All posts by Planet Noun

Founder, PlanetNoun.com and Planet Noun podcast

From bubble butt to Giant to TV powerhouse: Michael Strahan’s tips for happy living

Once upon time, his brothers and their friends called him Bob.

Yes, his name is Michael.
No, Bob isn’t an obscure, ages-old shortcut.

But a younger Strahan was a little fluffy around the edges, but didn’t realize it until one of their friends asked Michael if he knew why they called him “Bob”.

He didn’t.  So this friend, Anthony, told him.

Bob stood for “Booty on Back.” Anthony informed Michael it was because he was fat.

Wow. Kids can be cruel.

In his book Wake Up Happy, Strahan shares his road to transformation from that boy with the bubble butt to NFL star…

It was followed by another reinvention after he retired from football and slid into a television career. Don’t get it twisted… This dippy slide was peppered with bumps with lessons.

But no matter what, Strahan contends it’s possible to wake up happy. He shares 18 ways to do so that are supported by lessons from his life.

Here are three that stand out most:

“Rule #1: Help can—and will—come from the most unexpected places. Be open to everything around you.”

“Rule #3: Grit, desire, and discipline are free and the only equipment you need to start just about any endeavor you’ll set out to do.”

“Rule # 12: Listen to other people, but don’t take their opinions for fact. Have your own experiences. Draw your own conclusions.”

I recommend this book because Strahan isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel with this read. He’s just sharing his man’s journey to happiness… Through bumps and bruises, pain, mistakes; and openness about the areas  he still wants to improve.

Seems it might be a tad cumbersome to remember 18 different rules for navigating life, but these rules could serve as handy reminders to stay persistent if you want to do more, achieve more.  It’s natural to  sometimes have doubts or feel stuck in doldrums, but it’s also possible to still live smack-dab in happy’s face even while yearning and working for certain aspects of the life you desire to fall into place.

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Day 6: Days off! Yes, Lord!

Who isn’t’ thankful for these?  They are a gift from the workhorse gods.

Working in the news business can be exhilarating!

But there are some days I want to bury myself in the stupidest TV shows or movies to ditch reality–even for a few  hours.  Some days life’s happenings are extremely disheartening.  By workweek’s end, I’m ready to turn off, tune out and drop away from all news reports.  I try to use my vacations to catch up with loved ones,  unplug from all news, read inspirational books and catch up on my fave reality-suspending television shows.

I am also thankful for weekends and days off so I can connect with friends.  I also  take care of the mundane… like running run through my laundry list of errands and chores—which always includes, well, loads of laundry.

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Day 5: Light-blocking curtains deserve a day of observance

When I moved into my place, blinds were all I had shielding my eyes from the outside light of day or streetlights of night.  They kept the glare off, but mercy me!  Slumber was jacked up every night!   These half-baked sleeping patterns continued for many months, and included  snoozing during daylight hours.  I actually thought I was sleeping well–at the time.

Then a Wonderful Soul bought me light-blocking curtains and offered to install them.  Awesome sauce!

Glorious was that first night of sleep without the glow of streetlamps worming in between the blind slats!

Then I slept during the day.  That, too, was glorious!

As the India.Arie song says–“It’s the little things… and the joy they bring.”

[*Insert “church hands” or “jazz hands”*] Hallelujah for the small things!  I declare today a personal day of thanks for light-blocking curtains!

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Day 3: Grateful to learn

I’m grateful for the ability to learn new things.

Not everyone can. Time and disease can erode this ability. Neither asks for permission.

Sometimes willingness wanes, which is also tragic. In my humble opinion, as long as you’re willing to learn something new, you’ll never be washed up. Who knows if someone said this before, but I’m saying it today.

Can’t help but think about how refreshing it was to read about the retirement plans of a Los Angeles-area judge.

Lance Ito was thrust into the national spotlight during the O.J. Simpson murder trial in the 1990s. When Ito retired, it was reported his plans didn’t include much outside of learning to play guitar. Other than that, who knows what he’ll do during his retirement years. Who cares? He plans to learn and grow. And even if guitar learnin’ is all he does, that’s a-plenty.

My guess is skills like that take years to master—and practice to maintain. There’s no shortage of songs to learn, either. So guitar learning, learning different styles of play, and song learning will take up plenty of time.

I’m thankful for the ability to learn new things. Yes, people can become experts or masters, but I also think [IMHO] it’s healthy to maintain a sense of wonder and to remember education is an ongoing process—no matter how much a person thinks he or she knows. There’s always something else out there to learn. If you can learn, do learn.

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Day 2: Pleasure in a warm blanket

I’m grateful for warm blankets on cool fall days. It’s a plus if that blanket is fresh from the dryer. What a comforting sensation to have while self-swaddling in covers on crisp days or nights. The feelings of warmth, security, exhilaration, relaxation, joy, and cozy thankfulness are most welcome. It’s so beautiful to keep re-discovering such a simple pleasure still has the same effect as it did when I was a child. As an adult who is determined not to grow crotchety, such reminders are appreciated-always.

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Day 1: I’m grateful for decent health.

It seems life is a collection of great memories, friendships and lessons. It’s also a collection of ailments and pills as people march toward death. Yes, time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping… nudging away my youth while hoary strands keep pushing through more hair follicles. Even while thinking about what I would change about my life if I could re-live the past 10 years, I’m still so grateful to have decent health. Even with prescriptions and supplement orders through the years, I’m grateful for decent health. I walk. I talk. I laugh. I love. I live. And I appreciate it all.

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Today: A good day to start a new habit

It takes 21 days to cement a habit, so I’m deciding to try a new one: The habit of gratefulness.

