The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker

Posted on October 20, 2011. Filed under: Books, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Every once in a while I find myself in a non-fiction kick. During those times I tend to go a bit overboard on biographies, memoirs and inspirational/self-help titles. An advice columnist that I really enjoy following, Carolyn Hax, recommends this book to many people for a variety of reasons. After hearing it time and time again I finally trekked to the library and put in the request to borrow it, and I am so glad that I did. I have recommended this to quite a few people since reading it, the impression it left on me is definitely a lasting one.

I personally feel that every young woman, going to college, in college, living on her own, moving to a new city or living in the same city she has lived in her entire life should read this book. This book teaches life lessons and life skills that many of us girls are lacking. This is not about self-defense and not meant to scare women about the dangers of the world but it is educational and excellent. There is no substitute for learning the information provided in this book – I wish I had read it years earlier.

Gavin De Becker is a pioneering advisor on navigating dangerous and risky situations involving assignation, stalking and basic survival fear. De Becker owns an agency that protects public figures including politicians and celebrities. Through reading his book you can tell that he is the leader in this type of knowledge. He is smart, he is confident and it shows throughout the book. Additionally, De Becker is confident that with this knowledge we can also be safer, which makes your confidence rise as well.

De Becker gives us some of his back-story on how he ended up in this field and goes through some difficult stories about his childhood. Hearing about his childhood helps us really understand how he was able to hone in and fully develop the heightened awareness he has for survival skills. We also get an excellent glimpse into the mind of someone whose sole profession is protecting others. Getting in on that thought-process is enlightening and helps us better understand how we can start to think that way and protect ourselves better.

The main topics in this book are female safety focused. While De Becker doesn’t want to stereotype, it is fact that many of the situations he describes in the book are female based problems. While men can be victims in the same scenarios, the truth is that women find themselves as the victims more often, focusing on what really is occurring is helpful to us to better prepare ourselves. Topics explored are stalking, trusting our instincts and learning to how to listen to the guidance our instincts are providing, public figure attacks, intimate violence, occupational violence, threats, and violence from children. There are many situations described in the book that we may never ever encounter, but having the knowledge in us ready in case we are in that situation is invaluable. We will never regret teaching ourselves what to do in the rare case we find ourselves there.

The best take-home message for me was learning how to trust our instincts. This book is not meant to make us more afraid or allow fear to take over our lives, it is rather about learning how not to be fearful because we have the ability and knowledge (after reading this) to safely navigate dangers that are presented to us. De Becker really focuses on what biology has given us and how we are ignoring it. Part of us ignoring these survival signals are culture – we are being taught to act in ways that go against this biology and are putting ourselves at risk. De Becker is helping women to break through that culture to put our personal safety first.

As I said before I think this is a book that every young woman should read, most likely more than once. It helped give me courage and strength and after reflecting on what I had read it also did make me feel less freightened and more in charge. I wouldn’t put myself in danger on purpose just to prove that I am in touch with my intuition but I did learn how to trust my intuition more and have thought of some ‘plans’ that I would carry out in a variety of situations, mentally preparing myself ahead of time should I find myself there. I also reflected back on previous encounters where I put many of these biological tools aside in an effort to just ‘be nice’ and I can recognize how I purposefully ignore bells and whistles and warnings and I’m ready to make different choices in those some situations in the future. Excellent read – don’t be scared, fear truly is a gift!

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Debriefing: Pineapple Express

Posted on January 21, 2009. Filed under: Movies, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

This movie is a riot, plain and simple. It’s strange because I like such a wide variety of movies, but this movie just really had me roaring with laughter from start to finish. There is no doubt as to why James Franco was nominated for an award for this role – he was perfect, his character was spot-on, memorable and everything else good acting should be. Just great!

Dale Denton (Seth Rogan) is a process server by day. He is also dating a high schooler, but overall seems happy to work his job and smoke in his off-time. He’s a very committed employee and ensures that all subpoenas are served to the correct people, it is really a riot to watch his work in action. His regular dealer Saul (James Franco) becomes his buddy during a visit. They exchange laughs, watch television and enjoy a new, rare type of drug that Saul has come across. Denton leaves to finish his daily work and is then witness to a murder. This murder happens to include the next person he had to ‘serve’ and is coincidentally linked to this murderer though Saul because of the drug, aka Pineapple Express.

