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happiness (203 posts)
How is it that inanimate objects are so often so eloquent? We know they are just things, but we love our things. I know I like to think of myself as too deep and unsuperficial to really care about material things, and yet, when my home almost burned down (I exaggerate slightly) I spent the remainder of the day wandering around in a daze, loving all those dumb things: the sticks my kids collect and the photograph of my grandmother holding baby-me, yes, but also, the rocking chair, the potted plants, the bathroom sink. Maybe those things aren't me, exactly, but those mute hunks of wood and plastic and stone are my life. And though I don't think of myself as having a lot of things, compared to the Chinese farmers photographed by Huang Qingjun my small home becomes a low-rent-version of the British Museum.
According to the BBC, Huang Qingjun has spent the past decade traveling around China's rural areas, photographing people outside their homes with all of their material possessions. (The BBC has a can't-miss slide show of his photographs.) The photographs are haunting portraits of the simple way people still live in the quickly-changing country. But they tell stories, too -- a story of forced change, in the case of a couple posing in front of their house which has been slated for demolition; a story of intentional change, in the case of families proudly displaying their modern DVD players and satellite dishes.
it's impossible to look at these photographs and not think, "That's IT?" I'd like to think I could live so simply as these families, possessing only what I needed to work and make food and little else, but it takes me about twelve seconds to start wondering, but what do they do in their free time? (The answer is, probably, what free time?) Where are the books and games and photographs and all those other things that we think make our homes our homes? And what would my life be, who would I be, in a yurt on the plain?
Read the entire article for more, including the the wonderful history of the "Four Big Things."
What Are Your Chairs Telling You?
The History of the World in 100 Objects
As Martha Beck writes on this very site, to live a life rich with everyday miracles, all one needs is a " sense of what's probable—and a world filled with moments of grace, strange synchronicities, and perhaps (who knows?) the occasional bedroom full of guardian angels." So where are your everyday miracles today? And when they appear, will you let them in?
The Big Question: An Adventure or a Nap?
The 23-Year-Long Road Trip
Wait...Tea? I'm such a caffeine fiend that my 3-year-old is trained to wake me up with a "Mama, it's time to make your cup of coffee!" But the way
blogger (Tea & Cookies) and author (The Butcher and The Vegetarian) Tara Austen Weaver writes about tea, I almost believe I love it as much as she does.
In a recent post, Weaver, who shares my morning routine obsession, writes: "I know some who eat the same breakfast, day in and day out. Some people use the same bowl or cup (a friend of mine recently visited and brought her favorite mug with her). There are tea and coffee rituals galore. These are the ways we lure ourselves out of bed, ground ourselves for the day ahead." As all of us routine-obsessed folks know, the morning ritual takes on heightened significance around this time of year. Mornings are darker and chillier, making it harder to launch out of a cozy bed. Those of us who leap out of bed are forced to awaken in those way-way-pre-dawn hours really need a good reason to make the eternal trek from the bed to not-the-bed.
Like, maybe, the promise of the perfect cup. Coffee, tea, whatever it is doesn't really matter. As Weaver puts it, "What matters is that I do it. That I take the time for this small thing that grounds me for the rest of the day. That even on hectic mornings, in fearful times, on shaky ground, I am able to wrap my hands around a warm cup, inhale a fragrance both comforting and calming. In that small moment I feel like, Yes, I can do this. And then I get on with my day."
Because she can. And I can. And you can.
(Read Weaver's entire blog post for its rapturous celebration of that morning cup of tea but also for the can't-miss comments, in which her readers share their own lovely morning musts, snuggly cats, oldies stations and all.)
What Successful People Do in the Mornings
17 Ways to Get Out the Door Faster
Stress-Proof your AM Hours
No, I'm not suggesting any sort of twit-pic-ing. Rather, this is about Blog For Your Breasts Day, a day of internet awareness-raising. Breast Cancer Awareness month can be a tricky time for women; we want to get involved and show how much we care and fight against this awful disease, and we suspect that eating yogurt with a pink ribbon on the top isn't quite cutting it. But we're not, most of us, medical researchers. We're not (all) oncologists. How can just caring make a difference? Well, three years ago the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation started Blog For Your Breasts Day, urging women to reach out to their communities and encourage others to take action too. This year the goal is to direct readers toward the Health of Women study. Here, you and your readers can take part in a study for men and women with and without breast cancer that aims to gain a better understanding of breast cancer and what causes it. (And if you don't have a blog, you can share in a Facebook note, too.)
When you take the pledge to participate in Blog For Your Breasts Day, you will be sent an official BFYBD badge to publish on your site. And of course you can also celebrate the way girls everywhere do -- by wearing lots and lots of pink.
Fabulous Ways to Fight Breast Cancer
Hope-Inducing Breast Cancer Cure Breakthroughs
Do you ever feel as if you just need to be scrubbed clean? As if there were some authentic self there, but you just haven't seen her in a while, distracted as you've been with work and family and the difficult work of maintaining everyday life? Like you know the real you climbs mountains and writes haiku every weekend, but you somehow just haven't found the time to deal with her lately? Like maybe there's something hiding beneath the surface, like, say, a $600,000 lighthouse.
Allow me to explain: according to Art Info's In the Air blog, an 18th century painting attributed to the studio of French painter Claude-Joseph Vernet was recently sent to the cleaner's by an art dealer in preparation for the LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair this week. (Check out the blog for the dingy pre-cleaning painting.) When the dealer got the bright-and-shiny-painting back, he found there was an entire section that had been painted over. There was now a lighthouse completing the composition, which not only changed the whole feel of the painting, but most significantly, revealed the painting to be in fact a work of Vernet himself, vastly increasing its value -- 16 fold.
