Happy Birthday Beverly Cleary

Today is the 98th birthday of universally-loved award-winning children’s author Beverly Cleary.  You will have a difficult time finding anyone who has not read her books as a kid, they were a major part of elementary school.

Born: April 12, 1916  McMinnville, Oregon, USA
Occupation: Author
Genres: Children’s books, novels

Beverly Cleary (born Beverly Atlee Bunn; April 12, 1916) is an American author. Educated at colleges in California and Washington, she worked as a librarian before writing children’s books. Cleary has written more than 30 books for young adults and children. Some of her best-known characters are Henry Huggins, Ribsy, Beatrice (“Beezus”) Quimby, her sister Ramona, and Ralph S. Mouse. She has won many awards, including the 1984 Newbery Medal for her book Dear Mr. Henshaw.

Cleary’s books have been published in 20 different languages and have earned many awards. A few examples of awards she has won include a Newbery Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw (1984); a Newbery Honor for Ramona and Her Father (1978 ); a Newbery Honor for Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1982); a Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the Association for Library Services to Children of the American Library Association (1975); the Catholic Library Association’s Regina Medal (1980); and the Children’s Book Council’s Every Child Award (1985). Cleary’s books have been read on PBS and ABC-TV. She received the Library of Congress Living Legends award in the Writers and Artists category in April 2000 for her significant contributions to the cultural heritage of the United States. She received the National Medal of Arts in 2003.

Her birthday, April 12, is recognized as National Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) Day, in promotion of sustained silent reading.

In Portland, Oregon, the Hollywood branch of the Multnomah County Library, near where she lived as a child, commissioned a map of Henry Huggins’s Klickitat Street neighborhood that resides on its lobby wall. Statues of her beloved characters Henry Huggins; the Huggins’s dog, Ribsy; and Ramona Quimby can be found in Portland’s Grant Park. In June 2008, the two-campus K–8 school of the same neighborhood, Hollyrood-Fernwood, was officially renamed Beverly Cleary School. As a child, Cleary attended the former Fernwood Grammar School, one of the two buildings that makes up the school that now bears her name.

In 2004, the University of Washington Information School completed fund-raising for the Beverly Cleary Endowed Chair for Children and Youth Services to honor her work and commitment to librarianship. In 2008, the school announced that she had been selected as the next recipient of the University’s Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus Award, the highest honor the University of Washington can bestow on a graduate.

Cleary has a 220-student residential hall at the University of California, Berkeley named after her.

Cleary has been mentioned as a major influence by other authors, including Laurie Halse Anderson, Judy Blume, Lauren Myracle and Jon Scieszka.

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Happy Birthday Judy Blume

NAME: Judy Blume
OCCUPATION: Author
BIRTH DATE: February 12, 1938
EDUCATION: New York University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Elizabeth, New Jersey
ORIGINALLY: Judy Sussman

BEST KNOWN FOR: Author Judy Bloom is a writer and illustrator of books for children and young adults, including Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Blubber, and Tiger Eyes.

Today is the birthday of Judy Blume, born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the best-selling author of more than two dozen books for young people.

She was 27 years old, with two preschool aged children, when she began writing seriously. For two years, she received constant rejections. Then in 1970, she had her big breakthrough, with the young adult novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. It’s the story of 11-year-old Margaret Simon, the daughter of Jewish father and Christian mother, and her adolescent attempts to make sense of things like religion, boys, and menstruation. The book was banned in many schools and libraries. It’s one of the most challenged books of the last third of the 20th century. But it’s also beloved by many, and it has been a big best-seller over the years.

She lives mostly in Key West, where she writes at a desk facing a garden. In the summer, she writes in a small cabin on Martha’s Vineyard. She always writes in the morning. When she’s working on a first draft, which she says is the hardest part, she writes seven days a week, even if only for an hour or two day.

Blume is also the author of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (1972), Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great (1972), Blubber (1974), The Pain and the Great One (1974), Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself (1977), Superfudge (1980), Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson (1993), and recently, Going, Going, Gone! with the Pain and the Great One (2008). Her books have sold more than 80 million copies.

Though light in tone, many of Judy Blume’s books deal with difficult issues for children, including questioning the existence of God, friendship, religion, divorce, body image, and sexuality. However, Blume has stated that she does not set out to tackle these issues when writing. She begins with a character, or sometimes a character and a situation.

Fans of Blume’s novels have praised her use of real-life settings, ambivalent endings and gentle humor. Her allegedly ambiguous treatment of moral issues made her at one time a regular target of school library censors and the Religious Right. Her books are still often challenged in school libraries. In fact, Forever was the second most challenged book of 2005, according to the American Library Association. When her books first came under attack, she went through a variety of emotions: scared, frightened, alone, and angry. In an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, Blume states that the fear of censorship can be contagious. In another interview, Blume tells Judy Freeman, children’s literature consultant and author, that the sadness came from a sadness for children who may not be allowed to read banned books. She said, “It says to them, ‘There’s something in this book we don’t want you to know about, something we don’t want to discuss with you.’” She is recognized as one of the most banned children’s authors in the United States which eventually led her to edit a collection of short stories about censorship (Places I Never Meant to Be). Despite ardent attempts at censorship, Blume’s young adult novels and books for children have sold 80 million copies worldwide.

