Hayley Williams of Paramore

Happy Exception

Williams was just 15 whenshe and three friends formed theband Paramore in Franklin, Tennessee.Although she had signed a production deal at 14 and was writing pop tunes withsongwriters in Nashville, she still had no way of predicting the whirlwind ride thatshe was about to embark on.The release of Paramore’s debutalbum in 2005 not only launched a musiccareer but also turned a tremendous amount of attention on Hayley, theband’s vivacious lead singer andsongwriter. Today, Paramore hasreleased four studio and two live albums, as well as live EPs, and the three-timeGrammy-nominated Hayley is living herdream—but also managing to keep herfeet firmly planted on the ground.Keeping the hope alive“At the end of the day, no matter howhard it is to do, everyone wants to beable to hope,” she explains. “That truthis the heartbeat of who we are as a band.We inject that [hope] into every song,and if people sense it and connect to it,then it’s a bonus.”Her songs are an anomaly in today’smusical environment. Absent ofquestionable language or references to sex and drugs, her songs dwell on moreuplifting themes. Songs like “The OnlyException” and “Still Into You” showher optimism toward love without feeling gooey, and even when she’swriting about human hurts andshortcomings, she always seems to find a thread of hope. In “Now,” the first single from the band’s latest album, sheadmits that life isn’t always perfect, butit’s always worthwhile:Wish I could find a crystal ballFor the days I feel completely worthlessYou know I’d use it all for goodI would not take it for grantedInstead I have some memories for thedays I don’t feel anythingAt the least they will remind me not tomake the same mistakes again"That kind of heartfelt honesty is adirect reflection of how Hayley lives herlife. In an era where pop stars are morelikely to get press for their misdeeds thantheir good deeds, Hayley goes against the grain. While many of her peers arerecognized for being sarcastic or cooland unreachable, Hayley is oftensingled out for being what she refers toas “the dorky, happy girl at the party.”“I think it’s kind of cool to be knownfor that,” she says. “But I’m not alwayshappy. There’s no secret to living yourlife and never feeling sad or anxious or worrying.”Attitude of GratitudeFor Hayley, happiness is not about theabsence of stress or pressure, but ratherabout focusing on the presence oflife’s gifts.“When I leave the house today andrun my errands and eat lunch with myfriends, I am going to be thankful thatI was given another day to live,” she says.“Society tries telling us that the more weget or gain, the happier we will be. Butwhat I’ve learned is that sometimeshappiness comes from letting go ofthings, of some people, of some habits—and just being humble about it.”While some may say it’s easier to behappy when you’ve found suchwidespread success and have become anadored pop star, Hayley says she believessuccess actually came as a result of herown personal happiness—not as aprecursor to it.“Success, to me, has nothing to dowith my career anymore,” she says.“It has to do with balance....I think[happiness] is about the balance betweentrying to do things you can be proud ofin your life and then knowing that you’renot always going to be perfect.”Each day, she makes a conscious choice to make good decisions, which,she says, ultimately determines ourhappiness. “I’ve made a lot of baddecisions in my life, and I’ve learned mylessons well,” she says. “It’s moreimportant to me as I get older that I tryhard and do something daily that I canbe proud of.”
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Amusement Park at Night

