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Leigh Newman (186 posts)
Monday is too stressful. Wednesday is already hump day. But Tuesday is "you" day: a day when you have the energy to do—or plan—something fresh and unexpected that might just turn your whole week around.
Stop everything and honor one of the most important holidays of the year today: International Chocolate Day. How to create a party your friends will never forget by throwing a wine and chocolate tasting.
Some people were taken aback by Mad Men siren Christina Hendrick's plunging gown at the New York premiere of I Don't Know How She Does It (also starring Sarah Jessica Parker), but we loved it. How to look your best in evening wear, especially when you're well endowed.
Be aware this September, National Ovarian Cancer Month. How to take a fast, simple quiz prepared by Dr. Oz that can help you figure out if you're displaying any early symptoms of the disease—and, if need be, get crucial help.
Married? Make sure your husband knows—and remembers—that this Saturday is Wife Appreciation Day. How to make yourself heard, even by busy spouses. Or how to make a bullhorn out of a milk container in order to get your message across about your love of breakfast in bed.
Like all of us, I've had a couple of rough times in my life—wrong job, wrong city, wrong direction, right guy but...whoops...he's not interested. Unfortunately, I also have a smile addiction. All through these less-than-happy periods, I'd slap on my cheerful face at work and at home. When people asked, I'd said, "Everything's fine. Thanks!" Or "just plugging along!"
The problem with this coping strategy is your day-to-day inner unhappiness quickly becomes the new emotional standard. You wake up unhappy every day but don't realize that you're unhappy because you're so used to it. One time, after listening to me talk on the phone for a while, my friend Elisabeth said, "Gee, you're really having a terrible time." A gong went off in my head. I was having a terrible time. What she had done was connect the dots for me, and the minute she did, I felt a whooshing—almost euphoric—sense of relief.
Now there's a site that will do your emotional charting for you. Moodpanda.com creates time graphs and charts from the "mood" data you insert daily. It may sound a little hokey, but looking at how you're feeling over the long term can be really interesting—and often different than short term. (For instance, this month, I'd probably say I'm "just doing okay," but actually, when you add up emotional scores from all 30 of my days, the consensus is that, surprise, I'm pretty happy!)
The added bonus? The little bits of mood analysis, such as the fact that weekends are universal happiest days of the week, while Wednesday—for some as yet still unknown reason—is the saddest. My advice is to buck the trend and, that day, buy yourself a lunch that ends in mood-lifting chocolate.
No matter what happens in your day to day, mindfulness matters. Here's a few new reasons why to get present about your present.
Living to Live, Not Eat
Eating with your non-dominant hand (say, lefties eating popcorn with their right hand hand or righties eating with their left) may cause you to consume less food, The LA Times reported last week, because it disrupts your habits and causes you to be more aware of what you're consuming.
The Fear Factor
This month researchers at the University of Cambridge found that putting 14-year-old and 15-year-old boys on a meditation regime increased their well being—mostly dramatically in those "who suffered from higher levels of anxiety." Totally unscientifically speaking, if a bunch of hormone-fueled teenage boys can get themselves to sit down, focus, and be still and calm....we all can. (Via Science.com)
The Exercise To Try
Breathe out your dark cloud. O magazine's Martha Beck shows us how to be mindful in five easy focusing steps.
As children in school, we all were taught about the Holocaust. At night, in bed, I used to wonder what I would do in a situation like that: would I have the courage to stand up and do something? The question stays with me, especially as I age and realize how complicated moral lines can be when it comes to one's own survival.
One of the most astonishing and uplifting things to come out of the coverage of the 9/11 anniversary is the stories of the people who risked everything to save others—not just the fireman, police, and hospital workers, but ordinary people like the gentleman who carried a woman in a wheelchair down 68 flights to safety or the man in the red bandana.
The story I've never heard before is about the private boat captains who responded to the call by the Coast Guard for help with the stranded victims on the southern tip of Lower Manhattan. In this moving new video by The Road to Resilience organization, we watch as nearly 500,000 people are saved and carried across the waters of the Hudson—an act of bravery that turned out to be the largest sea evacuation in world history.
I keep thinking about what I want to take away from this Sunday—and what I want to remember long after the day is over. Perhaps Robin Jones, the hardboiled engineer of the Mary Gellatly, best described what we should always keep in mind, in terms of all of our lives. "I believe everybody has a little hero in 'em," he says in the video. "You gotta look in there. It'll come out, if need be."
I spent eight months picking out the wallpaper for my kitchen. I taped samples on the wall. I grilled my family, my neighbors and poor, innocent, befuddled dinner guests. I sat for hours, staring at the different options, trying to pick the one square of printed, decorative paper that said "me!"
Trying to express ourselves through chosen objects—be they wallpaper, raincoats, or living room couches—can be exhausting, and yet we all seem to love ultimately finding things that let both the world and us know who we are.
Which is why I thoroughly enjoyed the silly yet oddly satisfying quiz/game/10-minute time suck that Firefox has developed called Webify Me. In a nutshell, you answer a series of questions about yourself and your use of new technology, and—presto!—the gizmo comes up with a desk filled with items that represent you, from compasses and magazines to seashells, crayons and action figures.
The bonus? As you scroll over each item, pop-ups appear explaining why and how it relates to you, usually with a flattering comment, such as "You use many different tools to communicate your vision, Traveler, " or "You're a class act, even when you let loose." A little senseless yet very specific flattery from an algorithm can do wonders for your morning.
By now, most of us have heard of Outsider artists—artists who create works without any formal art instruction or ties to museums or galleries. Recently we discovered Jerry Gretzinger, who maybe an Outsider, but who can articulate his vision so that anybody can see—feel—the importance of his work. In his Vimeo clip, Jerry describes the map he has been making in his basement since childhood, a map of an imaginary world filled with cities, farms, roads, woodlands, and just about every feature the regular word possesses.
