Special Report – Project: Happily Ever After

All images in this post courtesy of the Project: Happily Ever After media kit

Back in December of 2010, author Alisa Bowman contacted me via blogger Andi of Misadventures With Andi asking if I would read her soon-to-be-released self-help book, Project: Happily Ever After After — Saving Your Marriage When the Fairytale Falters.

She’d asked if I’d be willing to post a review along with several other bloggers to coincide with the “media blitz” for the book’s official release in mid-January of 2011. I wrote that I would love to! However, I’ve been sitting on this post for more than two months now because life intervened and put some boiling-hot pots on the front burner, and handling those pots took priority over all else in my life. Then recovery from handling those events in my life took priority, and I stalled on writing the review (except for the preview of the review I posted earlier).

Two months later, I am back here to give my thoughts on the book. Better late than never? I hope so. Most of all, my primary motivation  for writing the review instead of just dropping it is my healthy sense of respect for writers and a healthy sense of respect for self — that I will do what I say I will. Writing the review is a psychological hurdle I want to tackle before I will feel the freedom to post anything else on this blog.

So here you go: my Special Report on Alisa Bowman’s Project: Happily Ever After.

What is Project: Happily Ever After?

Author Alisa Bowman

After being contacted by the author, Alisa Bowman (to whom I shall refer as “Alisa” hereafter. Somehow reading about her getting a Brazilian wax and alluding to the fact that she learned how to give a good B.J. — yes, THAT — in the book makes me feel like I can be on a first-name basis with her), it took a little while for the advance copy to get to me in Paris — packages going to and from France have been taking a little longer of late. I finally received the copy a couple of days into the new year, and I eagerly jumped into it because what I’d read in the press information packet that came with the book the book was really captivating:

In Project: Happily Ever After, Alisa Bowman bravely tells the story of how she went from wishing her husband dead to renewing her wedding vows. Her four-month project was a last ditch effort to save a marriage that many — her friends, her colleagues and even her own mother — had written off as hopeless.

Like most people, I like a story with a heroine who has dismal odds against her and who triumphs in the end (which was obviously the case from the title of the book), and this was a real-life story to boot. I had some fears going into it, though. As a twice-divorcée, I wondered if I would feel judgement raining down on my head because of the advice therein. I mean, for those two marriages, reading a book like this could feel a lot like “too little, too late.” I also felt that perhaps the information in the book would be an indictment of how much I have been a failure: that it would tell me that there was so much more I could have and should have done to try to save those relationships. I carry guilt with me that I am twice-divorced (even though I know, much as this book also emphasizes, “it takes two to tango”). Here was a woman that pulled out all the stops to recapture her relationship, even after its slide into the dark abyss of daydreams of funeral services for the man she’d chosen to be her husband and with whom she had a young daughter. Would I feel myself coming up short after reading it?

I’ll admit: while the story was intriguing, and I wanted to know her secrets of how she and her husband renewed their relationship, I was wondering if I would find it helpful or if I would just feel depressed knowing that while the advice might help me in my current relationship, it could do nothing for those divorces I’ve already been through. I resolved to keep an open mind, however, and was looking for reasons to like the book, to be receptive towards it.

I’m here to report that I found the book wonderful to read, and not at all condemning.

Right off the bat, I noted the creativity with which the book is organized. On the Table of Contents page, each chapter title reads as part of a larger fable. It goes like this:

Once upon a time (Chapter One), there lived a fair maiden (Chapter Two),  who met a prince (Chapter Three). She married him, and he turned into a frog (Chapter Four). So she started a project (Chapter Five) to forgive him (Chapter Six), to desire him (Chapter Seven), and feel adored by him (Chapter Eight). Poof! He turned back into a prince… or did he? (Chapter Nine). They learned a common language (Chapter Ten), and they revealed their souls (Chapter Eleven). As a result, they lived happily ever after (most of the time, anyway) (Chapter Twelve). The end (Chapter Thirteen).

Clever, no? And it is a fantastic summary of the book. The reader and educator in me was impressed right at the start with this wonderful and witty way of organizing the book’s information.

