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What do you love most about your mom?

 

c Jacqueline Thompson Graves 2019

 

 

 

 

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Book by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Review by Jacqueline Thompson Graves

 

President Missing

 

Okay. First of all, let me clear this up. The President is not exactly missing. It’s more like he’s AWOL or called in sick when he’s just doing something he didn’t think the boss would approve. Except he is the Boss, isn’t he? Well, no. Really, when you’re President, the American public is ultimately the boss. And that boss is the most fickle, least understanding, ready-to-fire-you-in-a-heartbeat boss you’ll ever work for, which is part of why the POTUS went missing. That and national security or even world security, if you want to be all “America is the world’s policeman” about it.

 

Meanwhile, a little background on the writers. You should know James Patterson if you read thrillers. Once you embark on an adventure with Patterson, you don’t do anything else until you’ve wrapped up the story. You’re the one calling in sick so you can read your characters out of all the messes they’re in. Patterson is probably best known for his Alex Cross character. If you don’t know Bill Clinton, I can’t help you. Most Presidents have a book or two out there. What’s a guy to do after he’s been the most important person in the world? (Someday I’ll write that sentence using “she”. Oh, happy day.) He can’t just chase golf balls and give speeches. Eventually he sits with a ghost writer and tells tales about his days in the Oval Office. Bill Clinton never did do things conventionally. No one before or since campaigned with a saxophone in hand. As a reader of mysteries and thrillers, he always thought it would be fun to try and write one. An agent suggested the two work together, and Patterson was delighted. “I can make stuff up. I have a good imagination, but the President has been there,” he told an interviewer.

 

One thing to keep in mind as you read The President is Missing, when you ask yourself: “I wonder if that could really happen? I wonder if maybe they actually had this conversation in the past? I wonder . . .” The answer is “yes”. Clinton makes that clear in several interviews. His role in the writing was to ensure authenticity in the plot and execution of its parameters. “There are two chapters where Augie [a Suliman protégé] talks to the assembled group about what can happen. I think they are two of the scariest thriller chapters ever written, because they lay out what can happen. And we’re not prepared for it. So as the President said, this is a little bit of a warning shot for the country, because we’re not prepared,” Patterson said.

 

Here’s an excerpt from the book, clearly written by Clinton. It’s written in the voice of the book’s character President John Duncan, yet it’s a tribute from President Clinton to the team of agents who had his back while he was in office. I knew a secret service agent personally, heard his stories (what few he could tell) and applaud these agents, their selfless work.

 Secret Service agents never get the credit they deserve for what they do every day to keep me safe, to trade their own lives for mine, to do what no sane person would ever willingly do – step in front of a bullet, not away from it.”

Growing up, I associated terrorists with other words: “Palestine”, “Israel”, “Gaza Strip”. Newscasters told stories of faraway people fighting over a bit of ground, their weapons truck bombs and Molotov cocktails rather than armies and tanks. My country was busily staring down the Soviet Union, threatening to push its Red Button, terrified our enemy would push theirs first. A handful of terrorists seemed tame compared to Russia’s nuclear arsenal. 9/11 drove terrorism into our every day consciousness. Terrorists now hate us, not just each other and, in fact, we seem to have become the Big Target.

 

What if a terrorist figured out a really clever way to bring down the Big Target and we were completely unprepared for it? What if everything we think we’ve done to stave off and combat a terrorist attack was like squirting a water gun in a nuclear war?

 

The book may worry you – a lot. And I think Clinton and Patterson actually intend that.  True to Patterson form, the ending stuns. You may have to take another sick day to recuperate. While you’re home, you can change your computer password to something besides “password”.

 

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The President is Missing is coming to a Showtime screen near you (if you subscribe).

To win a copy of the book, leave any comment in response to this review. You must also be a subscriber to the blog because that is the only way I can contact you when you win. Good Luck! US addresses only, please. Enter by 4-13-19.

 

Interview quotes taken from a BookPage interview by Roy Neel, President Clinton’s former Deputy Chief of Staff.

Read the full transcript here: https://bookpage.com/interviews/22728-president-bill-clinton-james-patterson-fiction#.XJlzX_ZFzIU

Here’s a special and quick stocking stuffer idea.

 

Make a bookmark for your reader using a photo. A photo featuring both of you will be especially welcome, perhaps from a bygone era (hello again, kindergarten!) or a reminder of that fun thing you did together this year. Cut your photos to bookmark size, then laminate them. (You can buy laminating material and use your printer at home or go to the copy shop and let them laminate for you.) Punch a hole in the top and loop a ribbon through, if desired.

