‘Tis the Season!

December has arrived, which means there’s a constant chill in the air, people are visiting their friends and family, and everyone’s electricity bills increase. Along with this, the promise of Hanukkah is just around the corner! What better way to prepare for this Jewish holiday than to snuggle up by the fireplace and crack open a book? Here a few book recommendations for people of all ages to read and enjoy this Hanukkah season and get into the spirit!

The Chosen by Chaim Potok

In 1940s Brooklyn, an accident throws Reuven Malther & Danny Saunders together. Despite their differences (Reuven is a modern Orthodox Jew with an intellectual, Zionist father; Danny is the brilliant son & rightful heir to a Hasidic rebbe), the young men form a deep, if unlikely, friendship. Together, they negotiate adolescence, family conflicts, loss and love, as the journey to adulthood creates a crisis of faith when Holocaust stories begin to emerge. The intellectual & spiritual clashes between fathers, between each son & his own father, & between the two young men, provide a unique backdrop for this exploration of fathers, sons, faith, loyalty &, ultimately, the power of love.

The Magic Menorah: A Modern Chanukah Tale by Jane Breskin Zalben

Twelve-year-old Stanley has had enough with Chanukah and just wants it over in order to get his home free from all the relatives, but a surprise encounter with Fishel the genie makes him understand the importance of the holiday and the joy of being with family.

Dreidels on the Brain by Joel Ben Izzy

One lousy miracle. Is that too much to ask? Evidently so for Joel, as he tries to survive Hannukah, 1971 in the suburbs of the suburbs of Los Angeles (or, as he calls it, “The Land of Shriveled Dreams”). That’s no small task when you’re a “seriously funny-looking” twelve-year-old magician who dreams of being his own superhero: Normalman. And Joel’s a long way from that as the only Jew at Bixby School, where his attempts to make himself disappear fail spectacularly. Home is no better, with a family that’s not just mortifyingly embarrassing but flat-out broke. That’s why Joel’s betting everything on these eight nights, to see whether it’s worth believing in God or miracles or anything at all. Armed with his favorite jokes, some choice Yiddish words, and a suitcase full of magic tricks, he’s scrambling to come to terms with the world he lives in—from hospitals to Houdini to the Holocaust—before the last of the candles burns out.

How to Spell Chanukah: And Other Holiday Dilemmas, Ed. Emily Franklin

These stories, by Adam Langer, Tova Mirvis, Steve Almond, Eric Orner, and others, range from the comedic to the snarky. It includes topics such as the jealousy experienced in December when the rest of America is celebrating Christmas, the problem parents have dampening their children’s desire for more presents, and the weight gain associated with eating 432 latkes in eight nights. Whether your Chanukahs were spent singing “I have a Little Dreidel” or playing the “Maoz Tzur” on the piano, whether your family tradition included a Christmas tree or a Chanukah bush, whether the fights among your siblings over who would light the menorah candles rivaled the battles of the Maccabees, or even if you haven’t a clue who the Maccabees were, this book proves there are as many ways to celebrate Chanukah as there are ways to spell it.

Hanukkah in America: A History by Dianne Ashton

For the past two hundred years, American Jews have been transforming the ancient holiday of Hanukkah from a simple occasion into something grand. Each year, as they retell its story and enact its customs, they bring their ever-changing perspectives and desires to its celebration. Providing an attractive alternative to the Christian dominated December, rabbis and lay people alike have fashioned an authentically Jewish festival that blossomed in the United States. By bringing together American Jews of all kinds, Hanukkah in America reveals how an almost forgotten festival became the most visible and celebrated of American Jewish holidays.

“New Army Officer’s Survival Guide” Cover Reveal!

Cover design by Corey Parson

The New Army Officer’s Survival Guide: Cadet to Commission through Command releases in only 2 short months! We can’t wait to share the wealth of information author Levi Floeter provides, but for now, check out this amazing cover.

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It’s the Finals Countdown

The time is upon us. Red Bull cans rattle through the streets, a sense of desperation hums throughout our small town, and the faint crying of college students can be heard, carried by the frigid breeze. Brace yourselves, my dear readers, for the time has come. It’s Finals Week. This apocalyptic time means desperate measures must be taken in order to survive. You must be prepared for whatever is thrown your way, roll with the punches, and overcome these challenges; one of the best ways to prepare is to create a bug out bag. So, dust off those backpacks and dry those eyes. Here’s a short list of the basics you’ll need in order to survive the chaos that is finals.

