What Really Matters

Official Grad

Hello everyone! I hope you’re having a good long weekend. This is a re-post of an earlier article. As I wrap up two weeks of vacation, it’s good to remember as I head in the direction of home, what really matters. Take care and enjoy!

Starting a business is hard! What’s more difficult yet is trying not to become completely self-absorbed while working to start a business. These nights, I dream of advertising. My thoughts constantly turn to content marketing and customer-engagement strategies. I can get a little too focused when undertaking a project. This is both good (if you’re my customer) and bad (if you’re me attempting to live a balanced life).

When reading another writer/editor’s blog post this morning, I was reminded that being able to pursue a meaningful career is a privilege. The blogger reminded me that I’m educated and live in a wealthy part of the world. This gives me a head start. He went on to say that there are people all over this big old world for who job success means survival, getting enough food and water to make it through another day. His blog post put things in perspective.

Listen to me read this post:

These days, it’s easy for me to lose perspective, to become caught up in the small things. It’s easy to lose sight of what really matters. It’s not difficult to know what really matters, but it does take stopping for a moment to remember.

IMG_1809
Deer on a hillside during an autumn evening walk.

Peace of mind matters.

Peace of mind and heart really matter. If we have these things, we are a benefit to the world. When we lack happiness, we contribute to the overall miserableness of the world. I don’t think the world needs our contribution in this area. But the planet and its inhabitants need our happiness, our support, and our encouragement.

Helping others is fulfilling.

Helping others matters. I was lucky this summer to get in touch with a charity that supports a cause that’s important to me. I do some volunteer editing for them and though it’s a cliché, I get way more out of this experience than I put into it. Editing and writing is what I do, and it’s fulfilling to use my skills to help.

Getting off devices and into the real world matters.

Being in the real world and off of devices really matters. As a writer, I spend an awful lot of time on my computer. That’s how it goes, and having begun my career using an electric typewriter, I’m grateful for a word-processing program.

IMG_4157.jpg
A lone, frosty tree.

Thankful for technology or not, I try to get out and walk every day. I crave the touch of the breeze and the buzz of the bees. I like to feel my muscles moving my skeleton along the sidewalks and country roads. I love the soft sound of wind in the grass and of crows in treetops plotting their next migratory move. Technology helps me work and social media give me a little rush, but being outside makes me feel alive.

Quiet contemplation matters.

While getting outside is important, so is going inside. For me to realize what matters in life, it’s most useful to just sit quietly and clear my mind. I like looking at my thoughts, watching them swirl around and finally settle as I relax. Quiet contemplation restores peace of mind and makes room for perspective. This is how I stop to consider what really does matter.

Me in a big shovel
Me experiencing the real world.

It’s a rare privilege.

It’s so easy to start striving for what I think I want and to forget that being able to run down a dream is a rare privilege and a wonderful opportunity. A very few of us get to even try to do what we want with our lives. Today, I was reminded that I am one of the fortunate few.

Did you like what you read and heard here? Please follow my blog here. Sign up to receive my latest posts right in your email inbox. Thanks for being here with me!

~ Lori

 

 

 

 

 

The Sun is Shining and the Water’s Running

Finally it’s springtime. And we’re not experiencing one of those raging spring blizzards…yet. We will, but today the sun is strong and the water’s running in the ditches and along the curbs. The world feels brand new and I almost do, too.

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Here’s a photo I took early this afternoon during my sunny walk.

I have to say, I really enjoyed the response I got from my last post. Several people emailed me, and we had a chance to catch up a little. Upon leaving my 1400 friends on Facebook, one of my aspirations was to cultivate more meaningful connections, something deeper than a click or a like. Clicks and likes are nice, and they’ve been strategically created to keep us wanting more, but what I want is to feel less isolated in this big old world. So thanks for getting in touch! I appreciate it.

I especially like longer-form communication, letter-length emails. It’s a treat to take the time to read them and to take the time to write back. This kind of communication is worthwhile, deeply meaningful. So if you’re looking to fill 20 minutes one evening, drop me a note. It would be so nice to hear from you!

A few more of you have started following my blog and another few have also been posting my links to Facebook. Facebook’s reach remains broad and many device-users access it for most of their information and communication. It’s quick and easy, so when my posts can be found there, they get more readers.

