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Modern Families

A comic from The Oatmeal illustrates how we're missing the mark on happiness.

I do the things that are meaningful to me, even if they don't make me "happy."

oatmeal comics, matthew inman, comedy
By Matthew Inman/The Oatmeal. Used with permission.

How to Be Perfectly Happy


Matthew Inman is the Eisner Award-winning author of The Oatmeal. He's published six books, including New York Times Best-Sellers such as "How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You"and "The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances."He enjoys running marathons, writing comics, and eating cake.

You can read more of Matthew's comics here.




Comic by Matthew Inman/The Oatmeal. Used with permission.

























More comics from The Oatmeal:When your house is burning down, you should brush your teeth.



My dog: the paradox



It's going to be okay.

More comics from The Oatmeal:

It's going to be okay.


This article originally appeared on 12.02.16

Ileah Parker (left) and Alexis Vandecoevering (right)

True

At 16, Alexis Vandecoevering already knew she wanted to work in the fire department. Having started out as a Junior Firefighter and spending her time on calls as a volunteer with the rest of her family, she’s set herself up for a successful career as either a firefighter or EMT from a young age.

Ileah Parker also leaned into her career interests at an early age. By 16, she had completed an internship with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, learning about Information Technology, Physical Therapy, Engineering, and Human Resources in healthcare, which allowed her to explore potential future pathways. She’s also a member of Eryn PiNK, an empowerment and mentoring program for black girls and young women.

While these commitments might sound like a lot for a teenager, it all comes down to school/life balance. This wouldn’t be possible for Alexis or Ileah without attending Pearson’s Connections Academy, a tuition-free online public school available in 31 states across the U.S., that not only helps students get ready for college but dive straight into college coursework and get a head start on career training as well.

“Connections Academy allowed me extensive flexibility, encouraged growth in all aspects of my life, whether academic, interpersonal, or financial, and let me explore options for my future career, schooling, and extracurricular endeavors,” said Ileah.

A recent survey by Connections Academy of over 1,000 students in grades 8-12 and over 1,000 parents or guardians across the U.S., highlights the importance of school/life balance when it comes to leading a fulfilling and successful life. The results show that students’ perception of their school/life balance has a significant impact on their time to consider career paths, with 76% of those with excellent or good school/life balance indicating they know what career path they are most interested in pursuing versus only 62% of those who have a fair to very poor school/life balance.

Additionally, students who report having a good or excellent school/life balance are more likely than their peers to report having a grade point average in the A-range (57% vs 35% of students with fair to very poor balance).

At Connections Academy, teens get guidance navigating post-secondary pathways, putting them in the best possible position for college and their careers. Connections Academy’s College and Career Readiness offering for middle and high school students connects them with employers, internships and clubs in Healthcare, IT, and Business.


“At Connections Academy, we are big proponents of encouraging students to think outside of the curriculum” added Dr. Lorna Bryant, Senior Director of Career Solutions in Pearson’s Virtual Learning division. “While academics are still very important, bringing in more career and college exposure opportunities to students during middle and high school can absolutely contribute to a more well-rounded school/life balance and help jumpstart that career search process.”

High school students can lean into career readiness curriculum by taking courses that meet their required high school credits, while also working toward micro-credentials through Coursera, and getting college credit applicable toward 150 bachelor’s degree programs in the U.S.

Alexis Vandecoevering in her firefighter uniform

Alexis, a Class of 2024 graduate, and Ileah, set to start her senior year with Connections Academy, are on track to land careers they’re passionate about, which is a key driver behind career decisions amongst students today.

Of the students surveyed who know what career field they want to pursue, passion and genuine interest is the most commonly given reasoning for both male and female students (54% and 66%, respectively).

Parents can support their kids with proper school/life balance by sharing helpful resources relating to their career interests. According to the survey, 48% of students want their parents to help them find jobs and 43% want their parents to share resources like reading materials relating to their chosen field.

While teens today have more challenges than ever to navigate, including an ever-changing job market, maintaining school/life balance and being given opportunities to explore career paths at an early age are sure to help them succeed.

Learn more about Connections Academy’s expanded College and Career Readiness offering here.

Science

A juice company dumped orange peels in a national park. Here's what it looks like now.

12,000 tons of food waste and 21 years later, this forest looks totally different.


In 1997, ecologists Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs approached an orange juice company in Costa Rica with an off-the-wall idea.

In exchange for donating a portion of unspoiled, forested land to the Área de Conservación Guanacaste — a nature preserve in the country's northwest — the park would allow the company to dump its discarded orange peels and pulp, free of charge, in a heavily grazed, largely deforested area nearby.

