Two audiobooks are highlighted this week. They don’t have a lot in common, but I enjoyed reading (listening) to both of them. The first is a middle-grade novel and the second is a short murder mystery. The mystery was written in 1925 and the middle-grade offering was just published in 2020.
One Last Shot – John David Anderson – 2020
In my reading of One Last Shot there were a few times when my eyebrows went up with some adult-type humor, but the story was so well told that it made my cut list for this week. I also had to warm up to protagonist, Malcolm. He is an introvert (easy to identify with); he never felt like he was good enough, especially for his dad and especially in athletics; he seemed emotionally down for most of the first few chapters. I found I was growing tired of his self-deprecation. But then the back story began to come into focus and the pieces of the puzzle began to illuminate Malcom’s character and family situation.
The story-telling of this middle grade novel centers around miniature golf. Malcom discovers putt-putt and finds that he likes it and that he is quite good at it. Mom is supportive and dad goes over-the-top with excitement. Tournaments, coaches, practices, and competition combine for enthusiasm and excitement and relational train wrecks. I appreciated the author’s technique of walking through a tournament of miniature golf and each hole relating a flashback of significance and insight.
The Witness for the Prosecution – Agatha Christie 1925
This short-story is a quick read (or a quick listen) but it is such a interesting plot. Emily French, a wealthy spinster, is murdered. Suspicion is cast upon Leonard Vole. Leonard has an alibi – his wife Romaine. His wife has an incredible response to the situation. The case goes to court and the evidence and testimony is rather amazing. No more can be said without providing a spoiler – it is a great little read, a nice little treat for mystery fans.
I found it amazing how many theories went through my head in such a short amount of time. It is easy to see why Agatha Christie is held in such high esteem. According to Goodreads.com,. she is the best-selling author of all time with 66 crime novels and story collections, fourteen plays, and six novels. Her books have sold over a billion copies in the English language and then another a billion books in translation, having been translated into at least 103 languages.
Under 360 miles to the finish line! My goal of hiking the year (2,021 miles in 2021) is getting closer. Week 35 of this calendar year ran from August 20 to August 26 (Friday through Thursday). The majority of the weather in Springboro, Ohio, was warm and dry enabling me to walk 54 miles during this seven-day period. Since January 1, 2021, I have accumulated just over 1664 miles.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this challenge so far. The daily walks have been physically and emotionally. Breathing fresh air and soaking in some sunshine energizes my mind and my spirit. I believe walking (especially a hike in the woods) is a total person workout. The sounds of the forest are soothing and the quiet of the path provides time for reflection, innovative thinking, and personal prayer.
The Fiber Optics, Gas-line, hole-digging guy knocked on my door this week and let me know that they needed to connect my home to the new gas service. And presto-chango – my front yard received several new piercings. After a day of painful digging, the hole-digging guy came back to the door and connected me to my brand-new service. He left my house with a pleasant smile and a Hi-Ho Silver. The next day my wife commented that she had no hot water. I called the hole-digging guy – answering machine. I walked the neighborhood looking for a hole-digging crew – they don’t work on Fridays (or Saturdays, or Sundays). Today is Monday and it is supposed to rain all day – I am hoping that the hole-digging guy works in the rain, but I am not holding my breath. Washing the dishes, the clothes, and the body in cold water is not ideal, but then I think about the many people who don’t have enough clean cold water to drink, don’t have indoor plumbing, don’t have a washing machine, don’t have enough food to fill their plates. I just have to be patient…., but a hot shower is going to feel great!
Back to the walks. I had a short but nice walk in the woods. When one is hiking in the blazing hot sun, the canopy feels great. The trees form this cool umbrella that lowers the air temperature several degrees and blocks the pounding heat of the sun with welcomed shade. The only downside is the web-walking experience. The spiders do an incredible job of setting traps in such a way that I can’t see them until I have walked right into them. Most of the time others have web-walked for me and the path is clear, but there have been a few times when I have provided that service for those who came behind me.
