My Mother Would Let You Know

mothers can be annoying but helpful.

mothers can be annoying but helpful.

“My mother…would let you know your shirt was on backward using a voice most kept on reserve for statements like ‘Grandpa’s had a stroke.’ At some point in my forties, I realized that my primary goal in just about any verbal exchange is to lighten the mood. If a situation starts to feel too heavy, I will not hesitate to make a joke…just to push away the feeling of my mother sitting me down and somberly telling me that black and navy don’t go together.”

From “Difference Maker“, a piece in The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion, a new collection of personal essays by Meghan Daum.

Hey, maybe a friend needs to read this!
Email Facebook Twitter

How To Avoid Those One-Sided Relationships

keep looking

keep looking

So we’ve agreed, no more rescuing. And we’ve learned how to spot the takers and take care of ourselves from the teachings of Doreen Virtue, Assertiveness For Earth Angels . Check out yesterday’s post on this topic.

Many of us have tha compulsion to rescue others, we put her own life on hold and then begin to resent it, we don’t have enough time for our self.  Don’t rob others of their own growth by rescuing. (Remember that we’re talking healthy, grown adult here.) Set boundaries, define deal breakers, protect our self esteem.

To find a person who isn’t egocentric (an Ego Energy), you’ll need to focus on meeting other Earth Angels and givers, or those who have been working to develop self-awareness, and who know that the path to true happiness is through balancing giving and receiving. In other words, nice guys. Just say to yourself, this is who I’m going to meet.

Relationships are synergistic. You can be as nice as an angel, but unless you’re with someone who honors and respects your niceness, you’ll be taken advantage of by those who are egocentric.
And if someone is egocentric, don’t worry whether he or she likes you. Egocentric people are incapable of liking anyone because their hearts are closed. They don’t even like themselves.

When you get a sense that someone’s a taker, pull back your energy and don’t try so hard. He’s not worthy of your time or friendship, and you’ll end up breaking up anyway when you get tired of being taken advantage of. You have a limited amount of time here on Earth, and it’s so much better to spend it on someone who’ll appreciate being helped.

When dealing with an egocentric person, it’s not about getting his approval through being nice. It’s impossible to get the approval of those only concerned about themselves. (Do not waste a good batch of margaritas on him.) Instead, focus on being loving and respecting yourself.

Egocentric people see help from others as threatening to their egos, because it means they’re weak if they accept it. They also see receiving help as “winning” in their endless game of taking as much as they can without giving anything in return.

With all assertive encounters, your goal isn’t to change the other person. Your intention is to be honest and authentic, and take good care of yourself and treat other people with respect.

Hey, maybe a friend needs to read this!
Email Facebook Twitter

Hey All You Nice People, How To Spot The Takers

be careful with your heart

be careful with your heart

So what’s a nice girl to do?

Really nice people are sometimes called Earth Angels because they treat others as they wish to be treated, very much living by the Golden Rule. Earth Angels try to see the best in others and expect the best in return. (Oh, if it only worked that way I wouldn’t need so many margaritas.) If you’re unsure who exactly is an EA, they give every part of themselves away and save nothing for themselves. Like animal lovers/advocates, baby sitters for sick neighbors/friends/relatives, casserole makers for the sad, the grieving, the downsized, tireless emotional supporters for all else.

If you are indeed an Earth Angel, then you’ve lived the life of repeatedly being taken advantage of.  It feels crummy and author Doreen Virtue teaches how to protect yourself in her book, Assertiveness For Earth Angels . According to Virtue, the rest of the people are Ego Energies and are only interested in what’s in it for them and what they can get out of it. (On the count of 3, let’s all think of an ex.)

So all you struggling Earth Angels, listen up. You rarely ID an Ego Energy because you’re thinking such good thoughts about them, but it’s important to ID them quickly so you don’t spend valuable energy in developing a relationship.  Instead, take some time when you’re with someone to tune in and be very aware of how your body feels in that person’s presence.

Do I feel drained of energy when I’m around this person?

Does my stomach tighten with defensiveness, bracing myself against some danger?

Do I feel myself backing away from this person or wanting to leave her presence?

Is there a sense that I’m the only one giving in this relationship?

After being with this person, do I feel tired or depressed or anxious?

What egocentric people want to take from you varies. They may be looking for simple things like a listening ear or kind words. Most Earth Angels don’t feel taken advantage of for giving these things because they like doing it. UNTIL it becomes a one-sided relationship where you’re the only one giving the compliments and doing the listening, and the other person never says anything nice to you, nor do they care to be much of a sounding board for you. If you’re still unsure what I’m talking about, let me offer up some specifics:

You’ve been wanting red hair for years and you finally do it. Energy Ego meets you for tea and just complains that Bloomie’s doesn’t carry her size. Not a word about your hair.

