The good news is that Christmas is less than 10 days away! On the other hand, the bad news is that Christmas is less than 10 days away. It’s bad when the decorating isn’t finished and the house hasn’t been cleaned, and you’ve got 30 or so women from church coming tonight for Ladies’ Night Out. It’s bad when you haven’t decided on the first Christmas gift except for the gift bought for the newest great-niece who shares my middle name. It’s bad that if something needs to be ordered, it hasn’t been ordered. It’s bad when Christmas cards haven’t been addressed. It’s just bad.
So is the news in general. I picked up the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the morning this was being written and saw “In U.S. today: Less marriage, more poverty, violence,” “More Georgians turning to food stamps to get by” and “Thousands of birds die in parking lot” (when they mistook a Walmart parking lot, among others, for a body of water). Other headlines read “Stocks slide over renewed euro fears” and finally “Study: Student pot use at 30-year peak.” (One in every 15 high school students report almost daily marijuana smoking.)
It’s always the bad news you remember more than the good news, isn’t it? But there was also some good news in this edition. The president formally welcomed home troops returning from Iraq as the unpopular war comes to its Dec. 31 end, although he conceded the last of the battles might not have been fought. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declares: ”We’re winning war in Afghanistan.” Teen use of alcohol, cigarettes and cocaine is declining. And “Surgery successful for conjoined twins” in Chile. That ought to be enough to counterbalance the bad news for this day, don’t you think?
Well, maybe not if one is still feeling a bit un-Christmas-y. So I went looking for a little more good news and found a couple of interesting websites where you can go to get your daily fill of feel-good stories. One is www.optimist.com, and another is www.happynews.com. (Just Google “good news” and you’ll find others.)
Here are a few smile-producing tidbits: A Russian woman survived a knife attack by her husband thanks to her breast implants. A Turkish morgue is equipped with motion detectors in case anyone declared dead wakes up and starts moving. A 90-year-old woman fights off three burglars with her cane. Chickens are happier living in environments with windows, fresh air, perches and hay bales. A dog missing for eight years is reunited with its family. A stolen parrot that won’t talk when the thief sells him to a pet store in China comes to life, shrieking excitedly when his real owner walks into the store. As reported on Miami TV, a man accidentally tosses his fiancée’s $10,000 engagement ring into the trash, and then wades through eight tons of garbage where he finds it.
The Unilever Corporation and a partner have created smile-activated ice cream dispensers using facial recognition technology. Give a really great grin and a sweet treat will be dispensed. “Share happy” is the company’s brand message. A company in the United Kingdom has found a way to recycle disposable diapers and other such hygiene products into roof tiles, among other things. A study by the Florida Department of Citrus found that 89 percent of us try to stay optimistic in hard times, most considering it a personal form of treatment. Listening to music helps, as does trying something new, as does making a major purchase, laughing out loud and thinking positive thoughts. Orange juice, of course, helps add to “feelings of positivity.” Learning poetry has been found to make people feel stronger and better, and overconfidence is good for us as an inflated belief in one’s abilities enables one to accomplish more and to prevail in conflicts.
We already know that eating dark chocolate contributes to a healthy heart, but now researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit have found plant compounds in dark chocolate stimulate heart and skeletal muscles in the same way vigorous exercise does. (No, this does not give you permission to sit on the couch gorging on Godiva and watching “The Biggest Loser.”) Finally, there’s a 102-year-old therapist, the oldest member of the American Psychology Association (no kidding), still practicing in Los Angeles. Her mantra is not to worry about things that haven’t happened. Christmas hasn’t “happened” yet, so I’m going to stop worrying about it.
Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics. She chairs the Newton Advisory Committee.