Monday, February 12, 2018

A Review of How to Really Ruin Your Financial Life and Portfolio by Ben Stein

You might speak fluent sarcasm, but have you ever read an entire book written in sarcasm? 

Why the hell haven't you?

Back when I was younger, I assumed a lot about stocks and the stockmarket-mostly that it didn't concern me. It was something rich people did, and something they knew the secrets for, and it was forever locked away from everyday people like myself. 

You learn more about it when you start things like 401ks and watch the steady growth. But, I still don't know a lot about investing. I still sort of figured there was some secret knock thing about the entirety of picking and trading that I wasn't ever going to understand. 

If you feel that way, too, then this is a good book for you. 

It's a short read, not a super easy read unless you know financial terms the rest of us are going to have to look up, but it's easy and funny enough to get a kick out of. 

And it's a good refresher of some of the advice you can find in books like "The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck"; namely that you and I are not special. Not even a little bit. 

You're not going to be that guy who makes millions in junk bonds. You're not going to make a ton of money by using intuition or even a formula to pick your stocks. Even the best and brightest with the most capital to burn have had limited success with that and to assume you can out-spend and out-amazing that is life-ruining. 

To gain, you look at averages and slow, steady, safe growth. 

This won't be the only investment book you need, I have some others that I'll be looking into, but it is a hilarious place to start and a decent guide on not being a complete moron. 

Also, if you are looking for money lessons for kids (okay, fine, I watch it, too...) check out Buffet's "Secret Millionaires Club", which is on Amazon Prime currently.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A Review of 31 Proverbs to Light Your Path by Liz Curtis Higgs

At first I didn't know if I was going to get through this book.

It isn't because the book is bad in any way. 

It's because Christianity was used as a weapon against me. It was another tool of abuse in a disordered household, and that is unfortunately common. Abusive people like religion, or twisting religion (just to be clear, no God worth anything condones abuse-emotional, mental or physical- especially of a child) to suit their needs. 

I have friends who can't walk into a church without having a panic attack. Not because they are not religious, but because it is hard to separate the abuse you experienced with that line of thinking. 

You begin to wonder if you will ever be able to go towards God when the shadow of what happened to you is right there waiting in association. 

So it took three tries to pick this up and finish it. But I am glad that I did. 

Each chapter covers a proverb, explaining it in detail and pairing it with an experience. It's kindly-worded, which people like me need because it gives the text a friendly presence. Better still, the ending of the chapters offers you insight and exercises that in most cases you can complete immediately or soon and that highlights the wisdom of the subject matter. My favorite was the idea of putting away money quietly to give to someone who needs it more than you do. That's lovely. That's the beautiful and kind part of this stuff. 

31 Proverbs to Light Your Path is not a super easy read, because much of it will require a thinking-process (think more along the lines of centering versus relaxing) but it's a great book for those who need it. 

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Review of How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist; Selling Yourself Without Selling Your Soul

I only had one art professor who was active in selling and promoting his work locally. One. And he obviously wasn't going to quit his teaching job at any point and make money just in the industry. 

And he openly made fun of a student who was selling her work on eBay to pay her bills.

It was one of those many moments where I wondered what the hell I was doing to myself studying the arts. 

Nobody thought to include in the curriculum (at the community college OR university level) a course in how to run a business in Fine Arts. If anything, the university was even further detached from the business aspect of art-their painting instructor was proud to tell everyone she never made a "damn thing" off of her work. I didn't question any of that. Ever. 

It turns out working in an industry where you are routinely devalued goes hand-in-friendly-hand with the devaluing you internalize if you experienced family abuse. 

Learning that I was worth anything at all was hard. Learning my work might be worth anything is harder. 

If you are struggling with that as an artist, or just want some tips on fine arts as a business (because that is what it IS), then I can't recommend strongly enough "How to Survive and Prosper As an Artist" by Caroll Michels. 

Everything from standing up to dealers to setting prices and crafting your resume is here, along with some really valuable link resources. 

The text is written with the deft hand of experience, and the advice straight-forward, unlike the convoluted crap you probably got at school (and you were probably lucky to have received even that). As the book points out, we were actively prevented from talking about money, from thinking about money, or approaching what we were being trained to do as a business in any way.

That not only sucks, it's absolute garbage. 

This is the book I wish I'd had as an art student. And we need more books like this in the world. And you need it if you are attempting to make a living doing something creative. 

We have to change we way we look at art and how we devalue our creative workers. This is a good place to start. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Can we talk about safe places to learn?

I didn't get a call from the public school on the day my son was stabbed in the face with a pencil by another student. I got a note home. I was never even able to get the teacher to call me back.

Thankfully, my son was okay, it was just a deep scar on his chin for a while and didn't need anything but over the counter attention. 

But after another day of not being able to get ahold of anyone, I walked into the principal's office with the advice of my teacher-friends and asked what had happened and what the plan on keeping my son safe was, as all I was told is that the student who hurt him was known for this behavior. When they didn't have a plan, I left and enrolled my children in a charter school.

