Is this OK with you?

Reviews

9780451483010When I stumbled on the title of this book, I was somewhat excited that this is not just my thing. I’m always that over-eager person who wants to please; the competitive overachiever who basically wants to outdo herself. It’s annoying most of the times, but I think Salie nails it with the moniker.

I started reading Approval Junkie on the plane en route back from London, about an hour after I had finished reading We Were Liars. Don’t get me started on that last book. Suffice it to say, I was clearly not its target audience. Faith Salie‘s book, on the other hand, offered a refreshing change to an issue that’s close to my heart. The book often reads like a set of disjointed self-reflective memoir-style essays, that are mostly punctuated by good punchlines but are also sometimes filled with cringingly personal details that had me feeling awkward for all the named real people mentioned in the book. I mean, they are all a google search away from an actual person with a face, you know.

Salie spends considerable part of the book writing about her (mis)adventures with her ex-husband, which apparently fed a big part of her need for approval. She refers to him as a “wasband” throughout, a name I found annoying, at best. The fact that the book spends so much time on this seemingly toxic relationship between her and ex-husband often had me thinking that the writing was some kind of cathartic, self-exorcism activity that I felt I didn’t need to witness. The personal details she divulges often made me feel uncomfortable, though the writing was good and kept me engaged throughout.

“All this happened at that age[…] when you think thrity is a big deal, and thirty-five equals a spontaneous hysterectomy, when you have to attend a wedding every month, and you fear being left behind by life.”

I found the accounts that dealt with her mother’s loss were the most honest and authentic — she captures the absence of a loved one in a way that connected well with me and read as less performative as her other, more scathing accounts that revolved around her ex-husband. By far my favorite chapter was one focused on her dad, called “Book Marked”. The stories that feature her parents have a starkly different tone to the rest of the book and were really enjoyable to read.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a light, fast read – especially if you’re the kind of person who seeks (implicit or explicit) approval on a daily basis. You’re definitely going to find yourself chuckling out loud, but don’t expect it to be a book you remember much about after a couple of weeks.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
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Raising a not-so-perfect puppy

Rants

2013-03-18 14.37.29

I like to be as excruciatingly thorough as possible in pretty much everything I do. So of course, when we got our  puppy, I spent the better part of my free time obsessing on how to master the daunting task of proper training. The internet was an easy ally in this case: I surfed the endless forums for training, became Cesar Millan’s ultimate fangirl and obsessed over a book I read in a day, bought when I brought the puppy home. How can anyone resist a book called “The Perfect Puppy”?

You could say I have a problem. I won’t judge you.

Before I knew it, dog training lingo started making its stealthy way into my conversation: positive reinforcement, crate training, off cues, sit, stay. I accidentally talked to my 1 year-old-godson in this vocabulary, but luckily no one heard me. My sister fell prey to the same thing; she recently got a dog too, and found herself clicking her tongue at colleagues, friends and myself whenever she wanted to reprimand or hurry things up. It was hilarious, but also sad. We were imaginary queens of dog training, but pathetic examples of defeat, because behind the lingo lay the futile attempts at getting it right, while getting it wrong almost 90% of the time.

You see, all these experts make it seem like it’s a piece of cake. They say: Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a dog.  They don’t say: Sucker! Welcome to a life of shit and puddles!  They say: Follow these three steps. They don’t say: Haha! GOTCHA! They say: Repetition is key . The don’t say: Repetition is pointless. 

Sure, I’m a cynic, but I remember as I was breezing through the book I kept thinking, “Yeah, this is so manageable, I can so do this.” When confronted with failure I tend to either get angry or get angry. And I got angry, but most importantly persistent. Sit, was a relatively easy command, everything after that has been near impossible. I’ve been trying to teach Teddy the cue for “off” which he understands under controlled conditions, but not when we are out on a walk. As a result he has swallowed many a plastic bag, cigarette butts and other unnamed disgusting things that I sometimes feel disinclined to pull from his mouth, even if I always end up attempting it.

