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"I really wish somebody had told this to me..." Advice on creative work from a master storyteller.
Roasted red potatoes. Creamless mashed potatoes. These crowd-pleasing side dishes are tastier (and healthier) than cheese fries. Promise.
Some snowy beauty for a mundane mid-winter pick-me-up.
The Life-Lifter: What a way to say "thank you": A woman adopts a cat, and just a few hours later, the cat saves her life.
The most beautiful thing you'll see today: an enchanted world of fairy lights. Er, fireflies.
Someone wants that Christmas sweater. Clean out your closet and help others all at the same time.
And the royal puppy's name is...
"We were very tired, we were very merry": It's the birthday of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. Celebrate by reading her poems for free, here.
Each man carries so much on his shoulders. Even if he's made of plastic.
The Life-Lifter: I'll take my daily act of kindness of a scoop of ice cream, please: Customers "pie-it-forward" at this Illinois diner.
The causes are small-scale stories. To me this is exactly what makes HopeMob so compelling. When I think about big, abstract issues like hunger or deforestation my mind starts to blank out. But a 13-year-old boy with one tattered pair of shoes, who needs help getting more suitable footwear—that I can understand. A mother of four whose car has died. A little girl in Haiti who needs to get to the US for life-saving surgery.
HopeMob may not be as hilarious as, say, a 20,000-person flash mob dancing to the Black-Eyed Peas, but provides that same swell of "That is the coolest thing ever!" feeling, that sense of being a part of something special. Learn more about HopeMob and how to get involved here,
How to Choose a Health-Related Charity
Make a Difference in People's Lives
Like Facebook, Twitter and other popular social sites, Pinterest starts out as a simple lark and can quickly become a time-suck. But it can also be a great way to get ideas (What should I make for dinner tonight? What can I bring to my neighbor's house for that potluck next week? What can I do with this avocado besides make guacamole?). Before you fall down the Pinterest rabbit hole, here are a few pieces of advice:
DO create separate boards for each subject you like. Favorite recipes and drinks are common, but you don't have to be limited by broad categories. I've seen boards for canning, "inspiring cookies" and even peanut butter pies. Users can follow all your boards or just a single board.
DON'T just follow your friends. As with Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest lets you create a list of people to follow. It's fun to follow friends, of course, but some of the most interesting recipes you'll find on Pinterest might come from people you don't know. You can follow Oprah's Pinterest boards for everything from winter soups to delectable desserts, and here are 5 more fantastic boards I've started following:
Jane Wang's Delicious board
Allison Butt's Recipes board
Callye Alvarado's My Love Affair with Fig board
Marly's Best Vegetarian Sandwiches board
Whole Foods Market's Cheese Is the Bee's Knees board
We've all had email mishaps. Who hasn't forwarded a screed on annoying coworkers to those same annoying coworkers? (Uh, right?) And to the other Amy Shearn out there, your tiny new relative is really cute, but her daddy seems to have to wrong email address for you. But I've never heard a story of misdirected email as heartwarming as this one, brought to you by the always-wonderful Story Corps:
Story Corps Tips on Telling Stories With Pictures
The Real-Life Love Story Behind "Love Story"
What Grown-Up Love is All About
February is many things to many people: American Heart Month, Black History Month, Valentine's Day, a collection of gray weeks on the long sloppy slog towards spring. But did you know that it's also The Month of Letters? According to GalleyCat, the idea is to mail something through the post every day for the month of February. How fun, to revive the lost art of letter-writing, and most of all, to get to do things like buy stamps and find the nearest mailbox! Still, I admit the idea of this challenge makes me little nervous. I know I was a pretty killer letter-writer when my Australian penpal and I were doing our thing back in the early '90s, but at this point do I even remember how?
Luckily GalleyCat has our backs with a Spotify playlist devoted to the art and science of the letter. Seriously, there are more songs about writing letters than I ever realized. So fortify yourself with a cup or three of coffee, sharpen that pencil, rustle up some paper, and get inspired by Nick Cave, Natalie Merchant, Johnny Cash, and of course, Dolly Parton, all crooning epistolatory tunes. February is feeling better already.
