Booking it

Truly one of the best activities of summer is reading for me. Traveling is fun too but sometimes that involves so much effort to get ready for the trip (planning the trip, making reservations for everywhere you are going or doing, deciding what to pack, packing, getting the family ready … all of that for you and your family too — I am exhausted just thinking about it with little ones in tow), the time to get to where you are going, the unpacking when you get there, the getting in line for the attractions or sightseeing. Okay, yeah enough of that. They are what memories are made of and although it took effort, I wouldn’t trade any of those. I do recall the lazy days of summer including the fun of days when we weren’t traveling with our children and they had their Summer Reading Lists. I had my various Summer Reading Lists from the local library or Oprah’s magazine or suggestions from friends. When the kids were playing outside or doing their reading or attending a summer camp, and I had an afternoon to chill, the order of the day was “Booking It.”

So, thanks to several friends and one of my daughters, I am happy to share with you for this week’s Blog, some suggestions for you to “Book It” for your Summer Reading List. Some of these I have read and some I will be including in my Summer 2017 reading. There literally were so many reading lists that I came across as I was researching for this blog that there is no way that you can’t find something you would like.

First up, 10 books read by Chantal James for Pulchram Press’ Summer Reading suggested list: https://www.pulchrampress.com/single-post/2017/06/06/One-Time-for-Your-Mind-Books-of-Courage-for-Summer-2017. Some of you may know that Pulchram Press is a fairly new small book publishing company that is being launched, it’s tag line is “Seeing beautiful books come to life.” Sounds like a cool way to spend the summer. Chantal’s reading list has 10 great suggestions for several age ranges and includes a book by Toni Morrison, “A Mercy“, “I’m Judging You” by Luvvie Ajayi (winner of 2017 AABMC non-fiction book award) a book of poetry, a book for young adults by Madeline L’Engle. One of her book suggestions focuses on how imagination and creativity makes humans exceptional and even gives thoughts / perspectives on living on this planet that are quite timely in light of the President’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional by Augustin Fuentes.

Chantal has included the intriguing, Memoirs of A Dutiful Daughter  by Simone de Beauvoir, which she describes in her review: “This book is written by someone whose life is well known, so the joy is not so much in finding out what happens but in finding out how it happens. Here Beauvoir is sowing the seeds that will blossom into a full-fledged love affair with the life of the mind and the desire to be unfettered by any constraints in pursuit of it, least of all the fact of being a woman.” Check out the full list of 10 books included on her Summer Reading List at the above link.

Summer reading suggestions from Kellye Patrice, a fun librarian at the Riviera Beach Community Library in Anne Arundel County. She has read some fun books lately, including some that may have started out slow but then revved up her attention. Those of you who know me well know that I get much wisdom from Oprah and Maya Angelou so it gave me sheer joy to see that two books on Kellye’s summer lists were What I Know For Sure by Oprah and Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou. I have both of these and enjoyed them. If you could squeeze wisdom for life into just two books that you would want to pass along to your kids, consider these books.

Others on Kellye’s list include: The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Now who would think that a manuscript from 500 B.C.E. would still have relevance in 2017. But for sure this does. One review describes this as: “perhaps the most prestigious and influential book of strategy in the world, as eagerly studied in Asia by modern politicians and executives as it has been by military leaders since ancient times. As a study of the anatomy of organizations in conflict, The Art of War applies to competition and conflict in general, on every level from the interpersonal to the international. Its aim is invincibility, victory without battle, and unassailable strength through understanding the physics, politics, and psychology of conflict.” I say go for it … this might be useful in work and in balancing work and life.

A few books that might be good for the beach while the kids or dogs romp and play: His Third Wife by Grace Octavia, The Other Woman by Eric Jerome Dickey, Kindred by Octavia Butler and The Known World by Edward P. Jones.

Three books that I am planning to explore this summer are very different but have a common thread that reflect what is going on in the America we are living in today. They may not seem like light summer reading but summer is also a time for enlightenment and re-charging the batteries so I am including them on the list. They are all included in O Magazine’s list of 20 Books of Summer in its July issue. Daring to Drive by Manal Al-Sharif describes a journey of a young woman from Saudi Arabia who just wanted to encourage women to drive, self described as the Saudi Rosa Parks, fighting for human rights beginning with the simple task of a woman being able to drive a car.