And to make things more challenging, he’s growing by the second. My greatest fear is that I’ll wake up one morning and see him towering over me. It’s like he’s devoured that Alice in Wonderland cookie on one of our walks, which could make sense since it reads Don’t eat me. The forbidden fruit is always more delicious even for the illiterate. Recently, I discovered the hard way just how tall he’s become in the past month. In the limited time I had for my lunch break, I left Teddy in the living room and migrated to the study to do some research on short film documentaries. I discovered this gem of depressing creativity, and 2 minutes into it I realized that Oden was actually the dog. It wasn’t long before the mandatory close up shot for the euthanasia scene, and that’s just when I paused it, all teary eyed and sad because I didn’t want the dog to die its inevitable death. It made me feel lucky for my own little fella, and I went to the living room to play with him in a genuine sense of gratitude. As I tried to move past his hyperactivity, I noticed in the far distance a familiar object: my pair of sunglasses doubling for a dog toy. The little rascal got them off the kitchen counter! He was now tall enough to reach pretty much anything. I resorted to my book, which advised teaching the off cue. A no-brainer, right? Too bad it doesn’t work.

So three months after that fateful meeting at the vet, I find myself pretty convinced that I’m not raising the perfect puppy at all. He’s destroyed a pair of Camper boots, a handmade fridge magnet made by my friend G—  made by an Icelandic pine cone she got on vacation, the couch, a journal and countless pairs of trousers. When I take him out for the 5:30 a.m. walk in my hole filled leggings and disheveled hair I think to myself, What has become of me?  But then when we come back home and he sits patiently for his food eyeing me with the expectation, I melt. I guess they call it puppy love for a reason.

Restraint

Commentary

You may or may not know I’m from Cyprus.

You may or may not have become aware of the economic crisis that’s hit the island hard.

And because I may or may not have money to spend on new books, I’ve decided to make a comprehensive list of books I have on my shelves that I have yet to read, as a form of inspiration. For once, I’m happy that I have so much pending material. A list is provided below for those interested in any of the covers. I shall be posting my progress here, as a means of encouragement. You can see the current book I’m reading on my Goodreads page (see widget on sidebar).

reading list

P.S.: I know! I can’t believe I’ve amassed so much unread material either. Am I the only who does this?

I’m an easy person to please. Give me stationery and a good book with your personalized message and I’m a happy camper. As I’m writing this, I have four journals waiting to be used, all of them presents from friends; I’m looking at a fresh letter set along with a patterned sticky tape set waiting to be put to use; I’ve got a set of sharpened pencils waiting to spoil pages with my thoughtless rumbling.

And yet something has changed. I like all of these things, but feel disconnected from them. And I have had a lifetime of absolute fidelity to writing, reading, recording this or that insignificant detail. I have my thoughts on paper from the age of 8 — a shelf full of journals that pin down my  naive childhood, my tempered adolescence, my youthful adultness. I have successfully made it here, to almost 30 so that I can come to an unforeseeable halt?

And it’s not just the writing, it’s the reading too. After a lukewarm start to the New Year, I’ve managed to read about four books that have neither excited nor inspired me. I’ve even resorted to audiobooks, which only occurred to me as a feasible idea after reading this somewhat inspiring, if not impossibly ambitious, article.  I’m currently reading Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth, which I’m finding atrociously boring, two-dimensional and stale. I also own in audiobook (don’t ask why), and have been trudging my way through it for the past three weeks despite reading at home and listening to it on my way to and from work. If nothing else, at least I’ve discovered that I’m definitely not an audiobook person.

So recently, in the hopes of regaining some form of inspiration to jumpstart my imagination, I have began transcribing my diary entries, from that very first journal. It dates back to January 1992 and I could not feel more far removed from myself as I do now. I have decided to share the first entry with you (translated from Greek):

6 January 1992, Monday

Tomorrow we’re going back to school. Oh! What bad luck. And we are so used to sleeping at midnight whereas now we will have to sleep at 9 p.m. Unfortunately we have to go to school. But then again, I will see my friends. 

xx

Maybe this will get me out of the rut. Oh and this blog, which I hope to revive slowly. Your encouragement is a welcome delight.

I told you I was easy to please.

 

 

Commentary

Random Tuesday

Random Tuesdays

The other day I was going through a free press magazine that always has a dedicated section on pets to adopt. It’s been a year since our beloved dog / dillusional-dog-person passed away and that void has remained incurably empty. Sure, she was irreplaceable but a new pet dog would surely help heal that wound, no?

