I believe that someday the phrase “Mom, my stomach feels weird” will no longer fill me with instant anxiety.

Today is not that day.

My son isn’t feeling well. He missed school yesterday and today. The husband and I are both hoping he can go to school tomorrow so we can avoid the “who has to stay home and miss work” conversation. I was feeling pretty good about our chances — the kid has no fever and his strep test was negative– and then he barfed a little bit tonight. I feel like an asshole, but my first thought upon hearing from my husband that Miles threw up was something along the lines of “damn it” and not “oh, my poor sweetie”.

In the last week, we’ve had to take Ev to the ER and dealt with some midnight barf attacks for her. I threw out my back picking up a Cheerio this weekend (this is the most frumpy mom injury I can imagine) and missed work yesterday. Miles has… whatever he has. Only my husband has been free of illness/injury this past week but he’s pretty obviously exhausted from dealing with all of us.

I have a good life. I know I do. It just feels like a slog right now.


I was at work late tonight, desperately trying to read through a stack of resumes and cover letters before a search committee that I’m the chair of meets tomorrow. By my estimation, I’ve been on or in charge of probably 25 searches in the last decade, which is kind of a lot for someone who doesn’t actually work in human resources. I’ve now spent much more time on the deciding side of the interview table than on the trying to get a job side, which is an interesting perspective.

(I still remember the candidate who had a 10 page cover letter that included a picture of herself and clip art. Please, no. On so many levels.)

The candidate pool I was looking through tonight was fairly small — less than 30 that made it through the HR screen that rejects anyone who is obviously unqualified. I’ve been in searches before where there were over 100 applicants to review and that is a daunting and exhausting task. I suspect that many times candidates have no idea how much time is spent on the hiring process. For this current search, I’ve probably already put in close to 40 hours of work already and we haven’t even picked candidates to interview yet. To get to the interview stage, I had to:

  • create the job description
  • get budget approval to post the position (requiring multiple check-offs and signatures
  • figure out the when/where/how long of posting it
  • get together a search committee
  • play schedule Tetris to find a meeting time for all members of the committee to meet to talk about candidates
  • sign confidentiality forms and watch a video on good hiring practices from HR
  • reviewing all of the applications that come in
  • ranking all of the applicants
  • meeting with the search committee to determine a pool. This is sometimes super easy and sometimes takes hours
  • call the chosen candidates and play schedule Tetris with them to get interviews scheduled

I find that searches take so much longer than anyone thinks they will because it just takes so much work to hire someone. In some ways the interviewing and choosing the candidate is the easiest part of the process. I generally know within two or three questions if I think the person is going to be a viable option. Sometimes it is a struggle to sit through an interview where a really good candidate is clearly very nervous. I always want to tell them, but can’t, that the committee is on their side. We want all of the candidates to be awesome. We are rooting for them to be great, largely because we don’t want to have to fail a search and start all over.

Sometimes interviews are actually fun. You get a candidate who is relaxed and the interview starts to feel more like a conversation. As a committee member, this fills you with optimism that this person will love you back and want to work with/for you. Sometimes they pull out of the search afterwards and it feels like being broken up with before you even got to the second date.

And some interviews are fun because the candidate says something ridiculous that will be burned in the collective memory for years afterwards, like the guy who gave a long and rambling answer when asked a question about diversity on college campuses that included the words “well, you know how Native Americans get when they drink…” or the person who answered a question about his leadership approach by saying “First off, I just think, well, don’t be an asshole, you know?” (I don’t disagree with this but perhaps it could have been more elegantly put?)

The candidates we don’t pick will get a rejection email and I know that will be a big disappointment. I wish I could tell them this: There are a lot of reasons you might not get the interview. A lot of those reasons will be out of your control. Some searches are about looking for people with experience, some are about looking for potential. Sometimes there is a great internal candidate that is going to be hard to beat. Sometimes you just aren’t as qualified as the rest of the pool. Very often, I can read an application and think “Hmm, this person sounds cool and like they are doing great work” and I’ll still pass because they don’t have the particular thing we are looking for this time. I reject a lot of people who I’m 100% confident are great at their job. Very, very rarely is it personal.

Unless you use too much clip art. Then it becomes personal.