Saul and Dale spend the rest of the movie running away from nothing and everything, and at the same time learning that they are best friends. They realize how much they mean to each other. The pair make a great team and create some very comical scenes a long their path of enlightenment. Reflections on things from the weather, to how to make money quickly will leave you laughing with delight at their comical revelations. Both actors are cast phenomenally well and don’t stoop to cheap levels to make laughs. Franco is priceless as a run of the mill dealer who is as clueless as they come. It is evident that they both inhale too much, but the humor is in their discovery of themselves, friendships and running from the bad guys who are in an ironic way also running from Saul and Dale.

If you are in the mood for a light film with a minimal amount of required thought, Pineapple Express is definitely the one to check out. Franco becomes the perfect dealer character and both himself and Rogan deliver a hilarious tale about two guys with nowhere to go but everyone to run from. It ws a surprise hit for me, and one I won’t mind seeing again!

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Colonial Williamsburg: Huzzah!!

Posted on January 6, 2009. Filed under: Everyday Me, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

I took a quick weekend trip down to Colonial Williamsburg: seemed fun and I’m pretty close right now so why not?!  I didn’t quite know what to expect but was pleasantly surprised when we got there. I knew I had wanted to feel like I stepped back into a time long ago, and that I wanted there to be quaint, old colonial architecture, as well as a pretty setting. Almost all of the workers are in period dress which was really exciting to be apart of. One of the biggest downers of Colonial Williamsburg was the commercialization of it.

After the trip when people asked how it was, my first explanation was that it was like Disney, just colonial style. All of the paid employees and actors were period dress, and they talk as if they are there a well. They have many old replica shops set up in true historic buildings. Within these shops you can go in (if you pay the admission or have a special pass) and get a taste of shopping for the Colonies. Our first trip into this type of ‘shop’ was the Saddle maker. We walked in, and he asked if we had horses. True, we were in a saddle-shop but it never occurred to me that I needed horses, I was just a tourist after all. So the saddle maker laughed and assumed we were lost (in a nice somewhat British accent). He then asked where were from, we stated “New Jersey’, he informed us that he wasn’t too familiar with it but had been to Monmouth. Of course he had, in colonial times not much of NJ was inhabited but there was a battle of Monmouth! It was amazing. I wonder what he would’ve said if we claimed to be from Alaska or California….

Many of those actors will not break character, not even to assist you in locating a bathroom (which was literally a house to bath in back then). But it makes for a different kind of trip. It is a great learning experience to go there, and it really makes you work to find out some of this information. You need to play along with the actors and actresses to fit into their world and find out about the world they are living in to compare with your world.

There are nightly events to choose from for small fees. You can participate in reenactments (we were British Soldiers and Colonial Virginians) or you go on tours that offer more history about the buildings, ghost stories and much more. There really is a lot to do. There is not much around other than the historical areas, and the College of William & Mary, so these activities really are essential to getting the most of your visit. There is only so much shopping and wandering through the streets that you can do. Also note, that many of the historic buildings and shops do close relatively early in the evenings.

The restaurants in the town and area are very nice, be prepared to spend quite a bit on a very nice meal at a very nice place. There are few truly casual places in the town, but they exist if you look hard enough. We chose a semi-casual place one night; Seasons and it was delicious. Absolutely wonderful food and very filling. The portion was great for the price, and the atmosphere was really relaxed but nice. The second night we ate a ‘Williamsburg’ restaurant – Huzzah! It wasn’t bad, but much more low key than we had anticipated. I will say, I had the best, BEST, fried chicken dinner platter there. It was 3 great pieces of cooked to order fried chicken, with really fresh mashed potatoes and string beans, and a biscuit. It was delicious, not what we anticipated but we both left with smiles on.