I believed as much about 8 months ago when I was confessing this to my best bud; delirious at the prospect of finding a solution to this emptiness I thought it a good idea to venture off to our nearest dog shelter to have a quick browse. Yes, you see, in my head I had distanced myself from the situation so clinically that I was convinced I would not be affected by the wagging tails, the wails of begging, those puppy eyes. If you’ve ever had a dog, you know that this is quite simply an impossible feat. I fell in love with half the dogs at the kennel and when I left the place, I couldn’t stop thinking about one in  particular that I connected with. This was on a Friday afternoon, so in my instant decisiveness I spilled the whole deal to my boyfriend and pleadingly urged him to at least do me the favor and succumb to paying a visit to the shelter. Never having a pet dog before, my boyfriend couldn’t really see what the fuss was about. Of course, in my complete girly naivety I was certain that his heart would also melt upon entering the shelter. So convinced was I with this, that when I went shopping on Saturday afternoon, I bought a dog leash on a whim — after all how would we take our new pet dog on a walk Sunday evening after we had brought it home?

All of these were quite definitively in my head, because as soon as we got there, we played with a a few puppies and while I was bonding with the dog I would live the next 12 years of my life with (at least), my boyfriend was mostly humoring me. We left the place empty-handed. I still don’t know what to do with the red leather dog leash. You see, one can always keep hoping.

Recently I stumbled onto the freakishly hilarious textfromdog blog and I feel like I’m reliving moments with my old dog as I read those hilarious text messages. Dog lovers everywhere, this blog nails the whole frazzling experience. It makes me feel less pathetic about owning a dog leash, but no dog.

Anyway I leave you with some of my favorites. Have a random day!

Don’t let me down

Commentary

You won’t often find me admitting to be in the wrong, but I think it’s high-time I face the music. My problem is that I always set the bar too high. Some of you may think that this is surely a good trait: after all, what’s wrong with a little aspiration? And better yet, how great is it when that unachievable task you set on your list is conquered and quite determinedly crossed off your list?

It’s not that great, really. Ask any perfectionist. Any high goal achieved will automatically mean that the next time, the goal should be even higher. The adrenaline of a challenge is unparalleled, the threat of defeat such an ulcer-inducing experience, the fervor of achievement only a punch-drunk second. I fall for it again and again and again.

I first realized this in December. I greeted the 12 days of Christmas with utter anti-consumerist spite and had decided to do something more personal and genuine for our long list of friends for Christmas 2010 (last year). I ended up baking a series of cookies and treats, boxing them up with personalized gingerbread men and adding Dutch stamps and twine in an attempt at a faux-parcel. It was a great surprise for everyone, but mostly for myself, for pulling off 12 boxes filled with at least 5 different baked goods by yours truly. This year, I knew that if anything, I had to exceed expectations, if not meet them. The overachiever in me wanted to go all out, convinced that I couldn’t bake the same goods. What complete shame to deliver the same box of goodies a year later? I scavenged for recipes that would impress, I drafted ideas for a theme, in fact, I spent entirely too much time on something that didn’t really merit it. Testament to this was our friends’ response: 1 second appraisal of box, before ripping it open to begin devouring contents. Who cared about presentation? Who stopped to think, Boy I’ve eaten this before

No one. And that’s normal. Now I know this.

And though I recognize my over-ambition as, perhaps, my biggest flaw, I can’t help but feel disappointed at myself whenever I underperform by my standards. Take the summer, for instance. Come this glorious season of smelly armpits and drones of mosquitoes, I make a list of goals I wish to see through by the end of my two month vacation (the perks of teaching, I’m afraid). And on my list, around the top, float the same words year in, year out: Read a lot of books. I assume that this is on the list of most ordinary people in the summer, with the possible omission of the words “a lot of” for obvious reasons. Now, the problem this year,  is that sometime in December again, I decided to join the online book community Goodreads, which eagerly prompted me to set a reading goal for 2012. At that point I had just received an order by Amazon for 15 books and I was overjoyed and optimistic at my reading capabilities during the year. So I decided to set the goal to what I considered an acceptable, if not essential, target of 50 books in the year. During the two-week Christmas vacation, I read four books and I was in such a high spirit that I thought I had regained my peace of mind and my fast reading pace. That number dwindled to a staggering three books until the next vacation, Easter, during which I managed to trudge through a mere 130 pages of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. What an embarrassment.

To think, that in college, I read at least 25 books per semester and that’s not counting the ones I devoured for pleasure. At the back of my mind, this was my most productive reading time, I assume, and for that I hold on to it with a competitive ardor that even intimidates me on some days. You see, in all honesty, a part of me knows that it doesn’t really matter how many books I read this summer. In fact, I’m doing quite well, I’ve managed to go through 5 books in the last month. But yet another, more empirical side of me, seeks the quantitative data with strong desire to hold it up as a trophy of achievement, so I can look back at my former younger self who is quite surely disappointed at my sluggish reading. And even when I’m trying to not think of anything, there’s still that parenthetical reminder on Goodreads that furtively informs me: “Congratulations! You’ve read 13 books out of 50. (At your current pace you’re 18 books behind).”

