Someone I Admire

She was my General Science teacher in High School. I remember her as sorta quirky and fun. She was brilliant in Science and really knew her stuff. She wore a long braid of hair and everyday she dressed comfortably but not too fashionably.

Her name is Suzanne Arruda.

I went on through High School and graduated. I went to college and continued life. Decades later, I found out she had started writing after teaching for years.

You can find her books on Amazon and sold in libraries and bookstores all over the world. She published with Penguin. She wrote a whole series of books about a female heroine who solves mysteries involving ancient artifacts and exotic animals in Africa. Her books are like an Indiana Jones action adventure series but with a female protagonist and involving a lot of Science.

I wanted to introduce you to her. Here is a link about her work:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzanne_Arruda

I think it’s great to write one book but it is a whole other level of amazing if you can continue into a long series involving the same character. It takes a whole other level of creativity and imagination to keep the original story going and going.

When I wrote a book, I reached out to her to see if she would go to the book launch. She said she’s retired from writing but she wished me the best of luck. She’s a pretty cool person like that.

These are the books:

https://www.amazon.com/Suzanne-Arruda/e/B001IOBL6O?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1631762632&sr=8-1

An Unexpectedly Good Read

I’m not good at going to church. I’m pretty lazy. Once a week though, I go to the little chapel near the church. The chapel is open 24-7 and the members of the chapel each devote one hour to prayer. They are each assigned a one-hour time slot equivalent to time spent in the Garden of Gethsemane to spend with God.

My time slot is 3 am to 4 am. It’s supposed to be the devil’s hour, or the exact opposite of the 3 pm time of death of Jesus. So I figure that is as good a time as any to try praying, although my prayers are admittedly probably not that great. I spend about 10 minutes in actual prayer before I run out of things to say, I do general petitions for folks (the homeless, the sick, the elderly, immigrants, etc.) 15 minutes doing a rosary, and then I get off my knees, sit in the chair and look around the little chapel. Generally, I got nothing to do for the rest of the hour so I wander to the back of the chapel to the little religious books library.

The library is full of all sorts of religious books. Many of them are kinda dry or boring. Some are convoluted and some are definitely too flowery for my tastes. But occasionally, I find a real diamond in the rough, a high quality read. I always close my eyes and let my fingers wander over the book tops in a sort of eenie-meanie-minie-mo fashion until they stop on one particular book. I figure maybe if I do it this way, God will lead me to something I need to read.

I pick up the book, take it to my chair, and once again I just close my eyes and let it fall open in my lap. Again, I superstitiously think well maybe, God will let it fall to the exact words I gotta hear. I know. It’s kinda silly. But who knows, maybe it works…

Today I picked up a book by David Jeremiah in the Billy Graham Library Selection Series. It was called Slaying the Giants in Your Life. Apparently, in the book, the giants the author speaks of are not physical giants like Goliath but the giants of anger, loneliness, discouragement, etc.

The giant that my hands opened to was the giant of failure. It was Chapter 11 called Facing Your Failure. It’s kinda something I needed to hear since some of my projects and work and stuff aren’t doing as well as I had hoped.

This book was so easy to read and cited a lot of great and fascinating people in their experiences with failure from Abraham Lincoln to Saint Peter to Charlie Brown to Michael Jordan. I really recommend the book from the chapter I read. Here is a small excerpt:

“The lanky, quiet boy never had much of a chance. He had to work from the age of seven, when his family joined the homeless. His mother died two years after that. As he grew to adulthood, the young man held a series of small jobs until his twenties, when he was fired as a store clerk. But the idea of operating a store appealed to him. At age 23, he took out a loan that would enable him to buy a small business. But the run of bad luck continued; his partner died 3 years later. Now the young man’s debt was more than doubled and it looked like he would spend years just repaying it. He fared no better in relationships. Approaching his 30s, he was a bachelor. He proposed to one young lady after 4 years of dating, but she turned him down. It was just another failure; he was used to that. Twice he ran for Congress and twice, he unsurprisingly lost. To put it kindly, his credentials were unimpressive. But at the age of 37, with more than half his life over, he was finally elected to an office – only to be subsequently voted out! He failed in 2 separate runs for the Senate. He failed in a Vice Presidential try. No one was more conscious of his legacy of failures. “I am now the most miserable man living,” he said. “Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell.” Some would say he didn’t know when to quit – and most of us are glad he didn’t. For at the age of 51, Abraham Lincoln became probably the greatest of all American Presidents.”

Another passage in the chapter, cites Michael Jordan, the famous basketball player:

“I’ve missed over 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I have been trusted to take the game-winning shot, and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life…………and that is how I succeed.”

In another paragraph, the author speaks of the best coaches in the history of sports:

“Anyone in the world of sports will tell you where the best coaches are found. They’re found on the benches. They are found among the players that were beaten out by the better athletes. A 3rd stringer can sit on the bench and dwell on his/her failure, or keep trying, keep hustling, and keep learning everything there is to know about the sport. That’s why the best coaches have often been the more obscure athletes in their youth. They fell down and they got back up.”

There’s a lot more material to that chapter and also to the entire book itself. It was a good read that I wanted to share with you. I really liked the chapter so much that I came home and took the time to write this brief review. Here is the book:

Gung Ho!

I’ve been reading Gung Ho! By Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. Gung Ho is Chinese and means “work together.”

I was pleasantly surprised by the book. It was a good read.