Terrible Milestones

When you have a baby, hitting milestones is usually a fun thing — first word, first step, first time sleeping through the night (BEST ONE). But as kids get older, there are milestones to hit too, but here is a thing that nobody tells you before you become a parent: some of these milestones SUCK. We’ve recently hit some of them in our household and I’d like to discuss them in order from mildly annoying to actually terrible:

Mildly annoying: My son’s school is working with a charity to raise money to fight a particular disease. The charity is, as far as I know, quite reputable and I agree that this disease is a thing that we should fight. But, ugh, I’m finding the process of my kid raising money to be SO AWKWARD. In past years, we’ve usually just thrown the fundraising form into recycling and hoped he wouldn’t notice. There was a little bit of sadness on his part about this, mostly due to the fact that he didn’t get to “win” any of the “prizes” (read: cheap plastic crap) that kids get when they hit various fundraising levels. One year, a girl in his class won all the prizes, having raised over $1000, and he was mightly jealous. I thought about how much work that girl’s parents must have done to get her to that level and sighed wearily.

But this year he really wanted to do it and was willing to donate his own money, which seemed like a thing I want to support. I also know that it sometimes sucks to be the kid who doesn’t participate in stuff like this, especially when your friends are raking in the cheap plastic crap. So I grudgingly agreed when he wanted to go door-to-door in the neighborhood. I told him he could go to a few houses, only people we know, but then I felt weird because I know *I* would have a much easier time turning down a random child I didn’t know but would feel obligated to donate something to the child of a friend or friendly neighbor. So far he has asked a handful of people and they’ve all said yes. This is very exciting for my kid but also makes him want to go ask more and more people and I, well, I just don’t want to. I feel sort of mildly annoyed about this whole thing.

Most exhausting: Last night we had our first late night trip to the ER with the girl. She’s doing okay and there is nothing seriously wrong. But, man, the children’s ER is such a heavy experience in some ways. Everyone is kind and nice and there is clearly a lot of effort put in to making a scary experience easier for kids. But there is a weight there. You know that you are in a place where there are kids hurting or desperately ill. There was a very new baby crying — wailing, really — off and on most of the time we were there. The cries would go quiet for a while and then suddenly begin again, shrill and insistent. I couldn’t help but think about the parent holding that baby and how worried they must have been. Bringing a child to the ER also puts me in a weird head space where I don’t want there to be anything really wrong, but I also have this anxiety that nothing is wrong and the doctors will be annoyed with me for wasting their time. What if I’m ending up paying a big deductible in order to find out that my kid just needs to poop? But what if it was something and I didn’t take her in? The opportunity for guilt abounds.

Ev and I got to the hospital at 10:00 pm and left a little after 2:00am and it was 3:00am before I was asleep. I had can’t miss meetings at work today so it was a woefully short night of sleep.

Most enraging: My daughter, age 4, asked me “Am I fat, Mama?” Four years old. I only got four years before we had to have the fat conversation for the first time? RAGE.

Actually terrible: My son’s first pet, his crayfish name Cristal (the take home product of a class science project), died on Saturday night and Miles raw grief was heartbreaking. He cried for two hours and asked all sorts of questions about crayfish heaven and if Cristal would haunt his room (to be clear, this is a question he very much wanted a “yes” answer too). He was just so sad and it made the whole “having a pet that you love that will eventually die” thing just seem like an awful idea.

He, of course, wants another pet. I’m not sure my heart is ready.





On Being Poor

I’m eight years old and they pass out a flyer at school for a local soccer team. I’ve always wanted to be on a team and soccer seems fun. On my way out of the classroom, I throw the flyer away. I know there’s no point in asking to join. We can’t afford it.

I’m nine years old. A boy in my class throws a rock and it hits me in the face, breaking my glasses. I cry, both because it hurts and because I know my parents will be angry. Glasses are expensive and I dread having to tell my mom that I need a new pair.

I’m 10 years old and all I want in the world is to have a friend and to not feel like the social outcast that I am. The cool girls have Guess jeans, Esprit bags, and wear Keds. I have a homemade book bag, cheap jeans, and generic shoes that I hope people will think are Keds, but they never do. The day after Christmas, a popular girl calls me to ask what presents I got. She’s clearly making a list. I make up presents so my list seems longer. I lie and say I got an Esprit bag. When I go back to school, I have to make up a story about why I’m still carrying the same old book bag. One day we find a used Esprit bag at a second hand store and my mom buys it for me. I can’t wait to carry my things to school in it the next day. During class, one of the cool girls notices the bag and with a crinkle of her nose says it looks dirty.