And then there was Chapter Four…

I took notes as I read, and in reconstructing my thoughts, I’m going to share a little of what I wrote. As I recall, and as my notes attest, I breezed though the first three chapters. The first chapter kicks off with a total “grabber”: “I knew something was terribly wrong with my marriage when I planned my husband’s funeral.” You think? That’s attention-getting, for sure. After the introductory chapter of just how bad things were in May of 2007, when Alisa’s project to save her marriage begins, the next two chapters jump back to the author’s past and how she came to meet, fall in love with, and marry her husband, Mark. I’m certain the reason that I did not stop to take more notes is that the book straightaway drew me in. The opening chapters read more like a terrific memoir than a “this is how to save your marriage” instruction manual, and I flew through them because they were so well-written.

But what I still remember with much clarity even two months after my first reading is Chapter Four.  My notes say this: “Chapter Four is just f***ed up! I [double underlined] want to divorce the man after Chapter Four.”

I feel like I need to put a little disclaimer here. Alisa writes in her book about how Mark, her husband, read all of the book as it was in progress, and that she had his permission to write about the events she recounted. He cops to everything that is in the book regarding his behavior, and where there were discrepancies between their memories, Alisa is clear to put a “his version versus her version” footnote. (For example, one of the book’s many humorously-written footnotes says the following: “When I wrote this sentence [to which the footnote is referring], I asked my husband, ‘How do you spell numbnut?’ He asked, ‘Are you writing about me again?’ p. 116.) It’s all on the up-and-up as far as I can see for Mark in the entire text. I also understand that later in the book Alisa realizes that she had played a role in making the relationship unhealthy as well, and Alisa acknowledges sensibly that it is never just one person that turns things to crap when it comes to problems in marriage and potential divorce; it does indeed take two to tango.

However. Even now I can remember the kind of feelings I had when reading the events in Chapter Four. They were something along the lines of: “This guy is a total d*ckhead.”

Based on what happened to Alisa and Mark’s relationship, and on the things Mark did, I still have some trouble understanding how Alisa was able to come to the subsequent chapters and eventual re-love for Mark.

Honestly, it is not only a testament to Alisa for having the capacity to dig deep and find the forgiveness, but I also have to give Mark total props for manning up and for his willingness to do what was necessary to work with Alisa to repair what had been broken. I give him even more kudos for being willing to come across as the d*ckhead, to accept and admit where he had been in the wrong, and to move on to a healthy and loving relationship with Alisa. But you really have to read Chapter Four to believe it. I’m sure that divorces have happened because of much less.

Reflecting on the book, I can’t help but think about the famous Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Alisa and Mark really did find that wisdom together, ergo the “happily ever after.”

Happily Ever After (Most of the Time Anyway)

Not that God had a lot to do with the advice in the book. And not that he or she didn’t. But I guess what I am trying to say is that one of the things I truly appreciated about this book was that it was not preachy. It was not holier-than-thou. Not that it was not about physical, mental, and emotional change, something that is a very spiritual act, in my opinion. It was. I just mean to say that there was no defaulting to the attitude or belief that “all you need is God to transform your marriage,” something that I think can be very prevalent in this genre of “relationship rescue.” It is wholeheartedly a secular book with sound psychological and practical advice. Not to say there are not good spiritual principles in the book. In fact, if you really want to cut to the chase, you can buy the book and go straight to the Special Bonus Section at the end which contains an outline of ten key things anyone can do to work on finding a happily ever after for him or herself, things like “Step 1: Find Yourself.” That’s as spiritual an act as anything, I think.

So Who Should Read This Book?

It’s a given that a person whose relationship is in crisis and wants a kind of gauge as to whether or not the relationship is worth saving should read this book.

But I really like what author Pat Love, Ed.D. (Hot Monogamy and How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It) says in the promotional materials I received,

“If you have reached rock bottom in your relationship, read this book. If you want to be inspired, read this book. If you want a good read, read this book. It’s sexy, savvy, and oh so hopeful.”

