How to Get Flat Abs, Have Amazing Sex and Rule the World in 8 Easy Steps

GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
How to Get Flat Abs, Have Amazing Sex and Rule the World in 8 Easy Steps
The covers of most men’s and women’s magazines have similar headlines: “Get Great Abs” and “Have Amazing Sex.”

From the looks of it, these two issues have been recycled over and over (with some other stereotypically gender-relevant articles thrown in) on every Men’s Health, Maxim, Cosmopolitan and Glamour cover since the dawn of time. In fact, I’d bet that if we could get a better translation of cave drawings, they would read something like “Grok get flat belly. Make girl Grok moan with joy.”

And we keep buying them. We keep buying this lie that these things will make us happy. I’ve had washboard abs (past tense) and I’ve had some pretty phenomenal sex. Neither one made me a better person. Neither one completed me or made my life more fulfilling.

We chase this idea of “I will be happy when… “

I will be happy when I have a new car. I will be happy when I get married. I will be happy when I get a better job. I will be happy when I lose five pounds. What if instead we choose to be happy — right now?

If you can read this, your life is pretty awesome.

Setting aside our first-world problems and pettiness, if you are online reading this, you have both electricity and WiFi or access to them. Odds are you are in a shelter of some sort, or on a smart phone (and then kudos to you for reading this on the go). Life might bump and bruise us, it may not always go the way we plan and I know I get frustrated with mine, but here’s the thing: You are alive.

Because you are alive, everything is possible. So about those eight tips…

1. Stop believing your bullshit.

All that stuff you tell yourself about how you are a commitment phobe or a coward or lazy or not creative or unlucky? Stop it. It’s bullshit, and deep down you know it. We are all insecure 14 year olds at heart. We’re all scared. We all have dreams inside of us that we’ve tucked away because somewhere along the line we tacked on those ideas about who we are that buried that essential brilliant, childlike sense of wonder. The more we stick to these scripts about who we are, the longer we live a fraction of the life we could be living. Let it go. Be who you are beneath the bullshit.

2. Be happy now.

Not because The Secret says so. Not because of some shiny happy Oprah crap. But because we can choose to appreciate what is in our lives instead of being angry or regretful about what we lack. It’s a small, significant shift in perspective. It’s easier to look at what’s wrong or missing in our lives and believe that is the big picture — but it isn’t. We can choose to let the beautiful parts set the tone.

3. Look at the stars.

It won’t fix the economy. It won’t stop wars. It won’t give you flat abs, or better sex or even help you figure out your relationship and what you want to do with your life. But it’s important. It helps you remember that you and your problems are both infinitesimally small and conversely, that you are a piece of an amazing and vast universe. I do it daily — it helps.

4. Let people in.

Truly. Tell people that you trust when you need help, or you’re depressed — or you’re happy and you want to share it with them. Acknowledge that you care about them and let yourself feel it. Instead of doing that other thing we sometimes do, which is to play it cool and pretend we only care as much as the other person has admitted to caring, and only open up half way. Go all in — it’s worth it.

5. Stop with the crazy making.

I got to a friend’s doorstep the other day, slightly breathless and nearly in tears after getting a little lost, physically and existentially. She asked what was wrong and I started to explain and then stopped myself and admitted, “I’m being stupid and have decided to invent lots of problems in my head.” Life is full of obstacles; we don’t need to create extra ones. A great corollary to this one is from The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz: Don’t take things personally. Most of the time, other people’s choices and attitudes have absolutely nothing to do with you. Unless you’ve been behaving like a jerk, in which case…

6. Learn to apologize.

Not the ridiculous, self-deprecating apologizing for who you are and for existing that some people seem to do (what’s up with that, anyway?). The ability to sincerely apologize — without ever interjecting the word “but” — is an essential skill for living around other human beings. If you are going to be around other people, eventually you will need to apologize. It’s an important practice.

7. Practice gratitude.

Practice it out loud to the people around you. Practice it silently when you bless your food. Practice it often. Gratitude is not a first world only virtue. I saw a photo recently, of a girl in abject poverty, surrounded by filth and destruction. Her face was completely lit up with joy and gratitude as she played with a hula hoop she’d been given. Gratitude is what makes what we have enough. Gratitude is the most basic way to connect with that sense of being an integral part of the vastness of the universe; as I mentioned with looking up at the stars, it’s that sense of wonder and humility, contrasted with celebrating our connection to all of life.

8. Be kind.

Kurt Vonnegut said it best (though admittedly, and somewhat ashamedly — I am not a Vonnegut fan): “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.'”

Kindness costs us nothing and pays exponential dividends. I can’t save the whole world. I can’t bring peace to Syria. I can’t fix the environment or the health care system, and from the looks of it, I may end up burning my dinner.