  1. Textbooks. This is self-explanatory. You need your textbooks (as well as your notes) in order to study for your finals. They could also double as a pillow; a handy fact when you fall asleep in the library. Again.
  2. Pencil/pen/quill. Use whatever writing utensil at your disposal. Rewrite your notes, just to make sure that the information is engraved into your brain. Don’t worry if your fingers begin to cramp and you develop carpal tunnel. That’s completely normal.
  3. Tissues. Hey, this is a judge-free zone. We won’t tell anyone if you cry (sob) a little bit. Finals are stressful and emotions run high. Odds are that you’re not the only one. Study sessions usually turn into therapy sessions, so pack extra tissues. Just in case.
  4. Some sort of edible substance. Whether it be protein bars, beef jerky, or chocolate, you need something that’ll give you energy to keep studying and offer some type of nutrients. Just make sure you pack some Flintstones multivitamins.
  5. Cash. You know the old saying “flattery will get you everywhere?” In college, it’s bribery that gets you everywhere. And I’m sure your professor would prefer some extra cash. Okay, I’m morally obligated to tell you not to do that; it’s a bad idea (and it’s against UNG policies). In reality, you need that cash to buy as much Ben & Jerrys as you possibly can. In fact, I’m pretty sure Walmart has them on sale.
  6. Deodorant. Let’s be honest, you’re going to sweat a lot. Finals are stressful, and stress makes you sweat. It’s basic biology (that’ll be probably on the biology final. You’re welcome). Have that extra deodorant to fight your natural “musk.”
  7. Water. Put the coffee and energy drinks down. Consider this is your intervention. Your poor heart is probably working overtime, and it needs a break. Also, drinking water is vital for your health. Don’t believe me? First off, rude, but that’s okay. I understand you’re stressed. Anyway, click here and here for more reasons to drink water.
  8. Movies. Pack your favorite movie, and set aside time to watch it. You deserve a break, so treat yourself to your favorite. I would recommend the award-winning masterpiece that is the Bee Movie, a modern-day classic. Be sure to save some of your tissues; it pulls at the heartstrings.
  9. Music. After you finish watching your favorite movie, set aside more time to listen to music. Listen to whatever calms your mind, takes you to your happy place. Anything will do if it takes your mind off your finals, even if it is just for a few minutes. I highly recommend this song and this song. They personally help me through tough times.
  10. Blanket. A Snuggie is more preferred. You’ve likely been studying for hours on end, an IV of caffeine hooked into your veins. There’s no telling when you’ll crash, so it’s best to be prepared at all times. Try to maintain a healthy sleep schedule because if you pull an all-nighter, it can be more damaging than helpful.


That’s it! It’s all up to you now. But don’t worry, we know you’ve got it. And be sure to check out our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram when it’s midnight, and you’re too tired to study.

About the “New Army Officer’s Survival Guide”: An Interview with Captain Levi Floeter

Coming out in 2018 is Levi Floeter’s The New Army Officer’s Survival Guide: Cadet to Commission through Command. The following is a brief Q & A about Captain Floeter and his book.

Did you always want to be an Officer in the Army?

Actually, I did not. Originally, I wanted to be an Air Force Pararescueman so bad my eyeteeth hurt when I was growing up. I was initially disqualified for enlistment out of high-school for a surgery I’d had to my left shoulder, and it really threw me because I’d had no other plans. College wasn’t even on my radar as a young man, much less Commission as an Officer… It’s a funny world!

So if you didn’t always want to be an Officer in the Army, why did you decide to write this book?

In my first Command up in Alaska, I stumbled on an early manuscript of LTC Dave Dunphy’s book, “The Iron Major Survival Guide,” on our unit shared drive. This was right around the time I was getting really frustrated with being a Company Commander. It seemed then that I couldn’t do anything right, and yet, I had been to the Career Course and Ranger School and had met all the gates the Army said I needed to be successful. I was supposed to be an “expert” at my job. It had me all confused, feeling lost like that. I knew tactics and doctrine, but I didn’t know ANYTHING about the other stuff Commanders are expected to know—legal matters or counseling or NCOERs or planning unit training when faced with a Brigades’ long range calendar. I was even wondering whether the Army was right for me.

Reading that manuscript was a pivotal moment for me because, while it was only about 36 pages or so at that time, that little book was jammed full of advice to help struggling Majors—and as I read it, it opened my eyes to a reality. I was looking at the work of a Lieutenant Colonel who was trying to make it easier on Majors coming up, and here he was explaining things to them that I always thought everybody but me somehow simply must have learned somewhere I hadn’t been yet. It stunned me, and I was suddenly fully aware that others had been or were currently also in my shoes, and that at every level we are all just trying to “figure it out.” The Army does a fantastic job of telling officers the WHAT of their job, but too often as a whole, the Officer Corps doesn’t have a lot written down in the HOW category. I felt that if a Lieutenant Colonel saw the need to develop Field Grade Officers, why shouldn’t I should try to put something out there for those guys younger than me, and make it easier on them?

If your book is intended to aid the success of young officers, in your opinion, which are the most important characteristics of Officers that you have seen be successful?

The Officers I look up to definitely have some things in common. Based on them, I’d have to say that Trustworthiness, Temperance, Decisiveness, and Humility are all traits they share. I don’t think any Officer can go wrong trying to hold on to those values. Or for that matter, anybody.

