Monthly Archives: May 2009

When you lie about your age, the terrorists win

lieaboutageComedian Carol Leifer shares wise and witty lessons about life in her autobiographical new book, When you Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win: Reflections on Looking in the Mirror.

Leifer talks about everything from sweet, loving memories of her father and growing old gracefully, to an obsession with dog adoption and a mid-life surprise team switch to lesbianism.

If you’re Jewish or have Jewish relatives, (particularly with roots in New York), you’ll especially appreciate some of the humor that seems to be part of our blood.

Leifer comes across as the real deal – a genuine person who has come to fully appreciate everything in life and is generous enough to pass on her wisdom.



Filed under books, humor, opinion, positive thinking, religion, self esteem

The Islamist

islamistWhen I was offered The Islamist by Ed Husain for review, I was hesitant to accept. Without knowing what it was about, the title put me off. Not knowing better, I thought that “Islamist” was an offensive word for “Muslim”, but after researching I discovered that these words refer to different groups. Without being too complicated, I’ll give my simple understanding.

A Muslim means “one who submits to God”, and is used to refer to a person who follows the religion of Islam.

An Islamist is a Muslim fundamentalist who does not follow Islam as a religion but uses it for politics.

We can argue semantics and such but this is a widely accepted interpretation.

So now that I understood what an “Islamist” was, I was ready to learn more. I wanted to be sure before investing my time in reading this book that it wouldn’t disparage Islam or Muslims. I was wary of the possibility that this book would perpetuate the myth that Islam is a violent religion and that all Muslims are terrorists, but in the end, I was pleased to find that it was not the case. On the contrary, this book should encourage all Muslims to stand up and recclaim their religion from extremists. (In fact, followers of all religions could and should take lessons away from this book about how religion can and is used for non-spiritual pursuits.)

The author, Ed Husain could have been considered an ordinary boy growing up as a first generation South Asian in London. The eldest of four children with a father from British India and mother from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Ed was raised Muslim, but as a teenager, his fanatiscism began to worry his parents. With a curious mind and a naive heart, he was easy prey for the various Islamist organizations. He soon found himself part of a world where the words “jihad” and “martyr” were part of every day conversations.

Eventually, Ed finds his way out and lives to tell about it. While some stretches of the book give so much detail that it gets a little dry, in the end his spiritual realizations make it well worth the journey.

The Islamist is a reminder to followers of all religions to be true to themselves, a warning to society of what can happen when youth struggle with a sense of belonging, and a much needed voice of truth amongst a world of lies and prejudice.

“Beware of extremism in religion; for it was extremism in religion that destroyed those that went before you.”

– The Prophet Mohammed (570-632) /The Islamist by Ed Husain


Filed under books, culture, opinion, politics, religion

Get Off Your “But”

getoffbut Get Off Your “But” by Sean Stephenson is a self help book that teaches you multiple techniques to stop making excuses and start living the life you want and deserve.

What is most inspiring about this book is the fact that the author was born with a genetic disorder called Osteogenesis Imperfecta which causes the bones to be extremely brittle. Just the pressure of labor alone when he was born broke nearly every little bone in his body. The doctors didn’t think he would live, but he survived. He grew to only 3 feet tall and is confined to a wheelchair. Throughout his life he has suffered more than 200 bone fractures, (and “No,” he says, you never “get used to” the physical pain of it.)

Despite the challenges he never makes excuses for himself and instead has achieved a level of success and (more importantly) happiness most able bodied people never reach.

No matter what you’re needing motivation for, this book has it all. The life changing lessons can be applied to any and all aspects of your life from health and finances, to career and relationships and beyond.

Below is an excerpt I’ve been authorized to share.

Slowwwwww . . . Downnnnnn . . .
by Sean Stephenson,
Author of Get Off YourBut“: How to End Self-Sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself

One thing I hear over and over from clients is that they just don’t have enough time. That’s kind of funny, because our world moves fast, and we move fast — you’d think we’d have plenty of time. But moving fast makes us feel as if we can’t catch up. Rushing certainly doesn’t give us physical confidence. When we’re running at top speed all the time, we can’t relax, and others can’t relax around us.

The solution is easy: Slow. Down.Your. Movements.