It looks like a wet week ahead, but as they say on the Appalachian Trail, “No Pain, No Rain, No Maine.” I have nice rain gear in my closet waiting to be called into action.
I was able to read (listen to) two outstanding audiobooks this week. Neither one was written this past year, or during the past decade, or even in this century, but both are very worthy of consideration for your reading list.
The Hobbit, or There and Back Again by J.R.R.Tolkien
Listening time: 10 hours and 24 minutes.
I have read the hobbit twice before, but this was my first time listening to it as an audiobook. The narrator of this incredible tale was Andy Serkis, the actor who played the part of Gollum/Smeagol in the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings movies. His oral interpretation of the text was fabulous including the singing of the many songs presented in the book.
Bilbo Baggins comes alive as such a likable, humble, and quick-humored hobbit. The adventure is intense, the action flows, and the humor is so well done. Gandalf, the company of 13 dwarves with names that just crack me up, and the magnificent Smaug (or is that Smaug the Magnificent?) make the cast interesting and varied so that the story-telling moves at an exciting pace.
The book was published in 1937 (14 years before the Lord of The Rings series) but the writing style and the vocabulary seemed to transcend time as takes the reader into another land and an alternative history where the words and expressions “fit” the Middle Earth perfectly.
I love the movie experience of the Hobbit and I appreciate some of the additions/alterations of Hollywood, but the book is so complete and such a masterpiece that it is worth reading and listening to often.
Echo in the Darkness (Mark of the Lion #2) by Francine Rivers
Listening time:18 hrs. 30 min.
Book #1 (A Voice in the Wind) is a must-read to fully appreciate this second novel (Echo in the Darkness, published in 1994) in the Mark of the Lion series. I thoroughly enjoyed book #1, but I think book two is even better. The plot was full the individual stories involving the major characters of the cast: Marcus, Julia, and Hadassah, as well as the weaving of situations and circumstances that bring the lives together to a dramatic conclusion. This powerful story of redemption is written from a Christian perspective and shares the good news of Jesus with clarity. The powerful character of Hadassah, a humble, submissive Christ-follower, who is thought to have been killed by lions in the arena, not only survives but she ties this story together and is the major focal point of the novel. She continues to impact and serve the Valerian family within the veils of a hidden identity and a role of healer/caretaker.
The spiritual journey of a prosperous yet grieving man, the hopelessness of a selfish woman, the misunderstandings of a well-meaning physician, the misguided loyalty of a patient, the pagan society that provides many gods to appease, and the miraculous power of the Sovereign God are some of the elements that blend together to contribute to this enjoyable read by Francine Rivers.
This past week (August 13-19) was the 34th week of 2021. January 1, 2021, landed on a Friday so the weeks of this challenge run from Friday through Thursday. The challenge is to walk the year in miles, so my goal is to hike 2,021 miles in the year 2021.
Week 34 was a good one as my schedule and the weather both cooperated as a team to provide some good mileage. I was able to walk 65.8 miles this week. The minimum weekly walk to accomplish the goal in 52 weeks is 39 miles, so this week’s mileage far exceeded the “bar” to finish on time. I was also able to hit the 1600-mile mark on Wednesday and end the week having accumulated 1610.5 miles toward the goal. The finish line is still 410.5 miles away, but the walks are so energizing, and I continue to enjoy being outside breathing the fresh air of summer.
I live in a safe neighborhood, and it has some very pretty places to see. I like to find the beautiful and interesting aspects of my concrete walking loops around my house. Here are few photos of the concrete and the colorful life I saw this week.
However, not everything is gorgeous. As with life, there are areas of construction and change. This summer has brought lots of digging and noisy equipment in order to upgrade and provide services to the community.
This week brought a “day in the woods” hike with Rocky. We hiked together at Carriage Hill MetroPark, then drove to Englewood MetroPark for another quick hike. Both of these hikes are part of a MetroPark challenge we are doing together. I sure enjoy the woods more than the sidewalks.