What is the best way to prepare for a career as an Officer?

Read a lot, ask good questions, and take an interest in your program. Oh, and stay in shape!

Speaking of staying in shape, in the past few years physical standards for women in the military has been debated a good bit—why is Gender Integration as it affects future Officers or the Army not addressed in this work?

Gender integration is a hot-button issue across the Military these days, and the techniques described in here aren’t based on an Officer’s sex. I didn’t feel gender had any place in the work; the advice here ought to be as good for a female finance officer as it would for a male Engineer, or anyone else.

I had the fortune to serve my second Company Command in the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade when the first female Ranger students came through the course, and my views on gender integration and culture are two-fold.

It is my opinion that A) if a woman can serve in the Combat Arms successfully, she should be allowed to give it her best shot, and B) no one, regardless of their sex, should be given a free pass into the Combat Arms for any reason, because that could result in putting lives at risk in combat. As for the cultural implications? Those remain to be seen. I don’t feel I’m an expert on predicting cultural changes. 

Understandable. In the book, there is also an omission of other commissioning sources such as Green to Gold, or Officer’s Candidate School. Why is that not addressed?

Typically, Green to Gold has an audience that already knows a good deal about the Army, because they have at least four years enlisted time, and OCS really is it’s own beast. However, neither program is intentionally excluded from this book, and the advice in sections two and three would still help the new OCS or Green to Gold Commissionee the same as any other new LT or CO.

Since there are parallels for what may be seen as challenging or difficult for a new officer, what was the hardest thing about being a new Army officer?

The hardest thing for me as a newly commissioned LT was trying to figure out exactly what my job was, and how to do it well. I had a lot of energy and drive, but I didn’t necessarily know where to put it, and when you are working alongside a bunch of Staff-Sergeants and Sergeant’s First-Class who already have everything figured out, it can get really easy to be in the way rather than be value added to an organization. I didn’t want that, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and nobody likes thinking they are doing the right thing only to find out afterward that they just got in somebody else’s lane and made a mess.

Obviously your early years went a complete mess, and you must have had some highlights and moments of enjoyment. What did you enjoy most in your first few years in the Army?

I really enjoyed being a Company Executive Officer. It was after my time as a Platoon leader, I had been made the Battalion Assistant S-4 for about six months (that’s like a logistical officer), and then I got to be the Executive Officer of the same Company I had been a deployed PL in. I knew everybody, we had some good memories together from down-range, and I got to help a new CO and a group of new PLs come into the unit and prepare for their deployment from first-hand experience with that Company. It was the golden moment of my Lieutenant time.

Will there be other books in this same vein?

My wife and I started to write one together aimed at helping New Army Spouses, both from the perspective of the Soldier and the perspective of the spouse, so, hopefully yes.

We look forward to publishing the New Army Officer’s Survival Guide: Cadet to Commission through Command, out February 12, and we hope you’ll be on the lookout for this great book! Don’t miss out on our other exciting New Army Officer’s Survival Guide events:

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New Release: “New Army Officer Survival Guide” by CPT Levi Floeter

We are incredibly excited to share our new release with you! The New Army Officer’s Survival Guide: Cadet to Commission through Command is the advice-equivalent to a double espresso for junior Army officers. It’s simple, it doesn’t take long to get through, and it provides results. Author Levi Floeter’s crisp and clear writing style answers many of the questions and concerns that cadets and junior officers have as they enter a career in the U.S. Army, making this book a great complement current to Army doctrine and regulations.

CPT Levi J. Floeter

Combining dozens of resources into a single and easily readable volume a cadet or junior officer can carry with them, the New Army Officer’s Survival Guide: Cadet to Commission through Command aids junior officers’ success by blending in Floeter’s first-hand experiences from over forty-one months in two separate Company Commands to personally advise and cover many lessons that most officers learn the hard way.

The book’s structure provides an overview of Army ROTC, a detailed walkthrough of skills needed by Junior Officers across the Army, and some explanations of techniques and possible leadership styles or methods to utilize in common situations. Four Annexes: Useful gear for the field and office; officer branch and Basic Officer Leader Course information; common acronyms and phrases, and a list of each Punitive Article of the UCMJ wrap up the book for quick access and reference.

Levi J. Floeter, following in his father’s footsteps (RET Air Force) into a military career, commissioned as an Army Infantry Officer from Eastern Washington University in 2008. Almost immediately after graduating Airborne and Infantry School at Fort Benning, Floeter received orders to deploy as a Platoon Leader in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from October 2009 – July 2010. Since then, Floeter has held various positions as a Company X.O., Battalion Operations Assistant, Company Commander (on two occasions), and most recently serves as an ROTC instructor in the Military Science Program at the University of Washington. CPT Floeter is married and is the father to one daughter.

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