On Volunteering

On Volunteering

I’m not saying it isn’t worth it. What I am saying is that you can’t expect to give away your time and get pure, golden, ray-of-sunshine fulfillment out of it, no matter how glorious it may feel for a while to help a cause, to stand at the font of the room and feel seen and heard and able to make good things happen for people who deserve good things. Doing something for humanity doesn’t mean you won’t still find yourself sometimes hating humanity. You just have to know that going in. It’s part of the deal.

from I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott


Novel Approach to Refuting an Argument

Polly looked at the building–hideous seventies concrete plonked beside ten lanes of traffic–with a critical eye. “I don’t blame you for being miserable. This place would bring anyone down.”

“Exactly. And I have to work here every day, doing something I hate so how will adding some tea bags to my desk help?”

“It’ll help. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

“You’re not going to suggest I open up and get to know everyone in the office, and learn that we’re all the same under the skin, no matter how much skin there is?”

Polly laughed. “No. Some people are just awful. And some things need to be run away from, very fast, link an exploding bomb. You should quit.”

Annie felt anger build again–who was this woman, telling her what to do? “I can’t. I need the money.”

“You can do something else,” Polly said cheerfully.

“There’s a recession on.”

“Excuses.” Polly waved a hand. “Everyone uses that one, Annie. Oh, everything was always better in the past! Things are rubbish now we’re not allowed to send our children down the mines!”

from Something Like Happy by Eva Woods




Tibet: Fear of Fear; Otherwise, Captive

With her dreadlocks and wide smile, Lateesha looked as if she wasn’t afraid of anything. But as she got ready to speak, her book propped open at the podium, Charles asked how anxious she was, on a scale of 1 to 10.

“At least a seven,” said Lateesha.

“Take it slow,” he said. “There are only a few people out there who can completely overcome their fears and they all live in Tibet.”

from Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Dry Cleaner: Are You My Mother?

Dry Cleaner: Are You My Mother?

Many people have thought that they are my mother. My boss tells me when to go to the doctor. The super down the block tries to send me off every day with a smile on my face. They aren’t the first, and they won’t be the last. But the only one who reminds me of my mom is the woman who runs my dry cleaner shop. A bustling and effective South Korean woman, the same size as my mom, my dry cleaner is always happy to see me and loves to chat. She clearly loves me, but if you might not know that if you heard us talk. Thankfully, I too say things with the assumption that my undying affection is a given, so we understand each other perfectly.


What She Says: Your coat is yellow! Like chicken feet!

Sounds Like: Your coat looks like it spends the day in the dirt.

Actual Meaning: Your coat is adorable and bright!


What She Says: You had your hair up last time? Looks better down.

Sounds Like: You look bad with your hair up; don’t do that.

Actual Meaning: You look cute today!


What She Says: You bring this in last June?

Sounds Like: You smell bad.

Actual Meaning: It’s been too long since we’ve seen you.


What She Says: Your buttons – too loose! Don’t want to lose.

Sounds Like: You don’t take care of your clothing.

Actual Meaning: I sewed in your buttons because they would be hard to replace, and I don’t trust my subcontractor to be as careful as I am.


What She Says: You have cash? Credit card has bank fee.

Sounds Like: Why are you oppressing small family-owned businesses, you out of touch plutocrat?

Actual Meaning: Help a sister out, like I know you want to.


And the reason I went to the dry cleaner’s? My mom took one look at my coat, and asked if I had a dry cleaner. Because, like my dry cleaner, she loves me and wants to make sure I put my best foot forward. If your mom isn’t here to do the same for you, head over to Sunrise Cleaners at 59 Nassau Street, and you’ll find someone who can help you out.

I’ll Kick Off My Heels, You Kick Up Your Heels

I’ll Kick Off My Heels, You Kick Up Your Heels

I stepped out of blaring noise of the wedding into the cool night air of the suburbs. Though presumably still in New York State, I wasn’t the one who drove, and couldn’t have sworn to my location. My ride told us to stay put while he got the car, so I was trying to spot the Big Dipper in the sky – impossible with the country club’s outdoor lighting – when I heard someone right behind me say that she had to thank me.

