I miss wearing office clothes: tough times are easier if I’m well-dressed

I miss wearing(ˈweriNG) office clothes: tough(təf) times are easier if I’m well-dressed

By Suzanne Westover

I am mourning(ˈmôrniNG) my office wardrobe(ˈwôrˌdrōb). In pre-pandemic days, if I needed a boost to my self-esteem(əˈstēm) or to gird(ɡərd) my loins(loin) for a difficult day, I reached for my black and white houndstooth(ˈhoun(d)zˌto͞oTH) blazer(ˈblāzər) with the hook-and-eye clasps(klasp) and deliberately(dəˈlib(ə)rətlē) frayed(frād) edges. Paired(perd) with skinny(ˈskinē) jeans(jēnz) and a tall caramel(ˈkerəməl) leather(ˈleT͟Hər) boot, it struck the right balance between authoritative(əˈTHôrəˌtādiv) and relatable(rəˈlādəb(ə)l).

Even more importantly, it was a gift from my mother after my first round of in vitro(ˈvēˌtrō) fertilization(ˌfərdləˈzāSH(ə)n) failed.

She subscribes to the motto(ˈmädō), “look good, feel better,” and when I was at one of my lowest points, she bought it for me from her month’s grocery(ˈɡrōs(ə)rē) budget(ˈbəjət). When putting one foot in front of the other was almost more than I could bear, I found unexpected strength when I donned a silky(ˈsilkē) pink tunic(ˈt(y)o͞onik), dark leggings(ˈleɡiNGz) and that houndstooth blazer.

It was my office go-to throughout my fertility(fərˈtilədē) treatments. It helped to hide my ovaries(ˈōv(ə)rē), swollen to the size of peaches after rounds of injections. But it also allowed me to conceal(kənˈsēl) a sadness too painful to reveal(rəˈvēl), when colleague upon colleague announced joyful pregnancy(ˈpreɡnənsē) news.

Today, my daughter is almost 9 and that blazer has remained a powerful go-to piece. When I put it on, I’m reminded that slogging(släɡ) through tough times is just a little bit easier if I’m well-dressed for the occasion.


Is there such a thing as too much freedom?

Is there such a thing as too much freedom?

By Derek Sivers

I’ve always used freedom as the compass(ˈkəmpəs) to guide my decisions.

We moved a lot when I was a kid. I lived in five states and countries by the time I was 5.

I left home at 17 and went off to college(ˈkälij) as far away as I could.

I joined a circus(ˈsərkəs) for 10 years. Then I quit my last job in 1992, vowing(vou) to make a living making music and never have a job again.

A few years after I started my company, I delegated all of my responsibilities, making myself unnecessary to the operations of my company, so that I was free to go live anywhere and do anything.

My email was filtered by the customer service staff. Hardly any needed my personal reply, so I was free to go days without checking email.

I gave away most of my stuff, including my entire recording studio, to my employees. So all I had left were some clothes and my laptop. Free to travel lightly.

I moved to London for a year, just because I could. I hardly told anyone I was gone. Most people thought I was still in Portland. Then I went to San Francisco for a few months, India for a month, and Iceland for a month.

Friends back home would say, “So what did you do in Iceland?” I’d say, “Same thing as you. Same thing I’d be doing anywhere else. Just programming, working, writing, reading, living.” Living the laptop life. Location agnostic(aɡˈnästik).

I had done it! I’d reached the final destination of my life-long pursuit of freedom! Awesome, and overwhelming. So… Wow. Now what?

Where do you go, when you can be anywhere, and don’t have to be anywhere?

What do you do, when you can do anything, and don’t have to do anything?

What if you had no ties(tī)? Nothing holding you to any one place. What if you had unlimited(ˌənˈlimidəd) plane tickets? What if you never had to work again?

Is there such a thing as too much freedom?

This story isn’t coming to some conclusion(kənˈklo͞oZHən) where I answer the question. I’m still living the question.


The Year

The Year

By Ella Wheeler Wilcox

What can be said in New Year rhymes(rīm),
That’s not been said a thousand times?

The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.

We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping(ˈwēpiNG) with the night.

We hug(həɡ) the world until it stings(stiNG),
We curse(kərs) it then and sigh(sī) for wings.

We live, we love, we woo(wo͞o), we wed,
We wreathe(rēT͟H) our brides(brīd), we sheet(SHēt) our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that’s the burden(ˈbərdn) of the year.