I’m not talking about moving as if you were running in slow motion; I am simply suggesting that you be more aware of how your body is moving. If you want to be more comfortable with yourself and make others feel comfortable when they are around you, pay attention to the following areas:
  • Relax. Keep your entire body loose. If your fists are clenched, release them. Let go of any tension you’re harboring anywhere in your body.
  • Breathe. if you’re taking shallow breaths, begin taking slower and deeper breaths. Be sure to exhale completely! If you find yourself fidgeting (for example, dipping your hands in and out of your pockets; fiddling with any object obsessively; chewing your nails; playing with your hair; tapping your feet, hands, or fingers), take a deep breath in, smile, gently place your body in a comfortable position — and leave it there.
  • Slow down your blinking. Be aware of your blinking rate. If it’s too fast, slow it down.
  • Bring your head up. Keep your shoulders back and your head up. This will almost automatically keep your optimism up. When we look out at the world, we think about things outside ourselves. When we look down, we tend to go inward. Our mind accesses self-talk and emotions, and that can disconnect us from the present moment. Keeping your shoulders back will also open up your heart chakra and show others that you’re open to giving and receiving love.
  • Adopt good posture. Keep your body relaxed and slightly asymmetric. No sitting or standing at attention, with, shoulders squared and feet together, like a soldier. This symmetric posture conveys the message that you’re ready to attack, whereas holding your body slightly (yet consciously) off kilter conveys you have no intention to cause harm. You’re just there to relax and have a good time.
  • Use a strong tone of voice. Keep your voice under conscious control. if you listen to any good radio DJ, you’ll notice that he never speaks in a slow, boring monotone. He keeps the volume, tempo, and pitch of his voice smooth and controlled. When he takes breaths, he makes the sound intentional.
  • Smile! Please don’t force a big, scary, stiff smile that stays plastered on your face no matter what. Make it a gentle, subtle smile that comes from your open heart and feels comfortable.
  • Be peaceful. The more still and calm you are, the better. Our eyes and ears catch sudden or awkward changes in movements and sounds, and automatically register them as potential threats. The more you can keep your body still and your voice controlled and relaxed, the better equipped you’ll be to keep the peace around you and certainly within you.
Sensory Acuity

If you pay close attention to microchanges in physiology, you can tell when your feelings (or someone else’s feelings) are shifting. Our awareness of these details is referred to as sensory acuity. The following physical cues telegraph your internal emotional condition:
  • Pupil dilation: The larger the pupils, the more open and connected we feel (if not influenced by direct light or drugs, that is).
  • Flushed skin: The more red the skin (specifically in the face), the more uncomfortable, fearful, embarrassed, or sexually nervous we feel.
  • Muscle tension: The tenser the facial muscles, specifically around the eyes, the more uncomfortable we are. Neck tension is a very good indicator of feeling overwhelmed.
  • Quick breathing: The more quickly we breathe (unless we have just done some physical activity), the shallower the
    breaths we take, and the higher in the lungs our breath comes from, the more constricted we feel (and probably are) overall. If we take slow, deep, and fully belly breaths, we’re likely to be more comfortable in the moment.
  • Lip configuration: if our lips are unnaturally pursed and slightly white, we’re likely to be upset or extremely displeased. If the lips are full, smooth, and a deep shade of red, we may be feeling sexually aroused, emotionally excited, or at total peace.

The above is an excerpt from the book Get Off YourBut“: How to End Self-Sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself by Sean Stephenson. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Excerpted from Get Off YourBut by Sean Stephenson. Copyright © 2009 by Sean Stephenson. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Author Bio
Sean Clinch Stephenson, author of Get Off YourBut“: How to End Self-Sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself, is one of the leading authorities on the deconstruction of self-sabotage (what he calls getting people off their BUTs). A psychotherapist and internationally known professional speaker, he publishes the international men’s online magazine and has a private psychotherapy practice.

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Filed under books, change, health, opinion, positive thinking, self esteem

Teenagers Suck

teenagers-suck Teenagers Suck by Joanne Kimes and R.J. Colleary is a humorous quick read on handling everything about raising teenagers, leaving nothing untouched. Whether it’s the personal issues that make us squeamish, (acne, masturbation and menstruation) to the serious (drugs, drinking and sex), the authors cover it all.

The writing style is casual and the advice realistic. You may not agree with the authors on how to handle all the situations since parenting styles vary, but I found that in general, they were prudent suggestions for dealing with teenagers, who at times are imprudent at best.

Below is an excerpt I have been authorized to share.

The Human ATM
by Joanne Kimes and R.J. Colleary with Rebecca Rutledge, PhD,
Author of Teenagers Suck: What to do when missed curfews, texting, and “Mom can I have the keys?” make you miserable

This sound familiar? You’re whipping money out of your wallet to hand your teen so often that you’ve given yourself carpal tunnel syndrome? Or maybe you’re thinking about getting a weekend job just to afford your teenager? Or you’ve actually made the phone call (disguising your voice of course) to inquire how much the Red Cross is paying these days for a pint of blood?

