Play Chess, Not Checkers: Advice From a Boss Bitch

It seems like the word “entrepreneur” can be found everywhere.  Entrepreneur is a  buzz word that’s usually prefaced by a hashtag or splashed onto an IG post in a trendy font.  The fascination is understandable – there is a certain glamour associated with the term.  Who doesn’t want to be known for taking a risk and coming out on top?  How many of us fantasize about owning our own business, managing our own schedules, and nourishing our own ideas?  At the end of the day, we all want autonomy.  For myself, that autonomy is found through blogging.  I freely admit that I have my own entrepreneurial ambitions and I am continually seeking guidance from fellow boss babes and bitches.

Since I am new to the whole idea of owning and growing a business, I was excited to discover a how-to guidebook, Boss Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Plan to Take Charge of Your Career, written by fellow millennial Nicole Lapin.  Lapin’s bio is impressive: a NYT bestselling author, news anchor, consultant, and nationally syndicated personality.  And did I mention that she is only one month older than me (33 years old)?  Yikes.

Boss BitchThe book is a mixture of practical advice and motivational pep talks.  Whether self-employed or an employee, Lapin encourages women to shun traditionally rewarded role of passivity.  The main message of the book (which is encapsulated in the bright yellow dust jacket): shine bright,  aim high, and create an empowering professional life. 

Boss Bitch is a really great primer for women who are just starting off on their own or looking to create a side hustle.  I wouldn’t recommend it to those who are seasoned professionals, or those turned off by the repeated use of the word “bitch”. It’s in the book.  A lot. 

One of my favorite quotes pertains to leadership:

 

A leader plays chess and not checkers.  Even though I’m terrible at chess, I know that not all pieces are the same; each one has it owns special moves and role as part of the strategy of the whole game.  But in checkers, all the pieces are the same and interchangeable.  A manager might look at her employees that way, as proverbial cogs in the work machine.  No one likes to feel like that.  Leaders, on the other hand, understand that each player and eace move is unique, and play the game accordingly.

Great advice for all boss bitches, current and aspiring. 

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

Fiction or Foreshadowing: Tell Me How This Ends Well

Common bookworm struggles include discovering new reads and having a large enough budget to accommodate said book discoveries.  When I stumbled upon Penguin Random House’s program, Blogging for Books, I was thrilled.  Free books in exchange for book reviews (which I happen to love writing)….a definite no brainer! 

9780451496881Within the literary fiction genre, David Samuel Levinson’s Tell Me How This End Well grabbed my interest as a work of Jewish American literature. The colorful dust jacket and cartoonish font belies the narrative found inside Levinson’s story, which is packed with complex characters and literary themes.  Some themes which grabbed my attention include:

From Bondage to Freedom

Passover, the Jewish holiday which recalls the Israelites escape from Egyptian bondage, serves as the symbolic backdrop for the novel’s main plot development.  The Jacobson family has endured the emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse of its patriarch, Julian Jacobson.  Julian has all of the traits of a psychopath and the family has suffered long enough under Julian’s watch.  As the family reluctantly gathers for the family Seder, a plan unfolds with the intention of killing Julian. 

The plot is revealed through the narration of each of the Jacobson children, Jacob, Edith, and Mo, followed by their mother, Roz.  The individual attention given to each family member’s perspective is one of my favorite parts of the novel.  Readers are able to see Julian through the eyes of each person, and just like in real life, each Jacobson has internalized Julian’s actions differently. The plot to kill Julian is messy and often takes unexpected turns.  The family initially is not working together, which leaves the reader to ponder, “Which family member will lead the Jacobson family out of their own personal Egypt?”

Second Generation Relationships

An added dimension to Levinson’s novel is the tense relationships that exist between second (and even third) generation Jews and Germans, post-Holocaust.  Readers are first introduced to Jacob Jacobson, a queer screenplay writer living in Germany with his lover, Dietrich.  Levinson spends a lot of time describing the tensions between Dietrich and Jacob, which culminate in a bizarre beach scene where Jacob and Diet are arrested by the police for public indecency.  “What wasn’t right was so wrong, so utterly, horribly, disgustingly wrong, that it was nearly indescribable, nearly but not quite, for there was Jacob in the schmatte with the yellow Star of David embroidered into the pocket and there was Dietrich in the SS uniform, shiny black leather boots and all.”

It would take a lot of psychoanalysis and white space to break down the complexity of this scene.  My interpretation is that Jacob and Diet’s relationship ties into larger themes of power struggles, personal empowerment, and what it means to be a Jew in the 21st century.