You booked dinner with an ex-colleague months ago due to his busy schedule. You’re telling him that you just landed a dream job and he begins flirting with the woman at the next table. He offers no congratulations but does ask if you can share your new contacts.

But fear not, there is help on the way. Check out tomorrow’s blog for how to avoid these one-sided energy sappers. And stop being so nice!



Hey, maybe a friend needs to read this!
Email Facebook Twitter

Don’t Try To Avoid Grief: Words From Anne Lamont

my home for awhile in lisbon

my home for awhile in lisbon

Anne Lamont always hits it when talking about grief and what the realness of grief feels like.

I was terribly erratic: feeling so holy and serene some moments that I was sure I was going to end up dating the Dalai Lama. Then the grief and craziness would hit again and I would be in Broken Mind, back in the howl.

The depth of the feeling continued to surprise and threaten me, but each time it hit again and I bore it, like a nicotine craving, I would discover that it hadn’t washed me away. After a while it was like an inside shower, washing off some of the rust and calcification in my pipes. It was like giving a dry garden a good watering.

Don’t get me wrong: grief sucks, it really does. Unfortunately, though, avoiding it robs us of life, of the now, of a sense of living spirit.

Mostly I have tried to avoid it by staying very busy, working too hard, trying to achieve as much as possible. You can often avoid the pain trying to fox other people: shopping helps in a pinch, as does romantic obsession. Maryrdom can’t be beat. While too much exercise works for many people, it doesn’t for me, but I have found that a stack of magazines can be numbing and even mood-altering. But the bad news is that whatever you use to keep the pain at bay robs you of the flecks and nuggets of gold that feeling grief will give you.

Cool Mona Note: Don’t listen to those who tell you grief will eventually leave. The secret is living with your loss, not leaving it behind.

Hey, maybe a friend needs to read this!
Email Facebook Twitter

A Cool Mona Weekly Masterpiece: She & Him

 Here’s a group I stumbled upon a couple of years ago and wanted to loop you in. She & Him is an American indie group releasing their 5th album, Classics, on 12/2/14. It’s Zooey Deschanel (vocals, piano, and ukulele) and M. Ward (guitar and production). The retro, AM-radio influenced pair will share covers of classics along with a 20-piece orchestra, recorded live. Check them out on a recent Jimmy Fallon show.

Hey, maybe a friend needs to read this!
Email Facebook Twitter

A Cool Mona Recipe: Steamed Clams With Chorizo And Tequila

steamed clamsTry this one on. It’s delicious and it’s from Marcela Valladolid of The Food Network.

Heat a heavy, medium pot over medium heat. Add the chorizo, breaking up the large pieces with a wooden spoon. Saute until almost crisp, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chorizo to paper towels to drain.

Add the butter and onions and cook over medium-high heat until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 3 minutes longer.

Add the tequila and clam juice and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, scraping up the browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Add the clams to the pot, cover and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the clams open wide, 10 to 12 minutes (discard any clams that remain unopened).

Return the chorizo to the pot and stir to combine. Divide between 2 bowls, sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and serve with the loaf of sourdough.

Hey, maybe a friend needs to read this!
Email Facebook Twitter

A Cool Mona Book Review: A Replacement Life

Marg_4 iconA Replacement Life by Boris Fishman, published 2014. A debut novel that’s bold, humorous and wickedly smart. It’s a tricky business, of course, but American writers are getting more comfortable with being funny about the Holocaust and Fishman joins the group.

Life turns on a young man who becomes a semiprofessional liar about the death camps. Slava is a struggling journalist who comes up against the unthinkable writing project – to forge Holocaust-restitution claims on behalf of old Russian Jews living in Brooklyn, NY. Yevgany Gelman, Slava’s grandfather, didn’t suffer in the way he needs to have suffered to qualify for the restitution, a pay-out to Holocaust survivors by the German government. But he has suffered, he has…as a Jew in the war, as a second-rate citizen in the USSR, as an immigrant to the States. “And my grandson, is he not a writer?”

Being the Great Forger of South Brooklyn teaches Salva a couple of key things. Not every fact is the truth, not every lie is a falsehood. He must revisit the culture he has run from and becomes one with Russian foods, clothing styles and manners. He hates it all. While it’s a fascinating read into a world I knew nothing of, there’s no sense of urgency, it took me 3 weeks to read and I didn’t feel like the characters would miss me if I gave it up.

