Common Stones
Common Stones
A glimpse into several different worlds, in an effort to become more acquainted with our own
Perfect Bound Softcover
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Have you ever awakened from a restless night of sleep and just couldn't do it-you couldn't wear that mask another day, acting as though everything were "okay." Could anyone possibly understand what you were going through? Or are you on the other side of that coin? Times are tough, though you know people have survived worse. But how do others overcome staggering mountains and valleys? What we wouldn't give to absorb their wisdom.

Author Alicia M. Smith sought answers to the questions shared above, questions occupying real estate within the shadows of our minds. Her quest was to speak with said people. Those who understood the struggle and the loneliness-but who could also share their stepping stones toward higher ground.

The moments shared by these individuals are humbling, to say the least:

A life-altering car accident

A woman's quest to escape addiction and life under a bridge

A nurtured passion, years of hard work and memories, stolen by Hurricane Katrina

A late-night phone call, notifying a woman that the police may have found her husband's body

A vision bestowed on a man, moving him and others to walk away from safety and toward the unknown

How do these anecdotes apply to you? Are there common denominators? Or are we all separated by our own circumstances and experiences? The lessons gleaned from these testimonies are invaluable-sparks of hope demanding to extinguish the shadows.

"The essays themselves are tightly paced and engaging....Inspirational without being patronizing; a well-organized collection."

-Kirkus Reviews

Chapter 2 My Story Making the Choice "I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars." Og Mandino

I was slowly crumbling, falling apart on the hospital's cold bathroom floor, struggling to regain my composure to discuss the test results. My soon-to-be father-in-law, one of the hospital's surgeons, met my sister and me in the lobby, graciously offering to walk us through what we were viewing on the glowing MRI image. My family and I had just barely made it home from a treacherous vacation in the Dominican Republic-and believe me, I never thought I'd place the words "vacation," "Dominican Republic," and "treacherous" together in the same sentence. However, after witnessing Dad's belligerent, out-of-character outbursts, in addition to his chronic headaches and near-falls to the ground, treacherous it was. Something was very wrong, and whatever that was, it wasn't an ordinary illness. And so we were back in Michigan, hearing the details behind our dreaded nightmare. A shotgun sounded, signaling the start to an unforeseen race, as we desperately struggled to make out the finish line.

Allow Me to Introduce You From June 1968 to April 1970, my father, Dr. Daniel C. Gramzow, served as an SP5 Sergeant Fifth Class in Preventive Medicine during the Vietnam War. After he returned to the States, he married my mother, raised four daughters, and continued his career as a chiropractor in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. He was hard-working, honest, forgiving, and his heart was as big as they come. His lovable qualities and talents were endless, including his random whistling bouts, his mouth-watering pasta with prosciutto and asparagus, and his tendency to hide Oreos in a bowl of broken graham crackers with the hope of avoiding an "eating healthy" lecture from one of his girls. Dad's positive influence was always within reach. My sisters and I would pile in our van after an event, eager to discuss what had taken place. "Did you see that? I can't believe he did that!" one of us would spout.

As the banter continued, Dad drove silently. He wouldn't utter a word, and yet, by not engaging in the conversation, he was sending the loudest message possible: What is the point of this conversation? Is it positive? No? Then let's talk about something else. Dad fully invested himself in his office-mind and body-five long days each week. From time to time, a patient would humbly admit that he could no longer afford Dad's care. Upon due-diligent consideration, Dad would do his best to provide care for the person in need, despite the appropriate payment plan. Unexpected kindness-a true gift. Not to mention, yet another lesson Dad's vigilant daughters absorbed like sponges.

* * *

That agonizing day, January 10, 2007, my father was diagnosed with brain cancer-Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM)-classified by the National Brain Tumor Society as the "deadliest of malignant primary brain tumors in adults." My sister and I stared in disbelief at the MRI, revealing the detestable mass overtaking a quarter of our father's brain, quickly spreading to the remaining quadrants. It's horrifically surreal, and yet astonishing how much life can change in twenty-four hours. Even in a week. Just two weeks earlier we were celebrating Dad's birthday on Christmas Day. Now we were struggling to get him to his next one.

Revelations At that stage in my life, most of my time was devoted to research. It was not only innate within me, but the core of my educational studies. I investigated everything, wanting to know the "why" behind any unknown, or at least the variables that played a role in supporting or opposing a concept. I needed to determine what had caused my dad's illness. What could have possibly played a part in such an extreme and sudden diagnosis besides the typical statistical odds of acquiring cancer? This didn't appear to be just any cancer. A missing puzzle piece had to exist. Knowing wouldn't necessarily change Dad's prognosis, but when you're up against an elusive ghost, anything tangible can provide even the slightest bit of clarity as to what you're fighting and why. Research and statistics are not the end-all be-all. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't arm ourselves with knowledge at every opportunity. I sat on the floor in the living room of my parents' house, trusty laptop in hand, digging into any and all factors within Dad's life that could have imprinted his road, leading him to this location. I shouted possibilities to my mom in the kitchen, "Maybe it was this ... maybe it was that .... Here are the odds that this may have played a part ...." Mom inched around the corner, peering at me through the entryway. With slight hesitation, she asked, "Alicia, have you ever heard of Agent Orange?" I was about to be enlightened. The alleged assumption exists that my father's malignancy was a direct result of exposure to Agent Orange, a defoliant (containing small amounts of dioxin) that the U.S. armed forces used for herbicidal warfare during the Vietnam War . My mind and heart raced. "Mom ... you have got to be kidding me." Dad had known; he had known that this could one day be in his deck of cards.