Isolationism vs Interventionism

In the futuristic landscape of 2022, American Jews are the subject of regular anti-Semitic attacks.  Israel has been disbanded and Israeli refugees find themselves unwelcome guests.  Even though this may be a work of fiction, Levinson’s portrayal of an isolationist United States is not too far off from our current political climate.  The questions which Levinson’s novel pokes at, and which every Jewish person has found themselves asking include, “What happens when things go south again?  What safe haven will exist for Jews?”  In fact, the title of the book, Tell Me How This Ends Well, can be an invitation to discuss not only the personal ending to Julian Jacobson’s reign of terror, but the larger ending (or beginning?) of the Jewish plight. 

As the novel comes to a close, readers discover that Jacob is welcomed in Berlin.  Germany has become an unexpected ally to the Jews.  The U.S. Jacobson family members continue to struggle with anti-Semitism.  Jacob tries to convince them to join him in Germany, “…which made it a capital offense to harm in any way or kill a person of Jewish descent”.  Fast forward to 2024 and the last page of the novel, where Roz Jacobson has passed away and Germany has ratified the law, removing Jews from “The Approved List of Protected Species”.  In an uncertain and unsafe landscape without their matriarch, the Jacobson children continue onwards.

Tell Me How This Ends Well is a challenging and thought provoking novel.  The characters are memorable.  There are so many competing themes in the narrative and I felt the pull of all of theme, which served as a distraction.  With that being said, this would be a great book selection for a JCC book club or Jewish American literature class, as there are many angles to discuss.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

Accidental Blogger

It’s been a minute, folks.  I’ve had many post ideas, but found myself lacking in either time or motivation.  I intend to make improvements in this area, with plans to write with more consistency.  Even though I haven’t posted much, I have continued to make my way through some amazing books, including Eating in the Light of the Moon and The Handmaid’s Tale.  In another blog post, I want to explore the theme of female autonomy from both fiction and non-fiction perspectives.  But…..that’s not this post.

This post has more of a back-to-basics kinda theme.  Why do I blog?  How did it all start? My personality leans toward enigmatic, so I thought I would share how I fell down the rabbit hole.

AccidentalBlogger

How did I become a blogger?

To answer this question, I have to elaborate on my views on blogging versus writing.  Wait…you might be thinking that they are the same thing, right?

I draw a distinction between blogging and writing.  I am a writer and blogging is just another tool which I use to promote self-expression and/or ideas.  I am minimally interested in all of the typical blogging ventures: SEO, growing audiences, trends, branding, etc.  Perhaps I should have more of an interest, but at this moment, my blog is still primarily a creative tool.  And that is really how it all started.

I have always kept paper journals.  Somewhere in a box lives my hot pink Mead spiral from first grade, a collection of haiku from fifth grade, and lots of paper journals filled with bad poetry and teenage angst.  I became an accidental blogger sometime during the New Millennium, joining the LiveJournal wave.  It probably started out of a pathetic attempt to keep track of the three friends I had in high school, but it soon became a regular habit.

LJ was actually a magical community.  I connected with people close and far.  We had an LJ meet-up at Barnes & Noble.  We were opinionated and argumentative; supportive, kind, and intelligent.  My LJ timeline included starting college while overcoming personal tragedy.  In a blink of an eye, my world had fallen apart.  LJ was a place where I felt less lonely.  It also served as distraction as I read about other peoples’ lives.  I had the freedom to explore deeper ideas and join communities of like-minded people.

As we all know, nothing stays the same.  Newer technologies emerged and people started to spend less time on LJ.  It still exists, but it isn’t the same.  (Honestly, I haven’t been on the site in years).  Myspace happened.  Facebook emerged.  Everyone wanted to be friends of Tom or Mark.  Instead of reading words, audiences were more interested in pictures with brief captions.  I hopped on the Myspace bandwagon and tried blogging – it was awful. I have already shared my thoughts about Facebook.

I stopped blogging.  My community had disappeared and I was really busy with school and work.  I wrote some pretty badass Amazon book reviews, but my online writing presence was diminished.  A particularly intense bout of depression brought me back to blogging, and Seferlover was born.  I started to use this blog to help me express myself and distract.  I have had one loyal reader (shout out to Dayle!).  Honestly, it didn’t matter if I had a gaggle of readers.  The words just needed to pour out of me.

As I have grown as a person, I find that I also have a desire for my blog to undergo transformations.  It will always be personal, but I really have the desire to focus on book reviews and analysis.  My future blog self would like to contribute more to other sites, exploring our current social and political climate through the stuff that I read.  That’s my jam.

Speaking of jam, I always listen to music when I blog.  LJ days included a lot of Ms. DiFranco, Tori Amos, and Nine Inch Nails.  I still am pretty emo: I love me some Sufjan Stevens, Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes, Simon & Garfunkel, and any rendition of the song “Shady Grove”.

