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PERSON OF THE DAY: Author Kristi Ling’s 3-Step Plan To Being Happy


Kristy Ling, author Operation Happiness/Photo: Wally Hawkins

Kristi Ling

By Stacey Gualandi/April 21, 2016
Photos: Wally Hawkins

TWITTER: @kristiling

When I sat down to read Operation Happiness: The 3-Step Plan to Creating a Life of Lasting Joy, Abundant Energy, and Radical Bliss, it made me happy. And it was not because it promotes the “11 Habits of Happy People,” or that it comes with a “happiness tool kit.”

This part memoir/part self-help book made me happy because my friend Kristi Ling wrote it. I’ve known Kristi for many years. She was always a bubbly, positive, glass half-full kind of gal, but I never realized during that time, she was also on a mission: to help others find true happiness that had eluded her for years.

“I never gave up. When you’re on a path to giving and sharing whatever it is you have to share with the world, the doors will open.”  Kristi Ling

Over the past decade, Kristi endured a devastating divorce, a soul-sucking corporate position and, most frightening of all, a rare illness that left her unable to use her left shoulder, arm or hand for over a year. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, she got to work.

Kristi poured over happiness research, scientific brain studies and other books on “how to be happy” full-time. Four years ago, she was “heartbroken and thought her life was over.” She says now of those difficult and painful years, “It was a means to get to where I am today along with everything else I’ve been through in my life.”

Kristi’s Book Trailer

This is her first book and after its release last month, she was overwhelmed by the positive response from “old and new friends and many, many, many people she never met before.” She says she invested countless hours into getting her message out.  [Read more…]

Authors Elizabeth Gilbert and Kelly Corrigan Talk Science, Spirit and Shoes

Elizabeth Gilbert and Kelly Corrigan, Dominican University Fall 2013

Kelly Corrigan (l) and Elizabeth Gilbert (r) at Dominican University/10-16-13

UPDATE 6/2414: Elizabeth’s paperback of “The Signature of All Things” is published today. Check out her upcoming events.

By Laurie McAndish King/December 29, 2013

“I know that there are very few greater pleasures in life than to … be subsumed by the work that you are obsessed with, and that’s completely who [Alma] is, and that’s totally based on me.” Elizabeth Gilbert

Bestselling authors Elizabeth Gilbert and Kelly Corrigan made me feel as though I’d just spent the evening talking with my two best girlfriends, even though they were sitting onstage at Dominican University in front of hundreds of people as they discussed German Romanticism, the rise of Empiricism, the effect of birth order on family dynamics and Tory Burch shoes.

Elizabeth Gilbert, The Signature of All ThingsCorrigan interviewed Gilbert as part of Dominican’s Leadership Lecture Series, in partnership with Book Passage, an independent bookstore in Marin County, California. They were talking about Gilbert’s new novel, The Signature of All Things.

The book is about Alma Whittaker, a botanist born in 1800 to “potent and clever parents.” Alma grows up to study the miniature universe of mosses, and her story is a miniature reflection of the Darwinian Revolution that occurred during her lifetime.

“We now live in this world of scientists who have no divinity, and the faithful who have no reason,” Gilbert said. “You wish the divorced parents would just get together in a cafe at 10 a.m. for a cup of coffee.” She was referring to the 19th century division between science and spirit. “People were starting to suffer.”

Earlier, there had been no division between divinity and science, Gilbert explains. All the great ministers were naturalists; admiring and praising God’s creations was a natural—even organic—part of their work. But the 19th century was a painful moment in history. “It was like an awful divorce, and the parents have been fighting over the kids ever since.” Gilbert, who wrote a book about marriage called Committed, has a lot to say on the subject.

She also has a lot to say about the schism between science and divinity—five hundred pages worth in this new book. And Gilbert says it very well. So well, in fact, that I would happily have read another five hundred pages about evolution and moss biology and taxonomy and botanical illustration, if only she had written a longer tome.

Author Barbara Kingsolver, whom I’ve had the pleasure of writing about for TWE, agrees in her New York Times review: “Gilbert has established herself as a straight-up storyteller who dares us into adventures of worldly discovery, and this novel stands as a winning next act.”