The book is about a plant manager that only has 6 months to turn around the company and get it more productive or corporate will shut it down. The plant manager goes to the best department manager and is guided by his advice on how to Gung Ho his team, his co-workers in his department. There are three main components of his philosophy which are based on observations of creatures in nature:

1. The Spirit of the Squirrel – create a sense that the work being done is worthwhile. “First the work has to be understood as important. Second, it has to lead to a well-understood and shared goal. Third, values have to guide all plans, decisions, and actions.” Show the workers in your department how what they do helps others. For example, a dishwasher job may not seem glamorous but it is essential worthwhile work. One load of unclean, bacteria-infected dishes could wipe out a whole group of people. Always look at your job in terms of human impact. What this is really getting at is a powerful human emotion: self-esteem. View your work not as units produced but as impacting human lives and it will build your self-esteem. Another important aspect is to place values at the forefront. Values, not managers, should guide each worker’s behavior. Managers are leaders and they should not have to act like police. Each worker should demonstrate these shared values in the way they act and insist others to behave.

2. The Way of the Beaver – Look at the way beavers build a dam together. “Each beaver has a large measure of control over its own destiny. They decide how the work is going to be done. They operate like independent contractors…It’s up to each of them how the dam gets repaired. If they want to work at one end, fine. If they want to bring small branches, that’s great. They exercise their own best judgment.” Basically the message for managers in this one is to let the people who really do the work do the work. Set the goals and values, define the playing field and rules of the game, decide who plays what position. Then you have to get off the field and let the players move the ball. It’s tough to be boss without being bossy. It requires a high level of self-esteem. Another key aspect of this concept is respect for all the people in your department along with their thoughts, feelings, needs, and aspirations. Value individuals as persons and as a manager, keep in mind, that you should not give people work beyond their capacity. People want a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay so let them contribute up to their capacity. Let them feel challenged but not overwhelmed.

3. The Gift of the Goose – The department manager describes it like this, “Twenty of us have this work area and we run it like our own business. We’re responsible for quality, on-time delivery, and looking after our customers.” One important aspect of that attitude is to cheer each other on with words of encouragement much like geese honk to each other continuously while flying in V formation. Employee engagement is explained as E=mc2 or rather, enthusiasm equals mission times cash and congratulations. People need sincere, truthful recognition. This can be done with active affirmations such as telling people what a great job they do or presenting awards. Yet, it is done even better with passive affirmations. What is a passive affirmation? “A classic example is sitting on your hands, biting your tongue, and looking unconcerned and confident when a team member carries forward a tricky, complicated, and important project. Just the kind of project you excel at and every fiber of your body is crying out to take control or at least issue a couple of warnings about trouble spots. But you don’t. Your silence sends a very clear message – I trust you.” Recognition should be spontaneous and individualized. It is also important to cheer on progress not just results. At a football game the crowd doesn’t cheer only at touchdowns and neither should businesses operate that way. Cheer progress.

Well, it’s an entertaining book and a short read. I recommend it.

1st Professional Review

I’m happy to announce we received the first professional book review for Searching for Fire published July 2019. It is a great review and comes from The Midwest Book Review. This review will show in the Midwest Book Review December Issue online under the California Bookwatch.

Searching for Fire reaches young adult fantasy readers with a vivid story of a battle between gods that places a young pregnant woman in the middle of danger and conflict during the rebirth of the world.

If this premise sounds more adult in its complexity, be advised that Searching for Fire is recommended for mature teens, and is quite accessible to this audience. A prologue sets the stage for the characters and action that draws readers in (“This is not our first world. In the beginning, the Sun Spirit created our land and established the Elemental Code for our existence. All the living creatures inhabited this world for the benefit of the Great Spirits in the sky. When the hearts of the land’s inhabitants decayed, these same Great Spirits rained fire down from the sky. Among the smoke and ash, a second world was reborn. It prospered, but as with the cycle of the first, the decay returned. The Great Spirits chose this time to bury our world in ice. As to the third world, our people were gifted with the presence of the fire bringer named Ahiga.”).

Having this succinct review of the premise and environment offers readers an immediate ability to absorb the concerns and revelations of the story, which moves from the introduction to the crux of affairs when, generations later, a baby is rescued from a shapeshifter wolf pack. This event leads a young boy, his sister, and a wise medicine man on a journey to find a legendary Fire Spirit to save their village from destruction.

As the story unfolds, the clash between ordinary heroes and evil forces becomes a compelling investigation of not just the motives of those who undergo a quest, but the perceptions of those they leave behind: “Charles continued after drawing once more on his pipe. “There comes a time in a young man’s life when he must set out on his own … to set his own path through life.” Again, more silence. “You’re going with them, then?” Charles motioned to the closed entrance door to the cabin. Sam looked at Charles sadly at this point and said, “Yes, they need my help.” Charles just nodded. He thought sadly to himself that there are some things which must be set free.”

From windows of opportunity that open and shut to personal struggles with fear and threats (“He did his best to be at ease. Be like Charles. He kept saying this over and over in his head. He didn’t want to be here. He wanted to be back on the barge with the barge master, back in Stoney Creek. He was beginning to feel deeply afraid.”), J. Speer’s story goes beyond a fantasy quest to probe the feelings and evolution of those who journey through an unfamiliar, frightening world.

It should be noted that some conflict descriptions are explicit, which further reinforces the recommendation that the best audience for Searching for Fire will be mature teens to new adults and adults. These readers will find such descriptions tasteful and in keeping with the overall story, and will appreciate the inspections into motive, good and evil forces, and psychological growth that blend into the adventure and action. The story even ventures into realms controlled by the legendary Ahiga and the gods in a quest for balance, victory, and salvation from the threatening forces of darkness.

The result is a compelling, involving tale that excels in revealing the growth of all characters as they confront higher purposes and challenges than their individual daily lives. “