Be An Angel Day encourages good deeds and kindness to others. Supporting those in need, a kind word, a needed hug, comfort for the grieving and hurting, a light in the darkness around us – these are the actions and attitudes to be exercised on August 22 (and every day of the year). I am glad that there is a day like this that is highlighted on our yearly calendars, but this truly should be a world-view, a lifestyle commitment, and an all-encompassing mindset. If we acted like angels (the word literally means, messengers from God) and brought the grace, forgiveness, and love of God to those around us, the devastating aspects of our society driven by greed, selfishness, and ambition would disappear.
The first thought that came to my mind as I saw this day, was the trail angels I met along the Appalachian Trail. Sometimes the angels would set up grills and tables along the trail and cook hamburgers/and hotdogs with all the sides for the thru-hikers coming by. Sometimes the angels would offer free rides into the nearby towns so the hikers could resupply and find a good night’s sleep. Sometimes, there was a cooler filled with Gatorades and power-bars sitting in the woods with no one around to thank. The focus was not on the angel but on the kindness. How thankful I was every time I encountered these random expressions of support and thoughtfulness. I want to respond like an angel every day in August, September, October…. you get the idea.
August 23 – Cuban Sandwich Day
Celebrate today with a sandwich that was born in Cuba, but grew up in Florida. Traditionally this sandwich is made of ham, roast pork, swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread (a light bread, usually made with all white flour with a very thin crispy crust and a soft interior). If you are interested in making your own instead of making a trip to Cuba, check out Chef John’s Cuban Bread | Allrecipes, for a good recipe.
August 24 – Waffle Day
August 24th is the anniversary of the first waffle iron patent issued. Celebrate by savoring your favorite kind of waffle! On August 24, 1869, Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York, received his patent for the waffle iron. While waffles existed long before then, the invention of this special iron made waffles easier to make and a popular breakfast item. Grab some batter, some soft butter, and some maple syrup, or strawberries and whipped cream, or peanut butter and jelly, or powdered sugar and cinnamon, and have a smorgasbord of waffle delights.
August 25 – National Park Service Founders Day
On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed what is now called the Organic Act. It established the National Park Service. As part of the Department of Interior, the National Park Service protects 400 areas in each of the 50 states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia totaling 84 million acres.
Take some time today (or sometime soon) and look at the National Parks. Look up some photographs of the different parks. Take a virtual tour of some of the incredible spots across our country. Take special note of some places you want to see up close and personal. While you’re online, discover some of the history of the US as you explore the context of these national parks.
During my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, I hiked through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Shenandoah National Park. Both parks were very different in terrain and yet both were spectacularly beautiful.
August 26 – National Women’s Equality Day
The United States Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting women full and equal voting rights on August 26, 1920. Think about that for a few minutes. The emancipation proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863, ending slavery in America – it was 57 years later before women of any color got the right to vote in the United States. The women’s sufferance movement is a sad story of diligent women who would not give up. Many like Elizabeth Cady Staton (died 1902) and Susan B. Anthony (died 1906) labored for the vote but died before their dreams were realized.
Consider contacting the influential women in your life and let them know about their impact. Teachers, doctors, mothers, lawyers, scholars, scientists, astronauts, authors, musicians, illustrators, coaches, mentors, etc. In my personal life, women have played such an important role and have shaped me in my philosophy, ethic, career, lifestyle, and worldview. Make a quick top-12 list and send them a text/email to let them know of their impact and your appreciation.
August 27 – Just Because Day
Just Because Day offers up an opportunity to do stuff…just because. There is a danger in this day because it can lead us to selfishness and negative spontaneity. But it also has the potential to be creative and use our freedoms to express God’s love to other people. Think about ways you can serve others…..just because you can. Stop and take a look around you – see a need, meet a need, just because you can and just because you were created to love. I have thought of several ideas for myself, but I am not going to share them, but rather encourage you to develop a list for yourself. How can you serve others and touch the lives of those around you…just because you can.
