I Found My Tribe-a book review

In this memoir Ruth sways from the complexities of her life to the mundane, from acting stoic to distraught, from feeling in control to helpless; we feel what she feels as she navigates her fragile existence, torn between love for her husband but longing for him to be truly present in her life.

I Found My Tribe

a memoir by Ruth Fitzmaurice

According to several definitions, a tribe is a group of people who share a common culture, linked by language, customs, traditions, geography, and often ancestry.

The author, Ruth Fitzmaurice, had two tribes that fit these descriptions. One was her family consisting of her filmmaker husband Simon and their five children. The other was her friends-specifically those friends who share a common culture- women whose husbands have serious chronic, disabling illnesses or injuries.

Her husband Simon Fitzmaurice developed motor neuron disease, called MND in the book. Besides Ireland (the Republic) they also lived in Australia and England before settling permanently in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, on the east coast of Ireland, on the Irish Sea.

Image by Klaus Hausmann from Pixabay

Other Americans may be as ignorant about Irish geography as I am. They will recognize MND by another name, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, the motor neuron disease that bears the name of a famous victim, American baseball player Lou Gehrig.

Tragic Wives Swimming Club

Swimming is one of Ruth’s favorite ways to cope with the stress of caring for her children and husband, and since her friends swim with her, she calls her tribe the Tragic Wives’ Swimming Club. But these are no leisurely swims at the local YWCA. No these are nighttime swims in the cold and choppy waters in an Irish Sea cove at Greystones.

“There is a secret society of the hurt. We harbour pain skilfully under smiles. Observe a subtle strain behind the eyes. A certain tension in the jaw muscles. We gather on a stony beach that may as well be a deserted car park. We swap pain silently like illegal contraband.”

Image by Fred T. from Pixabay

In this memoir Ruth sways from the complexities of her life to the mundane, from acting stoic to distraught, from feeling in control to helpless; we feel what she feels as she navigates her fragile existence, torn between love for her husband but longing for him to be truly present in her life. Even her children say they wish their real dad was there, all the while loving him as he is.

Ruth does not explain the Irish healthcare system which according to my research is a public-private system, different than Americans have. Ruth just tells us about the regular assortment of home health nurses, therapists, social workers , and caregivers assigned to Simon, some of whom more satisfactory than others. In a comparable situation Americans might envy such entitlement, but Ruth makes clear it comes at a cost-loss of privacy and autonomy.

“Illness by its nature is disorderly. A public system swoops in to serve and take good care. Doesn’t it? They are all super nice and speak in loud voices. Meetings are very important to them. …Plans must be written down. It’s called a Care Plan. I may sound bitter but mostly I feel bemused.”

Image by KiraHundeDog from Pixabay

Although Simon died in 2017 (having written his own memoir) , Ruth’s book doesn’t end there, it really doesn’t end. She didn’t tell her story chronologically, because it isn’t so much a narrative as it is a catharsis- how she reacted, felt, and coped with her unexpected life. After reading it, I left wanting to know more about this woman and her family and am glad to know there is more to her story.

“Some good days at the cove start off feeling bad. It’s warmer than we thought and nobody else is here. This beach is ours. We will collect stones for Dadda (Simon). I only wish we could hand the whole cove to Simon so he could put it in his pocket. It starts lashing rain…we are whooping and laughing and climbing and swimming. Sorry souls do what they can to survive, so just go with it. I dare you.”    

Follow this link to watch a video of Ruth, listen to her read from the book, and read an excerpt.

I found my tribe at the cove in Greystones

My house is full of strangers because my husband has motor neuron disease, but my secret all-year swim club saves me

The photos in this post are from Pixabay for illustration only, not affiliated with the author or the book.

I received a complimentary ebook of this title from NetGalley in exchange for reading and writing a review. My reviews also appear on the site as well as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. This blog post has affiliate links.

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Perhaps I will also read Simon’s memoir someday.

It’s Not Yet Dark: A Memoir

a memoir by Simon Fitzmaurice

Despite the loss of almost all motor function, thanks to miraculous technology, he continued to work, raise his five children, and write this astonishing memoir. It’s Not Yet Dark is a journey into a life that, though brutally compromised, was lived more fully than most, revealing the potent power of love, of art, and of the human spirit.

Written using an eye-gaze computer, this is an unforgettable book about relationships and family, about what connects and separates us as people, and, ultimately, about what it means to be alive. (from Amazon)

What is motor neuron disease?

