Big Shot

Is $2000 too much to pay for someone’s meal? No. Not when you’re trying to prove that your abig shot successful big shot!

And it feels great when the person is grateful. But, what happens when your generosity goes unacknowledged?

It’s really your response that determines whether or not you’re truly a big shot.

I noticed . . .

I noticed that Kaling admits to often being late to work and missing the casual conversations. That completely squares with her confessed social anxiety in the Please Like Me essay.

Mindy wants to do good things, but she also wants the recognition that comes with doing good things. She craves the endorphins of praise.

I wondered . . .

I wondered the identity of the celebrity who did not thank her. I know that’s pure nosiness, but I can’t help but wonder.

I also wondered how often I do things just for the praise of others. There have been many times when I have done something and gotten upset over who might have gotten more or less credit than I did.

It reminded me of . . .

I was reminded of Mathew 6 from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus tells people that if they’re praying, fasting, or giving for the praise of men, then they will be rewarded by men rather than the by their Father in heaven.

I was also reminded of My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. As we learn more and more about the grandmother, we learn more and more about what she (and the other people in her life) did for other people without seeking the praise of others. It’s really quite a beautiful story.

I was also reminded of The Love Story of Missy Carmichael. Missy is a lonely curmudgeon, and as acquaintances begin to notice this, they begin to pour into her life in a way that is so life-giving that I feel like those people are really big shots.

Once Upon a Time in Silver Lake

one upon a time in silverlakeOnce Upon a Time in Silver Lake is an entry into Nothing Like I Imagined that doesn’t seem to fit. Instead of reflecting on a concept and giving an example, Once Upon a Time in Silver Lake has more of a party anecdote type of feel.

This is an odd tale about an experience that Mindy has with her best friend B.J. Mindy is eight months pregnant with her daughter Kit, and LA is surviving a terribly hot fall. B.J. convinces her to get out an go to a Thai place in Silver Lake. As they drive, B.J. tells Mindy about a Charles Manson podcast he has been listening to.

When they get out of the car, they encounter a drifter. That’s when the story gets a little weird. . .

I noticed . . .

I noticed how casual the drifter was about getting caught and what he was doing. Mindy tells it funny, but it’s really quite shocking.

I also noticed that the restaurant Mindy and B.J. went to wasn’t keeping it’s posted hours. I hate when little restaurants don’t do that. It actually makes me less likely to go back there. That’s one of my pet peeves.

I wondered . . .

I wondered if it was really as hot in LA that fall as Monday is describing.  After all, Mindy might have just felt that way because she was pregnant. I was hot and sweaty, even in December, when I was pregnant, so I have my doubts.

Also wondered if the discussion of Charles Manson influenced how they felt about the drifter and how they dealt with him.

I also wondered how different this story might have played out if Mindy had been alone. That seems like a completely different situation.

It reminded me of . . .

I was reminded of Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered. This book gives women tips for staying out of the kind of trouble that could get them raped or killed. This story just has the hint of that kind of a situation in it, and so I couldn’t help but think of that.

Searching for Coach Taylor

After reading the Nothing Like I Expected essay on Mindy becoming a mother, I decided thasearching for coach taylort the next essay I should read was the essay where Mindy discusses her feelings about being a single mom. This includes the awkwardness that she feels when she’s surrounded by married couples in places like toddler birthday parties.

Mindy discusses where she got her models of what husbands and fathers looked like. These were, of course, TV shows, usually American sitcoms. She follows this by discussing why she thinks Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights is the ideal husband.

She finishes by making a pros and cons list on having a husband–a list that had me occasionally smiling in agreement.

I noticed. . .

I noticed that, while this whole essay is about husbands, Mindy never really discusses specifically why she doesn’t have one. My nosiness would have probably liked a different essay, maybe one called “Why I Didn’t Marry My Baby Daddy” instead.

I also noticed that her essay makes it sound like Kit’s father is not in her life. I’m assuming he’s not involved from the details that she shares, but an essay about how she co-parents (if applicable) would also have been interesting.

I wondered . . .

I wondered why our conceptions of husbands always come out Al  Bundy or Homer Simpson when we think of television husbands. There are some really good husbands on TV, like Jim from The Office, Chandler from Friends, or Eric on 7th Heaven. Do we prefer to look at the negatives to the positives?

It reminded me of . . .

There were so many things that it reminded me of. Here’s a sample:

I was reminded of All Adults Here because one of the main characters was going to be a single mom, as she was pregnant from choosing sperm from a sperm bank.

I was reminded of Oona Out of Order because Oona chooses to have a child, knowing that this child will not have a father in its life.

I was reminded of Other People’s Houses because there were several different types of husbands on there.

I was reminded of Big Little Lies because of the contrast of all the “normal” women with husbands and the single mom.

