|Get the best of Oprah.com in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletters!|
Relationships (107 posts)
Sure, there have been a lot of surprise homecoming videos out there that make us glad to be humans on this big, confusing planet. But what this brother did at his sister's commencement—with the help of the college dean at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo—made us sob (quietly, ducking below computer screen) with happiness.
Many years ago, I knew a woman who couldn't wait for her boyfriend to go out without her on hot summer nights. That way, she could stay inside and scrub the floor in her underwear. And by underwear, I mean the genuine female article: white cotton, saggy, stretched elastic. She didn't want her boyfriend to see her like that, I assumed, because it conflicted with the rare but crucial poetic fictions that a couple often needs to survive long term.
These days, I know friends who indulge in all kinds of secret activities: say, smoking a forbidden cigarette or overeating alone. In my case, I wait until a night when my husband has to work really late and watch mindless romantic comedies back-to-back until 1 in the morning, while guzzling Diet Coke and a 2-pound bag of fat-free Twizzlers. Nobody, not even my husband, needs to see me passed out on the bed, mentally wounded (by choice!) from Kate Hudson movies, aspartame and artificial strawberry flavoring.
Then along with 4 million other people, I saw this video of a cat barking.
Here was this cat, in his hour of presumed privacy, barking away like a German shepherd. What was he thinking? Was he trying to protect the house? Did he have some kind transspecies issue, i.e., inside, he was secretly a dog? Or was he barking—like so many dogs do—just for the joy of it? This was what it felt like to me. Then again, I am not a cat.
The important part came when the cat realized that his owner was taping him and began instantly to meow. I wanted to say, "Don't change yourself for anybody! Bark it up! Be different! Be yourself!"
Instead, I thought about my old friend. I called her up. "Is the reason you don't wash the floor in front of your boyfriend, now husband, because you're embarrassed and you think he'll think of you differently?"
This morning, MSNBC's The Body Odd posted a story on whether you can die from laughter. (Spoiler: You can in cases of intense overexcitement, plus you can also black out from "overbreathing.")
But I prefer to think about the upside of cracking up. Laughter can lower your heart rate and blood pressure as well as reduce the constriction in your blood vessels. It can also help with your mental health. The problem is, we don't do it enough.
Enter psychologist Dr. Steve Wilson, founder of the World Laughter Tour, who trains nurses, doctors, social workers and lay people to run group therapy laughter circles. "Like music, art and certain physical movements," says Wilson, "laughter can help you work through emotional issues or simply help you feel better. But sometimes in life, we're told that our laughter is too loud, or too snorty. We're told to stop doing it. And we do.""
Surprisingly, he doesn't use jokes to help clients refind their inner laugh. Jokes can make the listener feel obligated to respond. "Fake crying doesn't help anybody," he says. "Why should fake laughter?"
Wilson, who formerly worked with celebrated laughter yoga guru Dr. Madan Kataria, uses a series of exercises designed to make you chortle, chuckle and just plain giggle like a fool. For example, there's the Hawaiian Handshake, where you say a rolling "aloha-a-a-a" which turns into a "ha ha" burst of laughter. Or there's the Burning Hot Sand, during which you imagine you're tiptoeing across boiling sand (ah, oo, oo, ah) ending in an ah-ha-ha. Over the phone, he demonstrated the Roller Coaster, ending in a long, sputtering round of ho-ho-hos. It wasn't funny. But I laughed. I couldn't stop, in fact.
"All humans are born to laugh," he claims. "Look at a baby. He lies in his crib, laughing at nothing. He's doesn't even have a sense of humor yet."
Groups, though, are the most effective way to get the laughter rolling. Accordingly, Wilson has been asked to run his workshops at weddings and bar mitzvahs, to bring family members together. I am considering inviting him to my mother's Fourth of July barbecue, sometime before Mom gives my kids their third red-white-and-blue Popsicle for breakfast but after my husband tries to grill on her tiny, toppling, coal grill from the '70s which requires an entire bottle of mind-numbing lighter fluid to produce sufficient flames for one very black hot dog.
Imagine grocery shopping at your local megastore, reaching down into the assortment of dented, limp red onions and pulling out an envelope with the words "This letter is for you" written on it in loopy blue ink. Would you leave it there because you might not be the real "you?" Would you open it on the spot? Or would you look both ways, then scurry off with it hidden in your purse to read later?
This spring, Brooklyn artist Liz Medina has been dropping off these anonymous missives around as part of her Eternally Yours project. She tucks them into bushes and weaves them into the spokes of bikes. She hides them in old antique cannons and on the shelves of toy stores and—just yesterday—in the bill of her restaurant check.
Each envelope contains three things: (1) a love letter that asks how you have been and tells you how wonderful you are, which you are invited to respond to, (2) a drawing that you are invited to add to artistically by drawing or painting or writing on it, (3) a prepaid envelope to send your contributions back.
"I'm trying to address the breakdown in traditional communication, such as with letters and writing," says Medina. "I want to ignite a small spark in people's lives, for them to feel a flash of joy as they go back and forth from work—if not some mystery."
Eternally Yours volunteers now hide letters in states as far flung as California, Texas and Iowa. Medina herself has tucked over 500 on her home turf of Brooklyn. Her favorite response back from a reader was a tiny scrap of torn white paper with the words "try harder" written by manual typewriter. But over 20 other examples are posted on her site.
"I went to art school to paint and draw," she says, "I thought I would spend my life simply perfecting those skills. But when I moved to New York, I decided to act on all the crazy ideas that I think about but never do. I mean, why not, if it makes people happy?"
Her next project is a 20-foot-tall inflatable gumball machine.
Our response: Why not, if makes people happy?
