Meet three people who have truly flourished.

Transform Your Life and Flourish

Lucie Buissereth was almost finished with her medical residency when she realized this wasn’t the life she wanted. Atsushi Yamada was a successful corporate executive, but he wasn’t pursuing the one thing he’d loved since his youth. Alison O’Brien was a globe-trotting television producer at the helm of a new prime-time show. Her life was jam-packed, but still felt empty. Today, their lives couldn’t be more different. By following their hearts and using their strengths, they were all able to flourish. Here are their stories. Lucie Buissereth: Choosing to Flourish “‘What do you mean you want to be happy?’” Lucie Buissereth recalls this reaction from her family when she said she was giving up medicine. It was as if she’d delivered a painful blow. Lucie was just as devastated, but for different reasons. “I realized I was living a lie,” she says. All her achievements including becoming a doctor were aimed at gaining her family’s approval and not for herself. After a 36-hour shift, she says, “I thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’” Lucie’s epiphany, which came in the early 2000s almost two years into her residency at New York City’s Montefiore Medical Center, was the first step toward creating a flourishing life. Her innate character strengths—including honesty and bravery—would lead her further along the path to a truly satisfying life. Outward focus vs. inward satisfaction Research shows achievement for achievement’s sake, and not for the benefit of other people, is essential to flourishing. Lucie had had that once in her life. Obese as a child, weighing 220 pounds by age 10, Lucie decided in her late teens to slim down, and she did. “Fitness became my little thing,” she says. After that fateful 36-hour shift, Lucie turned on the TV and saw, of all things, adults jumping rope. She was watching the U.S. National Jump Rope Championship. The next day she called the sponsoring organization, USA Jump Rope, to ask how she could participate. Impossible, they said, because she had no experience, team or training. “But I could train myself—why not?” She continued to petition USA Jump Rope while growing more disillusioned with medicine. In 2004, she resigned her residency and, coincidentally, USA Jump Rope relented. Lucie’s perseverance—another of her character strengths—had paid off. “I was 38 years old and had never picked up a rope before, but I said ‘goodbye’ to medicine and went full force into competitions.” Lucie got coaching work at area gyms and dipped into her meager savings, but it was worth it. At the 2005 national championship, she took gold medals in each of the four speed-jumping and freestyle events in which she competed. “I knew right then and there what my calling was,” she says. “I was going to do something that could help others, particularly kids. I was going to turn this talent that I have—I don’t know where I got it—into a viable, beautiful business.” Jumping for joy! Lucie opened a gym on Long Island that focused solely on jump rope. She coached all ages, but it was the children who really thrived, becoming happier, healthier and more engaged at school and home. She found purpose and work that was totally engaging, two elements that are key to flourishing. Her improved well-being contributed to resilience, which would prove essential. In 2007, after years of severe headaches and other symptoms, Lucie was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. “Doctors told me that within eight or nine months I would be in a wheelchair. I did my share of lamenting, crying, ‘Why me’ and all that, and then I said, ‘Enough.’ ” She has had relapses and remissions, “but I’m still standing. I’m still competing,” she says. Lucie was shopping when she met Staffen Lindner, a Swede in New York on business. “He asked if he could buy me coffee and that was it,” she says, giggling. They married and now live in Sweden. Lucie is finishing a motivational book, has introduced her programs in Swedish schools and returns to New York twice a year for jump rope camps. It’s not only about jump rope, though. “It’s more about encouraging kids, particularly girls, to be amazing,” she says. “To be fierce in themselves, and to know there’s nothing they cannot do.” Just like Lucie. Read about the science of flourishing: Go Beyond Happiness Atsushi Yamada: Creating His Niche Atsushi Yamada was always involved in music while growing up in Japan—singing in the church choir and playing organ, later playing guitar in a Beatles cover band, singing in the male chorus in high school and with the glee club in college. Even after he landed a job in sales with IBM, he assisted his former glee club conductor in directing choral performances, and “of course, I loved karaoke,” he says, laughing. Being so engaged—like Atsushi is in music—is important to flourishing. But he didn’t see how music could be anything but a hobby, even after his maestro passed away and chorus members asked him to take over. “I was really busy selling computers,” he says. “The conducting paid almost nothing. There was no way to survive without that [IBM] salary.” A couple of years later, he got a job offer selling life insurance for Sony that required less time in the office. He could have a nice income and more free time for conducting. He accepted. Using his strengths “I really didn’t expect to become a professional conductor. I wanted that, but on the other hand, if you just quit your job and you never had any experience studying music in school and you don’t have a teacher, and you say, ‘Now I am a conductor, could you give me a job?’ people think you’re crazy!” But Atsushi employed all his sales savvy, as well as his signature character strengths—perseverance, creativity and social intelligence—to make his dreams come true. He began by persuading Sony to sponsor a concert as a “social contribution.” Atsushi had his employer’s blessing again after the Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995 when he coordinated a series of benefit concerts. For the final performance, he got funding to hire an acclaimed singer, which included a trip to New York City (his first ever) to audition singers with the New York City Opera. “This was brave,” he says, chuckling at the thought of himself, a self-taught musician, auditioning the finest vocalists in the world. Bravery, another of Atsushi’s key strengths, would prove helpful in more ways. In New York, he asked opera officials about the possibility of an internship. They agreed. This opportunity led to a stint directing the touring company and, in 2003, Atsushi’s debut conducting Hansel and Gretel at Lincoln Center—where he received a standing ovation. The risks have paid off Decades have passed and Atsushi has now conducted some of the world’s greatest singers and musicians. He’s also found great purpose, raising money benefiting victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan and creating cultural exchange and educational opportunities for hundreds of young music students. Today Atsushi is principal conductor and co-founder of the Philharmonia Orchestra of New York, which made its premiere performances in March at Lincoln Center. PONY, as it’s called, incorporates orchestra and choral performance with the highest-definition film technology to “destroy stuffy classical traditions that can make this wonderful music accessible to new audiences,” he says. He is living his dream. And, “I would say to others who have a dream, a wish, that there is never zero percent chance of success,” he says. “There is always some chance. You just have to try.” Read more about what it takes to flourish in life: 5 Ways to Flourish Alison O’Brien: Racing Through Life Alison O’Brien had a little more than a mile to go in the 2013 Boston Marathon when a police officer halted her and other runners. There had been explosions near the finish line. That’s where her parents and 2-year-old niece were waiting. Terrified of what might’ve happened to her loved ones, Alison’s mind raced. “I thought, ‘Time is too precious. I have to treat it differently. I don’t want to have regrets.’” As a network TV producer, she had traveled the world making documentaries. And, prompted by a friend’s cancer diagnosis, she had taken up running and coaching with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, raising money to fight blood cancers. Growing after tragedy She found meaning and joy from her work and her coaching and fundraising. Yet a painful divorce years earlier had deeply affected her. “Personally, I shut down a lot. I felt like I had to,” she says. The Boston Marathon bombings brought perspective—a character strength that helps us all flourish. “As I sat on that curb for an hour and a half, I realized there are no guarantees that we’ll have more time,” she says. Honesty and a loving heart are two of Alison’s top flourishing-related character strengths. She thought about things she hadn’t pursued, like a meaningful business idea. A new beginning And then there was her personal life. At the end of that awful day in 2013, Alison reunited with her family. They were fine, but Alison’s life had changed. That year, she launched JWalking Designs, selling fitness wear including running skirts for both women and men. She and her teammates had often complained about their running clothes—how the shorts didn’t fit right and they needed more pockets—and now she was doing something about it. Perseverance and leadership, qualities Alison possesses in spades, made it possible and helped both her and her business thrive. Now she’s “more present” for her family and has made room in her life for even more love. Alison met Chris Peterson at a mutual friend’s birthday party. Now she, Chris and Roxie (their dog) are a family. In May, Alison will run the New Jersey Marathon, which was her first race 10 years ago. She’ll dedicate every mile to people who have made a significant impact on her life. Some, like cancer victims she trained, have passed away. Many others will be there. “Once I opened myself up to living a different type of life, the riches that came from that were just amazing,” Alison says. “I’m excited to see what other things life has to offer. If you don’t make the most of your time, you’re not guaranteed any more of it.” So why not flourish? Lisa Ocker is an award-winning writer and editor based in the Dallas-Forth Worth area.
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Brad Meltzer knows about superheroes