My biggest disappointments in Williamsburg was the commercialization. In Disney there is a shop on every corner and 10 variations of the same old things for you to buy in each of them. This was exactly how it was here. Some of the items were cute, I enjoyed looking at the Christmas items but overall it just didn’t do it for me. I felt like there was so much pressure to shop and spend that it took away from some of the history and the magic of the town. It was overly touristy in that sense, and I was tired of entering shops after the first 3 hours, and so we didn’t enter anymore of them!

It was reasonably priced, and the admission passes we purchased were also reasonably priced. I enjoyed getting to see the characters come to life from this era and to visit the Governor’s Palace and gardens as well as the Colonial Capitol. There were so many things to see within those places that it truly made the trip. It was a good weekend and pleasure to see the historical places of our Revolution. I would like to go back, but not for very long and most likely during the Christmas season to see the Christmas decorations.  In the end, if you are looking for a nice short weekend getaway this is a place to see. Just keep in mind that you don’t need to purchase everything they will push at you (and believe me they will try) and enjoy being placed back in time, its a great trip!

Things To Check Out:   The website for Colonial Williamsburg: Maps, Activities, Etc

Shops:   The Peanut Shop — delicious food dips and other snacks! Yum!

Links to all of these great places can be found at :         
Aroma’s Coffee & Cafe — Great spot for breakfast, packed on weekends but great for a good meal at a good price!
Huzzah! — Some of the best fried chicken I’ve had in ages! 
Season’s Restaurant Located in Merchant’s Square, lots of variety all very delicious!
Stephano’s Pizza — Good spot for lunch – quiet corner of Merchant’s Square
     ****Get a coupon in the travel book for Season’s & Stephanos!  (I found my copy in a shop)

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Debriefing: Honeymoon With My Brother by Franz Wisner

Posted on August 20, 2008. Filed under: Books, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Wisner can take any corporate bloke and turn him into a believer that traveling the world is more important and beneficial than work. This memoir was both original and similar and above all inspiring. Keep in mind that I am using the term inspiring to discuss a memoir about a man’s life after being left at the altar, seriously this book was powerful.  Not only a memoir, but a travel diary of epic proportions. 2 years of travel experiences, and memories that come together for a memoir that would make any seasoned traveler jealous.

Wisner was dealt the short end of the stick, even though the world around him thought he was successful; He worked in politics, and was good at his job. Additionally, Wisner thought he was with the love of his life, Annie, though Annie was currently experiencing emotional issues Wisner knew their connection would pull them through the wedding ceremonies and into newlywed bliss. It’s at this point that you realize that Wisner is wrong, yes he was good at his job, but Annie was not the love of his life, how typical of men.  Annie left Wisner with a wedding and honeymoon all to himself. Wisner knew there were two options at his point in the game; weep over lost money and love, or reconnect with himself and the undiscovered world around him.

Wisner’s brother, Kurt, accompanied him on his honeymoon, and the pair immediately knew that the honeymoon couldn’t end this quickly. They decided that having jobs was not the road for them, but that at this point in their lives the brothers needed to see the world and learn the cultures and continents that surrounded them. Sending family and friends post-cards documenting their travels it was a trip of a lifetime. The nursing home community of Eskaton was continually updated through their Grandmother, LaRue, about their travels and the boys soon realized that the trip was just not for their benefit but was also important to the elderly community eagerly following their trip.

While most people in the working community were appalled at the irresponsible act of quitting work and trekking the globe, the elderly community saw it is a golden opportunity, and by the end of the book you will find yourself wishing that you had the same chance. They were not irresponsible they were being educated by the real world and real cultures. Throughout the memoir it felt as though you were beside the brothers in a crowded bus in Africa or wandering the streets of Eastern European countries. The travel-log maintained a feeling of privilege for the brothers to have this chance and the underprivileged population that thrives in many poor cultures. The entire journey was recorded as a life lesson for Wisner that helped humble himself and truly appreciate the gifted lifestyle he had led.
While the book was marvelous in many ways, and recommended for travel-hungry folks of all ages, Wisner’s relationship blues grew a bit old after so many countries. Here Wisner was in, in exotic countries and far away places and he was thinking about her? How could he! This man was on the most liberating experience of his entire life and he was consumed with wanting her back. Honestly, if she had married him, he would have continued to be a political leader and lead the same life, this spiritual connection with his brother and world would never have been able to occur – Thank her Franz! It does open the reader’s eyes to the power of love though. I know for certain that if the love of my life walked out on me, even on a safari in Africa he would still cross my mind, at least for a little while.

