Thursday, May 28, 2020

Virtual Book Tour: Time Off by John Fitch & Max Frenzel

This week's book feature is Time Off by John Fitch & Max Frenzel. Since a lot of people are working from home or adjusting to a new work climate, this book provides valuable insight into taking breaks and actually resting. The presence of COVID-19 is transforming how we work and think about work. Since the beginning of March, I have even struggled with achieving a good balance between being productive and maintaining good health.  That's why I believe you should read this book, Time Off. 

Book Clubs can enjoy this selection, too.  I would recommend this book for the month of June, when most people are taking summer vacations, the month of July, since July 5th is Workaholics Day, or for the month of September, which involves celebrating Labor Day.

Check out the Question and Answer session with the authors. Also, the authors have a podcast. Let me know what you think about this text. Happy Reading!

About the Book

What do Aristotle, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Lebron James all have in common? Time off in the most creative and
nourishing way!

Amidst a culture that worships “busyness”, millennials John Fitch and Max Frenzel want us to unlearn workaholism by learning “noble leisure” of the past and developing a quality #RestEthic. The AI researcher (Max) and entrepreneur (John) have collaborated to share the history of how we value time and work, show us that a little time off will go a lot further than we may think, and that it doesn’t have to be a vacation or even a full day.

Science supports that time off (whether that be walking on your lunch break or saying no to drinks with friends to work on a passion project) is a critical factor for anyone who wants to achieve a fulfilling life, both personally and professionally. Time Off is intended for knowledge workers, creatives, entrepreneurs, and business leaders who feel overwhelmed, giving them the knowledge and tools to hone the essential skill of taking time off work before it’s too late.

About the Authors

Max Frenzel (Tokyo) and John Fitch (Austin) have both spent time working in software startups where many are worshiping the
mantras that are so pervasive in our current working culture. Max got his Ph.D. in Quantum Physics and has been an AI researcher. John is an entrepreneur and business coach.

At breaking points in both of their work experiences, they realized that many of the commonly held beliefs aren't useful, but destructive. As a result, they decided to be more intentional and deliberate with their approaches to work and time off. Their quality of work and life have improved ever since, and they now want to share that transformation with others.

Question and Answers with Max and John

Where did you get the inspiration for the book? 
John’s backstory: 
John was a workaholic and he eventually ruined his health and a romantic relationship. The constant hustling, late-night hackathons, 80-hour work weeks, and wanting to always be on was his standard. His family, friends, mentors, and girlfriend would often comment that he deserved breaks or should actually enjoy the weekend by unplugging from work. He would brush off their comments and keep working hard for the sake of working hard! They didn’t know the secret he knew: more work equals more success. Boy was he wrong. After a humbling breaking point in his life, he started a new company with a few others who valued rest. Their company had a cultural policy where everyone took mini-sabbaticals after ample deep work and shipping a big project. John was dubious about this, but had a life-altering experience during his first sabbatical. A kind Greek woman passed him wisdom that changed the way he looked at time and leisure. He came to realize the power of having a rest ethic. The quality of his work and life have not been the same since. Going from someone obsessed with always working to being someone who now was a believer in the power of intentional rest, he started to wonder… was his experience an anomaly? Was time off essential for other people too? Were there others that prevented burnout through their own forms of rest ethic? He started a podcast to have conversations with people to find out. After a few episodes and weeks of research, he realized that his company culture was not an anomaly, and there were a lot of people and cultures who also believed that being busy isn’t the only way you accomplish what you want in life. And many don’t see it at all as a way to accomplish anything. Since putting this book together, he has found wisdom in the analogy of juggling. We all juggle many things in our day to day life. We balance work, finances, our health, and relationships. Let’s imagine them all as balls that we juggle. John believes that the work and finance balls are made of rubber, and the health and relationship balls are made of fragile glass. If we mess up and drop the work and finance balls, they can always bounce back. We can start juggling them again. But if we ignore the health and relationships and drop the ball on those parts of our life, they can break and be very difficult to put back together. So he decided to co-author this book for his former workaholic self that said no to too many dinner parties, prioritized an inbox zero instead of enjoying tea with his girlfriend, and was working really hard without getting much done. He hopes that anyone reading the book who is as overworked and overwhelmed as he was, can not only see that they not only deserve time to take a break, reflect, play, and recover, but that what they are working so hard on will also benefit.

Max’s backstory: 
“Why do I feel so unproductive and uncreative?” It was August 2017 as Max wrote these words in his notebook. He was sitting in a quiet room in an old guesthouse overlooking the mountains of Yamagata Prefecture, Japan. He was on holiday, a slow trip on local trains through rural Japan. He lived in fast-paced Tokyo and thought it might be nice to get a break for a few days, explore Japan a bit more, and get a fresh perspective. It wasn’t an attempt to escape, He didn’t feel like there was anything he wanted or needed to escape from. He thought everything was great. He loved Tokyo, and also thought he loved his job as AI researcher at a fast growing tech startup! Yet after a few days away from it all, it hit him. Max realized that never since these concepts have had any real meaning to him, had he felt less productive or creative. He also realized that he had never before felt more distracted and unable to focus. He started thinking back to my Ph.D. days. 
While doing his Ph.D. in Quantum Information Theory Max rarely felt stressed or busy, but at the same time got a lot of stuff done. He co-founded and ran a startup, worked several hours a week as a private tutor, trained for ultra-marathons, and somehow still found plenty of time to read widely, take naps and meditate daily, work on random creative projects, and hang out with friends. Rarely did he feel stressed or busy. In fact, I rarely spent more than four hours a day actually engaged in work.
After his insight in the mountains that this was no longer his reality, in an attempt to figure out what exactly was wrong and how he could fix it, he started writing articles about the importance of rest and our misguided busyness addiction. John discovered his articles, and invited Max on his podcast, Time Off. From there on John and Max became friends, and one day Max found an email in his inbox asking him if he’d want to write a book together.