The Heroes Among Us

Author Brad Meltzer knows what makes a hero or superhero tick. He’s written best-selling books about espionage in the nation’s capital in books including The Inner Circleand The President's Shadow, scripted conversations among the members of the Justice League of America for DC Comics, and uncovered secrets that only top FBI agents and international spies may know on his History Channel shows Decoded and the new Lost History.New series on down-to-earth heroesHowever, it is in his recent series of family-friendly books, such as the popular Heroes for My Sonand Heroes for My Daughterand his series collectively called Ordinary People Change the World that Brad has been perhaps most able to define and depict heroism and how it can be achieved and accepted by all of us.“There’s one [strength] that repeats over and over—and defines a hero: You have to help someone,” Brad says. “You may help people directly, like Abraham Lincoln, or maybe you inspire us like Amelia Earhart. But to be a hero, you have to help someone. In these books, these aren’t just the stories of famous people. They’re what we're all capable of on our very best days.”American mythologyWhile Superman and Wonder Woman amaze with their super-human powers, for many, it is their humanity and our ability to connect with them that makes them so super. This is all the more true of everyday heroes like Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks and Meltzer’s latest subjects, Albert Einstein and Jackie Robinson. These people could not leap over buildings or bend steel bars with their bare hands, but they did even more to overcome obstacles, bend rules and change hearts, minds and points of view.With this in mind, Brad suggests that there is really not much difference between a female flier like Earhart and Wonder Woman. “They are all part of the American mythology,” he observes, “and the reason these stories still persist so strongly for all these decades isn't just because they tell the stories about other people. It’s because their stories also tell us about ourselves.”Giving backBrad’s helpful definition of a hero has also directed his own life. As each new best-seller is released and more people come to know his name, he does even more to reach out and help out. Proceeds from his sales go to such organizations as City Year, Alex’s Lemonade Stand and Sharsheret, a Jewish community response to breast cancer. While many of the heroes he writes about are his own (including his parents, grandparents, and eighth-grade English teacher), Brad’s Son and Daughter books also feature many of his family’s favorites.“My daughter…loves Lucille Ball,” he says, offering an example from “her” book and noting that his daughter is so enamored with the pioneering and famously charitable comedienne that she is probably “the only girl in America watching black and white TV!”Leave room for your own heroesAnd while all of his books depict and discuss the helpful and heroic lives of such people as Gandhi, Ben Franklin, Golda Meir and “Superman” himself (i.e., Christopher Reeve), Brad says that he always saves the best for last by including members of his own family toward the end of each collection. In both books, there is also a set of blank pages where readers can add their own chapters and pay their own tributes to the people who have helped them and been their heroes as well.“If you take a picture of your mom or grandparent or teacher, and you paste it in the book and write one sentence on what that person means to you,” he pledges, “it will be the most beautiful page [and] the best present we can give our children: the reminder that it is ordinary people who change the world.”Who are the everyday superheroes in your own life? Let us know in the comments section, below.Matt Robinson is a freelance writer living in Boston.
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Arianna Huffington: Balanced Media Mogul