 

Use the bookmarks:

  • as a stocking stuffer
  • to go with a book you are gifting
  • attached to a cool pen or highlighter for your nonfiction loving bookworm
  • as part of a book lover’s gift basket. Add coffee, tea, chocolate, cookies, pens, cool paperclips, a Kindle gift card, a list of favorite books, a little reading light, fuzzy warm socks.
  • be sure to make one for yourself, too!

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This Christmas Jacqueline is hoping someone gets her a bookmark, a truck full of books and some fuzzy warm socks. In the meantime, she would just like to find a moment to read anything in between cookie-baking, gift-wrapping and party-going. 

You’re a reader, so all your friends are readers, right?

If you’re like me, you have a mix of friends who read and friends who think you’re crazy to spend so much time cuddled up with a book when you could be . . .

You are on your own finding a gift for your lacrosse-loving cube mate, but for your book-loving friends, I’ll share some gift ideas over the next few days.

First of all, what are you going to do with that mountain of books you own? Are you really going to read them again? Do you really want to move them again? Now that used book sites make it affordable to buy a book if I decide I want it after all, I am not so hesitant to get rid of a book as I used to be. I only keep books I know for sure I will read again or that have sentimental meaning.

stack of booksAs you finish reading, create stacks of books by genre on a closet shelf, in a big box or even under the bed. When you have 3 to 5 books somewhat alike (sci-fi, romance, historical fiction, thrillers, murder mysteries, same author) wrap them in paper with a huge bow or tie together with a usable item such as a belt, scarf or maybe a bungee cord. At birthdays or Christmastime, match the stack to the reader: the silly romances to your girlfriend, the sci-fi stack to your nephew. If you have two books and need a third to make a nice stack, visit your used bookstore or add a blank journal and a fun pen.

 

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Jacqueline Thompson Graves reads and writes in Cumming, GA. This year she hopes to receive books, coffee and chocolate for Christmas.

FINISH

book by JON ACUFF

Review by Jacqueline Thompson Graves

Finish

A half-written book idling in your bottom drawer. A craft project for which you bought all the supplies, dove in with great excitement, then abandoned it when you ran out of glue sticks. A blog with three posts, all dated 2002. A business idea you dreamed up for selling meal kits online, then decided no one would buy them when there is a grocery store on every corner.

 

What have you started but never finished? What part of a project hangs you up every time? Starting? Day two? Choking halfway? Or do you get close enough to taste victory and then, like a Falcons Super Bowl ring, it slips away at the last second?

 

In his book Finish, Jon Acuff reports that 92% of people who make New Year’s resolutions fail to follow through with them. When asked why they quit, people respond with answers like these:

“’I fell behind and couldn’t get back on track. Life got in the way and my plans got derailed. The project jumped the tracks and got too messy to fix.’”

 

Most self-help books would, at this point, teach their readers how to multi-task, manage time, prioritize their schedules or wake up an hour earlier to get a head start on goal whipping.

 

But Acuff takes a different approach. In chapter two, he insists readers cut their goals in half. He trots out a fancy term: “planning fallacy” a phenomenon whereby, when asked how much time will be required to complete a task, people are overly optimistic, underestimating their expected time demand.

 

Think about that weekend you were going to “organize this whole stinkin’ house, from top to bottom, in a way that will make Marie Kondo proud”. Four hours in, surrounded by chaos, you headed out for ice cream. When you returned home, you rammed everything back into the coat closet and emailed Kondo . . . ok, never mind. This is a family-oriented blog.

 

“Accomplishing a goal is a lot less like taking a train across country and a lot more like driving a bumper car,” Acuff advises. His book dishes out practical encouragement and methods for making daily progress on your project. “The only way to accomplish a new goal is to feed it your most valuable resource: time. And what we never like to admit is that you don’t just give time to something, you take it from something else. To be good at one thing you have to be bad at something else.”

 

In our day of Pinterest-worthy food photos and Facebook friendly goings-on, we buy the lie that we can do it all. Think of three successful people you know and admire. Do they excel at everything while constantly posting to social media, or are they amazing at one main thing? Acuff inspires us to focus, at least for a season, on one thing and see it through to completion.

 

Jon Acuff helps readers reach their finish lines by teaching them how to focus on what is important, what to ignore, how to gather hard data and make fact-based decisions about a business or project, and what to do when that data doesn’t match up with the original plan put in place. Acuff’s quirky sense of humor delivers an enjoyable read, but Finish is not just fluffy entertainment. A person who follows his advice might find the book written, the craft completed, the blog updated, the business launched. And they just might have fun in the process.