But I can be kind.

If the biggest thing we do in life is to extend love and kindness to even one other human being, we have changed the world for the better.

That’s a hell of a lot more important than flat abs in my book.

Previously published on Be You Media Group.

For more by Kate Bartolotta, click here.

For more on happiness, click here.

Travel The World And Support St. Jude
This month, Expedia has put together an exciting campaign to raise awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Expedia recruited my niece, travel journalist Kate Thomas, to rally the travel community and spread the word. Kate explains how to enter to win your dream vacation, get big travel discounts and support St. Jude in the video below. Watch to learn more!

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Good News – The Huffington Post
Inspiring Girl Used Horseback Riding To Heal A Severe Brain Injury (VIDEO)
Two years ago, a student named Talbot was hit by a car while she was crossing the street. She survived, but she was unable to walk or speak due to a severe brain injury. Now, she’s made a truly remarkable recovery — and according to her mother, it had everything to do with an unlikely extra-curricular activity: horseback riding.

Now, the young woman is at one of the highest skill-levels for riding at her facility (run by “Pegasus,” an organization that uses horseback riding for recovery).

“It’s incredible, where she was then, in 2011, and where she is now,” Talbot’s mom said.

Watch the video above to learn more about Talbot’s incredible story.

Luca ‘Lazylegz’ Patuelli Is Showing Kids That A Disability Can’t Stop You From Dancing (VIDEO)
Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli was born with a muscle disorder in his legs called arthrogryposis multiplex congenita. He needs crutches to get around. But he’s still become a 29-year-old breakdancing champion.

Patuelli can dance with and without crutches, often using them to his advantage as a way to reach new heights. He’s also the founding member of the international breakdancing crew Ill Abilities and was a headline performer at Vancouver’s 2010 Paralympic Games. Now, he’s sharing his passion with kids with disabilities at a rehabilitation facility in Montreal.

In a CBC News report he tells the kids, “In life, anything can be possible — as long as we don’t create any excuses along the way.”

Patuelli told CBC News that he remembers his own time in the hospital as a kid and how painfully boring it could be.

But a volunteer clown’s 15-minute visits “were priceless because that distracted me from what I was feeling in the hospital.”

His goal is to give kids that same distraction, while showing them everything that can be accomplished with a disability.

“Anyone can create a movement and make it theirs,” he said. “It’s all about adapting yourself.”

H/T: Yahoo News

Louie, French Bulldog In Park Swing, Just Can’t Be Bothered (VIDEO)
Nothing to see here, folks. It’s just a French Bulldog in a park swing. And if the look on his face is any indication, he’s not here for your amusement.

Don’t let his nonchalance fool you, though — according to his “aunt,” Louie is no stranger to attention.

“He’s such a ham,” she told The Huffington Post.

Ham on, Louie. Ham on.

50 Years Of Guitar Solos In One Epic Video
In this trip down memory lane, brought to you by cdza, Mark Sidney Johnson charges through the history of the guitar solo using 28 songs from over the past five decades.

Watch to see how differently the instrument has been incorporated into rock music through years, and cover up the left side of the screen to see how many solos you can name (no cheating!).

You can see more musical video experiments by cdza here and here!

Healthy Living – The Huffington Post
You Are Not a Unique Snowflake
The book, Happiness as a Second Language, opens with the description of my comically stupid attempt to end my own life. This sentence alone has already offended some people, because suicide is clearly not a laughing matter, but there is no other way to describe it for me. My one and only try was incredibly stupid, and in hindsight, pretty funny. It wasn’t a cry for help, since no one ever knew about it until 15 years later when the book came out, but it was a rash act, in a moment of hopelessness, that I cannot for the life of me figure out the reason for, looking back now with perspective.

Perspective is, of course, one of the great casualties of despair. Whatever we are going through, we think it’s the worst thing to ever happen to anyone and it will never improve. We also think we are all alone in the universe, which is completely wrong. The human experience has some recurring and very common themes, a fact that I find extremely comforting.

Two things discussed in the foreword of Happiness are a series of horrible events that all happened on the same day (which, in hindsight, were the best things that ever happened to me), and my suicide attempt — before realizing the upside of those events. Since this book came out, I have heard from so many people who have had similar experiences.

Turns out, it’s fairly common for people to get a huge, unexpected jolt to the system that makes them question every choice they’ve ever made. It might be a death in a family, the departure of a spouse, a job loss, an illness, an act of God, or something so out of the ordinary, I can’t even think of it right now, but many, many, many of us have been there.

And a handful of us hit a point where we feel we can’t take it anymore, so we contemplate, and possibly attempt, and sadly, sometimes succeed at, ending it all. We think we are so alone that no one could ever understand how bad things are, and also, we get a warped idea that everyone else would be better off if we were gone. Both of these things are completely untrue, and more people would realize that, if they could just find it in themselves to reach out to someone — anyone — and talk about what they’re going through. That takes boundless courage, but it sure beats the alternative.