August 28 – Thoughtful Day
I think August 27 and 28 should combine into a two-day celebration that really spills over into a daily routine and a constant way of looking a life. Being thoughtful in word and deed toward those around you will able you to meet needs and change the lives of others. Being thoughtful can manifest itself in simple ways: a quick word of encouragement, a short note of inspiration, a small token of appreciation. Being thoughtful usually involves our actions: buy some groceries, fix a meal, bake a pie, make a visit, take a kid/grandchild to the park, pick up your room.
May this Thoughtful Day be the beginning of many thoughtful days. Use today to make a list of thoughtful things you can do over the next several weeks/months. Just to prime the pump and get the creative juices flowing, here are a few ideas:
Mail a handwritten to friends you haven’t seen for a while.
Bake some cookies and deliver them to friends and family and neighbors. Look for an opportunity to sit and visit for a while.
Bring fresh flowers to someone who blesses you.
Invite someone over for tea.
Now it’s your turn to add to the list and make it your own.
I am following two online journals of current hikers attemping a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Sadly, there is no word from Mileage or from the Rothman’s (Rock and Roots). Both of their online journals are silent. I am still hopeful that they are still hiking NOBO and, if nothing else, maybe they will post a final entry from the big brown sign on Mount Katahdin in Maine.
Since I have nothing from the trail in 2021, let me share some past news from the AT. Two years ago I wrote a couple of posts about an event of tragic violence on the Appalachian Trail. Recently, I discovered the legal conclusion to the murder that occurred on the Appalachian Trail in 2019. I have a close friend who was thru-hiking the AT at the time and was involved in helping the injured hiker to safety.
On May 10, 2019, James Jordan, aka Sovereign, murdered a thru-hiker (Robert Sanchez), attempted to murder another thru-hiker, Kirby Morrill, and threatened several other hikers along the Appalachian Trail. On May 11, he was captured, arrested, and held for trial in Smyth County, Virginia. James Jordon was charged with one count of murder and one count of assault with the intent to murder.
The judge ordered that Jordan be detained for a psychological or psychiatric examination to determine whether he suffered from “mental disease or defect” that would make him unable to understand the charges he faces or help attorneys in his defense. After this initial examination, Magistrate Judge Pamela Meade Sargent agreed to give the Bureau of Prisons 120 more days in the “period of restoration.” She also stated that: “…the treating psychiatrist or psychologist shall report his/her findings to this court as to the following: a. Whether the defendant is suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or assist properly in his defense; and b. If so, whether there is a substantial probability that in the foreseeable future the defendant will attain the capacity to permit his trial to proceed.”
On April 22, 2021, a federal judge accepted a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity from Jordan. Both the prosecution and defense reached an agreement for the plea after a sanity evaluation found that he suffered from schizoaffective disorder and concluded that he was “unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his acts.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Schizoaffective disorder symptoms may vary from person to person. People with the condition experience psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions, as well as symptoms of a mood disorder — either bipolar type (episodes of mania and sometimes depression) or depressive type (episodes of depression). Although the development and course of schizoaffective disorder may vary, defining features include a major mood episode (depressed or manic mood) and at least a two-week period of psychotic symptoms when a major mood episode is not present.”
The Mayo clinic website also cites the following signs and symptoms of schizoaffective disorder: Delusions: having false, fixed beliefs, despite evidence to the contrary; Hallucinations, such as hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there; Impaired communication and speech, such as being incoherent; Bizarre or unusual behavior; Symptoms of depression, such as feeling empty, sad or worthless; Periods of manic mood, with an increase in energy and a decreased need for sleep over several days, and behaviors that are out of character; Impaired occupational, academic and social functioning; Problems with managing personal care, including cleanliness and physical appearance
James Jordan was committed to a psychiatric institution and “will not be released until a court finds by clear and convincing evidence that his release would not create a substantial risk of injury to anyone else.” His lawyers attorneys Juval O. Scott, Lisa Lorish, and Matthew Engle say that Jordan is now “deeply remorseful for the profound sorrow he has caused” and that he has suffered from lifelong mental illness.