 

 

 

 

SoCo

I am not a good traveler.

As much as my heart may desire to explore other places, I am a creature that thrives on routines.  My sanity is held together by very specific sleep habits (a fan for white noise, complete silence and no lights or electronics), access to soft, furry mammals, and my beloved tea kettle.  With the requisite conditions mentioned above and a good 8-9 hours of sleep, I am Mary Poppins in the morning.  Anything less and I become an awful human, disinterested in the world at large and feared by my husband.

Needless to say, I was a bit hesitant when we embarked on our first vacation in years.  I brought everything necessary for comfort (including my four year old poodle, Bobbi) and we set out for Bluffton, South Carolina.

Bluffton, South Carolina is a small town west of Hilton Head.  Bluffton is home to many retirees, including my in-laws.  It is a perfect combination of old and new, with a charming historic district and new construction communities filled with cookie-cutter homes.  Geographically speaking, it is a 30 minute drive from Savannah and Beaufort, and about two hours away from Charleston.  Mark and I always feel like we have entered a bucolic daydream, happily escaping the frenzied and abrasive lifestyle of South Florida.

Highlights of our fall sojourn included:

Binge listening to Serial podcasts in the car.

Enjoying Pepper Chicken Stew, which my mother-in-law prepared for our tummies

Exploring Beaufort on a horse drawn carriage tour,which included learning more about its history, architectural wonders, and relevance in pop culture. Movies such as Forrest Gump, The Big Chill and Prince of Tides have been filmed in Beaufort.  Beautiful homes in historically accurate colors line the streets, with porch roofs painted in haint blue, a Gullah tradition said to ward off evil spirits. Mark and I visited the grave of Robert Smalls. We ended our day by exploring the graveyard at St. Helena’s, a parish established in 1712.

beaufort-house

Idyllic

beaufort-grave

Grave at St. Helena’s in Beaufort, SC

Sunday was devoted to my favorite southern city, Savannah.  Savannah is eclectic.  Bull Street is where you will find Oglethorpe’s squares and quaint storefronts.  Savannah is great for artists, history buffs, foodies, and city dwellers.  I dream of one day owning a Victorian jewel, complete with a porch for reading and sweet tea sipping.

My husband’s desire was to tour the Mercer Williams House, made infamous in the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  I was tickled by the fact that the house is still inhabited by Dr. Kingery and her cat.  In fact, I spotted a cat toy underneath one of the antique furniture pieces.

Besides our tour, we enjoyed lunch at one of our favorite Savannah spots, Goose Feathers Cafe.  I had the Bird’s Nest, which is grits topped with two poached eggs, salsa, and surrounded with a “nest” of cheddar.  After lunch, we made a stop at The Book Lady Bookstore (which is quite possibly the most charming used bookstore ever).  Mark picked up a signed copy of Mike Doughty’s book, while I stumbled across a Savannah local’s work, The Woman Who Spilled Words All Over Herself.

We stood in line for ice cream at Leopold’s.  I had a scoop of honey-almond and Mark ordered a banana split.  We wrapped up  our day at the marketplace, where my husband bought way too many pralines.

writers

Bookstore.jpg

Selfie.jpg

We stink at selfies.

On Halloween, we joined Mark’s parents in Charleston.  It was a bad day to be in downtown Charleston due to the start of a well-known trial.  Instead, we opted to head west, eating lunch at The Glass Onion.  It is a very, very good thing that this restaurant is far away from me.  I would eat there everyday and that would be unfortunate for my waistline.  The menu changes daily.  I ordered the shrimp po’boy, which was buttery and flavorful; Mark dined on the clam po’boy.  The iced tea was crisp and refreshing.  The mashed potatoes were rich and lumpy.  It was the yummiest.

After lunch, Mark and I traveled to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.  I wanted to see a plantation, specifically from the slave’s perspective.  Magnolia is one of the first plantations to offer tours of the slave quarters.  Our tour guide, Joseph McGill, was extremely knowledgable.  He is an advocate, working with The Slave Dwelling Project.  It was humbling to see the small cabins which families shared and inhabited until 1990.  (That’s not a typo….descendants really lived there until 1990).  Magnolia’s main crop was Carolina gold rice.  Flooding rice fields meant pestilence and hard, manual labor.

As we were leaving, we saw the plantation’s cat, Sylvester.  He is 21 years old and very friendly.  The plantation was both beautiful and eerie.

Kitteh.jpg

If you are still with me, I am impressed with your dedication.  Our vacation was the perfect blend of southern comfort, and it left me with the slightest feeling of wanderlust.  I am already pestering Mark about where our next road trip will take us.  In the meantime, I have good books to take me to faraway places.