A Love Letter to the World
Write a Note to Your Future Self
She hasn't even started college yet, but 16-year-old Erin King is already making her future MIT classmates look like slackers. According to this awesome post at boing boing, MIT acceptance letters are sent in cardboard tubes (as if you didn't know that!), and this year all the accepted students were asked to somehow hack their tubes. The results—all creative, funny, smart—are collected here at the official Hack the Tubes site. Erin, however, took her hacking very seriously, and sent her tube to outer space. You must see this video, which shows how Erin and her friends prepared the tube for its interstellar journey, and includes astounding video from the point of view of the adventurous tube. How cool is that?
I can't help myself, here it comes...REACH FOR THE STARS, ERIN!
Wonder what this kid will come up with next?
Wonderfully, there is an entire wall devoted to polar bears. Here you can play explorer with actual live web cams, view cute polar bear pic after cute polar bear pic, and enjoy the zen stroll of a polar bear loping across a snowy terrain. Just watch this bear's peaceful walk: And best of all, explore.org is more than just another repository of blood-pressure-lowering videos. The organization describes themselves as "philanthropic based media to champion the selfless acts of others, create a portal into the soul of humanity and inspire lifelong learning." The site serves as a kind of gathering place for the documentation of all manner of community-minded and good-doing organizations and projects. Which is all well and good, of course it is. But also, how nice, to find another happy place online, devoted to media that actually makes you feel better, that focuses on the beauty of the world—and the peaceful ambling of polar bears.
More Blood-Pressure-Lowering Videos:
A Surfer Ponders His Place in the World
The Gorgeousness of the Aurora Borealis
One evening my family was returning from a dinner out, just as the sky got dark. When my two-year-old asked why the sun was setting, I opened my mouth to deliver my standard response ("Because it's bedtime") when my husband said, "Well actually it's because the Earth is a sphere, you see," and went on to rather cogently explain the rotation of the Earth and its interactions with the Sun. She finally cut him off, frustrated: "No, Daddy! It's just a regular day!"
I know what she means. Even I (so old and so wise) find it difficult to reconcile the extraordinary world we live in, full of mysterious phenomena like magnetic poles and solar flares and wireless internet, with the ordinary version of it that I inhabit. I mean, not to be a total philistine or anything but... gets dark because it's bedtime. Right?
Thank goodness for astronauts like Clayton Anderson, who tweeted this astounding time lapse video of the Aurora Borealis as seen from the International Space Station.
The uncomprehending child in me watches this video again and again and thinks, Wow! Gee! The world is so pretty and magical! And then the adult version of me takes a moment to check out the excellent video created by Norwegian filmmaker Per Byhring and the Physics Department at the University of Oslo, which actually explains how the Aurora Borealis works.
And so as it turns out, even on just a normal day, unthinkable, complex, and fascinating things are happening all around us.
(For even more celestial beauty, spend the next 12 hours or so gazing at the Aurora Sky Station's live cam. Seriously, it's hard to stop.)
More Amazing Videos:
Stills of the Heart
Lego Man in Space
A Moment of Pure Wonder
What would you tell your future self, if you could deliver her a letter? What do you want to remember, to hold onto, to figure out, to forget? Would it be anything like the above examples?
You could invent time travel and fly through dimensions to deliver the message, or you could just visit FutureMe.org, where people can write emails to their future selves and program when they are delivered. The instant I heard about this site I knew what I would write to my future self: People are always telling you to enjoy every minute of this time when your kids are small, and you do enjoy a great deal of it, but a lot of it is hard work. Whatever you do, don't turn into one of those old ladies who says "Enjoy every minute!" to frazzled, exhausted parents.
One of the best things about this site is that although they keep your information private, many of the letters appear (anonymously) online. It's fascinating (and, watch out, addictive) to read through these emails: Some people write themselves notes of encouragement, reminders to follow their dreams, reminders of what those dreams are. A few are frustrated rants about a bad situation; some are hilarious, like one man's writing to provide proof of a bet he and a friend have made about the longevity of Peyton Manning.
Clever, no? And so much easier than time travel.
A Letter to Your Teenaged Self
What 5 Powerful Women Wished They Knew Then