I’m 13 years old and I’m on the free and reduced lunch plan at school. I’m glad to have hot lunch at school but when I wait in line, I worry about who is standing behind me because soon they’ll know for sure that I’m poor.

I’m 14 years old and it is my first day of high school. I’m not on free and reduced lunch yet this year. That day I bring an orange and a bag of air popped popcorn for lunch, because that was all we had in the house. I eat my popcorn slowly and tell people that I’m on a diet. My friends eat french fries and burritos and my stomach growls.

I’m 14 years old and I have one pair of shoes. They are shiny black loafers and they don’t match the peach shorts and tank top my mom made for me. I wear them because I have no choice and I smile and nod when a girl in my class says “wow, you must really love those shoes! You wear them every day!” I beg my mom to take me to Wal-mart so I can buy a pair of plain white tennis shoes with my babysitting money. She does but they don’t have my size. I buy the wrong size just so I can wear something else to school the next day.

I’m 16 years old and I’m asking my best friend to borrow .60 cents again so I can get a bag of chips at lunch. I try not to think about the fact that I “borrow” money from her almost every day. I don’t think either of us expects that I’ll ever pay her back.

I’m 17 years old and I’ve just found out that my parents have withdrawn money from my savings account so they can make the house payment. Months worth of saving babysitting and part-time job money for college is gone in an instant.

I’m 38 years old and I’m writing this from the cozy basement of the cozy house on the nice block where I live. I’m going to go to the grocery store in a little bit where I can buy whatever we need to get us through the week. My children have never been hungry. We choose their backpacks based on what looks sturdy and what colors and characters they like best. My kids don’t get everything they want and there are some things that I’d like that are financially out of reach for us, but we have enough. We have more than enough. We are lucky. I am grateful. I’m always aware that things can go sideways so I keep an eye on our budget and hope I can put some money in savings next paycheck.

I read the news and see that there are people who think that we shouldn’t be funding programs like free and reduced lunch because there’s “no demonstrable evidence” that it helps kids do better in school. The meanness of this takes my breath away. The idea that we shouldn’t feed hungry children because they are HUNGRY CHILDREN unless we can “prove” that it “works” is profoundly cruel.

(on a side note, do you know why you can’t prove that free and reduced lunch “works”? Because you can’t ethically do a study that would prove that. Proving it works would require giving lunch to some hungry kids and denying lunch to some other hungry kids and then seeing if there is a difference in their outcomes. No researcher would be allowed to do this because it is a HORRIBLE THING TO DO.)

Being a poor kid means dealing with shame and fear and, yes, sometimes hunger. That there are adults who want to make that experience worse makes just makes me so very angry.




When The World Goes Mad

It feels hard to remember, but there was once a time when I went on Twitter to connect with friends, to follow along with live tweets of shows or sporting events, or to find out what pop culture moment people were talking about.

(it was usually Beyonce)

(as it should be)

But now I feel like I check into Twitter to find out what fresh bullshit happened in the world of politics lately. I feel a need to make sure I know what is going on because Constant! Vigilance! Is! Required! when you have a President who is wholly unqualified for the job and who surrounds himself with racists and anti-Semites and others who appear to be guided by a vision for our country that is alarmingly disconnected from basic principles of logic, critical thinking, honesty, and the Constitution. I’ve never felt like the future for our country was more bleak*

But sometimes I wonder how we’re going to survive the next four years.

I find that it feels hard for me to know how to be on social media these days. I could post an outraged status update on Facebook everyday, but sometimes it feels like shouting into the void. My liberal friends all already agree with me and my conservative family probably already has me muted. If I decide not to post about the fact that the “fake news” narrative put out by the White House is dangerous, am I shirking my duties as a member of the resistance? If I’m posting the latest cute picture of my kids or sharing a joke, will it give the impression to the Trump voters in my life that I’m finally “getting over it” and that this is starting to be normal? What if I wear my “Nevertheless she persisted” sweatshirt while I post?

I don’t know what normal should look like when it feels like the world has gone mad. I’m angry every day but I’m also still living a life that feels comfortable and filled with good things. There are people I love who I’ve lost respect for and I don’t know if I’ll ever look at them the same, but my core community is largely intact. I worry a lot about the Muslim students at my college, about the LGBTQ people I love, about how what is happening now will change my children’s lives forever. But I also still want to lose 20 pounds and plant a garden this spring and shop for shoes online and talk about what Beyonce is going to name her babies.