I agree. It can be for any one of those reasons that someone would like this book. What sticks with me, as I wrote above, was the dynamically-written narrative of Alisa and Mark’s life, as told from Alisa’s point-of-view. The book is not just a self-help title, but much more an autobiography frankly and humorously written, a memoir of meeting, falling in love, falling out of love, and returning to that love. I can think of a lot of people, married or not, gay or straight, male or female that would enjoy such a tale. It very much is also an anthropological snapshot of middle class, North-American, 21st century life. While I know it is not written for the same purposes nor on the same scale, I’m now reading Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom and I see parallels in the stories that are told in each book. The thing that makes Alisa Bowman’s story perhaps more captivating is that it is her real-life love story. And based on what I have read of Freedom so far, I think the characters could have used some of Alisa’s advice, too. (Don’t spoil it for me, though, mmmkay?)

The Modern American Family, Happy

Links, Etc.

If by now you are not sure if you want to read the book, you can “test drive” some of the kinds of advice that is in it by visiting the following links:

There is a bounty of information and resources at both of those links, and I, at the very least, recommend that you take a look at them. Of course I am recommending purchase of the book as well, which you can do here at Amazon, or even better, support your local, independent bookseller and pick up a copy there.

This page (or click on the website’s The Book tab) has sneak peeks of the introduction and Chapter One, also. Scroll down to the bottom.

So what about what I learned? What about the question I had for myself, “Would I feel myself coming up short after reading it?”

Here are a couple of things I got out of it all which speak to what I gained. On page 107, the first page of Chapter Five, Alisa quotes Salvador Minuchin, one of the top family therapists in recent decades:

“All marriages are mistakes that we then spend time repairing.”

I love that line. I know the truth of it, perhaps even more so now that I have the maturity I did not when I married the first time 20 years ago, nor the second time ten years ago. On the brink of a third marriage, understanding the perspective that it’s already a “mistake” but that I can do something about fixing things, gives me a real hope that this time he and I will “make it.”

Then, at the end of the book in the section “10 Steps to Happily Ever After” Alisa herself writes,

Finding your Happily Ever After is a lot like tending a garden. You plant seeds. You water them. You pull out the weeds. You strain your back. You scrape up your knees. You worry about whether there’s been too much sun, too much rain, or too much sun and rain. You curse when the deer eat your strawberries.

You rejoice whenever anything manages to grow.

The you do it all over again. You do it because the one strawberry that made it is worth all of the hard work you put into growing the strawberries that didn’t.

That’s marriage. You work. You work harder. Some of your work pays off. Some of it doesn’t…

(p. 236)

The lovely juxtaposition of this book is how, while the title and organization of the book follow a fable, a fairy-tale, the story and advice communicate the reality that no relationship is weed-free. The reality is that marriage (or any committed relationship) is not magical, is not without work. I have learned, for better or for worse, that indeed we reap what we sow, and that we can be empowered to choose to care of ourselves and not make anyone else responsible for our own happiness. We are our own knights in shining armor.

I could also understand from reading and relating the book to my own situation that not all gardens are going to make it — in fact, according to statistics, not many at all will prosper these days. But if one takes Alisa’s sound advice on “gardening,” on tending our relationships, perhaps we will indeed reap a few berries in the process.

Thoughts? Questions? Feedback of any sort? Feel free to comment below.

Thanks for reading.
(an alien parisienne)

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38 thoughts on “Special Report – Project: Happily Ever After

  1. Carole

    Never enjoyed gardening. 😉

    So, I can only assume her hubby knows how to give good cunninlingus? What’s good for the goose. . .

    • Carole —

      You kill me. 😀 Best Comment Ever! Actually, I would venture to speak for the author of the book that while she did not state directly, keeping things equitable along sexual lines was truly a part of the healing process! She did say that the bikini wax made QUITE a difference. 😉

  2. Kate Boyington

    How Hysterical that her husband’s name is Mark!! I’m sure she was married to my husband once, too. Ha ha ha ha

    • I have yet another friend who mended fences with her husband, also named Mark, about 12 years ago. Ladies, take heed that men named “Mark” may prove to be a challenge!!

