Friday, April 24, 2009

"So Long, Status Quo" Book Review - 5 Stars!

Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:



So Long, Status Quo: What I Learned From Women Who Changed the World

Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (February 15, 2009)



MY REVIEW:
"So Long, Status Quo" is the kind of book that you should buy for birthday presents for people you know, give as Secret Sister gifts, Mother's Day presents, graduation gifts and pretty much any excuse you can think of to pass this book onto a girl/woman in your life that needs a little encouragement. I personally have already recommended it to the homeschool moms I know to use in school (and just found out that Suzy has put together a reader's guide to use with the book that makes a great educational enrichment) and loaned my copy to my mom. She in turn has started recommending it to ladies at our church.

Here is the set-up of the book...
It starts with a little peek into Suzy's personal life that reveals some area of her life that she is lacking in or needs work on (an overflow of material items or lack of sympathy for the children of the world) and then she delves into the biography of a woman that made an impact in that particular area. Following the biography she then figures out a way to make that relevant to her life and somehow implements it. She rounds out the chapter with some ideas for how you can do something in that area of your life.

This is a great book that kept me absolutely captivated the entire way through and while I normally plow through non-fiction at a slow pace - I breezed right through this book because I just loved it. At around $10.99 on cbd.com and amazon.com this book is a steal of a deal!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


SUSY FLORY grew up on the back of a quarter horse in an outdoorsy family in Northern California and she's not afraid to dive into the trenches to experience firsthand whatever she's writing about. If that means smuggling medical supplies into Cuba on a humanitarian trip or sitting down to coffee to talk about faith with a practicing witch, she's there with a listening ear and notebook in hand.

Susy's creative nonfiction features a first person journalistic style with a backbone of strong research and a dash of dry wit. She attended Biola University and UCLA, where she received degrees in English and psychology. She has a background in journalism, education, and communications. Her first book, Fear Not Da Vinci, released in 2006.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (February 15, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0834124386
ISBN-13: 978-0834124387

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Introduction
Addicted to comfort


“I could not, at any age, be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside

and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive …

One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt, on her 77th birthday



I love my couch. It’s covered in a squishy soft velvety material the color of oatmeal laced with honey and the cushions are fat. Three big loose pillows rest against the back, the material woven into an exotic, vaguely Eastern pattern of impressionistic flowers and trees in tawny gold and lapis blue. My favorite spot in the entire house is the far end of this couch, with two smaller pillows behind my back and my legs stretched out long ways. I do this every day.

For a while we had an uptight couch. Bright Colonial red with little blue and yellow flowers, it reminded me of the calico dresses Melissa Gilbert used to wear on Little House on the Prairie. The fabric was quilted in the shape of puzzle pieces and the back rose straight up, pierced by a row of buttons. A boxy pleated strip of fabric ran along the bottom. It was really uncomfortable and almost impossible to take a nap in. That couch didn’t want you sitting there very long; it was a little Puritanical, wanting you up and around, taking care of business. We sold it at a garage sale for $20. Good riddance.

But the comfy oatmeal couch—it loves you. It calls you to sink down into comfort, and to stay awhile. A long while.

From the couch I can see the kitchen where my kids are grating cheese for quesadillas or searching the fridge for leftover pizza. I can look out the back window, at the drooping branches of the monstrous eucalyptus tree overhanging the back yard. Or, I can stare at the ceiling fan, slowly circling overhead. But, really, I hardly ever look at anything but words. Books, newspapers, catalogs, magazines, letters from friends—those are the things I look at when I’m stretched out on the couch.

Sundays are my absolutely favorite. After church, we eat lunch at the taqueria, then head home. The newspapers await; I don’t want to waste time changing my clothes so I head straight for the couch. News comes first, then business, travel, entertainment, and the Sunday magazine. Last are the sale papers: Target, Best Buy, Macy’s.

By this time I’m sleepy, melting a bit around the edges. My head grows heavy and I turn, curl up, and snuggle into the cushions. I fall asleep, papers crinkly around me.

A while ago my teenage son, just to aggravate me, staked a claim on the oatmeal couch. He’d race home after church in his little pick-up truck and head in the door, kicking off his shoes and diving into my favorite comfy spot in one gangly flop. He made it his goal to be asleep, limbs a sprawl, before I even made it inside the house. A few times I tried to extricate him but it was useless, like trying to wrestle a wire hanger out of a tangled pile.

I decided to wait him out and so after he slept on the couch a few Sundays, he gave it up. He had better things to do, usually involving his computer.

Things returned to normal, the oatmeal couch remembered the shape of my behind, and I took to snuggling into the tawny-lapis pillows once again.

It was safe, my velvety couch cave.

Just like my life.