In some ways nothing has changed. In some ways everything has changed.

Maybe I’ll just spend my online time Googling “how to move to Canada”.


*Allow me to acknowledge my privilege here. I’m a middle class white lady who has long been accustom to a certain level of safety and racial comfort. I’m guessing what I feel now is not a new feeling for people who have been in marginalized groups.

Things I Have Said to My Children Lately

“No, ma’am, you have to wear your underwear UNDER your pants. No, that IS the rule. Underwear are NOT A HAT.”


“I’m sorry that booger didn’t taste good.”


“No thank you, I don’t want you to touch my face with your feet. Please take your toes out of my hair. No, I don’t want to lick your toe.”


“You can’t see my uterus. No, not even if I open my mouth REALLY WIDE.”


“Yes, you can wear your pajamas to the store, but they have to be clean pajamas. Yes, of course you have to wear underwear. No, I’m not kidding.”


“I’m sorry your imaginary elephant died. That is sad. But why did you put paint on the imaginary monkey?”


“You’re right– that was a big toot. No, I don’t think Dada heard it at work. No, I’m not going to call him.”


“I love you to the sun and back too.”

Why We Marched

My son and I went to the march yesterday, along with over 90,000 of our closest friends. It was powerful, motivating, and has lead to some really good and needed conversations about intersectionality and the debt that white women owe to women of color between some of my friends who also went.

This kid thought it was so cool that he is hoping to bring his signs to school tomorrow and is hoping that we can hit a protest EVERY weekend.


Unfortunately, I fear that our new President will give us something worse protesting against on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

I was trying to explain to my four year old what a protest is and why we went, but she’s still too little to understand. Someday I’ll tell her about what it felt like in January of 2017. How scary it felt to have a President who hates women and people of color, who has no discernible moral compass, who values money over people, and himself over his country.

But disliking Trump isn’t the only reason we marched. We marched because I want my son to see that women are strong and organized and have a voice. We marched because I want him to know that HE has a voice and that as he grows, he can be an ally to the women in his life. We marched because I want him to know that our community is filled with people who care about women and people of color and our LGBT friends and our disabled friends.

We marched because it felt like SOMETHING, even if it was small, and doing something feels better than spending another day watching Twitter with an ever increasing sense of dread.

We marched because it never hurts to remind people that Trump has tiny baby hands.


Things That Should Not Be The Case

If you are a good mother who takes her children to a history museum to get through another cold winter day  for edification and enrichment AND who pays over $20 dollars for admission and parking you should NOT be charged $1 per jacket to hang up your coats. This is extra true when you live in Minnesota and it is December and the museum knows EVERYONE will be coming in wearing a jacket. It feels very nickel and dime-y and annoys me.


If you buy into the hype for a certain type of leggings AND you go against your own notions of how much one should spend on one pair of leggings, you should NOT be faced with a series of small holes in the, er, extreme upper thigh area after less than six months of use and careful following of the washing instructions.

You should also NOT discover said holes after wearing said pants out in public all dang day.


If you have recently been gifted a lovely case of art supplies and also self purchased some fantastic new pens, you should NOT have to be dealing with a flair up of carpal tunnel syndrome. Especially when your other hobbies including knitting, reading, and playing Bubble Cloud Planet on your phone– all things that make that danged tingle feeling start up.


If you have gifted your children with an assortment of lovingly selected Christmas gifts, they should NOT be allowed to have the word “bored” exit their lips for a period of at least three weeks  years.

2016 Year in Review

Time for the annual year-in-review post. Last year is here and the year before here  and, as always, I’d love to read yours if you do one (so leave me a link in the comments!).

1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?

I wrote a dissertation! That was a pretty massive accomplishment and I am thrilled to be done with grad school.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

While I didn’t make formal resolutions, this is how I answered for last year:

In terms of 2016, I’d like to see us make some progress towards a big financial goal we have and I want to be done with the dissertation. I’d also like to buy my last box of diapers ever (so get on it, darling daughter).

Happily, I can say that we are a diaper free home, I’ve finished my dissertation, and I think we’ve made some good financial progress this year. I’ll call that a success!