How has society’s view of “noble leisure” time changed over the years?
In Ancient Greece and Rome, leisure was at the center of society. According to Aristotle, we rest for the sake of work, and we work for the sake of leisure. But leisure is defined entirely through itself. It stands at the top of the hierarchy. And it was exactly this leisure-focused life and the time it provided for philosophy, games, literature, family, and sports that allowed culture to blossom. Leisure, as Betrand Russell would later write, was “essential to civilization.” But over time, this appreciation for leisure started to change. As people started collaborating on more complex projects, our perception of time shifted from natural cycles and a task-oriented notion, to timed labor. Time suddenly became a currency that could be traded and had value, and leisure was wasting this value. This became even worse around the turn of the 18th century, when the idea of “time discipline” developed. The middle and upper classes started to worry that the poor wouldn’t know what to do with their leisure, so they invoked religion to give work a divine justification and meaning. The “Protestant Work Ethic” was born. Now leisure wasn’t just wasteful, it was actually a sin. Another century later and the Industrial Revolution takes place. As religion gradually lost its omnipotent grip, the perception of why work was good, or rather the opposite so bad, started to change amongst the elite. Rather than a sin against god, the newly emerging class of industrialists started to equate idleness with another moral vice: theft. They paid for their employees’ time, so they felt like they owned it. Over and over again, the question of work became deeply fused with our morality. Are you productive (good)? Or idle (bad)? Today, we have largely forgotten the religious origins of this morality question, but it’s so deeply ingrained in our psyche that it’s hard to shake off. And this is especially true for knowledge workers, who don’t have eight model T engines to show for their day’s labor. Without any tangible progress indicators or a boss constantly telling us that he owns our time, our internalized sense that time equals value and morality becomes even stronger to compensate. Those who could choose to once again live Aristotle’s idea of noble leisure are often furthest away from it! But we need noble leisure more than ever. Genuinely productive knowledge work is the opposite of busyness and requires taking time off seriously. We wrote this book because we are extremely optimistic that our culture can and should find its way back to noble leisure.
What is the culture of “busyness”? How is it harming us?
Busyness—essentially productivity without the output—is a bad habit from the start of the industrial era and it still reigns supreme. For entrepreneurs and creatives this is particularly problematic. Like addicts seeking the next quick fix, we are hooked on busyness. Without any tangible progress indicators or a boss constantly reminding us that he owns our time, our internalized sense that time equals value and morality becomes even stronger to compensate. 
In the 2019 edition of their International Classification of Diseases, the World Health Organization (WHO) included burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” The official WHO report states that burnout is characterized by three key components: “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.” Sound familiar? 
Just as a century ago people were overworked beyond healthy sustainable physical capabilities, we are now experiencing something similar with our mental abilities. Where early industrial factory workers were physically drained and exhausted, modern workers in the knowledge factories of the world suffer the same fate on a mental level. 
Genuinely productive knowledge work is the opposite of busyness and requires a harder, more thoughtful approach. It requires taking time off seriously. In addition to a solid work ethic, it requires an equally well-established rest ethic. Good knowledge work is, like the work of a craftsman, based on mastery and quality, rather than the sheer quantity of simple and repeatable tasks—which will soon be done by robots and AI anyway. 
We need to acknowledge that productivity in creative work is much more multifaceted than the one-dimensional productivity of a manual laborer churning out widgets.
What is “Rest Ethic”?
Take a deep breath in. You can think of your work ethic as this inhale. Task list—inhale. Project execution—inhale. But you can only inhale for so long before you get very uncomfortable. Eventually we all need to exhale. This exhale is your rest ethic. Even though many of us seem to forget about this, it is just as essential. It allows us to build up our enthusiasm and sustain our passion. Gaining a fresh perspective—exhale. Project ideation and “aha” moments—exhale. Letting big ideas incubate in your mind—exhale. And just as a deep exhale prepares you for a better inhale, your rest ethic enables you to have a better work ethic. 
A great rest ethic is not just about working less. It’s about becoming conscious of how you spend your time, recognizing that busyness is often the opposite of productivity, admitting and respecting your need for downtime and detachment, establishing clear boundaries and saying no more often, giving your ideas time and space to incubate, evaluating what success means to you, and ultimately finding and unlocking your deepest creative and human potential.
How does someone unlearn workaholism to prevent burnout?
The morality of work has been burned deep into our culture and psyche over centuries, and unlearning this is a big task. Rather than making drastic changes, we recommend taking it step by step, and the book is full of actionable advice that people can try to implement in their own life. Entrepreneur and writer Derek Sivers encourages us to say “no” more often. The story of Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson teaches us how to use redundancies in our routine and build systems that allow us to disappear for a while. Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain recommends a tech shabbat, one day a week on which we try to avoid technology as much as possible. The German writer Hermann Hesse knew how to find joy in the simplest things in life, like a flower, or kids playing in a park, and his story can show us how we can “microdose” on time off. Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the founders of project management software Basecamp, help us identify—and fix—bugs in our working culture. Musician Ed “Woody” Allen shows us how we can use a short creative retreat in solitude to get some distance from the daily grind and get our creative juices flowing.
Those are just a few of the many examples. We strongly believe that everyone has to find their own version of Time Off. Some people may find theirs in solitude, others among friends. Some prefer activity, while others find energy in complete rest. If done right, even work can fall under our definition of time off. We want to present readers with an extensive collection of tools, tactics, and habits that worked for a variety of very successful people, past and present. Using this as inspiration, we encourage our readers to mix and match, try them for themselves, keep what is useful, and ignore the rest.
What constitutes quality time off?
First, we want to make sure that you don’t just think about “time off” as a vacation. Although vacations are awesome, our book talks about the many macro and micro practices for having more quality time off.
We commonly think of rest as the opposite of work. We either rest, or we are productive. Hear the words “time off,” and you might picture yourself sitting on the couch playing video games or lying on the beach sipping cocktails. But that’s not what time off is about. It is not a call to be lazy, or permission for slacking off. Far from it! Time Off is about the practices that keep us from feeling overwhelmed and overworked. Practices that allow us to live happier, richer, more fulfilled lives. Practices that, somewhat counterintuitively (although we hope that it will seem very obvious after reading the book), allow us to be our most productive and creative selves. 
Quality time off is when you are able to detach from your work-work. You are able to disconnect from your main job and instead give your attention to “noble leisure,” an activity which you engage in not just to recover for more work, but because it is actually deeply meaningful to you. And this shouldn’t be thought of as an escapism from work. They are the practices that are so valuable, they rarely have a price tag associated. These practices make life meaningful, beautiful, and interesting. You don’t squeeze in quality time off. You protect it and plan it out as intentionally as you would any of your projects and timelines at work.