In one of my favorite books, A Girl Named Zippy, Haven Kimmel writes about her mother, always on the couch with a cardboard box of books by her side. There she was, forever reading a book and waving at her children as they went back and forth, in and out of the house, busily doing whatever kids in a small Indiana town did. She stayed there, curled up on the couch, peacefully reading her books as her husband ran around who-knows-where, maybe coon hunting, gambling away his paycheck, or sleeping with the divorced woman across town. She was comfortable there. Zippy unexpectedly became a bestseller and Kimmel traveled around giving talks and signing books. The one question everyone asked her was, “Did your mother ever get up off the couch?”

I don’t live in Indiana; I live in a suburb of San Francisco. My kids don’t run in and out of the house; they pretty much stay put. My husband is a hard working, non-gambling, faithful guy who pays the bills. And my life is pretty good. But I have lived most of it lodged safely in the corner of my couch.

My secure couch cocoon was really a picture of what I had let my life become. Lethargic, sleepy, with a love for security and for comfort, I lived for self. I avoided suffering at all costs. I didn’t want to ever do anything uncomfortable. I think I was addicted to comfort.

My journey out of my couch-life started years ago when I was a college student on vacation, idly looking around a gift shop. Flicking through a box full of enameled metal signs, I came across one that read “We Can Do It!” Underneath was a portrait of a woman, looking sort of like Lucille Ball in her cleaning garb, hair up in a red bandanna. Glossy lips, a little pouty, with arched eyebrows and thick eyelashes. She wore a blue collared shirt, sleeve rolled up over a flexed bicep, toned and powerful. Her eyes were wide open, focused, determined. Who was she? I hadn’t a clue, but I bought the sign and installed it in a place of honor by my desk.

Later, when I was married, the mother of two small children and too busy changing diapers to sit much on the couch yet, I learned she was called Rosie the Riveter. She, and six million other women who toiled in factories while their men were off fighting in World War II, changed the world. Even now, as I look at the old enamel sign next to my desk, I’m haunted by the determination in the line of her jaw and the resolve in the curl of her fist. I wanted to be like her.

But the couch called. I forgot the sign; it migrated to the back of my bookcase and I took a part time job teaching English at a private high school. My kids were in school, my husband was fighting up the corporate ladder, and with the days sometimes a blur of homework, basketball practice, and ballet class, I hoarded my couch time.

Funny, though. It wasn’t satisfying. I just couldn’t ever seem to get enough.

And then, one day, stretched out reading the Sunday paper, I saw Rosie again. It was a full-page department store ad. Across the top ran a banner: “Help end hunger.” Something had changed. Rosie looked a little more glamorous than I remembered. The “can” in the “We CAN Do It!” was underlined and capitalized to emphasize the can of food in her fist. I unfolded the page and examined it; it was an advertisement for National Hunger Awareness day. If you made a $5 donation to the department store, they would in return give you a 15% coupon for regular, sale and clearance-priced merchandise. It’s our thanks to you for helping to relieve hunger in our communities.

I pondered the page; something didn’t quite make sense. Somehow, by partnering with Rosie to spend money at the department store, you would help to relieve hunger. Rosie and her factory worker sisters had changed the world by serving for low pay and little recognition on factory lines during a war. They had sacrificed personal comfort and convenience for a cause greater than themselves, a cause they believed in and sweated and grew calluses for. Now the department store was asking me to be like Rosie, tie up my hair, bare my biceps and leave my couch, so I could … shop? You’ve got to be kidding.

But my irritation that day over the hijacking of the Rosie the Riveter image piqued my curiosity. Who was Rosie? Was she a real person? Was she still alive? What would she think about the ways her image, once meant to encourage and inspire the Nazi-fighting women of World War II, had been used for merchandising? I was intrigued by her determination and I decided to roll up my sleeves and get to the bottom of her story. So I did. And after Rosie I found eight other women, amazing women, who changed the world. I found women who, with grit and guts, made their lives add up to something much more than just a satisfying Sunday nap. And somehow, in the finding, the oatmeal couch lost its allure.

I wanted to feel alive, to experience something more deep and dangerous than my middle class life. I wanted more than a Ford Expedition SUV with leather seats or a 401K groaning with employer contributions. I craved something beyond Ralph Lauren Suede paint or a giant glossy red Kitchen Aid mixer. I was ready to wake up from a very long nap and do something meaningful.

So this is the story of how, slowly, I began to get up off the couch of my boring, safe, sheltered, vanilla existence to something more real, sharper, in focus. Rosie led the way. Along came Eleanor, and Jane. Then Harriet, Elizabeth, and more. These women became mentors calling me to a different kind of life. Passionate for change, each woman sacrificed money, love, comfort, time, and, ultimately, self, to make a difference to thousands, maybe millions of people.