 

Jacqueline Thompson Graves writes in Cumming, GA. She is currently trying to finish a book about the Bible character Job. And to finish her children’s school years scrapbooks. And to finish peeling the 1980s wallpaper off the dining room. And to finish Atlas Shrugged.

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What about you? What project did you start, then just get STUCK on? Do you think a book like Finish could help you?

Book Review

The Healing SelfHealing Self

by Deepak Chopra, M.D. and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.

Book review by Jacqueline Thompson Graves

 

The subtitle says it: supercharge your immunity and stay well for life. It’s also the reverse of how most Americans live. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow the doctor can prescribe you a little white pill that puts everything together again. Reality, however, looks more like Humpty Dumpty after his fall off the wall. I wouldn’t expect much surgery from the king’s horses anyway, but the king’s men can only fix so much after I’ve spent a lifetime abusing my body with a lifestyle of narcissism.

 

Chopra’s and Tanzi’s book is not another “lose weight, start walking, stop drinking or else” kick in the pants, but rather a guide to intertwining the whole person – body, mind, soul – into one healthy, happy, productive package. They even coin a new term – “Bodymind” – for the package.

 

When you catch a cold you can often look back and figure out when and where you were exposed to its virus. “But lifestyle disorders aren’t like that,” the authors point out. “Their incubation period is invisible but very long – years and decades.” The major thrust of The Healing Self is basic: how do I keep myself healthy and, if I do get sick, how can I contribute to, even control, my own healing?

 

The authors discuss research in several areas, including the top two killers in the U.S. – cancer and heart disease – and how traditional treatments focus only on symptoms of acute disease. New research is focusing on preventing disease. “We’ve already mentioned that putting up with stress and adapting yourself to it are bad strategies,” they explain. “Your cells aren’t adapting even when you think you are.”

 

Consider this statement from the book in light of the obesity epidemic:

I am unhappy with it, the body, which turns the normal act of eating into a struggle between what the mind is trying to achieve and what the body is actually doing.” Their chapter on weight loss is not about counting calories or low fat vs good fats, but about right thinking.

 

One of my favorite chapters examining the mind/body connection delves into narratives and research regarding the so-called placebo effect. Chopra and Tanzi urge readers to be their own placebo, by training minds to change what happens in their bodies. They quote Alia Crum, a Stanford psychologist, who insists, “The placebo effect isn’t some mysterious response to a sugar pill. It is the robust and measureable effect of three components: the body’s natural ability to heal, the patient mindset, and the social context. When we start to see the placebo effect for what it really is, we can stop discounting it as medically superfluous and can work to deliberately harness its underlying components to improve health care.” The authors then go on to comment, “Being your own placebo obviously would be impossible if you had to fool yourself.”

 

From monks who sit in freezing ice caves yet maintain constant body temperatures, to an Arctic explorer who scaled a mountain in a blizzard wearing only shorts, people have trained their bodies to overcome automatic responses. One odd case records a patient with multiple personality disorder for whom one of his personalities was deathly allergic to orange juice, but when other personalities emerged, they could all drink it! The authors posit surely if these people can create these extremes of control, the rest of us can exercise far more mind control over our physical selves than we realize.

 

The final one third of the book is a seven day plan to create a more healthy, more integrated Bodymind. Tuesday, for example, discusses reducing stress. In their humorous style, the authors illustrate stress: “it’s like the difference between giving ten dollars to the homeless and having somebody steal ten dollars from you.”

 

If I just told you what the book is about, you would probably respond, “Oh, boy, another book yelling at me to lose weight, quit smoking and get more sleep. Boring. No thanks.” The Healing Self is a delightful read, filled with interesting case studies, loaded with practical ideas you can actually implement, and written in a down-to-earth style that is downright funny at times. The book doesn’t leave you feeling guilty and defeated. On the contrary, it left me encouraged and eager to own my Bodymind and live a long, healthy and productive life. I haven’t given up ice cream completely, but the bowl I’m using now is way smaller than the old one. And for me, that’s a major lifestyle change.

 

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#health #weightloss #wellness #deepakchopra #rudolphtanzi #thehealingself #bodymind

 

What area of wellness do you struggle with the most?

“Beware the Ides of March!” That may be all you recall about Julius Caesar from your high school Shakespeare. Perhaps you’ve wondered if he invented the Caesar salad (no). It’s doubtful you would list him as a resource for today’s business leader.

