Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

My reaction to this book: Wow, just, Wow. One of the librarians at my local library said she can’t wait to read this book. Now I understand why. This book is better than the local news.

The story of George Washington Black, known as “Wash”, begins in Barbados and ends in Morocco. The story begins with how he sees the world and understands of it through what he learns about himself and his past. Wash undertakes many journeys, both physical and emotional, due to what happened to him on Barbados. Wash’s story gives a very different perspective to the world of the early 1800s.

A must read for history and science fans.

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Siracusa by Delia Ephron

I began reading this book while sitting in a parking lot waiting for a wake to begin. I just needed something different from all of the seriousness and sadness going on. I actually wanted to finish reading this book, something that rarely happens.

Two couples decide to go on vacation together and their secrets, their past, and their problems follow them. The ending you don’t see coming and the big reveal is only one line that you may miss if you skip ahead.

Enjoy. Siracusa will have you hanging on for more.

Under My Notebook (Answering Seth Godin)

What will they tell their friends?

I usually carry a notebook and pens with me wherever I go. The notebook is filled with math calculations and notes about my resume clients’ work experience.

What I can’t carry with me is what other people have to say about me.

I was at a meeting for a group I’m involved with the other night and one of the women there was talking about her own business and how she hates marketing. However, marketing oneself is a necessary evil if one wants to run a business. Yes, marketing is tough but the people who do it constantly, be their true selves, and without being jerks come out the best.

Women have a difficult time with this because of the caught-in-the-middle attitude of society. Other women don’t like women who are straight shooters and men don’t like women who “brag” and stand up for themselves. A business owner has to find their crowd and find the people who support them.

Doing what I do, I have to be a straight shooter. I had to tell a resume client this week their email address wasn’t too professional and come to find out they had another email account they hadn’t been using. I’ve fought it out for my clients with parents, teachers, and even principals. Being a straight shooter and asking the tough questions gets things done and reveals insights.

What will they tell their friends? I usually find this out on social media. As much as I beg and plead for referrals, my best ones come from people referring me when a third party is asking for help. It takes them less than 10 seconds to tag me and write a few words. I jot everything down and save it and put it on the landing page for my website. Then I have it to share with anyone who wants it.

Statum & Pecunia (Answering Seth Godin)

At a recent business meeting, a business owner who handles mortgages talked about helping her clients and her family with the Debit Card Challenge. She discussed how people don’t realize how much money they are going through and where and when they are spending it because the debit card makes it invisible, one can’t see it. It isn’t until people actually hold a $50 bill in their hand and think about breaking it for a $4 cup of coffee that it becomes “real”.

Why this story? Because Seth Godin asks: How will it change their status?

Money is a universal language. When teaching someone English, money is a great place to begin because everyone needs money. Usually when students are learning on their own, they begin with the pecunia, the money.

Pecunia = statum.

Money = status. Money=status= survival.

The difficult part is convincing the adolescent or youngster of the whole money=status= survival and that for this equation to work, they need to complete certain classes and the chain reaction begins that they have to pass tests. We all have to do this.

So back to Seth. Convincing people not to spend money on fast food or any triviality versus your services is often an uphill battle. Sacrifice your Starbucks for a week to get help with that class you’re failing, help with the license exam you can’t pass, get that new resume. Starbucks and fast food places makes enough money from enough people.

I love, said with irony here, sitting in Starbucks and seeing people buying $10 or more worth of products on repeated days. Many of these same people have told me they can’t afford my services yet giving up a week for a better life seems like a win-win in the long run.

Shoot for the statum, my friends.

Are you Maya Vargas? (Answering Seth Godin)

What change are you seeking to make?

A lot of people find it difficult to understand what I do. I don’t like being called a “tutor”, even though on a basic level that is what I do. People have given me other names (not sharing them, yet). Can I have a moment and just say “tutor” is too banal for the areas I cover?

Yesterday I saw the movie “Second Act” with Jennifer Lopez. A very formulaic movie, yes, but Lopez’s character Maya Vargas is the epitome and screams of my answer to the question “who’s it for?” and phrase “ideal client”. First, I never, never, never, never, and never have clients lie. I’ve caught them in the act and told them straight out they need to be truthful because they will be found out. Second, I don’t want to be part of it. If I’m helping someone, it reflects poorly on me if they cheat.

Maya Vargas is a person everyone can identify with on some level. The woman who works for 15 years and is passed over because she doesn’t have a piece of paper. The woman who has her “past” and must make a choice between her partner that she loves and what she wants and needs to do to “get ahead”. Maya is the down-to-earth, girl-next-door who has built her relationships and has friends looking out for her and having them try to help gets in the way of the person she is trying to be. Maya wants to “fit in” and be “the One” but like everyone else, has her detractors. We’ve all had those work “enemies”, the jackass bosses, and people who just hate us from the word “go”. Maya is our dream because she rises to the occasion for all of them and overcomes.

I want to give people like Maya a first chance, a second chance, and a third chance. I want to give people chances they may never have had before. I want to give people the chance to showcase the skills and knowledge they have accumulated and earned. I want people to shine in their own spotlight. I want people to take what they have and run with it. I want people to succeed where they never thought possible.

I always tell my clients that if someone won’t take them seriously on their skills, they may not want to be working for that person. In the end, Maya goes out and manages to combine everything she has learned for her own venture. I know for many people this may not be possible at whatever point they are in their lives. However, opportunities abound. Fear is the only “thing” holding you back. Small steps. One at a time.

What change am I seeking to make? That first step, those first few steps, small or large, or that large leap with someone like Maya. Take my metaphoric hand and let’s do this together.

Don’t believe the movies.

A friend of mine introduced me to the British TV series “Horrible Histories”.  The show is designed for youth but offers a lot to be learned for adults as well, especially if one thinks history is boring.

In Eleanor Herman’s The Royal Art of Poison, Herman takes “Horrible Histories” one step further.  People defecating anywhere they could find in royal palaces, sewage up to people’s heads in basements, poor medical treatment, murder most foul, no antibiotics.  

How did humanity survive? How did we get here? Why was the movie Amadeus so wrong?

Herman goes through the lives, final days and hours, and the post mortems of many of history’s big names: Henry VII, Napoleon, many mistresses, Caravaggio, and many more.

Cosmetics haven’t changed much either.

Having a bad day? Read this book and you’ll feel much better.

Answering Seth Godin: What Are They Afraid Of?

What do people fear the most?  Public speaking? Death? Failure? Losing? Dark streets?  The dark? The unknown?

The greatest fear I’ve seen is people not wanting to admit they need help and/ or they don’t know something.

How many times I get the “I-don’t-want-to-be-here” attitude with the shaking table because the person is so nervous.

People don’t want to admit to strangers that they fear and that they don’t know.

The social media therapy memes that seem to be shared the most, besides cats, are the ones that talk about conquering fear.

Yes, there are things I fear and things and opportunities I haven’t taken advantage of due to fear.  I have tried to tackle one thing at a time.