IMG_6733
Another picture from along the road.

I finally broke down and bought a cell phone that I can easily text from. Because I relied on the free service provided by Facebook Messenger, when I left Facebook, I needed a new way to send short notes to friends and family. My phone is user-friendly and intuitive. I’m happy with it and quickly building my contact list.

I hope you’ve had a great Wednesday and that you’ve enjoyed this first glorious day of spring!

Take good care,

Lori

 

 

What Really Matters

Official Grad

Hello everyone! I hope you’re having a good lomg weekend. This is a re-post of an earlier article. As I wrap up two weeks of vacation, it’s good to remember as I head in the direction of home, what really matters. Take care and enjoy!

Starting a business is hard! What’s more difficult yet is trying not to become completely self-absorbed while working to start a business. These nights, I dream of advertising. My thoughts constantly turn to content marketing and customer-engagement strategies. I can get a little too focused when undertaking a project. This is both good (if you’re my customer) and bad (if you’re me attempting to live a balanced life).

When reading another writer/editor’s blog post this morning, I was reminded that being able to pursue a meaningful career is a privilege. The blogger reminded me that I’m educated and live in a wealthy part of the world. This gives me a head start. He went on to say that there are people all over this big old world for who job success means survival, getting enough food and water to make it through another day. His blog post put things in perspective.

Listen to me read this post:

These days, it’s easy for me to lose perspective, to become caught up in the small things. It’s easy to lose sight of what really matters. It’s not difficult to know what really matters, but it does take stopping for a moment to remember.

IMG_1809
Deer on a hillside during an autumn evening walk.

Peace of mind matters.

Peace of mind and heart really matter. If we have these things, we are a benefit to the world. When we lack happiness, we contribute to the overall miserableness of the world. I don’t think the world needs our contribution in this area. But the planet and its inhabitants need our happiness, our support, and our encouragement.

Helping others is fulfilling.

Helping others matters. I was lucky this summer to get in touch with a charity that supports a cause that’s important to me. I do some volunteer editing for them and though it’s a cliché, I get way more out of this experience than I put into it. Editing and writing is what I do, and it’s fulfilling to use my skills to help.

Getting off devices and into the real world matters.

Being in the real world and off of devices really matters. As a writer, I spend an awful lot of time on my computer. That’s how it goes, and having begun my career using an electric typewriter, I’m grateful for a word-processing program.

IMG_4157.jpg
A lone, frosty tree.

Thankful for technology or not, I try to get out and walk every day. I crave the touch of the breeze and the buzz of the bees. I like to feel my muscles moving my skeleton along the sidewalks and country roads. I love the soft sound of wind in the grass and of crows in treetops plotting their next migratory move. Technology helps me work and social media give me a little rush, but being outside makes me feel alive.

Quiet contemplation matters.

While getting outside is important, so is going inside. For me to realize what matters in life, it’s most useful to just sit quietly and clear my mind. I like looking at my thoughts, watching them swirl around and finally settle as I relax. Quiet contemplation restores peace of mind and makes room for perspective. This is how I stop to consider what really does matter.

Me in a big shovel
Me experiencing the real world.

It’s a rare privilege.

It’s so easy to start striving for what I think I want and to forget that being able to run down a dream is a rare privilege and a wonderful opportunity. A very few of us get to even try to do what we want with our lives. Today, I was reminded that I am one of the fortunate few.

Did you like what you read and heard here? Please follow my blog here. Sign up to receive my latest posts right in your email inbox. Thanks for being here with me!

~ Lori

 

 

 

 

 

More Like Her

patience2
She is patient. Image from aboundingwisdom.com

Patient and selfless, she’s everything I want to be. I met a lady this summer that made me want to change my life, to slow down, and to focus on what matters. I suppose I met a hero, someone I aspire to be like.

I’ve watched her work. She set up her workspace efficiently and unhurriedly. She didn’t rush and she didn’t panic. I never saw her stressed or annoyed. Even now when someone enters her office, she gets right to work, quickly and without argument and with minimal discussion. She works long hours, too, but you never hear her complain. She accepts what her job demands.

Hear me read this post:

This one understands who she is and is comfortable in her own skin. That being said, she’s not afraid to change and to shed her skin if needed. This gal’s adaptable. She can deal with what life sends her way, and deal with it she does.

