Viva Editions are books that inform, enlighten, and entertain. The very name, "Viva!", is celebratory. And while Viva Editions is a line of books that are as fun as they are informational, the intention behind Viva is very serious—these are books that are truly helpful and intended to enhance people's lives.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Have you hugged a tree lately?

Trees Are the Lungs of Our Planet

Have you heard about the amazingly ambitious goal of The Nature Conservancy to plant a BILLON trees and restore the forest of the world? From the rainforests in South America to China and even in the Arctic Circle, this hardy group of tree huggers is doing their darndest to recreate the woodlands and rainforests everywhere they can.  I urge you to look at the map to see how far they are getting; it is impressive and gives me so much hope about our future.

I grew up in a deeply forested state, West Virginia and was taught from a child to know and love trees. When I visited last time and drove all around to see relatives in far flung counties, I noticed huge swaths of brown amongst the green and asked what the heck was going on that seemed to be killing trees. That is how I learned about “acid rain,” an unfortunate by-product of coalmining, logging and too many chemical plants. On our 300-acre farm, no trees are cut, only planted so we are doing our part. In the settled of the great prairies and western states, trees were felled to “clean the land.” That is, in part, being rectified by a special effort to protect trees in the “last frontier.” Check out to see how you can help. Oh, and start in your own yard. Got room for a couple of trees? Start digging and planting and know you will enjoy years of beauty and leave behind a legacy for generations to come from your own efforts.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Keep those cards and letter coming!

Write letters and send postcards
The things that make me the happiest have an emotional and physical effect.  And even more so when you do something for someone else.  One of the most lasting of these things is a personal letter.
Being born in the transitional time between letters and computers, many people in my generation have already shunned snail mail as a way to communicate. This makes them rare, but a very inexpensive surprise. My grandmother was one of seven children, and they communicated with a round-robin letter. From mailbox to mailbox, they would add an update on their life and send it around to the next sibling. She taught me that letters are a valuable form of communication, something she’s emphasized as her memory slowly fades.
I got into the habit of writing letters and during the times where I was most stressed, a paper due, a newspaper deadline, or turmoil, I would write a letter. Letters live somewhere between thoughts and stories. They are a confidant and a piece of yourself that you can choose to scrap or share.
When I receive a letter, especially from someone who I haven’t heard from in awhile, I get a rush of endorphins, because I’m holding proof that the friend considered me. It’s the same rush I get when someone is thoughtful or goes out of their way to help me. Most friends reciprocate with a call to say how happy they were to open a personal note rather than another bill or W-2.
I followed epistolary literature in college, often using my break from studying as a chance to write letters. Perhaps letters will go the way of Wells Fargo wagons, but I’ll single-handedly support the post office as long as my friends have addresses and my fingers can write. Letters are my personal therapy, my rush of endorphins, my connection with those I love, and my alone time—my regular serving of happiness.
As the old Jimmy Durante song goes, “make someone happy.” A thoughtful, hand-written letter will do that EVERY TIME!

It's so important to make someone happy. 
Make just one someone happy…

Fame, if you win it,
 comes and goes in a minutes
Where's the real stuff in life, to cling to? 

Love is the answer!

Make someone happy. 
Make just one someone happy.
 And you will be happy too.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Get. Very. Simple.

 A few years ago, I  had the immense pleasure of attending a lecture by Huston Smith, the preeminent scholar of the world’s religions.  Smith first came to the attention of the world when he brought a young Tibetan Buddhist Monk – His Holiness, the Dalai Lama –to America for the first time. Smith spoke about the continuing impact of religion on our world, most notably the strife in the Middle East over religious differences. He was at his most joyous when he spoke about his own spiritual practices, which he described to us. Smith said, upon rising each day, he did Hatha yoga for some minutes, followed by reading a few pages of a sacred text, after which he meditated or prayed for at least five minutes. He would finish his morning ritual by doing a bit of yard work and some composting. As gardening and composting enthusiast, I was engrossed. Smith extolled the virtues of this service to the planet, which results in rich, dark soil, and a beautiful garden he greatly enjoys.

