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The Grinch.
The Prodigal Son.
Scrooge.

What do these fellows have in common? For one thing, these central characters all behave in a way that goes against what their peers consider socially acceptable.

“At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge, … it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.” – A Christmas Carol

 

“Santie Claus, why? Why are you taking our Christmas tree? Why?” – How the Grinch Stole Christmas

They may not be considered out-and-out villains, but they’re seen as misbehavers at the very least. Then, they all have dramatic transformations of their core personalities and perspectives, and afterward are enthusiastically welcomed into the fold.

Those I was always more curious about in these stories are people like the gentler Whos in Whoville around the table at the big feast. They perhaps never experienced an extreme change, but certainly many have tried all their lives to do the right thing. They’ve had quiet struggles – because anyone trying to do the right thing will sometimes struggle with it – and they’ve mostly succeeded. What of their stories? I think most of us are like these folks in the background – no showy celebrations for our small wins. Who’s our character to rally behind?

I understand the need for a big redemption in order to add interest and drama to a plot. The endings of these three fellows’ stories are quite satisfying, if you don’t overthink like I do. Maybe the main takeaway is that us quieter, small-win folks can see that, if seemingly wretched folks like those dudes can soften their hearts and choose a better path, well, so can we.

We may all have latent heroes quiet or otherwise inside of us; but a villain waits there too.

What is a hero, really, but a villain that struggled and succeeded?

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My Books, My Sirens

When I was younger, I tried to close the gap between desire and reality by planning to work hard, work harder, make lots of money.  I figured the only other option was to want things less and that didn’t seem feasible.  It turns out, I found the first method difficult and generally unsustainable, given the age discrimination most of us will face at some point – meaning, our earnings and earning potential could not incline upward for our entire working lives.

The decrease in wanting things was less tricky than I’d expected.  After a while, when you’re no longer in the habit of shopping for entertainment or expecting new stuff to tirelessly parade into your home, you have trouble remembering why you felt these twinges and pulls at all. Of many things, anyway. I’m no minimalist, for sure, but I suspect even minimalists are susceptible to the Siren song of some particular thing.  I can assess so many things with a practical eye and not buy.  Sometimes all I need is to walk around a store with the item and this cures me – turns out I just needed to spend a little time with that thermos or scarf, not to carry it home, and I put it back.

Books are my Sirens.  My practical side knows that the library has a treasure trove of books I can read for free and won’t get thru in three lifetimes.  Yet I still want stacks and stacks of my own at home. Partly b/c I won’t risk taking a library book into the tub with me.  Or on a trip, after leaving one at Logan airport (though, to my astonishment, a kind soul had found it and mailed it to the library, saved me from the cost of a replacement hardback.)  And don’t get me started on the yuckiness of what I find crusted on the pages of more popular YA novels.  But those lame excuses could suffice if I had just a few used books at home.  Instead, I have what may in some states constitute a small library branch.  Our local library just had its book sale.  Divine.  Each year I stack books for the coming winter like others stack cords of wood.

I so love it when someone’s visiting and asks if perhaps I have any good books I could lend them; I must stifle a laugh as we climb the stairs to my unwieldy stacks.

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Book Review: “Born to be Awkward”, by Mike Bender and Doug Chernack
Published by: Three Rivers Press

I really wanted to love this book, as I have followed the “Awkward” site and get the RSS feed and find many laugh out loud moments. There were a few of those in this book, but overall it didn’t feel like the selections were that funny to me. (It’s so humor to say whether something is “funny”, really, b/c that is so subjective!!)

I’m less of a fan of the “meaner” pics – one just making fun of the way a baby looks, for example – I much prefer ones that capture a funny moment rather than just poke fun at appearance. But that’s my take, the book may very well find a prized place on your coffee table.

Disclosure: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the Blogging for Books program.

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I don’t think I have an especially difficult time with handling rejection. I think I see the whole thing somewhat like the Donald Kaufman character in my favorite scene of “Adaptation”:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0268126/quotes:

Charlie Kaufman: There was this time in high school. I was watching you out the library window. You were talking to Sarah Marsh.

Donald Kaufman: Oh, God. I was so in love with her.

Charlie Kaufman: I know. And you were flirting with her. And she was being really sweet to you.

Donald Kaufman: I remember that.

Charlie Kaufman: Then, when you walked away, she started making fun of you with Kim Canetti. And it was like they were laughing at *me*. You didn’t know at all. You seemed so happy.

Donald Kaufman: I knew. I heard them.

Charlie Kaufman: How come you looked so happy?

Donald Kaufman: I loved Sarah, Charles. It was mine, that love. I owned it. Even Sarah didn’t have the right to take it away. I can love whoever I want.

Charlie Kaufman: But she thought you were pathetic.

Donald Kaufman: That was her business, not mine. You are what you love, not what loves you. That’s what I decided a long time ago.

However, the fact that facing rejection isn’t a difficult challenge for me didn’t keep me from enjoying Jiang’s story and tips, in “Rejection Proof“.  I liked it.  I think the gift he gives to others is helping them to be more comfortable speaking openly about being rejected, about fearing rejection, the universality of it all. He has a refreshingly strong altruistic streak motivating his exploration of the topic – not just ways to forward his own entrepreneurial success. I also enjoyed his sense of humor very much!

I was glad that he referenced the Rejection Therapy Game by Jason Comely – http://rejectiontherapy.com/. Although Jiang puts his own spin on it, I feel like this movement, if you can call it that, started before Jiang, and with Comely.