Quality time off is not mere relaxation. It is often active and challenging. It can demand our full attention. It stimulates us and gets us into flow states. It allows us to forget all our other concerns for a while, and be fully present in the moment, without the unspoken anxiety that’s at the heart of boredom. One person’s time off can even look like someone else’s work. Sometimes, all that is required for good time off is a healthy dose of variety.
What are small things people can do every day to recharge?
Instead of lunch at your desk or a meeting in a conference room, you can go for a walk and discuss or call a loved-one and talk about the little things in life that make you happy. You can talk about hobbies with your coworkers and discuss what value those activities bring to you. If you are having a creative funk and can’t get an idea out, it is OK to press pause and step away because you can’t force creativity. Ideas need time and new environments to properly incubate. You can pick a time where you call it a day and shut off your work-work. Have a wind-down schedule and routine at night that allows you to prepare yourself for bed rather than reading emails as you lay your head down. Starting and ending your day with time off practices outside of work is a great way to ensure you that you show up for work your best self. And developing little time off rituals, like brewing a cup of tea or coffee, or taking 5 minutes to doodle in your notebook, can also be great to sprinkle throughout the day whenever you feel a bit overwhelmed. 
Maybe the biggest thing people can do is to actually schedule their time off in the same way as if it was an important work meeting. It will probably take time, but slowly unlearning the guilt associated with this is also important. We hope that with the book we can convince people that they are not harming their productivity with this, but actually allow themselves to become more productive and creative, while at the same time being less overwhelmed and stressed out. 
Plus, throughout the book we have several time off pages where we give you creative prompts to help encourage you to put the book down and try them out!
Why is solitude so important?
Finding our unique and disconnected self has become an increasingly scary and daunting quest for many of us. Rather than relishing and seeking solitude, we equate it with loneliness and are trying to avoid it at any cost. Self-reflection, particularly when we are not used to it and might feel like our life is lacking in meaning due to an underdeveloped leisure life, can be painful and scary. But embarking on this quest is worth the pain. It might unveil some void in our lives that we have tried to ignore, but it will also point us toward filling it. 
One force that keeps us on the seemingly safe shores of connectivity, far away from confronting our own undisturbed thoughts, is the addictive power of connected technology. And it is not just a connection to others which creates the noise that disturbs our solitude. Solitude can essentially be defined as being free from input. So even when we are physically alone, it doesn’t mean we are experiencing solitude. Most of us are constantly listening to music, playing with a variety of apps, or reading the news. Even the briefest moments of solitude and boredom are banished now and replaced by quick glances at our smartphone. We no longer find any time to just be alone with our own thoughts. 
Our work environments have also transitioned to places designed around social and group activities. Teamwork and group projects are more and more highly valued and seen as the gold standard for productivity. We value teamwork and collaboration above all else. But all too often this just wastes a lot of time and attention, leads us to perform visible busyness rather than being productive, and prevents us from actually engaging in undisturbed concentration. Yes, communication is necessary. But the amount of communication and the number of different channels have gotten out of control, and it is completely numbing our ability for deep thought, self-reflection and contemplation, and unhindered idea incubation. 
For many, the mention of solitude immediately conjures up the idea of loneliness, isolation, and anti-social behavior. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. If we can not find solitude, we will inevitably find loneliness, no matter how hard we try to drown it out with digital and social noise. Constant online companions and thousands of “friends” or followers don’t fill our inner void. The lack of true and deep connection just amplifies it. The way out of loneliness is to embrace solitude. Solitude actually allows us much more to reflect on our interaction with other people, experience gratitude towards them, and have much more meaningful connections when we do spend time with others.
So to boost your creativity, take a rewarding journey into your own mind, and improve your connection with those around you, consider spending some time in solitude, whether that’s an extended solo trip into nature, or just an evening alone at home with the internet turned off. We’re convinced that the initial discomfort you might experience will eventually give way to a blissful and rewarding experience.
How will AI impact busy work? And will this help us?
Today, we find ourselves in a culture that all too often wears busyness, stress and overwork as a badge of honor, a sign of accomplishment and pride. Someone who leaves work on time and takes ample breaks during the day can’t possibly be as productive as someone who grinds out long hours of overwork day after day and barely ever leaves their desk, right? The problem is that even though we have largely shifted from manual labor to knowledge work, workers still suffer from the intellectual equivalent of factory work mentality and the remnants of the protestant work ethic, confusing hard work with morality.
But busywork, the kind of work that genuinely justifies long hours and sacrificing time off, is also the least valuable kind of work. And this value is further diminishing all the time. Rapidly. These are exactly the kind of tasks that are ripe for disruption, and ultimately replacement, by AI and other productivity and automation tools. Their days are almost numbered. 
Yes, AI will disrupt the job landscape, but the kind of jobs that will remain, as well as newly created, will be centered around human skills such as creativity and empathy. And these skills are highly non-linear with respect to time. More time in does absolutely not correspond to a better or higher output. In fact, it is very easy to put in too much time, to ignore the balancing and nourishing effects of rest, the idea incubation power of high quality leisure, and as a result to diminish one’s output. In the future of work, time off will not be something that is considered a “nice to have” or an enticing benefit that a generous employer provides to attract and retain talent. Instead, the deliberate practice of time off will be one of the key skills and competitive advantages that will allow us to be more productive, creative, and ultimately human.
Anything else you would like to add?
One interesting fact about the book is that as of today, John and Max have never met in real life. Our friendship and collaboration has so far been completely virtual, and the entire book was created through remote collaboration, with John based in Austin, Texas, and Max in Tokyo, Japan. Similarly the rest of the team is based all over the world: our illustrator also in Tokyo, our editor in Colorado, and our designer and copyeditor both in the UK.
We found that this kind of global remote collaboration can work remarkably well, if it is planned and approached in the correct way. We are happy to share our insights into how to make this work, and encourage others to try similar approaches, and not be put off by geographic boundaries or long distances.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Virtual Book Tour: Legends From Mom's Closet BY Sasha Olsen