Arianna Huffington is Redefining Success

Arianna Huffington is passionate about success. And while success has been a focal point throughout her life, she sees it much differently now than she did even a few years ago. Today, her view of success is tied closely to happy living: “Well-being is now going to be in the center of my life, not on the edges.”Speaking at the International Symposium of Contemplative Studies in Boston in November, Arianna shares how she has accomplished the far-reaching goals she set for herself and did it in a way that helped define many of the major topics of our lifetime: women’s roles in the workplace and the world, the changing nature of political leadership and 21st-century innovations in media. Now, she has turned her attention to living a good and happy life.Playing the game of life“We have, if we’re lucky, about 30,000 days to play the game of life,” Arianna says in a recent interview. “How we play it will be determined by what we value. A huge part of that is our relationship with time. So for me, a well-lived life is one where there is ample time for the people in my life who truly matter, time to pause and wonder at the world, and time to delight in the mysteries of the universe, as well as the everyday occurrences and small miracles that fill our lives.”In her 2014 best-selling book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, she asks us to consider redefining success beyond the timeworn standards of money and power: “To live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, we need a third metric, a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.”The value of failingArianna credits her mother with instilling optimism and resilience. “My mother taught us that failure is not the opposite of success, it is the stepping stone to success.”She lives that life philosophy firsthand. After graduating from Cambridge, she wrote a successful book, The Female Woman. But 36 publishers rejected her second book, and a seven-year relationship ended shortly after that.“By about rejection 25, you would have thought I might have said, ‘Hey, you know, there’s something wrong here. Maybe I should be looking at a different career.’ ” Instead she walked into a bank in London where she was living at the time and asked for a loan. “Even though I didn’t have any assets, the banker—whose name was Ian Bell—gave me a loan. It changed my life, because it meant I could keep things together for another 13 rejections and finally, an acceptance.Getting up one more time“In fairy tales there are helpful animals that come out of nowhere to help the hero or heroine through a dark and difficult time, often helping them find a way out of the forest. Well, in life, too, there are helpful animals disguised as human beings, as bank managers like Ian Bell, to whom I still send a Christmas card every year. So, very often, the difference between success and failure is perseverance. It’s how long we can keep going until success happens. It’s getting up one more time than we fall down.”Arianna moved to New York, where she continued writing books and magazine articles. After weathering ups and downs in love, career and even politics, Arianna co-founded The Huffington Post in 2005.The site was not an immediate success; it faced a storm of negative reviews, including one particularly harsh but memorable criticism from LA Weekly’s Nikki Finke, who called it “the movie equivalent of Gigli, Ishtar and Heaven’s Gate rolled into one.”Yet Arianna refused to be diverted by the criticism. Today, she says that backlash gave her the incentive to persevere. The truth is, we are always going toget bad reviews, she says. The answer is to rely on our personal resilience and continue our journey. In her case, the critics may remain, but the site has gained respect, credibility and worldwide recognition.The most powerful blog in the worldIn 2012, The Huffington Post won the Pulitzer Prize for a 10-part series on wounded veterans, becoming the first commercially run digital site in the United States to win the prize. It also has been ranked No. 1 on the Most Popular Political Sites by eBizMBA Rank, and The Observer, a British newspaper, named it the most powerful blog in the world.“At some point, I learned not to dread failure,” she says. “I strongly believe that we are not put on this earth just to accumulate victories and trophies and avoid failures but rather to be whittled and sand-papered down until what’s left is who we truly are.“My advice to those facing critics or challenging times is to refrain from adding our own self-criticism into the mix. This means dealing with the voice I call the obnoxious roommate living in our head, the voice that feeds on putting us down and strengthening our insecurities and doubts.”Refocusing attentionArianna now uses her media platform to showcase her happiness discoveries. The Huffington Post regularly includes news on happiness and how to achieve it. It’s a journey she embarked on after receiving a serious wake-up call in 2007.Exhausted from the relentless hustle of running a booming media enterprise, Arianna collapsed while at her computer in her home office. As her head hit the desk, she injured her eye, broke her cheekbone and ultimately realized she needed to find a new approach to her hectic life. She returned to the meditation and yoga exercises her mother had shown her as a child. She says now, “I wish they had just told me, ‘You have civilization disease.’ ”That’s how she sees it today, she explained at the Boston symposium: If you are driven to focus only on wealth and power, you, too, might have civilization disease. “Our society is made of highly educated good people making bad decisions. It’s not that they’re not smart, it’s that they’re not wise. We all have that wisdom in us,” she says. “I would never again congratulate someone for working 24/7. It’s like coming to work drunk.”Arianna is using her resources—such as books, speaking engagements and her media company—to help others learn how to adopt a lifestyle that encompasses well-being and wonder, wisdom and giving. She sees mindfulness as an important element in redefining success, in slowing down or even stopping the busyness of our lives, if only for a few important moments to begin each day.“The fact that there is now so much scientific exploration that builds on ancient wisdom is cause for great optimism,” she says. “It doesn’t matter why we start on this journey…at some point we’ll all realize that we’re bigger than our jobs.“However great your job is, you are more marvelous! Getting in touch with that magnificence is part of your journey.”Jan Stanley is a writer, coach and speaker who has worked with Fortune 500 companies to develop leaders and with many people to help them find meaning and joy in work and life.
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Singer Lisa Loeb