Senator Al Franken has evolved into the conscience of the Senate, in my view far more than Bernie Sanders and with a sense of humor that some seem to forget how serious he is actually being when he slaps Jeff Sessions for his stupidity. His memoir, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, promotes democracy and defends progressive government at a time when the far-right seems to have convinced voters that too much government means we should allow 23 million people to be kicked off their insurance and cut $800 billion out of Medicaid. He used to be a comic on SNL and now he is progressive, outspoken voice for truth.

The Hate U Give is written by a young voice, Angie Thomas, a 29 year-old who experienced the killings of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and thought they were people she could have grown up with. Her book is written from the perspective of Starr, a 16 year-old who witnesses the fatal shooting of a childhood friend at the hands of a police officer. Her friend was unarmed. Starr struggles with what to do and how it will impact her community.

Several other books are included in the O magazine issue, pick it up and see what else might be of interest. Lastly, the New York Times recently published a column with book recommendations from novelists who own bookstores. I thought that is an interesting perspective. Here’s a link to that article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/25/books/summer-reading-recommendations-from-6-novelists-who-own-bookstores.html. You might find a good read from their list.

I hope your summer will carve out some time to enjoy several good books. To me, that is a summer ritual. Reading expands the mind, relaxes the mind and enriches the mind. You can go anywhere you want to go through the pages of a book. Several studies have shown a resurgence in books, physical books. E-readers were introduced and some publishers thought people would stop buying paperbacks and hardcovers. They were wrong. Amazon just opened a physical bookstore in New York City. The grand opening was grand. People still like holding a book in their hand. But however you choose to get your book, read. It’s a great escape. Booking it can make your summer.

Summer breeze, makes me feel fine …

June is here and school is already out for many will be out soon for the rest of the students. What is your favorite summer past time? Taking vacation. Attending a convention or conference. Going to the beach. Reading from a list of great summer reads. Traveling the US parks or Europe or the Caribbean. Are you going to a family reunion? Oh, there are so many wonderful things to do for summer. One quite sure thing to do is reconnect with yourself.

Find time to sit in the shade on the ground or in a hammock and feel the summer breeze. The Isley Brothers have a song titled, Summer Breeze, that includes a refrain “Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind. Sweet days of summer, the jasmine’s in bloom….”

As you get ready for that summer breeze to make you feel fine, you certainly want to look fine. Maybe you are watching what you eat so you can fit in that new bikini or swim trunks without the muffin top spilling over. Ahh, that late winter / spring splurge  might be the ruin of the start of summer with its extra five or so pounds. Well, you might want to consider ginger. Yep, ginger. There was an article in TIME magazine about the health benefits of ginger that now show ginger helps with fat burning, carbohydrate digestion and insulin secretion. It was already established that ginger helps as anti-inflammatory, lowers cholesterol and lowers blood pressure but now it can help you get into those skinny summer capri pants too. You can view the article at this link: http://time.com/4787027/ginger-body-fat-obesity/ . Consuming ginger can help with calorie burn and reduce feelings of hunger.

Another TIME article covers some ways to rev up your metabolism: http://time.com/4797839/boost-metabolism-exercise-sleep/. Some very simple steps such as eat protein in the morning and afternoon. Believe it or not, the article suggests eating a snack before bedtime … who knew? Another suggestion is go to bed early, a good night’s rest is not overrated for sure. Not having enough sleep has been talked about for years because of its impact on weight retention. Go to bed, it’s not worth that late movie … but if the Warriors are playing the Cavaliers and the game goes into overtime then all bets are off for going to bed early.

The point here is to get body-ready for summer. I see some people invest in clothing and accessories for their summer vacations and their bodies are out of shape. Invest the same effort and energy in yourself as you do in what you buy to carry with you for your trip. It would be ideal if you had started when I blogged about it several months ago but at least go for it now.

Two weeks ago, I mentioned that I was going to take a couple days to chill out and do some reading and sip some tea. Those are two of my favorite things to in the summer. Reading is enriching and summers are great enrichment periods. Tea is calming and relaxing so good for getting you into a summer mood. Now, I am not a consumer of alcoholic drinks but I guess those can also be on your list for chilling for the summer. I just can’t give you the recommendations for them. Call my hubby for a good red or white wine.