There's always something exciting about a work of art that harbors a secret. And I love the idea that something so simple as a good cleaning could change a painting's fate, make an art lover a mint, and most of all, reveal a work's authenticity.
If only there were official restorations for people. It would be something between a spa day and a religious conversion, just a good soul-scrubbing, a little life-brightener.
The Power of Authenticity
Cultivate Your Own True Self
San Francisco Chronicle TV Critic David Wiegand asked several Emmy nominee what they do to calm their pre-award-show jitters, and their answers ranged the gamut, from drinking "buckets"-worth of alcohol to drinking "small children's pools"-worth of alcohol. Mood-altering substance aside, some of the actors had some great advice to share.
-Mayim Bialik, of "Blossom," whoops I mean, "Big Bang Theory," said, "Music soothes the savage beast," recommending Adele and The Decemberists.
-"New Girl" Zooey Deschanel reminded us quite sensibly that actors are used to being nervous, but conceded that she "would just drink a glass of water and take a deep breath."
-And finally, her fellow "New Girl" actor Max Greenfield dispensed some advice we could all do to follow, every day: "A case of presence. Yes. Not 'presents.' Presence. Yes, we want to bring ourselves into the present moment and say, 'Hey! Look at this. Look what's happening. Let's be grateful for this moment and take it all in.' You know what I mean?"
Mr. Greenfield, we do.
More relaxation tips -- and drink ideas! -- from the stars at SFGate.com.
Meditation for Beginners
Three Unexpected Ways to Relax
Finally I discovered the locus of these zany strollers: the no-kill animal shelter nearby, which uses volunteer dog walkers to exercise animals awaiting adoption. Of course! No wonder the people were so psyched. There was the whiff of infatuation about them; the pure satisfaction of doing a good thing. The volunteers, in the simplest way, were being a blessing to those dogs, and it was lending them a glow that transcended the orneriness of their assigned mutts.
Today, another one: a 20-something guy with a rowdy lab mix. The dog spotted something -- a squirrel, or a rabbit, or a Ghost of Milkbone Past -- and took off sprinting. The guy struggled to hold the dog back and I thought, "I hear that, brother, I know what you're going through." I've had dog walks like that, but I've also had life moments like that -- when it's all zooming away and you're trying desperately to hold it back. Then the guy gave the dog a big, goofy grin, and did what we should probably all do more more often: he took off running. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed like the man and the dog shared a knowing look, and then, barking and laughing, they raced down the street.
Insanely Nice Things You Can Say to Anybody
Making Joy a Goal
But as anyone who's ever tried to do anything knows, sometimes it's really hard to have willpower. We all have 20 zillion things to keep track of (had to stop typing that sentence to make a note to buy dogfood), so it's not always easy to monitor our own "non-essentials" (just ignored a text from my mother!) -- which is why I downloaded Lift, a free app that helps you to build good habits.
Lift is an easy way to track what habits you want to build, but unlike other "to-do" apps, it connects you with other users. I have to admit, in the week I've had the app I have not been great about updating my lists all the time, but even just knowing I should be checking in has induced me to lace up those stinking running shoes a few more times than I would have otherwise. I think maybe what I like best about the app is the list of habits it suggests, along with the number of people working on each one. The list reads like a poem of hopefulness, a song of self-improvement: Good Posture (2500 participants) / Inbox Zero (2280 participants) / Pray (2251 participants). Write for 30 minutes (2203) / Stop and enjoy life (2063) / Call mom/dad (1993). People want to remember to floss regularly and drink more water and go to sleep on time, but they also want to meditate and work on secret projects (!). One aspirational habit on the list even made me stop short: Tell my wife I love her. (1688 participants).
Lift offers very real and practical help, yes, but it's also telling a story: In many ways, and in every day, we all want to be better.
(via The Next Web)
Fix Your Life
The No-Gimmick Way to Make Real Change
We all have our September 11th stories. Mine involves a husband who worked at the World Trade Centers.
We were both temping, having just arrived in New York City as fresh as newborn babies. My husband was temping for Silverstein Properties, the company which had just purchased the leases for the WTC buildings; he spent his days – get this – photocopying contracts and leases that would soon mean nothing. Good thing he was perpetually late to work; good thing he stopped to pack a sandwich; good thing he stepped out of the subway that morning just instants before his workplace was getting hit by planes.
So now what? He’s fine. Everyone we knew was fine. We're the lucky ones, we who don’t have anyone in particular to personally mourn. Still, every year I have to squint at the news if I want to not be weepy all day. We’re still traumatized, as a nation – anyone in doubt of that need only to look at the way 9/11 is covered in the media. But this morning, a tweet, of all things, reminded me of how to deal with the day.
Edward Champion includes two links telling two different stories of visits to the sites of tragedies: 9/11, and Pearl Harbor. No doubt the tourist smiling for pictures at the WTC site mean well. But what a good reminder, that when this country suffered a similar trauma at Pearl Harbor, it was commemorated with “remembrance and quiet dedication.”
Here's a few reasons to love your day today. Don't be surprised if they cause spontaneous smiles at strangers
The loveliest painting of an antique cake stands you've ever seen.
A tiff. A green gown. A convivial society. And 14 other ways people described making love in the 1800s.
What one woman can do underwater....strapped to a wheelchair.
Your personal reading style: diagnosed by the professionals.
How a handkerchief (and bravery) can help cure a broken heart.