Is this the same Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote Eat, Pray, Love? The book some critics dismissed as self-absorbed and overly emotional? The book that sold ten million copies, spent 200 weeks on New York Times bestseller list, and helped earn its author a spot on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in world? That Elizabeth Gilbert? Yes, it is.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

And the irony is not lost on her. Gilbert’s own spiritual side was on display in Eat Pray Love. “Some people loved it,” she says. (About ten million, I’m guessing.) But it made others feel nauseated and write snarky reviews and say things like, “Just don’t talk to me about that *** ashram,” Gilbert continues.

Readers who are more aligned with the empirical will appreciate The Signature of All Things. “This book is like a pair of sensible shoes,” Gilbert suggests. I respectfully disagree. True, the novel is solid storytelling, historically based, and exhaustively researched. But it is also lyrical, seductive, and addictive. More like the surprise pair of Tory Burch shoes Corrigan gave Gilbert during an onstage moment of female bonding.

Elizabeth Gilbert with shoe Kelly Corrigan gave her/Fall 2013

Elizabeth regards Kelly Corrigan’s gift first with curiosity (above), then with delight.
Photo: Laurie McAndish King

There’s another irony: “This book wouldn’t exist without Eat Pray Love,” Gilbert says.“Eat Pray Love paid for this book. It was a very time-consuming book to write.” Gilbert did a lot of research and planning before she began writing—three years’ worth of interviews, reading, and travel, plus a seventy-page outline, for starters.

The Signature of All Things begins with the story of Alma’s parents, Henry and Beatrix Whittaker. Henry was fun to write about, Elizabeth says. “He was the most muscular writing I’ve ever done. He has no emotion except ambition—searing ambition and cunning.”

Those two qualities made Henry Whittaker into the third richest man in the western hemisphere. “Money followed him around,” Gilbert writes, “like a small, excited dog.”

The exceptionally well-educated Beatrix spoke seven languages and designed her gardens using Euclidian geometry. An austere and daunting Dutch Calvinist, she had the highest standards and expectations for her daughters. At a critically important juncture in Alma’s life, her mother reacts with anger: “As for her final two words, she spat them out like two sharp chips of ice: ‘Improve yourself.’”

Ambrose Pike, who becomes Alma’s soulmate (and, briefly, her husband) wanders into this Whittaker world of education and ambition. The couple—Alma a scientist who studies earth-bound mosses, Ambrose an artist who makes exquisite images of ethereal orchids—represent the opposing forces of rationalism and spiritualism.

Elizabeth Gilbert at Book Passage event/Fall 2013

Elizabeth during one of the lighter moments of the conversation/Photo: Laurie McAndish King

An impressive scholar, Alma is unattractive but sturdy, stubborn but brilliant.  She’s “a woman whose life is saved, over and over again, by her work,” Gilbert explains. Alma’s exhaustive botanical studies insulate her from isolation and boredom, depression and jealousy, loss and loneliness. Gilbert certainly understands loving one’s work. “It’s almost a guilty secret: I enjoy my work so much!” she says.

The Signature of All Things is also a cautionary tale, though, because as much as Alma loves her work, she holds back from publishing. One thing I tell young women, Gilbert says, is: Don’t hold back. With respect to writing, that means including all your big ideas, emptying yourself of content. “When you finish a book you should be empty. Nothing should be held back for the next one. There’s not even any starter yeast. There’s nothing left. Then ideas start to trickle back in, like beach sand or cockroaches—you just can’t keep them out of the house.”

Above is the entire conversation at Dominican University for you to enjoy. I’m already eager for Gilbert’s next book. She’s a terrific storyteller, and, no matter what her next topic is, I know she won’t hold back.

Elizabeth Gilbert's new shoes given her by Kelly Corrigan at Dominican University

Elizabeth wearing her spiffy new shoes after the talk
Photo: Laurie McAndish King



PERSON OF THE DAY: Author Anne Lamott Stitches Life Back Together

Anne Lamott by Sam Lamott

Anne Lamott/Photo: Sam Lamott

By Laurie McAndish King/November 10, 2013


“People ask why I called the new book “Stitches.” It’s because when we are stuck, or lost, or too sad, we can take one stitch.” Anne Lamott

“I wrote this book accidentally,” Anne Lamott explains. Two days after Newtown (the site of the December, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy), Lamott found herself in her regular Sunday School class, wondering What am I going to tell these children? Where do we even start?