“I’ve been wanting to thank you for the last hour,” she gushed.

I smiled, sure she’d confused me for someone else. She picked up on my hesitation.

“You were the first to take off her shoes!” she exclaimed. “I just can’t be the first to do that, and no one else was doing that. Then I saw that you weren’t wearing shoes and could finally take mine off.”

“You’re welcome,” I said, and looked down at the topic of our discussion. The square-toed pumps may have been a little out of date, but remained a classy choice – and I complimented her on them.

“Oh, those are the problem,” she said. “They were my husband’s grandmother’s.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said.

“She’s fine!” my new friend replied. “She gave them to me last time we visited, and while they’re a nice option, they pinch my toes. And the insides are shredding.”

“In that case,” I informed her, “next time, tell me you’re waiting and I’ll take off my shoes before the first dance.”

Women in the Workplace: Negotiations – Not Just for Hostages Anymore

Women in the Workplace: Negotiations – Not Just for Hostages Anymore

There’s trade-craft to salary negotiation. The key? Being willing to ask. That’s where many of people, including my sisters in the workplace, get stuck. When I have negotiated raises on someone else’s behalf, I start by pointing out all the ways in which that individual has improved our overall productivity, difficult projects in which they’ve been involved, and the number of cases they’ve closed. Having that information at my fingertips – having written my own evaluation – is great ammunition. So, start there for yourself. By the time you’re done, you’ll be convinced that this negotiation is best for you, and your employer. And if that helps you do a better job on your own behalf, all the more reason to negotiate.


Before you begin, review what you have, what you want, and why they should give it to you. You need to know: your current salary, and the median – not average – salary for professionals in your field in your city. What do you want? That’s up to you. But ask for more than you think they’ll be willing to give, and know what your acceptable range looks like. Most importantly, know why you and your employer will want to work on this together: they love you. They may not love you the way they love their grandma – or Lauren from HR with the candy bowl – but they love that you work there and they don’t currently need to train someone new to take your place. Before you begin any negotiation, remind yourself – so that you’re ready to remind your management – why they love employing you. For instance: your current workload, length or duration or flexibility of your work day, years of experience you bring, your adaptability – be it with different populations or subject matter -, ways in which you exceed expectations, and your reputation of excellence. They pay you; clearly you have made your expertise, abilities, and hard-working attitude clear. Don’t forget to also enumerate the reasons they don’t want to lose you: they’ve trained you, you know the drill, and they don’t need to continue training you. FYI: on average it takes 6 months to get a new employee functioning at full speed. They don’t need to do that with you.
In most cases, if the negotiation doesn’t go well, nothing happens. You asked, and they said no. But you’re still employed – go you! Meanwhile, it rarely hurts to remind your employer of how much they want to keep you and what they should be doing to make you happy.
Or, as a former New York Times editor says;

[Jill] Abramson was the first woman to hold the executive editor spot—arguably the pinnacle of American journalism. Sulzberger had offered it to her over the phone in 2011, and she didn’t think to ask at the time what her predecessors’ compensation had been. “My advice to younger women now is don’t do what I did,” she tells me. “Just be very straightforward and ask those questions. I was stupid not to.”

Old School Gifting

Old School Gifting

Three weddings in one month and it hit me: I’ve been going about wedding gift-giving all wrong. Why did I not learn from my great aunts and uncles? Go to the function, and the first person you spot who is related to the bride or groom – be it a 5 year-old niece, great uncle, or the bride herself – gets handed a check for the happy couple. Better yet, hand off cold hard cash in an envelope. If it’s good enough for afekomen presents, it’s good enough for a wedding.

Is this something people do more as they age? Is this a boat I’ve been missing all along? Or does handing off envelopes of cash a move reserved for people who send people swimming with the fishes and/or have a cache of silver dollars?