Arden Recommends A Strange Path to Freedom by Holly Pasut (interview included)

IMG_6953Book: A Strange Path to Freedom

Author: Holly Pasut

Publisher: SPARK Publications

Genre: Nonfiction

Basic Description: Have you ever said yes when you should have said no, especially in your workplace and to someone you thought was trustworthy? Holly Pasut, widow and single mother of three children, was a nationally recognized real estate agent in a booming market. Then she said yes to something that landed her in federal prison. A Strange Path to Freedom shares slices of Holly’s prison life through her quirky and often spiritual lens, as well as the wisdom she gained from the experience. Holly spent time in a literal, physical prison. But people erect figurative, mental prisons around themselves all the time. Her stories offer a guide for others to free themselves from negative thoughts and emotions that lock them in. And they offer a cautionary tale for navigating ethical choices in the workplace.

Arden’s Thoughts: I’ve always believed most of us are one to two steps away from tragedy. One misstep and we’re in for it. In fact, just today, I was riding my bike, hit a curb, and took a 6 feet spill. I miraculously ended up on my two wheels without a scratch on me. Legit miraculously. But, what happens when the miracle doesn’t come through and we have to deal with some really tough stuff?

Well, we deal with it. And, if you’re like author Holly Pasut, you make the most of it. In her book, Holly shares insights of how she made a mistake, tried to rectify it, and still ended up in federal prison. The beauty of Holly and her writing comes through so simply: She’s not bitter. She’s gracious and wants to share her experience so others don’t have to experience the loss she did. I recently got to interview Holly. Check it out…

Arden: Why would you write a book about such a vulnerable and heart-breaking topic?

Holly: I never set out to write a book.  Actually, I felt silly calling myself a writer, plus I didn’t think I had the skills or drive to complete a book. While I lived in [prison] cube 44, I journaled daily. It was healing and therapeutic for me, it was my truest self, sharing with my most trusted friend. Sometimes, I wrote from my heart, my personal sadness and other times I wrote about the craziest things that happened in prison. When you put 1200 women together, you’re going to get some pretty wild things! When I returned home, I went through those journals and found myself laughing and crying. For some oddball reason, I began blogging about the difference between women on the outside and women on the inside. When I met Fabi Preslar, with SPARK Publications, she seemed fascinated with my experience and planted the idea of turning my blogs into a book. Again, I resisted, but over time and support I decided it was my chance to do something with what I had learned and hopefully others would find themselves in my story.

Arden: Well, I think a lot of people will benefit from what you have written. Do you fear judgement on other people’s parts about what you have experienced? If so, how do you counteract this judgement?

Holly: Yes, I absolutely do. But it isn’t fatal. I know I am judged by others, but I am not responsible for their judgement or what they choose to believe. It is however hurtful. Since I cannot change what happened to me, I accept it and use it to weed out the people I want to spend time with. I call it “my filter.” Those that judge, are not the ones I want to spend time with anyway. I probably would have been one of those judgmental people too. Now, I find an admiration for people I meet who are not and those are the folks I am fascinated with.

Arden: That’s quite gracious of you and a good lesson for all of us! You know, you write about prison in a way most people do not. There is almost an appreciation for it. Did you appreciate it?

Holly: That is a great question, and I get it. In a strange way, I see that too. It definitely is the thorn in my side! If I had been locked up for a long time, I might feel differently, but I had an end in sight and tried to make the most of my time. Thankfully, my sense of humor helped. I don’t think I ever felt lower, than when I entered the prison gates. I not only was physically incarcerated but became mentally locked up as well. I couldn’t change the physical part and it wasn’t as if I decided to free myself mentally, it was as if something in my head unlocked itself. Spending endless hours reading, praying, meditating I began to see the world a little differently than I had experienced and I liked what I saw. I like to say, I was beginning to live a new way of thinking. I never want to go back to prison, yet in way I am grateful for the trip. Mental freedom is being true to who you are and that is real freedom.

Arden: Hmmm… Mental freedom is being true to who you are. That’s really beautiful. With that quote in mind, what has been your favorite thing to do since being released from prison?

Holly: LOL, the first thing I asked for was a cup of hot brewed coffee, in a ceramic mug, with half and half and I wanted to hear the sound of a metal spoon as I stirred my coffee. It was actually a struggle coming home, because I was lost. My career and reputation were gone, I didn’t know where to go or what to do. My new pain was soothed by my favorite thing, being able to touch my kids, kiss their cheeks and hear their voices, along with little things. Having a hand towel to dry my hands instead of toilet paper. The convenience of having a bathroom, a few steps away instead of down a dark hallway. Today I have lots of favorite things and feel grateful for all I do have. I continue to get up at 5 am (sometimes 6:30 instead, LOL) and pray, journal and meditate, it’s one of my favorites of favorite things.