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Last weekend I took my children to Disney World, the self-described “Happiest Place on Earth.” If that is true, then I may be in trouble. Don’t get me wrong. My kids loved the experience. But even my 6-year-old son began to bridle after a while at all that contrived “fun.” Waiting in long lines and battling crowds in the heat prompted his mocking refrain, “Have a magical day.” It is the phrase that all Disney employees are apparently required to utter whenever they interact with the clientele. They are professionals, and they sell it well. But both as a promise and as a measure of our expectations, magical fun tells us something about just where we are in history. Let the fun begin Those who could afford the luxury have been paying for entertainment since ancient times. Yet the rise of places like Disney—amusement parks whose sole purpose is to amuse, providing ordinary people with “fun”—is a much more recent development. We can trace the origins by tracing the word. “Fun” came into English usage in the late 17th century, likely as a derivation of the medieval fonne or fool, a nod to the court jesters whose job it was to entertain the king. But “fun” was also likely related to the Renaissance verb fon, meaning to hoax or cheat, and it retained that connotation for some time. Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue in 1785 included the example, “Do you think to fun [cheat] me out of it?” And of course we still use the phrase “to make fun of” in a way that suggests this older usage. Yet by that point, in the Age of Enlightenment, in Western Europe and its colonies in the New World, to have “fun” was increasingly thought of as innocent amusement. Whereas men and women in previous ages had often looked at pleasure as a slippery slope to sin, those in the expanding “middling” classes in the 18th century set about proclaiming pleasure’s virtues, treating gaiety as an end in itself. To dance, sing, enjoy our food, revel in our bodies and the company of others—in short, to delight in a world of our own making—was not to defy God’s will but to live as nature intended. And to be happy, as the English poet Alexander Pope put it in a celebrated line, was “our being’s end and aim!” Early pleasure gardens Given this new sensibility, it’s not at all surprising that the 18th century gave rise to the world’s first amusement parks or “pleasure gardens,” as they were known, places where men and women went simply to enjoy themselves and to be amused. In Paris at the Palais Royal, in Vienna at the Prater, at Vauxhall or the Ranelagh Gardens near London, or at the former's namesake, the VauxhallGardens in the Bowery in New York, ordinary men and women gathered for no other reason than to have fun. Flush with the disposable income of expanding commercial economies, they would while away an afternoon or evening promenading, drinking coffee and tea, wine and beer, or eating ice cream and sweets. There were music, costumes, fancy dress, and entertainers of all sorts—jugglers, actors, puppeteers and mimes. These pleasure gardens attracted crowds with unusual and sometimes exotic attractions, such as a Chinese Pavilion at the Ranelagh Gardens in London. Many other pleasures were at hand. The Palais Royal—which still stands, a stone’s throw from the Louvre—boasted countless shops, cafés, and restaurants—themselves new-fangled innovations where one could “restore oneself (restaurer) in order to go have more fun. (Not all pleasures were innocent in Paris, however. Prostitution and gambling were also rife at the Palais Royal.) The road to Disney These founding pleasure gardens were the ancestors of the great circuses and amusements parks of the 19th century: Tivoli Gardens, Blackpool, Coney Island, Barnum & Baileyand other mass attractions that offered a bounty of pleasure, amusement and entertainment. These places were not meant just for the upper or middling classes, but for workers and day laborers, who flocked to the penny arcades to have their bit of fun. And these attractions in turn laid the foundations of the sprawling entertainment industry of the present day. Today, one need not go to a specific “place” to have fun. We have our smartphones, tablets, and “entertainment centers” right in our homes that allow us to enjoy music, film, video games and other sedentary amusements. But people are wired to gather and enjoy things in a communal setting. Instead of Vauxhall Gardens, we promenade in the mall or on a popular shopping street. Locales specifically dedicated to fun have proliferated and morphed into fun parks, such as Busch Gardens, Dollywood, Six Flags and of course Disneyland and Disney World. They may not always be the happiest places on earth—especially when they leave you sunburned and standing in line, placating a tired toddler. But in their aspiration to deliver total entertainment—and in the expectation they foster that we are entitled to such entertainment—they are legacies of a long-standing vision of happiness and having fun.
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Maya Angelou

History Teacher

She has been defined by manyremarkable titles—best-sellingauthor, poet, actress, playwright,historian, civil rights activist, film producer and director. But the role thatMaya Angelou, who died on May 28, treasures most is that of teacher.Back in April, she told us, “I used to think I was a writer whocould teach, but I have come to realizethat I am a teacher who is able to write,”she says. “The truth is, all of us areteachers, whether we realize it or not.”Today, she gains more satisfactionfrom teaching others face-to-facethan from sharing herself through thewritten word.“If you are a writer who choosesto teach, your first responsibility is towrite." “But if you startwith the premise that you are a teacher,you are going to think of the studentfirst.” Learning, she says, should neverend—and is the key to a better life forthe teacher in all of us.Lesson PlansMaya, who was born in St. Louisin 1928, grew up primarily inStamps, Ark., where she witnessed the lynchingof a black man. Yet, in that sameenvironment, she found unconditional love in her family and rooted herself in the faith and values of theAfrican-American community.“I learned that, as a race, we are atonce brilliant, kind and cruel,” she says.“It is so important for us to rememberthat and to know that in the twinklingof an eye, we are able to sap the life fromthe living.” But the very same personwho can cruelly or carelessly strike oneperson down can also easily turn aroundand offer help and hope to someoneelse. And that, she said, is somethingshe finds amazing.Overcoming childhood traumaChronicling the contrast betweenlife’s beauty and its often-savage struggles has been an overriding theme throughout her work that has struck auniversal chord with readers. The firstof her autobiographical books, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was publishedin 1969 and made her one of the firstAfrican-American women to openlydiscuss her private life. It included the revelation of being sexually abused andraped by her mother’s boyfriend at theage of 8. After she told her brother of the abuse, the boyfriend was jailed for just one day and then released. He wasfound murdered four days later—mostlikely by Maya’s uncles.That event became a defining moment that ultimately led to theyoung girl becoming unable to speak for nearly five years. She has famously recounted that she felt her voicehad killed the man because she had spoken his name. As she wrote in herfirst book, “I thought I would neverspeak again, because my voice wouldkill anyone.”Today, she still believes in thepower of both the written and spokenword, and says the entire world couldbenefit simply from every person learning to use words to educate,empower and encourage thosearound them.
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Alicia Silverstone helps build community at the farmer's market

