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bookclub

Are you a member of a book club? If so, you may wonder if your book club is representative of the many, many book clubs that thrive in so many venues and so many communities throughout the U.S. and the world. If you are not yet fortunate enough to be part of a book club, you might have wondered what exactly occurs.

To book club members who are curious about other clubs, to book club wannabes, and, especially, to members of the Nonfiction Book Club I’m attending tomorrow, here’s a sneak preview of what to expect.

Our book club protocol

In our book club, members arrive promptly, since the room typically is full with 20 or so serious readers gathered around a large conference table in our town’s library. Club membership is exclusive, only in the sense that we are serious readers. We each attend voluntarily and welcome whoever walks in the door. Often first-timers become regulars.

We select our books for the coming year in December, and, at each month’s meeting, the library provides copies of the book for the following month, which we check out and begin to read. Club members take turns leading the discussion and do so willingly (or with a gentle nudge). Each month’s leader brings a unique, personal style to the table. What all share is a commitment to creating an atmosphere that is respectful. We talk and we listen. We explore many facets of a book and we learn.

Our book for this month is The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan. It will be my pleasure (truly!) to lead tomorrow’s discussion, since I loved, loved, loved this book.

Here’s what I have in mind:

Greet everyone who walks in the door—the regulars and the newbies. Be sure that everyone has a nametag, a copy of the year’s schedule, and “Talking About Nonfiction Books”—a discussion sheet that club members assembled over time.

Kick off the discussion with a brief introduction (my name, length of time with the book club, interests, and so forth) and ask others to do the same. As part of their introductions, ask them to share a few aspects of the book that they want to discuss.

With pencil (yes, always a pencil with an eraser) in hand, I circle items on the discussion sheet that we should cover during our time together and scribble notes. For me, this sheet, with everyone’s input noted, guides the give-and-take that ensues.

I then let people talk. Let them ask. Let them discuss. Let them argue (amicably). The task is to simply herd the cats.

My two cents

Every now and then, I throw in my two cents. Read More

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Judy and Franken

Judy and Franken

Over the Thanksgiving holiday with siblings in the home where I grew up, I was delighted to see the beautiful cypress bench that my woodworker brother Larry crafted and placed in front of the house. We considered the text that would go on a plaque. Larry’s idea is to get to the point!

Back in Happy Days when families roamed this street, here resided the Shulmans, Ellisons, and Sohls. A ’57 Chevy in the driveway. Kids playing ball, riding bikes, going to music lessons. The Euclid of old, a different place, a different time.

When I arrived back home for our Christmas Day gathering, the bench was occupied. There sat Franken, the newest addition to the neighborhood. While getting acquainted, I had a thing or two to share about our family home, our refuge for five generations. As it turned out, Franken had some words to share with me.

Judy Talks to Franken

Franken, I love seeing you here, waving to the many passersby who are walking, biking, and driving on this busy street, often on their way to classes, work, ballgames, and activities at the nearby campus. Some fitness enthusiasts are passing by the house—and you—before crossing the street to climb the 176 steep steps that lead to a vista of the neighborhood and the city with its landmarks and parks, its drumlins and lakes.

When my Grandpa Shulman (also known as Poppy or Pa) bought this two-family home in the spring of 1951, he had lots of company. There was Grandma, who passed away before the year was over, two daughters—my mother Gertrude and my Aunt Jeanette, my dad Sam, and four Ellison and three Sohl kids. In time, another Ellison baby added to the tumult of a lively family home.

We Ellisons lived upstairs, and our Pa and the Sohls lived downstairs. It made no difference whether you lived up or down, since doors were rarely closed and never locked. Pa, a very handy man, always seemed to be painting, wallpapering, chipping plaster, making a little hole into a big one in one room or another. If there wasn’t enough to do upstairs or downstairs, he was outdoors, pouring concrete to repair the sidewalk.

Read More

With the support of its sponsors—both Impact Earth and Education Doctorate (Ed.D.) in Executive Leadership at St. John Fisher College—Thinking Forward, a speaker’s troupe I helped start, celebrated National Swap Ideas Day on September 10 with a program that included talks from three Millennials and a dance performance from the Avenue D Afro Latino Dance Group.

The Millennials, the young dancers (aged four to 13 years old), and the more seasoned participants in the room all wrote out their answers to the following question, shared it with someone in the room, and placed it in an Idea Box. Here is what they wrote, clustered into various categories.