Arden: So, Holly, what is next for you?

Holly: Who knows? I do know I cannot control what life throws a me, I can only control how I will react to it. I would like to continue speaking to white collar professionals as a cautionary tale and university students as a preparation tool. My attitude is to go through the doors God opens for me. If the doors close, I will be redirected. I like the idea of maybe writing another book too, perhaps the focus will be about living beyond a stigma.

Arden: Very cool. Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know?

Holly: Hmmmm. A question often asked is why I get up in front of audiences and speak. I will try to explain my own personal, why. The pain I caused my family and especially my kids was not the kind of pain that goes away with a Band-Aid or an apology. Speaking to adults gives me an opportunity to protect their kids and or the ones that love them. They suffer greatly. Sometimes I tell audiences I don’t really care about them personally (in a funny way) because I don’t know them, but I feel a personal attachment to their kids and their family and standing up before audiences as a reminder that sometimes knowledge is not always enough motivation to do the right thing. Critical thinking errors, fear of disappointing others, people pleasing the list goes on, can land you in prison. The decisions we make today will affect others, and that is why I made my decision to speak to audiences, not because I want to share my critical thinking errors, but because we all share critical thinking errors, mine took me Federal Prison.

As far as reading the book, it is a quick read, not a victim book, sprinkled with suffering, hope, humor and lessons learned. I would love to speak to readers who too have pulled themselves out of their own personal muck and found ways to buckle on their boot straps and move forward. Those are the kinds of people I want in my next book.

You can purchase Holly’s book here or here.

CLT Area Readers: Check Out This Book Club

book club promo

A few weeks ago, I came across an opportunity I thought you all would LOVE! You’re always asking me if I hold actual book clubs (I don’t) or if I ever will (maybe but not right now). HOWEVER, there’s a guy in Charlotte, Kevin Giriunas, who is going to be totally social once a month to talk about books.

Boom! Perfect.

His club will meet from 4-6 p.m. at Catawba Brewing in Charlotte. The first meeting is June 21. Follow the Facebook group here to get additional dates. Here’s the line-up for the summer:

June: Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind by Jocelyn K. Glei

July: Good to Great by Jim Collins

August: The Healing Self by Deepak Chopra, M.D. and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.

From Kevin: We will discuss what’s 1 thing you’ve learned from the book and what’s 1 thing you’re applying in your life because of it. 

I plan to be there June 21. I hope to meet you!

Arden Review: Detour Down Desperation Road (author interview included)

IMG_3622BookDetour Down Desperation Road

Author: Ann Renigar Hiatt, Ph.D.

Genre: Nonfiction

Basic Description:  One day your loved one begins forgetting things and you realize that it is more than normal aging. You don’t know where to go or what to do. Dr. Ann’s stories place you into the emotional and physical pressures on loving people who are desperate to learn how to help.

Experience the uncertainty, angst, and triumph as they alter their lives and draw on extraordinary intuition and strength and tackle problems, invent coping skills, and honor loved ones who slide deeper into dementia. Meet Ann’s strong, determined, entrepreneurial mother, known as ‘the hardware lady,’ as she hoards, obsesses, and persists while dementia slowly claims her brain. Ann’s inner guides, emotional Ann and rational Ann, whisper contradictory advice. Her love of her mother steers her to emotional resolutions. When all else fails, she must rely on rational decisions. She finds solace with support group members and others whose trials and solutions change daily as loved ones slip deeper into a condition for which there is no cure. 

Arden’s Thoughts: As I read the stories of Dr. Ann, her mother, and her friends in the support group, all I could think was, This is hard. Heartbreaking. Frustrating. How does dementia happen and how do these caregivers not go nuts? 

I’ve never personally dealt with dementia so I can’t relate as closely to this book as so many of you can. I’m including this book in my book club because of each of you… I have this feeling Dr. Ann’s work will break open dialogue among your friends and families. It’ll relieve so many of you because you’ll feel like someone gets your situation. And, it’ll begin to open all of our eyes to the plight of losing our sense of self and how to help those in similar situations endure that chapter of their lives.