Lisa Loeb Is Staying Positive

Lisa Loeb is many things to many people: To her fans, she’s a relatable, folksy musical artist; to her children, Lyla, 5, and Emet, 3, she’s a mom; to the beneficiaries of her nonprofit organization, The Camp Lisa Foundation, she’s a blessing. Most of all, to just about anyone and everyone she meets, she’s a genuinely happy person, and it’s that authentic glow that fuels all of the other aspects of her life. While it may seem the pop star is beaming with positivity now, it wasn’t always this way for Lisa. A childhood of searching “I feel like I spent a lot of time when I was younger being depressed, having my teenage angst, thinking about life, and being frustrated,” Lisa says. “I had a very happy childhood; my parents were great. I was not wanting for anything. I think that there’s just something in me that wasn't satisfied.” But Lisa didn’t ever stay down for too long. Looking on the brighter side “As I went along, I realized there were different ways that you could look at the world to see the brighter side of things,” she explains. “I try to be more of a glass half-full person than a glass half-empty. As I grow older, I continue to get a sense of being satisfied.” According to Lisa, an early love of music—and, eventually, a career in it—sustained her happiness. Music pulls you out “There’s something very magical when you’re working with other people and you're collaborating,” she says. “There’s something that makes you happy when you connect with people. Actually, just singing a sad melody can actually make you feel better. It’s like a way to digest those negative feelings… it pulls you out of it. Luckily with my work, I have that.” Camp Lisa On her second children’s album, Camp Lisa, she teamed up with some notable guests, including Nina Gordon, Jill Sobule and Steve Martin on banjo, to pay homage to some of her fondest memories growing up at summer camp. Lisa gives a portion of the sales from the record to the foundation she created to help kids who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to go to summer camp. “Summer camp was super important to me growing up,” she says. “I was really committed to school, and making good grades and all those kind of things, but I felt like I learned more about myself as a person when I was at summer camp, and it was really fun. I wanted to share that experience with other kids who didn’t have that opportunity. I feel like I want to help as much as I can because I have a voice out there.” A voice out there For Lisa, keeping a 20 years-plus career in perspective also helps maintain her positive outlook. Realizing that she had a lot of help along the way, like having her chart-topping hit “Stay” from the Reality Bites soundtrack discovered through her friendship with actor Ethan Hawke, she never forgets to be thankful. “I’m definitely grateful to different people for helping me find my sound, for helping me like that with different connections that led to other things,” she says. “Just for people who really wanted to listen to music and buy it, people who told friends about it… I’m grateful for all that.”
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Olivia Newton-John

Grace and Gratitude

Olivia Newton-John is a flirt. On a recent Friday night, she begins her“Summer Nights” show at The Flamingo in Las Vegas by shimmying tothe edge of the stage as she sings theopening bars to her epic hit “Have YouNever Been Mellow.”Hopelessly devoted fansThe sold-outaudience of 750 rises to their feet. Then,as they settle back down, Olivia coos,“I’m going to do a couple of songs froma movie where I got to dance with…”Everyone jumps up again, eruptinginto gleeful whoops. They anticipate, ofcourse, that she will finish that sentencewith “John Travolta” and launch intotheir favorite tunes from Grease, her1978 U.S. film debut that made her asuperstar and remains the highest grossingAmerican movie musical ofall time.Olivia pauses, dropping her mic toher hip as she soaks in the adulation.After a few seconds, she smilesbrilliantly and continues. “A moviewhere I got to dance with…Gene Kelly.”If Olivia is toying with her fans as sheresumes her “musical journey” with thetitle song from Xanadu, they are morethan happy to be her playthings. Somehave paid up to $250 for a ringside seatand the chance to have their phototaken with her during a meet and greet.Timeless beauty and talent“She was my first crush,” says a middle-aged man from Seattle who hasbrought along the Xanadu LP for Oliviato sign. A Los Angeles film professorwho lived for several months inAustralia carries a glossy photo ofOlivia, vintage mid-’80s. He remembersgoing to see her perform when he washomesick. “She made me feel at home,”he says.For generations of admirers, OliviaNewton-John has provided thesoundtrack to their lives. They mighthave shared a first kiss to “If You LoveMe, Let Me Know,” become engaged to the strains of “I Honestly Love You”and hit the ballroom floor for their first dance as a married couple to thewedding band staple “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”Back in the early ’80s,some ventured nervously into their firstaerobics class, inspired by Olivia’sadmonition, “Let’s get physical,physical.” (“I’m proud of that song,” shetells the audience, conspiratorially. “Inmy whole career, it was the only songthat was ever banned.”)When facing aloss later in life, many found comfort insongs like “Let Go Let God” or “Learn to Love Yourself” from Olivia’s deeplyspiritual 2006 album Grace andGratitude, featuring instrumentals andvocals for meditation and healing.Still creative and vibrant at 65If there’s a timeless quality to hersongs, the same can be said of Olivia herself. Dressed in an elegant blacktuxedo with peg-legged pants andhigh-heeled ankle boots, her blondehair in a shoulder-length bob, it’s difficult to comprehend that it’s been36 years since her Sandy Olsson first fellin love with John Travolta’s DannyZuko. At 65, Olivia says she has neverfelt healthier, more vibrant or,especially, more creative.
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Miranda Lambert_orig.jpg