What is needed to transform this world into a richer, more vibrant place?

Friends and neighbors

My idea is to move more and smile.

My idea is to give more hugs because everyone is struggling with something and hugs are free!

Make more connections to change other people’s lives!

My idea is to be a friend and be grateful. How to be grateful? That means you need to be nice!

We can say hi to people we pass on the street and our neighborhood.

Say hello to everyone in the neighborhood.

We need to get to know our neighbors first and then go beyond and introduce ourselves to someone new!

Pet Introduction Day. A small group of people meet to introduce their pets and, in doing so, meet each other. It’s like a blind date for dogs or cats with people as the hosts. It would help single and elderly people with pets meet each other.

Sharing

Have more food shares.

Start with a potluck with your neighbors.

Have community tool shares.

Swap houses.

Have one month of tech that’s free.

Involvement

Find time during the year to donate energy, time, and resources to a cause that influences the local community. Get involved!

I would like more activities that allow us to get involved.

Use the Slow Road idea of getting up off your couch to motivate students to explore new ideas that will help everyone contribute to something positive for the community.

Invite others to come out and try something.

My idea is not to make things worse.

Cleaning

Clean garbage in the street and keep it clean.

I can clean and keep promises and respect everyone around me.

One thing I could do to improve my community is to have a cleaning group every week to clean my community.

Safety

We should have more police present in the community.

Create a safe public place for people to gather and exchange ideas on a regular basis.

No more violence in the world.

Parks and gardens

I love vertical community parks and gardens.

I would like to see more community gardens.

My idea is to start a neighborhood garden with all of my friends.

Schools

My idea is to make my school a better place.

Arts and music

Have people tell their stories so everyone knows what everyone else is doing.

Do storytelling.

I think everyone should learn to play a drum.

Have music in the community. Different types of musically inclined people gather at various venues and play for each other.

To make the dance group a better place is to make sure that everyone comes on time and every day.

Have more community dance groups.

Sustainability

Bring your own reusable bags (BYOB) initiative.

Take compost buckets to work.

Do recycling in public schools. There is so much paper and waste.

Make a sustainable impact.

Chocolate

I would like to encourage everyone to know where chocolate comes from and what community is impacted. Read More

Swap Ideas Day Flyer-05

Today, I’m thinking about an upcoming event. With some ideas percolating in my cranium and others made visible here in print, reaching out to you seems like a worthwhile pursuit, especially since this event is an idea swap.

A Thinking Forward event

In the U.S., there seems to be a day dedicated to just about everything, including swapping ideas. To celebrate National Swap Ideas Day on September 10, Thinking Forward, a speaker’s troupe that I co-founded, has assembled a very impressive group of innovators, all in the early stage of their careers. They will share their ideas on what is needed to transform this world into a richer, more vibrant place and convey how they have put these ideas to work in a specific area of interest in their communities. The talks are about the protection, growth, and renewal of land and people; an economy where community is wealth; zero waste; a multidisciplinary approach to connecting people to places; and solar technology.

As a balance to these serious topics, a group of young performers will dance Reggaeton from Puerto Rico, providing a look at how owning one’s culture through the arts can enrich one’s life and community.

I know that our winning cast of presenters will shine and illuminate our knowledge of subjects in which they care deeply.

My role

Up to now, my role has involved finding a venue; assembling the speakers; collecting, drafting, and proofing content for promotional pieces; adding to our distribution list; and spreading the word via social media.

I still have another important task before me—develop a 10-minute idea swap activity that gets everyone thinking, participating, and sharing. The room will likely be set up with small groups at tables, making interaction easy. Imagine that you are sitting at one of the tables, along with several friends and colleagues. You are listening to the instructions for the idea swap activity.

Options

Here are my preliminary ideas for an idea swap activity. Read More

Photo is courtesy of Creative Commons,  https://www.flickr.com/photos/zanzibar123/186131987/sizes/s/

Photo is courtesy of Creative Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/zanzibar123/186131987/sizes/s/.

This long weekend is a good time for me to delve into The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870 – 1914, this month’s selection for our nonfiction book club. The book looks daunting, all 700 or so pages. Yet, what motivates me to get started is the trust I have in club members who have recommended noteworthy books by authors who can craft memorable, literary works of art.

