Archives: Secrets

Do You Remember the Time…?


So I recently watched The Sandlot for the first time and totally loved it, which is no big surprise.  I’m a nostalgic person by nature – like a sticky ant trap for memories.  (Men LOVE this about me not at all.)

I also often find myself nostalgic for times I didn’t even live in – for the halcyon days of soda jerks and poodle skirts, when girls wanted to …READ MORE!


When You Need a Blankie…


Good morning, everyone!  Hope you all had a great weekend!  I was horizontal for most of mine …READ MORE!


What to do When You Run Out of Cinnamon Toast Crunch

Search no more.  You now have a reason to get up in the morning even when you’re out of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  Gorge yourself on Jason Silva’s latest “Shots of Awe” offering, The Hero’s Journey.  While the tagline for this 2-minute short is slightly Oprah-esque (“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls”), it’s also patently true (and Oprah is a billionaire, so she wins).  This week Jason’s inspiration addiction brings us to the physics of the quest (never heard of Quest Physics?  Read Eat, Pray, Love.).

These videos pack a Rocky Balboa punch in the motivational department.  I feel like I could run a marathon after each one (but not gonna).

And for a little extra fun, I put together a colorful print-out of my favorite quotes to tape to the wall by my desk.  Feel free to download it at the link below.  Enjoy!

Hero’s Journey Poster Print-Out


Everyday Royals

As excitement over the Royal Baby reaches fever pitch (I suppose it’s too much to hope that they’ll still name him Prince Tanya?), I want to take a minute and honor a couple that was regal in its own way – a horse-betting clerk and a nurse who fell in love so immediately and so gracefully that you’ll need a hankie when you hear their story.  Watch the sweet video above – you won’t believe how romantic 27 years of weather reports can be.

See photos of the real-life couple after the jump!


Funk & Flash

Found on my mom's bookshelf!

Found on my mom’s bookshelf!

Good morning, Vietnam! We’re back in business – thanks for your patience and kind words over the last two weeks – they’ve really carried me through. I’ve also been self-medicating with Idina Menzel’s acoustic rendition of this song from Rent, which has helped with the sadsies (that’s totally the medical term for being unable to get out of your pajamas for 3 days straight and a general malaise toward eating anything with actual nutritional value). I’ll tell you one good thing that has come from all of this – I discovered that I can get away without brushing my hair for several days if I wear a sock bun. The sock bun is my savior, and I’m going to build it a church.

I learned a lot of things from my mom in her final years living with cancer, but above all, it was that we can handle anything and can do it with humor. So, in that vein, I thought we could all share a laugh over THIS…READ MORE!


My, what big hands you have…


Since the dawn of time, people have been trying (and failing) to get each other into bed.  But not even hormonal teenagers have been doing it quite like the ancient Greek and Romans, who – according to this entertaining read – were “perennially inventive.”  (Reason #582 the government should be funding time travel research.)  Most amusing, however, is what they used to turn themselves OFF – you know, that “erection-withering substance, fresh lettuce.”  I knew I didn’t like salads for a reason.  The produce aisle of America is going to take a big hit when this blog post goes viral.

After a few quick searches to see what popular aphrodisiacs are today, I was totally surprised to find …READ MORE!


“We Have a Responsibility to Awe”

Did you know that there are scientific connections between feeling a sense of wonder and being compelled to DO good for others and FEEL good about yourself?  That’s right – forget Wheaties – forget self-help books.  All you really NEED IS…


I have to make a confession…


I don’t know if you watch Inside the Actors Studio?  It took me many, many years to appreciate the host, James Lipton – as a kid, when my parents would tune in to the show, I would retreat to my bedroom to count the threads in my carpet.  But over the years I’ve developed a sort of affection for his academic interview style and awkward jokes.  More than anything though, I like the questionnaire he does at the end of the show.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, watch the compilation video I found below of several famous actors answering James’ questions a few years ago.  And, if you can stomach more Lipton, here he is answering his own questions – I really enjoyed hearing his responses for the first time!