Next week, I plan to share a summer reading list. I would love for you to give me your favorite books for summer, books you have read this year that you recommend, books that others have shared that you are planning to read.

Summer is such a chill time. I hope you will do something fun. See family. Spend extra time with family. Get away from the office for two weeks … Americans historically don’t use all of their vacation days. Instead of being available 24/7, block off time that you won’t check your email and stick to it. Give your kids undivided attention, for real. Seriously. Leave your phone in the living room over night instead of by your bed. Get out of the kitchen, pick up some shrimp and steaks and fire up the grill for dinner along with a summer fruit or mixed green salad. Summer is good for eating light too, forget about the heavy meals.

I can almost feel the summer breeze on my skin because I am so ready for it. Last summer seems like a lifetime ago, actually January 20th feels like a decade ago. Mini vacations are good these days to do self-care. The longer daylight is just begging for some lollygagging time. Get your body ready. I will have a reading list for you soon. Plan your trip. Take off the time. Open your windows on your car and let the summer breeze in.

Cool beans before there was cool

Before there was cool Barack Obama, there was cool John F Kennedy. Before there was cool Michelle Obama, there was cool Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Before Barack Obama was elected as President at the age of 47, JFK was elected the youngest President at the age of 43. I was just a babe but I grew up with the legend of the US version of Camelot, the Presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and the First Lady with a style of her own, a soft voice and shoulders that carried a nation after his assassination.

May 29th marked what would have been the 100th birthday of John F Kennedy. His daughter, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, her daughters & son and the JFK Library produced a short video giving thoughts & reflections on this milestone: https://youtu.be/Hlz355SxDOE.

Would it surprise you to know that JFK planned to be a writer or teacher? I think most of us can’t imagine that. I certainly can only see him as the President that he became. He had so much to give in that role. He was instrumental in our journey to outer space and our journey to civil rights. His assassination left much of the civil rights activities to be completed by President Lyndon Johnson but he advanced its beginning. But, how many of you knew that he was behind the effort to get the Washington Redskins NFL team to finally integrate. The Washington Post published a brief but insightful article on his legacy that included this tidbit: http://wapo.st/2qMIZhw?tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.e936528c9c19.

A new collection of essays was published at the beginning of May in honor of the centennial birthday of President Kennedy, JFK: A Vision for America. It is authored by his nephew Stephen Kennedy Smith and Douglas Brinkley. One of the things that is interesting about this compilation is that it includes speeches from his time as a Senator. The book has received excellent reviews and is noted to have “thought-provoking, inspiring and eloquent insights.” It includes speeches and essays from today’s leaders on JFK’s life that relate how his life and legacy is still relevant today. As I reflect on the eight years of President Obama and all that he did, I can also look back on the short three years of President Kennedy and see what real leadership looked like. Particularly as we have endured these four months of bad leadership. At least we know what a good President looked like. I am putting JFK: A Vision for America on my summer reading list, consider it for yours.

The book includes a 1960 campaign speech on religious tolerance. That certainly is relevant today given the current occupant of the oval office and his hateful executive order banning Muslim and Syrian immigrants. During his campaign, many tried to make an issue out of his religion, particularly Republicans. But, he implored the nation to see him not as the first Catholic President but a President who happened to be Catholic. We need that same understanding in 2017. It was JFK and Catholicism in 1960. It has been Trump and Muslims in 2016 and 2017. It will be something else in another year if we don’t understand tolerance is needed for all. If they come for your neighbor in the morning and you are silent, you need to worry if they will be back for you in the night.

The current occupant has had a theme of “America First”. The new book reminds us of JFK’s belief in diplomacy, which interestingly is quite similar to President Obama, and how he had a vision of an internationalist America where our country clearly had a role in the world to advance peace, cooperation and avoid militarism. Interesting similarities to today’s times indeed.

JFK had a broad respect for the press and was known for his embrace of reporters. He was amused by them, befriended them. He showed coolness, used wit and had a willingness to hold regular news conferences that actually cultivated friendly relationships (some say he “charmed” the press to the point that they overlooked his womanizing transgressions). His news conferences were televised and with the early use of television in 1960, he grabbed this new medium as an effective direct communication. He did not shy away from being accessible. Another stark contrast from today’s current occupant of the oval office who hides behind the medium of Twitter.