Miranda Lambert is Absolutely Loving Life

Inspired by role models Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire and Beyoncé (“I’ve seenher five times; I’m a little bit of a stalker”), Miranda Lambert is making aname for herself as more than a pretty face.The making of a country starAfter proving she has the chops to make it on Nashville Star, Miranda hasgone on to release five solo albums, including her latest,Platinum, in June. She has racked updozens of awards, including a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance,Female, for her heart-tugging hit “The House That Built Me”; a record fivestraight wins as Female Vocalist of the Year from the Academy of CountryMusic; and four consecutive wins in the same category from the CountryMusic Association.Busy, but happyShe shares that shelf with her husband of three years, Blake Shelton,who has accumulated a blacksmith’s trove of statuettes and a legionof fans himself.In addition to opening up Pink Pistol boutiques, Miranda has also launchedher own shoe line, Miranda by Miranda Lambert. “I’m really hard on bootsonstage,” she says. “I stomp around and they have to be comfortable andthe heel can’t be too high. I thought if I could just have my own boot line, I could make exactly what I want.” And her MuttNation Foundation, createdin 2009, has raised nearly a million dollars and supports no-kill rescueshelters in every state.Small-town successNot even Blake shares his wife’s industriousness. “The other day I told himhe should open a bait shop because we have a lot of fishing around butthere’s nowhere to buy bait,” Miranda says. “And he was like, ‘I don’t wantto be as tired and stressed-out as you.’ ”She laughs, and then concedes,“Yes, sometimes it is stressful because I have a lot going on, but it’s also sosatisfying when these things are successful, and I see people get a job in our tiny town or see the dogs have a happy place to live.“There’s always a reward that comes with hard work that keeps youdriving to the next level.”
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Bethenny Frankel with her daughter

Mom’s the Word

Hand Bethenny Frankel a lime, and she’ll make a margarita that morphs into a multimillion-dollar business in the form of her Skinnygirl line of low-calorie drinks. Hand the former Real Housewives of New York star a lemon, and she’ll make lemonade, which is exactly what she’s done since learning earlier this year that her talk show, bethenny, isn’t being renewed after just one season. Rather than despair, she wrote in a loving open letter to her fans: “What I really want now is to be with my daughter, to do yoga, to focus on Skinnygirl and my writing, and to give myself a break.”Taking time for her daughterToday, you can find Bethenny doting on four-year-old daughter Bryn in the streets of New York, time she views as invaluable for keeping her spirits up. “Parenthood gives you direction and defines you; it makes you a part of a community that’s going through the same rundown of emotions—guilt, exhaustion,” she says. “I want to be the kind of parent who looks about for the things my child does naturally in life, to embrace who she is and nurture that, whether it’s sports or music or dress-up, because if you do what you love, you’ll be happy.”From cookbooks to children's booksFor Bethenny, what she loves to do is write books. And for her latest story, Cookie Meets Peanut, she was inspired by Bryn, who she’s described as the love of her life. The children’s book is loosely based on her own experience bringing Bryn home to meet Cookie, her beloved, albeit “very particular and sassy,” Lhasa Apso.Told with equal parts wit and wisdom, the story chronicles the evolving love between a child and a dog, and how “when you bring home a new baby, your dog becomes…a dog,” she says. And, sprinkled in with the illustrations and antics to entertain tykes—think cooking with glitter—moms and dads will find words offering reassurance and advice, a task Bethenny says she’s always up for.Using her new-found wisdom“I’ve been through many difficult things,” she says, “but the difficult times are not for naught, because I can help other people.”
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Chris O'Donnell in the pool

I Am Happy!