What I didn’t realize is that Lipton “borrowed” his questionnaire from the famous French TV host, Bernard Pivot.  (How I never came across this fun fact in 5 years of playing bar trivia in college, I’ll never understand. I want my tuition back.)  If you haven’t heard of Pivot, you’re not alone – I hadn’t either, but apparently he’s a big deal in France.  As one article put it, “Pivot is to France what Oprah is to America.”  Interestingly enough, the basis for Pivot’s questionnaire was one completed by French writer, Marcel Proust, in the 1800s…ZzzzZzzzzZzzzz….sorry, fell asleep in the middle of this never-ending essay on the family tree of the Lipton Questionnaire.

Where was I?  Oh right.  In the 1800s, there was a popular kind of autograph book passed between friends called a confession book that contained a formulaic set of questions on each page.  Proust’s answers in a young female companion’s confession book went on to be discovered in 1924 and later sold at auction in 2003 for nearly $140,000 (remind me to look into the market value of my junior high diaries), and also became the basis for both Pivot and Lipton’s questionnaires as we know them today.

Lipton’s Questions are:

What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
What turns you on?
What turns you off?
What sound or noise do you love?
What sound or noise do you hate?
What is your favorite curse word?
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
What profession would you not like to do?
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Next week, I’ll be sharing my first Wonderist interview with a photographer whose work I really admire.  I thought it would be fun to start a tradition of ending interviews with our own Proust questionnaire, so I will be taking submissions of your favorite questions at or in the comments section below until Sunday, May 5th, at midnight EST.  Let’s breathe new life into these questions with a more playful approach (a spin-the-bottle meets actual journalism vibe)! Can’t wait to read your suggestions – I will announce the winners on Monday!



What’s Your Secret: Happy Days!

Photo Source: fanpop

Photo Source: fanpop

I like lists, can you tell?  I think it’s genetic – a maternal birthright that has plagued husbands and coworkers for centuries.

Today, I wanted to put together a list of simple ways to make average days feel like somethin’ special.  We’ve all seen embroidered pillows imploring us to “Seize the Day” and Hallmark card wisdom that says “Live every day as if it were your last!”  But how?  HOW!

Here are a few ways I do it, and please add yours to the list in the comments section!!

  1. Be a kid!  When I was 23 and had just moved to Washington, DC – 2 friends and I ran out into the rain and jumped in puddles like complete yahoos, and it was SO FUN.  Sure people stared, but you’ll be smarter than I was and won’t wear a white t-shirt.  Or you can roll around in the dirt with your friends playing Kick the Can (favorite pastime of Midwestern children).  Something about getting mud on your clothes (intentionally) is awesome.  I love how Liz Stanley at Say Yes to Hoboken has “Never Grow Up” mornings with her son where they do all the crazy/messy /loud stuff that’s usually off-limits.
  2. Drink your morning orange juice out of a wine glass.  It’s a small thing, but it makes waking up feel like a day at the spa instead of a medieval torture trap.  I once dated a fella who brought me OJ in a wine glass when I was sick, and it seemed so absurdly extravagant that it immediately lifted my mood.  (This is the same person who let me sleep in a baseball cap at night because I didn’t want him to see the Mt. Vesuvius-sized zit on my forehead.)
  3. Learn something new.  My mom always told me I needed a hobby (I suspect that’s a thing all mothers say).  When I turned 32, I got 8 of them (hobbies, not mothers).  She was right – it feels good to be learning something new at my age!  A quick 5-minute French lesson or two before bed, and I fall asleep dreaming about baguettes and fields of lavender.  Check out the app Duolingo for Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese – I’ve studied languages all of my life, and this free tool is outstanding.  If language isn’t your thing, try picking up a musical instrument, learning to sew, volunteering, playing club sports, upping your photography game, etc. etc.
  4. Buy a plant! Studies say caring for houseplants, gardens, and freshly cut flowers makes us feel happier, healthier, and even more creative.  But don’t fret, if your thumb is more black than green, silk and paper flowers are making a comeback – I think these are stunning.  And here are some ways to arrange them on the cheap from one of my favorite bloggers A Cup of Jo!
  5. Sing or dance like you’re crazy.  Grab a hairbrush microphone, put on your favorite record, and cut a rug.  I recently started doing “dance breaks” with my students when they are lacking focus, and it gives them a great jolt of energy and positivity without fail.  One of my students, Ronnie, even says it makes him feel more confident.  Can’t argue with that.
  6. Make a root beer float.  I mean seriously – when was the last time you had one?  For me, it might have been the A&W in my hometown where the waiters came to the car on rollerskates.  I realize you now think I grew up in Pleasantville in the 1940s.  Not that into root beer?  Here are some yummy alternatives! Sluuuurp.
  7. Ride a bike with a basket. If you’re like me, you enjoy pretending you’re an American novelist living in the English countryside, and you’re about to peddle your bike right into Mr. Darcy.
  8. Lay on a lawn or a roof at sunset with binoculars (not you, peeping toms) or a digital camera.  There are few things as peaceful as a beautiful sunset or a clear night sky, and too often we don’t stop to appreciate them.  How about these incredible sky photos?!  If you want to take it up a notch, “buy” a loved one a constellation – you can’t actually do this, I’m told (companies that say you can are a scam) – but nothing’s stopping you from making a sweepingly romantic gesture by printing up a certificate with the coordinates of the constellation you’re “dedicating” to your loved one and giving it as a gift.  You would literally be giving them the universe.  How’s that for metaphor.
  9. Give a stranger a compliment, and practice compassion and gratitude actively.  Not only will you feel good doing it, but you’ll probably live longer.  Win-win!
  10. Make something thoughtful – like these heart-shaped grilled cheese sandwiches and put the comfort into “comfort food!”
  11. Leave post-it notes for your favorite people – on the bathroom mirror or your friend’s computer or anywhere really.  Several of my coworkers leave me notes on my monitor in the morning – something as simple as “You inspire!” or “Fill the Damn Candy Bowl,” but it always puts a smile on my face.