Our method of selecting books is fairly arbitrary. If a club member likes a book and wants the club to read it, we do so as long as the roster for the year covers a variety of nonfiction genres and topics. Of the 50 plus books we have read and discussed, some have been gems.

On a long, hot, summer day, grab a drink, stretch out on a hammock, become immersed in someone else’s world, and enjoy reading a great book. Ten books that I might not have selected on my own but found to be more than worthwhile might just suit you. Take a look.

10 favorite nonfiction books

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. There’s so much to learn about a remarkable individual who held the moral high ground, at great cost, during World War II Germany.

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard. This is a wonderful record of President Garfield’s life and long, painful, mistreated illness and eventual death.

The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T.S. Reid. While searching for a remedy to his own medical problem, the author uncovers how the approaches to treatment and healing vary from country to country. Read More

Once a book is authored, published, and printed, there’s the added joy of sharing the finished product. At a recent outdoor music and cultural festival, I did just that. With the goal that A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way reach those who could benefit, the festival was wonderful in so many ways.

A festival

Because the festival was in Syracuse, NY, my hometown, my family who live in the area gathered in a show of support. My brothers Larry and Richard delivered and set up a long table with chairs to display my books. My young grandniece Kara set out the tablecloth, arranged books and business cards, filled the candy jar, and displayed a plaque with the words, “I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.” My nephews Jacob and David and others stood watch. Our table looked very inviting!

The first person to stop by bought A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way. She noted that the $18 price tag was a very good sign, since 18 is the number for Chai, which is Hebrew for life. Passers-by perused the book, delighted to find recipes for food they love, contributed by, in some cases, people they knew. I discovered that foodies love to cook, bake, eat—and talk!

I was happy to meet Kara’s friend Sophie. It turned out that her mom is the second cousin of one of my oldest and dearest Syracuse friends who has some recipes in the book. It was my pleasure to give Sophie’s mom my book as a thank-you for her kindness to Kara.

A childhood friend Myra and her adult daughter Lisa stopped by. I had not seen them in 25 years and pointed out that Rose, who was Myra’s mom and Lisa’s grandmother, gave my mom (my much loved Ma) a wonderful recipe for strudel, which is included in the Cookies and Pastries section of my book.

When I recognized a passerby as a member of the clergy who, faithfully and compassionately, visited my dear Ma daily during her final days, I greeted him but could not speak for several long moments, viscerally feeling again those difficult days. In gratitude for his support, I gave him A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way where he will get to know my Ma at her best as well as the many loved ones she nourished.

My cousin Maxine greeted visitors to our table, sharing her enthusiasm for the recipes and snippets of family lore that season the book’s pages. My sister Sandy stopped by just in time to hear a gentleman named Harold describe a recipe that his mother brought with her from Europe many years ago.

A recipe

At home, from her collection of treasured recipes, Sandy retrieved a recipe for plum kuchen that looked very close to the recipe Harold described. She wrote, “Mrs. M always brought it for holiday meals or a Sunday pizza night. She was a terrific cook. I’m sure this recipe came with her from Germany.” Read More

Back cover for A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way

Back cover for A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way

A new look

This week, I dressed up my blog! The old header, which highlighted Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal, my first book, is gone. A new, impressionistic splurge of colors now appears. Just above it, there is a new menu item, Eating Our Way. Just above that, there’s a new book title, A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way. And to the right, there’s a new image, showing off one very tasty dish―part cookbook, part inspiration, part memoir―that is now hot off the press! With this facelift completed, I sit back, look, and enjoy it.

A new book

The reason for this new look? I wanted to include my new book in this blog. The original blog focused on how to transition successfully from one phase of work or one phase of life to another, based on the process detailed in Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal.

This refreshed, revitalized blog retains the existing blog entries and categories and additionally showcases the results of paying attention to the many earlier postings in this blog. Being mindful of Capabilities, talents, and strengths; Decision-making, problem-solving, and organizing; Motivation and inspiration; Self-discovery and self-actualization through exploration and reflection; and Work and life balance; I now have A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way as an addition to my Products, services, and offerings. It is now among my Success stories!

A new opportunity―for you

Look over this blog. See what resonates. Let the postings, the comments, the books, the menu, and the categories evoke something positive in you. Let the impressionistic dots, patterns, ripples, waves, and colors splashed in the new header allow you to picture an opportunity that is waiting just for you. Perhaps it is a project, a product, or another creation. Tell us about it. Tell the world!