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Culture

USPS announces 'The Giving Tree' stamp. Do they know what they've unleashed?

USPS announces 'The Giving Tree' stamp. Do they know what they've unleashed?

People have WILDLY different opinions on "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein.

I was excited to read "The Giving Tree" to my children when they were little. I'd read the Shel Silverstein classic so many times as a kid and remembered loving it. In my memory, it was a poetic story of a tree that gave selflessly, never expecting anything in return, and of the undying love she had for a little boy who eventually turned into an old man.

"And the tree was happy." It was sweet, I thought.

Then I read the book again as an adult and noticed some things I hadn't as a child. While I had focused on the generosity of the tree as a child, this time the boy-who-becomes-a-man stood out. Wow, what a selfish jerk he was. And the tree, while admirably willing to give selflessly, seemed a little too giving. Martyrdom for an important cause is one thing; sacrificing everything you are for a guy who uses you over and over and takes without any thought to your needs or well-being is entirely another.


I soon found out I wasn't alone in feeling conflicted about the story. In fact, "conflicted" is an understatement compared to what some people feel about it. Some say that it's the worst story they've ever read. Even some die-hard Shel Silverstein fans hate it. Others will defend it to their last breath as their favorite book of all time.

Publicist Eric Alper shared the news that U.S. Postal Service will be issuing a "The Giving Tree" forever stamp later this year, and the comments show how wildly people's opinions differ on this book.

Alper didn't share any commentary with the news. He just wrote, "The U.S. Postal Service will release a stamp to honor Shel Silverstein and his 'The Giving Tree' book in 2022."

But with the way people responded, you'd think he'd said, "Puppies are ugly and Paul Rudd is the devil."

People flooded the comments with their thoughts on the book, with many unleashing their fury over the book's premise:

"Ugh- this book keeps coming up! It’s a great representation of a manipulative, one-sided, narcissistic relationship. I can’t stand it."

"Nooooo! Not that! Anything but that! It's awful! A poor example! Bleah! Shel had so many great books. This is the only one I hate! I disagree with the modeling here. Very unhealthy! So sad."

"Hate that book. Teaches children how to not have boundaries. Love everything else by Uncle Shelby."

"Are you kidding me?!?! Let’s make a stamp celebrating how to be so selfish and keep taking until there’s nothing left to take. This was literally the worst children’s story ever written!!!!"

Others gave a bit less vehement responses, explaining exactly what their negative experiences with the book were:

"I picked this book up one day and started reading it to my kids, not knowing what I was getting into. And I found myself saying 'This boy is terrible!', after every page. And I looked at my kids and I said 'I love you, and I am so grateful for you, but you are going to grow up and take care of yourselves and you are not getting all my leaves.'"

"I do not understand why people love this book. On one side of the relationship there’s a someone who takes and takes and is perfectly happy for the tree to give all of itself while giving absolutely nothing in return. On the other side there’s the tree who literally destroys itself and only finds self-worth in sacrifice. It’s sickening."

Lovers of the book spoke their minds as well, sharing their perspectives that the book is about unconditional love:

"I am so excited about this stamp. As a kindergarten teacher, I read to my class several times every year. We would all have tears in our eyes by the end of the book!"

"All you haters have missed the point. The tree represents the parents. They give all they have to give for their children's success, and are brought the greatest joy and pain watching them grow and leave them."

"I love this book so much. As soon as I became a mom I understood exactly what was going on here. I’d give every last ounce of me to make my kiddo happy."

"This book is about sacrifice, and how the tree embodies nothing but love for the little boy. My 'Giving Tree' was my daddy, not because of financial reasons, but for his unwavering love for me."

"Wow! The comments are heartbreaking. This book is about unconditional love. I guess that’s been cancelled."

Interestingly, some people shared that they love the book precisely because of the problematic relationship they see in it:

"I love this book because it teaches a person what happens if he/she remains in an unhealthy relationship. In the end, both are sad."

"Maybe I’m alone in this but I always read it as a cautionary tale. Be careful how much you take from someone, someday you’ll learn that you’ve taken too much."

"I don’t hate this book. It is a cautionary tale. Teach your child that taking, taking, taking all the time will destroy the giver. (and the taker will lose their friend) Teach your child that while giving is good, too much is not healthy. Teach your child boundaries!!"

"I kinda noticed as a child, the person was kinda greedy and only visited when he wanted to take. As an adult leaving a narcissistic marriage, boom! Whoa! Good book tho. I'd honestly use this book to teach about it and how it's nice to give, but have boundaries."

One thing is certain: The book still has us talking after 57 years.

Perhaps the mark of a brilliant book isn't in teaching a clear lesson but in getting people talking. Different people take different things from stories, and good literature prompts discussion over those perspectives. It's not as often that we get this kind of debate out of a seemingly simple children's book, but Shel Silverstein had a way of tapping into adult complexity while writing for children, and he's certainly done it with "The Giving Tree."