      Any “Marks” out there care to defend themselves? I have to say in the cases of the Marks I know of, they really came around, grew up & are in very happy relationships now.

  3. Great review! I’m not a big fan of the self-help genre but it sounds like there is some good advice in this book. One thing I’ve learned from observing other people’s marriages is that you just can’t judge how other people live – what works for them may not work for you, but c’est la vie, eh? I remember years ago that the wife of one of my husband’s colleagues told me how she had morning sickness with their first child and he asked her to keep it down because he was having breakfast (!). I would have left him right then and there, but she thought it was a humorous anecdote about him – so I guess it takes all kinds.

    I totally understand you feelings of failure and shame about former marriages. I had one of my own, a really bad relationship when I was very young, and I didn’t get out sooner because of the whole shame thing – maybe I’ll tell you about it sometime after I move ;). I’ve since realized how much you learn from failure – really I think you can learn more from failure than success sometimes (or at least that’s what I tell myself!)

    • Thank you, Susan!

      I’m kind of with you on the self-help genre: I have to have a pretty good reason to jump into one. I don’t know if this is one I would have naturally gravitated towards, but since I had the chance to read it, I was really glad I did so.

      One thing I’ve learned from observing other people’s marriages is that you just can’t judge how other people live – what works for them may not work for you, but c’est la vie, eh?

      What I really appreciated about Alisa’s book was that she wrote this very thing. That it was her situation & may not work for everyone, but then I could see that she was distilling several reputable sources into her Project, and also based on what people have communicated on her blog project, her advice is sound for most.

      Wow. from that little anecdote you told, it does sound like it takes all kinds, lol. He sounds like a regular a**hole! I wonder if her humor was a cover-up for pain at being with a guy who would have the nerve to say something like that… But, if they are still together and happy, well, more power to ’em!

      Thanks for the empathy re: failure and shame. Once you are here if you want to have some Commiseration Coffee, by all means we’ll set it up. 🙂 And yes: I agree. We do often learn more from failure than success. In fact, I might even venture to say that we almost *always* learn more from failure than success!

      Thank you for the comments, Susan.

  4. one more thing – I really want to commend Alisa and Mark for being so brave in sharing their story! I’m not sure I could ever do that myself, so I’m amazed by their courage.

    • Totally agree with you. They both put themselves out there in a very vulnerable way, and I admire their courage as well. Thanks for saying something about that! I don’t know that I said enough about how they were so brave.

  5. Pingback: Special Report – Project: Happily Ever After « An Alien Parisienne | Adult Society

  6. “All marriages are mistakes that we then spend time repairing.”
    I really like that. I also really like how this book sounds and i’d be interested in reading it. My marriage is very young (almost 3 yrs old) and I have to work on it every single day, often wondering if it’ll even be worth it in “the end” — if we’ll still be together when our son is grown, and if we can make things work. There are a lot of things that i’m not happy with and having a new baby only exaggerates those points. Sometimes though, there’s that thought in the back of my mind: did I make a mistake? Did I choose the right person? Will this last forever? And I think it’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, because as soon as I start thinking that maybe it was all a mistake, I get all nitpicky over the dumbest little details trying to give myself reasons why we won’t work out, when in reality you probably shouldn’t be pulling apart every single little detail if you want your garden to grow.
    I often wonder what other people’s breaking points are.. if what I am experiencing is normal/worth going through (obviously it’ll get better as we become better parents, right??) or if any other sane woman would have already checked out.
    Thanks for sharing your review. It sounds like a great read and I commend the author for having the guts to put her private life out there on the table for everybody to see.

    • Hi Amber!

      Thank you for taking the time to chime in.

      I chuckled ruefully to myself over this:

      There are a lot of things that i’m not happy with and having a new baby only exaggerates those points.

      It is so true that having a dependent baby only sheds a kind of horrible harsh light on any difficulties in a relationship. Then again, it is just this kind of thing that can wear down rough edges and make a relationship stronger as a result. Or it can be one of the factors of a breakup, too — I know.