Every single day, I hear from people who, at one time or another, got to the point of trying to end it all and now, years later, are so grateful that what they tried didn’t work. Some of these emails are from total strangers, but shockingly, a lot come from friends; people I have known for years. I’ve gotten messages along the lines of, “Remember that time I didn’t return your call for a week? Yeah, I was in the hospital because I took all the pills in the house.” What?!

I’m stunned each time, but I guess it’s what I deserve. None of them knew I’d been there and done that until they read it in a book, along with thousands of other people. My parents didn’t know. My sister didn’t know. The friend whose phone call saved my life was never told, but when I asked her to sign the release (since her real name is in the book), she told me she knew something was going on at the time. That’s why she wouldn’t get off the phone until I agreed to come meet her. I’m glad her call arrived when it did, but it never occurred to me then that I could have made that call.

We are all in this together. Look around — at the other people in your office, at your school, on the bus, going to your church, working out at your gym. Someone has been where you are. And they’re still here. And they would want you to know that.

You are one in a million. Which means there are 7,100 of you on the planet. Instead of going to meet your maker, call a friend, walk into a clinic, go on the Internet. Find a support group. Enter a chat room or join a message board where everybody is kind and supportive. Whatever you are feeling, someone will know what to say or what to do to make it seem less overwhelming.

What you’re going through, another person on the planet is going through, too — at this very moment. And someone else. And someone else. And someone else. And some of them are having an easier time than you and some are having a much tougher time than you, but the bottom line is, you are not a unique snowflake. Stick around a while longer. It’s the whole blanket of snow that makes the world beautiful, and we need every flake to be part of it. Including you.

A shorter version of article was originally posted on

To read more, you can visit Valerie Alexander’s website, Speak Happiness, and follow Speak Happiness on Facebook and Twitter. For more detailed instruction in achieving lasting, permanent happiness, you can get “Happiness as a Second Language” on Amazon, and for added amusement, please check out the Happiest Book Trailer Ever.

For more by Valerie Alexander, click here.

For more on happiness, click here.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

It’s Dangerous to Chase the Moon: 9 Things Every Cyclist Should Know
It’s Thursday, Sept. 19. I rolled out of bed at 5:37 a.m. As I headed to the window to look at the morning, I saw a brilliant, yellow moon sitting in the middle of the Western sky peering back at me. I love the moon. And few things such as a sight like this moon, at this hour, could compel me to immediately get dressed, hop on my bike and head down to the Lincoln Memorial. It’s a rare aligning of stars to catch a glimpse of what I knew would be something spectacular.

I set out on an amazing race. I needed to hurry to get down to the mall before the moon dropped, and I wasn’t sure how much time I had. In my quest to catch this moon suspended behind the Washington Monument just before it dipped behind the Lincoln, I cycled down 7th Street like a mad woman then realized I was violating many of the rules of cycling safety I hold sacred.

In pursuit of a constant glimpse of the moon hanging there, I found myself staring up at it more than I was focused on the road in front of me. Granted, cycling on D.C. streets at 6 a.m. is much more forgiving than at rush hour, but I was wrong to be more mesmerized by the moon than my own safety. I made it safely and stopped at the World War II memorial to watch it slowly drift behind the Lincoln. As I turned to ride home, the sun was coming up. Yet another beautiful sight. The city was awake, and that meant traffic. I headed home with all my senses and sensibilities on high alert.

On the way back I was reminded of how little regard both motorists and pedestrians have for cyclists. In the short distance between the mall and my house, I almost collided with a pedestrian crossing against the light, was cut off by a driver poorly executing a six-point turn in the middle of 5th Street, caught in the blind spot of a reversing garbage truck, and nearly hit by a bus so eager to move ahead that he passed me on the left only to abruptly pull over and in front of me after passing only to halt at a bus stop less than a few hundred feet ahead.

These near misses and behaviors motivated me to highlight the following safety reminders for cyclists maneuvering in a city yet to fully embrace our presence on the road:

1. Accept that drivers and pedestrians are not looking out for you. Don’t take this for granted. Until motorists become educated about and accustomed to moving with us on the road, it is our responsibility to be vigilant and obey the rules of the road. I know this is annoying — motorists shouldn’t get a pass, but safety is more important than ego.

2. Establish your presence on the road. Don’t weave in and out of traffic. Motorists respond to us better if we are consistent and predictable.