One year later, one thousand trucks poured into the national park, offloading over 12,000 metric tons of sticky, mealy, orange compost onto the worn-out plot.



The site was left untouched and largely unexamined for over a decade. A sign was placed to ensure future researchers could locate and study it.

16 years later, Janzen dispatched graduate student Timothy Treuer to look for the site where the food waste was dumped.

Treuer initially set out to locate the large placard that marked the plot — and failed.

The first deposit of orange peels in 1996.

Photo by Dan Janzen.

"It's a huge sign, bright yellow lettering. We should have been able to see it," Treuer says. After wandering around for half an hour with no luck, he consulted Janzen, who gave him more detailed instructions on how to find the plot.

When he returned a week later and confirmed he was in the right place, Treuer was floored. Compared to the adjacent barren former pastureland, the site of the food waste deposit was "like night and day."

The site of the orange peel deposit (L) and adjacent pastureland (R).

Photo by Leland Werden.

"It was just hard to believe that the only difference between the two areas was a bunch of orange peels. They look like completely different ecosystems," he explains.

The area was so thick with vegetation he still could not find the sign.

Treuer and a team of researchers from Princeton University studied the site over the course of the following three years.

The results, published in the journal "Restoration Ecology," highlight just how completely the discarded fruit parts assisted the area's turnaround.

The ecologists measured various qualities of the site against an area of former pastureland immediately across the access road used to dump the orange peels two decades prior. Compared to the adjacent plot, which was dominated by a single species of tree, the site of the orange peel deposit featured two dozen species of vegetation, most thriving.

Lab technician Erik Schilling explores the newly overgrown orange peel plot.

Photo by Tim Treuer.

In addition to greater biodiversity, richer soil, and a better-developed canopy, researchers discovered a tayra (a dog-sized weasel) and a giant fig tree three feet in diameter, on the plot.

"You could have had 20 people climbing in that tree at once and it would have supported the weight no problem," says Jon Choi, co-author of the paper, who conducted much of the soil analysis. "That thing was massive."

Recent evidence suggests that secondary tropical forests — those that grow after the original inhabitants are torn down — are essential to helping slow climate change.

In a 2016 study published in Nature, researchers found that such forests absorb and store atmospheric carbon at roughly 11 times the rate of old-growth forests.

Treuer believes better management of discarded produce — like orange peels — could be key to helping these forests regrow.

In many parts of the world, rates of deforestation are increasing dramatically, sapping local soil of much-needed nutrients and, with them, the ability of ecosystems to restore themselves.

Meanwhile, much of the world is awash in nutrient-rich food waste. In the United States, up to half of all produce in the United States is discarded. Most currently ends up in landfills.

The site after a deposit of orange peels in 1998.

Photo by Dan Janzen.

"We don't want companies to go out there will-nilly just dumping their waste all over the place, but if it's scientifically driven and restorationists are involved in addition to companies, this is something I think has really high potential," Treuer says.

The next step, he believes, is to examine whether other ecosystems — dry forests, cloud forests, tropical savannas — react the same way to similar deposits.

Two years after his initial survey, Treuer returned to once again try to locate the sign marking the site.

Since his first scouting mission in 2013, Treuer had visited the plot more than 15 times. Choi had visited more than 50. Neither had spotted the original sign.

In 2015, when Treuer, with the help of the paper's senior author, David Wilcove, and Princeton Professor Rob Pringle, finally found it under a thicket of vines, the scope of the area's transformation became truly clear.

The sign after clearing away the vines.

Photo by Tim Treuer.

"It's a big honking sign," Choi emphasizes.

19 years of waiting with crossed fingers had buried it, thanks to two scientists, a flash of inspiration, and the rind of an unassuming fruit.


This article originally appeared on 08.23.17

Sponsored

3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

Family

Mom explains the common Boomer parenting style that still affects many adults today

Many are relieved to finally have a term for this experience.

“What they want is dishonest harmony rather than honest conflict.”

There are certainly many things the Boomer parents generally did right when raising their kids. Teaching them the importance of manners and respect. That actions do, in fact, have consequences. That a little manners go a long way…all of these things are truly good values to instill in kids.

But—and we are speaking in broad strokes here—being able to openly discuss difficult feelings was not one of the skills passed down by this generation. And many Gen X and millennial kids can sadly attest to this.

This is why the term “dishonest harmony” is giving many folks of this age group some relief. They finally have a term to describe the lack of emotional validation they needed throughout childhood for the sake of saving face.


In a video posted to TikTok, a woman named Angela Baker begins by saying, “Fellow Gen X and millennials, let's talk about our parents and their need for dishonest harmony.”