Every day someone gets shot, stabbed, raped, killed or hurt in some other way. Some perverted cad takes inappropriate liberties with a minor; some jealous person hurts an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend… then commits suicide.   Sometimes folks find out the arrangement with a sex buddy isn’t as exclusive as he or she thinks it should be—so the person somehow threatens the “wayward” buddy… and catches a case.

It gets overwhelming at times, but I refuse to get salty.   I don’t want to forget  life’s niceties:  family, friends, and simple pleasures like memories of  warm sunshine on my face spiked with the perfect breeze, which can create a perfect temperature. Other niceties include hearty laughter after a witty joke shared with friends, and outdoor concerts with music I really vibe with down to my bones. Observing smiley parents and carefree children frolicking with newly twisted balloon animals, and having conversation with folks who ooze kindness complete that experience.

There’s so much bad news everywhere, but I’m determined to maintain a grateful attitude no matter what I hear, read, or see every day.

It isn’t always easy.

To stave off and eliminate encroaching cynicism, I decided to undertake the gratitude challenge. I don’t even know where I got this idea. It was probably from a mixture of places: random inspirational readings, Facebook posts, and the constant back-of-mind reinforcement from my childhood (I went to church almost EVERY week growing up).  During those early years, I learned that gratitude is key to the Christian life, and later learned it’s woven throughout other viewpoints as well. I don’t recall if I read a social media challenge somewhere that encouraged folks to  find one thing to be grateful for daily, and I decided to write three—or if I encountered a challenge that encouraged folks to jot down three things for 21 days to inspire the habit of choosing happiness.

Whatever the case, I started writing three a day in October.  It was my intent to only write three things for 21 days, but I’m still going with this. Must be a habit.

Anyway, these humble entries represent some of my self-reminders to stay grateful, to cherish the simple things, to know there’s something to be grateful for at all times.

Might as well start on Thanksgiving.

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Quick-Fast Book Review | Something New

This week’s book is part of a charming series by Beverly Jenkins called the Blessings Novels.

          In Something Old, Something New, former teen sweethearts Trent July and Lily Fontaine, who are now reunited adult sweethearts. They’re also engaged.

This third installment in Jenkins’ Blessings series is rife with activity from page one.
• A reverend in Florida learns her tiny church is closing—the latest victim of gentrification.
• Trent and Lily are planning their wedding. They want something  simple, but haven’t really checked in with the other townspeople in Henry Adams who also have visions of how the wedding should transpire.
• And two of Henry Adams’ adopted children Devon and Zoey are enduring a changing relationship. Zoey is mute, however she has discovered she loves working with her hands. Specifically, she has a knack for working on cars. Devon’s knack is pretty much knocked–he doesn’t have this gift, and feels left out. So there’s that drama… a girl can outdo him fixing any car.  Devon’s also a tad confused because no one wants to hear his rousing Sunday sermons anymore. His delivery is quite electric, but the content is flat… and it seems folks have discovered hearing two or more of his sermons is like a church version of the movie Groundhog Day.
• And then there’s the town owner, Ms. Bernadine. She bought the financially beleaguered Henry Adams on the Internet, and is working to restore the town and establish it as a model community and a safe haven for foster and adopted children.

Something Old, Something New was my first introduction to Beverly Jenkins, and I’ve been hooked on Henry Adams ever since.

I like this book because even though a reader may not pick up the first Blessings novel, Jenkins’ fills in enough details about her characters to that it doesn’t take away from the present story. However it made me want to read more. So when I read the previous installments in the series, I got to understand the character history a little more, and why some of them acted as they did in Something Old, Something New.

If you want to take a journey that’s not quite out of this world, but far enough away from your daily grind, consider Henry Adams, Kansas. You’ll find history, hard workers, jokers, recovering drunks, hogs and swindlers, and adorable children—all sprinkled with a bit of drama and humor.

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Quick-Fast Book Review: Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

Issa Rae and I seem like two peas in a pod… Except she’s famous and I’m not.

And her dad’s a doctor, and she went to school in Brentwood and to Stanford… And my dad isn’t, and I didn’t attend a snazzy Brentwood school or Stanford.

At my high school, we held assembly programs called “Chapel.” We  sang songs about Jesus.

We also had folks who could rap like nobody’s business.

I was NOT one of them.

But I was plenty awkward. And though some folks thought me cute and told me so, it wasn’t enough to get anyone to ask me out in high school. So even thought I didn’t THINK I was ugly, I assumed folks didn’t find me attractive.  Honey, there were no boys  beating a path to my door, or keeping my parent’s phone line busy trying to hear my voice.

By reading The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, I felt somewhat at home within the awkward experiences of Issa Diop, also known as Issa Rae.

Socially awkward? I so got that as a kid.

Heck, I get that as an adult.  I still occasionally say things that elicit uncomfortable silences.

Bad dancing? Jury’s out on that. I just move to the rhythm and don’t try too hard. Nothing inspiring.  Let’s move on.

Trying hard to impress? When I was younger, occasionally. I can’t recall the moment I realized how stupid that was and stopped. I can only be me.

I enjoyed the escapades and familiar landscapes of the Awkward Black Girl web series. Also enjoyable, reading about some of Issa Rae’s defining moments.

Here’s the joy of this book: It seems so incomplete. And that’s awesome! Her story’s still in progress. I’m looking forward to more from Issa Rae, whether via web series, book, TV, radio or if packaged in podcast or comic book forms.

She’s a talent with a unique voice that can speak to everyday nerdy awkward black girls—and anyone who dares to just BE.

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