3. Make eye contact with the driver when approaching intersections and turning cars.

4. Look behind you BEFORE changing lanes. Often we look AS we are changing. This is also true for drivers!

5. Avoid riding your bike on the sidewalk. Sidewalks are for pedestrians and bikes on the sidewalks are cause congestion and agitation. Besides, your presence on the road helps us sensitize motorists to sharing the road.

6. Watch rear view mirrors for drivers to avoid collision with suddenly opening car doors.

7. Avoid riding two abreast on a busy road. This is perceived as rude, doesn’t help us gain respect and only increases drivers’ resentment of our presence on the road.

8. Avoid riding against traffic. Drivers are already not alert to cyclists on the road and are even less alert for a bicycle riding toward a car. Recently while driving, I stopped at a red light but as I proceeded to make a turn on red, I had to swerve to avoid hitting a cyclist coming toward me. I was never expecting to see her there and she should not have been.

9. NEVER talk on a cell phone while cycling. It seems this has become commonplace. Remember most motorists still don’t yet know how to behave while sharing the road with cyclists. No matter how good you are, it is difficult to cycle defensively and vigilantly when you are distracted by a cell phone conversation.

As for motorists, we hope to educate you over time about how we can co-exist on the road, but in the meantime please: 1. Recognize how much you underestimate the speed at which we are traveling on the road and stop cutting us off, and 2. Please stop parking — flashing hazards or not — in the bike lanes.

Washington, D.C. officials have increasingly supported the cycling community in hopes of facilitating a harmonious environment among travelers using all modes of transportation. Likewise, bike share programs are emerging in cities across the country which means motorists will increasingly need to embrace the cyclist’s presence on the road. Cyclists’ presence and growth in D.C. are inevitable. Therefore, motorists, cyclists and pedestrians must develop mutual respect for one another and learn to engage each other to achieve stress-free commuting.

A few years ago I cycled through Vietnam with Veloasia. I was envious of the natural synergy and harmony among the motorists, cyclists and pedestrians throughout the country. If a place with such a horrific past can achieve this kind of cooperation, I know it is possible here. Adopting community-centered behaviors will not only reduce commuting stress but will prevent accidents, injuries and above all fatalities on the road. We all have a responsibility to create this change and symbiosis here in D.C. and cities all across America.

Despite everything I encountered, overall, I had a beautiful, safe and peaceful morning. As I watched the sun rise behind the Capitol on my way back home while passing joggers, walkers and motorists, I was reminded what a beautiful city Washington, D.C. really is — even when I am not chasing the moon.

Green – The Huffington Post
Colorado Makes Massive Pet Friendly Rescue Effort After Flooding
BOULDER, Colo. — Some helicopters rescuing people after massive flooding in Colorado carried more dogs, cats and fish than people. Rescuers using zip lines to evacuate people over raging rivers also risked their lives to make sure the four-legged members of families were safe.

In contrast to stories of people forced to leave their pets when New Orleans was swamped by Hurricane Katrina, the motto during one of the largest evacuations in Colorado history was “No pets left behind,” said Skye Robinson, a spokesman for the National Guard air search and rescue operations during Colorado’s floods. That’s because including pets in the rescue effort helped convince even reluctant residents to leave their homes. Officials also had more than enough space for the animals and even carried animal crates with them. More than 800 pets have been ferried to safety with their owners via helicopter, the National Guard said. Hundreds more were rescued by ground crews. Livestock, like horses and cattle, were left behind, but a monkey was among those saved.

Once safely on dry ground, Red Cross shelters had water bowls, on-site dog kennels and all the necessary supplies to ensure already stressed evacuees wouldn’t be separated from their pets.

“We kind of learned after Katrina, when people wouldn’t evacuate because of their pets,” said Kathy Conner, a worker at a shelter at a YMCA in Boulder.

Evacuees Jerry Grove and Dorothy Scott-Grove said they never would have abandoned their vacation cabin in Estes Park without their two golden retrievers. But they didn’t have to make that hard choice. Firefighters carried the two large dogs to safety on the same zip line used to rescue the retired Ohio couple.

“They put them in a harness and one of the firefighters hooked himself to them and brought them across,” Dorothy Scott-Grove said. “We will not be separated.”

Once out, the Red Cross found the couple a pet-friendly hotel where the dogs the next day “were resting comfortably on our king-sized bed,” she said.

In a state where dog passengers are as common as humans in cars, Lisa Pedersen, CEO of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, said taking care of pets has become a central part of disaster planning.

It appears to be working. One week after floods and mudslides forced the local evacuation of more than 3,000 people, Pederson said the Boulder area shelter had just 72 pet evacuees – all but two of which were delivered by their owners for temporary shelter after they were forced from their homes.

“It just makes sense that you bring the pets along. They are part of the family,” Robinson said. “You wouldn’t leave a family behind because they had kids.”


Follow Jeri Clausing on twitter (at)jericlausing

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