March 8, 2012 at 1:06 am , by Louise Sloan
“If you speak to me disrespectfully one more time, you will not be allowed to cook for a week,” I told my son in my best dispassionate, Dirty Harry “Go ahead, make my day” voice. His babysitter, who was on the way out the door, shot me a “WTF” look. I was threatening a 5-year-old with the terrible punishment of not being allowed to cook dinner for a week? Were we in Bizarro World?
Um, I guess so. I don’t know—it’s just the way things are these days at my house. My kindergartner has always loved to cook (check out the video of him making pancakes at age 1 and my blog post about his surprisingly good radish soup), but lately he’s become downright obsessed. And more than that, Scott’s suffering from, shall we say, a slight overabundance of self-esteem? It’s like I’ve suddenly become Bill Buford, author of the wonderful memoir Heat, which is about spending a year working in Mario Batali’s kitchen, getting schooled—and yelled at—by the famous chef. Scott, of course, is Batali.
“Most kids my age don’t know how to cook, but I’ve practiced a lot so I can,” he’ll say proudly. “That’s right,” I’ll reply, watching as he expertly cracks and scrambles eggs or slices up some potatoes with a disposable plastic knife and sautées them in olive oil with garlic, fresh herbs and a touch of freshly ground black pepper. (His idea.) But then I’ll come up against his inner Batali. I’ll give him some basic guidance or I’ll hand him an ingredient, and he’ll rebuke me: “Mom. I’M THE CHEF. Chefs don’t have people helping them!” Oh my goodness, the tone! I tell him that real chefs actually DO have lots of people helping them. And that he is not to speak that way to his mother. What I don’t tell him is that real chefs often have the same imperious attitude. They’re just a little older and wield a lot more financial power over their kitchen companions.
Night before last he had a bit of a come-uppance. Read more
March 1, 2012 at 11:16 am , by Amanda Wolfe
Can’t make it to a local International Women’s Day event? Celebrate with us from home! Next Wednesday (March 7—mark your calendar!) we’re hosting a special online screening of the extraordinary documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell with our friends at CARE and ITVS.
Pray the Devil Back to Hell is the astonishing and inspiring story of a group of Liberian women who united to take on Liberia’s violent dictator and warlords during their country’s brutal civil war. It’s truly an amazing story that you don’t want to miss.
After the film stay online and participate in a live panel discussion with experts and special guests, including the film’s producer Abigail Disney, PBS President Paula Kerger, and CARE President and CEO Helene Gayle. We’ll be talking about the role that women have in changing our world, which—as you’ll see when you watch—is huge.
So go bookmark care.org/IWD now (you can also learn lots more) and don’t forget to join us on Wednesday!
March 1, 2012 at 10:00 am , by Lauren Piro
Marlene, 44, and Roy, 49, had a grass-is-always-greener problem with their marriage. Both divorced, they’d experienced bossy and distant spouses before, and were ready for a smoother, more romantic ride the second time around—and they got it. But before long, togetherness turned clingy (for Marlene) and concern turned critical (for Roy), and both wondered if they were actually better off before they remarried. Read on to find out how they reconnected, or find the full story here.
Marlene’s turn: On their honeymoon, Marlene couldn’t believe much she loved Roy. They wandered the streets of Paris hand-in-hand, and she couldn’t imagine a life apart from him again. That is, until the honeymoon was over (literally), and all she wanted was some quiet time for herself after a long day at work as a litigation attorney. Instead, Roy follows her around the house, craving her attention. That is, when he’s not leaving a mess in the kitchen, half-finishing chores, or missing important appointments. Plus, their sex life is just not good—Roy gets too nervous, and they’ve tried everything make it easier. Lingerie, videos, Viagra … everything. Marlene loves that Roy has become a father figure for her son Carl, but that seems to be the only item in her “pro” column. Should she have just stuck with her single, yet peaceful life?
Roy’s turn: Roy is terrified that Marlene is going to leave him, but he doesn’t understand what he’s doing wrong. So what if he leaves a spices out on the counter? He’s made his wife a delicious gourmet meal! Big deal if he’s not a handyman. He’ll gladly pay to have someone come work on their house! And why does Marlene avoid him when he tries to start a conversation? Husbands and wives are supposed to talk! Their sex life is just the icing on the cake. Roy feels horrible about not being able to please Marlene, but the more pressure-packed the situation becomes, the harder a time he has.
The counselor’s turn: When asked to rank their biggest marital complaints, Marlene and Roy laughed to see that they’d listed the same problems—but from opposing viewpoints. Marlene yearned for alone time, but Roy felt like she never wanted together time. Marlene hated that Roy never cleaned up after himself, but Roy felt like she was overreacting and didn’t appreciate the nice meals he made for their family. And finally, Marlene didn’t understand why Roy couldn’t do some household chores, but Roy preferred to pay someone else to play handyman. Out loud, this all seemed pretty trivial, so the counselor urged them to remember to pick their battles, and promise to make compromises. Soon enough, Marlene and Roy were able to enjoy married life again—outside and inside the bedroom.