An article in the Washington Post (http://wapo.st/2pOyDKU?tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.9c43db50888a) that contrasts the current presidency with JFK’s, notes that a  large reason for JFK’s success is that he came across as being believable. From the beginning lie about the inauguration crowd size, the current occupant of the oval office has been the absolute opposite of believable. He has no credibility because he lies every day.

I didn’t know until recently that JFK was actually a journalist himself at the age of 28 for Hearst newspaper. He learned the business and thought journalists were “well-informed, even intellectual.” Ben Bradlee, who was publisher of the Washington Post said, “Kennedy himself genuinely like reporters.” “JFK understood the crucial role of a vigorous free press in a democracy and liked to point out the absence of journalistic freedom in the Soviet Union.” Such a significant difference from what we are experiencing but a lesson we can learn about real leadership.

Some quotes from JFK that inspire me and give me hope:
“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
“The stories of past courage…can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.”

“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”

“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”

  <!– [if lt IE 7]>/common/js/jq-png-min.js<![endif]–> “Acting on our own, by ourselves, we cannot establish justice throughout the world; we cannot insure its domestic tranquility, or provide for its common defense, or promote its general welfare, or secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. But joined with other free nations, we can do all this and more. We can assist the developing nations to throw off the yoke of poverty. We can balance our worldwide trade and payments at the highest possible level of growth. We can mount a deterrent powerful enough to deter any aggression. And ultimately we can help to achieve a world of law and free choice, banishing the world of war and coercion.”

From a commencement address at American University in June 1963: “I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary rational end of rational men. I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war–and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.”
“Our problems are man-made–therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable–and we believe they can do it again.”
“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”
So, on this 100th commemoration of the birth of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States of America, I salute and thank him. I feel nostalgic for good leadership like that. I feel grateful for good Presidents like him and President Barack Obama. At least we have them to look to and know that we had Presidents like them. One day, we will again. Until then, we have no more urgent task than to speak out but at least we know what cool looks like. Cool was JFK. Cool was Obama. To them I say, cool beans.

I am going nowhere

Interesting for me to say that “I am going nowhere”. In the corporate world that I worked in for 34 years, those words would be the last words imaginable. In business, you might cringe if someone said that about your company’s prospects. I venture to guess that most wouldn’t want that label associated with them personally for even a minute. But, consider for a moment that going nowhere might be a path to sanity.

There is a book from a TED talk by Pico Iyer titled, “The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere“. I got this book about a year or so ago and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The introduction is named, “Going Nowhere” and the first chapter is “Passage to Nowhere”.  It’s a very small book and a quick read, just 74 pages. Every chapter is awesomely thought-provoking, full of nuggets of wisdom and will calm you by reading it but most certainly by practicing some of the ideas / techniques listed in the book. It’s a book that is perfect for 2017 and the times we are experiencing although it was published in 2014.

Essentially Pico Iyer says, “Going nowhere is a way of cutting through the noise and finding fresh time and energy to share with others.” “More and more of us feel like emergency-room physicians, permanently on call, required to heal ourselves but unable to find the prescription for all the clutter on our desk.”

“…stillness is really a way of talking about clarity and sanity and the joys that endure.”

“…an invitation to the adventure of going nowhere.”

My mother used to say a quote to me and I only recently realized it was from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

Pico writes that so much of our lives takes place in our heads so we can benefit from being still, doing nothing, literally going nowhere to find sanity and clarity.

I have had a whirlwind busy 9 days and will have another two days of busy-stuff for the beginning of this week. But on Thursday of this week, I am going nowhere. I am going to re-read this book and sit. I am going to inhale deeply and exhale slowly. I am going to be still. I am going to take great pleasure in one to two days of nothingness. The next issue of Oprah’s magazine arrived while I was out of town, it needs to be read. Today, the next issue of Essence magazine arrived, it needs to be read. Both will require at least two cups of tea steeped slowly and then drizzled with honey. And, for some moments I won’t read at all. I will sit still.

“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow.” In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.” 

“The deeper blessing of sitting still … going nowhere … is that it can get you as wide-awake, exhilarated, and pumping-hearted as when you are in love.”