The entire audience smiled as they listened to this great and humble man describe the spiritual practices with which he began each day. These were Huston Smith’s personal morning rituals and I felt more at peace just listening to him describe his simple steps to serenity. I love the irony that this premiere academic, who has such as deep understanding of all the religions rituals throughout history, had created such an uncomplicated approach for himself. I left the talk inspired to worry less and enjoy more. I saw the deep wisdom of simplicity. Huston Smith rarely appears in public but I never miss a chance to listen to him speak on any subject. I recently saw him again at San Francisco’s esteemed CIIS and heard the one detail he had left out of the previous discussion of morning practices, which I recognized as a  brilliant happiness habit.  He was introduced that night by a dear old friend, who added this delightful detail he knew from their time as college roommates: Upon waking, Huston sits up ramrod straight in his bed, claps his hands together and says very loudly, ”It’s going to be a GREAT DAY.”

What simple activities can you perform to add joy to your life?
Are there any “downer duties” you can delete from your life?
Do you feel a longing for simpler times in your life?
What can you do about it?
Is there a morning “life affirmation” you can speak upon waking?

Wishing you sweet serenity,

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ask for help when you need it and give help when you are asked

 Happiness, as the old adage goes, is an inside job.

 The “inner work” of happiness is that of thinking about how you live your life and how your thinking is foundational. We all know that  where we were born, to whom we were born, and the circumstances greatly influence who we are at the beginning of our lives but this is not the whole story. By applying oneself at school, at work, in LIFE. doors can open in any circumstance. Who you are is who you THINK you are. If you believe you are a person with potential, your potential will unfold. Many of us receive what I call “negative programming” when we are young and impressionable, but this can’t become the determining factor. Erase those old tapes and write your own program! Easier said than done, I know, but self-belief is the key. If it is writing affirmations and putting them on the fridge at home, then do it. If it is working with a life coach, try it. Perhaps an analytical approach or process mapping your life and your goals will work best.. Maybe for you, it would entail a retreat at Esalen learning yoga and deepest meditation.

 Or it could be simple, doable steps like getting up earlier in the day and trying one new thing a day. If, like many of us, the least expensive option is best, start a “success circle” like my friend Duncan did. Duncan is a brilliant filmmaker, writer, and musician but grew up in impoverished and unfortunate circumstances with a panicky single mother who wanted to dictate Duncan’s life every step of the way She even went so far as to have him institutionalized when he defied her. It would have been easy for him to either stay in the struggle or, at the very least, become a bitter and negative person. Instead, he chose to go to film school as quickly as possible and move to LA to make movies. Breaking into the “business” in LA is not easy when you have no connections so Duncan established himself- rented an apartment and worked  a day job while he sought his break. Then Duncan had a great idea, to create a “success circle,” and invited some friends to his home to talk about what each person wanted in life and dreamed of doing. They discussed what would bring them happiness and right livelihood. hopes and aspirations. By the end of the first circle, they has all come up with goals and created outlines and ways to attain these dreams. They made it up as they went along but the success circle was a great success, each member going on to great things.

 As for Duncan, he has made two films, found true love, and great happiness.

What kind of happiness are you seeking? Maybe you don’t know yet – or thought you did but now you are not so sure. Maybe you are on the right trick but just need a gentle nudge in a new direction. In our own lives, happiness can feel transitory and elusive. We can get overwhelmed by business and commit the cardinal “happiness eradicator” of comparing ourselves to others. Thinking about what you lack is the shortest path to misery that I know of. Instead do a “reframe” and think about what you HAVE, gifts, talents, positive people in your life, a great garden, all the great good things in your life.

Better already, right?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A List of Love

Stop for a moment and be thankful for the giver behind the gift. Make a list of the people in your life who made you happy today.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Your Gratitude Hit List

Create a top ten list of the things you are most grateful for in your life. Carry it with you in your purse or pocket, or post it on your mirror, your refrigerator, or at your office to remind you daily of what you are grateful for.