      Anyway, you know what? I think NOT asking oneself the questions you pose up there also can lead to problems, too. It is just plain hard work to make relationships work, and while it’s true that there could be a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy involved in speculation like you write about, shoving those ideas under the rug also leads nowhere, I think.

      It seems like everyone has his or her own “breaking point,” I think. It’s my opinion that we are all here to learn: perhaps relationships expire when we have gotten all we are going to or need to learn from them.

      Certainly this all begs looking at those larger, navel-gazing kinds of intense questions. The deeper ones. Don’t you think?

      In the meantime; good luck with your situation. 🙂 If it helps any, I think that it seems, based on the relationships of people I know who are at marriage in its early stages and with young kids, a lot of what you expressed is indeed very normal.

      Thank you again for your input, Amber!

  7. Sounds lovely. Now I just wish I could meet a guy and fall in love so everything could go horribly wrong, then I would read this book and all would be well again 🙂

    Fancy doing another review?! Let me know!

    • Hey Res!!

      I chuckled out loud at your comment. 😀 My wish for you is that you find a guy and fall in love and don’t have to go through any of the bullshit that leads to your having to repair a relationship! Seriously! It sucks almost as hard as being single and having no one there to fight with. *sigh*

      I heard a quote on a TV show or movie — in fact, I think it was an episode of “Intervention” — something like: “If I wanted to be lonely I would do it alone.”

      I think the only thing worse than being single and lonely is being in a relationship and being lonely. It’s kind of like an insult to injury, you know?

      Anyway, enough pontificating. I would LOVE to do another review. 🙂 I will let you know!!

  8. Ken

    excellent review. gives context without rewrting the book here (a lazy reviewers technique) and answers how you personally felt about/applied its contents (personal connection is something we all seek in our reading material).

    “All marriages are mistakes that we then spend time repairing.”

    Havng never been married, this makes me wonder why bother, but isn’t the truth for any type of commitment? There is a need that draws us together that is in direct conflict with our needs for individuality.

    “in fact, according to statistics, not many at all will prosper these days”

    “these days”?? Has things changed on an interpersonal level between human beings lately and can we attribute it to anything new in our culture??

    • Hi Ken!

      I am really big on making personal connections with the things I read — of going to that kind of constructivist, “meta-level” of things, which is a fancy way of saying I think that real meaning is only made as we relate ourselves and our lives to what we read. Else, what is the purpose of the whole activity of reading and writing??

      Believe me, there are days when I have asked myself, too, “Why bother?” You bring up a really good paradox, a very human paradox.

      Re: “these days.” Okay, yeah. You know there are “lies, damn lies, and statistics.” I guess relationships have been in crisis since the beginning of time. I guess I was thinking of those divorce-rate statistics. It’s true, though. Nothing new under the sun, huh.

      Thanks for your input, Ken.

  9. I’ve been to her blog a few times and I think she gives very good advice. I like her humor too. I’d love to meet you for coffee one of these days as soon as I surface from all that’s going on right now.

    • Hi Linda!

      Alisa is hilarious! It’s true, I should have worked in there somehow just how much I laughed while reading the book! Thanks for bringing that up.

      Okay — when you surface, we have a coffee date waiting. It would be really nice to finally meet you! We have so many bloggy friends in common. Hang in there with unpacking. I’ll send you a note in just a moment!

  10. Maria O. Russell

    A long time ago, columnist Dorothy Dix said: “There’s no place for total candor in marriage. It is only a great field for diplomacy.”

    By Dorothy Dix

    I have been through the depths of poverty and sickness. When people ask me what has kept me going through the troubles that come to all of us, I always reply: “I stood yesterday. I can stand today. And I will not permit myself to think about what might happen tomorrow.”

    I have known want and struggle and anxiety and despair. I have always had to work beyond the limit of my strength. As I look back upon my life, I see it as a battlefield strewn with the wrecks of dead dreams and broken hopes and shattered illusions-a battle in which I always fought with the odds tremendously against me, and which has left me scarred and bruised and maimed and old before my time.