Cleaning Windows

Cleaning Windows

By Van Morrison

Oh the smell of the bakery(ˈbāk(ə)rē) from across the street

Got in my nose

As we carried our ladders(ˈladər) down the street

With the wrought(rôt)-iron(ˈī(ə)rn) gate rows

I went home and listened to Jimmie(ˈjimēz) Rodgers(ˈräjərz) in my lunch-break

Bought five Woodbines(ˈwo͝odbīn) at the shop on the corner

And went straight back to work

Oh Sam was up on top

And I was on the bottom with the v

We went for lemonade(ˌleməˈnād) and Paris buns(bən)

At the shop and broke for tea

I collected from the lady(ˈlādē)

And I cleaned the fanlight(ˈfanˌlīt) inside-out

I was blowing(blō) saxophone(ˈsaksəˌfōn) on the weekend

In that down joint(joint)

What’s my line

I’m happy cleaning windows

Take my time

I’ll see you when my love grows

Baby don’t let it slide(slīd)

I’m a working man in my prime(prīm)

Cleaning windows

Number a hundred and thirty-six

I heard Leadbelly(lēdˈbelē) and Blind(blīnd) Lemon(ˈlemən)

On the street where I was born

Sonny(ˈsənē) Terry(ˈterē) Brownie(ˈbrounē) McGhee

Muddy(ˈmədē) Waters singin’ ‘I’m A Rolling(ˈrōliNG) Stone’

I went home and read my Christmas Humphreys’(ˈhəmfrē) book on Zen

Curiosity killed the cat

Kerouac’s(ˈkerəwak) ‘Dharma(ˈdärmə) Bums(bəm)’ and ‘On The Road’

What’s my line

I’m happy cleaning windows

Take my time

I’ll see you when my love grows

Baby don’t let it slide

I’m a working man in my prime

Cleaning windows


Guaranteeing a Certain Kind of Year

Guaranteeing(ˌɡerənˈtē) a Certain Kind(kīnd) of Year

By Steve Pavlina

One thing I love about interesting commitments is that they can guarantee that I’ll have a certain kind of year.

This requires that I pick a commitment that’s close to 100% under my direct control, so there are no significant risky(ˈriskē) external points of failure.

This year I guaranteed that I’d do a lot of writing by committing to publishing something new on my blog every day of the year. I guaranteed that it would be a year of high internal reflection and high creative output. I guaranteed that I’d do the equivalent(əˈkwiv(ə)lənt) of writing several books through the medium(ˈmēdēəm) of blogging. These are just the surface aspects(ˈaspekt) of the commitment though.

It’s one thing to look ahead to another year with goals and intentions. But goals and intentions don’t guarantee that you’ll actually have a different kind of year. Truly committing yourself to the action side is very different than defining some results you’d like to see and hoping for the best. Goals are great, but setting a goal guarantees nothing.

I’ve noticed that something shifts within me when I make a commitment that I take seriously. There’s a moment where the weight of what I’m going to do sinks in because I actually believe and expect that I’m really going to do it. I don’t have to hope for a certain kind of year. It feels like it’s a done deal before it starts. Instead of optimism(ˈäptəˌmizəm), I feel certainty.


What my children have taught me about Hanukkah

What my children have taught me about Hanukkah(ˈhänəkə)

By Bella Hazzan

Hanukkah in the middle of a pandemic shut down is certainly different. My gifts for the grandchildren are at my children’s homes. Brought there by different delivery(dəˈliv(ə)rē) services; wrapped by others and hidden away and waiting for them to be given after the candles are lit. This year there won’t be any celebration at my home, and the house feels so empty and quiet.

This year as the holiday approached I felt myself feeling sad like a dark cloud was over my head. How would we have any kind of family celebration? Given how I was raised(rāzd), my sadness, my reaction, made no sense(sens) to me.

Growing up I don’t remember my parents ever celebrating Hanukkah. I do remember the Christmas tree. I remember the gifts under the tree, and sitting in front of the tree in the dark, watching the lights on the tree go on and off. So, I’ve often wondered where my commitment to observing the Jewish(ˈjo͞oiSH) holidays with my children came from, as that was not a part of my childhood. I’ve always had a strong desire to teach my children about their Jewish heritage(ˈherədij) and our traditions(trəˈdiSH(ə)n).


Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Valiant(ˈvalyənt) Hearts: The Great War

Dearest(dirist) Marie(məri),

As the war ends for me,
I have no regrets(rəˈɡret),
I’ve seen too much horror(ˈhôrər).
I hope fate(fāt) has been more merciful(ˈmərsəfəl) to you.
Our time on earth is brief,
and mine has been filled with so much joy.
That I can only be thankful for how much I’ve been blessed(blest).
Most specially, for the wonder you brought into my life.
This letter is my last as I’ve been found guilty(ˈɡiltē) by a military(ˈmiləˌterē) court(kôrt) for the death of an officer.
It was not my intention to kill him.
War makes men mad.
Though I failed Karl,
I know my sacrifices have not been in vain(vān).
I fought for my country and my liberty(ˈlibərdē), My honor is assured(əˈSHo͝ord).
Since it is the will of god to separate us on earth,
I hope we’ll meet again in heaven.
Keep me in your prayers(prer).

Your loving papa.

-Emile Chaillon

A Key to Healing Our Divide

A Key to Healing(ˈhēliNG) Our Divide(dəˈvīd)

By Leo Babauta

The country I live in has a pretty(ˈpridē) bitter(ˈbidər) divide between many of its people, and I’ll admit that it often feels hopeless to me.