Purchase the book
I am so excited to share with you a new book, Legends from Mom's Closet. This book was released this week, on May 19, 2020. I believe that you should check this book out. This book is perfect during a time of quarantine. This book promotes the use of creativity with fashion, as well as imaginative play over screen time. Children/Teenager book clubs may want to read this book during the month of July, which is Anti-Boredom Month. Also, the author of the book is only TEN YEARS OLD! This book gives adolescents inspiration to achieve whatever they want, especially during such distressing and uncertain times created by the existence of COVID-19. 
Purchase the book!

Book Details: 

Publisher: BCH 
Release Date: May 19, 2020 
Format: Hardcover 
ISBN-13: 9780578620091

ABOUT THE BOOK: In Legends from Mom’s Closet, 10-year-old Sasha Olsen documents how she spent a rainy summer indoors using her creativity and imagination. After reading a stack of books about women like Frida Kahlo, Audrey Hepburn and Billie Holiday, Sasha’s imagination ran wild and she ended up in her mom's closet picking through her clothes and her grandmother’s vintage pieces to dress up like all the female legends she had been reading about. Complete with photos of the looks she created and tips for other young girls on how they, too, can emulate these iconic women, Legends from Mom’s Closet will inspire readers to delve into the lives of truly remarkable women from the past to learn a thing or two about what it means to be legendary in today’s world. 
Sasha Olsen


Sasha Olsen is a 10-year-old author, environmental activist, ballroom dancer, bookworm, pianist, and enjoys anything artistic. She always finds new hobbies and things to do, which usually ends up in her trying to juggle everything. She lives with her family in Bal Harbour, Florida, where she also spearheads the conservation movement “I Want My Ocean Back.” Legends From Mom’s Closet is her first book. 

Author’s Website: 
Author’s Facebook:
Author’s Instagram:


  1. In your book, Legends from Mom’s Closet, you share tidbits about and dress up like legendary women you read about during a rainy summer spent indoors. A lot of kids your age would spend a rainy summer watching TV or playing video games. What made you decide to start reading books about famous women?
Well, I actually love to read, especially biographies. I don’t usually spend a lot of time using any devices. I didn’t specifically start reading books about famous women, but I started looking around for books to learn more about legendary people. I just happened to meet these iconic women through their amazing stories and spending a day in their shoes! 
  1. Who was your favorite female legend to read about?
My favorite legend to read about was probably Frida Kahlo! I felt like she had a very inspiring story. She had a lot of difficult times in her life, but no matter what, she worked hard to achieve her dreams and become an artist. 
  1. What is the biggest lesson you learned from getting to know all of these female legends?
I learned many lessons! Most of all though, I learned that women are super strong. Women work very hard and can get through anything that might stand in their way of achieving their goals. Women are so inspiring!
    What inspired you to use your mom’s clothes and your grandmother’s vintage pieces to recreate all of their iconic looks?
Actually, I just went into my mom’s closet and started trying on her shoes and dresses. This was after I read about Frida Kahlo. So, I just got the idea to try and dress up as her! I thought my mom might be really upset with me for playing with her things, but she loved the idea. If the legend was wearing something like I really couldn’t figure out where to get, I would call my grandma for advice. Most of the time, she had exactly what I needed!
  1. Who was your favorite legend to dress up as and why?
My favorite legend to dress up as was definitely Yayoi Kusama. I love her bright artwork, and I was able to get even more creative to dress up as her!
  1. How did you decide which legends to include in Legends from Mom’s Closet?
I didn’t choose them before. I just started to read about people who I didn’t know much about yet and it ended up being all women! After, I just decided to share them in this book.
  1. Your other passion is the environment. Tell us what you learned about vintage fashion versus fast fashion.
When I was started my movement Iwantmyoceanback and this project, I was doing a lot of research during that time. I wanted to know more about what are the biggest things that pollute our oceans and cause problems for our planet. I found out like clothing is one of the biggest ocean pollutants and some fabrics, like polyester, have plastic in them so it breaks down and hurts our sea animals. After finding this out, I realized that it’s very harmful to buy fast fashion because people just buy the clothes and throw them away soon after. It inspired me to learn more about vintage and how we can buy secondhand instead, and just reuse clothing! 
  1. Ultimately, what do you hope your readers take away from your book?
I hope readers learn how important it is to let your creativity run wild! I want other kids to know that we can get inspired and have fun while also learning new things and growing our knowledge. It’s also very important that we learn more about how fast fashion affects our oceans and that we stop it! We need to win the war against fast fashion to help save the planet.
  1. How/where can readers purchase Legends from Mom’s Closet?
Readers can purchase Legends from Mom’s Closet on our website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble… and most platforms! 
  1. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the book or what you learned while writing it?
I just want to share that this book project is super special to me! It means a lot to me, and I worked very hard on it. I hope that everyone enjoys my stories and experiences dressing up as these legendary women. Most of all, I hope readers try it themselves and that it inspires them to think outside the box! I learned a lot from reading and getting to know these women, especially that we can do anything if we believe in ourselves.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Virtual Blog Tour: The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook

 I am so excited about participating in the blog tour for The Ultimate College Student Handbook. Why? Because with the presence of COVID-19 and having an incoming college freshman, paying close attention to my child's health when he goes to college is very important to me. I believe that this book should be on the bookshelf for every college student. Since May is graduation season, I think this book will make the perfect gift for high school graduates, who are going to college. At the bottom of this blog post is a great tool just for my readers! Let me know what you think about this book.

"Parents should buy two copies of this book--one for themselves and one for their college-bound teenager!" - Julie K. Silver, MD, Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School 
"This is an essential guide to health and wellness when you head off to college...and your mom can't be there to hold your hand and take care of you."- Ari Brown, MD, FAAP, Best Selling Author of Baby 411 Book Series.  


The COVID pandemic has focused our attention on health like never before, and soon millions of students will graduate from high school, excited to fly the nest and begin their college careers. As these young people begin to take responsibility for their own health, they will be dealing with the added challenges of issues like homesickness, close quarters of dormitories, test anxiety, and even hangovers, in addition to illness and injuries. As a physician working part-time in the University Health Services at The University of Texas, and as a mother of two college students, Grimes began writing helpful tips and creating first aid kits for common college ailments, which steadily evolved into The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook (May 5, 2020, Skyhorse Publishing). 

Dr. Grimes makes it clear from the beginning: the book is not intended to replace your next doctor's appointment. However, armed with quality information, students will know when to seek medical help, how to describe their condition, what questions to ask, and what dorm-friendly tips and tricks might help before they are seen. The book is organized literally from head to toe and goes far beyond “Dr. Google” to provide the knowledge of evidence-based medicine every college student should know. 

Purchase the book on Amazon!


Jill Grimes, MD, .
FAAFP, is a nationally recognized medical media expert, award-winning author, medical editor, and Board-Certified Family Physician. Her passion is prevention, and her message spans print (Parenting Magazine, Glamour, etc.), online (Refinery29,, etc.), and television and radio talk shows (Sirius XM Doctor Radio). After two decades of private practice, Dr. Grimes now enjoys seeing patients part-time at the University of Texas in Austin. She is a proud mom to two awesome collegiate daughters. Academically, Dr. Grimes enjoys educating healthcare professionals by speaking at national AAFP, Pri-Med®, and Harvard Medical School conferences and remains on clinical faculty at UMASS Medical School.

Virtual Book Tour Q&A

  1. What inspired you to write The Ultimate College Student Handbook?

Around ten years ago, I started making personalized first aid kits as high school graduation gifts. Initially I included one index card with “cheat notes” about which medications to take when, but this expanded steadily as I tried to include answers to common texts that I received from these kids throughout the year. Before long, I was up to a twenty page booklet, and I realized I really needed to expand to an actual book. I’m continually delighted when parents tell me their now “grownup” kids are still asking for “first aid kit refills” even several years after their college graduation!

  1. What is the best advice that parents can give their child before going off to college for the first time?
College will likely be the best years of your life so far...BUT there will still be bad DAYS and even weeks thrown in the mix. Many students have such high expectations that when the first disappointments hit (especially not making the club/Greek org they wanted, their first bad grade, not liking their roommate) it feels twice as devastating. Also, at first, join everything! Don’t wait for the “perfect” group. This is your chance to explore everything from political to service to quirky art clubs, and a wonderful time to meet people with totally different backgrounds and perspectives. As you settle in, you will quickly figure out which ones you enjoy and which ones you should drop.

  1. What do you think parents should send in a college student’s first aid kit?
Please see the bonus DIY first aid kit section for the full shopping list and instructions, but start with a mid-range priced oral digital thermometer (around $8-12), an ACE wrap, “good” bandaids for fingers/heels, Tylenol, Advil,  topical steroid cream (hydrocortisone), antibiotic cream/ointment (like Neosporin), a copy of your health insurance card and the date of your kid’s last tetanus shot (plus ideally a copy of all their immunizations).