    I have no pity for myself; no tears to shed over the past and gone sorrows; no envy for the women who have been spared all I have gone through. For I have lived. They only existed. I have drank the cup of life down to its very dregs. They have only sipped the bubbles on top of it.
    I know things they will never know. I see things to which they are blind. It is only the women whose eyes have been

    washed clear with tears who get the broad vision that makes them little sisters to all the world.

    I have learned in the great University of Hard Knocks a philosophy that no woman who has had an

    easy life ever acquires. I have learned to live each day as it comes and not to borrow trouble by

    dreading the morrow. It is the dark menace of the future that makes cowards of us. I put that dread

    from me because experience has taught me that when the time comes that I so fear, the strength and

    wisdom to meet it will be given me. Little annoyances no longer have the power to affect me. After

    you have seen your whole edifice of happiness topple and crash in ruins about you, it never matters to

    you again that a servant forgets to put the doilies under the finger bowls, or the cook spills the soup.

    I have learned not to expect too much of people, and so I can still get happiness out of the friend who

    isn’t quite true to me or the acquaintance who gossips. Above all, I have acquired a sense of humour,

    because there were so many things over which I had either to cry or laugh. And when a woman can

    joke over her troubles instead of having hysterics, nothing can ever hurt her much again. I do not

    regret the hardships I have known, because through them I have touched life at every point I have

    lived. And it was worth the price I had to pay.

    • Hi Maria!

      Thank you for the Dorothy Dix passage you cited. What a good piece. She definitely knew a lot about life and its workings, even more than a century ago. I especially liked this part:

      Above all, I have acquired a sense of humour, because there were so many things over which I had either to cry or laugh. And when a woman can joke over her troubles instead of having hysterics, nothing can ever hurt her much again.”

      Thank you for reading and for the input, Maria!

  11. I would love to read this book … yes I am sure that lots of us have been there .. tried to re-capture our marriage .. 🙂

    • Hi Anne!

      I think anyone who has been married more than 15 minutes (or in a live-in relationship, to keep things real, for more than that amount of time, too) has been there, lol.

      It’s here, on Amazon UK. £13.99.

      As a good start for anyone who maybe can’t afford the book right now, there is a ton of free and good advice on the website. For sure.

      Be well, Anne!

      • Thanks for info Karin ..Marriage is hard work .. especially when hubby is never at home .. always travelling. I have been married twice .. first time 11 years and this time 18… it is always changing, as we get older .. I have certainly had thoughts in the last few years .. like , what am I doing, etc .. but then that could be with the menopause, my new found love of Paris .. etc ♥

  12. Good Review Karin!
    I refer to my first marriage as my “Practice Marriage” I heard that on Gilmore Girls! I think it is a good description for me! First married at 20, I have later read that reasoning finishes developing in the brain at 25! That was certainly when I felt a light bulb go on in my head and then think what am I doing here?!!
    Everyone is different and no one knows what goes on behind another’s closed doors! So, what may be the case for one person may not be the case for another!
    My second marriage is day and night compared to my first. But you have to experience some negativity to know what positive looks like.
    So, really good review!

    • ken

      Don’t forget Amy, that girls develope faster than guys. So while the female brain may finish up developement at 25, guys may take up to twice as long.

      • Ken —

        I guess it is good to hear this from a guy, lol! While men certainly do not hold a monopoly on immaturity past the age of 25, I know that it seems to be quite common that men take a much longer time to “grow up” into adulthood. I am sure there are many reasons for this, social as well as biological, but yeah. I tend to agree…

        But, I don’t know if I am necessarily a proponent of advocating that 50-year-old men marry 25-year-old women because the man is finally “grown up.” While sometimes those May-December relationships seem on the up-and-up, most of them also seem cringe-worthy… 😀

    • Thank you for the comments, Amy! After getting to watch re-runs starting from the first season here in Paris a couple of years ago now (I still have to watch the shows after the 2nd season, though) I finally “get” that show & love it. 🙂 I can just hear Loralei say something like “a practice marriage.” Yeah, some of us need more practice than others, eh? 😉

      It’s true from stats I have seen that the longer one waits to be married, the more success the people have at staying together. Does not mean that it’s problem-free, though, for sure. It’s true, too, that there is no “blanket prescription” for how to handle a marriage/LTR. I liked that the author addressed it by basically saying, “This is what worked for me. It may not work for you. But if I have helped you, then I am happy.”