‘The Kind Mama’ Builds Community

As actress Alicia Silverstone crisscrosses the country promoting her second book, The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning, she’ll be doing the usual interviews and book signings. But there’s a component of the book tour that is uniquely Alicia. In every city she visits she’s also hosting meetups of “Kind Lifers.” In Atlanta, a dozen people met in a park where a vegan bakery had set up a tent to provide treats. In New Orleans a baker made vegan croissants for a gathering of 15. In Detroit, a few dozen people met Alicia in the hotel where she was staying. She’s planning more meetups in Portland, Ore., and Boston, San Diego and New York. Creating a community is an essential part of Alicia’s vision. She launched TheKindLife.com as an interactive online extension of her first book, The Kind Diet. She posts recipes, talks about green beauty and fashion finds, and shares photos and videos. Experts share their opinions; readers their stories, comments and questions. “I wanted it to be a safe, beautiful place for people to connect,” Alicia says. “I’d always dreamed that someone could post, ‘Hey, I live in Hillsboro, Ore. Does anyone else live here?’ And there’d be somebody right down the street and they’d go on to have potluck dinners together.” When she started the website, “it was this little baby thing and I’d be up all night talking to people,” Alicia says. “I’d recognize everyone on the site.” Today, she says, “I feel a little sad because I don’t know where these people are anymore. The site has become vast. Now we have people from all over the United States as well as Europe, Canada, Asia and Africa.” Kind Lifer meetups are a way to bring the community back down to an intimate scale. When she hits a new city, she posts news of her arrival on the website: “Hey, Kind Lifers, I’m here. Does anyone want to connect with me?” Since becoming a mom, Alicia has been thinking of community in another way—as a tribe, that loose collective of like-minded friends, neighbors and relatives who raise children as a community. “We used to all mother together—your sisters, your aunts, your uncles, everybody,” she says. “Birth and child rearing was completely woven into the fabric of life. If you needed help, if you had questions, you turned to your tribe. But the way we live now, we’re all so isolated. I was lucky enough to have women in my life that I admired and respected. I saw women being kind mamas: the way one friend got pregnant, the way another raised her children. But maybe you live somewhere where you’ve never met anyone who does mama-hood the way you want to do it, with your deepest convictions. The Kind Mama fills that gap, and writing it was a way for me to be a tribe member.”
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House having garage sale

A House in Higher Order

Call it human nature of a side effect of civilization. We tend to collect more things than we need. Extra canned food in the pantry, outgrown soccer equipment in the closet, unopened soaps and shampoos on the bathroom shelf. These unused things can be a burden to us, adding stress to everyday life. Thankfully, we can declutter and reorganize our homes, repurpose our extras so they benefit someone else, and feel good about doing both. Start by decluttering and reordering three home storage areas with these easy steps. You’ll find spring cleaning takes on a whole new meaning when it includes repurposing usable items. With a plan to donate unneeded good to others, dreaded “have to” household purging can become a “want to” weekend activity. 1. The Food Pantry Sort your stuff: Take out everything from your pantry, then cluster like items together. Check for expired or stale items, and discard or recycle them. Edit the remaining items asking, “Will I use this in the next few weeks or a reasonable time frame?” If the answer is “Yes,” it stays. If not, choose to give it away. Repurpose with purpose: Unopened staples, such as flour, sugar, cooking oil and unopened, unexpired packaged goods are badly needed at local food banks. See the sidebar for more information. Organize and label: The success of any organizational system is based on it being sustainable without a lot of explanation. The same is true for your food pantry. If you organize it one way but the others in your household don’t know the system, it may not be successful. Take the time to leave clues for yourself and others of where things go, with labels that you make yourself. More Tips If you have room, keep a small dustpan and broom nearby for quick cleanups, a fold-up stepstool if some shelves are out of reach, and markers for labeling and for writing purchase dates of ingredients. 2. The Family Closet Sort your stuff: Take out everything from your closet, grouping like items together and checking for condition, fit and importance: Is it in good shape? Is it being used? Does its use warrant a place in the family closet? Items that get “yes” on all three questions stay. Those that don’t should be tossed, recycled or given away. Repurpose with purpose: If you have unwanted items, there are many new homes for them. including Goodwill, local homeless shelters, animal shelters and local church clothing drives. Organize and label: A family or shared closet quickly becomes a myriad of clutter if its contents aren’t organized so everyone using the storage space puts things back in their place. You can make that happen more often with personalized boxes, spaces, hooks and areas. More Tips The multitude of storage containers, systems and products available provide great selection, functionality and style. To save money and time, buy compatible organizational items so you can mix and match boxes, bins, containers, etc., between similar storage areas in your house. Boxes and bins suitable for a family closet should also work in bedroom, bathroom and linen closets, for instance. It’s also best to choose a family of materials and stick with it. It’s difficult and often awkward to mix natural baskets and boxes with plastic and wire bins and containers in the same storage area. Check out the smart storage solutions for dorm rooms—even if you and your family have no one in college right now. Over thedoor and under-the-bed storage ideas abound and are adaptable to family closets and other areas in the home. 3. The Kids’ Rooms Sort your stuff: The rate that children outgrow clothes is matched only by how fast they age out of toys, books and learning tools. Make sure you go through their bedroom closet and storage areas as often as possible and select items that are too small or are no longer being used. Repurpose with purpose: Kids’ clothes, games and toys are easy to donate. Kids’ bedroom furniture also will have value to others. See the sidebar for more information. Organize and label: In order for organization efforts to last longer than a couple of days, think like your child. Where do they want to keep their toys, books and personal things? Are they ready to hang up clothing, or will shelves and hooks work better for them?
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Gretchen Rubin in the kitchen