In her efforts to preserve for young readers intellectual freedom in literature, Blume joined the National Coalition Against Censorship, which comprises fifty not-for-profit organizations that come together to fight censorship. Judy Blume has also founded or is closely affiliated with several other organizations regarding children’s literature and censorship, including, The Kids Fund, The Authors Guild (she serves, in 2010, as the group’s vice president), the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the Key West Literary Seminar. Blume is also the editor for a collection of short stories, Places I Never Meant To Be, Original Stories by Censored Writers. Blume also tells Freeman that censorship is not getting any better. There has been a rise in challenged books over the years. Blume urges teachers and writers who feel passionately about censorship to speak out and share their voice on the subject.

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SPA v44.0 Launch is Live

Every birthday, I dust off this old gem, read over it, trim a bit here, add a bit there and repost it.  It is my way of keeping in check with what I have decided is who I want to be.  The whole process takes a week, I read and reread, I think about what is missing, how I want the words to read and what I want them to convey.  This year, along with the slight editing, I added a new “Exercise and Skin Care” paragraph.  I am very disciplined about both.  I have this one body and it needs to last at least another 50 years and hopefully run at peak performance for most of it.  Every year, I also take a current photo, I like how much I look like my bitstrips guy right now, so I split-screened it.20140119_125101“What I Have Learned So Far”

I’ve learned that it’s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be. I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I want to continue to grow and change and progress until I die.  I do not ever want to rest on my laurels, get set in my ways, do something a specific way for no other reason that I have always done it that way.  I want to be routinely evaluating my choices to see if they still match with the person I am and the person I am on my way to becoming.  We can all do that, think about what is important to you and then reflect at the end of the day, as you drift off to sleep, to see if you accomplished it.  It is really less of a score card and more of a reminder for the next day.  Did you possess compassion whenever possible and applicable?  Did you express gratitude to your friends and family for being able to share each other’s life?

I’ve learned that our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.  The past is nothing we can control and it can color who we are, but we can make the decision to be anything we set our minds to.  Create your identity, do not let it be assigned to you.  The traumas of our childhoods can easily make us into “victims” or “survivors” and we can hide behind that identity for the rest of our lives if we desire.  That trauma happened a long time ago and is over, to continue the trauma is your choice, but it does not give you a free pass to poor behavior.  It is a long struggle to be able to recognize you are worth good things happening to you, once you allow that thought to enter your consciousness, you start to let go of the past.

I’ve learned that we don’t have to change friends if we understand that friends change. Sometimes, our paths run right along each other at the same speed, seeing the same sights.  Then our paths may separate, but that does not erase our history and the reasons why we first became friends.  We all understand that we change, so thinking that our friends shouldn’t is unreasonable.

I’ve learned that money is a horrible way of keeping score.  Money does not make you better or worse than anyone, it is an instrument.  Like any other instrument, it can be used in a million different ways.  The most beautiful concerto can be played on an old piano just as easily as the keys of a Steinway can be smashed with a mallet.  Find something you are passionate about and devote your extra money to it’s promotion.  Make your money work for you as hard as you worked for it.  Keep the circle of energy flowing.

I’ve learned that two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different. “I say tomato, you say tomato. Let’s call the whole thing off. But oh! If we call the whole thing off, then we must part. And oh! If we ever part, then that might break my heart!”  The Gershwins were on to something.  Learning to not be so arrogant that your way is the right and only way will take you far in love and life.  The ability to see things from different perspectives, even if you disagree with those perspectives is a valuable skill.

I’ve learned that you can get by on charm and looks for only so long.  After that, you’d better know something.  This does not always seem true and maybe the length can stretch out for years, but in the end the boys and girls will stop turning their heads when you pass, so you better at least have some good stories of your youth to retell.  There is nothing wrong with physical charm, but giving it any weight and worth as a way to judge yourself or others is a mistake.  It is just a roll of the DNA dice. It does not matter how attractive a person is if they are ugly on the inside.  Everyone has a unique talent or gift in life.  Personally, I have always been drawn to people that have an ability to tell a story, that have a talent of finding humor everywhere, and people that know that life is an ongoing journey of exploration.  It is a physical attraction, an attraction to a glow or fire or something that people possess inside.  Have you ever tried having a conversation with nice biceps and teeth? Exactly.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t compare yourself to the best others can do. We all have our talents, we all have our accomplishments, and for the most part, they are unique to us. Comparing yourself to the best parts of others will of course cause you to feel inferior.  The exercise in being proud of and happy for your friend’s success is a hard one.  It is hard to remove your jealousy or envy.  When you are able to do it, however, you become a better friend and a better person.  If you still cannot remove yourself from the equation, think about how awesome you are for choosing such talented and successful friends.  We can be happy when our friend’s are successful, no matter what Morrissey says.