I was lucky enough to get interview Dr. Ann. I’m sharing the highlights of our conversation here. Please read and then share this post. It’s an important one.

Arden: Thank you for chatting with me today, Dr. Ann. Let’s start with a basic question: Why did you write Detour Down Desperation Road
Dr. Ann: I was living in Ohio, restoring a historic home, and traveling back and forth to Europe when I realized that my North Carolina mother’s conversations were not her—not the mother I knew.  My dad died when I was eleven and over the years Mom became a strong, independent business woman who owned a small hardware store.  I soon became a “road warrior,” traveling weekly from Ohio trying to keep her functioning until I could somehow move back to my home state.  I could not stay with her because over time, she filled every nook and cranny of her house with “stuff.”  Yes, she was a hoarder and determined not to change.
Arden: Hhhmmm… I’m sure so many can relate to what you experienced. How did you feel during this time?
Dr. Ann: My Detour Down Desperation Road is not a sad story about death but a book about life—the ingenuity, perseverance, and clever ways that caregivers solve conflicts and problems.  It is about human emotions in times of stress and loss.   My story is peppered with the adventures of my support group members.  Their love for their parents and spouses guided them through seemingly insurmountable situations.
Arden: Believe me, so many people will benefit from your story and the stories from your support group members.

Dr. Ann: I hope so. I did not start writing until after Mom passed away and I did it to honor my mom and pay tribute to the indomitable people I met along my journey.  I knew deep down that my story was one small example of an epidemic that is happening to countless families across the world.  I felt so lost and afraid.  I wanted to be a beacon for others.

Arden: You’re so brave. Thank you for being a beacon for others. Is there anything else you want the readers to know?
Dr. Ann:  I still miss my Mom, the woman I always knew and loved before that horrible disease attacked her brain.  Alzheimer’s is just one type of dementia, there are many.  For every person who gets the disease, there is at least one person who must dive in and help them, become their advocate.   With my stories, I wanted to provide insight and let them know where to begin and most of all, that they are not alone.

Arden Recommends: One Happy Divorce

22728835_10154959164906447_152471219567095998_nBook: One Happy Divorce: Hold the Bulls#!t

Author: Jennifer Hurvitz Weintraub

Genre: Nonfiction, Relationships

Basic Description:  One Happy Divorce-Hold the Bulls#!t evolved from The Truth Hurvitz, the relationship blog by Jennifer Hurvitz Weintraub, and it’s as real as it gets. We all know divorce is tough, but it doesn’t have to be miserable! A happy ex equals a more peaceful life.

Jennifer serves up a trifecta of funny, insightful, and heartful anecdotes–a recipe for success. Through relatable stories and personal experiences, we learn that divorce doesn’t have to end in disaster. We all know a good marriage takes effort, well, so does a good divorce. And yes, there is such as thing as a “good divorce.” Mixing humor and heart, One Happy Divorce–Hold the Bulls#!t is a delicious slice of reality.

Arden’s Thoughts: Rarely do we get to see inside someone’s messy. Even in self-help relationship books, the messy we’re given is often the clean version of messy. The “my mom’s gonna read this so I better hold back on the 4-letter words and not tell all the nitty-gritty of my sex life” version.

Not Weintraub in One Happy Divorce. From the very first page, I can almost picture myself sitting on her couch, watching her crumble as she realizes her marriage failed, and growing into a different, stronger woman as she realizes she, and her children, will survive this mess.

Through humor and real-talk, our author gives actual strategies and tactics for those experiencing a divorce. From nesting with her ex to cleaning his house because she was bored to learning about dating in the swipe right world, our newly single friends will realize they aren’t alone in their antics while adjusting to their new lives.

An area that sparked particular interest with me was Weintraub’s loneliness. Her married friends didn’t know what to do with her anymore so they bailed. I’ve never been married, but I’ve experienced the same loneliness when friends gets married. I’m suddenly the forbidden friend; the one rarely called even though I came to the showers, bach weekends, rehearsal dinner, and wedding, the moment a couple says “I do” the single friends often get the “I don’t”… don’t wanna grab lunch or dinner, meet for happy hour, or do anything with you… I’ve never really understood this but I’m so used to it I’m numb to it.

However, it pricked at me that Weintraub would experience this same loneliness during such a traumatic time in her life. It left me thinking is that we all need to do better.

I truly believe One Happy Divorce will be a guidebook to helping all of us understand each other a little bit more. If a friend is going through a divorce, offer some grace, a cup of coffee, and this book. Your kindness goes a long way.