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Amy Shearn (558 posts)
The Pay-it-Forward Pillow: How one single mother makes life a little more comfortable for people in pain.
The U.S. (just barely) made the list! The ten best countries for women.
Clear your financial clutter and build your wealth, all while watching "Dancing With the Stars."
The Life Lifter: After five years of living in the woods, this once-homeless grandmother was given an apartment of her own--and a way to find meaning in her ordeal.
In a few days, Rachel Held Evans will finally be able to cut her hair. She won't have to camp out in a purple tent in her front yard during her period anymore, and, thank goodness, she can stop submitting to her husband. No, she's not escaping some weird cult. She's ending her year-long project to literally follow the Bible's every rule for women.
As Evans told NPR recently, she's had plenty of odd moments in her year of living by the book, including standing by the "Welcome to Dayton" sign with a poster board that read, "Dan is Awesome." (Praising her husband at the gates, in accordance to Proverbs 31.) Following the Old and New Testaments to the letter has also involved making her own clothes, learning how to cook, abstaining from gossip, and nurturing a gentle and quiet spirit. Evans kept a blog about this "Womanhood Project" (no word on what the Bible says about blogging), and a few moments spent reading her posts reveal a woman on a sincere spiritual quest, going about things in a good-humored way.
What's so compelling about this project is that while it could easily sound like a way to poke fun at Evangelicals who claim to live by the book, Evans is herself a Christian with a thoughtful relationship to her religion. Also, she learned how to make toffee. And it's hard to argue with that.
Read more about religion and spirituality:
Find the right spiritual path for you.
How to be more spiritual every day.
Maybe this is why I'm so obsessed with Teenage Bedroom. The tagline: "This blog is my homage to all of us when we were still young and exciting, before we got old and boring." Exactly. Now when I think about decorating my home I lust over Design Within Reach catalogs, not photos of Jordan Catalano. Boooring!
The addictive blog is a mix of current teenagers' sanctuaries and current adult's aging photos of their own rooms as teenagers. One recent post reads: " I have great memories of my friend Steph and I painting an underwater scene on one wall, writing foolish things on my 'graffiti wall' and a giant Barney the dinosaur poster on one of my collage walls. It was a ridiculous bedroom but I loved being allowed the freedom to express myself in whatever way I wanted." Funny how as kids our rooms were our autobiographies, rather than an effort to be tasteful or stylish. Scrolling through the images evokes a shiver of nostalgia. And, I must admit, a dull grownup urge to tell everyone to clean up their rooms.
Read more about decorating:
A teenage bedroom makeover.
Redecorate a bedroom in one day.
For when you need a reminder that the world is a work of art: seeing Rothkos everywhere.
"But for each of us, isn't life about determining our own finish line? This journey has always been about reaching your own other shore no matter what it is, and that dream continues." Endurance swimmer (and Life Lift hero) Diana Nyad gives us a new way to think about so-called failure.
The novelist next door: An innovator of Arabic fiction lives in quiet obscurity in Chicago's subsidized housing.
Step away from the magnifying mirror! And 4 other things to avoid if you want to feel beautiful.
The Life-Lifter: "Kids lead a very private life. And I was a typical child (I think). I was a liar. I was out to protect my parents from hard truths." Whether you're a parent or not, you must read this illuminating interview with children's book author Maurice Sendak.
Eventually she did have a child of her own who at least had the good manners to be a boy (and not hog the fancy dresses). Still, it was my Aunt Mariana that I thought of when I read Kate Bolick's eloquent piece in the New York Times about aunthood. Bolick suggests that as more woman choose to stay childless, the devoted aunt is becoming an integral element of the modern family. And good thing for kids, since, as she writes, "The aunt exists outside the immediate family unit, ambassador to a universe of other options, as well as — crucially — a grown-up who isn’t an authority figure or disciplinarian." After all, how cool can your own parents be? Realistically, not very.
Today's aunt is less Auntie Em and more, as Bolick puts it, "the glamorously madcap Auntie Mame...Holly Golightly with crow’s feet." There's even an online community for PANKs, or Professional Aunts, No Kids, presumably a far more chic and fun personage than the Professional Mom. Still, Bolick argues that this familial role is underappreciated, and the essay diverts into a terrific rundown of aunthood (or lack therof) in mythology and around the world. But to me it also articulates something about what children (and maybe adults, too) crave in their lives: a relationship defined by "not only passionate love but blessed freedom;" a person who actually has attention for them and them alone.