At Home With a Happiness Guru

The thousands of ardent comments on her blog speak volumes. So do the countless downloads by fans eager to launch their own “happiness projects” based on her advice.But if you really want to know how Gretchen Rubin’s readers feel about her, check her mailbox. They have sent her gold stars. Bluebird figurines. Homemade art. Her own words, elaborately printed. A beautiful, framed photograph of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, with whom Gretchen has a “miniobsession.” They have sent, in short, the kinds of gifts you choose for a dear friend or sibling.“I get that all the time—people will say, ‘You’re like my sister!’ ” Gretchen says during a Skype chat from her home office on New York’s Upper East Side. (Her office, as you might expect, is extremely happy-looking—salmon walls, scant clutter, a brightly upholstered armchair—as is the animated, red-haired Gretchen herself.) Such reactions to her two books on happiness—The Happiness Projectand its sequel, Happier at Home—never fail to delight her, she says. After all, when she began work on The Happiness Project, plenty of people wondered whether readers would relate to one woman’s search for greater wellbeing. Eight years and more than 24 months on the NewYork Times bestseller list later, with a third happiness-related book due out in 2015, Gretchen has her answer.“I think part of my work’s appeal is that it’s very practical,” she says, echoing many critics. Other writings on happiness can make its pursuit seem “very abstract or complicated”—not to mention pricey. It’s doubtful many of Elizabeth Gilbert’s readers, for instance, are able to follow her Eat, Pray, Love example by seeking fulfillment in Rome, Mumbai and Bali.Gretchen, by contrast, offers recipes for happiness you can follow at home, for little or no money. “Most people are like, ‘Yeah, I could make my bed, I couldenjoy good smells,’ ” she says. “Then you get that feeling of growth, that feeling of ‘I am feeling a little bit happier,’ and that tends to build on itself.” As Gretchen points out in her writing, small attempts to increase happiness often give you the energy to make big attempts—the sort that, unlike bed-making or rose-sniffing, may have deep, long-term payoffs.Which brings us to what are probably even greater reasons for Gretchen’s devoted following: In her books, she chronicles her own happiness-boosting efforts, large and not, with such apparent candor that it’s easy to imagine she’s speaking right to you. And she tries so many things, it’s hard not to find some that mirror your own yearnings, making her seem like some kind of mind reader.Though she still scores a seven-out-of-10 on a standard happiness test, just as she did before she made happiness her grail, Gretchen doesn’t think that’s the real story. “My experience of my day has changed enormously because I’ve done so much to add enthusiasm and fun and enjoyment to it, and get rid of anger and boredom and resentment,” she says. “In a way I’m the same person I always was, but on the other hand, my life is so much different, my experience is so much different, so I’m happier.”From Malaise toMerrinessIn The Happiness Project, Gretchen describes how she realized her life needed tweaking back in 2006: “As I stared out the rain-spattered window of a city bus, I saw that the years were slipping by. ‘What do I want from life, anyway?’ I asked myself. ‘Well…I want to be happy.’ But I had never thought about what made me happy or how I might be happier.”Although she was grateful for her comfortable life in New York, she decided, she was “suffering from midlife malaise.”So Gretchen, true to her past as a lawyer, began exhaustively researching happiness. She sought inspiration from psychologists, philosophers, memoirists, novelists, relatives, friends and, yes, saints. She made a now-famous resolutions chart for herself (downloadable on her website), plus 12 commandments (“Lighten up,” “Enjoy the process”), plus 21 Secrets of Adulthood (“It’s OK to ask for help;” “Do good, feel good”), and began test driving strategies and posting about them on a happiness blog.Some have suggested, at times a bit snarkily, that her resulting books paint Gretchen as more of an everywoman than she is. And it’s true she doesn’t come right out and tell readers that her husband, Jamie, is quite the high-powered guy (now the head of New York Rising Communities Program, he was, when Gretchen began her happiness books, a senior partner at a major private-equity firm), or that “Bob,” her father-in-law, is former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. (“Bob is important to me because he’s my fatherin-law, so that’s the way he’s relevant in the book,” she was quoted as explaining in The New York Times. “I wasn’t tryingto hide it.”)Nor does Gretchen mention that, as the successful author of four books beforeThe Happiness Project(includingPower Money Fame SexandForty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill) she could have sprung for a cab instead of that city bus.“My experience of my day has changedenormously because I’ve done so muchto add enthusiasm and fun and enjoymentto it, and get rid of anger and boredom andresentment,” she says.Overall, though, she is disarmingly open in print about her life’s advantages.She writes, for instance, that she went to Yale for college and law school, and that before her switch to a writing career, she clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She gives thanks for the “tall, dark and handsome” Jamie; their “two delightful young daughters,” Eliza and Eleanor, their supportive relatives, their nice apartment. She declaresthat money can buy happiness—to a point—as she illustrates with accounts of her own cheering splurges, from art lessons and fancy file boxes to a mountain-scene diorama she commissions for her kitchen.But as we all know, wealth alone won’t make you profoundly happy. Everyone has problems that cash can’t cure, and Gretchen is no exception. She reveals, for instance, that she sometimes feels listless or guilty; that she’s addicted to “gold stars” of recognition; that (most ominously) she and Jamie know that his Hepatitis C, acquired during a childhood blood transfusion, is likely to cause liver failure soon.Assuming you’re well-off enough that you have time to put in, Gretchen suggests that getting happier is often about diligent effort—effort that won’t necessarily make you feel great right away. Chapter by chapter, she shares goals—being in the moment, having more energy, improving family life—and the simple steps she took to bring them closer. Sure, some of her steps are nothing new: making the most of holidays; decluttering; hugging more. But Gretchen has a knack for presenting ideas memorably, paired with insights that, even if others have had them before, feel fresh.In The Happiness Project, for example, she offers this twist on the classic notion of “reframing” your experience: “One sleepless morning, I was wide awake at 3:00 a.m., and at 4:00, instead of continuing to toss and fume, I told myself, ‘I feel grateful for being awake at 4:00.’ I got up, made myself some tea, and headed to my dark, quiet office…I started my day with a feeling of tranquility and accomplishment. Voilà! A complaint turned into thankfulness.”Permitting yourself treats helpsoffset feelings of being deprived oroverwhelmed that might torpedo ahealthy habit, she says.A Habit-forming ReadFor readers used to such Gretchen epiphanies, her next book may come as a surprise. Before and After, which is about making and breaking habits—crucial to happiness—will feature fewer of Gretchen’s own experiences. This is because when it comes to habits, she is “pretty freaky.” In her own lexicon of personalities, she is an “upholder”— someone who responds readily both to other people’s expectations (deadlines, say, or scheduled meetings) and to her own (New Year’s resolutions). “Once upholders have decided to do something, it’s fairly easy for them to stick with it,” she says. But the vast majority of us aren’t upholders. So in much of Before and After, Gretchen shares the stories of other people, including her sister, who fit the three more common types:Questioners: Before they’ll form a habit, they want to know why they should—and will do it only if it makes sense.Obligers: Though they have trouble living up to their own expectations (unlike upholders), they work hard to meet those of other people.Rebels: “They hate habits!” Gretchen says. “They resent them!”Personality by personality, Beforeand After will supply advice for fostering habits related to the “Big Four” habit challenges: eating and drinking healthfully, exercising regularly, getting “real, restorative” rest and relaxation, and ending procrastination in a given area.If you’re a questioner who wants to hit the gym more, say, you might read articles on the benefits of muscle strength. If you’re an obliger, you could schedule gym dates with a buddy.Is rebellion your style? You’ll need to “choose” to exercise every time, Gretchen says, by tapping into the pleasure of a runner’s high, or the joy of feeling the wind in your hair as you ride your bike.Even upholders can use some help in the habit department, though, andBefore and After will also include 16 strategies aimed at a wide variety of personalities. Among them:Treats: Permitting yourself treats helps offset feelings of being deprived or overwhelmed that might torpedoa healthy habit, she says. Treats needn’t be food (and if your new habit involves eating better, they probably shouldn’t be). Some people might allow themselves a crossword puzzle, she suggests, or time to play a sport or musical instrument. “Perfume is a treat for me,” Gretchen says, sniffing her tobacco-vanilla-scented wrist. “I put on perfume several times a day.”Pairing: Try combining your desired new behavior with something you crave or need to do. “Let’s say you’re aBreaking Bad fan,” Gretchen says. “You could say, ‘I’m only gonna watch that when I’m on the treadmill.’” Gretchen, an avowed couch potato at heart, says that in college, “I had a rule that I could only shower after I exercised.”Monitoring: The more aware you are of a behavior, the more likely you are to keep it up. In her first two happiness books, Gretchen experimented with a food diary and pedometer. Now she sports a bracelet (UP by Jawbone) that tracks her steps, food intake and sleep. “But you don’t need anything fancy. You could just keep a little notebook.”Still StrivingMindful of her own advice, Gretchen has post-Skype plans to walk with a friend: “It’s a treat, it’s pairing, it’s scheduling!” But don’t be toointimidated by her disciplined, upholder ways. Even after all these years of studying and seeking happiness, Gretchen shows every sign of remaining the not-too-perfect adopted sister her readers love:She still finds it hard to follow her No. 1 commandment—“Be Gretchen”—instead of being what she or others think she should be, she says.Despite the compelling case she makes in The Happiness Projectfor getting more sleep, “I’ll stay up late doing nothing, rereading a magazine I’ve already read. I remind myself I’m happier, I’m healthier, when I go to sleep on time.”And though she waxes eloquent in print about the need to “accept the reality of other people’s feelings,” she continues to have trouble doing it—especially with Eliza and Eleanor, now 14 and 8, respectively. Take last summer. Eliza was signed up for a debate camp. Just before it began, she suddenly didn’t want to go. Gretchen longed to tell her that she had nothing to be anxious about. But at last she forced herself to sympathize with Eliza, saying things like, “It seems like more work than you imagined.” Eliza went to camp. “If you asked her now if she wasglad,” Gretchen says, “she’d say yes.” Gretchen, meanwhile, is grateful their last hours before the trip were filled with encouragement and understanding, not conflict and anger.Such victories, she says, help keep her striving to uphold all her happiness resolutions from waking to bedtime. Has she had any days like that yet?“Oh, no,” Gretchen says, shaking her head and smiling. “But every day is a new opportunity.”Melissa Balmain is a journalist, poet, and humorist who writes a monthly column for SUCCESS. Her award-winning collection of light verse, Walking in on People, will be published in spring 2014 by Able Muse Press.
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Bird on a branch