Frankly, what I have the hardest time with is saying no to others – providing rejection. And I found his suggestions related to that very helpful – for example, if you say, “No, but I know someone who would be interested,” or, “No, I can’t right now but I might be able to fit it in come springtime,” you are giving the other person valuable data and your no in some ways is a pseudo-yes. I liked his take on this and it will help me to feel less guilty when I have to do the rejecting.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free from the Blogging for Books program in return for an honest online review.

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Book Giveaway – update!

4/23/15 update: Emily has won the book, I will be contacting her to get the details in order to get the book to her. Thanks to Emily and Oenghus for entering and their comments on this book. I finished my copy of it yesterday and it is definitely a worthwhile read.

Giveaway time cats -n- kittens!  I’ve never done a giveaway in my many years of blogging.  The Crown Publishing Group has provided me with a fresh new copy of the new hardcover book, Rejection Proof: 100 Days of Rejection, or How to Ask Anything of Anyone at Anytime by Jia Jiang.  I’m currently about halfway through a different copy of the book myself and I’m quite enjoying it.

To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment on this blog and answer the following: what have you usually been the most chicken about: job interviews, taking exams, asking someone on a date, speaking in public – or something else altogether?  For me, it’s definitely job interviews.

Giveaway closes by midnight Eastern Standard time on Mon, 4/6/15.  Random numbers will be assigned and my kid will pick the winner from a hat.  A top hat, perhaps, or maybe a jaunty beret.  Hat type TBD.  I will contact the winner, who will be required to promptly do a happy jig and/or shout “Hot diggity” in some sort of odd accent.  Please don’t put an address or email address in the body of your comment.

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The Crown Publishing Group provided me a copy of the book: “Urban Watercolor Sketching” by Felix Scheinberger in exchange for an honest review on my blog.  Thanks Crown Publishing!  I haven’t done this before – here goes!

My background – where am I coming from?

I love art and design and creative expression.  As a youngster I mostly expressed myself in music and dance.  I liked doing little crafty projects and have always been a mad doodler, but was unfortunately intimidated by several art teachers at school and got the idea that I can’t draw or paint and shouldn’t try, that it starts with a magical innate talent and that only those folks should be pursuing it, even at an amateur level (I know this isn’t such an unfamiliar story).  I did a girls’ night out at a paint bar a couple of years ago, we painted an African scene and I really enjoyed the process and like the way it came out.  I signed up for a beginning acrylics class in my town and although it wasn’t entirely what I expected, and I wish it could have been longer, it set me on a journey of trying to draw and paint and realizing I like a lot of what I create.  And that it can be very relaxing to use my art supplies.  And no one else needs to see it.

The things I liked best about this book was:

  • The artist’s unique style and years of experience
  • The artist’s willingness to share trade secrets, even if some of them sound a little grody (using spit to get certain textures – not sure if I’ll go there – but I do like having as many tricks at my disposal as possible)
  • Some interesting new techniques that probably only a working artist could provide

The things I liked least about this book was:

  • After reading it, I never had a very clear picture about what makes this “Urban”.  Based on the title I expected it to be techniques strictly related to painting urban landscapes.  There were many of those, but it was not focused on urban surroundings.  This was confusing to me and I started to think maybe the word “urban” means something specific in the art world that I’m not aware of?  Which leads me to…
  • I didn’t feel like it was a good fit for a beginner (it didn’t make that claim, that I remember, so just noting this as FYI).  It seemed geared more toward folks who have been drawing and painting far longer than me, folks looking to better define their personal style and get new, somewhat advanced, tips.
  • I found his style somewhat aloof – could have been more engaging – maybe he was trying too hard not to insert himself too much?

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I’ve been enjoying Kathy A. Johnson’s blog “Catching Happiness” at www.catchinghappiness.com. She recently participated in a meme started by Simon at Stuck in a Book.  His instructions were:

I’m going to kick off a meme where we say our favourite book author, song, film, and object beginning with a particular letter. And that letter will be randomly assigned to you by me, via random.org. If you’d like to join in, comment in the comment section and I’ll tell you your letter! (And then, of course, the chain can keep going on your blog.)

I requested my letter at her post at http://www.catchinghappiness.com/2014/06/brought-to-you-by-letter-g.html.  My answers are below. What fun!  Please play along.  A bloggy, asynchronous playdate if you will.   If you want me to assign you a letter, let me know in the comments.  Even if you don’t have a blog, you can leave your favorites in the comments.  (I promise not to give you Q or X!)

My randomly generated letter from Kathy was “C”. Here goes!

Favorite “C” book author – this was instantaneous, as my favorite author of all time is Truman Capote. I haven’t read everything he has written, but close to it.  For any “Lost” fans out there, it feels a bit like when Desmond has a Dickens book on the island but is hesitant to read it, because he has read all other Dickens works and that would be it.  I own, but haven’t yet read, “In Cold Blood”, the book he’s best known for besides “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” I think my favorites are his short story and essay collections, especially “Music for Chameleons.”  I love the way he twists language.  He bends language like so much taffy, in a way I’ve only otherwise encountered with my second favorite author, Nabokov.

Favorite “C” song Crucify by Tori Amos, on the album of the same name.  (1992).  That entire album was so eye-opening and inspiring.  I love this song, although I wish a pal of mine never asked me, “What does she mean, that her heart is in cheese?”  “Chains,” I said.  “Her heart is in chains.”  But now all I hear is “cheese.”

Favorite “C” filmThe Commitments. (1991). “Heroine kills.”  “I never pictured God with a fat gut and corset singing “My Way” at Caesar’s Palace.”

Favorite “C” object – Card, Library !  Still feels pretty miraculous that you can find wonderful books and media and take them home to enjoy.  I would live at the library if I could.

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