I was reminded of both The Almost Sisters and Ties That Tether because both of these women accidentally get pregnant and embrace the idea of single motherhood.

Help is On the Way

help is on the wayIn this entry of Mindy Kaling’s Nothing Like I Imagined series, Mindy is pregnant. She imagines herself doing this mom job all on her own. After all, how hard could it be?

A dear friend, who is also a mom, recommends that the hire a baby nurse to help ease her transition to motherhood. After all, motherhood is harder than Mindy can imagine.

Mindy ends up hiring Rose, an Indian grandmother, months in advance of the big day. Rose takes care of the baby, and become a surrogate mom for Mindy as she helps give Mindy advice to help her get the hang of parenting.

I noticed . . .

I noticed that Rose really fulfilled a need for Mindy that was beyond physical care of her daughter. Mindy’s mom had passed away before Mindy had children, and so there was no one to ask all the questions about motherhood that Mindy had. It’s hard for a woman to have a baby without some strong support, like you might get from your mother, so Rose is the person Mindy went to for that support.

I thought this one was really funny and relatable. Mindy has so many worries about parenting, and these are worries that I shared too when I was a first time mother.

I wondered . . .

I wondered more about Rose and Mindy’s relationship. I wondered if Rose came back and nursed for Mindy’s second child. I also wondered if Mindy still looks to Rose for advice, and if she still feels that strong connection with Rose.

It reminded me of . . .

I was reminded of the episode of Friends where Pheobe and Monica are giving Rachel her baby shower. Rachel realizes that she knows nothing about parenting, and her mother is there to be surprised of how little she knows and to offer to help.

I was also reminded of Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions. Anne, like Kelly was a single mom, and didn’t know much about babies when her son was born. Unfortunately, Anne doesn’t have a baby nurse, but she still picks it up, along with so many other lessons, as she goes along.

Relic

There are so many long-running mystery series that I have missed. It’s tough because I only relichave so much room in my reading life, and I want to fill a good portion of it with romance novels. I was listening to a podcast a couple of months ago, and one of the podcasters mentioned that she had just read, Relic, the first in a mystery series that has at least 15 books (and maybe 20 books). After hearing her description of the book, I was sold on trying it for myself. Here’s my description. Maybe you’ll want to try it for yourself.

Days before the opening of the newest exhibition of the New York Museum of Natural History, two young boys are murdered inside the museum.

A day or two goes by and a security guard is murdered. Given the slashing of the bodies, there is evidence that the killer may not be human. 

Many museums would cancel their gala opening of their new exhibition, but not this museum.

Researcher Margo Green finds herself becoming extremely interested in the case. She begins to poke around in an attempt to find the answers.

FBI agent Pendergast, noting the similarities between these murders and some he investigated years before, comes up from New Orleans to head up the police side of the investigation. Local investigators really don’t seem to appreciate his assistance.

I noticed . . .

I noticed that this book is full of forays into science and archaeological details. The pseudo-science on this one gets detailed.

I also noticed that they’re working with such old computers that it’s hard to get too excited about it because the tech is so old-timey. When they talk about their databases, etc., and make it sound technological, I’m like, “Aww. That’s so cute!”

I wondered . . .

I wondered how the museum was going to come back after these events and the way the directors tried to cover things up. It would take a lot to gain back public trust.

I also wondered by the government was so interested in the animal remains and other organic matter from the crates. That seems X-Files suspicious.

I also wondered if Dr. Frock’s theories about evolution are contained in modern evolutionary biology. I don’t know enough about the field to know if Frock’s theories were plausible. As a layman, I found his science plausible, but that doesn’t mean that it is.

It reminded me of . . .

It reminded me of Jurassic Park. There’s a bunch of pseudo-science, attempted cover-ups, and out of control killings. There’s panic when the truth is realized. It’s a book and a movie (like Relic).

My Side of the Mountain

my side of the mountainSam Gribley is unhappy. He lives with a large family in a small New York apartment, and as the oldest child, finds himself surrounded. So, he decides to run away to the Gribley land in New York state. He’s going to settle down there and live off the land as self-sufficiently as he can.

Thinking he’ll only be gone for a few days before giving up and coming come, his father encourages him to go–to make a go of it. His father truly underestimates Sam’s persistence and ingenuity. Sam is determined, and with the kindness of a few strangers, quickly learns to take care of himself in the wild.

I noticed . . . 

I noticed that this book is full of nature and natural descriptions. It’s not really my kind of thing, so I was surprised to find myself so wrapped up in Sam’s story.

I also noticed that Sam is so energetic and self-sufficient. I read this aloud to my 14-year-old daughter, and she said that if she ever decided to run away from home that she would take this book for help. I can’t imagine her staying away from home for very long though after she got more than fifteen minutes from free wi-fi. And if her iPad died, it would be a national emergency. Sam is a completely more adult and self-sufficient kind of child.