It’s 6:30 on a typical weekday morning in the Pacific Palisades home that Chris O’Donnell shares with Caroline, his wife of 17 years, their five children and Kimmy, their adored 13-year-old black lab. The custom-built house sits in a celebrity-dense Los Angelesneighborhood, where residents include A-listers like Matt Damon, BenAffleck, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn, on a bluff overlooking the ocean.The views are stunning, but Chris and Caroline barely have time for a glance as they corral their brood.Fourteen-year-old Lily, the oldest, is out the door and heading to high school across town. Charlie, 10, “my focused little guy,” as Chris calls him, has already gotten dressed, eaten breakfast and iswatching the Golf Channel. Chip, 13, ispresent but not fully accounted for; hiseyes may be open but he’s half asleep.Finn, 8, is nowhere in sight. “You’ve called him 12 times but he’s still in bedand won’t come down,” Chris says. And 6-year-old Maeve, snuggled ona lap, is having her ponytails done.Some mornings, between volleyingquestions—Did you brush your teeth?Make your bed? Pack your backpack?—Chris steals a moment, pulls out hiscamera and videotapes the (mostly)controlled bedlam. “You think of thegreat trips you’ve taken, but this everydaymorning routine is the real fun and the kind of stuff you’ll want to remember,”he says. “This is your real life.”The rush hour of lifeAt 43, Chris is in the throes of whathe calls—borrowing a phrase fromsociologists—“the rush hour of life.” It’sthat period when both the demands ofcareer and family peak. “Right now I’m in the vortex of everything,” he says.“It’s crazy for me.” Days on the set ofhis hit CBS series NCIS: Los Angelescan run 14 hours, and weekends are,if anything, even more jammed. “It’sliterally divide and conquer,” he says; he and Caroline split duties of shuttling thekids to riding lessons, soccer, basketball,football and baseball games, with most Sunday mornings devoted to church.As hectic as rush hour may be, Chris is more than contentriding in the carpool lane.He has created the life he alwayswanted for himself: a large, happy family and the means to providefor them. That desire for blissfuldomesticity seems woven into hisvery DNA.A couple of years after hisbeloved father, William, passed away,Chris looked into his roots on the TLCshow Who Do You Think You Are? (Thisis a sharp contrast to his TV character,G. Callen, a military special agentwho grew up in 20 foster homes anddoesn’t even know what the “G” inhis first name stands for.) What Chrisdiscovered left his blue eyes wateringseveral times during the episode:Generation after generation, the men of his family had answered acall to service—fighting in the War of1812 and later in the Spanish-AmericanWar, helping bury bodies during the cholera epidemic that hit St. Louis inthe 1840s—but always returned hometo their families when they were needed.“Family was the most important thing in life to them,” Chris says.“And maybe that’s part of why itfeels so natural to me, so right, thatit’s also my instinct to put familyahead of everything else. There arepast generations that instill that inyou without your even knowing.”A nice guy who's finishing firstChris has a reputation in Hollywoodfor being a nice guy. Asked about this,he says, “Obviously, you’re talking tothe right people. I’m sure there arepeople who don’t have that opinion ofme.” Finding those people would likelybe a fruitless quest. In person, Chris isunfailingly gracious. At a photo shoot inthe Hollywood Hills on a rare morningoff, he is asked to wade into a pool withhis clothes on, a request that wouldleave many a more finicky actor aghast.But he’s all for it. “Just tell me what youwant me to do,” Chris says. Steppinginto the pool, he playfully brandishes animaginary Robin cape,reprising his days as Batman’s trustysidekick. Then, when a particularlyexuberant kick leaves a photographer’sassistant soaked, he’s full of apologies.He’s just as affable outsideHollywood. An avid and gifted golfer,he has played for the past 18 yearsin the AT&T Pebble Beach NationalPro-Am, a tournament that raisesmoney for the nonprofit MontereyPeninsula Foundation. It’s DougThompson’s sometimes-delicate jobto get the tournament’s celebritygolfers to talk to the press. Manybalk at the request; not Chris.“I have worked with dozens and dozens of celebrities over the past 13 years,” Doug says, “and Chris is themost open and friendly of any of them. He’s willing to do whatever I ask him.” This year Chris was on the driving range practicing with a swing coachwhen Doug approached him aboutdoing a television interview. He saidyes, even though he had a coveted teetime at Cypress Point [Club], widelyconsidered one ofthe most beautifulgolf courses in theworld.“You don’tever want to miss atee time at CypressPoint,” Doug says.“But Chris gaveus 45 minutes.He even showedthe host howto swing a golf club.That typifies him.” Doug runs outof adjectives as he describes Chris’generosity. “He’s just a great guy,” Dougsays, “really incredible,awesome.”A boisterous boyhoodEarly in his acting career, Chrissometimes felt like a fraud becausehe couldn’t call upon a harrowing childhood. “God forbid you came froma stable family,” Chris says. “That feltlike such a cop-out. Sure, a lot of artists did, of course, come from torturedbackgrounds, but I didn’t. When Iwas a young guy and I did interviews,I thought I had to produce some kindof edgy image. I don’t care about thatanymore. I feel so blessed to have had agreat upbringing with a lot of love frommy parents, my brothers and my sisters.”Chris grew up in Winnetka, anaffluent suburb of Chicago, the youngestof seven children. His brothers andsisters complained that as the baby of the family, Chris was spoiled; it didn’t helpthat his mother’s nickname for him was“Precious Love.” In some ways, Chrissays, he’s a composite of every oneof his siblings. “I had this amazingexperience being the youngest ofseven,” he says, “because I was soinfluenced by each of my brothersand my sisters. I see this with my ownkids, too. As the youngest, I wanted tobe like everyone, so I play golf becausemy brother John played golf. I’ll neverbe as good as John—who’s one of thetop amateur golfers in the country—butI’m pretty good. My brother Bill gardensand cooks, and he can build a house. I can do a lot of that, though I can’t doit as well as him. But Bill doesn’t golfand John can’t do any of the stuff thatBill does. I’m somewhere in-between.”The way, way backHis dad set an example of relishing simple pleasures. “He would get as excited about a good homemade burger and a cold beer, sitting in his house with his feet up and watching the Bears game as if he was in the fanciest restaurant in Paris,” he says. The family ate dinner together every night, with Chris and his sister Angela sitting at the breakfast bar because there wasn’t room for all nine O’Donnells at the kitchen table.There were occasional meals out to Hackney’s, a casual family restaurant. “That was a really big deal,” Chris says. “We’d all pile into our two cars—a Buick and a Caprice classic station wagon—and, inevitably, one car would be 30 minutes late because halfway there someone got in trouble, wasn’t allowed to go to dinner and had to be taken home.” There were rules, like each kid was allowed one soda for the night. “You could chug it if you wanted or you could take little sips and wait for everyone else to finish theirs,” Chris says. He’d chug his, then climb under the table and pour packets of sugar into a glass of water. “My parents would say, ‘Just leave him alone, he’s quiet,’ ” Chris says. “It was chaos, and they’d always say, ‘We’re never doing this again.’ But, of course, we did.”Best of all were the weeks spent at a summer cottage on Lake Michigan that had been in his mother’s family for generations. There was a small public golf course behind the house. “My favorite day as a kid was getting up early, going to play golf and then coming home, having lunch and being on those sandy beaches with my family,” Chris says. “We’d build bon fires and generations—my grandparents, parents and lots of cousins—would come together. It was just a simple, fun tradition.”Getting to workWhen he was in the eighth grade,inspired by a classmate who wasappearing in local ads, Chris reached out to a local talent agent. Soon, he wasappearing in local TV commercials andthen national campaigns, like one forMcDonald’s where he rang up an orderfor basketball player Michael Jordan. At17, he landed his first movie role, oppositeJessica Lange, in Men Don’t Leave. It washis introduction to the perks of success,and it left him wide-eyed. “They flew me out to New York to audition,” Chrissays. “I took my dad, and they put us upat The Regency Hotel. There were threeTVs in our room; there was even onein the bathroom. I was blown away.”When Chris started Boston Collegeafter deferring a year to do the movie, hedidn’t tell anyone about his acting career.“I didn’t want to be known as the kidwho was in the movies,” he says. But thenads started running for Men Don’t Leaveand, he says, “the cat was out of the bag.”His anonymity completely evaporatedover the next few years, as he starredopposite some of Hollywood’s biggeststars (Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman andGene Hackman and Faye Dunaway inThe Chamber) and newcomers who wouldgo on to become the next generation ofsuperstars (Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Brendan Fraser in School Ties andDrew Barrymore in Mad Love).The allure of stardomWhen he was 23, Chris went on location to Vienna to star opposite Charlie Sheen and Kiefer Sutherland in The ThreeMusketeers. It was, he says, “the biggest eye-opening experience of all time.” Ifhe liked to have a good time, he was a choirboy in comparison to Kiefer and,especially, Charlie. “I always say it was like taking your craziest buddy fromcollege, giving him $20 million and justseeing what he does,” Chris says. “It wastotally out-of-control. I loved it, butI had my limits. I’d knock back somecocktails with them, but at a certainpoint, I’d check out while they’d run all night. This was a big opportunityfor me, and I was taking it seriously.”While Chris enjoyed his stint as a Hollywood heartthrob, he recognized “there were different paths you could take.” He goes on. “I knew I could continue to date and never get married and enjoy Hollywood and all the benefits of it, but that really wasn’t who I was,” he says. “It’s tough to have it both ways. If you know you want to have a great family and a bunch of kids, it’s hard to run around in Hollywood.”Finding his soulmateHe started dating Caroline Fentress,the sister of a college roommate (“Assoon as I kissed her, I knew she wasthe one,” he likes to say), and, threeyears later, in April 1997, they married.“Being in this business can be anemotional roller coaster, and Carolineis an incredibly stable person and agreat sounding board for me,” he says.She provided a ballast early on, inthe heady aftermath of making BatmanForever and Batman & Robin.“TheBatman movies changed everything,” he says. “It took me to a differentlevel.” Chris was bombarded with filmoffers, and though he declined rolesthat turned out to be hits for otheractors, including Men in Black, he hasno regrets. “I love doing films,” Chrissays, “but traveling all the time andbeing on location isn’t conducive tofamily life. When I started having kids,I realized TV was going to make moresense for me.”Joining the NCIS familyAfter co-starring stintson Two and a Half Men, The Practice andGrey’s Anatomy and a starring role inthe Cold War miniseries The Company,he moved on to NCIS: Los Angeles. Itproved a hit out of the gate and stilldrew top ratings in its fifth season.This year, to keep things interesting,Chris directed an episode for the first time and hopes to do more directingnext season. Still, he is far fromrestless. “I’m comfortable with thecharacter I play, and I’m crazy aboutthe people I work with,” he says. Chrisshares a special chemistry and a kind of“bromance” with his co-star, rapper-turned-actor LL Cool J. “I love him,”Chris says. “He’s one-of-a-kind, anincredibly confident guy who’s reallycomfortable in his own body. He’s alsosomebody that I absolutely trust. I can tell that guy anything and he’s like a vault.”For now, Chris is looking eastwardto the coast of Maine, where he has asummer home. Hoping to re-createthe kind of experiences that he enjoyedgrowing up, the family spends summers at their 100-year-old waterfront home.“I’ve got Maine fever,” he says. “It’s myfavorite place to be and I can’t get therefast enough. I get eight weeks off fromthe show, and everyone always asks me ifI’m going to do a  lm on my hiatus. I say,‘Are you crazy? This is the most precioustime of the year with my kids.’ We justkind of shut things down and hang out.It’s when I really get to live my life.”The days are sun-drenched andleisurely: They pack a picnic and exploredifferent islands—there are over 4,600 islands off the coast of Maine—sail, swimand golf. And, unlike when they’re in LA,even his older kids don’t balk at spendingfamily time together. “I’m still a big shotto my little guys,” he says, “but Chip andLily are gone every weekend. I’ll say,‘I thought we were going to do somethingtogether,’ and they’re like, ‘I don’t knowI’ve got so-and-so coming over.’ I’m like,‘All right, but what am I, chopped liver?’ ”Finding the good life at homeDon’t feel too sorry for Chris. Alongwith taking romantic trips to places like Paris and the French Caribbean Islandof St. Bart’s, he and Caroline have very active social lives themselves. “I’m notrunning around in Hollywood going to every event,” he says. “But we’re always going to dinners with friends and havingparties.” Recently, Caroline organized agame of team charades, with 60 adultsbroken into eight teams. “People wereracing through every room of thehouse,” he says. “It was the best night ofthe year.” And just recently they hosteda more elegant event—a catered wine pairingdinner for a dozen friends. Chrisis a serious wine collector, and when hehad his home built from the ground up,he included a wine cellar (as well as anoutdoor pizza oven).When theO’Donnells return home from Maine,Chris will begin making plans for theOktoberfest he hosts every year, completewith fare like beef roulade, schnitzeland beer passed around in a giant stein. “It’s a family tradition,” Chris says.“I get really sentimental about things,and I’m really a creature of habit.”Right now, it’s time for Chris tomove on to his next appointment.Before he heads out to his car—anAudi sedan that, he says, is the fanciestcar he has ever bought and that leaveshim feeling slightly abashed—he iscertain to thank every crew memberwith a hearty, “Appreciate it, man.Have a good day.” And just as thedoor closes behind him, there’s asound that follows Chris O’Donnellwherever he goes. People turn to eachother, smile and exclaim, “What anice guy!”
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Maya Angelou