      Thanks for the props on the review. 🙂

      • Carole

        Practice makes perfect and don’t you forget it! 😉

  13. Wednesday, March 16 —

    Hi everyone!!

    I wound up babysitting for several hours on Monday and Tuesday afternoons — my normal time for writing emails and commenting on blogs, including my own. 🙂 I am here this morning, though, roasting a chicken and cleaning my bathroom in my bathrobe. And getting to replies here. Thank you for your patience in my getting back to you!

  14. Pingback: What Angry Comments Taught Me About Marriage | Project Happily Ever After

  15. Maria O. Russell

    Hi Karin,

    I read many of your posts and I started to worry about your health. Have you tested for a specific type of allergy? Have you tested for diabetics? I’m the daughter of a doctor who spent his entire life healing people for free. Because of his example I abandoned my music studies for a while and went to study nursing for two years. Eventually though I had to go back to my music, but, I still worry a lot about people being sick or bothered by a syndrome.
    Have you been feeling much better lately? I hope so!
    The best for you always,

    • Hi Maria —

      I have not been formally tested for allergies or autoimmune disorders but have markers for/symptoms of both. What I experience is a lot like what is explained in this recent article in the Wall Street Journal: Clues to Gluten Sensitivity (Wall Street Journal Health Section, 3-15-2011)

      I have multiple food intolerances, which I self-diagnosed using a food-elimination then reintroduction diet, noting my symptoms in a food journal (initially — now I kind of know what to look for and I note when and how I have symptoms). As a part of whatever it is that I have, for the past 5 years or so, I have tested as being anemic. It’s been a while since I have been re-tested, though. That’s another of the signs I have that something is not right with how my digestive and immune systems are not cooperating, or, maybe, are cooperating TOO MUCH via a permeable gut. This leads to malabsorption of vitamins and minerals, and leads to secondary health issues… etc.

      I’m doing all right now. Not great. I recently tried to eat rice again, and when I ate it in the form of rice flour, I had a horrible reaction. Mostly I get symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, and I feel like I am coming down with the flu, with swollen glands, a sore throat, lethargy, and headaches. I also have mood-swings, stomach bloating, joint pain — and other various symptoms depending on my hormonal cycle and other things. I’ve never tested positive for diabetes nor hypoglycemia, but I know I have problems with my blood sugar levels and have for years.

      Essentially it is this: as long as I don’t eat foods that cause me regular problems, and as long as I don’t eat foods consistently, such as eating bananas every day as I actually have been doing for the past couple of weeks (whoops — maybe that’s one reason for the daily headaches of late), I feel physically pretty good. I get easily mentally frustrated by the limitations, though.

      While I will eventually get checked out when I have access to the healthcare system here, I also know that traditional French doctors are probably going to say there is nothing wrong with me. For now, I am just trying to manage as best I can and keep my spirits up about it all. 🙂 I hope that medical science and doctors will catch up with people like me who have wonky immune systems: according to the WSJ article, these types of reactions are on the increase, or are increasingly being noticed because of all the recent attention to diseases like Celiac, and because of the obesity and diabetes epidemic in the States.

      Thank you for asking and I am so glad that you had such a caring example in your father!

      Take care, Maria —

  16. Pingback: What People Are Saying About PHEA | Project Happily Ever After

  17. Maria O. Russell

    Hi Karin

    I beg you to trust French doctors! There are more French Nobel Prizes in Medicine than any other country in the world. You don’t know how many American friends of mine have finally gotten the right diagnosis in hospitals all over France. In Strasbourg for example there’s a doctor who is considered the world’s best specialist in Orthopedics and Traumatology. At the American Hospital in Paris my only sister, Eugenia, was finally given the right diagnosis for a heart ailment.

