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One morning last month, the New York Times arrived on my front porch with what looked like a cardboard box. After puzzling a few minutes over how to put it together, I realized what I had in my hot little hands was a Google Cardboard Virtual Reality Viewer (GCVRV). “Cool,” I thought. “Now what do I do with it?” Travel. That’s what.

After downloading the New York Times app to my smartphone and sliding the phone into the GCVRV, I went on my first journey, a heartbreaking, 11-minute walk with three children from war-torn regions of the world. The Displaced was the first installment in a New York Times virtual reality series that expands your view of experiences that are both real and surreal.

Since that first trip to Ukraine, South Sudan and Lebanon, I’ve been to vigils in Paris, shopped in a traditional German Christmas market and sat smack dab in the middle of a refugee camp while food was dropped from a plane above us. (I say “us” because I was there—or so it seemed.)

Ever have one of those weird dreams where you are flying above the earth and can’t come down? (It’s my favorite of all dreams.) In Take Flight, you float above the streets of New York at night, with the stars shimmering above and the lights of the city stretched out below as far as the eye can see.

You can download the free NYTimes app on your smartphone, but be sure to buy the GCVRV. It’s the best way to participate in this captivating new form of storytelling. Try it if you like experiences that enlarge your perspective or stir your imagination.

On my reading table

In between virtual realities, I’ve been slogging my way through a tomb that’s somewhat less captivating. Straight on Till Morning: The Life of Beryl Markham is the biography of Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. I’m halfway through the book, and I can only say this: be careful about reading the biographies of people you admire. The author shatters many illusions about a woman who dazzled me in her memoir, West with the Night. Too bad there’s so much more to being a solid citizen than dressing in white or rocking a pair of trousers like none other.

I’ve found the perfect antidote for these and other disappointments of life in The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. My edition contains all of her poems and many letters. Already, I see why I was not drawn to her during the shallowness of my youth. I hope that I am finally ready for the truth according to Emily: “…so rare, it is delightful to tell it.” Nothing—not even religion—escapes her wit and observation. Two favorite lines:

  • “They say God is everywhere, and yet we always think of Him as somewhat of a recluse.”
  • “The only commandment I ever obeyed—‘Consider the Lilies.’”

How lasting her effect on the world has been despite being nearly invisible while she was alive. There’s a thought to bookmark and remember when you feel unloved or under-appreciated. As proof that writing headlines is the trickiest writing of all, many of her poems are untitled.


A shred of glamour for your Christmas mood

Now is the time to break out the red lipstick. I use and like all three of these, which are red as the reddest poinsettias–all in different ways.

MAC Matte Lipstick – Russian Red (An orange-red shade)

CoverGirl Lip Perfection Lipstick, Flame 300 0.12 oz (3.36 g) (A pink-red shade)

Long Last Soft Matte Lipstick Matte Crimson (A blue-red shade)

This year is the 80th anniversary of the Count Basie orchestra, which has such a rich legacy that it’s alive and kicking well after the leader’s death in 1984. To celebrate, the band released it’s first Christmas album, A Very Swingin’ Basie Christmas! It features the iconic voice of Johnny Mathis along with vocalist Carmen Bradford. If you love vintage jazz, it’s a coveted Christmas album to add to your collection.

Hey, this may be the last post of the year, so I’m using it to wish you a meaningful season, filled with people who make you feel loved and happy.  If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that we should always, always move toward the love. When I move toward the people and places I love, I’m discovering that there is less space in my heart for complaint, bitterness or grief.

I’ve only posted occasionally this year, but I hope I’ve left you a few usable tidbits in 2015. It thrills me each and every time I hear from friends who’ve become readers and readers who’ve become friends. Thank you for allowing me space and time in your life. May you fly even higher in all your 2016 dreams!

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.