But Anne did know what to say. A popular novelist, essayist, memoirist and political advocate, she has been inspiring people with her words for more than twenty years. Tell them the truth, Anne reminded herself. Start where you are. Breathe. Stitch things together. And so Lamott’s latest book, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair (Riverhead Books), was born.   [Read more…]

Mireya Mayor: From NFL Cheerleader to Primatologist

Pink Boots by Mireya Mayor

The title of this new memoir about pink boots and a machete by Mireya Mayor intrigued me. How would the pink attire match the long knives? Turns out it’s the inspiring story of Mireya’s journey from Miami Dolphin cheerleader to Fulbright Scholar to well-respected primatologist. That’s just a part of her resume, and you can also add mom with two daughters as well as pregnant with twins!

Mireya MayorPhoto by Mark Thiessen

The Wild Life Bio on her website explains how primatology became her passion. Fascinated by anthropology in college, she applied for a grant to spend a summer exploring in a Guyanan jungle. Fueled by this experience, the next year Mireya went to the remotest of parts of Madagascar to study endangered animals. That fascinating trip hooked her on studying primates in the wild for life.

Mireya MayorPhoto by Brent Stirton

The National Geographic discovered her on that island in the Indian Ocean and offered her a job as a staff wildlife correspondent. Dr. Mayor (she has a Ph.D. in anthropology) appeared on “Ultimate Explorer” as well as on her own show “Wild Nights with Mireya Mayor” on their channel WILD!

Some of her accomplishments:

–in 2000, co-discovered a new species of mouse lemur in Madagascar

–first female wildlife correspondent for the “Ultimate Explorer” series on National Geographic Television

–has gone underwater with six-foot Humboldt squid

–worked with leopards in Namibia

–studied the Western Lowlands gorilla (weighing up to 350 pounds) in the Congo

–one of four explorers in 2009 to retrace the nearly 1,000 mile trip in Africa of Staney & Livingstone for a television series

–Jane Goodall wrote the forward to her new book

In spite of all her travels, this dedicated anthropologist-primatologist’s love is the rain forests of Madagascar. She worries that this natural laboratory could vanish in our lifetime.

“Until I can walk away in good conscience, knowing it’s going to be okay, I just can’t leave,” Mireya told the National Geographic. Now, that is dedication!

To follow her on twitter: http://twitter.com/MIREYAMAYOR


Sally Gordon

I can’t think of a better woman to be Person of the Day as we begin a new year than Sally Gordon, who is 101 years of age. She’s known the oldest living worker in the country, having toiled for some 84 years.

Sally Gordon, 101, at Nebraska State Legislature

Recently the Today Show paid tribute to Sally. As they mentioned, she continues to get up early in the morning, dress up, put on make-up, and walk to work from her home near the Capitol. She is the assistant sargeant-at-arms for the Nebraska Legislature, a job she’s held for some 27 years.

This former model has no plans to retire. She told reporter Amy Robach on “Today” that when she gets to the point where she can’t keep up, she will quit as she doesn’t want to be a failure. Until then she’s known to have more energy than most people in the Capitol. What a role model!!!


Dominique Browning’s December—— The Month of Gratitude

Dominique Browning

There’s a fascinating interview by Patti Verbanas in New Jersey Life, Heath and Beauty Magazine with Dominique Browning, the author of “SLOW LOVE: How I Lost My Job, Put On My Pajamas and Found Happiness”; the beautifully crafted blog SLOW LIVE LOVE; and many books.

House & GardenShe’s always been one of my favorite writers and editors ever since she put House & Garden Magazine on the map with its fascinating articles and beautiful layouts. Remember the gorgeous covers?

Her most recent blog proclaims December to be the Month of Gratitude. The idea was sparked by an unusual nativity scene she spotted outside a church in Tiverton, Rhode Island. Check out the blog and you’ll see her heartwrenching photograph of an unforgettable group of carved figures. It’s definitely not your average Christmas scene.

Dominique Browning's Book

The recent book, as you’ll see in this New York Times review, is a moving study of her life as it fell apart in 2007. Overnight her beloved magazine folded after 12 years under her helm and she found herself living in Rhode Island in a whole new environment.

The journey back to happiness that she describes opening and honestly is a wise and comforting one. Her website is very special and definitely worth checking out. She now makes time to enjoy and document every moment with eyes that take it all in.