    Even though I have health insurance here in the United States, I also have health insurance in Paraguay, my home country. Why? Because most of the specialist in my Paraguayan insurance were trained in Europe!
    I’m going to quote my father’s favorite “frase” for his patients: Let’s give your sickness a golden bridge, so that it goes away and never comes back” I wish the same for you, Karin.


    • Thank you, Maria! Certainly, I believe there are progressive doctors here in France. I should add that I believe American doctors to be as bad or worse about this issue of food sensitivity and food intolerance. Most still believe it is all in the patients’ heads, just like the WSJ alludes. So by no means is it just French doctors who are not very up-to-date. And not that they are to blame, either: immunology is very cutting-edge, discoveries are being made rapidly and also there is still quite a bit of mystery as to why there are people like me whose immune systems seem to have taken a strange turn into hyperactivity like mine. Most people in my situation have turned to self-diagnosis and care, or to alternative medicine, because traditional medicine continues to fail in large part because no one knows why this exists. Thankfully, information like the WSJ article is getting out to people, and there is a bit of a revolution going on in regards to this. So yeah, I am hopeful that there will eventually be a French doctor I can work with and that science will catch up a bit in this area of immunology, and maybe I will find some help.

      In the meantime, I have to say that the suffering for me is not profound, just really annoying, and yes, it reduces my quality of life to some degree. However, it is also not so handicapping that I cannot go about fairly normally. I guess one thing I worry about is the long-term effects of a limited diet and if my body feels a little like it is failing me at 42, what’s it going to be like at 62? It is something that certainly makes me feel “abnormal” and this is frustrating, but on the other hand, it is teaching me a lot, too. Something like this is a very good life teacher and I appreciate the lessons. 🙂

      I will definitely keep that thought of giving my sickness a golden bridge to cross over somewhere else! I think that above all, the mind plays a huge role in healing, and it’s one of the reasons I try to keep as positive a mindset as possible.

      And coooool! Your homeland is Paraguay!! One of my favorite things from that part of the world is yerba maté. 🙂 It has been a long time since I have had some, and I should try it again very soon. I love the earthy flavor, and the nice energy one gets from it is terrific. I truly hope that someday I can explore Paraguay, and the rest of South America, too. What a dynamic and beautiful place!

      Thanks for the added comments here. 🙂

  18. I don’t know how I missed this post! I have to say I think it is the best review of Alisa’s book hands-down. In fact, you always do the best reviews! I love the one you did for Mademoiselle London too!

    • Hi Andi!! 🙂 Well, obviously you didn’t miss it because you commented! 😉 I could have been more proactive about letting you know about it, too, since I referenced you in the post. No harm, no foul! At all.

      I am so glad that you enjoyed the review! I really do try to put a lot of heart and soul into the reviews — I try to be as authentic as I can about my own interaction and/or transaction with the book, so it is good to know that is working for me. To me, reading books is a “transactional” process. There is always an exchange going on, and I am changed or influenced by what I read. So I try to capture how that process works & include as much as I can about this process in the piece.

      Thank you for checking out the post and for commenting about it! I appreciate it a lot.

  19. I came to see how you were getting along and saw the title of the book. I don’t think I’ll need it. I have been married now, let’s see, in June it will be 44 years, so it’s a bit late to get a self-help book. From the start I told my husband to be that if I married him and stayed in the US, then I would have to go back to France, often. He said OK. He had his interests, and I had mine and my trips – but we were very close. I came back to France at first once a year then twice a year for at least 35 years (that’s a lot of trip to Paris…) and made other trips too, alone. Now that we are both retired, we travel together. It has worked, so far (44 years plus 3 years living together first.)

    • Hi Vagabonde! You made me laugh here:

      I don’t think I’ll need it. I have been married now, let’s see, in June it will be 44 years, so it’s a bit late to get a self-help book.

      😀 You know, sounds like maybe you would have a bit or two of advice that you could write in your own book on this topic! Forty-four (47 total) years is a true achievement.

      Actually, it sounds like one of the secrets of your success has been having good boundaries, your own interests, and a healthy sense of agreement through compromise. I’m glad that it worked for you both. 🙂

      Thank you for taking the time to read, Vagabonde, and I hope to see you again soon. Take care!

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