  1. What are five unexpected items that every college student should pack for college?
    1. Prescription glasses if you have them! (even though they only wear contacts, BRING THEM because with pink eye or any other eye problem, they will need their glasses and frequently students tell us it never crossed their mind to bring them to campus.)
    2. Heating pad- doubles as a heated blanket in cold climates, plus great for female menstrual cramps or back pain in anyone.
    3. Old fashioned reusable ice bag
    4. Small lock box for medications (especially if on ADD meds)
    5. Small tool kit (scissors, hammer, tape- invaluable on move in day!)

  1. What are some of the most common medical issues that college students have? Any advice on how to prevent these things?
Challenging to summarize- but here are a few highlights:
    1. Infections (Colds, flu, strep throat, mono, food poisoning, “stomach flu”,  STDs):
      1. Hand washing (full 20 seconds with soap! We can thank COVID that now everyone actually knows this!)
      2. Flu shot each year.
      3. Condoms/barriers every single time if sexually intimate in any fashion.
    2. Injuries (Sprains, fractures, concussions, lacerations and scrapes):
      1. Stop rushing! Bike accidents, trips, falls are all far more common when students push it till the last minute (too many snooze buttons) and race to class.
      2. Intoxication is the other common culprit- mostly alcohol and pot.
Pro tip: becoming a more “awake” intoxicated person (by adding caffeine or nicotine) does NOT improve your reflexes nor decrease your chance of injury. You’re still an intoxicated person with impaired reflexes and judgment.

  1. Any tips for getting over homesickness?
See second question above! GET INVOLVED with “everything” that might interest you initially, and volunteer for leadership positions like on dorm councils or freshman rep spots in club executive boards. The more involved you are (and the less time you spend in your dorm room), the less homesick you will be. Also, limit your social media browsing, because FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is quicksand, and seeing all your old friends looking “insta-perfect”-ly happy on all their posts (the same as you do on yours, by the way!) makes you feel left out.

  1. Do you have any tips on how to prevent the Freshman 15 weight gain?
The “An Ounce of Prevention” topic goes into more detail, but briefly:
1.     Recognize the cause:
a.     College socializing initially revolves around high calorie, convenience/delivery foods like pizza and cookies
b.     Liquid calories are the biggest culprit- from Starbucks lattes or sodas to beer, margaritas and vodka shots.
c.     Activity level drops dramatically from high school for most students- especially dancers, traditional athletes (football, basketball, track) and marching band.
2.     Be proactive with prevention:
a.     Join intramural sports (great for socializing too!)
b.     “Count” liquid calories and balance with increased activity
c.     Have accountability- weigh or try on a pair of non-stretchy shorts or jeans every Sunday night
d.     Plan study breaks around walking with a friend (rather than playing games on your phone or grabbing a candy bar)
e.     Consider twice/month personal training sessions at your university gym (many offer great student pricing!)

  1. How can students take care of themselves mentally? Do you have any suggestions for managing stress?
Anxieties are super common- from fear of using public bathrooms (often leading to constipation and stomach pain) to text anxiety and/or fear of public speaking. Much to say, but again, a few highlights:
1.     Do NOT wait till you crash and burn to seek help!! This is true whether it means going to tutoring for a class you’re struggling with or to counseling to figure out strategies to help with public speaking or other fears. Trust me, professors know the most successful college students by their first names, because those are the kids that show up for tutorials.
2.     Insomnia may be the most common warning sign- go in and talk to your doctor if you cannot fall asleep or if you wake up early and can’t go back to sleep. It’s virtually impossible to deal with anxiety if you can’t get a decent night’s sleep.
3.     Daily aerobic exercise (30 minutes of anything that elevates your heartrate- walking, biking, elliptical, zumba, basketball…) is equivalent to a low dose of an antidepressant! So important to help relieve stress.
4.     Many students consciously or unconsciously try self-medicating with alcohol or pot...which makes things worse. Bottom line: although these substances are sedating in their immediate action, they actually exacerbate insomnia (cause poor quality, unrestful sleep) and often very significantly worsen anxiety.

  1. Anything else you would like to add?
There are a few topics I included because students can’t be concerned about what they don’t know is a potentially serious issue- like when back pain and shortness of breath with no injury might be a partially collapsed lung, or chest pain in someone taking female hormones (like birth control) could be a potentially lethal blood clot in your lungs. Rest assured these events are far less common, but we never want to miss one.

Additionally, I really hope parents will take the time to read “Smoking, Vaping, and What You Might Not Know About Pot” because trust me, things have changed in twenty or thirty years, and I’d like everyone to be on the same page. Ditto for the chapters on tattoos, piercings, STDs and sexual assault. My hope is to spark mature, informed discussions about these topics to best prepare our kids for the college environment and beyond.

5 Must-Have Items for Your College Freshman

You’re making a list and checking it twice…because especially if this is your FIRST kid heading off to college, you want to be sure you’ve included every critical item.
  • Twin XL (Extra Long) Sheets? Check. 
  • Command Strips in every shape, size, and strength? Check. (Much bigger deal for girls vs. guys, but this is the only way to hang stuff on walls.)
  • Dorm Bed Risers? (I highly recommend the ones with extra outlets.) Check.