If you don’t live in the U.S., I’m sure you can see a similar divide in your country as well: People judging each other, angry and fearful, feeling very little understanding and compassion.

We’re all doing it, and blaming the other side.

So what can we do to heal this divide?

For me, the answer lies in compassion. Compassion for others in our country, and in the world, who are suffering. Compassion for our neighbors, for people who have different views, for people who are afraid and who just want a good life. Compassion for ourselves as we try to make our way through a difficult situation.

But compassion is difficult right now, so just telling people to have compassion doesn’t work. The problem is that our views about who is right and wrong are getting in the way of compassion and healing the divide.

So the real key to this is in setting aside our views and setting aside being right. The real key to healing this divide is letting go of what we think we know.

It’s only when we let go of what we think we know that we can be curious about the other side. Try to understand why they do what they do, why they feel the way they feel. Try to step into their world, and get them.

It’s only when we let go of our knowing and step into not knowing that we can really see their side, and feel compassion for them.

Once we do that, the compassion can come and the healing can begin.

Set aside what we think we know.

Open to not knowing how things should be. Open to curiosity about their side.

Open to feeling compassion for what they’re going through.

Let’s connect with each other, and come together.


For Millions of Jobless, Christmas Is a Season to Endure, Not Celebrate

For Millions of Jobless, Christmas Is a Season to Endure(inˈd(y)o͝or), Not Celebrate

Even with the prospect(ˈpräˌspekt) of new federal(ˈfed(ə)rəl) aid(ād), many Americans face a holiday of tough choices, trying to celebrate while dealing with pressing needs

By Nelson D. Schwartz and Gillian Friedman

Nicole Craig, an unemployed(ˌənəmˈploid) mother of two from Pittsburgh(ˈpitsbərɡ), will have no Christmas gifts for her two children, and the ham(ham) she bought with food stamps will be far less than their usual holiday dinner. Months behind on her rent and utility bills, she has been struggling to afford formula(ˈfôrmyələ) and diapers(ˈdī(ə)pər). But there is one thing she couldn’t give up: a small Christmas tree and the trimmings(ˈtrimiNG) to go with it.

Ms. Craig spent the last $7 in her bank account on tinsel(ˈtinsəl), a symbol of light in the darkness of 2020. “It’s my baby’s first Christmas,” she said. “I wanted him to be able to see a Christmas tree.”

Although Ms. Craig, 42, lost her job as a counselor(ˈkouns(ə)lər) for at-risk youth(yo͞oTH) through no fault of her own, she can’t help blaming herself when she sees Christmas decorations and other reminders of a holiday she can barely celebrate. “I don’t even want to think about it because I feel so bad for my kids,” she said. “It makes me feel like such a failure.”

For Ms. Craig, and millions of other Americans who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic, this is a holiday season more to weather than to relish(ˈreliSH). With unemployment benefits running out and an unforgiving job market offering few berths(bərTH), this Christmas will be remembered by many for painful sacrifices, not the joy of exchanging gifts and partaking(pärˈtāk) of festive(ˈfestiv) meals with family.


A Visit from St. Nicholas/The Night Before Christmas

A Visit from St. Nicholas/The Night Before Christmas

By Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring(ˈstəriNG), not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney(ˈCHimnē) with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled(ˈnesəl) all snug(snəɡ) in their beds;

While visions of sugar-plums(pləm) danced in their heads;

And mamma in her ‘kerchief(ˈkərCHəf), and I in my cap,

Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn(lôn) there arose(əˈrōz) such a clatter(ˈkladər),

I sprang(spraNG) from my bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew(flo͞o) like a flash,

Tore(tôr) open the shutters and threw up the sash(saSH).

The moon on the breast(brest) of the new-fallen snow,

Gave a lustre(ˈləstər) of midday(ˈmidˌdā) to objects below,

When what to my wondering eyes did appear,

But a miniature(ˈmin(ē)əCHər) sleigh(slā) and eight tiny rein-deer(ˈrānˌdir),

With a little old driver so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.

More rapid(ˈrapəd) than eagles(ˈēɡəl) his coursers(ˈkôrsər) they came,

And he whistled(ˈ(h)wisəl), and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Dasher(ˈdaSHər)! now, Dancer! now Prancer(prans) and Vixen(ˈviksən)!

On, Comet(ˈkämət)! on, Cupid(ˈkyo͞opəd)! on, Donner(ˈdänər) and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch(pôrCH)! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As leaves(lē) that before the wild hurricane(ˈhəriˌkān) fly,

When they meet with an obstacle(ˈäbstək(ə)l), mount to the sky;

So up to the housetop the coursers(ˈkôrsər) they flew(flo͞o)

With the sleigh(slā) full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—

And then, in a twinkling(ˈtwiNGkliNG), I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing(pô) of each little hoof(ho͝of).

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.