I’ve learned that you can keep going long after you can’t.  It applies to running, it applies to life.  It is always darkest before the dawn for a reason, so you appreciate the dawn all the more.  Heartbreak and disappointment are horrible and painful, they can tear you into pieces from which you think you can never reassemble.  You can, and in time, you will.  That ability is one of the most exciting and unique parts of being human: resilience.  Knowing that life right now is hard, but having the memory and perspective that none of it is permanent and situations will change.  “Don’t give up, I know you can make it good.”

I’ve learned that just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.  Learning to understand their language may make the difference between feeling loved and feeling neglected.  Getting mad because someone doesn’t love you the way you want to be loved is like getting mad because the IKEA furniture assembly instructions are only in Swedish.  You can either try to translate and understand the IKEA instructions or you can shop somewhere with different instruction inserts.  Complaining will not bring you any closer to assembling that chair.

I’ve learned that either you control your attitude or it controls you.  Every second of every day, we have the choice on how we are going to behave.  We can fly off the handle at the slightest things or we can choose to not let them ruin our day.  How we react and behave to every day situations is completely in our control.  Our past experiences may point us in a knee-jerk direction, but they have no actual power over us today.  Choose an attitude that would make you proud of the person you are.  If it does not feel natural to behave that way, fake it, eventually, it will become part of you.  I am a strong believer in the school of “Fake it ’till you make it.” I am a result of that philosophy.  I didn’t like something about me or recognized something about me that didn’t work, thought about how I could do it differently, and consciously did it that way going forward.  It did not immediately feel natural, but eventually, it became a part of me.  It is like diet and exercise for your character, it is hard and strenuous, but eventually, it becomes who you are.  Anger is ego, we all know this.  That person that cut you off in traffic did not do it to you because of who you are, they just did it.  It didn’t happen to you, it just happened, don’t take it so personally that it changes your mood.  Don’t hold onto it, that energy is undirected and wasted.

I’ve learned that heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences. The title of “Hero” has been been attributed to so many people in so many ways that it’s meaning has been diluted.  For this, I mean a person whose courage and strength I admire.  Heroes are quite often not popular or even liked at the time, usually because their actions cause discomfort and disruption.  Heroes see how the world can be a better place and do their best to change it.  For the most part, actors, athletes, popular musicians, and politicians are bad choices as personal heroes, there are plenty of examples why.

I’ve learned that you cannot make someone love you.  All you can do is be someone who can be loved. The rest is up to them.  Learning and accepting that you cannot control how other people feel or react to your feelings is freeing.  I have learned to not withhold my feelings due to fear of them not being matched with equal strength from the other person.  Feelings are not discounted just because they are not returned.  Love and affection require expression to attain it’s full potential, they need air around them to grow.  It is crucial that you allow the organic nature of your feeling to exist and not squelch or play down them in any way. Washington Irving wrote, “Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart.”  Take a chance, take a leap, the air rushing under your feet will do you good.

I’ve learned that it’s not what you have in your life but who you have in your life that counts. Everyone knows this.  Your job and your stuff you love will never give you a ride to the airport or love you back. Your things you have will not bring you love.  That BMW will get you attention that at first may seem a lot like love, but it is probably more like envy. The people you touch in your life may not sit impressively on your mantle or fill up your checking account, but they will hold your hand when you cry and bring you soup when you are sick. In life, the immeasurable out-values all. There are no price tickets attached to love, devotion, friendship, and loyalty.

I’ve learned that no matter how much I care, some people just don’t care back. None of this changes how I should feel.  Zelda Fitzgerald is quoted as saying, “I don’t want to live — I want to love first, and live incidentally.”  I find myself thinking of this quote often and understanding it to mean that we need love to live, that we should approach life as a series of opportunities to love.  Everyone has been on both sides of this coin at one point in life: the lover and the loved.  It sucks and I hate it, but at the same time, there is a real rawness to heartbreak that is the purest of emotions.  That emotion has no ulterior motives, no hidden agendas that it hopes by creating one, another will follow.  It is pure loss, pure ache, and purely human. No matter how horrible it is, you feel so alive and wonderful knowing that you possess such capacity for feeling.

I’ve learned that you should always leave loved ones with loving words.  It may be the last time you see them.  Bring everyone you meet a gift.  This obviously does not mean a physical item wrapped with a bow, it could be a compliment, a touch, a smile.  Do not leave things unsaid for fear of over exposing your heart.  Your heart functions best when exposed raw to the air, it expands and produces more than ever imaginable.  This applies too even if you were thinking about someone during the day, send them a text or email to tell them.  Keep communications open, don’t let too much time pass.