Fishman, who dedicates this book to the walking wounded who survived the degradations of a life in the Soviet Union, was born in Minsk, in the former Soviet Union, in 1979 and immigrated to the United States in 1988. His journalism, essays, and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and Book Review, Harper’s, Vogue, The London Review of Books and The Wall Street Journal. The author received a degree in Russian literature from Princeton University and his MFA in fiction from New York University.

In the Cool Mona rating system, I give A Replacement Life 4 margaritas.


Hey, maybe a friend needs to read this!
Email Facebook Twitter

10 Insanely Nice Things You Can Say To Anybody (Part 2)

i'm not myself after too many margaritas.

i’m not myself after too many margaritas.

Leigh Newman has some heart-warming thoughts on how to keep yourself and others upright. Check out the first few that posted yesterday.

“You have a genius not understood by mere mortals.”

This was probably said to Einstein. But you can say it to anybody in those moments, say, when you catch your new boyfriend in the shower…with his yoga mat. Or you go over to your best friend’s house and find her layering her sandwich like this: ham, cheese, lettuce, onion, ham, cheese, lettuce, onion, hamcheeselettuceonion. We all have these quirky rituals. They are a little screwball. We usually do them alone. But they save time (for example, rinsing off a yoga mat while you rinse yourself) or just work better (for example, making 12 individual layers of sandwich filling ensures that you’ll get a little taste of all the flavors in each bite, instead of, say, just a hunk of ham and lettuce or a mouthful of onion and cheese. Understanding the reasoning behind these private processes and praising the person for them is a moment of respect. You’re not saying that you are going to do it at your house—which would be a lie—but you are saying that their idea makes sense, right in the moment they most expect to be ridiculed for being a complete kook.

“That’s awful.”

Sometimes, the nicest thing you can do is not to ask a bunch of probing, sensitive questions (“So what are you really feeling? Shock? Terror?”). Or try to think of way you can fix it (“Have you looked into natural herbs? Have you called those clinics in Bora Bora?”). Or to offer to help (“I’ll drive you! I’ll clean your house! I’ll make you a lasagna!”). Or even to apologize over and over, explaining that you know that you didn’t make the horrible event happen, you’re just sorry it happened. Sometimes you need to take you out of it. A person in your life is upset and scared and maybe even in denial. Recognizing what’s really happening gives that person the rare and much-needed opportunity to look at this terrible thing with somebody, instead of alone.

“I love the sound of your voice.”

Just go say this to the nearest three people you like. Watch what happens.

“I am not inviting him to my birthday party.”

Everybody wants to feel protected—especially when they’ve been dumped. Offering to full-on hate somebody’s ex certainly lets her know that you’re on her side. But hate is exhausting; hate sucks a lot of energy. Plus, it doesn’t make rational sense if you never even met the ex. Instead, take the kind of loyal, immature path of kindergarteners all over the world and declare the offender crossed off your birthday list. Not only will it make that injured party in question laugh, but it also creates the pleasing fantasy of her drinking champagne and dancing on a table while the dumper sits home in front of the TV, crying over a carton of cold limp egg foo yung.

“You bring me joy. You make me happy.”

There’s ticker tape in most of our brains that spits out these kinds of loving phrases at regular intervals throughout the day. But the phrases themselves don’t make it to our mouth, because they seem cheesy or we don’t know the person well enough or we were raised by people who shook our hands (or worse) when they really wanted to hug us. Interestingly enough, people don’t titter nervously when you say these so-called “overused” things to them. Nor do they run away. They may smile wildly or just slightly, but inside, little Roman candles of happiness are going off. Just say it, and if that’s too goofy or embarrassing, text it.

“I just can’t make this decision without you.”

Everybody likes to be liked for who they are. But there’s a special kind of glow that comes when somebody likes what you think, when you know that what they want is your help in making a decision or in figuring out a messy problem. This may also be another way of expressing that most honored of human emotions: trust.

Hey, maybe a friend needs to read this!
Email Facebook Twitter

10 Insanely Nice Things You Can Say To Anybody

he smelled of tequila and regret.

he smelled of tequila and regret.

I always like what Leigh Newman has to say. Here are some heart-warming thoughts on how to keep yourself and others upright.

“Take your time. I’m not in a rush.”

This one is great for the grocery store, the takeout burrito restaurant or anywhere else that involves really tired people trying their best, even as they fumble and flail. For example, the woman in front of you pays the cashier but then has to rifle through her overstuffed wallet to put away the change, then store the receipt, then mash the whole fat leather money accordion into her purse. She will usually complete this action with frantic fingers because she knows she’s delaying the whole line; she knows everybody just wants to go home; and she knows she should not save old, mostly-used-up gift cards with 63 cents on them. Telling her to “Take your time. I’m not in rush” always sets off the same reaction: first, surprise (really? because everybody’s in a rush…) and then a flash of sweet wide-open relief. You have just given somebody a three-minute holiday, not from the stress of life, but from the stress we put on ourselves. (Cool Mona Note: If someone said this to me in the grocery line, I think I would faint.)

“Three different sources have confirmed that you’re generous, nice to animals and funny.”

It happens all the time during coffee dates or lunches at work—a friend’s name comes up in conversation and everyone there suddenly begins to talk about how amazing this person is: for example, how whip-smart she was during the budget meeting, how kind she was to the obviously lonely woman in production, how she always smells a little like fresh vanilla cupcakes. Unfortunately, due to her absence, she’ll never know about this avalanche of admiration—unless you inform her. Passing along the descriptions will not only make her feel quite special for possessing these characteristics, but it will also disable the compliment-deflecting shield that so many of us have, because by delivering this praise, you can’t possibly just be trying to “cheer her up” or trying to “be sweet.” You didn’t actually say those things. Other people did.

“The way you eat a sandwich is so elegant”

Long ago, when I was a young student and traveled, a Frenchman said this to me. He was not my boyfriend or interested in becoming my boyfriend or even interesting in just having sex with a cheerful American. He was dating one of the most beautiful people on the planet, a woman who was snuggled up on his arm like a tall, dark luxurious human stole. What the two of them were doing at a student cafeteria, I will never understand. And yet, as we stood together at the counter, strangers eating our ham-and-cheeses, he noticed a habit I had developed of taking very small bites off the huge long hunk of bread and wiping all the little flakey crumbs that showered down onto my chin with a napkin. Twenty years later, when I think of this comment, a little sunset still glows inside me. Because—and this is a little embarrassing—I had worked at sandwich eating. Eating a sandwich in France is the European equivalent of eating a large drippy log-size burrito, due the size of thick baguettes and the overuse of butter. I wanted it to do to it with a wee less glop and a wee more class.
Somewhere in your life, someone is carefully serving your salad before serving themselves. What’s interesting is that very, very few people notice it. We expect good table manners and usually only comment on the bad. Praising something that’s this invisible not only makes a person feel good for doing what they’ve done (improving the view during dinner) but also for what it cost them—which, when it come to manners, means things like not getting to lick the chocolate sludge at the bottom of the ice cream bowl.

“I saw what you did, and please don’t think I’m a nut case, but it restored my faith in the human race.”

Oh, the things people do! The woman who climbs up the two flights of stairs at the train station, then climbs back down them to help an old man with his suitcase. The strange little man who walks around downtown slipping packages of cookies into the bags of the sleeping homeless people. The guy who picks up the public trash can on the corner that fell over. Everybody walking by notices these tiny kindnesses. So few will take the socially risky, even embarrassing step of approaching the complete stranger who’s done them and thanking him or her for what they’re really doing—helping us remember that, despite the constant headlines, human beings don’t just invent Ponzi schemes and burn up the ozone. They also offer to share their umbrellas with strangers during pouring thunderstorms, even if it means their backpack will be a little wet.

Cool Mona Note: More tomorrow. Aren’t these wonderful?

Hey, maybe a friend needs to read this!
Email Facebook Twitter

Cool Mona Weekly Masterpiece: Monkey Selfies

monkey selfieSelfies are everywhere. Even Indonesian macaques are getting into the game. 2 of these Old World monkeys borrowed photographer David J. Slater’s camera and reportedly snapped some pictures of themselves. One of the selfies by a female macaque has since gone viral, making its way to Wikipedia’s free-to-use website.

Slater asked the site to take down the photo, but Wikipedia asserts the photo is uncopyrightable because animals can’t own copyrights.

It raises two interesting questions:

First, can a monkey even acquire copyright in a selfie?

Second, can a human acquire copyright in a monkey’s selfie?

It’s a depressing idea, that the terabytes of gratuitous selfies snapped by vapid 20-somethings — serving no other artistic purpose than to show off their outfits or abs on Instagram – would be entitled to copyright protection.

Meanwhile, a one-of-a-kind “selfie” by a downright adorable monkey, might not be entitled to protection. But the law — international and domestic — is full of grim irony.

Hey, maybe a friend needs to read this!
Email Facebook Twitter

If I got to do it all over again, I would...

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Cool Mona's Favorite Sites