Sunset, Anglin Lake, Saskatchewan. Photo credit Dale Clark
She works calmly. Photo by Dale Clark

We’ve all heard it said, “You’ve got to hustle and go after what you want. You’ve got to chase your dream!” I have seen that work for people, and some of them did get what they wanted. They experienced success and reached their goal. Sometimes that works and it’s great when it does.

This, however, is not the strategy used by this exceptional lady. She doesn’t hustle and she doesn’t chase. Still, she gets exactly what she wants without running around. And she’s satisfied working from home. I’d like to work like that, relaxed and yet productive.

Even though she works from home, her professional life doesn’t destroy the peace of her domestic life. She lives simply and quietly. She seems very happy that way.

Peaceful home
She works from her peaceful home. Image from home-designing.com

You might say, “Well, if she’s that happy she must be very self-centered.” You’d think so, but no. This gal’s work provides her a good living, sure, but it’s a very altruistic path she’s on. Most of her work benefits the world. That’s another one of the things I admire about her. She works for herself and she works for others.

Talk about focus! For someone who spends so much time on the web, this lady isn’t distracted by much. Unlike me, she’s not always checking her e-mail or checking her notifications. She uses her technical connections for work, not for entertainment. The web enables her without ever keeping her from work. I wish I could be this disciplined.

solitude-5
She is strong in her solitude. Image from stockvault.net

I don’t think she has many friends, but she doesn’t seem to be lonesome. Sure, she has company over once in a while, but visits are pretty infrequent. Someone this self-sufficient and independent doesn’t need a lot of external support. I envy her confidence and her content solitude.

Sometimes we’re lucky enough to meet someone who changes the way we look at our own lives. It was a real pleasure to spend time with her this summer and I’m glad to have had her as an example of how rich and satisfying my own professional and personal life can be if I just follow her lead.

I gratefully acknowledge her willingness to let me share several pictures of her here.

Did you like what you read here? Consider following my blog either right here on WordPress or through email. See the right sidebar to follow me. It’s easy and it’s free. This way, you won’t miss any of my posts. Thanks for reading! ~ Lori

 

 

 

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I Love Social Media

I love social media like I love salty potato chips! Even better, social media is like eating salty potato chips with interesting people from all over the world. When I consider leaving most social media platforms, I already miss those engaging people.

I know. I’ve heard about trolls, too, and I’ve interacted (briefly) with two. TWO! In all the years I’ve spent on all different social media platforms, I can only remember two users (and I think one of these was a bot) who actively tried to make others feel bad. The one who was not a bot was intelligent, articulate, and mean as a snake. But two trolls, that’s all in all that time.

Listen to me read this post:

Of course I’ve seen strongly-opinionated people. They’re easy to deal with. Just like in real life, I choose not to interact with them. They’re targeting an audience to which I don’t belong. I’m not looking for a fight and no one has ever approached me online looking for one.

Opinion Coffee

Through social media, I’ve connected with old friends and made a ton of new ones. I’ve got a young friend from Malaysia and an older friend from the Netherlands, lots of great writer friends on Twitter and Google+, and loyal local supporters of my work on Facebook. For me, social media was a positive place to spend time until it wasn’t.

Addicted?

I think now I’m addicted to the stats, to the clicks, and to the likes. I crave online attention. What’s this constant distraction doing to my brain? Experts say it’s breaking my concentration apart. I’m seeing evidence that they’re right.

My social media use changed when I quit my teaching job and returned to school as an online student. While teaching full time, there wasn’t the opportunity to be online. I don’t use a cell phone, so I didn’t even check that during the hectic workday. Most of the time, I was offline. My time on social media was necessarily limited.

computer-clipart-free-computer-clip-art-images-1

Working at the computer all day every day in my office, and being alone all the time means that I spend more time on social media looking for pleasant distractions. Then there’s my Samsung Galaxy tablet that makes my online addiction portable. Now I can move from room to room and still get my fix. It’s not so good.