I wondered . . .

I wondered how adventure would turn out in today’s world. I immediately thought that DEFACS would be called in and the Gribley’s would lose all of their children (and I think there were eight).

I also wondered about Sam’s basic trust in the goodness of the people he meets. I don’t have that, and I realize some it is cultural. I wondered if it was a legacy of the crime wave of the 1980s and 1990s.

It reminded me of . . .

I was reminded of the movie Cheaper by the Dozen. The parents in that movie seem so overwhelmed. I felt like Sam’s parents were a little overwhelmed because it’s a while before either of them even comes to check on Sam.

I also thought of The Birchbark House for its nature and outdoor living descriptions. Both Omakayas’s family and Sam have to live off the land so both books have carefully laid out descriptions of preserving meat, berry picking, and other natural activities.

I also thought of the first volumes of both The Boxcar Children and the Trixie Belden series. In both series, there are main characters who start out living on their own, without parental influence.

I thought of Hatchet, which I haven’t read for many years, because of its focus on wilderness survival.

I floss thought of Walden by Henry David Thoreau. One of Sam’s acquaintances calls hims “Thoreau.” Also, I wondered if part of his reason for living in the woods, like Thoreau, stemmed from his desire to live deliberately.

In addition to being a great book, this book was a Newberry award winner. I don’t know if the actual story is feasible in today’s world, but I believe the story itself is timeless.

Please Like Me (But Stay Away)

This short essay details Mindy’s struggles with social anxiety. She includes incidents about please like mehow she does not like being too ethnic and about her fear of standing out. She also discusses the difficulties she had making friends in LA. The culmination of the essays a comparison between her fortieth birthday party and B.J. Novak’s fortieth birthday party.

I noticed . . .

I noticed how normal she seems as an introvert. I thought about how often I feel the same way. Just as I started thinking that she and I could be best friends, Mindy mentions how, when people tell her that, it freaks her out! LOL

I also noticed that she was able to appreciate her differences with her extroverted best friend, B.J. She didn’t seem jealous or resentful about their differences either. This makes her a better person than I am for sure.

I also noticed that she’d rather be alone than have fake friends. That’s a recent development in my life. I’ve often confused being surrounded by acquaintances as having friends, only to realize that they were fake friends. I’m learning to value being alone over fake friends.

I wondered . . .

I wondered how Mindy’s social anxiety affected her career. I also wondered how, as a television star, she recharges after a big social event.

I also wondered if she’s tried to find mom-friends since becoming a mother. I wondered if it was easier for her to make mom-friends than it had been for her to make friends before she became a mom.

It reminded me of . . .

I was reminded of Anne Bogel’s Reading People. She talks extensively about personality, and devotes a whole chapter to the introvert/extrovert divide. This book how much insight that gave me into other people’s personalities, and I learned how inborn personalities are.  I thought that this was good for understanding the differences between B.J. and Mindy’s personalities.

I also thought of Sophie Kinsella’s Finding Audrey. In this book, Audrey is a teenager suffering from severe anxiety disorder. It’s so severe that Audrey even struggles to leave the house. I’m glad that neither my nor Mindy’s anxiety is so strong, but it’s a reminder of how serious anxiety disorder can get.

Kind of Hindu

kind of hinduMindy is not very engaged with her Indian culture. In fact, other than a tolerance for spicy food (and the ability to order it at an Indian restaurant), she has little connection with her heritage. And her religion? She’s celebrated holidays at the Hindu temple as a child, but does not completely understand the religious connections behind them.

However, after the birth of her daughter, Mindy begins to realize that an important part of parenting is sharing ones religious and cultural heritage with ones children. This prompts Mindy to explore and ponder how Hindu she wants she wants to be and how how much Hinduism she wants to pass on to her child.

I noticed . . .

I noticed that this is something all parents worry about. Those of us who grow up in a religion with a hell tradition worry about this even more because we are concerned with making sure our children avoid hell. No one wants to mess their children up, and I could relate to this essay because, my religious experience took a more traditional trajectory than it had been on after the birth of my firstborn. Now, I worry about messing them up even more as I have veered back into the path I was on before I took such a traditional turn. Did I do the wrong thing by taking such a traditional tack? That’s a concern for another blog post.

I wondered . . .

I wondered why we feel so invested in how our children turn out. Mindy had a definite picture how she did not want her daughter to turn out (and I agree that Hillsong Christian is not always a good look). However, until the end of the essay, it was unclear to Kelly why this issue was so important to her and why she wanted her daughter to be at least kind of Hindu.

I also wondered how much control we have over who are children turn out to be anyway. I find that my own attempts to mold my children often backfire. After all, they are their own people with their own experiences. Instead, I find that we hold out our beliefs and what is important to us and hope they choose to value those things as well.

It reminded me of . . .