Tell about your love letters—the sweetest, the strangest, the one you wish you'd written...
It's often said that names can forge our destiny. Harry, the hairdresser, for example. Or Carol Moeller, the dental hygienist. Or Zoe Hamburger, the McDonald's account handler. (Check out this fun, silly list of names and professions.)
The Phil Campbells of the world had no such pretensions to glory. Their name linked them to small town in Alabama, also called Phil Campbell, which, in 2011, is celebrating its centennial. This spring, the plan was to welcome as many Phils to down south as possible, from as far away as possible, for the town's annual hoedown.
Then, on April 27, a tornado hit, killing 26 and decimating homes and businesses.
Instead of reveling in the streets, Phil Campbells (and one Phyllis) from all over the globe headed to Alabama last weekend to help rebuild those same streets, clearing debris, raising international attention, even organizing a movie-screening fundraiser. "I just thought we would be raking," Phil from Brooklyn told us. "But Big Phil from Wisconsin broke out the power tools and disassembled an entire wooden structure that had fallen over."
The website ImwithPhil.com, shows that Phils from Bowral, Australia, to Juneau, Alaska, have raised $35,000 to build a Habitat for Humanity home for one lucky family. "It was a profound experience," says Phil from Brooklyn. "But I don't want our names to overshadow the people of the town. They still need help."
To learn more, read The New York Times article or donate to the cause.
I was thinking of giving my husband the day off for Father's Day. He could laze in bed reading, and I would take care of the kids. But maybe I should let him take care of the kids...and I'll go catch a movie instead.
As we found out this morning on LifeInc.Today.com, women aren't the only ones struggling to find a balance between spending time with their family and advancing their careers. A study by the Boston College Center for Work & Family called The New Dad surveyed nearly 1,000 fathers, most of whom had wives who also worked. The men reported that they spent an average of 2.65 hours interacting with their children, and, when asked if they would like to spend more time with their children during the week, "77 percent of the fathers reported that they would."
Most importantly, 65 percent of the papas believed that care for the kids should be split 50-50 between both parents (though 65 percent of them admitted that the mamas actually gave more care).
I'm beginning to think the whole country should move Father's Day from Sunday to Monday, close all the post offices and businesses, and let dads stay at home to pick up the children from school, buy them an ice cream and, screaming in terror, chase after the kids as they pedal like speed-drunk bicycling maniacs toward the intersection, only to stop at the curb and ask innocently, "Pop? Why are you so upset?"
So let's stop showering Dad with cards and gifts. Let's make Father's Day about being a father—from carpooling to making spaghetti for supper to laughing over who exactly floated the bath toys in the toilet bowl (true story).
My dog Leonard was the smelliest dog on the earth. People used to walk into my house, sniff and then attempt to subtly breath through their mouths in order to avoid overtly holding their noses and offending us. One time at a dinner party, I was introduced to a woman who happened to be French.
"Oh," she said. "I know you. Vous etes la femme avec le grand chien qui pue." Translation: You're the lady with the big dog who stinks.
When I entered him into the Great American Mutt Show (a dog show especially for mixed breeds), the judges immediately kicked us out of the ring. I was outraged, so was Leonard. He broke free, hopped back into the ring and trotted around the circle, solo, until hustled away.
Imagine my delight when the American Kennel Club last week announced the official recognition of three new dog breeds: the American English coonhound, the Finnish Lapphund and the Cesky terrier (say those names three times fast).
According to the AKC website, American English coonhounds (at left) are "affectionate dogs that ... make great companions for active owners."
My dog Leonard was the smelliest dog on the earth. People used to walk into my house, sniff, and then attempt to subtly breath through their mouths, in order to avoid overtly holding their noses and offending us. One time at a dinner party, I was introduced to a woman who happened French. “Oh,” she said. “I know you. Vous etes la femme avec le grand chien qui pue.”
Translation: You’re the lady with the big dog who stinks.
Equally troubling was his appearance. Leonard had a mangy, mud-colored coat that lay plastered to his skeletal body even when dry. His ears were crooked, his teeth splayed at upsetting angles. When I entered him into the Great American Mutt Show—a dog show especially for mixed breeds—the judges immediately kicked us out of the ring. I was outraged, so was Leonard. He broke free, hoped back in the ring, and trotted around the circle, solo, until hustled away.
Imagine my delight when The American Kennel Club last week announced the official recognition of three new dog breeds: the American English Coonhound, the Finnish Lapphund, and the Cesky Terrier (say those names 3 times fast).
According to the AKC website, American English Coonhounds are “affectionate dogs that...make great companions for active owners.”
When it comes to listening to the issues of the people we care about, we so often try to say the right thing and end up saying the wrong thing. Or we worry that we're going to say the wrong thing, and say nothing (my specialty). But those days are now at an end. I'm just going to slap a magnet on everybody in the world, regardless of whether I know what his or her problems are:
A friend of mine recently handed me one of these. I hugged him so hard his head went wobbly. Then I said, "Can you give me nine more?"
"It's a magnet," he said. "How many refrigerators do you have?"
I said, "I'm at a point where I need to stick these puppies up even places they don't actually stick."
Back at home, with the help of Scotch tape, I posted them in every place in my house where I need the Invisible God of Encouragement to tell me that I wasn't alone and that I could, if I reached deep, keep going. Yes, I could make some kind of gluey pasta dinner (forgot to defrost the chicken) while hard-boiling eggs for tomorrow's lunch (husband ate the lunch meat) while sitting on hold with computer support (screen went black) while watching my 5-year-old try to dry his sopping wet sneakers (failed to buy a backup pair even though his school has a tennis-shoes-only policy) with a tiny plastic fan that is supposed to blow bubbles out of his bubble-making water gun.