True, not everybody can spend their days working on painting, and if we did, we might create something whose progress is not solely dependent on the shuffle of a deck of cards. Still, there's so much to be inspired by Jerry's dedication (note: the map now has 2,000 panels) and ideas. What struck us most, however, was the void, the mysterious white splotch that threatens to block out his map.
"There is one defense against the creep of void," Jerry says. "There is a...wall, and part of it has been built around...the biggest city on the map." This is complicated. If we think of the void as a threat to the world of Jerry imagination, something that will wipe his map out, then drawing a big stone wall may be an excellent idea in order to protect his creation and his creativity. But what if the void is something else? Inside the white void, Jerry also says, "is a bud of gray...it's a whole new world for me." So perhaps by building a wall, he's limiting his own progress, by denying the end of his old map and the start of a new one.
Our takeaway: We all have a void of some kind or another—a problem, a fear, a worst-case scenario, something that seems to threaten what we've spent so long creating. Maybe the first step to being less afraid of it is understanding that, in certain cases, destruction may be just want we need to move on.
When it comes to gardening, Classie Parker is the fairy grandmother who we all long for—except that she doesn't turn pumpkins into coaches or mice into footmen. Instead she does something much more powerful and true-to-life. This spunky, funny, vegetable grower visits different communities in New York, "teaching people how to put the love in their food" by instructing them in the forgotten art of canning. Along the way, she inspires all who listen to her about passing along the lessons of our "mommas..grandmommas...and great-grandmommas..." as you'll see in this video that Etsy put together.
The takeaway: Whether or not you grow peppers and cucumbers in your backyard, whether or not you can those veggies with garlic or don't can them with garlic or don't can them at all, it's worth remembering that what we eat and how we share it is, as Classie says, "what brings people together."
I often like to think that I'm different kind of learner. I didn't do particularly well on the SATs before college or the GREs afterward, or even my driver's license test. My children, too, I found, suffered from the same plight. They didn't score well on our city's Gifted and Talented exams, despite my flashcards and enforced workbook sessions. Could it be, I wondered—loudly, repeatedly, insistently, to anyone that would listen—that none of us were wired for important, multiple choice questions? Was it all about how and not what we learned?
Imagine my chagrin at the findings presented recently on NPR's Morning Edition, which suggested that none of us learn particularly differently and that teachers shouldn't alter their teaching styles. Talking to Doug Roher, a psychologist at the University of South Florida, the radio show reported that when it came to learning styles, Roher found no scientific evidence about different kinds of students. "We have not found evidence from a randomized control trial supporting any of these," he said, "and until such evidence exists, we don't recommend that they be used" in the classroom.
But what impressed me most was the opposite idea, presented by Dan Willingham of the University of Virginia who suggested it might be more useful to figure out similarities in how our brains learn, rather than differences. For example, "Mixing things up is something we know is scientifically supported as something that boosts attention," he told NPR.
For me this opened a whole new window of opportunity. My kids and I will now spend 15 minutes learning to advance ourselves in terms of math (them) or bill-paying on line (me), then 15 minutes learning hand-eye-coordination sling-shotting parrots into cargo boxes for points on Angry Birds, then spend 15 minutes picking up Legos (okay, that's not learning, but I like not slipping on a lethally slippery plastic cubes on the way to the bathroom) until, by god, we are all geniuses—or maybe just normal people, trying to pick up what they can, as best they can.
Every week, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. On sale today, the short story collection...
Blueprints for Building Better Girls
By Elissa Schappell
Elissa Schappell is not for the fainthearted. In this collection of eight revelatory, risky stories, we meet the girls that all mothers fear their daughter might become—or, to varying degrees, the girls we might have become ourselves. One turns to hate to cover her vulnerability, while another suffers from an eating disorder, in some part due to her mother's all-consuming embrace. The most shocking story follows a college coed through her days of binge drinking and blacking out during a relentless parade of frat house parties. Surprisingly, it's also the most moving. Schappell has the ability—and the guts—to cut straight through the "girls gone wild" images that inevitably throb to mind (ouch) and show us the tender and often hopeful human beings that live inside these women-to-be.
In one upsetting scene, a group of angry, male bar patrons chases the coed and her friends across a deserted parking lot. As she jumps into a car to escape, the coed feels her mother's treasured strand of pearls break and must leave those pearls rolling hopelessly across the asphalt—save for one, about which she wonders if she has any right to even keep. "Maybe some farm kid walking down the street would find it..." she says. "And then they'd think that maybe the world wasn't as ugly as they thought it was. Maybe there was magic in it after all."
A rule for us all: There is always magic in a gift from your mother. Always.
Raising four kids—including one set of twins—is challenging enough. But when we heard about the Manning's family struggles once their premie 3-pound son developed a bacterial infection that resulted in a stroke and seizures, two million dollars in medical bills, and a host of other seemingly insurmountable family problems, from lost jobs to marital issues, we were astounded not just by how these folks survived, but how and why they thrived.
As Alice Manning speaks, there is so much to be inspired by, including how she used her creativity to reflect on her experiences and how her Los Angeles community rallied around her family. But note what Manning says at the very end: "The biggest lesson for me is that it's not about the future. You know, it's not about 'I'm going to be so happy when this is over'...because we experienced everything else being taken away, and when everything else is taken away, I have to see that there is only one thing left...and that's the option to love, the option to see my circumstances as an opportunity."
Thank you, Alice, for reminding us once again: Love is not just a feeling. It's also a choice.