Chargers, fan, laundry bag, clothes, shoes, coats…the list goes on. And on. And ON. What could possibly be missing? From my perspective as a seasoned move-in mom and a university doctor, here's my list of the top five forgotten items:
  1. Small Tool Kit: Hammer, screwdrivers, wrench set, pliers, scissors, tape measure and level.  This should be last in, first out, because you’ll often need these immediately to assemble and disassemble dorm room furniture or fix a stuck drawer. Pro tip: Add in a couple garbage bags; trash piles up as soon as you start unpacking.
  2. Backup Prescription Glasses: especially for the kid that ALWAYS wears contacts! Why? Because if you get a bad stye or “pinkeye” (viral conjunctivitis), or more commonly, you accidentally fall asleep in your contacts or get something in your eye that scratches your cornea- you CANNOT wear contacts for several days to a week or more. And seeing clearly tends to help grades. If you always wear glasses, the backup pair is for when yours break or disappear. And inevitably, it happens during midterms or finals. 
  3. Small Lock Box: If you take prescription medications for ADD, this is a must. These stimulant pills sell for $5-10 each (a felony if caught!!) and dorm rooms are rarely private and/or consistently locked. Please remove the temptation for others and keep your meds safe. Lockboxes also work well for pricey jewelry, your passport, and while we’re at it, your backup glasses.
  4. Heating Pad: Okay, not critical, but a great way to guarantee your popularity! Seriously, few students have these, but those that do tell me “EVERYONE borrows it” for aching muscles, back spasms, and “cramps”. Bonus points: in cold climates, they can double as an electric blanket (just don’t fall asleep on top of one, as this can cause burns.) 
  5. Solid Air Freshener: Plug-ins are rarely allowed in dorms, but you can place a solid or gel freshener in your closet (by your shoes) and tuck another under your bed. Extra-strong odors? Bamboo charcoal bags are a pricey option, but they work incredibly well. Choose a neutral or “fresh” smell, not “flowery” or “citrus” as you don’t know your roommate’s sensitivity to different scents. Bodies, dirty clothes, third-hand smoke, and old dorms all get very smelly. Unless you are moving into a brand-new dorm with a neat-freak roommate, these fresheners can be lifesavers. Or at the very least, roommate-savers. 
Bottom Line: Add these five items to your list for a smoother move-in and a healthier, safer semester! (If you’re flying, pack the glasses & shop for the rest when you arrive.) Good Luck!

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Virtual Book Tour: Chendell - A Natural Warrior by Leslie L. Landis.

Mississippi Bookworm Diva was invited to participate in the virtual book tour for a new YA Fantasy Series Book. I am very excited to share the book, Chendell,  with you.  Learn more about the text below.

"A lively nature-oriented superhero adventure…the heart of the tale comes together in the final pages." - Kirkus Reviews 

About the Book:

Purchase Chendell.
A super boy from a village in China and a super girl from rural Vermont meet in college and fall in love. Both grapple with their unique powers and purpose. Will they master their abilities in time to save each other and the ecosystem from certain destruction? And what twists does life have in store? Originally released in early 2019, Landis is re-releasing an updated version of her environmental YA fantasy as well as adding an audiobook format in April 2020, to celebrate Earth Day.

While on a research trip to the Peruvian rainforest, Robin Dell and Jamie Chen’s lives (and consciousness) are changed forever when they drink a shaman’s brew and are transformed into CHENDELL. Two halves of one person. A dual consciousness – female and male – in one body. This new being is streamlined. Eurasian. With one green eye and one dark brown eye. Shoulder length hair that is half auburn and half black. As CHENDELL, their fight is to save our environment from the people responsible for ecocide and biocide – the willful destruction of the environment and the annihilation of living organisms.

Individually, Robin can control insects and Jamie can communicate and control trees and plants. When joined as CHENDELL their powers are enhanced. Their senses are extremely acute. Their strength is exceptionally strong. Their mind is lightning quick. And their powers are extensively increased – not only with trees, plants, and insects – but also with other living creatures.

All of nature is their ally.

Finally, Nature has a hero.

Book Praise
Purchase Chendell.
"CHENDELL starts as a boy-meets-girl story, connecting a girl from the U.S., to a boy in China, told in an unusual compelling format. It is about love and family, but also about insects and trees. When boy and girl become a super couple, the reader accompanies them on a wild, dangerous journey, and then, when your heart is in your throat, something happens that is shocking, unique, and utterly heartwarming. Leslie Landis has written a tale I'll never forget. Bravo!" 
- Best selling author Thom Racina
"Everything you ever wanted in a fantastical story but were afraid to ask! A superhero story packed with a delightful page-turning packet of ingredients—adventure, love plus humor and wit. Be prepared to be invested in the Landis characters and swept up into their world and their dreams. CHENDELL and its heroes Jamie Chen and Robin Dell are just begging to be given the big-screen treatment." 

- Ivor Davis, Author of "Ladies and Gentlemen… The Penguins!" and "The Beatles and Me on Tour."

In April 2020, the audiobook for Chendell was released.  Alicia Silverstone and Adrian Grenier are the narrators for the audiobook. Subscribers to my newsletter will receive a peek sneak of the Audiobook. Make sure that you have signed up for my newsletter. If you need to signup for my newsletter, here is the link: Mississippi Bookworm Diva Newsletter.

About the Author:
Leslie Landis
Leslie Landis has been a teacher, a financial planner, a bank trust officer, worked for a U.S. Senator, an associate director in television, and a licensed therapist. Her first book is a humorous take on our food and diet-obsessed culture titled The Art of Overeating: A Bellyful of Laughs About Our Food-phobic Culture. CHENDELL: A Natural Warrior is her first novel. Leslie lives with her husband in Los Angeles.