An effective organizational leader knows how to win and how to lose. Sometimes knowing how to win is more difficult than knowing how to lose. Both winning and losing demand integrity, humility, sensitivity. Since we live in such a sports-minded society and a world that competes athletically in many international events, sportsmanship seems like a good descriptor for leadership. As we look at five attributes of sportsmanship, transfer these ideas to your organization and your leadership role within the company.
According to Masterclass, there are five qualities that contribute to the overall concept of sportsmanship: 1) Be supportive, 2) Have a positive attitude, 3) Be respectful, 4) Be willing to learn, and 5) Practice self-discipline. As we explore each one of these qualities in a little more detail, think about winning, then think about losing and how these characteristics surface in both outcomes.
#1. Be supportive. Words of negative criticism and blame casting can be so discouraging that they cause additional errors instead of correcting them. On the other hand, positive encouragement and supportive comments can inspire others with forgiveness and understanding. Hopefully, there is no one in the organization who wants to do a bad job or to let the rest of the team down. If you have hired people who buy into the mission statement and desire to see the organization succeed, then you can assume that they are all doing the very best job they can and they want to win. Don’t take a disappointment out on your employees; don’t shift responsibilities from your shoulders to someone else’s plate. Sportsmanship involves cheerleading, being a motivational speaker, offering a genuine fist bump or a high-five of celebration and renewing the confidence of a good employee who made a mistake.
#2 Have a positive attitude. If you are by nature a pessimist, check you attitude before every meeting, during the meeting itself, and after the meeting is over. If you are not having fun, if you are not laughing, if you are not finding the positive light in the situation, you are most likely leading your organization into a dark cave filled with bats. Childish behavior, temper tantrums, and quiet pouting can splash freezing cold water on evaluation, goal setting, strategic planning, and teamwork. I have a dear friend who shared with me that his goal is to be most positive person in any room he enters… and he accomplishes it. I love being around him, I will follow him at a moment’s notice, I believe we can accomplish whatever he suggests. His positive attitude is contagious, and I desire to catch it.
#3 Be respectful. Verbal put downs directed toward colleagues or opponents only serves to tarnish the leader’s reputation. The natural tendency to trade slams and to return evil for evil might temporary satisfaction for the leader, but the impact of sportsmanship is scratched and dented. Whining about decisions and arguing among the team can destroy the spirit of sportsmanship. Negative trash talk should stay in the trash. Bragging and rubbing in should find the circular file as well. Respect for others, whether above you, on the same rung, or lower than you on the organizational ladder, should be the demonstrated with upmost care. Don’t let pride or ambition get in the way of good sportsmanship.
#4 Be willing to learn. If you win, capture what you did right, evaluate the combination of elements that brought a victory, and make note of the potential pitfalls you avoided. If you lose, make an honest list of your mistakes and design a plan to mitigate or eliminate those errors. It is often easier to learn from mistake than it is from successes. The mistakes are usually more obvious, while the details in the recipe for victory might easily get overlooked. Once the positive and negative elements are identified, practice doing the good stuff and be careful to eliminate the mistakes. Learning from the past and striving to improve as an organization promotes a spirit of sportsmanship in the organization.
#5 Practice self-control. Of the five characteristics, this is the most practical and important. Sportsmanship is determined and defined by the amount of self-control demonstrated by the leader. Yelling, banging of the desk, losing your hold on your emotions, losing the appropriate selection of vocabulary, and throwing things across the room set the standards of sportsmanship of fire. People can push our buttons, red tape can frustrate our patience, opposition can crush our vision, “no” can bend the enthusiasm of “yes.” If the leader focuses on his/her emotions, sportsmanship will suffer in the heat of battle. However, if the leader can focus on the mission and embrace the journey as an adventure, the hurdles, the buttons, the opposition, all become part of the end game.
Two audiobooks appear in this week’s recommended folder. One work of fiction that reads like a true story and one memior that is filled with realism and the realities of World War 2. Neither book is very lengthy and yet the messages made me think and ponder on the depravity of man. I completed both books reflecting on the grace and mercy of God.