February 21, 2012 at 11:48 am , by Cherise Bathersfield
No Cheating, No Dying is journalist Elizabeth Weil’s account of the year she devotes to making her self-described good marriage even better. Weil and her husband, Dan Duane—both writers and overachievers—submitted to couples counseling, sex therapy, group workshops and more, applying themselves to their marriage as they would to a new writing assignment, hobby or exercise regimen. But being married with two children is no two-mile swim (which the couple did from Alcatraz to San Francisco). It’s complicated. For every issue unearthed, resolved and shelved during Weil’s marital spring-cleaning, another seemed to pop up to take its place. Weil shared some insights with us about her sometimes tumultuous journey to rehab her “good enough” marriage.
Q. After nearly a decade of a marriage that was not broken, what made you decide to fix it?
A. I noticed that I was being lazy-brained about my marriage in a way that I was not about the rest of my life. I had stacks of book on how to be a good mother. I kept up with the latest research on how to stay healthy. I put a lot of effort into my friendships, my work life and staying fit. But I had an attitude about my marriage that it was either star-crossed or it wasn’t. And once I noticed that attitude, it seemed silly. So I decided to change it.
Q. How did your husband, Dan, react to your proposal?
A. With horror! I’m sort of kidding. But his first reaction, when I brought it up, was “I can’t think of anything worse.”
Q. Where did the name of the book No Cheating, No Dying come from?
A. Those were our secret vows. Of course we stood up at the altar in front of our friends and family and promised to love and care for each other for richer and for poorer, in sickness and health and all that. But privately we said to each other: no cheating, no dying. We figured our marriage could survive anything else.
Q. You refer to a lot of marriage psychology publications and self-help books. Which ones did you find particularly helpful to you as a couple? Why?
A. Stephen Mitchell’s Can Love Last? The Fate of Romance Over Time really had a huge impact on me. Mitchell argues that romance doesn’t die in marriage due to neglect. Romance dies because we kill it, on purpose, as it becomes increasingly dangerous. We are so dependent on our spouses. These days husbands and wives aren’t just lovers or financial partners. We’re also co-parents, emotional supports, best friends. We can’t bear to think of our spouses as anything less than entirely predictable. And as a result we can start to think they’re boring and unromantic. But really, we’ve just put our spouses in that box. We need to take them out again.
February 3, 2012 at 2:40 pm , by Louise Sloan
I was originally hired to be LHJ’s “psychology editor,” and over my four years here, much of my work has been about improving happiness and coping with stress. In fact, the first article I worked on was called “5 Habits of Truly Happy People.” I joked at the time that after a few months on the job I’d end up being oh so enlightened. But you know what? Lately I’ve realized that I have picked up a few ideas that help me through the hard times. Here are a few LHJ-article tricks I’ve been using—all of which have a lot of university research proving that they’re effective. Plus two thumbs up from this test driver!
Do fun stuff. Sure, you need to take your problems seriously, eat your vegetables and keep up with the news. But not every minute of the day! Take time to click on that cute or funny Facebook link. Watch or read something that makes you laugh (here’s our article on how laughter releases stress), or indulge in some escapism. I’ve most recently been transported to the English countryside, watching Downton Abbey on my iPhone on my subway commute, and reading Plan C, an e-book that came out last week (see photo) that Vanity Fair‘s James Wolcott accurately called a “breathless romp.” The heroine, dressed in expensive stilettos, teeters back and forth between fabulous Manhattan apartments and celeb-filled cocktail parties, exchanging gossip and witty banter with her equally fabulous BFFs—about as far from my NYC life as you can get. Though my reality—being the single working mom of a five-year-old—does help increase the fun factor, I gotta say (check out our article on the psychological importance of play)—there’s usually a game of chase or something silly I can engage in the minute I come home at night.
Think happy thoughts. Even small ones, like, “The Chrysler Building really is beautiful.” Or, “my bum hip isn’t bothering me too much today.” Look for something to enjoy in the moment (for tips, read our mindfulness article), or something to look forward to, something that you’re grateful for, or find a happy memory and dwell on that. These small thoughts add up, boosting your mood and at least temporarily interrupting that endless loop of negativity.
Hug somebody. Thank goodness for my snuggly schoolboy! But if you don’t have a five-year-old or a husband or a friend handy, a pet will work just fine. The benefits of touch are well-documented, and can sometimes really work wonders, as “The Cuddle Cure,” a pet story I edited, demonstrates.