It’s a castigation of sorts. It inflames my inner pride. It makes me the wrong kind of reader, too. Immersing myself in a book has nothing to do with numbers, after all. It’s about striking that connection, getting lost, even momentarily, from lists and personal insecurities and entering a world that I’m sure I value more now, in my 29-year-old worrisome head, that I did as a 20-something student.

The linear ever after

Rants

The second sex, may by no means be the weaker one, according to Simone de Beauvoir, but according to Cypriot culture, it’s the one whose life has already been pre-determined. You don’t need to look into the remnants of coffee stained cups or the palm of your hand ladies, your life is spelled out for you the moment you are born without that golden member. Your life is an equation of sums and losses that all equate your perfect, charming quotidien into a meagre sense of achievement.

And here is your cue to say “Thank you”, whispers your grandmother.

My problem with this, is that increasingly, I’m not just hearing about this happily-ever-after from my grandma, whose old fashioned take on life can best be taken as quaint and romantic, if not blatantly ignorant. No, increasingly, I’m hearing this from my peers. I find it disappointing that in the 21st century, the majority of women my age cannot think beyond the domestic box of marital happiness. As 20-somethings, where is the thirst for new experiences? Where is the insatiable energy for learning and self-discovery? Why all this sudden rush to wear our bank installments round our neck with a sense of pride at our adulthood? Why do I feel more added pressure from the women my age, than from parents and extended family?

Of course, this is only exacerbated by the very fact that we are traversing across the very trying expanse of wedding season. I never used to hate weddings, but I do now.  Walking towards the bride and groom to offer my heartfelt congratulations I’m convinced the mixture of exhaustion and greed (after all, why invite 6,000 guests?) makes me a barely discernible figure as I near the couple’s stand; at most, I’m seen as a € sign. And the underlying logic that echoes from person to person leaves me nothing more than shocked: “It’s an investment, I go to their wedding, they come to mine”. So basically, what everyone is doing is circulating the same €50 around and around and around. A genuine gesture, indeed.

But what particularly got me today, was a rather indiscreet question as I was having my morning coffee and talking about canoeing. It cut through my sense of individuality quite sharply: “When are you going to have a baby?” And suddenly I felt the extra weight of expectation, the additional stress of not wanting to meet the standards predefined by apparently everyone in my circle. It makes me want to despise everything within the linear fairy tale that everyone seems to fool themselves into. A baby? I’m still a kid myself!

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t claim to have the answer to a happy life. For some, marital bliss and everything that comes with it may be that which fulfills them. But leave some room for the odd ones out, will you? We can’t all fit into the cookie-cutter world of the predictable. Some of us might want to try going the other route and in all honesty, what’s it to you?

Where’s my mojo?

Commentary

So let’s make it clear. I’ve looked at all possible locations: behing the couch, in the fridge next to that tupperware that’s growing all sorts of fungus, in the far depths of my bag, in my tiny car, in my not-so-tiny wardrobe. Where has my mojo gone? Why has it abandoned me?

Or wait. Maybe I’m to blame. It might just be that the very high I was experiencing right about the beginning of 2012 has very cutely come back to bite me in the face. The feeling of I can do everything has quickly given way to: Is there anything I can do? The same person who read three books in the first week of the year, is now reading 10 words a day, claiming a whole page as a cause for celebration. That very same person walks around with dark circles under the eyes, despite a good 7-hour sleep. She’s shunned color and she continuously burns the food, but doesn’t mind eating it because she’s that hungry.

Is this person you too? Want to join forces in rediscovering our mojos? Listening for your suggestions, eagerly.

Get me the gear

Commentary

I was always the kid whoshowed up all red-eyed on the first day of school because of no sleep the night before. You can blame it on the stress of the first day, or the excitement of returning to routine, or downright weird, but it happened every single year. Now, on the more responsible end of classroom, my problem is mostly managing to wake up on the first day of school not sleep. But if there’s one thing that merits excitement at the beginning of the new school year, it’s nerdy supplies. And whenI say nerdy, I mean nerdy. 

These are some of my most coveted items for the new school year (take note, readers):

it's an achievement during the school year

*sigh*