**New For SPA v44.0**

Move.  Motivate.  Moisturize.  Do your best to create and maintain healthy habits.  I know that when I am not physically active, running, lifting weights, I feel depressed.  My body feels depressed and out of sorts when I do miss more than a couple days at the gym.  It’s because it’s my body’s habit to be active, to experience an elevated heart rate, to stretch and push the boundaries of my musculature.  I feel so much better having gone to the gym.  That does not mean that I am always super excited about going to the gym.  My motivation for keeping a regular gym habit is elevated energy/mood, stress management, strength as I age, and vanity.  Do not underestimate the power of vanity, when harnessed for good, it can accomplish a lot.  Moisturizing falls under the Gym/Motivate/Vanity tab and plays a part in taking care of yourself.  I hope that I can live at least another 50 years (who knows what science will have done by then?) and I want those 50 years to be healthy active ones.  It is my job to keep myself in the best shape I can.

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I chronicle what inspires me at Waldina.com
I faceplace at facebook.com/parkeranderson
I store my selfies at instagram.com/therealspa#
I tumblr at waspandpear.tumblr.com/
I tweet at twitter.com/TheRealSPA
I ADN at alpha.app.net/spa

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The Burning House: What People Would Take If The House Was on Fire

I found this article last night and fell in love with the idea for a photo challenge:  Give yourself five minutes and a bag.  Rush through your place and collect everything you think you want to have, knowing that everything else will be lost/burned/destroyed.  What would you grab and why?  Make it quirky.  Make it unique.  Make it meaningful.  Take a photo, include a short description of what and why you chose each thing, and email it to me here at spa@waldina.com.  I will post mine and any others I get.

A pictorial meditation on how we construct our identity through objects and material possessions.

If your house suddenly caught on fire, what would you grab as you fled out the door? That’s precisely the question Foster Huntington asked himself, so he gathered the belongings he himself would take and photographed them, then asked a few friends to do the same. Then, on May 10 of 2011, he launched The Burning House with 10 such photographs. Within a few hours, he got his first submission from a complete stranger. Within a few days, he was making headlines. But he soon realized the self-selection implicit to the project engendered a certain psychographic homogeneity in the responses he was receiving and, driven to make people of various walks of life feel included, he decided to seek out more diverse submissions himself.

So, for five months, he drove thousands of miles up and down the West Coast and around the Rockies, in search for people “other than typical blog readers,” in an effort to expand the project generationally, geographically, and socioeconomically. Using Richard Avedon’s In the American West as inspiration, he set out to find those rare specimens who “had never heard of Tumblr, had never seen an iPad” — in other words, the kinds of people with whom he would’ve never crossed paths had he stayed in Manhattan. The results — rich, surprising, refreshingly human, from people separated by 80 years and spanning six continents — are now gathered in The Burning House: What Would You Take? (public library), based on the Tumblr of the same name and a fine addition to this running list of blog-turned-book success stories.

Huntington writes in the introduction:

Today, developed countries are consuming more than ever before. This culture of consumption is often fueled by people’s desire to define themselves by the possessions they amass. The Burning House: What Would You Take? takes a different approach to personal definition. By removing easily replaceable objects and instead focusing on things unique to them, people are able to capture their personalities in a photograph.

What emerges is part Material World, part Things, part wholly singular lens on the human condition, bridging the practical and the sentimental in a way that bespeaks our constant see-saw between rationality and intuition.

Name: Miguel Age: 36 Location: Porto Occupation: Bike shop owner List: The picture you gave me and the leather box we found together. Mom and dads old camera and mom and dads old leather bag. The shoes I can’t live without. Your smell #1 and your smell #2. The notebook where I draw while you laugh. My iPod to listen to beautiful tunes while thinking in our next home.

Name: Brody Age: 6 Location: New Hampshire Occupation: A kid List: Wedgehead Garfeild cup Lego helicopter Bumblebee Transformer Chip yellow belt piggybank wallet weaving (not pictured) Lego Camera used to take photo

Name: Kate Molins Age: 26 Location: London, UK Occupation: Clapper / Loader List: Buster Kitten – 2 yr old cat My mum’s ashes Photo album / scrap book iPhone Grandmother’s watch Dad’s watch My watch – 16th birthday present from my mum Macbook Passport 8mm Camera – 24th birthday present from all my friends Dad’s “I Love Tits” Mug – in small print, “from the British Ornithological Society” Limited edition GONZO, Hunter S. Thompson photo book – 21st birthday present from my mum Lemmy, Buster Kitten’s brother My uncle’s old Leica CL Diary & notebook of VALUABLE ideas & info from the past year Portable hard drive with millions of photos and other important things

Name: Joshua Lee Bacon Age: 20 Location: Boone, Iowa Occupation: Student List: Favorite pants. Favorite underwear. iPhone. Box full of all my prints and negatives. Buffalo box full of treasures and special snapshots. Passport. Chinese cigars. Some cash. Photo of my grandparents. Photo of a friend. Field notes and pens. Vivitar and telephoto lens. I would want to take more records, but the first one I would grab would be this Envy Corps 7 inch. Some old letters. Wallet.