Good for USPS for honoring Silverstein and his work with a stamp—and good luck with the can of worms it opened by choosing to do it with this particular book.

Pop Culture

Airbnb host finds unexpected benefits from not charging guests a cleaning fee

Host Rachel Boice went for a more "honest" approach with her listings—and saw major perks because of it.

@rachelrboice/TikTok

Many frustrated Airbnb customers have complained that the separate cleaning fee is a nuisance.

Airbnb defines its notorious cleaning fee as a “one-time charge” set by the host that helps them arrange anything from carpet shampoo to replenishing supplies to hiring an outside cleaning service—all in the name of ensuring guests have a “clean and tidy space.”

But as many frustrated Airbnb customers will tell you, this feature is viewed as more of a nuisance than a convenience. According to NerdWallet, the general price for a cleaning fee is around $75, but can vary greatly between listings, with some units having cleaning fees that are higher than the nightly rate (all while sometimes still being asked to do certain chores before checking out). And often none of these fees show up in the total price until right before the booking confirmation, leaving many travelers feeling confused and taken advantage of.

However, some hosts are opting to build cleaning fees into the overall price of their listings, mimicking the strategy of traditional hotels.

Rachel Boice runs two Airbnb properties in Georgia with her husband Parker—one being this fancy glass plane tiny house (seen below) that promises a perfect glamping experience.

@rachelrboice Welcome to The Tiny Glass House 🤎 #airbnbfinds #exploregeorgia #travelbucketlist #tinyhouse #glampingnotcamping #atlantageorgia #fyp ♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim

Like most Airbnb hosts, the Boice’s listing showed a nightly rate and separate cleaning fee. According to her interview with Insider, the original prices broke down to $89 nightly, and $40 for the cleaning fee.

But after noticing the negative response the separate fee got from potential customers, Rachel told Insider that she began charging a nightly rate that included the cleaning fee, totaling to $129 a night.

It’s a marketing strategy that more and more hosts are attempting in order to generate more bookings (people do love feeling like they’re getting a great deal) but Boice argued that the trend will also become more mainstream since the current Airbnb model “doesn’t feel honest.”

"We stay in Airbnbs a lot. I pretty much always pay a cleaning fee," Boice told Insider. "You're like: 'Why am I paying all of this money? This should just be built in for the cost.'"

Since combining costs, Rachel began noticing another unexpected perk beyond customer satisfaction: guests actually left her property cleaner than before they were charged a cleaning fee. Her hypothesis was that they assumed she would be handling the cleaning herself.

"I guess they're thinking, 'I'm not paying someone to clean this, so I'll leave it clean,'" she said.

This discovery echoes a similar anecdote given by another Airbnb host, who told NerdWallet guests who knew they were paying a cleaning fee would “sometimes leave the place looking like it’s been lived in and uncleaned for months.” So, it appears to be that being more transparent and lumping all fees into one overall price makes for a happier (and more considerate) customer.

These days, it’s hard to not be embittered by deceptive junk fees, which can seem to appear anywhere without warning—surprise overdraft charges, surcharges on credit cards, the never convenience “convenience charge” when purchasing event tickets. Junk fees are so rampant that certain measures are being taken to try to eliminate them outright in favor of more honest business approaches.

Speaking of a more honest approach—as of December 2022, AirBnb began updating its app and website so that guests can see a full price breakdown that shows a nightly rate, a cleaning fee, Airbnb service fee, discounts, and taxes before confirming their booking.

Guests can also activate a toggle function before searching for a destination, so that full prices will appear in search results—avoiding unwanted financial surprises.


This article originally appeared on 11.08.23

National Autistic Society/Youtube

"Diverted" educational video shared through the Too Much Information Campaign.

Everyone who lives with autism experiences it somewhat differently. You'll often hear physicians and advocates refer to the spectrum that exists for those who are autistic, pointing to a wide range of symptoms and skills.

But one thing many autistic people experience is sensory processing issues.


For autistic people, processing the world around them when it comes to sight, smell, or touch can be challenging, as their senses are often over- or under-sensitive. Certain situations — like meandering through a congested mall or enduring the nonstop blasting of police sirens — can quickly become unbearable.

This reality is brought to life in a new video by the U.K.'s National Autistic Society (NAS).

The eye-opening PSA takes viewers into the mind of a autistic woman as she thinks about struggling to stay composed in a crowded, noisy train.

It's worth a watch:

The PSA hit especially close to home for 22-year-old actress and star of the video Saskia Lupin, who is autistic herself. "Overall I feel confused," she said, of abrupt changes to her routine. "Like I can't do anything and all sense of rationality is lost."

She's not alone.

According to a study cited in NAS' press release, 75% of autistic people say unexpected changes make them feel socially isolated. What's more, 67% reported seeing or hearing negative reactions from the public when they try to calm themselves down in such situations — from eyerolls and stares to unwelcome, hurtful comments.

The new PSA aims to improve that last figure in particular.