A charter school doesn't have to take violent offenders. As a matter of fact, our's doesn't offer spots to those with violence on the records. 

And it was there that both of my school-agers blossomed, in a safe and loving environment. When bullying is not tolerated, when everyone shows up at a school because they want to be there, it changes the dynamics of personal interaction. 

And for every jerkwad who wants to lecture you about how school choice isn't diplomatic, all I can think of is if my son hadn't been wearing glasses, that strike could have hit his eye. Could have blinded him.

And I'm reminded of it again as I see a headline that a student with a history of violence hurt two people, two other students. Under no circumstances should that have happened. 

Every kid deserves a safe school. I'm open to ideas on how to arrive at that, but this is all we have right now. 

We have to talk about what happens when we force a bunch of young people together without measures to keep them safe in a school setting. We have to talk about what to do when violent behavior or bullying shows up because what we do now doesn't work and I'm tired of reading the headlines of how another child killed themselves rather than face another day of torment. 

We have to talk about how we have a certain percentage of human beings in this world who hurt people, and who won't stop doing that without appropriate interventions. 

We have to talk about it because nobody seems to have an answer to any of this. I definitely don't have any good suggestions.

But I know giving them free passes and repeated chances to abuse don't work. Turns out abusers LOVE the crap out of those things. And we need to be having conversations about what might work, especially in our educational system but everywhere really. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Books about Autism Written by Authors on the Spectrum.

I've read a decent amount of books on autism. 

I figured out pretty quickly that they aren't all cut from the same quality cloth. 

Once I bought a book for my daughter about Asperger's Syndrome that did what they normally tell us to do, using things like social stories, and it took ten minutes before my daughter put it away and said it was insulting. Nobody needed to speak to her like that. And she was right. My daughter has autism, it's what would have been called Aspergers, though that title has since been moved aside in favor of addressing autism as a spectrum (which it is, though I wish they'd left the label there, too). 

It wasn't the only book we came across that spoke to or about ASD people in a way I couldn't really deal with. From then on, I was careful. I read things before she looked at them, I checked the websites of authors to see what direction they were coming from. 

My daughter is incredibly high-functioning. She reads at a college level in elementary school and requires no help in school with academics, and little in the way of social skills. 

To me, she's always reminded me of a princess from a faraway land. She's interested in everything here and may need to be shown some things that she doesn't understand, but she's magical. 

That's the thing about autism being a spectrum...

I wouldn't dare talk over anyone who feels like ASD is hurting their child, just like I wouldn't dare talk over anyone who feels like this is just an integral part of their child. All of us, all of our experiences with this, are really just that different. Everyone matters here, and so does their voice as we seek ways to make this world the best we can for our individual children. 

This has been the only book I've encountered that addresses the nature of that and goes over things that can help different situations for people on the spectrum. 

I think it let me see into my daughter's world a little bit more, and it was wonderful reading advice from someone who was on the spectrum because it is always humane and honest. 

If I had to recommend a book for autism parents, this would be it just for the insight into how our kids are taking in information and how to support them in that. "Thinking in Pictures: My Life With Autism" by the legendary Temple Grandin was amazing. I will be checking out other books by her. 

I also enjoyed Jeannie Davide-Rivera's "Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed: Growing up With Undiagnosed with Autism". This isn't something I'll let my oldest read (not yet, anyway, maybe when she's grown) as it is a personal account of the struggle of finding your place in the world when you are on the spectrum and aren't aware of it as a youngster. 

Some of it was painful, especially if you love someone who has ASD or have it yourself because you'll be able to identify with these sometimes uphill battles and heartaches. That makes it definitely necessary reading though. Honest accounts like this belong on the reading list for all that it teaches us. It's also written very well and is entertaining in its own right, even if it wasn't teaching us something. 

Ultimately, I think it boils down to the fact that some of the best books on autism are written by the people with autism. 

I'm so excited to see things like Sesame Street being inclusive, I'm so happy to see teacher training days focusing on just ASD, I'm so happy to see these everyday conversations just exist. Because when my daughter was a baby or being teased as a preschooler, none of this was around. 

My hope is that we keep going in this direction. 

My hope is that children like my daughter are not outsiders in our society- because anyone who doesn't include them has no idea what they are missing. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Why I'm Cool With Being Useless Right Now and the Best Bilingual Read Aloud Books For Teaching My Kids and Myself.

I have almost nothing on my list for the New Year. 

Some of that is I'm finally getting better, with a CPAP machine to help with pulmonary hypertension and some of my SVT episodes, everything feels new. And wonderful. And I'm really just loving that right now. 

Not being in pain when you breathe in is a new thing for me at the moment. It's ridiculously beautiful. 

The other part of that is we have about half a year before my youngest enters the school system. Hearing other moms of several kids talk about their careers, I realized I wasn't imagining that it really takes them hitting that milestone before you can redirect any of your efforts into something besides being mommy. 

Maybe that's different for some people, but that's been the truth here. And I'm going to relax about it. I wish I'd known that before. Because feeling guilty about not doing more besides parenting was hard even though we fought to have these three amazing kids. 

