Bookworm: With the right mindset and ‘Grand’ you can expect good things

For an action-packed, informational, steely-eyed read, give ‘Becoming Bulletproof’ a shot

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“Grand: A Grandparent’s Wisdom for a Happy Life”

  • By Charles Johnson
  • c. 2020, Hanover Square Press
  • $19.99, $24.99 Canada; 160 pages

That little face holds so much expectation.

You meet the eyes of your grandchild, and you know you have a big job ahead of you. She expects you to love her as much as she loves you, and you do. He figures you'll have fun together, and you will. They expect, quite frankly, to be spoiled a little, and that'll happen, too. And with the new book "Grand" by Charles Johnson, a few lessons might be taught along the way ...

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Some years ago, when Charles Johnson helped design the elegant room that would be his home office, he had certain things in mind. Not one of them was that his grandson, Emery, would take the room as "his" office but that's what happened, and that's okay. The boy is an obvious delight.

“Grand: A Grandparent's Wisdom for a Happy Life” author Charles Johnson.

Emery's thoughts, his willingness to share his world, and his points of view make Johnson proud; their relationship is easy and solid. This gives Johnson a ease of comparison between Emory and his ancestors, and lesson-filled stories to tell: Emery loves books, though reading was denied to his forebears. At age eight, he doesn't have to work like his great-granduncle did. He has nearly unlimited opportunities, unlike his great-grandfather.

And yet, as a Black man, Johnson knows that there are other lessons he needs to teach his grandson, lessons that go outside history and into the future.

Be yourself, he'll tell Emery, and know that the world has never seen anyone exactly like you. Don't chase perfection because nothing is ever perfect. Give dimension to your life by finding your purpose, take care of yourself, and care for others. Know that you'll suffer, and that others will suffer, too. Look for beauty in life every day, even if it lies inside pain. Remember the "three gatekeepers" before you speak. Never be complacent with your skills, never stop learning, never stop being creative or curious.

“Grand: A Grandparent's Wisdom for a Happy Life” by Charles Johnson.

And know that there are three kinds of love. If you're lucky, you'll experience each one.

When you found out that you were going to be a grandparent, do you remember how your mind raced with all the things you wanted to do with your grandbaby?

Add 10 more to that list after you've read "Grand," but take a deep breath first.

Author Charles Johnson writes with a quiet reserve here that borders on gravity in the lessons he has – and that you can offer – to a grandchild. That seriousness is often further weighed heavily with Buddhist teachings and philosophy that can turn downright sombre sometimes and the text, though certainly filled with love and wisdom that ultimately leads to joy, can feel as though it begs for a lighter hand. Beware, too, that these sentiments aren't meant for sudden talks: they're lessons that start early and continue for decades.

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Even so, there are lessons here for elders as much as for their littles and despite its occasional excess depth, you should easily be able to proceed as you need. With the right mindset and "Grand," you can expect good things.

“Becoming Bulletproof” author Evy Poumpouras.

“Becoming Bulletproof”

  • By Evy Poumpouras
  • c. 2020, Atria
  • $27, $36 Canada; 323 pages

Every schedule, every plan you made in February was shot.

March began and in about three weeks' time, life changed in big ways and small, calendars were tossed, and things got scary. Maybe they still are. So how did you deal with the virus, its impacts, its unknowns, and what will you do if it recurs? In "Becoming Bulletproof" by Evy Poumpouras, there may be many distinct answers to that question.

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Five months after joining the NYPD at the age of twenty-three, Evy Poumpouras received a "conditional offer of employment" with the Secret Service. By the time the offer arrived, she was physically fit, emotionally ready for challenge, and had learned a lot about herself and others – which was a good thing, since this wasn't long before September 11, 2001.

“Becoming Bulletproof” by Evy Poumpouras.

That day, she helped others and received a commendment for it, though she was reluctant to get the kudos. Helping was her job and, she says, "being willing to help... is the first step toward becoming bulletproof."

The second step is knowing your adversity reaction, or your "F3." Do you Fight, Flee, or Freeze when disaster happens? Knowing your automatic response will let you harness your fears and give you a split-second chance to decide on the validity of instantaneous reactions. In decison-making, knowing your F3 will help you recognize which kind of regret you fear that's keeping you from making an hard-to-decide choice. Your F3 will also help you to "prepare your mental armor," which you'll want to do soon, to give yourself more control over any sort of adversity you might face.

"Fear is like fire," Poumpouras says. "If you extinguish it while it's small, it won't become an inferno."

Once you know how to handle your fear and your reactions to it, then "become a Human Lie Detector" by knowing exactly how to read people. That's also a good time to know how to present yourself, to keep others from reading you ...

For the last few weeks, you've used books to distract you, and there's nothing like a good spy story for that. Nothing, except maybe a thrilling and true story that'll help you survive crisis and calamity. Nothing that's all cloak-and-daggerish, though; no, maybe something like "Becoming Bulletproof."

You'll like this: author Evy Poumpouras uses brutal, serious honesty generously tinged with spirit, humor, and confidence in a personal look at the hard road that leads to one of the most elite organizations in this nation, and how she traveled it. That's impressively fascinating but not a distraction: Poumpouras returns to the meat of her book again and again, never letting readers lose focus on the reason for it, which is how to gain resilience and control. Don't be surprised, then, if you find latent superpowers, or you sudddenly feel ten feet tall.

This book will appeal to lovers of espionage, business readers and, because of her work with the Secret Service, to presidential history buffs. Or if you're just up for an action-packed, informational, steely-eyed read, give "Becoming Bulletproof" a shot.

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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.