Meeting Inspiring Authors--this time Gwen Cooper

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Last week was one of those moments where I was counting the days before I headed out to meet someone who I have held in high esteem --a famous figure in her own right.  No she's not a singer, or movie actress. Even better, she's an author.

Christine Michaels & Gwen Cooper

Meeting your favorite author is a highlight in life. For me it's more celebratory than meeting a  TV personality (with exceptions of course).  Their stories, words can move our hearts, enlighten our minds, make us laugh and/or inspire us to improve our lives and those around us.  I consider myself very fortunate to have met the authors of  my favorite books, all non fictional. I have three favorite books. Stolen Lives by Malika Oufkir,
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and now Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper.  The first two are heavy drama material but are inspiring on many levels. Stolen Lives shows both the frailty and iron will of the human spirit. Malika Oufkir survived a desert prison for 20 years. In following a routine and exercising her brain daily to stay sane and alert, Malika escaped with her mother and siblings. This book has taught me to be constantly aware of my surroundings and to think fast and logically under pressure. By accident, I discovered that Malika lived in my condo building and soon I organized an Oprah- style interview in our party room and invited residents.

Greg Mortenson, in Three Cups of Tea is fighting terrorism abroad by building schools and educating girls in a country, Pakistan, that regards them merely above slaves. He made a promise to local villagers who saved him from an accident following a mountain climbing excursion, to return the favor and he did.  Little did Mortenson realize that by educating girls, Pakistanis would regard him as a hero and turn against the Taliban and other terrorists.  Mortenson, in my opinion deserved the Nobel Prize. Instead newly elected US President Obama received the award in 2008. While I have great respect for the Presidency, I am unclear as to his contribution to mankind.

Education is key to many societal ills.  Sometimes throwing millions of dollars to a government run program is less effective than an entrepreneurial program with less funding. Greg Mortenson's schools for girls is proof. I had the honor of meeting Greg in 2010. 

On March 28, 2013 I finally met my third favorite author. Gwen Cooper is a native Miamian  and overturned a taboo subject into a NY Times Bestselling book--a single woman living with three cats.  In the 90's living with more than two cats was frowned upon. But Gwen has a big heart and when the vet asked if she would a adopt a third cat, a blind, black kitten, she shunned society's labels.  Gwen was compassionate, not crazy.

Homer is the blind, black cat and in Homer's Odyssey, Gwen tackles stereotypes and educates readers:

1. about the unique essence of cats; they are not all aloof and scaredy cats
2. that black cats are sweet-natured and extremely intelligent and not bad luck; quite the opposite
3. how blind cats are not entirely handicapped; Homer would freely jump from great heights!
4. that a single woman with more than one cat is not a lonely woman and can lead a healthy, robust life.

My review years ago offers a more in-depth glimpse.

Gwen's book caught my attention the same time I moved into a new development where I discovered many stray cats in the neighborhood. I had heard about stray cats but never lived in a city in "depressed" conditions.  Homer's Odyssey inspired me to continue educating the public about the misconceptions of stray, feral and black cats to save them from becoming road kill or from the doom of the county shelter.

Her book was light-hearted, easy-to-read and made me laugh innumerable times.

And she recently launched "Love Saves the Day", an endearing fictional but enlightening story about an estranged mother and daughter. Hauntingly beautiful, heart touching, and at times painfully raw, this is a story about grief, hope and healing. It’s a story about the importance of memories, and of preserving a part of one’s past. The relationship between mother and daughter is complex but even deep rifts can be mended even after death. The simple presence and unconditional love of a pet, a cat, often like a child,  is greater than love spoken with words.  This book will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

These books collectively have given me the courage to take on a subject that is critically void of awareness and education. But I'm not afraid of a challenge and my mother always taught me to give back. Volunteering and helping others has always been part of my life. I truly believe if each person volunteered weekly or donated to a cause regularly the world would be a much better place.There would be more understanding, empathy, compassion and progress.

Here's to making the world a better place!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


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