Winter Garden

Outside my cottage high in the mountains of Vermont, snow is piled up to the window boxes. Crystals of ice catch the morning sun and reflect light over the landscape, while a flock of small birds is already at work breakfasting on the bright red berries of the holly I planted beside the front steps last spring. Opening the door for our Westie to leap out into the snow and plow a path toward the trees, I look out at the hollies, hemlocks, maples, birch, and a variety of shrubs and grasses framed by the doorway—then offer a small prayer of gratitude for the sweet moment of crisp mountain air, the tiny terrier and the glorious sun filtering through the pines. The Five-Minute Fix Winter in Vermont is tough. It lasts for six dark months every year and mountain temperatures can plummet 10, 20, even 30 degrees below zero between late December and early February. Most of us who live here take the cold and dark in stride. But that’s because we plan for it. As temperatures start heading toward zero, we check our woodpiles and generators, load up on flashlight batteries, canned goods and candles, then strategize how we’ll fend off the moodiness, snarliness, sleepiness and depression that the coming darkness can precipitate. Some of us climb on skis, snowmobiles, sleds and skates, and throw ourselves down mountains and onto ice-bound lakes. Others schedule vacations in sunny climes. And still others create a winter landscape—a “winterscape”—of shapes, textures, colors and lights that we can see through the windows of our houses, apartments, condos and businesses. Playing around with your yard may sound like an odd way to fight the moodiness of winter, but studies from the University of Michigan, Texas A&M, Sweden’s Uppsala University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences all suggest that even just a glimpse of trees, shrubs and grasses through a window triggers a change in the electrical activity of the brain that measurably improves mood. And it does so within three to five minutes. Creating theWinter Garden Most of us are probably more accustomed to thinking about landscapes around our homes and workplaces in terms of how they frame a house or building, or how they look to others from the street. But Vermont Certified Horticulturist and landscape designer Judith Irven has long felt that the view from inside your home or workplace to the outside is an opportunity to create art. “I’m always reminded of the 18th century poet Alexander Pope, who said that ‘All gardening is landscape painting,’ ” says Judith. “So when I look through my windows into the winter garden, I’m always thinking of making paintings.” The scene through the glass becomes her canvas, the window frame defines it, and on her palette is light and shadow, shape and texture, browns and blacks, plus an occasional splash of red, green or yellow. “The winter landscape is spare and elegant,” says Judith, who founded Outdoor Spaces, a garden consulting firm, in Goshen, Vermont. “We can actually see the bones on which it’s built without masses of colorful flowers to distract. So whether you live in a canyon in California, a rain forest in Oregon or the high mountains of Vermont, winter is the time to go out and look around, then think about the landscape paintings you want to create.” Simple Steps toTransformation Judith’s approach is one that appeals to the artist in each of us. And with the promise that each garden painting we create has the potential to lift us away from winter’s darkness and into the light, here’s how to get started on your own work of art. Take a tour. Look out the windows through which you’d like to see into your own landscape paintings, and take a photo of the scenes on which you’d like to focus, Judith suggests. Print each photo on an 8½-by-11 inch sheet of paper, and put a sheet of tracing paper on top. That will be your working sketch. Then grab some orange-tipped flags to stick in the ground, pull on your Wellies, slip into a warm coat and head outdoors. Look at the shapes. Walk around the area in each photo. Look at where the edges of garden beds are currently located. Are you happy with their shapes? Does one bed take up too much of the window photo? Should it be smaller? Should it curve in one direction or another? If so, says Judith, stick some flags in the ground to reshape the bed’s edges and mark the changes you’d like to make. Tinker with structure. Now head back indoors, pull out your photos, and draw the revised shapes on your working sketch. Think about vertical structures like trees and shrubs. Is there a particular spot where you’d like to see a vertical shape thrust upward from surrounding shrubs? Think about the size you’d want it to be, then look online or in books at trees and shrubs that might work in that particular spot, Judith advises, paying particular attention to the tree or shrub’s size when it reaches maturity. If you’d like to see the field beyond the tree, buy a tree that won’t grow so tall it will obscure your view from inside your home or workplace. Or if you’d like to obscure a line of recycling bins and trash cans, look for a shrub that will give you both the vertical and horizontal coverage you need when it matures. Then check a USDA Plant Hardiness Mapto make sure that any plant you buy will thrive where you live. Add a sculpture. Tuck a whimsical piece of metal sculpture, a simple rock formation, even a handcrafted birdbath into the scene on your working sketch. What you add depends on themood you’re trying to create. The garden framed by the window beside the desk in my study, for example, is on the edge of a forest and bordered by an area of wild grasses, brambles and a jumble of wildflowers. Massed together, it’s a bunch of unruly textures against the rough bark of a pine forest that goes on forever, and in winter, the whole scene has a contemplative vibe. So a simple stone statue of St. Francis quietly tucked into a niche of grasses extends the underlying sense of contemplation—and gives me a deep sense of peace when I look up from my work and out the window. Use a touch of color. Select a trio of red-twigged dogwood, a patch of sedum ‘Autumn Joy,’ a grouping of winterberries, even a crabapple tree to add a splash of intense color across the spare winter landscape.
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Live Happy holiday spreads on knives and a spoon