Living like the women who changed the world is not easy, but it’s good. It feels right. It is satisfying.

This is how I got up off the couch and tried, with much fear and trembling, to make a difference in my world. And I’ll never go back.




This is an excerpt from an interview with Suzy Flory...

First, I studied a group of amazing women who changed the world, like Mother Teresa, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Mary Magdalene. I immersed myself in their lives and tried to get to know them better. Who were they? What were their lives like? Why prompted them to step out and make a difference in the world? Then, for each woman, I created a little adventure in order to follow in her footsteps and live out one of her ideals or values. So for Rosie the Riveter, I went into a metal shop and learned how to weld. For Eleanor Roosevelt, I traveled to Cuba on a secret humanitarian mission to work with children. For Mother Teresa, I went on a fast. Now that one was hard!

Q. The book's title, So Long Status Quo, sounds familiar. Where did it come from?

A. It's from the chorus of a Nichole Nordeman song called "Brave," about letting go of your fear and stepping out in faith. I love this line: "I think I'm letting go…" Faith is about letting go of your plan, and trying to live out God's plan. And His is better!

Q. So Long Status Quo highlights nine amazing women who changed the world. Of those nine, who is your favorite?

A. My absolute favorite was Harriet Tubman. She had so many obstacles to overcome. She was born into slavery. She was illiterate. She suffered a brain injury when she was young that caused her to go into a coma. She had slave catchers after her. She had no money. She worked all alone. Yet, she accomplished unbelievable things. She never quit. Even after she had been a conductor on the Underground Railroad – she led 300 slaves to safety, to freedom, without losing one – after that she became an army scout, a spy, and an army nurse during the civil war. She was unpaid, just a volunteer. When she was an army nurse she was the first line of care and would care for the soldiers lying on the battlefield. They were just lying there, suffering and in pain. She took care of them with her own money, her own supplies, and no one to really help her. She was doing it on her own. And, at night, when she would go back to her room, she would bake 50 pies; she would make homemade gingerbread and homemade root beer from actual roots she got out in the woods.

Q. She would cook and bake at night after she'd been working all day?

A. Not only that, but the next day she'd hire ex-slaves to go out and sell the food and drink in the camps. Then she would use that money to buy supplies for the soldiers. So, I was just amazed by how resourceful she was and how she didn't give up when she didn't have the things that she needed to take care of these guys. Even when she was an old lady, she started a retirement home for former slaves. So I just like her. I like that she didn't quit; I like her resourcefulness. I like that she didn't make excuses and I like that she used her own hands to help in whatever way she could, even when she wasn't paid, even when she wasn't welcome. I think she's probably just about the most amazing woman I've ever read about in my entire life.

Q. If you had to choose some powerful women currently impacting our world in a positive way, who might they be?

A. Catherine Rohr was a very successful stockbroker in NYC. Something happened; she felt a call on her life. She sold everything she had, and along with her husband, rented a U-Haul truck and moved to Texas. She started a business-training program in the Texas prisons called The Prison Entrepreneurship Program, and it's been going for about ten years. She went behind bars and taught business classes to these guys who were the lowest of the low in society. She's had tremendous success and has given these guys a chance for a new life.

Another one is Wendy Kopp. She came right out of college, an Ivy League school, and founded a non-profit called "Teach for America". She recruits the best and the brightest students across the country to go into inner city schools and teach for a year or two, before they start their careers. A lot of them end of staying in those inner city schools because they love the kids, they love the challenge and find it very rewarding. Wendy is brilliant; she could've made a million dollars, but instead she started a non-profit and built it from the ground up. Wendy Kopp is a woman changing the world.

Q. In your book, each chapter ends with suggestions for readers to try a little adventure on their own. Where should a beginning volunteer start?

A. I think a lot of times when you're doing volunteer work or you're trying to make a difference you look at what other people have done. But, I think that's the wrong place to start. I think that you have to start in your own community, with the needs that are in front of you. Use whatever resources or gifts or talents you personally have. So if you love to knit, knit for others. If you love to create scrapbooks, if you love to cook, if you love to spend time with people, if you love to take care of children, serve others. Start with yourself and what you like to do, and then find someone who needs what you like to do.

Q. Would So Long Status Quo work for book clubs or women's groups?

We just created a Reader's Guide for small groups or book clubs—any kind of group that wants to work through the book together. It's free and you can download it at www.susyflory.com. I've also started a blog that highlights women changing the world, both past and present.

Q. How can we become women who change the world?

A. By starting in our own backyards. And if God wants it to turn into something larger, that's up to Him. I think if we do what we can, with the tools God has given us and the resources that we have, then who knows what can happen? Mother Teresa put it this way: "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop." Don't be the missing drop.

1 comment:

rebornbutterfly said...

ohh! It's on my wishlist now!