Get some exercise. I know, sounds like broccoli. But wow, does it work. It’s as close to a psychological cure-all as you can get. After 20 minutes of lifting heavy weights, whatever my heavy load is always seems a lot lighter. Hmmm. I think it’s time for a gym break.
What’s your favorite “happiness skill”?
February 3, 2012 at 11:17 am , by Lauren Piro
Newlyweds Isabella and Ryan assumed that married life would be blissful and easy. Kids, right? Read on to find out how they learned to communicate (and keep their problems off the internet!), and find the full story here.
Isabella’s turn: Isabella comes from a very close-knit, traditional family. Her mother’s home was always immaculate, Isabella is very close to her sister, and everyone in her family knew they had responsibilities. Then she married scruffy, free-spirited Ryan, and found that their home life was, well, different. To Isabella, Ryan is a slob stuck in a dead-end job. He never helps around the house and resents the fact that she makes more money than he does (even though she knows he could be a successful comic-book writer if he put his mind to it). Tensions were rising, and then Isabella stumbled upon the real kicker. Ryan had been keeping a blog (which had garnered a bunch of readers!) complaining about life with Isabella. She feels betrayed and wonders how well she knows him at all.
Ryan’s turn: Isabella is overreacting—he’s only using a the blog as a way to express his feelings, and likes the advice he gets from his readers. He says it’s like anonymous group therapy, that’s all. Ryan’s life has always been a bit difficult. His parents had him at a very young age, his dad was an alcoholic, and recently they got a divorce, which Ryan took pretty hard. For awhile, Isabella made his life better—she was romantic and caring, and he loved spending time with her. But now, she just nags him as soon as she gets home from work. He feels like nothing in his life is working right now (including his dull job), so he took to the internet to sort things out. It’s not a big deal. Why can’t Isabella just drop it?
The counselor’s turn: Like many couples, Ryan and Isabella didn’t think it was important to discuss how they would handle everyday tasks once they got married. They seem trivial, but responsibilities like managing housework can quickly cause fighting and marital disappointment. Ryan’s blog was definitely hurtful, but it helped the couple finally get their feelings and problems out in the open. After working with the counselor, each agreed to try harder. They created a chore schedule to organize their household management in way that worked for both of them, and Isabella curbed her constant nagging, trading her resentment for better communication. Ryan apologized for hurting Isabella and minimizing her concerns, and admitted that it bothered him that Isabella was the family breadwinner. The counselor recognized that Ryan had a tough childhood, but told him it was time to change the outcome of his story and earn some self-worth. The couple decided that Ryan would enroll in art school to kick-off his new career, and before long their closeness returned.
January 24, 2012 at 3:33 pm , by Ron Kelly
Are you a cat lover who’s tired of the host of feline fashion faux paws … er, pas … that you see in the stores? Well, you’ve got a friend in country music’s Kellie Pickler, who recently teamed up with Fresh Step litter and the ASPCA for a great cause that’ll benefit both cats in need and your wardrobe.
Now through March 15, in honor of February being Cat Appreciation Month, Fresh Step litter will donate $1 (up to $100,000) to the ASPCA for every photo posted on their Facebook page of a pet owner wearing a cat-proud outfit. If your closet is currently cat-pride free, relax and don’t cough up a hairball. That’s why Pickler partnered with fashion designer and fellow cat lover Geren Ford, creating the limited-edition sweater you see Pickler wearing here. When you visit the ASPCA website to purchase the sweater ($35), 100% of the proceeds benefits the ASPCA. You can also virtually “try on” the sweater at Fresh Step’s Facebook page, post it, and make the $1 donation. It’s so easy, your cat can probably do it!
Pickler, who unfortunately had to relocate her beloved cat Pickles due to her husband’s severe allergies, is thrilled to be part of such a pro-cat program, brushing off any fear of being stamped with a “crazy cat lady stigma” as cooly as she’d brush cat hair off a couch. “I’m not ashamed of anything,” she says matter-of-factly. “I don’t really worry about what everybody else is doing and what they like. I kind of do my own thing. I love cats and I’m not going to not love cats just because somebody else doesn’t think it’s cool. I don’t think they’re cool if they don’t like cats.”
She was in a similar mindset while making her brand new CD, 100 Proof, which is out today and takes Pickler back to some more traditional country roots. “On my last album, I made a record based on what I thought radio would play and what I thought people would want to hear,” she explains. “I didn’t do that with this record. I’m not trying to get anybody to like me with this album. Nothing’s forced. I was me, I didn’t make this record for anyone but me and I think it’s okay to do things for yourself every now and then.” Her new approach has produced an album that is her strongest, most personal effort yet. In fact, by not worrying about what anyone wanted to hear, she just may have made the record everyone was waiting for after falling in love with her on American Idol in 2006.
Continue on after the jump for more dish about Pickler’s brand new CD …