Review: Goodbye Stress, Hello Life!

by Allan Kehler
Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing, 2016

goodbye stressAllan Kehler wants you to find your joy.

At a more down-to-earth level Kehler — a Saskatoon-based counsellor and speaker — wants to help people manage their stress. But more than that, he wants us to start really living. To that end, his timely new book Goodbye Stress, Hello Life! succeeds in delivering insights and strategies anyone can use to make changes in their lives and embrace their full humanity.

Almost everyone can use some help dealing with stress. So many of us feel an excess of tension or anxiety in our lives, whether from workplace conflict, relationship troubles, money problems, or some other source. Kehler starts his book by explaining what stress is and unpacking some myths surrounding stress. Turns out humans actually need some stress to thrive. But too much stress hurts us at physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual levels, and we don’t always recognize our own pain. Kehler then introduces a variety of tools with which to manage stress and offers stress-management tips that are easy to use — easy but surprisingly effective.

Some of the topics Kehler explores include understanding emotions, recognizing people and settings that generate negative stress, finding and maintaining personal balance, and assembling a kit of life tools. He also creates connections among these topics, so that readers can feel, think, and act in ways that preserve mental wellness and personal strength. Much of Kehler’s information is communicated in anecdotes and parables drawn from his colleagues, his clients, and his own study of personal well-being. His voice is friendly and his tone is personable, making the book pleasantly readable.

Goodbye Stress, Hello Life! may appear small but in fact it’s exactly the right size if you’re looking to make big life changes. The bite-sized sections encourage you to read slowly, not race through the information, and you’ll want to return to Kehler’s gentle lessons whenever you need to refresh or reset. The book also contains helpful information for people looking to reach out to others in distress, and underscores the author’s major themes of communication and compassion.

No matter who you are or what you do, you’re sure to find value in this book. Your joy — your purpose, your life — is just waiting for you to find it.

This review was originally published on www.skbooks.com.

 

Review: Journeys in Community-Based Research

by Bonnie Jeffery, Isobel M. Findlay, Diane Martz, and Louise Clarke, eds.
University of Regina Press, 2016

journeysincoverTo many people, pure academic research seems obscure, even irrelevant. Some organizations pointedly ridicule curiosity-based research, implying that only applied research – research undertaken to be put to use – is valuable. And then there is community-based research, a third form directed at positive action, social change, and advocacy, and also the subject of a recent book published by University of Regina Press. It might just change your mind about the significance of academic research.

Journeys in Community-Based Research examines ten years of community-based research in Saskatchewan. This research has been underwritten by two bodies – the Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit (SPHERU) and the Community–University Institute for Social Research (CUISR) – that work with various partners to address community issues and create positive change. Readers may be familiar with some of the projects and their outcomes.

Community-based research (CBR) connects academic rigour with real community needs, producing valuable relationships among universities, policy-makers, non-governmental organizations, and social agencies. The goal is always to discover and deliver benefits for communities at large. As the volume editors explain, CBR relationships emphasize “the central values of power, voice, and control throughout all aspects of the partnership and process.” To realize the bigger goals of a project, partners need to be responsive, flexible, and willing to learn. The projects discussed in Journeys in Community-Based Research demonstrate how to set up partnerships and how to build trust and earn respect. The writers also reflect on what they have learned from specific projects and encourage others to adopt CBR to make lasting social change.

This is an important book for Saskatchewan readers. It discusses urgent local matters and examines how groups are working together to address communities’ most immediate needs. One idea that the book’s contributors take seriously is that successful solutions and directions for change must not be imposed on people. Decades of bad policies and failed initiatives have taught policy-makers this, yet it continues to happen again and again. When they adopt CBR, community agencies can direct researchers’ interests to questions that the members of a community want to address, such as the needs of women escaping domestic violence or the health outcomes of Aboriginal youth. Such an approach gives the community a leading role and encourages member empowerment. In view of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, community leadership and empowerment are vital to our social well-being and healing.

Journeys in Community-Based Research is not a book for everybody, but its potential reach is impressive. Most chapters are fairly accessible, if serious, and suit a broad readership. The book should be of interest not only to scholars and students, but also to community leaders, policy-makers, managers and frontline workers in helping agencies, and anyone interested in learning how on-the-ground research makes our communities stronger.

This review was originally published on www.skbooks.com.

 

Review: The Sixth Age

by Kay Parley
Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing, 2016

6thageThe Sixth Age is a gentle comedic novel about a few months in the life of Allie Dutton, a poet, former farm wife, and practical prairie woman. Allie lives in a cooperative residence for aging creatives – emphatically not a nursing home, thank you very much – situated in the wondrous Qu’Appelle Valley. When some of the residents – actors, musicians, painters, and writers – decide to “put on a show” for the locals, Allie is drawn into the action despite her better judgement. Of course chaos ensues. Residents are falling ill, having accidents, getting lost. Government bureaucrats visit the residence, threatening to break up the community. And then Allie meets a carpenter who makes her wonder about love and second chances.

Author Kay Parley’s gang of elderly back-to-the-landers beautifully reflects the ethos of the mid 1970s. Although Parley wrote the manuscript decades ago, it has only recently been published, and its arrival is timely. The novel touches on issues relevant to many readers, but Parley herself felt the novel would reverberate with the Baby Boomers who are now beginning to retire. What does the Golden Generation want for themselves as they enter the sixth age of their lives? Allie’s story suggests one somewhat fanciful yet compelling option.

The key theme of this novel is dignity. How can we enjoy dignified lives as we age? How do we balance the need for independence against the need for community? What responsibility should we take for the choices others make? The seniors in The Sixth Age ignore conventional notions of what is good and proper post-retirement. They’re in no hurry to let others take charge of their lives. Yes, they’ve slowed down, but they aren’t doddering or incapable, and they reject the intrusion of the state and its ham-fisted sense of elder care.

That said, the story centres around Allie, who is by turns feisty and pragmatic. Every chapter opens with one of her poetic epigrams, some of them celebratory, some sardonic, and Allie’s firm sense of right and wrong generates mystery, romance, and laugh-out-loud comedy. Allie is a memorable character with a fresh voice and a wry sense of humour. Adults of any age are sure to enjoy seeing the world through her sharp eyes.

The Sixth Age starts quietly, but give it a chance to charm you. Its narrative offers insight into what people need to live satisfying lives once our working days have ended. Chances are, you’ll close the book wondering how you too could find a community like Allie Dutton’s.

This review was originally published on www.skbooks.com.