Entertainment, Not a Fundamental Technology

Dr. Cal Newport says that social media is a form of entertainment more than it is a “fundamental technology.” This passage from the transcript of his TEDx Talk hosted in Tysons, Virginia made me question how I use social media, what I’m giving to it, and what I’m getting out of it in return:

Social media is not a fundamental technology. It leverages some fundamental technologies but it’s better understood as this, which is to say it’s a source of entertainment — entertainment product. The way the technologist Jaron Lanier puts it is that these companies offer you shiny treats in exchange for minutes of your attention and bites of your personal data, which can then be packaged up and sold.

Who’s Getting Rich?

This made me consider all the time I spend posting my own photographs, creating engaging content, and writing online. I work for likes from my followers and for the benefit of the social media company to which I post. Which one of us, the social media company or me, is getting rich? (Hint: it’s not me.)

gold coins

These platforms offer me shiny treats that leave me hungry, and still I eat them up.

What’s My Problem?

So what’s my biggest problem with how I use social media? As a writer and an editor, and as a regular meditator, I resent how social media has fragmented my concentration, another effect that Dr. Newport pointed out to me.

I’m certain that I’d be more productive and more focused without the distraction of social media. How do I know? I know because prior to my increased use of social media I was more productive and more focused. I cherish my mind and my thought processes. I hate to think that I’m allowing them to be harmed for a taste of virtual sweetness.

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It’s Not Social Media’s Fault

Let me be clear. I’m not blaming social media for my choices just like I wouldn’t blame a bottle of wine or a casino. I’m an adult and I choose my behaviours. Social media is there to draw me in, to entertain me, to connect me, and to keep me coming back. That’s its job and that’s how it profits.

When I think about leaving, I’m hesitant for the same reasons that Dr. Newport outlined in his TEDx Talk. In fact, I felt like he was speaking directly to me when he said:

So here’s the second common objection I hear when I suggest that people quit social media, the objection goes as follows: ‘Cal, I can’t quit social media because it is vital to my success in the 21st century economy. If I do not have a well cultivated social media brand, people won’t know who I am, people won’t be able to find me, opportunities won’t come my way, and I will effectively disappear from the economy.’

Heck, this person could have been me explaining to Dr. Newport why I’m nervous about leaving social media. I have a lot of social media followers and I do a lot of online advertising. That being said, I don’t sell a lot of books or writing services online. The majority of my sales are made face to face and in real life. That’s how I connect with people, and how I market my products and services.

If and when I leave a platform we share, I hope that you know that you can find me on my website at any time. You can comment there on my posts or contact me through one of the bazillion contact forms on my WordPress site. Consider following my blog then you won’t miss a post.

Canada-Post-Mailbox

Keep in Touch!

If you’ve enjoyed our interaction, get in touch and I’ll send you my personal email. Give me your mailing address and I’ll even send you a Christmas card. There are lots of ways for us to stay connected. I’m not sure I want to do it through a medium that compromises my concentration and my imagination.

I hope that in leaving some social media behind, I can keep you and my focus, too!

Did you like what you read here? Consider following my blog either right here on WordPress or through email. See the right sidebar to follow me. It’s easy and it’s free. This way, you won’t miss any of my posts. Thanks for reading! ~ Lori

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can’t Stop the Train: A Review of Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Walden

I think I may’ve read Walden or Life in the Woods in university. It rings a bell. It was a text that I was told I should read. Now, years later, I decided to read Thoreau’s best known nonfiction work for very much the same reason. I thought it was something I should read, something like taking literary vitamins or running on a brain-growing treadmill. Many of the writers I read and listen to these days quote Thoreau, and especially Walden, extensively.

I ordered the book from our interlibrary loan system and it arrived just before I was scheduled to fly off to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a little R&R. (I don’t recommend taking library books on vacation. That being said, I do it all the time.) I started reading Walden a little reluctantly. Published in 1854, the language is a bit different than today’s, but I found Thoreau’s style to be unencumbered and clean, easy to read. ten or so pages in, the reluctance dropped away, and I found it hard to leave the book alone. I’d become invested in Thoreau’s adventure and philosophy.

As I read on the sunny hotel balcony in the shady breeze, I was reminded of a phone conversation I’d had with my dad before leaving for Mexico. He’d said something like, “Things are changing too fast. Cell phone use is destroying us. It’s tearing people apart.”