Spread Some Cheer

There’s something for everyone’s taste with these easy-to-make spreads. Plus, there’s something for you, too: All of them are no-cook recipes (except for bacon) and they all use simple ingredients you may already have on hand. Whip up a couple of batches to give the neighbors or when you need a quick hostess gift. For a more substantial gift, add a pretty spreader or tiny spoon.Cranberry-StrawberrySpread¾ cup fresh or thawed frozen cranberries, divided¾ cup fresh or thawed frozen strawberries1 tablespoon sugar1 teaspoon lemon zest1 teaspoon fresh snipped thyme¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepperPinch of saltIn bowl of food processor combine ½ cup cranberries and strawberries just until blended. Add sugar, lemon zest, thyme, pepper and salt; pulse until combined. Add remaining ¼ cups of berries; pulse 2 to 3 times to break berries. Transfer to container. Refrigerate until use. Makes 1 cup.Bacon “Jam”4 slices pan-roasted bacon, chopped*¼ cup chopped pitted dates (about 6)2 tablespoons slivered almonds½ teaspoon ground cinnamon¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg¼ cup pure maple syrupIn bowl of food processor combine bacon, dates, almonds, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour syrup over mixture. Blend on high speed until combined but not smooth. Transfer to container. Refrigerate until use. Store up to 1 week. Makes ½ cup “jam.”*Pan-roasting bacon works best for this recipe. Place bacon on foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Roast in preheated 400°F oven 15 to 20 minutes or until crispy. Dry on paper towels.ParsleyPesto2 cups parsley leaves, packed*⅓ cup olive oil, plus more as needed½ cup grated Parmesan cheese½ cup chopped walnuts2 to 3 cloves of garlic, chopped½ teaspoon red pepper flakesIn bowl of food processor blend parsley with ⅓ cup olive oil. Scrape down sides of bowl, adding small amounts of oil as needed just until a paste forms. Add parmesan, walnuts, garlic and red pepper flakes; blend until combined. Transfer to container; drizzle additional olive oil on top. Refrigerate until use; stir before use. Makes 1 scant cup.*Pulling clumps of leaves from the stem works just fine for this recipe. The stem closest to the leaf is tender and full of flavor.Spiced Ketchup½ cup ketchup1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped1 scallion, white and green parts diced¼ cup chopped red bell pepper1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar¼ teaspoon cuminIn bowl of food processor, combine all ingredients. Blend until just combined. Transfer to container. Refrigerate until use. Makes scant ¾ cup.Orange-Pecan Butter1 stick unsalted butter (½ cup), softened zest and juice (3 tablespoons) of one orange1 tablespoon chopped pecans⅛ teaspoon black pepperIn bowl of a food processor pulse butter three or four times to soften. Add zest and one tablespoon juice; blend. Add pecans, black pepper and remaining juice; blend. Transfer to container. Refrigerate until ready to use. Makes ½ cup.
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Happy christmas couple wearing santa's hats and holding a remote control

