The Bookworm: Tough seasons and powerful phrases

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“The Quiet Season: Remembering Country Winters”

By Jerry Apps

c. 2013, Wisconsin Historical Society Press

$22.95/higher in Canada; 150 pages

It snowed overnight. You saw it first thing this morning, and you grumbled. You know how much extra work that stuff is: shoveling, brushing, scraping. Everything needs more time to warm up and get going including you.

Sure, snow is pretty for about 10 minutes. Or, as you’ll see in “The Quiet Season” by Jerry Apps, it’s beautiful for a lifetime.

Born to a pair of farmers in the “midst of the Great Depression,” Jerry Apps says that, save but for his time spent in the Army, he’s never missed a Wisconsin winter. For folks in snowy climes, winter reminds us that “we are not in charge,” he says.

The winters of 1939-1947 were particularly memorable for Apps. Electricity hadn’t yet come to his parents’ farm it didn’t arrive until the spring of ’47 which meant that milking cows and fetching water was all done by hand. Dinner was made on a wood-burning stove that served both to prepare food and to heat the kitchen. Homework for the three Apps boys was done by kerosene lamp.

Apps remembers how his father prepared for winter by “making wood” from dead oak trees and hauling it closer to the house. The family butchered a hog every fall because they “needed the meat if we were going to survive the long winter.” Produce from garden and field was laid in for the season.

Even when there was a snowstorm, the three Apps boys had to walk to school and they tried not to miss a day. The season’s first snow was especially exciting; says Apps, he and his classmates were “running around like we were possessed by first snowfall demons.” As white stuff piled up, his teacher in the one-room schoolhouse tapped one of the bigger children to shovel a path to the outhouses.

Apps recalls playing in the snow, and wading through waist-high drifts. He remembers hunting in it, travelling by car and on foot through it, and hoping that Santa could handle it. He recalls when neighbors took care of neighbors and dances were held in someone’s dining room. And he remembers the perfection of winter some 70 years ago, its loveliness and its magic.

I’m not sure where it came from, but reading “The Quiet Season” gave me a definite sense of pulse-slowing calmness.

Maybe that’s because author Jerry Apps who often mentions his love of a good story is himself the teller of tales that circle around community in a TV-less, packed-calendar-free, horse-drawn but hard-working world that fewer and fewer folks remember. They’re told with awe, gratitude, grace, more than a little knee-slapping and lots of love for the way things were, the rotation of the seasons, the bounty of the land, and the perseverance of its people.

This is the kind of book that elders will read and read again. It’s a book you’ll want to give to a whiner. It’s one you’ll be glad to curl up with because, though it’s mostly about winter, “The Quiet Season” will leave you warm.

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“Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People”

By Renée Evenson

c. 2013, Amacom

$10.95/$12.95 Canada; 225 pages

The lady in the next cubicle over is making you almost speechless. She talks too loud, first of all, and you constantly hear every word she says most of it incessant and inconsequential, which makes you want to scream. She’s a whiner and a gossip, too, and you wonder what she says about you. Someday, you’re sure to find out since she’s also on your team.

You’d like to talk to her about it but you’re not sure you could, at least not calmly. But after you’ve read “Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People” by Renée Evenson, you’ll know exactly what to say.

You know who your friends are. You know because you chose them, but you’re not that lucky at work. Yes, your co-workers “can test your mettle, tick you off, and sour your attitude.” Dealing with them can be a challenge because you know how quickly things can go bad, and you don’t want that to happen. So how do you create harmony, work out problems, and still keep your dignity and your sanity?

First of all, says Evenson, think before you speak and don’t let your temper take over. Plan what you intend to say and how you hope it will go. Consider what the other person may think, and expect to communicate “in a constructive manner.” Then practice before you gently pounce.

Remember to start the conversation with an “I Phrase” to disarm the situation. In confrontation, never say never or always because few things ever are. Know that an apology something women are often accused of overusing “doesn’t necessarily mean saying you’re wrong.” Get used to assertiveness, which is not aggressiveness; learn the difference. Watch your body language, as well as that of your coworker. Learn a few useful “phrases of compromise” that can be used to diffuse the situation and tie up its resolution.

But what if the guy at the top is being difficult, or what if you’re to blame? This book takes a look at those scenarios, and other ways to deal with personalities that make your teeth grind. First, though, remember this: “ not confronting any sort of conflict will not make the problem go away. Rather, it makes the problem fester and grow.”

Can’t we all just get along? With “Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People,” you’ve got a chance of it.

I loved the way author Renée Evenson reminds readers in every possible way to “Think First,” a definite key to not overreacting. I also appreciated how each problem in this book is broken into bite-size, specific sections for maximum help. And yet, despite the careful literary role-playing and example-stories for envisioning scenarios, it’s easy to be lulled into forgetting two things.

You can’t control a co-worker and, well, let’s face it: sometimes, people are jerks.

Still, isn’t workplace harmony worth a try? Wouldn’t you rather have truce than trouble? If the answer to those questions is affirmative, then grab this book. “Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People” will make you say “Yes!”

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

© 2013 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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