October 1, 2019

How one book turned a family into a book club.

One of the cool things about our family is that we are all good readers. Papa sets the standard in reading and seems to knock off a book a few times a week. We love hardback books, our Kindles, and books on tape.

I never took it for granted that our own children learned to read effortlessly. During their lower school days, Philip and Stephanie seemed to pick up their first books and go for it. It was probably the luck of the draw, but it sure made our lives as neurotic parents easier.

So we were especially pleased and proud that Rylan, 12, won an academic award and as a gift he was given a copy of Admiral William H. McRaven’s “Make Your Bed.” This small book is an expansion of a commencement address he gave at his alma mater, the University of Texas, in which he gave 10 lessons for a successful life, beginning with “Make Your Bed.” The theory is this: if you get up every morning and make your bed, it gives you the mindset that your first task of the day is accomplished. Throughout the book he weaves in stories about his Navy Seal training and encourages the reader to never give up. 

I’m a sucker for self-help books, so this was right up my alley.

Rylan gave me the book to read, and I loved it. I gave it to Papa, a former Navy JAG Corps member, and he thoroughly enjoyed it. He gave it to Aunt Steph, who thought this might be a good recommendation for her students at Kehoe-France, where she is the new school counselor. I recommended it to friends, especially those who needed a boost, were in the military at one time, or went to the University of Texas. Actually, I didn’t really need an excuse. I loved the book and thought it would work for any age or reading taste.

We sent Rylan texts each time one of us started the book. He’d text back with questions, “Did you like the messages the Admiral gave at the end of each chapter?” or “Did your University of Texas friend like the book?” and so on. Occasionally I’d whine about something being harder than I expected, and Papa would say, “Remember what Admiral McRaven said, ‘never give up?’” The messages began to sink into our family vernacular.

It isn’t often that a family can share a book, all enjoy it and learn something. But this one hit a chord with readers from three generations. I’d love to find another book for the whole gang so we can start a family book club. I’m pretty sure Rylan and Amelia could make a recommendation that would satisfy all interests.

In a few short years, we’ve graduated from reading Dr. Seuss and Richard Scarry to discussing books written by a Navy Seal. “Make Your Bed” is a short book, but if you want the Admiral’s recommendations on how to change the world in 10 lessons, read below. Consider these Hip Grannie’s Cliff Notes, and share them with the ones you love.

Make your bed. Start your day with a task completed.

Find someone to help you paddle. You can’t go it alone.

Measure a person by the size of his heart. 

Get over being a “sugar cookie” and keep moving forward. Life’s not fair. Drive on.

Don’t be afraid of the circus. Failure can make you stronger.

Slide down head first. You must dare greatly.

Don’t back down from the sharks. Stand up to bullies.

Be your very best in the darkest of moments. Rise to the occasion.

Start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud. Give others hope.

Don’t ever ring the bell. Never give up.

Mission accomplished.


Laura Claverie is Nola Family’s Hip Grannie. She is a local mother, grandmother, and writer.

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