Barker, who thankfully did not experience this phenomenon growing up, but says her husband “certainly” did, shared that when she’s tried to discuss this topic, the typical response she’d get from Boomers would be to “Stop talking about it. We don't need to hear about it. Move on. Be quiet.”

And it’s this attitude that’s at the core of dishonest harmony.

“What that’s showing is their lack of ability to handle the distress that they feel when we talk openly about uncomfortable things,” she says. “What they want is dishonest harmony rather than honest conflict.”



“Keep quiet about these hard issues. Suppress your pain, suppress your trauma. Definitely don't talk openly about it so that you can learn to heal and break the cycle,” she continues. “What matters most is that we have the appearance of harmony, even if there's nothing harmonious under the surface.”

Barker concludes by theorizing that it was this need to promote a certain facade that created most of the toxic parenting choices of that time period.

“The desire of boomer parents to have this perception that everything was sweet and hunky dory, rather than prioritizing the needs of their kids, is what drove a lot of the toxic parenting we experienced.”

Barker’s video made others feel so seen, as clearly indicated by the comments.

“How did I not hear about dishonest harmony until now? This describes my family dynamic to a T. And if you disrespect that illusion, you are automatically labeled as the problem. It’s frustrating,” one person wrote.

“THANK YOU SO MUCH! I'm a 49 yo biker sitting in my bedroom crying right now. You just put a name to my darkness!” added another

Many shared how they were refusing to repeat the cycle.

One wrote, “This is EXACTLY my family dynamic. I’m the problem because I won’t remain quiet. Not anymore. Not again.”

“I love when my kids tell me what I did wrong. It gives me a chance to acknowledge and apologize. Everyone wants to be heard,” said another.

Of course, no parenting style is perfect. And all parents are working with the current ideals of the time, their own inner programming and their inherent need to course correct child raising problems of the previous generation. Gen Alpha parents will probably cringe at certain parenting styles currently considered in vogue. It’s all part of the process.

But hopefully one thing we have learned as a collective is that true change happens when we summon the courage to have difficult conversations.

Pop Culture

Airbnb host finds unexpected benefits from not charging guests a cleaning fee

Host Rachel Boice went for a more "honest" approach with her listings—and saw major perks because of it.

@rachelrboice/TikTok

Many frustrated Airbnb customers have complained that the separate cleaning fee is a nuisance.

Airbnb defines its notorious cleaning fee as a “one-time charge” set by the host that helps them arrange anything from carpet shampoo to replenishing supplies to hiring an outside cleaning service—all in the name of ensuring guests have a “clean and tidy space.”

But as many frustrated Airbnb customers will tell you, this feature is viewed as more of a nuisance than a convenience. According to NerdWallet, the general price for a cleaning fee is around $75, but can vary greatly between listings, with some units having cleaning fees that are higher than the nightly rate (all while sometimes still being asked to do certain chores before checking out). And often none of these fees show up in the total price until right before the booking confirmation, leaving many travelers feeling confused and taken advantage of.

However, some hosts are opting to build cleaning fees into the overall price of their listings, mimicking the strategy of traditional hotels.

Rachel Boice runs two Airbnb properties in Georgia with her husband Parker—one being this fancy glass plane tiny house (seen below) that promises a perfect glamping experience.

@rachelrboice Welcome to The Tiny Glass House 🤎 #airbnbfinds #exploregeorgia #travelbucketlist #tinyhouse #glampingnotcamping #atlantageorgia #fyp ♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim

Like most Airbnb hosts, the Boice’s listing showed a nightly rate and separate cleaning fee. According to her interview with Insider, the original prices broke down to $89 nightly, and $40 for the cleaning fee.

But after noticing the negative response the separate fee got from potential customers, Rachel told Insider that she began charging a nightly rate that included the cleaning fee, totaling to $129 a night.

It’s a marketing strategy that more and more hosts are attempting in order to generate more bookings (people do love feeling like they’re getting a great deal) but Boice argued that the trend will also become more mainstream since the current Airbnb model “doesn’t feel honest.”

"We stay in Airbnbs a lot. I pretty much always pay a cleaning fee," Boice told Insider. "You're like: 'Why am I paying all of this money? This should just be built in for the cost.'"

Since combining costs, Rachel began noticing another unexpected perk beyond customer satisfaction: guests actually left her property cleaner than before they were charged a cleaning fee. Her hypothesis was that they assumed she would be handling the cleaning herself.

"I guess they're thinking, 'I'm not paying someone to clean this, so I'll leave it clean,'" she said.