I’ve heard nearly the same sentiment expressed by many people. Some of them are my older friends and some of them are younger than me. Henry David Thoreau thought something similar. He wasn’t yet concerned about cell phone use, but he did think that new technology, especially the railroad, would change people and society as a whole, irrevocably. He was right.

Here’s what Thoreau has to say about the railroad and how he perceives that it changed life in Concord, Massachusetts:

          “Have not men improved somewhat in punctuality since the railroad was invented? Do they not talk and think faster in the depot than they did in the stage-office? There is something electrifying in the atmosphere of the former place. I have been astonished at the miracles it has wrought; that some of my neighbors, who, I should have prophesied, once for all, would never get to Boston by so prompt a conveyance, were on hand when the bell rang. To do things “railroad fashion” is now the byword; and it is worth the while to be warned so often and so sincerely by any power to get off its track.” 

The clanging of the bells and the prompt train schedule that Thoreau writes about caused me to consider our bleeping phones and how, to folks like my dad, owners of those phones seem to be quite ruled by the technology they own just as Thoreau thought that people were becoming governed by the railroad. I’ve heard it said that we are talking and thinking faster than ever before, like in Thoreau’s train station, or not talking at all, but typing faster than ever before.

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Anglin’ Lake, Saskatchewan, one September.

Either way, both Dad and Thoreau agree that all this technology is leading to a communication breakdown. And as Thoreau states that we should get off the railway’s track, Dad and others proclaim that we should get off the track of internet-based technology use. But time marches on and things change. For better or for worse, neither Dad nor Thoreau can halt the train of technology.

Talking to my dad and reading the timeless words of Henry David Thoreau, it became evident to me that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Living in the countryside and quite a distance from larger city centres, I think about my experience of traveling into the city to shop. There’s a general store here, and a bank, a hairdresser, an insurance agency and a daycare centre. It’s pretty quiet, somewhat like Thoreau’s woods. I can’t help but compare my trips into the city to Thoreau’s experience of going into town. He calls it “running the gauntlet of businesses.”

          “…so that every traveler had to run the gauntlet, and every man, woman, and child might get a lick at him. Of course, those [businesses] who were stationed nearest to the head of the line, where they could   most see and be seen, and have the first blow at him, paid the highest   prices for their places; and the few straggling inhabitants in the     outskirts, where long gaps in the line began to occur, and the traveler could get over walls or turn aside into cow-paths, and so escape, paid a very slight ground or window tax.  Signs were hung out on all sides to allure him; some to catch him by the appetite, as the tavern and  victualling cellar; some by the fancy, as the dry goods store and the  jeweller’s; and others by the hair or the feet or the skirts, as the barber, the shoemaker, or the tailor.”

By this account, the way businesses lure and seduce customers has changed very little since Thoreau’s time. After all these years, businesses provide the same basic type of services and merchandise as they did in the mid-1800s. After spending half a day running from store to store, bombarded visually and auditorially by products and advertising, I feel exactly as if I’ve run a gauntlet. I hear you, Henry David Thoreau, and I share your pain.

One thing I never knew about Thoreau or expected to discover is that he is the king of the backhanded compliment. I mean, I should’ve guessed. In Walden, he doesn’t always come across as a great lover of the human race, and he is obviously a skilled wordsmith. I like how he describes this guy, the ill-fated Colonel Hugh Quoil, a resident of Walden Woods who died shortly after Thoreau began his stint there:

          “All I know of him is tragic. He was a man of manners, like one who had seen the world, and was capable of more civil speech than you could well attend to.”

I’ve run into a few folks capable of more civil speech than I could attend to. I’ve sat there bored stupid, praying that God would strike either the speaker or me dead, and past the point of caring which. Just shut-up already! Thoreau says it much more eloquently than I. I am, alas, not the queen of the backhanded compliment. Sadly, I’m both a bit too kind and a touch too straightforward to reign, but I appreciate how Thoreau sits on that throne.

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A loon on Anglin’ Lake.

It took about five hours to fly home from Puerto Vallarta. Now usually I drug myself into a semi-stupor with a couple Gravol, a strategy I highly recommend to make any flight fly. It’s not the first time an old guy has sat pretty much in my lap for an entire flight, but those other times were due to the closeness of the seats and the girth of the guy. This last flight, with Thoreau in my lap, the journey was smooth and enjoyable.