Money may or may not be the root of all evil, but it sure can be the root of a lot of parent-teen conflict. When children are, well, children, they generally don’t cost much. A Happy Meal here, a coloring book there, some hand-me-downs from an older sibling or sympathetic friend, and it’s all good. Well, hopefully you enjoyed the good old days, because they’re so over and they’re not coming back. While you’re struggling to accept that, here’s how to deal with it.

You have three issues to face here:

  1. Teenagers want things.
  2. Teenagers need things.
  3. Teenagers expect you to give them the things they want, plus the things they need.

We have all heard the adage that teenagers will “eat you out of house and home.” But if you’re not careful, they might “clothes you” out of house and home and “technology you” out of house and home as well.

“When they were babies, my kids called me ‘DaDa.’
When they got older, they called me ‘Daddy.’ Now that they’re
teenagers, they call me ‘Hi, Can I Have Twenty Dollars?’
–Doug, father of four teenagers

First off, realize that teenagers are expensive to maintain. (Think of them as yachts with messy rooms.) Secondly, make sure they realize it too. The more you can steer your teens toward Appreciation and away from Entitlement, the better your chances of maintaining some non-gray hairs. This is where you dust off your “When I was your age, my allowance was a nickel and I wasn’t allowed to spend it all in one place!” stories. You know you have them. And if you don’t, use the ones your parents told you.

But be prepared for resistance. Your teen remembers childhood too, a time when you met all their needs and probably most of their wants, as well. But now that Happy Meal has evolved into sushi, and that coloring book is now an iPhone, and those hand-me-downs have given way to designer labels. As far as they’re concerned, nothing has really changed. You’re still financing this expedition, right? Right? Right?

Let Them Make Their Own Financial Mistakes
The truth is, money matters create a situation ripe for long-term, big-picture growth. You taught them how to make a bed, you taught them how to ride a bike, and now you need to teach them about money. But beware: the words “supply-side economics” won’t even be out of your mouth before your offspring will utter The Teen Mantra: “Can I have that?”

Here’s a Mom-Teen Exchange Overheard Recently at the Local Mall
Teen: I love these boots, if I don’t get them I’ll just die!
Mom: Fine, you can buy them with your own money.
Teen. Oh well then never mind.

In order to instill any financial knowledge (or, as your Dad told you, “The value of a dollar”), it’s vital to let teenagers spend their own money. Realize this means they will spend it very, very badly. When they do, do your best Marcel Marceau imitation and say nothing. (But don’t try that “walking against the wind” thing all mimes do because that’s a hard one to pull off.) Give them time to learn the value of saving. They will, especially when they find something they really really really want, which will happen at exactly the same time they are really really really broke. Don’t give them the money. Let them learn the lesson.

So What to Do?
At the end of the proverbial day, it all comes down to this: what are you willing to pay for, and what are you not? While these are individual choices based upon individual circumstances, and no two families will handle this situation the same way, the only non-negotiable point is to make your rules and stick to them.

It’s probably prudent to supply all of the necessities, and some of the luxuries. But reserve the right to define the terms here, since teenagers‘ “necessity vs. luxury” lists will often (as inalways) differ from your own, and will probably have you scratching your head and believing they must get this questionable thought process genetically from their other parent, because you have way too much sense for them to have gotten it from you.

So now that we’ve established that teenagers will have financial needs, as well as wants (some less unreasonable than others), the bottom line becomes “Where does this money come from?”

When it comes to teenagers earning spending money outside the home, there are two camps. Some families not only allow but encourage their teenagers to find part-time work after school and on weekends as early as they’re able. Other families believe that work will come soon enough in life, and want their teens to concentrate more on school and just being young, footloose, and fancy-free while they still can. Just remember, if their fancy is free, that means someone else is footing the bill for it, and that someone is y-o-u.

There are also differing philosophies within the home. Some families assign regular, steady chores and create allowances. Other families are open to their teenagers doing extra jobs around the house for cash. So when one hears the magic words — in TeenSpeak, those are “I need money” — your Pavlovian response should be “And I need my car washed.” Or “And I need the garage cleaned.” But never “So go rob a bank,” because with your luck this is the time they would actually listen to you.

Keep in mind that a recurring theme to your survival of their adolescence is “separation.” A good start would be for your teen to maintain her own bank account. (But don’t put their college money in there! Or even think about giving them their own credit card!) If you create a consistent, well-communicated system, you should be able to avoid becoming The Human ATM.