Name: Brenda Bell Age: 60 Location: Pinetop, Arizona White Mountains (wild fire country May/June) Occupation: Homemaker List: My dog, Baby Val and treats for him My husband Larry and treats for him Peanut butter and crackers, peanuts, candy and gum Bumblebee Transformer A spork (spoon/fork) Hand warmers Wool hat Lots of money (small dimensions) and change Emergency first aid kit and zip lock bags Matches

Name: Kristi Dahlstrom Age: 27 Location: Germany Occupation: Literature Teacher List: Great Aunt’s Violin (& Bow) US Passport Photograph of Siblings 2 Letters Journal New American Standard Bible Rilke’s Book of Hours T.S. Elliot Collected Poems MacBook Pro Black Flipflops

Name: Luca Age: 42 Location: Edinburgh, Scotland Occupation: Pricing analyst List: My collected writings My Field Notes still to be used My current notebook the Midori Travellers Notebook On Writing by Stephen King From Hell by Alan Moore Important photographs The stove moka I had for the past 10 years (because nothing looks as bad after a proper coffee) The belt my dad had when he was in the army The beret I had when I was in the army Fountain pen and pencil, with my favourite brown ink My grandad’s petrol lighter Opinel knife Bookbinding tools Reading glasses and sunglasses iPhone 4S (used to take the picture)

Name: Alejandro Sosa Age: 36 Location: Venezuela Occupation: Technology consultant List: Everything is recoverable, except my daughter

And in case you were wondering, here’s what I would take:

  1. Wallet (recycled newspaper and plastic bag, from HOLSTEE)
  2. 1935 edition of Ulysses with sketches by Henri Matisse and 22-karat gold accents (Sure, the hefty tome would weigh me down — but I decided against the replaceable iPad and pair of giant Canon cameras in its favor.)
  3. Glasses
  4. Passport
  5. MacBook Air
  6. Phrenology bike helmet hand-painted by artist Danielle Baskin
  7. Makerbot-printed space invader, a gift from a dear friend
  8. Two-finger yellow LEGO ring from C+
  9. iPhone
  10. 1993 edition of Gertrude Stein’s 1938 children’s book, The World Is Round
  11. Owl necklace from the 1950s, found in a middle-of-nowhere California vintage shop en route back from TED
  12. 1 TB external hard drive with all my personal data, 15 years of photos, 100GB of music, and just about every piece of digital content I’ve ever owned (Western Digital My Passport Essential SE 1 TB USB 3.0/2.0, for the record)
  13. Original drawing of Paula Scher, one of my big design heroes, by my friend and illustrator extraordinaire Wendy MacNaughton. It reads: “Impossible happens.”
  14. My Vibrams

W. Somerset Maugham – Style Icon

I was given a copy of “The Razor’s Edge” quite a while ago by a former employer stating “this is one of my favorite books and novels.”  He meant that he liked the story and like the look of the book, physically.  The book was given to him by the matriarch of a very prominent Seattle family when she was closing up and selling off her properties on the San Juans.  I still have it and I hope to do the same with it one day.

Born: 25 January 1874 UK Embassy, Paris, France
Died: 16 December 1965 (aged 91) Nice, France
Occupation: Playwright, novelist, short story writer
Notable works: Of Human Bondage, The Letter, Rain, The Razor’s Edge

Today is the birthday of W. Somerset Maugham, born in Paris (1874). His father was in Paris as a lawyer for the British Embassy. When Maugham was eight years old, his mother died from tuberculosis. His father died of cancer two years later. The boy was sent back to England into the care of a cold and distant uncle, a vicar. Maugham was miserable at his school. He said later: “I wasn’t even likeable as a boy. I was withdrawn and unhappy, and rejected most overtures of sympathy over my stuttering and shyness.” Maugham became a doctor and practiced in the London slums. He was particularly moved by the women he encountered in the hospital, where he delivered babies; and he was shocked by his fellow doctors’ callous approach to the poor. He wrote: “I saw how men died. I saw how they bore pain. I saw what hope looked like, fear and relief; I saw the dark lines that despair drew on a face; I saw courage and steadfastness. I saw faith shine in the eyes of those who trusted in what I could only think was an illusion and I saw the gallantry that made a man greet the prognosis of death with an ironic joke because he was too proud to let those about him see the terror of his soul.”

When he was 23, he published his first novel, Liza of Lambeth, about a working-class 18-year-old named Liza who has an affair with a 40-year-old married man named Jim, a father of nine. Jim’s wife beats up Liza, who is pregnant, and who miscarries, and dies. The novel was a big success, and Maugham made enough money to quit medicine and become a full-time writer. For many years, he made his living as a playwright, but eventually he became one of the most popular novelists in Britain. His novels include Of Human Bondage (1915), The Moon and Sixpence (1919), Cakes and Ale (1930), and The Razor’s Edge (1944).
Somerset Maugham said, “To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”

At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely.

Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.

Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.

It was such a lovely day I thought it a pity to get up.

SPA v43.0 Launch.

Every birthday, I drag out this old nugget, read it over, add/delete/edit anything that needs changing to match how I feel now and post it as my birthday gift to you. Since today is my 43rd birthday, here it is.

taken 1/19/2013

taken 1/19/2013

“What I Have Learned So Far”

I’ve learned that it’s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want to continue to grow and change and progress until I die. I do not ever want to rest on my laurels, get set in my ways, do something a specific way for no other reason that I have always done it that way. I want to be routinely evaluating my choices to see if they still match with the person I am and the person I am on my way to becoming. We can all do that, think about what is important to you and then reflect at the end of the day, as you drift off to sleep, to see if you accomplished it. It is really less of a score card and more of a reminder for the next day. Did you possess compassion whenever possible and applicable? Did you express gratitude to your friends and family for being able to share each other’s life?

I’ve learned that our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become. The past is nothing we can control and it can color who we are, but we can make the decision to be anything we set our minds to. Create your identity, do not let it be assigned to you. The traumas of our childhoods can easily make us into “victims” or “survivors” and we can hide behind that identity for the rest of our life if we desire. That trauma happened a long time ago and is over, your choice to continue the trauma is your choice, but it does not give you a free pass to poor behavior. It is a long struggle to be able to recognize you are worth good things happening to you, once you allow that thought to enter your consciousness, you start to let go of the past.

I’ve learned that we don’t have to change friends if we understand that friends change. Sometimes, our paths run right along each other at the same speed, seeing the same sights. Then our paths may separate, but that does not erase our history and the reasons why we first became friends. We all understand that we change, so thinking that our friends should not is unreasonable.

I’ve learned that money is a horrible way of keeping score. Money does not make you better or worse than anyone, it is an instrument. Like any other instrument, it can be used in a million different ways. The most beautiful concerto can be played on an old piano just as easily as the keys of a Steinway can be smashed with a mallet. Find something you are passionate about and devote your extra money to it’s promotion. Make your money work for you as hard as you worked for it. Keep the circle of energy flowing.

I’ve learned that two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different. “I say tomato, you say tomato. Let’s call the whole thing off. But oh! If we call the whole thing off, then we must part. And oh! If we ever part, then that might break my heart!” The Gershwins were on to something. Learning to not be so arrogant that your way is the right and only way will take you far in love and life.

I’ve learned that you can get by on charm and looks for only so long. After that, you’d better know something. This does not always seem true and maybe the length can stretch out for years, but in the end the boys and girls will stop turning their heads when you pass, so you better at least have some good stories of your youth to retell. There is nothing wrong with physical charm, but giving it any weight and worth as a way to judge yourself or others is a mistake. It is just a roll of the DNA dice. It does not matter how attractive a person is if they are ugly on the inside. Everyone has a unique talent or gift in life. Personally, I have always been drawn to people that have an ability to tell a story, that have a talent of finding humor everywhere, and people that know that life is an ongoing journey of exploration. It is a physical attraction, an attraction to a glow or fire or something that people possess inside. Have you ever tried having a conversation with nice biceps and teeth? Exactly.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t compare yourself to the best others can do. We all have our talents, we all have our accomplishments, and for the most part, they are unique to us. Comparing yourself to the best parts of others will of course cause you to feel inferior. The exercise in being proud of and happy for your friend’s success is a hard one. It is hard to remove your jealousy or envy. When you are able to do it, however, you become a better friend and a better person. If you still cannot remove yourself from the equation, think about how awesome you are for choosing such talented and successful friends. We can be happy when our friend’s are successful, no matter what Morrissey says.

I’ve learned that you can keep going long after you can’t. It applies to running, it applies to life. It is always darkest before the dawn for a reason, so you appreciate the dawn all the more. Heartbreak and disappointment are horrible and painful, they can tear you into pieces from which you think you can never reassemble. You can, and in time, you will. That ability is one of the most exciting and unique parts of being human: resilience. Knowing that life right now is hard, but having the memory and perspective that none of it is permanent and situations will change. “Don’t give up, I know you can make it good.”

I’ve learned that just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have. Learning to understand their language may make the difference between feeling loved and feeling neglected. Getting mad because someone doesn’t love you the way you want to be loved is like getting mad because the IKEA furniture assembly instructions are only in German. You can either try to translate and understand the IKEA instructions or you can shop somewhere with different instruction inserts. Complaining will not bring you any closer to having a chair.