Recapture the Holiday Spirit

The holidays are a great time to gather with family and friends and rejoice in each other’s company. If hustle and bustle of the season is keeping you from doing much relaxing and rejoicing, challenge yourself to take a deep breath and recapture that holiday spirit. Watching a good holiday movie is a perfect way to infuse that good cheer. Here is a list of films that are sure to help you meet the challenge of recapturing joy and love this holiday season.​Love Actually"Love is...actually all around.” Love Actually shares the stories of multiple people falling in, and a few out, of love during te holiday season. The various story-lines demonstrate the true meaning of love, both the good and the bad. Take the time this holiday season to tell the special people in your life that you love them.Miracle on 34th StreetKris, a jolly, good-hearted man, claims to be Santa Claus and spends his time reminding people the true meaning of Christmas despite the rampant commercialism all around him. Most think he is delusional and a danger to the kids, but Kris has convinced a few to believe. Miracle on 34th Street is about belief, a belief in Santa Claus, a belief that represents hope and joy.A Christmas CarolThere’s a good chance the most have read, watched or even acted in some variation of A Christmas Carol. The story follows Ebenezer Scrooge, (Bah, humbug!), a man who thinks of nothing but money and doesn’t care about the people around him. That is until one night, when he is visited by three ghosts that teach him life-changing lessons. The most important lesson to gain from this story is that you should always be grateful for what you have, no matter how little or how much.The Polar ExpressThe Polar Express is a modern classic children’s book adapted into a movie in 2004 by Robert Zemeckis. Ayoung boy boards a special train on Christmas Eve that takes him on a magicaladventure showinghim the wonder of life will never fade if you always believe. Just like the lesson from Miracle on 34th Street, believing can open your eyes to the many wonderful things and opportunities you can have in life.White ChristmasIrving Berlin’s White Christmas follows two army buddies turned entertainers who fall for a sister-act post-WWII. However, this isn’t just a love story. The selfless acts performed by the characters Wallace and Davis (played by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) for their ex-general is the best part. So, take a note from White Christmas and do something selfless this holiday season. You will be surprised at how much joy even the simplest of acts will bring you.Meet Me in St. LouisThis isn’t a typical Christmas movie but it has a moving Christmas scene where Judy Garland sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The beautiful thing about this movie is the togetherness of the family. Although they have their problems, they work through them together.It’s a Wonderful LifeThis classic Christmas film is a must-see! A guardian angel helps a compassionate but depressed and frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he never existed. Author and inspirational speaker Bob Welch wrote the book, 52 Little Lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life. One of my favorite quotes is from George, who says that “No man is a failure if he has friends.” Definitely food for thought that should keep you motivated all year round.The Bishop’s WifeThis is another classic film that everyone should see at least once. An angel (played by Cary Grant) arrives to help a Bishop and his wife realize what is truly important in life. Dudley the angel brings happiness and good will to anyone who needs him. Give this a watch and take a lesson from Dudley and put your family first this holiday season.Die HardMost people don’t think of this as a Christmas movie, but it most definitely is. It is a mix of a variety of films including The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Carol. With so many Christmas themes packed into one film and all wrapped up in a big shiny Hollywood box of explosions and action how could you want anything more?We hope you get to cuddle up with your loved ones and watch at least one of these movies this season. We are sure you will see an increase in your holiday spirit and overall happiness.Mariana Lenox is half of the husband/wife movie review team at the blog Reel and Unscripted. Her love of movies began young with all things Disney but has since been expanded to include allgenres, as proven by her now 4,000 strong movie collection fondly known asthe "movie wall". You be the judge on whether or not this represents anobsession or a just a hobby!
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Boats on Beach

Travel and Happiness

A little experience may make you a cynic, but a lot of experience can bring you back to a truer and kindlier self, according to Plato. Traveling can give you those life experiences that broaden your horizons while humbling yourself to the world around you. While you don’t have to sell all your possessions and become a worldly wanderer, there may be some benefits to taking the time out of your busy life to see the places you’ve always wanted to see. Checking off those boxes on your bucket list and fulfilling your goals can certainly give you a sense of accomplishment in your life. Even spending a relaxing vacation with loved ones can nurture those personal relationships that are important to you. Or, you can stay home and live those life experiences vicariously through these travel bloggers who chronicle their globe-trekking adventures for all to see. Either way, an escape is an escape… right? Two Happy Campers are Mark and Michelle—two people who are perfectly happy to live in the present. These habitual campers only work to support their travel. They have left the material world behind to live their life to the fullest. ThePlanetD is run by an “adventure couple” from Toronto who specialize in “adventure travel.” They have achieved their goal of making a living out of traveling, and are perfectly content spending the rest of their lives seeing the world together. Beers and Beans is a blog by Beth and Randy, who want to help you travel better. One is a photographer and the other a journalist: A perfect team to document their journey throughout the world providing inspiration for others to do the same. Nomadicsamuel.com not only offers up traveling tips, blog posts and photos from around the world, but this site also features links to the top 100 travel blogs. You can spend hours perusing other travel sites reading and learning about how others are making the most out of their life experience.
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