The Voice of Hope

Since learning of Maya Angelou’s death on Wednesday, the world has come alive with tributes to this author, poet, civil rights activist, teacher and playwright. The woman who, as a child, went five years without speaking, grew up to become a universal voice of hope, and her passing at age 86 has prompted a flood of tributes and heartfelt appreciation. Although we all knew she was an amazing, adored and admired woman, her death has reminded us just how many people’s lives Maya transformed—whether or not they ever met her. I was fortunate to have had two encounters with Maya. The first was while attending the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait last November, which she narrated live from the stage. Before the performance, she gave a pre-concert talk, and nearly every seat was filled. It was, according to the CSO, the most-attended pre-concert talk in their history.Sitting in her wheelchair and telling stories from the stage, Maya looked frail and tired. But when she opened her mouth, and that melodious voice began weaving stories as only she could do, it was as strong as it had ever been. Time may have dimmed her eyesight and weakened her gait, but it couldn’t touch that beautiful, unmistakable voice.She had already silenced that voice once, when she was 8 years old and revealed that her mother’s boyfriend had raped her. When her uncles murdered the man, young Maya believed her words had killed him. She refused to speak for nearly five years, and it was only when her grandmother said she believed Maya was destined for great things that the young girl began speaking again. What if her grandmother was right, she wondered. What if she truly was something special? So Maya began using her voice again—and what a voice it was.As we all learned, Maya was, indeed, something special. When I interviewed her for Live Happy a few days after her performance in Cincinnati, she expressed surprise that people—especially young people—were still interested in her.“I have Facebook fans,” she said with amazement, explaining that someone on her team had created a page for her. “They told me if you have a million likes, it’s a big deal.”As millions of Americans stop to reflect on her memory, Maya's beautiful words and singular voice still seem like a very big deal.
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Jim Carrey wearing sunglasses

Jim Carrey on a Roll

Inspired by his own childhood fears, Jim Carrey aims to ease the worry thatchildren have about loss with his new book, How Roland Rolls. Telling the tale of a wave namedRoland who is afraid his life willend once he hits the beach, the first-time author uses the ocean asa metaphor for life. Jim hopes thisbook will teach children that wenever end—we just change. Throughout his career, JimCarrey hastold countless stories and playedmany characters, but none may bemore fulfillingto him than his latest character, Roland. With the help ofRoland, Jim wanted to take this heavyburden of a topic and present it in away that givespeople relief. “That’s what I am about, that’smy job,” he says. “It’s been my job my whole life. My ministry is to freepeople from concern.” Illustrated by award-winningartist and animator R.C. Nason, How Roland Rollspresents Jim’s philosophy ina succinct, innocent way that is easy forchildren to understand, and maybe theparents can take something from it, too. In the end, Roland realizes that heis part of something bigger. From asmall raindrop to a vast ocean, he isstill connected to everything, and heis still here. And just like with every bedtime storywe tell our children, in the end, we are safe, we aresecure and good triumphs once again. Check out this video on the the creative process and thinking behind the book. Also, take a look atJim’s wacky faces were the inspirationfor R.C.’s illustrations of Roland, and send in your own funny faces.
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