* * *

You can imagine the tidal wave of emotions that ensued. To watch Dad's endless symptoms as the tumor progressed was absolutely agonizing: excruciating headaches, loss of balance, and eventually the use of his limbs and speech. Not to mention behavioral anomalies emerging like a curve ball when we least expected it. The result of putting pressure on particular locations within the brain is astounding and yet haunting. My father, the man I'd known all my life, occasionally possessed the characteristics of a complete stranger.

Alicia M. Smith grew up in the suburbs of her beloved Detroit, MI, but in 2008, Nashville, TN, captured her heart. She resides there with her husband, Ryan, and ball-crazy Welsh corgi, Bagel. Though, wherever these two are-home truly is. Alicia is a writer and Special Project Consultant. She also enjoys blogging on topics revolving around finding calm (and God) in life's chaos. Her passion, simply put, is helping others ... in any capacity. Alicia empowers others to not only believe in their strength from within, but also the strength bestowed from above.

Truly amazing. I couldn't put it down. "Common Stones" is a profoundly inspirational group of true stories that teach us to embrace our struggles and learn from them. I was deeply moved & would recommend this book to anyone.
"Christian-themed first-person accounts on loss and redemption.

One man was grievously injured in an auto accident. A married man with two children lost his 10,000-square-foot restaurant and beautiful beachside home in Hurricane Katrina. A young woman’s father died of brain cancer. Their tragedies, which were recorded by debut author Smith, are slightly softened by their unshakeable faith in God’s “ultimate plan.” This faith, and the refusal to let tragedy reign, informs the entire collection. The title refers to how people share the same set of steppingstones through a difficult situation, primarily by placing their faith in God and the notion that it will all work out somehow (although hard work, persistence, and a lack of fear of government agencies play big roles, too). Quotes by historical figures, including Ralph Waldo Emerson (“God enters by a private door into every individual”), and chapter-by-chapter review questions offer readers the chance to get outside perspective as well as write down their “steps.” These steps include “notice the mistakes,” “honor your responsibilities,” and “live up to your word.” Although the book’s tone is serious, there are flashes of humor: the man who lost his restaurant and struggled to collect insurance on his decimated properties ends up inventing the “FEMA martini—’cause it takes a while to hit’cha!” The essays themselves are tightly paced and engaging. Death, loss, betrayal, illness—nothing can keep these people from embracing forgiveness and the will to keep going. Whether stranded along the Gulf Coast or facing difficulties in the plains, in early adulthood or much later along in life, the subjects in this collection offer their own reflections on how to transform a disaster into a personal triumph."

Inspirational without being patronizing; a well-organized collection.
Kirkus Reviews 
“Alicia is faithful in her writing and in her work. She has been a great friend to Thistle Farms and her reflections on Penny bring her back to life for me! It is good to be heard and it is a gift to be able to share what you hear with grace. Alicia has done both.”
Becca Stevens, Founder of the Magdalene program & Thistle Farms 
Common Stones is an inspiring collection that will forever have a lure on readers worldwide. In Common Stones, readers will be able to easily connect with each story and relate it to their own life’s struggles. Every day, we all face some kind of obstacles. Some of us face more than others. But, by reading each page in this well-written book, we can find hope and a sense of calm for our own future and the present moment in which we’re at.
The organization of this valuable reading material is amazing. Common Stones is set up into three main sections that introduces readers to what’s at hand, then sets them on to testimonials, as well as an area of reflection. Each section sends readers into deep, thought-provoking sessions. Anyone can read this collection anytime and anywhere. It’s easy to read and follow along. Each story gives readers a tiny gift that they can take with them and carry with them for a lifetime. Not many nonfiction books can offer that to readers everywhere. I loved how each story was unique and had a different scenario. The variety gives readers a bigger grasp on what happens to others and how we can overcome such feats. Struggles are hard, however, Alicia M. Smith not only tells but shows readers how to overcome these harsh barriers in life that pop up. Many of these stories have lessons that we can learn, no matter how young or old we are. I loved reading this powerful book and it’s a handy tool to keep around for when life does pull the rug from under our feet we can come back to Common Stones and remember that we are not alone and that we can survive. Overall, I highly recommend this brilliant read to readers worldwide.
San Francisco Book Review 
A tragic car accident. A life controlled by addiction. Total devastation. Loss of a loved one. Making the possible out of what seems impossible. People all around the world from all walks of life face obstacles and adversity every day. However, life is not only about the struggle but how one faces it and hopefully prevails. Common Stones, by Alicia M. Smith, invites readers to take a look at the lives several people, as well as her own, who have faced struggles and shares how they managed to find their way through to the other side. Common Stones is a perfect title for this book as readers will find that as different as the people in the book are to each other and to the readers themselves there is a “common stone” to be found.
Common Stones is a very well-written inspirational book that offers not only experiences but times for self-reflection as well. Full of theme appropriate and poignant quotes, as well as Bible verses from scripture, Smith allows readers to not simply read another person’s story but rather to see that through another’s struggles they may be able to find something that can help them through their own difficult time. Some may shy away from this book due to the heavy presence of Christianity through Bible verses and each person’s strong belief and reliance upon their faith through their struggles. However, that would be unfortunate because while these particular people turned to their God and Lord Jesus to find their way, author Alicia M. Smith has written a book that is about more than just religion. She has written a book about finding a way to heal what is broken, find hope when it seems all is lost and to have faith whether it be in something greater or simply in yourself. In a world that seems to focus on how different people are this inspirational book full of life-changing quotes and stories shows us that in the end surviving it all comes down to one common stone.
Manhattan Book Review 

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