As the memoir came to a close I was truly prepared for another trip, just one more adventure. Even days after finishing the book I feel as though I need to go back and read it again, I need to visit the countries and I need to get out of the 9-5 rat race to see the world and see what is waiting at my fingertips. Not only for travel purposes but to put priorities back into focus. Reading about lifestyles of other cultures makes me wonder why I am so caught up in work and disregard the idea of travel and play. Wisner correctly proves that while work pays the bills the food it creates does not feed the soul in the same way that travel and education do. In the end I’m left wondering, why do I work 9 – 5 every day?

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Debriefing: Friday Night Knitting Club By Kate Jacobs

Posted on August 13, 2008. Filed under: Books, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Knitting is definitely not a modern craft, but I wouldn’t be surprised if knitting supply sales started to rise! This novel was youthful yet wise, hip yet classic and is appealing to such a variety of people on a variety of levels. Knitting is thought of as an old lady craft but also has the allure of being calming to the soul. Having read the book mostly during my personal commute in DC rush-hour I must say that I felt calmer just reading it – without even having knitting needles in hand. It was a pleasure to be taken to the busy streets of Manhattan and the quiet suburbs of NJ for a homespun tale of wool, yarn, sweaters and friendship. 

The meat of the book takes place in busy NYC, of course we do get to leave city for excursions but we are mostly caught up in the lives of busy bees in the heart of Manhattan. Walker and Daughter knitting shop is a quiet shop in the upper-levels of a 3 story building, and is home to the Friday Night Knitting Club, a group of women who much of home-made delights, swap stories from the week now behind them and of course occasionally knit. Georgia Walker, owner of the shop, is an amazing woman; A businesswoman, mom, entrepreneur (Mom-preneur), friend and lover all at once. And of course aside from her list of traits she knits as well! Honestly what more could anyone want to be other than Georgia? At first she is a hard woman to crack, you want to like her but you can’t really tell if she will let you in her life to be her friend which makes you hesitant to open yourself to her, but within a few chapters you can’t resist feeling like you miss her when you have to put the book down.

This story teaches us how one determined woman can accomplish anything, and empower everyone in her wake to make their lives their own and to achieve their goals. After having a hard start in life, due to the disappointments of a best friend and lover Georgia finds a career in Knitting and surprisingly is able to run a knitting shop in Manhattan in the 21st century while raising a child. Georgia’s life, and story, revolves around the knitting shop and her daughter, Dakota. It’s easy for Georgia to have a life so intertwined in her work, especially since she lives directly above the knitting shop – it is the ideal setting for a story and truly makes for a cozy time. Between the knitting shop and her small apartment a full range of emotions including much laughter and love spills into the pages of the story and the lives of the characters.

This story does of course focus on the members of the Friday Night Knitting Club, as well as Georgia’s family, friends and enemies. The women of the club include Anita, who is Georgia’s biggest fan, as well as a wise, older woman still trying to find her way in the world after her husband passes. Other members of the club are Peri, a smart FIT student making strides in the fashion world, KC a publisher trying to re-start her career, Lucie a producer living day to day who always finding time and money to knit, and Darwin, a surprise character who loathes knitting and is just at the club for scientific research (yeah right!). The club is a central gathering place but it is soon discovered that it doesn’t have to be Friday night for this group of women to get together.  

This is a real slice of life novel that brings both young and older women together around the knitting needles. It is a story about life lessons, love lessons and all of the hiccups that happen during the day to day routine of it all. Truly a wonderful story that veered away from predictability and focused more on the unexpected human aspect of people and emotions. It is a great selection for a reading club comprised of a variety of women from different walks of life. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself yearning for knitting needles and wool at the end of this story – and be prepared to be inspired and but disappointed when you have to leave the characters at the end of the story.
My Personal Grade: A
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