The motor neuron diseases (MNDs) are a group of progressive neurological disorders that destroy motor neurons, the cells that control skeletal muscle activity such as walking, breathing, speaking, and swallowing. This group includes diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, progressive bulbar palsy, primary lateral sclerosis, progressive muscular atrophy, spinal muscular atrophy, Kennedy’s disease, and post-polio syndrome. More information at

Motor Neuron Diseases Factsheet

exploring the HEART of health in books

And please share this post to your friends and followers and invite them to follow too. It’s more fun to explore together.

an open book with pages folded to make a heart

Dr Aletha

Called on account of COVID-19-the sports we won’t be watching this year

“Olympic competition has been canceled only three times in the 124-year history of the modern Games, and all three instances were because of global conflict (1916, World War I; 1940 and 1944, World War II)

Were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic, we would soon be watching the 2020 Summer Olympic games on television or, for some of you, in person.

Dr. Aletha took the photos in this post at the United States Olympic Training Center at Colorado Springs, Colorado in 2015.

By now you know that the the International Olympic Committee and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe jointly announced the postponement of the 2020 Olympics . Now the games are scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8, 2021. The Paralympic Games will occur from August 24 to September 5 ,2021.

“Olympic competition has been canceled only three times in the 124-year history of the modern Games, and all three instances were because of global conflict (1916, World War I; 1940 and 1944, World War II). But never before has a Games been pushed back a year, an enormous undertaking for a global event with more than 11,000 athletes from around the globe. “


And in other sports..

Major league baseball started its shortened season late. Basketball players are practicing in a “bubble” at Walt Disney Resort (where despite quarantine several players have tested positive for COVID-19). The NFL introduced a “mouth shield” for possible use to protect players from infection. Pro soccer teams are playing to empty stadiums where the referees can hear every critical word the players and coaches mutter. No fans are following pro golfers around the greens.

I follow my local pro and amateur sports teams, although there will likely be fewer of those to watch this year also. I admire athletes’ dedication to their sports, and especially those who achieve special recognition by overcoming great odds to get there. 

Water wait 

Reading a recent issue of Sports Illustrated (a rare occurrence) I discovered open-water swimming which I didn’t know was a sport, much less in the Olympics. Ashley Twichell could swim before she could walk.

For thirteen years she has worked to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic swim team and at 31 years old, she would have been the team’s oldest rookie Olympic swimmer  since 1908 , if this summer’s games had not been cancelled.  And next year, at 32, she will be the second oldest woman to ever swim on the U.S. Olympic team.

“I’ve always taken it year by year. And now I get even one more year than I was planning on.”

Ashley Twichell, swimmer

Standard of caring

Hayley Wickenheiser, retired ice hockey player, earned seven world championship golds.   She played for Canada in five Olympics. She won four Gold medals and one Silver medal. She was admitted to the Hockey Hall of Fame. She even played on a Finnish men’s hockey team. She deserves the unofficial title of history’s greatest female hockey player.

Haley sees the coronavirus pandemic from a different perspective; she will soon be Dr. Wickenheiser upon finishing her final year of medical school. She plans to practice emergency medicine.

Hayley serves on the IOC (International Olympic Committee) Athletes’ Commission, a peer-elected board that advises the Olympics’ governing body. In March 2020, she became increasingly concerned about the fate of this year’s Olympic games  as the world became engulfed in the COVID-19 nightmare.

So she took to Twitter demanding the IOC make a definitive plan to give direction to the thousands of athletes in limbo about the games. Her tweets prompted other organizations to make similar demands and by late March the games had been officially cancelled. 

Her concern came not just as an athlete. She said, 

“I couldn’t sit silently anymore, given  what I was seeing in the emergency rooms and hearing from my friends in hospitals across the country.” 

As a student she is not expected or allowed to provide direct care to coronavirus patients. But she stays busy studying, working out, giving hockey tips through Instagram, and using Twitter to encourage social distancing. 

“The calmer we stay, the more we isolate from each other…if we do our part at home and on the front lines, we have a chance to combat this as a mass group of humanity.” 

With Dr. Hayley and her generation of future physicians, I think the world’s health is in good hands.

TOKYO 2020

Fifty-seven years* after having organised the Olympic Games, the Japanese capital will be hosting a Summer edition for the second time. The Games in 1964 radically transformed the country. According to the organizers of the event in 2021, the Games of the XXXII Olympiad of the modern era will be

“the most innovative ever organised, and will rest on three fundamental principles to transform the world:

  • striving for your personal best (achieving your personal best);
  • accepting one another (unity in diversity); and
  • passing on a legacy for the future (connecting to tomorrow)”.
and while you’re here read this post about another historic Olympic event

Winning on the water-a book review of Boys in the Boat

The 2020 Olympics were postponed until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the 1936 games in Berlin Germany are historic for a different reason. And it involves the often ignored sport of rowing.

one more thing

If the title of this post puzzles you, here is an explanation of “called on account of rain”-I didn’t know all of this either.

exploring the HEART of athletes

Thanks for joining me to meet these athletes. I hope you will explore them further and gain new inspiration for your own athletic journeys; we all have one, in one way or another.

Dr Aletha

Click this affiliate link to learn how you can get inspired with Aaptiv workouts for fun and fitness.

find sports illustrated at barnes &noble

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