Julius Caesar

Phillip Barlag would advise you to examine Julius Caesar if you’re running a business. Barlag’s book The Leadership Genius of Julius Caesar offers insight into eight principles Caesar utilized to build and hold an empire, and even influence it after his death. “The history of civilization, after all, is the history of leadership. It might seem strange to imagine Julius Caesar strutting into a boardroom or developing a human capital strategy, but his actions and abilities can and should inform us in such endeavors today,” Barlag insists.

 

The Leadership Genius of Julius Caesar begins:

There are two ways to lead an organization: by power or by force. The first way creates the shortest distance between leaders and their goals – but it is much harder. For this reason, many leaders default to the use of force.

 

Who came to your mind as you read those words? Your previous boss and how you dreaded work every day? Your dad when you were growing up who bellowed, “because I said so”? Or maybe you remember the teacher who made you want to learn, the sales manager who persuaded everyone to work unpaid overtime, the Scout leader who charged into the scary woods head first? Barlag defines power as “the ability to intrinsically motivate people to act in the way you want them to”. He tells a fascinating story of Caesar’s army, ready to revolt and refusing to fight, then quieted and turned around by a one-word speech from Caesar.

 

One of Caesar’s principles “lead from the front” is demonstrated by our Scout troop leader charging into the woods, reassuring campers they can handle whatever Nature hides. Caesar’s archrival Pompey refused to lead his troops into battle at Pharsalus and sneaked away, leaving his soldiers to soldier on without their captain. Julius Caesar gave chase, boarded an enemy flagship, then convinced the crew to switch sides when they learned their leader had deserted them.

 

One of my favorite quotes is this: “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it does not matter who gets the credit.” This quote is attributed in one version or another to a dozen different people. Ronald Reagan framed it and sat it on his desk. In our world of “building your brand” and managing your image, Caesar’s life teaches Reagan’s lesson. “If a leader seeks change, then they would do well to follow Caesar’s example: put aside the glory and focus on the mission,” Barlag writes. He relates the story of Caesar passing up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to star in his own parade in order to fulfill the necessary requirements to run for Consul. While the parade would have been an amazing thing (think Super Bowl Champions homecoming parade), it would not have advanced Caesar’s goal of effecting change for his fellow Roman citizens.

 

In today’s polarized political atmosphere, perhaps no lesson could be better applied than chapter 5: Keep the Lines of Communication Open. Barlag writes, “Caesar’s modus operandi was to ‘move people up a level’: neutralize vocal critics, turn neutrals into supporters, and turn supporters into advocates and proselytizers. Wherever people fell on this continuum, Caesar engaged with them with the goal of advancing his relationship. He was pragmatic enough to know that not everyone could be won over. For these people, lessening their resistance was a victory.” Today our politicians and leaders take delight in publicly nailing their detractors, tweeting a mean thought, landing a soundbite that gets air time and YouTube replays. Caesar knew little is gained by creating haters and, while everyone can’t be a raving fan, mutual respect and a polite nod hold more promise than a snarl.

 

Often people are just ambivalent about your passion. Julius Caesar recognized this and used it to his advantage. Barlow calls it “co-opting the power of others”. “Sometimes, people just don’t have a side in the fight, and forcing an either/or choice alienates these poor souls who would have been useful regardless of the outcome.” A demand is made “you are either for us or against us” – it makes a great line in a movie – but in real life it is often ineffective. They may flee the organization altogether leaving you lurching.

 

On and on the examples and stories go, eight principles illustrated by Julius Caesar’s life, principles we can co-opt and incorporate into our own life strategies. Phillip Barlag works with leaders from the world’s largest companies. He sits in conversation with people solving huge problems. Yet he writes in the forward to the book, “The challenges that executives address are always the same things, over and over. Executives are always seeking ways to build better teams and be better leaders.” His lessons are applicable to our teams, to wherever we lead.

 

Barlag’s book is a short one, about 100 pages. He doesn’t say things three times, then recap it. He gets to the point and gets on. He respects your time. You can read it in an evening or two, a few lunches. You’ll be glad you did and besides, as Barlag himself points out, “and there are pirates, and who doesn’t love pirates?”

 

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#thebookbuffet #bookreview #theLeadershipGeniusofJuliusCaesar #PhillipBarlag #history #businessbooks #leadershipstyles #JuliusCaesar #BerrettKoehlerPublishers #JacquelineinAtl #howtolead

 

Note: you may purchase The Leadership Genius of Julius Caesar at the publisher’s website: www.bkconnection.com or via Amazon. It is available in print and as an audiobook. There are also copies at the Forsyth County libraries.