So these are just a few ways to spice up any-ole-day – please share yours!


What’s Your Secret: Let’s Get Handsy

Source: Michelangelo

Source: Michelangelo

Last month, I was in Chicago visiting my sister and her family when my youngest nephew, Wells (2 feet of Grade A baby cuteness!), came running toward me out of nowhere – a huge gap-toothed grin on his face – and wrapped himself around my leg in a tight squeeze.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about that moment in the last few weeks.  What a fun place the planet would be if grown-ups felt such spontaneous joy and  – imagine this – EXPRESSED IT (in a completely legal way, of course).

I first noticed how touch-deprived I was a couple years ago when I found myself leaning in to hug a complete stranger on a packed rush hour train just because I was tired, and, well, because it seemed like there was a 20% chance he might hug me back.  When you find yourself packed like sardines into tight spaces that lend themselves to that peculiar intimacy between strangers, you can’t help but be acutely aware of the body heat inside the pant leg next to yours.  But growing increasingly concerned about the likelihood that I would one day unleash a Fifty Shades of Grey fantasy on an unwitting commuter, I decided to talk to a friend about it.

We’ll call him Flynn O’Toole (his name has been changed to protect my integrity) – I asked him, “Why is it that we, as a society, shy away from touch the older we get?  Now I’m not suggesting the relative-who-kisses-too-long-on-the-mouth or creepy-boss-who-pats-your-butt-at-the-water-cooler kinds of touching…but gentle, subtle contact – a hug when you’re happy for someone at work, a hand on the elbow as you hold a door open, or a clap on the shoulder after a good joke?”  It was at this point that “Flynn” reached across the table and touched my hand.  I’ll admit that I immediately recoiled in my booth and made some crack about catching cooties, but in truth, it was actually quite lovely.  I don’t like that I’ve been conditioned to withdraw from friendly affection!

It turns out I’m not the only one thinking this way.  I’ve started seeing articles popping up all over the place about the power of human touch – to heal, to placate, to energize.  Take a look at this recent article on the health benefits of casual human touch.  I encourage you to take the One Week Challenge – just touch someone every day and report back about how it made you feel.  I, for one, know how good it felt when Wells gave me that bear hug, drool and all.  4 weeks later, and it still puts a smile on my face.

(What’s Your Secret is a regular feature exploring the different things that make people happy.  Please submit YOUR ideas to!)