Learning a New Language: Why You Should Do It, and How to Get Started

A word cloud of Greek words from a newspaper article

As I mentioned last weekend, I recently began studying the Greek language.  My husband and his family (who hail from Athens) had previously taught me a few basic words, but until a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t tried to learn the language in any disciplined way.  The main reason is that my husband and his mother, sister, and brother-in-law all speak English, so I can communicate with them just fine in my own native language.

Still, that felt a bit lazy on my part.  And now that we are planning a trip to Greece, I want to be able to read street signs, say hello to any non-English speakers I encounter, and ask the kinds of questions one often needs to ask when traveling.  My husband will be there to translate for me, but there’s a certain satisfaction that comes from being able to speak and read at least some of the local language when traveling.

Read more

Resisting Polarization and Encouraging Compassion

Double rainbow and seagulls over Niagara Falls, with onlookers

We humans like to place people into buckets: good and bad, left and right, us and them. This seems to be an age-old tendency, and it isn’t all that surprising that the rise of social media and the proliferation of news and opinion platforms have allowed our divisions to become more entrenched and more apparent. We can choose to read and listen to only those sources that affirm what we already feel and believe, and we can respond to those who disagree while protected by a screen that keeps us from seeing and experiencing their humanity, their emotional reactions.  Our quickly typed words can be amplified through shares and retweets, carried far beyond the small circles that might once have heard them.

Many, many people have written about the heightened state of polarization in which we live these days, lamenting how destructive it is and postulating about what led to this environment.  It is distressing and disheartening.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Read more

To Accomplish What You Want, Write Down More Than Just Your Goals

A dirt road disappears into a tree line under a blue sky

Tracking time is one of the most universally disliked aspects of private law practice.  I don’t think I’ve ever met an attorney who liked having to log every client-related task in six- or fifteen- minute increments.  Tracking and recording your time is a pain.  But it does have its benefits, aside from being able to bill your clients for the work you’ve performed.

When I first left private practice and no longer had to keep daily time sheets, I noticed that I became less productive.  I chatted with coworkers more and took longer lunches.  I spent more time on projects.  These things are not all bad, but I realized at some point that I wasn’t checking items off my to-do list as often as I’d like, and I felt like I was losing momentum.

Read more

My Wardrobe Challenge

Clothes hanging in a closet

If you use Pinterest or read women’s magazines or websites, you may have come across this concept:  Turn around all the hangers in your closet.  After you wear something, hang it up with the hanger facing the other direction.  You will easily be able to see which clothes you’ve worn and which you haven’t.  After six months or a year, donate or sell any items you haven’t worn.

It’s not a bad idea, but because I fully Marie Kondo-ed my closet last year (more about that later) and am generally pretty good about regularly purging clothes that are in poor condition or don’t fit well, this concept didn’t seem all that useful to me.  But it sparked a slightly different idea.

Read more

Rethinking Gift-Giving

Oil painting of a cluster of tomatoes at different stages of ripeness and a small ceramic pitcher on a rumpled blue tablecloth
Still Life with Tomatoes, 2009. For details or to purchase, please contact Alexis (contact form in menu bar).

I recently came across this post on gift-giving from Mr. Money Mustache and thought it was worth sharing.  The post is several years old and references Mother’s Day, but it applies to all the occasions on which our culture tells us we are supposed to give gifts.

Ideally, gift-giving should be a way of expressing our appreciation for the people we love, making their day a little brighter, and perhaps easing their burden.  At its worst, gift-giving can become another obligation, and the gifts we give can sometimes add to the burdens of the receiver as well as the giver.  I’ve gone to holiday gatherings without gifts to give and have been embarrassed when others brought gifts for everyone, including me.  The gifts were not personally selected for each individual, but were, I suspect, bought en masse out of either a sense of requirement or a desire for the gift-giver to feel good about herself.  These gifts were not meaningful, but they provoked feelings of guilt and obligation in me.  That is not what gift-giving should do.

Read more