I’ve learned that either you control your attitude or it controls you. Every second of every day, we have the choice on how we are going to behave. We can fly off the handle at the slightest things or we can choose to not let them ruin our day. How we react and behave to every day situations is completely in our control. Our past experiences may point us in a knee-jerk direction, but they have no actual power over us today. Choose an attitude that would make you proud of the person you are. If it does not feel natural to behave that way, fake it, eventually, it will become part of you. I am a strong believer in the school of “Fake it ’till you make it.” I am a result of that philosophy. I didn’t like something about me or recognized something about me that didn’t work, thought about how I could do it differently, and consciously did it that way going forward. It did not immediately feel natural, but eventually, it became a part of me. It is like diet and exercise for your character, it is hard and strenuous, but eventually, it becomes who you are. Anger is ego, we all know this. That person that cut you off in traffic did not do it to you because of who you are, they just did it. It didn’t happen to you, it just happened, don’t take it so personally that it changes your mood. Don’t hold onto it, that energy is undirected and wasted.

I’ve learned that heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences. The title of “Hero” has been been attributed to so many people in so many ways that it’s meaning has been diluted. For this, I mean a person whose courage and strength I admire. Heroes are quite often not popular or even liked at the time, usually because their actions cause discomfort and disruption. Heroes see how the world can be a better place and do their best to change it. For the most part, actors, athletes, popular musicians, and politicians are bad choices as personal heroes, there are plenty of examples why.

I’ve learned that you cannot make someone love you. All you can do is be someone who can be loved. The rest is up to them. Learning and accepting that you cannot control how other people feel or react to your feelings is freeing. I have learned to not withhold my feelings due to fear of them not being matched with equal strength from the other person. Feelings are not discounted just because they are not returned. Love and affection require expression to attain it’s full potential, they need air around them to grow. It is crucial that you allow the organic nature of your feeling to exist and not squelch or play down them in any way. Washington Irving wrote, “Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart.” Take a chance, take a leap, the air rushing under your feet will do you good.

I’ve learned that it’s not what you have in your life but who you have in your life that counts. Everyone knows this. Your job and your stuff you love will never give you a ride to the airport or love you back. Your things you have will not bring you love. That BMW will get you attention that at first may seem a lot like love, but it is probably more like envy. The people you touch in your life may not sit impressively on your mantle or fill up your checking account, but they will hold your hand when you cry and bring you soup when you are sick. In life, the immeasurable out-values all. There are no price tickets attached to love, devotion, friendship, and loyalty.

I’ve learned that no matter how much I care, some people just don’t care back. None of this changes how I should feel. Zelda Fitzgerald is quoted as saying, “I don’t want to live — I want to love first, and live incidentally.” I find myself thinking of this quote often and understanding it to mean that we need love to live, that we should approach life as a series of opportunities to love. Everyone has been on both sides of this coin at one point in life: the lover and the loved. It sucks and I hate it, but at the same time, there is a real rawness to heartbreak that is the purest of emotions. That emotion has no ulterior motives, no hidden agendas that it hopes by creating one, another will follow. It is pure loss, pure ache, and purely human. No matter how horrible it is, you feel so alive and wonderful knowing that you possess such capacity for feeling.

I’ve learned that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them. Bring everyone you meet a gift. This obviously does not mean a physical item wrapped with a bow, it could be a compliment, a touch, a smile. Do not leave things unsaid for fear of over exposing your heart. Your heart functions best when exposed raw to the air, it expands and produces more than ever imaginable. This applies too even if you were thinking about someone during the day, send them a text or email to tell them. Keep communications open, don’t let too much time pass.


Edgar Allan Poe – Style Icon

Today is All Hallows’ Eve, or Halloween. The modern holiday comes from an age-old tradition honoring the supernatural blending of the world of the living and the world of the dead. Halloween is based on a Celtic holiday called Samhain. The festival marked the start of winter and the last stage of the harvest, the slaughtering of animals. It was believed that the dark of winter allowed the spirits of the dead to transgress the borders of death and haunt the living.

Eventually, Christian holidays developed at around the same time. During the Middle Ages, November 1 became known as All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows’ Day. The holiday honored all of the Christian saints and martyrs. Medieval religion taught that dead saints regularly interceded in the affairs of the living. On All Saints’ Day, churches held masses for the dead and put bones of the saints on display. The night before this celebration of the holy dead became known as All Hallows’ Eve. People baked soul cakes, which they would set outside their house for the poor. They also lit bonfires and set out lanterns carved out of turnips to keep the ghosts of the dead away.

The best photo I could find by Megan Murphy at MurphyPop.com

NAME: Edgar Allan Poe
OCCUPATION: Writer
BIRTH DATE: January 19, 1809
DEATH DATE: October 07, 1849
EDUCATION: University of Virginia, U.S. Military Academy at West Point
PLACE OF BIRTH: Boston, Massachusetts
PLACE OF DEATH: Baltimore, Maryland

Best Known For:  American short-story writer, poet, critic, and editor Edgar Allan Poe is famous for his tales and poems of horror and mystery such as The Raven.

Born January 19, 1809, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. American short-story writer, poet, critic, and editor Edgar Allan Poe’s tales of mystery and horror initiated the modern detective story, and the atmosphere in his tales of horror is unrivaled in American fiction. His The Raven (1845) numbers among the best-known poems in national literature.