The above is an excerpt from the book Teenagers Suck: What to do when missed curfews, texting, and “Mom can I have the keys?” make you miserable by Joanne Kimes and R.J. Colleary with Rebecca Rutledge, PhD. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2009 Joanne Kimes and R.J. Colleary with Rebecca Rutledge, PhD, authors of Teenagers Suck: What to do when missed curfews, texting, and “Mom can I have the keys?” make you miserable

From Teenagers Suck, Copyright © 2009, Joanne Kimes. Used by permission of Adams Media, an F+W Media, Inc. Co. All rights reserved.

Author Bios for Teenagers Suck: What to do when missed curfews, texting, and “Mom can I have the keys?” make you miserable

Joanne Kimes has written for a number of children’s and comedy television shows. This is her eleventh Sucks book. She lives in Studio City, CA. For more information, please visit

R.J. Colleary attended Emerson College and moved to L.A. to become a writer for shows such as Saved by the BellThe Golden Girls, and Benson. He teaches writing to graduate students at Chapman University and works steadily as a playwright. He has survived two teenagers and is currently surviving one more at home in Sherman Oaks, CA.

Rebecca Rutledge, PhD is a clinical psychologist who specializes in family therapy and individual therapy for children and adolescents. She writes columns for Your Health, Memphis Women’s Journal, and the Shelby Sun Times, and lives in Memphis, TN.


Filed under books, humor, kids, opinion

The Blue Sweater

blue-sweater-cover The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World by Jacqueline Novogratz is the touching memoir of an international banker. “Touching” and “international banker” seem an unlikely combination but Jacqueline made it possible. After a business trip takes her to Brazil and she is moved by those living in the favelas (slums), Jacqueline decides to leave her promising career in New York and use her knowledge to alleviate global poverty using micro-financing to give people a hand up rather than a hand out. She requests a post in Brazil but instead is sent to Africa.

In Nairobi and Côte d’Ivoire, Jacqueline is off to a horrible start. She soon finds that the African business women do not want her help and resent her being sent there. She puts up with everything from being given the cold shoulder to being sabotaged and poisoned, but determined to learn from her experiences she pushes on, soon making friends and having successes among the failures in other African nations including Kenya and Rwanda.

The author shares personal stories of the women with whom she works – their lives becoming intertwined with her own, and paints beautiful pictures of the culture, landscape and daily life.

The title comes from the fact that as a child, the author had a favorite blue sweater with the image of two zebra in front of snow-capped mountains on the front of it. The young Jacqueline loved the sweater so much that she wrote her name on the tag to ensure it would never be lost. Eventually she outgrew the sweater and her mother gave it away to Goodwill. Years later in Rwanda, she comes upon a boy in the street wearing not just the same sweater, but after checking the tag she finds that it is her sweater.

That small story alone made the book worth reading but while the memoir focuses on her time in Africa, Ms. Novogratz also shares tales of her philanthropic banking ventures in other countries including India and Pakistan. There are some parts of the book I had to skim over where the author gets carried away with boring business speak and raw numbers but for the most part, when she focuses on the human side of the endeavor the result is a good read that reminds you how interconnected we all are.

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Filed under books, opinion

Latino Book Month Giveaway


Thanks to, our 5 winners have been chosen. Congratulations to:

Janet F

Thanks to all who entered. Stay tuned for future contests and giveaways!


It’s May which means it is Latino Book month! (Never heard of Latino Book month? That’s okay. We’re giving away free books written by Latin American authors – that’s all you need to know!)

Enter to win all 5 of the following books:


B as in Beauty By Alberto Ferreras
Into the Beautiful North By Luis Urrea
Hungry Woman in Paris By Josefina Lopez
The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos By Margaret Mascarenhas
Houston, We Have a Problema By Gwendolyn Zepeda

I have personally read 3 of the 5 books and I can tell you, this is an awesome prize! (Thanks goes as always to Hachette Book Group for their generosity.)

How to enter:

1. One entry per household. You may enter even if you have won a giveaway on Curious Villager before.

2. U.S. and Canada residents only. No P.O. Boxes will be accepted for prize shipment.

3. Just leave a comment about the last book you read and whether you recommend it on this post and make sure to give an accurate E-mail address in the E-mail address field so that if you win, I will be able to contact you.

4. Contest closes at 11:59 pm EST on May 24th, 2009. Five winners will be announced on this blog post and contacted via E-mail on May 25th, 2009. Your shipping information will be given to Hachette Book Group so they can send your prize directly.

5. Good luck! :)


Filed under books, contest