Mothers …the hummingbirds within us

My mother was a wise woman. She was also very kind and very generous. In my life experience, she was the kindest and most generous person that I knew personally. She always saw the good in each person. It was extremely rare to hear her talk negatively about someone. If ever you heard her speak about someone in a negative way, you had better believe that person had taken a major wrong turn and landed on the bad side of town to have crossed Vivian Rouson. It took a lot to make that list and very few did.

She gave of her time, talent and treasure. She literally would give the shirt off her back, her shoes and the last dime in her purse to anyone who was in need. She gave birth to five children but was the mother to more than any of us can count because she opened her heart to so many.

We just finished celebrating Mother’s Day in the U.S. As a side note, that commemoration is celebrated on other days in other countries. It was interesting for me when I used to travel internationally for work to realize that despite our parochial view that the world rises and sets on the United States of America, other countries do exist and have different holidays than us /US. Sometimes we tend to be too US-focused and that approach can lead us to miss out sensitivities and understandings which can add value to who we are as a country. That might sound a bit odd but we enhance our country by being open to sharing and learning from other countries. Everything that is good wasn’t invented here and every person who can contribute to our greatness may not have been born here. My mother appreciated the value of each person no matter where they came from, what they looked like, what hue their skin color had, how broad their lips were or if they possessed a college degree.

Well back to other parts of my mother’s wisdom. Her favorite symbol was a hummingbird. She loved the hummingbird because she believed it defied logic in being able to fly. It’s body was really too big said scientists. “They flap their wings about 80 times per second, so fast it makes a humming sound. They can fly right, left, up, down, backwards, and even upside down.  They can hover by flapping their wings in a figure-8 pattern. They have a specialized long and tapered bill to obtain nectar from the very center of the flower.”

My mother was a teacher and additionally became a newspaper columnist. She published a small book in 1980 that was a collection of reprints from a newspaper column that she had in the 1970s in the St. Petersburg Times and Palm Beach Post.  The title came from one of those columns, The Hummingbird Within Us. I am going to post that column in its entirety for my blog this week. She died in December 2012 at the age of 83. Mother’s Day may be over but a mother’s wisdom is valuable every day.

The Hummingbird Within Us by Vivian Reissland Rouson, B.A., M.S. (printed in 1980,  dedicated to her “very special spouse, Willie Ervin Rouson, Ph.D. and her children”)

Trust yourself, that’s what I say. Feel confused sometimes, or jealous, sad, quarrelsome, dumb? That’s okay. Just remember you are, also, sometimes generous, pleasant, perceptive and witty.

People are that way, unique only in their individual mixtures of what society generalizes into “good” and “bad” characteristics. Nobody is all one way or the other.

If the people or conditions around you add to your feelings of inadequacy or become an uncomfortable mold for the feelings you enjoy, create your own climate for growth. I work at this by trusting my gut level instincts.

A young minister I know calls it “futuring”. He says it’s actually participating in your future now. I would add that it means to refuse to wallow in self-defamation, blocking God’s influence on my life, but to consciously create “spirit” within my community of one and to help it grow by sharing it with anyone I find receptive.

Like the commercial, I “shout it out” when confusion, doubt or worry intrudes. Then, I choose some concrete goal that maximizes the actuality of my potential without too much initial concern about theories and methods. I just start DOING what my best judgment dictates.

It helps to remember the little hummingbird winging through the air while experts ponder why it shouldn’t be able to fly.

I’ve learned that very many decisions, convictions and goals do not have to be lifelong. I give myself permission to change. And as I cope, great and beautiful things happen even amid disappointments.

I like to think: Trust your instincts. God created them; so they’re not just a pile of junk. Table confusions, doubts, pressures. Pursue some concrete, positive actions. Keep on keeping on. Maximize what you CAN do. DO it and resist the urge to become a sophisticated expert, lest you discover “It can’t be done.” Whatever your talents, they are important. Respect yourself.

I’ve followed these personal concepts in parenting, personal relations, religion, curriculum and instruction. It is uncanny how often a day, month, or a decade later, “current” experts finally legitimize those common-sense ideas. It is strange that a wee bird couples its awkward dimensions with flight ability that defies logic. It just CAN.

Based on my mother’s thinking, SO CAN YOU. We each had a mom who somewhere along the way gave us Mom wisdom. I am going to stretch that a bit and conclude that along with that, we have a hummingbird within us.