Early Life

With his short stories and poems, Edgar Allan Poe captured the imagination and interest of readers around the world. His creative talents led to the beginning of different literary genres, earning him the nickname “Father of the Detective Story” among other distinctions. His life, however, has become a bit of mystery itself. And the lines between fact and fiction have been blurred substantially since his death.

The son of actors, Poe never really knew his parents. His father left the family early on, and his mother passed away when he was only three. Separated from his siblings, Poe went to live with John and Frances Allan, a successful tobacco merchant and his wife, in Richmond, Virginia. He and Frances seemed to form a bond, but he never quite meshed with John. Preferring poetry over profits, Poe reportedly wrote poems on the back of some of Allan’s business papers.

Money was also an issue between Poe and John Allan. When Poe went to the University of Virginia in 1826, he didn’t receive enough funds from Allan to cover all his costs. Poe turned to gambling to cover the difference, but ended up in debt. He returned home only to face another personal setback—his neighbor and fiancée Elmira Royster had become engaged to someone else. Heartbroken and frustrated, Poe left the Allans.

Career Beginnings

At first, Poe seemed to be harboring twin aspirations. Poe published his first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems in 1827, and he had joined the army around this time. Poe wanted to go to West Point, a military academy, and won a spot there in 1830. Before going to West Point, he published a second collection Al Aaraaf, Tamberlane, and Minor Poems in 1829. Poe excelled at his studies at West Point, but he was kicked out after a year for his poor handling of his duties. Some have speculated that he intentionally sought to be court-martialed. During his time at West Point, Poe had fought with his foster father and Allan decided to sever ties with him.

After leaving the academy, Poe focused his writing full time. He moved around in search of opportunity, living in New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Richmond. From 1831 to 1835, he stayed in Baltimore with his aunt Maria Clemm and her daughter Virginia. His young cousin, Virginia, became a literary inspiration to Poe as well as his love interest. The couple married in 1836 when she was only 13 (or 14 as some sources say) years old.

Returning to Richmond in 1835, Poe went to work for a magazine called the Southern Literary Messenger. There he developed a reputation as a cut-throat critic, writing vicious reviews of his contemporaries. Poe also published some of his own works in the magazine, including two parts of his only novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. His tenure there proved short, however. Poe’s aggressive-reviewing style and sometimes combative personality strained his relationship with the publication, and he left the magazine in 1837. His problems with alcohol also played a role in his departure, according to some reports.  Poe went on to brief stints at two other papers, Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine and The Broadway Journal.

Major Works

In late 1830s, Poe published Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, a collection of stories. It contained several of his most spine-tingling tales, including “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “Ligeia” and “William Wilson.” Poe launched the new genre of detective fiction with 1841′s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” A writer on the rise, he won a literary prize in 1843 for “The Gold Bug,” a suspenseful tale of secret codes and hunting treasure.

Poe became a literary sensation in 1845 with the publication of the poem “The Raven.” It is considered a great American literary work and one of the best of Poe’s career. In the work, Poe explored some of his common themes—death and loss. An unknown narrator laments the demise of his great love Lenore. That same year, he found himself under attack for his stinging criticisms of his fellow poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Poe claimed that Longfellow, a widely popular literary figure, was a plagiarist, and this written assault on Longfellow created a bit of backlash for Poe.

Continuing work in different forms, Poe examined his own methodology and writing in general in several essays, including “The Philosophy of Composition,” “The Poetic Principle” and “The Rationale of Verse.” He also produced another thrilling tale, “The Cask of Amontillado,” and poems such as “Ulalume” and “The Bells.”

Mysterious Death

Poe was overcome by grief after the death of his beloved Virginia in 1847. While he continued to work, he suffered from poor health and struggled financially. His final days remain somewhat of a mystery. He left Richmond on September 27, 1849, and was supposedly on his way to Philadelphia. On October 3, Poe was found in Baltimore in great distress. He was taken to Washington College Hospital where he died on October 7. His last words were “Lord, help my poor soul.”

At the time, it was said that Poe died of “congestion of the brain.” But his actual cause of death has been the subject of endless speculation. Some experts believe that alcoholism led to his demise while others offer up alternative theories. Rabies, epilepsy, carbon monoxide poisoning are just some of the conditions thought to have led to the great writer’s death.

Shortly after his passing, Poe’s reputation was badly damaged by his literary adversary Rufus Griswold. Griswold, who had been sharply criticized by Poe, took his revenge in his obituary of Poe, portraying the gifted yet troubled writer as a mentally deranged drunkard and womanizer. He also penned the first biography of Poe, which helped cement some of these misconceptions in the public’s minds.

While he never had financial success in his lifetime, Poe has become one of America’s most enduring writers. His works are as compelling today as there were more than a century ago. A bright, imaginative thinker, Poe crafted stories and poems that still shock, surprise and move modern readers.

I cannot seem to find a better copy of this video: