial as we must fight to align our path and then we steady our mind and breath to move on with strength. Chad also demonstrated how small things, like music, stories, and humor, are life-giving pleasures that assuage hardship. And because tea has been a source of comfort for me during stressful times, I really loved this part: “Nai Nai Hao found a comfortable seat in the corner and drank her sweet flower tea. She might be old, but she had no problem foraging the best tea ingredients around Farsk.”
Sherri Matthews allowed us to travel continents with her as a mother, wife, and writer while she found “fulfillment and contentment, despite our difficult circumstances.” Sherri has persevered over the years by enjoying small beauty and personal pleasures. For example, the way she always made time to smell, I mean plant, those roses. She reminded us that nobody “is immune to trouble” and as we grow and tend to self, “we must decide how we are going to deal with” everyday problems. Connecting with others from around the world helped Sherri to “dispel the chronic sense of isolation.” Sherri reminds the reader that perseverance involves getting back up: “I have witnessed time and again in my life that no matter how bad things may seem there is always a way out. I know what it’s like to be knocked down, flat on the floor. But it is in the getting back up again that hope reigns.” A key takeaway from Sherri was how she “discovered that help often comes in unexpected ways.” Let us all stay open for alternative assistance.
Kristen Rybandt shared about finding balance in an incongruent world, suggesting that humans often have a “perspective pendulum” and how she found that “gratitude is a wonderful tool for reshaping perspective.” We need to be more mindful of what we focus on: “Mostly I find that comparisons lead me back to the low swing of perspective. These emotion-filled comparisons aren’t accurate appraisals of our own skills or even the person we’re comparing ourselves to.” Kristen also pointed out that each day comes with a reset button and in the most beautiful way, she imbued a sense of calm our way with the message to embrace challenge: “As a chronic escaper, there’s something liberating about accepting pain and surrendering to discomfort rather than trying to fight it all the time.” Even though problems will always come and go, Kristen shared what works for her as she looked for “small ways each day to appreciate and improve life for myself and those in it.”
Yvette Prior, contributing editor, put this book together in order to empower and encourage readers. Life is filled with ups and downs and we do not grow from staying comfortable. Yvette used her training as a counselor to provide wellness poems (with shapes that added some visual interest). She also created the discussion questions for each chapter, which could be used for small group discussion. The updated 2nd edition also included coping information, with information about distorted thinking, expectations, thought stopping, and emotions (i.e. anger, regret, and unhealthy comparing are three common barriers to persevering). Another key part of wellness has to do with having a strong physical body and so nutritional supplements were briefly discussed at the end of the book. Supplementing with herbs, vitamins, and minerals could be a huge help for many people (especially those under great strain).