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

Two Weeks Away

Two Weeks Away

On my new boss’s first day, I told her that I could work on anything she wanted for the next 24 hours, but would then be away for following 2 weeks.

“Oh, you’re getting married?”


“So you’re going to Turkey?”


“Huh,” she said. And so, we began our working relationship.


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?

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day

I don’t know what to wear today. On International Women’s Day, I’d like to wear something that represents my sisters worldwide. Something which shows the strength – in all forms – we possess. Today, of all days, I want my outfit to show that women can stand tall and powerful – but that when one of us is feeling powerless, the we are here to hold her up. I’m not alone in wanting to proclaim our universal sisterhood. In fact, everyone seems to have had the same thought. They just can’t agree on what our uniform should be.

Some will wear white to remember the suffragettes.

Some will wear black for #metoo.

Others, living in the glow of last year’s Women’s March will wear red.

Those on-trend will be dressed in the Pantone color of the year: ultra violet.

I won’t be taking sides in this debate. Instead, I’ll support each of my sister’s choices while independently making my own way. That is how I will celebrate women today, and every day. Except today, I’ll be wearing the whole sisterhood in my hair. Solidarity!


The Original Crowdsourcing

The Original Crowdsourcing

I need a Kitchen Mailbox contingent. Kitchen Mailbox is a brilliant invention of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; it’s a coterie of cooks with memories longer than time itself. Kitchen Mailbox is the place to go if you want to know how a bakery, defunct for nearly 50 years, used to get its chocolate chip cookies to the perfect gooiness. If you can’t figure out what happened to that recipe for Strawberry Shortcake you clipped from the Pillsbury Best cookbook of 1983 – the recipe that was the source of countless birthday cakes for your son who is now a groom and wants that exact cake for the wedding – you write a letter to Kitchen Mailbox.

I’m not sure who is the source of the Kitchen Mailbox knowledge, but there is always a response. In other words, Pittsburgh had a Reddit for all things culinary, decades before anyone knew they needed one. While we’re on the topic, can anyone find me a recipe for cabbage strudel?

Canadian Rockies: Potential Death Trap

Canadian Rockies: Potential Death Trap

Every time I travel, I think I’m going to die. I went to the Canadian Rockies and assumed I’d fall into a glacial crevasse. But when I got to the glacier there was an emergency response team practicing crevasse-rescue. My fear was assuaged.

Miracle on Ice

Rather, it was assuaged until I went hiking up a mountain and discovered that the Canadians trusted me not to fall off of it. My terrible balance and a footpath of pebbles on a cliff-face seemed like a poor combination. But I was there already, so I kept going. I hiked until the Canadians informed me, politely, that I’d hit the end of the trail and it wasn’t safe to continue onward. I took a deep breath, turned around, and made it back alive. Then, I drafted a letter to the provincial government explaining that they may want to use larger font a sign which warns that walking past it may result in falling off a mountain – as getting close enough to read it might have the same result.

Having learned my lesson, my next hike wasn’t on the edge of a mountain but solidly in the middle of one. So all was well and good until the Parks Department warned me off due to the potential for bear attacks. But as with the glacier and cliff, I shouldered my fear and kept moving forward. After all, I had already survived so much. That, and I had a bear bell for company and glorious scenery to view.


My bear bell felt like good company, with its bright jangle. Or it did until I stopped in a shop and heard the woman behind the counter telling a fellow tourist that they were not permitted to travel down the mountain without bear spray. The tourist held out her bear bell in response. The cashier, a knowledgeable and adventuring Aussie, explained, with a hint of fear, that heading out with only a bear bell for company was as good as hitting the trail barefoot. A terrible, hazardous, and stupid idea.

I went down the mountain in a bus, uneaten by a bear.

All’s well that ends well