Safely Home – by Randy Alcorn 2001
Two college friends, one from America and the other from China, lose track of one another for 20 years. The American lives in corporate America with eyes set on the company’s CEO office. The company has major interests in China and the American travels to China and makes arrangements to reunite with his friend. The major contrasts between the two men are stark indeed including family, economic wealth, faith, and priorities
This novel holds a powerful message for the comfortable church in the land of the free. The believers in China and many other countries around the world are not free to worship Jesus, but face persecution, opposition, and violence for their faith. It is so easy for me to focus on my first world problems (the price of gasoline, the coldness of air conditioning in fast food restaurants, and the speed on my internet connection) and forget that so many Christians around the world face imprisonment, ridicule, and joblessness because of their faith. This novel is an easy read without graphic violence or profanity or sensationalism, but with the faithful testimony of those who love God and live for the gospel of Jesus despite the cost and sacrifice.
It is a sobering book that made me think and pray and evaluate.
The Boy on the Wooden Box – Leon Leyson 2013
Leib Lezjon was only 10-years-old when Nazi Germany invaded Poland and uprooted his family to the Krakow ghetto. And the Plaszow concentration camp. One of the significant aspects of this memoir is that Leib (whose name was changed to Leon Leyson) was one of the holocaust survivors that found his name on Schindler’s List. Leon worked in Schindler’s factory and had to stand on a wooded box to perform his job. Schindler saved not only Leon Leyson’s life, but also the lives of his mother, his father, and two of his four siblings. Although the insanity of the Nazi soldiers is not withheld from the memoir, there is a spirit of hope throughout the storyline.
This audiobook is short and yet, the length was a perfect fit for Leon’s remembrances. The narrator, Danny Burstein, did a fine job in maintaining a good pace and providing an excellent interpretation of the author’s work. This might be aimed at the middle grade level (and an excellent consideration for the classroom), I found it interesting and unique.
The hike continues as I track the mileage I walk each week, in hopes of accumulating 2,021 miles during the calendar year of 2021. I have just finished up Week 32 of this personal hiking challenge (August 6-12). As I had hoped, the summer weather is allowing me to put in some nice walks. This week I managed to trek 57 miles. During the week, I hit the 1500-mile mark, and by August 12 I had accumulated 1,544.7 miles. With a little quick math, I realized that I have less than 500 miles to go (500 Miles – sounds like a good song, although I think Peter, Paul, and Mary, and Glen Campbell, and a dozen more may have beat me to it) – 476.3 miles to be exact but who could sing a song about that crazy number.
Week 32 involved lots of sidewalks. I have been carefully supervising the installation of a fiber-optic line and a water line in my neighborhood. No one has asked me for a detailed report, but the work crews have spent the entire summer visiting our neighborhood. As I have talked with some of my fellow neighborhood walkers and residents along my routes, I have concluded that many folks are going to be thrilled when the last hole is dug in their yards and when the last truck pulls away from the curb. Progress has a price; and innovation initially includes inconvenience (that’s my alliteration for the day).
Rocky (my wife Cathy) and I took a hike this week from Eastwood MetroPark to Huffman Dam (about 6 miles round trip). It was a rather overcast day, which was good because there are several miles of bike path without any tree cover. At Huffman Dam, there is a bridge over the dam that can provide a vertigo moment if you choose to look over the side. I don’t like heights, but I always have to look. On one side there was a wrecked bicycle that I hope was pushed over the side and not ridden to its final destination – I didn’t see anyone floating in the river or a bleeding body beside the two-wheeler, so I think no physical injury occurred in the death of the bike.
At Huffman Dam, there is also a series of narrow, tight switchbacks on the bike trail that is unique to all the Metroparks that I have visited. It adds an interesting variety to the typical, normal, straight paved trail. The hike from Eastwood to Huffman Dam is also part of the Buckeye Trail which took Rocky and me into a nice, wooded path at Eastwood Park. It runs right along the Mad River and was a great change of pace from the asphalt of the bike path.