I didn’t quite finish reading Walden on the plane. When I’m enjoying reading something, I read it slowly, I savour it. I like to give the words time to sink into my brain and often I’ll read certain passages over. There are lots of books I skim. Walden is philosophy and Walden is poetry. These words deserve to be tasted and remembered.

Back at home in my recliner I discovered that, besides being the king of backhanded compliments, Thoreau wins the prize for most anticlimactic ending I’ve ever read. True, it’s not quite the ending, but it’s the ending of the account of his time spent on Walden Pond at the end of the second last chapter called “Spring”:

          “Thus was my first year’s life in the woods completed; and the second  year was similar to it. I finally left Walden September 6th, 1847.”

I can’t say exactly why the understatement of this ending, this big finish, struck me as so funny, but I just howled with laughter. “Similar to it.” That’s a good one. Sure, all my recent years in the same location are similar to one another, as well, but I try to pick out a few unique events from each as story material, a tidbit or two to tell about later. Not Thoreau. I guess he was done the book and, after reading the conclusion, so was I.

 

 

 

This New Year’s Eve

IMG_4315
Heavy frost in January.

It’s funny how time changes our perspective. When I was young, New Year’s Eve was typically a bit of a downer. I’d go inward and review all the things that had not happened that year, all the goals I’d set and then left there, dusty and unaccomplished, in a dark corner.

I had not learned to play guitar; I had not yet completed that correspondence course; I hadn’t decided on a suitable career; I hadn’t lost weight or gained popularity; I hadn’t found adventure, love or even much romance. I’d never be a writer and I’d never have a satisfying job. Of these things I was certain, and I couldn’t be dissuaded from following my own miserable mindset.

As the clock struck midnight and being unable to sink any lower into self-pity, I’d unconvincingly bolster myself. I’d begin grasping frantically at new goals, new ideas, and new adventures that I could – no, that I would – make happen.

I would finish that course; I would write a book; I would enroll (again) in university; I’d exercise and eat right; I’d buy a guitar; I’d skydive with my new love; I’d meet people and make a bazillion friends; I’d study to be an astronaut who trains horses and rides the intergalactic rodeo circuit…

IMG_1516
A late December sunset north of town.

By the end of the night and by the time I was done buoying myself up, I was left feeling overwhelmed and deflated, a bit dizzy, and chronically unsuccessful.

Years have passed and my outlook has changed. Although I still crave the adventure and notoriety of the intergalactic rodeo circuit (who doesn’t?) I’ve learned that there are greater things than goals and accomplishments. That’s not to say that I haven’t done some rewarding things. It’s been great to have those opportunities, but in accomplishing goals I’ve learned that accomplishments aren’t what fill me up. Like salty potato chips, accomplishments leave me wanting more. The satisfaction is short lived.

It’s gratitude and loving others that has finally satisfied me. And so this New Year’s Eve, I think of all that hasn’t happened to me and that I haven’t done. I haven’t undergone any chemotherapy or radiation treatments; I haven’t broken a bone or anyone’s heart; I haven’t been injured in a car crash or lost anyone I love to an illness; I haven’t lost my job or lost a limb or lost a child; I haven’t lost my mind or lost my mobility; I haven’t contracted Hepatitis B, been kidnapped or murdered.

Moon
Pale January moon over the prairie.

For now, I am safe and sound, and I’m aware that everything changes and that others have not been as fortunate this past year. It’s not enough for me to feel lucky to have dodged a few of life’s inevitable bullets.

For my gratitude to expand into love, I remember those who did suffer a death, a loss, a diagnosis, a hospital stay, a life sentence, and I wish them well. It’s not resolving for the future or reviewing the past, that will make it a happy New Year for me. Thankfulness for what I have and trying to see beyond my own desires is what will satisfy my heart this New Year’s Eve.

I wish you health and happiness in 2018.

 

 

Sometimes a Cigar Is (Should Be) Just a Cigar — amyhenrybooks

Here’s a great post by Amy Henry. Enjoy!

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without.” (Henry David Thoreau) I’m about to say something so heretical, I can already hear the gasps of disbelief and nervous laughter all the way from the West Coast: I miss my old flip phone. That’s right. I miss my […]

via Sometimes a Cigar Is (Should Be) Just a Cigar — amyhenrybooks