The people are so desperately trying to stem the secularizing of our culture. Every salvo in our culture war is our attempt to control what our children and those around us believe and are influenced by. We want to force our culture to value the things that we value. 

I also thought of two novels that I read last year that really showcase the immigrant experience and the parental desire to keep children from making cultural accommodations.

The first one, Stand Up, Yumi Chung!, involves a middle school girl. Her parents are pushing her to focus academically so that she can have a better life here in America than their barely break-even Korean restaurant. Yumi, however, wants to be a stand-up comedian. She cares far more about being funny than about making good grades to become a doctor or a lawyer.

The second one, Ties That Tether, tells of a young woman named Azere. She is a Nigerian immigrant living in Canada, who in many ways has acculturated to Candian society. There is one point, however, where she refuses to lose her culture. She will only date and marry a Nigerian man. This changes a little, however, when a one night stand with a white man leaves her pregnant.

As you can see in my book picks, I think the desire to pass on one’s faith is intimately connected to the cultural heritage we want to pass onto our children.  I think it’s fine that Mindy settles on Kind of Hindu. That way she’s not pretending to be more religious than she is, but she also passes on some of her culture to her children.

 

The Wickeds

The final book in the Faraway series is the wickedly funny The Wickeds. This story takes a lookthe wickeds at the aftermath of the Snow White, Cinderella, and Rapunzel fairy tales. This story, though, instead of being told through the perspective of the the princesses, is told through the perspective of their wicked stepmothers. The stepmothers begin gathering together socially and discussing their pasts. They spill details of these stories from their perspectives and commiserate over how grateful their stepdaughters are. After all, in their perspective, they were nothing but good, and their stepdaughters have turned against them.

The more time they spend talking, the more they begin to wonder if their time for revenge against their bratty stepdaughters has come.

I noticed . . .

I noticed that the voices of the stepmothers are warm and relatable. Their perspectives also added a richness to the story that lifted the stories out of the “fairy tale” dimension.

As the perspectives are added, the details of the story we know are questioned. Fairy tales become a slick business, and that’s really fun. I especially appreciated what we really learned about the fairy godmother. Forman’s details on that were over-the-top delicious.

I wondered . . . 

Most of these women had husbands, and I wondered what the story would have looked like from the husbands’ perspectives. I especially want to hear the perspective of Cinderella’s dad.

It reminded me of . . .

Of course, I couldn’t help but be reminded of both the original stories and the Disney movies. These stories are so familiar, and this novella was a great chance to visit them again.

I was also reminded of a few stories that bring complexity to the fairy tales in their own right. I specifically remembered Once Upon a Time, which really gets to the heart of the question of whether or not a villain can be reformed. 

I also enjoyed reading the Whatever After series of books with my daughters when they were younger. With each story Abby and Jonah step into a different fairy tale and mess up the ending. In most cases, they give the stories a better ending than the original tale.

Another favorite fairy tale series of my older daughter is The Ever Afters series. In these books, the teens go to a magical school, and each teen is destined to start in his or her own fairy tale. It is a series where I’ve read all four books and really enjoyed them as well.

The Cleaners

the cleanersThe fourth book in the Faraway collection is Ken Liu’s The Cleaners. This short story is less than an hour long, and I highly recommend it. Here are the details.I

Gui is a professional cleaner. People bring objects to him for him to scrub. Only, instead of scrubbing them physically clean, Gui scrubs away the painful memories attached to the objects. Gui is memory-blind and can’t feel the memories that he spends his days scrubbing away.

Clara can feel the memories, and she doesn’t want them. That’s why she’s hired Gui after a bad breakup. Her sister Beatrice, who is oversensitive to memories, reminds Clara of a mutual memory they share. Clara’s time with Beatrice has her questioning whether or not she should erase memories–even when they’re painful.

I noticed . . .

Memories in this world seem to need to be transmitted through physical touch. If the object hasn’t received a memory, things seem to be forgotten.

Liu’s negative message about American greed and consumerism. One really poignant scene in the book tells of how American memory cleaners come in and clean child-made electronics of sad memories so that the sadness does not transmit to the American public.

I wondered . . .

The main thing I wondered was how strong a feeling the feeling would need to be to store a memory in an object.

It reminded me of . . .

The desire to ride oneself of bad memories reminded me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The bad memories in that movie are also caused by a breakup.

There were two books I’ve read in past two or three years explore the concept of memories inside of objects.

The first, Keeper of the Lost Things, finds lost objects and attempts to match them back with the original owner. The “keeper” figures out the original owner, in part, due to the memories that he can feel in the objects.

The second book, 59 Memory Lane, has May, who needs to feed off of memories to stay young and healthy. She gets those memories off of objects, and when she has fed, the object loses its meaning and attachment for its owner. Sometimes the owner even loses the memory itself.