How to be a super-Aunt: One woman's no-fail advice
Every Monday, we're rounding up the things, small and big, that make us stop and think. Today, we're inspired by...
"We all know about [balancing] diet and exercise, but I think the third piece is emotional stuff, and that's the piece I had never tackled before. I did a lot of emotional housecleaning, and then everything fell into place."
— Six-time triathlon competitor Jody Orfield, who got inspired to get in shape after her 25th high school reunion
"Then you finish writing the book, and it is both the chronicle and final proof of your escape."
— Novelist Colson Whitehead, via Twitter
"Releasing us is a good gesture, and no positive step should go unnoticed."
— Josh Fattal, one of the three hikers freed last week after two years in an Iranian prison
"I'd rather be in the writers' room complaining about how overworked I am than in the Bahamas, where I'm like, What am I doing here?"
— The Office writer and cast member Mindy Kaling
"And I also know that you don't have to make dinner every night to live a lovely life. "
-— Pink of Perfection blogger Sarah McColl
What has internet access, wheels, and a parking spot by the church? LA's cool new plan to fight STDs.
"He would give all his heart to you before he gave any to himself." In the wake of a bullied teenager's suicide, here's how you can help other kids.
Twenty-nine years ago, a man named Scott Fahlman introduced an invention that changed the world. The smiley emoticon.
Fahlman had noticed "lengthy diatribes" on message boards from people taking offense at misunderstood posts, so he proposed the use of a smiley— :-) —to indicate a joke or sarcasm, and the smiley's fraternal twin— :-( —to indicate something to be taken seriously. MSNBC has a fascimile of the (very funny) original smiley-introducing exchange in context.
As we now all know, Fahlman's innovation spawned a whole complex universe of emoticons (how does my mother-in-law know how to text me a heart? It really looks like a heart!). Fahlman's smiley has probably clarified millions of the uninflected jokes that boing around the Internet every day. But what I love most about this is the "of course!" of it all, how Fahlman created something so brilliantly simple that it seems inevitable, as if it must never have been invented at all. Which is what makes it such a smart innovation. There must be a word for that phenomenon. Or perhaps an emoticon.
Other brilliantly simple innovations:
A simple idea, inspired by her kids' shoes, turned this mom into a millionaire.
The evolution of an everyday object.
I'm a sucker for artifacts--yellowed yearbooks that end up in thrift stores, family photos sold at stoop sales, letters meant for someone else long ago. I once found an abandoned bag of sticker-covered notebooks from an aspiring model/yoga instructor on a Manhattan street and was beside myself with excitement, though I had that weird (and slightly guilty) feeling of having some responsibility to do something with them. Not that I ever did. So it was with a particular shiver that I discovered Paul Lukas' new "Permanent Record" series for Slate.
In 1996 when Lukas found 400 report cards from the Manhattan Trade School for Girls he didn't know quite what to do with them. The cards are reproduced on the site--fascinating documents that include photos of the students and their teachers' notes on everything from the girls' performance in school to their appearance and personal habits. (For example: "Walks around as if she were dying—absolutely pepless.") He writes, "It all reads like the storyboard for a movie or a play—the rough outline of a young woman's life, from her mid-teens through early adulthood, with the later chapters still to be written."
Recently Lukas started tracking down the ladies on the cards, contacting their families to see what became of them. The results of this sleuthing are being recorded on Slate and on Lukas's blog Permanent Record. There's something highly addictive about browsing through the annotated cards and photos, and reading about Lukas's encounters with the children of these women is strangely, deeply moving. These milliners and seamstresses probably never would have imagined that the mundane details of their lives--stunning attendance records, spotty job histories--would be so fascinating to us, here, today.
Maybe it's because we leave so much evidence of ourselves all over the place. Our career trajectories, families, even our teeniest likes and dislikes are plastered all over the internet. In such a world, there's something wonderful about the thought of being hard to find—and painstakingly tracked down.
Read more about finding treasures from the past:
Found: a 53-year-old love letter.
Peek inside Oprah's journals (she said it's okay).
Should you keep private letters and journals around?
Walker told the Associated Press that her reason to go digital was due to "a sense, lacking often in publishing, of connectedness with the author, of all of us being in this adventure together, wanting it to be the best."
For those of you who need a Walker fix immediately, check out this GalleyCat video of Walker talking about her life's work or just go hug all your old tear-stained paperback versions—and read them one last, wonderful time (cry, sniffle).