That part of my life, the one where I have a little one following me all day, is almost over. I don't care if I get one single work-related thing done for the next six months, I'm going to enjoy this part of parenting. 

But my resolutions list isn't completely empty. 

I've wanted to learn Spanish for a long time, so I'm using Duolingo to help, along with library materials. I figured the best way might be to read to the kids bilingual books along with checking out some workbooks I could do on my own.
I also have an online course in Spanish coming up, and I hope the combination of all of this works to some degree. 

My brother, who translated surfing magazine articles, once told me that learning to write a new language was the easiest part. 

It didn't sound right, but I agree with him now.

Speaking it out loud, reading it aloud has a learning curve. Some of the bilinugual books I got were way above my level and were definitely not reading material for anyone but my husband (who already speaks conversational Spanish).  

The best books for us at my beginner level were the simpler ones; short sentences with clear subjects in the pictures. 

Viva Frida, by Yuyi Morales has some stunning art, and just a few words on each page, so it was a good thing to read to my toddler. It's mainly a picture book, but worth looking at. 

Seista, by Ginger Foglesong Guy, has a few sentences at a time and has a clear subject set. It's a great reading book for younger kids and anyone just learning Spanish to get comfortable with the wording.

Donde esta la Oveja Verde?/Where is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox is a book that is both cute and a great learning exercise in Spanish and English.

My Birthday Box/ Mi Caja De Cumpleanos is a bit more difficult, the subject is not as clear and the sentences are longer, but the story is overall very interesting to my youngest (all of Leslie Patricelli's books are great for toddlers) and the more complex read aloud is good for us both. 

Okay, this one is kind of self-explanatory, but it's been a nice exercise book that I can work with and can show the kids when they are interested (right now, they like Duolingo better than anything print-related). It has easy-to-deal-with lessons and puzzles and great tips. The Everything Kids' Learning Spanish Book by Cecilia I. Sojo is one I wouldn't skip.

This one we found on Skybrary and I'm buying a copy because it was so beautiful. It's not the easiest read aloud for me yet, but it's not terribly complicated, and the text is lovely in both languages for I Know The River Loves Me/Yo se que el Rio me Ama by Maya Christina Gonzalez. Whether you are learning Spanish or not, get this one because it is gorgeously stylized. 

Those are my favorites so far, and, hopefully, as I progress we can get more materials. It's been nice to have something concrete to work toward this year as I look forward to the next stage of parenting all-school-age kids.

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Book that contains both the words "Subtle" and "F*ck" that you need to read for 2018.

This has been the hardest holiday season in a long time. It was a race to get my maxed out insurance coverage to get my machine for mixed sleep apnea, and my children dealt first with mutant strep, then my oldest got hit with the flu right after finishing her antibiotic. I was told by our pediatrician that this right now was incredibly common, which is horrific. 

It made Christmas hard. And New Year celebrations were barely existent, but everyone is okay if the worse for wear and the vaccine seemed to have helped everyone deal with it but my oldest. 

We did manage the annual doofusing of the X-mas tree to ring in 2018.

To put it in a shorter fashion, this was a hard, hard year. 

But in so many ways it could have been so much worse, so I'm wrapping 2017 on a grateful note and sending it on its way to hell, or wherever tough years go once they are over. 

It seems fitting that one of the best books I came across for the end of 2017 has the word F*CK in it. And it should go on everyone's list for this new year, as you are probably already being bombarded with ways to change yourself and resolutions you won't keep.

The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck; A Counterintuitive Approach To Living A Good Life by Mark Manson might be my favorite psychology book I have ever come across. If you haven't already read it, this is the book that needs to go on your 2018 list. 

I'm not that person that laughs out loud in public while reading. But that totally happened with this book. It happened so many times that the people surrounding me in the library ended up just laughing AT me (and I'm grateful they were such awesome and good-natured humans). The early chapters are worse for weird rabid laughing outbursts than the later ones, just be aware you are probably going to be that reader at some point in this novel. 

It's hilarious at times, but it's not a joke. In the pages, you will find the truth about the limited fucks you have to dole out while you are still living, and why you can't afford to waste them or hand them out like cheap Halloween candy. 

You'll find out why chasing happiness is stupid, what might be going wrong with our tech-crammed millennial generation, and that you and I are not special. 

You'll find out that what you want in life is not defined by what makes you feel good, but what you are willing to bleed for. 

Even the Buddha's story is mentioned here, and believe it or not, it fits in perfectly to this mindset of accepting that there is suffering and letting go of what doesn't matter. 

This is the book most of us need, and many of us will need to read it right now. 

If there is one thing 2017 taught me by handing me a chronic illness that came swinging in under the guise of a terminal one, it's that our time here is limited. Figuring out what really matters isn't easy, and now it's a crowded highway of things bombarding you with what you should do, be, or care about. Stuff like this helps. I highly recommend buying several copies for you and the people you give fucks about. 

Happy New Year. 

Thanks to the photographer for the image via Unsplash unsplash-logoJay Castor