This discovery echoes a similar anecdote given by another Airbnb host, who told NerdWallet guests who knew they were paying a cleaning fee would “sometimes leave the place looking like it’s been lived in and uncleaned for months.” So, it appears to be that being more transparent and lumping all fees into one overall price makes for a happier (and more considerate) customer.

These days, it’s hard to not be embittered by deceptive junk fees, which can seem to appear anywhere without warning—surprise overdraft charges, surcharges on credit cards, the never convenience “convenience charge” when purchasing event tickets. Junk fees are so rampant that certain measures are being taken to try to eliminate them outright in favor of more honest business approaches.

Speaking of a more honest approach—as of December 2022, AirBnb began updating its app and website so that guests can see a full price breakdown that shows a nightly rate, a cleaning fee, Airbnb service fee, discounts, and taxes before confirming their booking.

Guests can also activate a toggle function before searching for a destination, so that full prices will appear in search results—avoiding unwanted financial surprises.


This article originally appeared on 11.08.23

A salesman selling a car to a skeptical woman.

It can be intimidating to be approached by a salesperson when making a big purchase, such as a car or an appliance. They can swoop in like sharks, seeing blood in the water and some refuse to leave you alone, even if you say, “I’m just looking.”

TikTok's @RussFlipsWhips is a car salesman who went viral with a video explaining why “I’m just looking” doesn’t work on a car lot and providing more effective phrases you can use instead.

"There's two main reasons, and here's what you should say instead of 'I'm just looking,'" he said in a video with over 345,000 views. “One is, we hear it every single day. So when somebody tells me, ‘I’m just looking,’ I’m so used to hearing that, I almost like brush it off and ignore it because I’m like, ‘That’s what the customer’s supposed to say.’ “Secondly, every car salesman has had a customer say, ‘I’m just looking,’ and we ended up selling them a car."



Instead, Russell suggests you say: "Hey, I’d really like to look alone. Can I please have your business card?" or “I’m really not in the market for a car.”


@russflipswhips

Replying to @SoyPablo This is what I would say #carsales #carsalesman #cardealership #carbuyingtips

The post received funny responses from folks who may not qualify for a loan. “The ‘I have 2 repos and no money down' line works wonders,’” one TikToker joked. “I just tell them my credit score and they run,” another added.

In the end, Russell’s suggestions show that sometimes, the best way to get our point across is to be direct and honest. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to shop alone and if the salesperson can respect that request, they deserve the sale if you decide to buy something.

Pop Culture

Natalie Portman shares how her viral run-in with Rihanna helped her through her divorce

The "Lady in the Lake" actress called it the "the confidence boost of a lifetime."

Rihanna (Left) Natalie Portman (right)

Back in June of 2024, Natalie Portman had an unexpected meeting with Rihanna while at Paris Fashion Week. The interaction lasted a mere few seconds, but the actress says it gave her “the confidence boost of a lifetime” during a particularly challenging time, according to TODAY.

In a video posted to Instagram by Bustle, we see the two icons exchange a heartfelt hug, each clearly excited to meet the other. Rihanna told Portman that she was “one of the hottest b**ches in Hollywood forever,” to which the “Black Swan” star replied “I’m gonna faint.”

Understandable, Natalie. That is the only correct response after getting a compliment from Rhi Rhi.


Speaking with Jimmy Fallon on July 15th, Portman called the mutual hype-up “formative” following her divorce with Benjamin Millepied after 11 years of marriage.

“I think every woman going through a divorce should get to have Rihanna say to her that she’s a bad b**ch,” she gushed, saying that is was “exactly what [she] needed.”

You can catch the interview moment below, which also plays the original clip.

Rihanna Helped Natalie Portman Deal with Her Divorce by Calling Her the "Hottest B*tch"www.youtube.com

Down in the comments, people were clearly moved to see these two women, who hadn’t truly known each other only minutes before, support each other in such a lovely way.

“I am so glad that Rihanna was able to be a light in the darkness for Natalie Portman. Two lovely women lifting each other up is always so nice to see! “ one viewer wrote.

“Bless Natalie and bless Rihanna for saying something so profound and encouraging during a difficult time. It goes to show, ‘Be nice to everyone you see as they are fighting a battle you know nothing about,’" added another.

While divorce is fairly common, it is still often a fairly taboo topic with a lot of stigma surrounding it. All of which makes it difficult to know exactly how to support a person going through one. Generally speaking, this kind of support looks a lot like how you might help someone going through other flavors of grief—lending a helping hand, continuing to invite them to things, offering to hold space and just listen, etc.

But it’s easy to see through this wholesome moment that reminding our friends of their inherent worth through a hype up session here and there can also work wonders. It probably doesn’t have to be Rihanna saying it to have an impact. Although, she could probably whip up another side business handing out compliments.