It's part of the organization's Too Much Information campaign — an initiative to build empathy and understanding in allistic (i.e., not autistic) people for those on the spectrum.

Autism Awareness Day, campaign, World Autism Awareness Week

Campaign by National Autistic Society created to share the autistic experience to the world.

Photo from Pixabay

"It isn't that the public sets out to be judgmental towards autistic people," Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS, said in a statement in 2016. It's just that, often, the public doesn't "see" the autism.

"They see a 'strange' man pacing back and forth in a shopping center," Lever explained, "or a 'naughty' girl having a tantrum on a bus, and don't know how to respond."

Well, now we do.

Instead of staring, rolling your eyes, or thinking judgmental thoughts about the young person's parents, remember: You have no idea what that stranger on the train is going through.

“We can't make the trains run on time," said Lever. But even the simplest, smallest things — like remembering not to stare and giving a person some space and compassion if they need it — can make a big difference.


This article originally appeared on 03.28.18

Pop Culture

A brave fan asks Patrick Stewart a question he doesn't usually get and is given a beautiful answer

Patrick Stewart often talks about his childhood and the torment his father put him and his mother through.

Patrick Stewart often talks about his childhood and the torment his father put him and his mother through. However, how he answered this vulnerable and brave fan's question is one of the most eloquent, passionate responses about domestic violence I've ever seen.



WARNING: At 2:40, he's going to break your heart a little.

You can read more about Heather Skye's hug with Captain Picard at her blog.


This article originally appeared on 06.26.13.


How to clear a stuffy nose instantly.

With cold season upon us, there's no better time to learn a couple of awesome and easy tricks that will clear up the dreaded and annoying stuffy nose.

Prevention magazine created a short video showing two easy ways to get you breathing free again no matter how stuffed up you might be.


Both tricks take less than two minutes and are certainly worth trying out when it feels like that runny nose might never go away.


Watch the YouTube video below:

This article first appeared on 9.8.17.

Family

Heartwarming comics break down complex parenting issues with ease

Lunarbaboon comics tackle huge, important subjects with an effective, lighthearted touch that you can't help but smile at.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

Writing comics helped a father struggling with anxiety and depression.

Christopher Grady, a father and teacher from Toronto, was struggling with anxiety and depression. That's when he started drawing.

He describes his early cartoons and illustrations as a journal where he'd chronicle everyday moments from his life as a husband, elementary school teacher, and father to two kids.

"I needed a positive place to focus all my thoughts and found that when I was making comics I felt a little bit better," he says.

He began putting a few of his comics online, not expecting much of a response. But he quickly learned that people were connecting with his work in a deep way.


The comics series called Lunarbaboon was born, and the response to the first few was so powerful that Grady was inspired do more with his comics than just document his own experience.

"I began getting messages from many people about how they connected to the comics and it gave them hope and strength as they went through their own dark times," he says.

"When they look back…they probably won't remember what was said…or where you were when you said it. They may not remember any details of your time together. But they will remember that you were there…and that's what matters most."

"Usually the circle of people we can support, help, influence is limited to our families, friends, coworkers, random stranger at the bus stop, but with my comic I suddenly found my circle of power was much much larger," Grady explains. "I guess I decided to use this power for good."

Grady continued to draw, making a point to infuse the panels with his own special brand of positivity.

"Kids are always watching adults and they look to the adults as role models," he says. "I try to show (my kids and students) that even with all my flaws and weaknesses I am still a good person and I can still make a positive change in the world."

Lunarbaboon comics tackle huge, important subjects with an effective, lighthearted touch that you can't help but smile at.

Check out Grady's take on teaching his son about consent. (All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission.)

consent, relationship advice, father son advice, family

A comic about listening and respecting your partner.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

Here's one about parents being supportive of a gay son or daughter.

sexual orientation, parenting gay children, positive messages, gender orientation

Parents being supportive of their gay son.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

On raising girls in a patriarchal world.

adulting, education, medical field, dreams

Comic encourages girls to chase all their dreams.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

And here's a sweet one about appreciating the heck out of his wife.

motherhood, moms, childbirth, family

Mom one ups dad easily.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

Big topics. Important issues. Grady tackles them with humility and ease.

As Lunarbaboon has continued to grow, Grady says the messages of support he gets have become increasingly powerful.

He certainly doesn't claim to have all the answers to all the complexities of parenting, but he does say that "people like knowing they aren't alone in life's daily struggles. Most people who contact me just want to say thank you for putting something positive into the world."

Grady doesn't expect his Lunarbaboon comics to fix rape culture or end bigotry. He just hopes his message of love, inclusion, and positivity continues to spread.

inclusion, gender roles, social anxiety, happy

Teaching children to accept what might be different.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

"My hope is that for the short time people read it they smile and feel good," he says. "Then I hope they take that good feeling and smile into the world and make it slightly brighter."

You can check out even more of Grady's awesome work over on his website or in his newly published book.


This article was originally published on 11.30.17