Leslie’s degree in psychology informs her insight into how people look at the world and themselves. She created relatable characters who reflect the roles we play and the uncertainties of life. With a different take on gender equality and the battle to preserve our environment, her superhero CHENDELL speaks not only to young people but to all generations. In this captivating, exciting, and realistic fantasy, Landis’ unique writing style presents a message of love, hope, and commitment to fighting the real world evil forces destroying our planet.

Questions and Answer Session with Leslie Landis, Author of Chendell

Purchase Chendell.
Why did you write a YA novel?

My book, Chendell: A Natural Warrior, has an environmental theme. People of all ages care about the environment but young people are especially tuned into the environmental degradation caused by global warming. They know it is their future that is most at risk.

How did you come up with the idea of CHENDELL?

Through media exposure, I certainly noticed how popular the superhero genre is.
When I thought about why I was not interested in this category, I realized that the typical superhero characters were not “real” to me and they usually battled against “unreal” struggles such as someone trying to blow up the world. So I thought why not a superhero who was fighting a real-world problem - ecocide and biocide - the willful destruction of the environment and the annihilation of living organisms.

Why is one of your protagonists Chinese?

There are three reasons I made one of my protagonists Chinese:

1. I’ve been to China and I found the Chinese people to be gracious, warm, and kind.
2. I know what it feels like to experience anger and hostility just because I was American. I’ve traveled to other countries during a time when we had an unpopular U.S. president. I feel the people of a country should be treated as individuals, not as representatives of a government.
3. I’m personally very interested in other cultures and ethnicities. Having a Chinese character was just more interesting to me.

Why don’t you kill bugs?

I do kill bugs - if I have to. For example, if a mosquito is going to bite me or a bee is going to sting me. But fortunately for me, those have been rare occurrences. Other than those situations, I don’t kill bugs because they are alive. Because they are just living their little bug lives. Because they serve a function in the scheme of life. I just don’t go out of my way to kill anything.

Have you written any other books?

The Art of Overeating: A Bellyful of Laughs About Our Food-phobic Culture – A humorous view on our food-obsessed culture.

Why do environmental problems worry you the most?

The future of every living creature depends on the health of our planet.

Why do you think your book is unique?

In my book, the superhero is fighting a real-world problem. And my protagonists are a woman and a man who are truly equal. They can’t be more equal than when they are Chendell.

Why should people read your book?

My book is timely, exciting, and fun.

What can people do to help our environment?

Buy less, use less, waste less, and recycle. Also, people can vote for representatives who take the environment and global warming seriously.

Where did you grow up/live now?

I was born and raised in Waukegan, Illinois. I have lived in Chicago and New York. Now I live in Los Angeles.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer

Leslie Landis
What is your education/career background?

I went to the University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA for 2 years. Then I transferred and graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO. I have an M.A. degree in psychology from Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA

I’ve done a lot of different things. The highlights are working for U.S. Senator, working in television production as an Associate Director (I’m still a member of the Directors Guild), working as a bank trust officer, and finally, as a Marriage and Family therapist.

Do you have kids and/or pets?

No kids. But thanks to my husband, I have grandkids. No pets at this time. Had a Jack Russell terrier who died at 16 years old. Planning on getting a Schnoodle soon.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Or what first inspired you to write?

I often tried to write a story or novel but I never followed through. Then not too long ago, I realized that the business letter and documents I was writing were good. That gave me the confidence to try writing fiction again.

Where/when do you best like to write?

I write best at my office desk in a loft in my home. There is nothing to distract me there. I accomplish the most when I write in the evening.

Do you have any interesting writing habits or superstitions?

I am a terrible typist. I just hope my fingers will go where I want them to go and not where they want to go.

When you are struggling to write/have writer’s block, what are some ways that help you find your creative muse again?

I just leave my computer and think about my story a lot. A whole lot. And sooner or later, ideas come to me and I am ready to resume writing.

What do you think makes a good story?

Character development and a sense of humor.

What inspired your story?

The popularity of what I consider boring and redundant (almost all men) superheroes and their fights. I felt there should be a superhero who fights for the environment – for our planet.

How does a new story idea come to you?

I read a lot of current publications – newspapers and magazines – so trends eventually coalesce in my brain and ideas pop out from there.

Is there a message/theme you want readers to grasp?

If we get in touch with the natural world, we will all hear its message, “Save me before it is too late and I am gone!”

What was the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That once I get going, writing is fun.

On A Friday night, what are you most likely to be doing?

Watching “Real Time with Bill Maher.”

What do you do when you are not writing?

The usual. Eating, sleeping, exercising, errands, grocery shopping, going out to dinner, etc.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Hilary Mantel. Alexander McCall Smith

Do you have a bucket list? What are some of the things on it?

Travel more. Make more friends. Be kind to everyone.

What person(s) has/have helped you most in your career?

Leslie Landis
My husband, Martin. He has always believed in me and encouraged me in whatever endeavor I want to pursue.

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?

Don’t give up.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Moby Dick

What is the one book no writer should be without?

The one they love and inspires them.

How do you’re your spouse and other friends/family feel about your writing career?

Everyone is very supportive and encouraging.

If your book was turned into a movie, who would want to play the main characters?

An interesting question. I’m not sure but I would want a younger, taller version of Scarlett Johansson and a younger, Chinese version of Edward Norton. They both seem smart to me.

I do see this as a movie like Avatar which was both live-action and animation.

Connect with Leslie Landis on Social Media:


Where can you purchase Chendell?

Here is the link for Amazon.

Here is the link for Barnes and Noble.

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