For 2017, I’d like to compete in some sort of athletic event- maybe a 5K or a sprint tri or the open water swim I’ve done before. I’m probably as un-fit as I’ve ever been in my life at this point and I know I do better when I’m goal orientated, so I should sign up for something as motivation.

I’d also like to really learn how to use my sewing machine this year. We have a cute little one from IKEA and I’d like to master some basic stuff and maybe work my way up to an outfit for Ev.

3. How will you be spending New Year’s Eve?

I’ll be at home, as per usual. I was invited to a wedding this year on NYE but it was out of state and kids weren’t invited and my husband has to work so the logistics aren’t in our favor as far as that is concerned. It would have been lovely to see some friends who are going and of course to wish the bride, whom I adore, well but I’m also okay with being home and cozy.

4. Did anyone close to you die? Did anyone give birth?

Nobody close to me died, thankfully. I’m still sad about Alan Rickman though. Several people I know had babies. Now that Ev is potty trained, I am really, really confident in our decision to be done with babies at our house.

5. What countries did you visit ? Did I travel this year?

Given that I have young children, a husband who hates to fly and a lack of excess cash (see: young children), I am unlikely to visit any other countries anytime soon. We did some travel this year to exciting places like Kansas and Iowa. We didn’t take any major trips, though we did have a lovely long weekend in a cabin in Wisconsin.

I’d love for 2017 to include a family vacation to the Outer Banks in North Carolina and/or a week on a lake somewhere this summer.

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?

More money in savings, I suppose. I find that I worry more about money since the election as I have zero amount of confidence that a Trump presidency will be good for the economy. I’d also like for everyone in our family to have a passport. I want the world to be open to us.*

*this is what I say instead of “I want to be able to escape if shit goes sideways with Orange Voldemort in office”

7. What date from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

March 28, the day I defended my dissertation is a pretty big one. June 15th was also memorable as the first day of my new job.

8. What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year?

Have I mentioned I finished my dissertation this year?

9. What was your biggest failure?

Perhaps self-care? I worked A LOT this year on both my freelance stuff, my actual job, and grad school. I feel like I’ve not been great at getting enough sleep, exercise, and time with friends/family this year.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Good gravy, yes. I started off 2016 with a massive kidney stone that required surgery and an overnight stay in the hospital. Then I had almost three weeks of recovery that was MUCH harder than I expected due to a stent that had to be inserted and caused lots of problems. All told, I missed weeks of work and was on heavy duty pain meds for longer than I’ve ever been before. The recovery from the stone was worse than recovering from childbirth. It was awful.

On the plus side, our friends were amazing and I felt really cared for by the lovely folks who brought meals, helped with the kids, and didn’t mind when I called them at 10pm to tell them that I thought they had pretty hair (Wendy on pain meds is very loving).

11. What was the best thing you bought?

No one purchase really stands out, though I do feel good about the charitable donations to causes that feel important to me. These were made the day after the election in an “f*ck you” to the new administration because I am petty.

We also bought a summer pass to the local pool and that was money well spent. I’ll happily do that again next year.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Our top three expenses were mortgage, preschool, and my student loans. This is our last year of pre-school tuition and I am so excited about that expense going away. Ev’s preschool is a fabulous little place but childcare in our area is more expensive than public college tuition. The combo of student loans + childcare is a killer for so many of my friends and it feels daunting to think about how to balance those with also trying to save for retirement. I’m hopeful to be done with my student loans before Miles starts college in 10 years. Sigh.

13. What song will always remind you of 2016?

This was the year of Beyonce and I’m obsessed with Sorry and Freedom from the amazing Lemonade album. I got to see her live with one of my dearest friends and it was a highlight of the year.

14. What do you wish you’d done more of?

I wish I had spent more time outside in the nice weather months and more time in the pool the rest of the year.

15. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Feeling like I’m living in a surreal nightmare in which we go from having an intelligent, engaged, and likable President to a racist blowhard who couldn’t find his own ass with two hands. I spent a lot of this year watching the news and thinking “are you kidding me? Who would vote for this asshole” and knowing that the answer includes many members of my family. I am still so angry.

16. What was your favorite new TV program?

This was the year we got Netflix so I finally started Call the Midwife, which I love, and my husband and I both enjoyed Grace and Frankie.

17. Do you love anyone now that you didn’t love this time last year?

Not really, but I feel like I have some deeper friendships this year, which is nice.

18. What was the best book you read?

In the non-fiction category, I enjoyed Real Artists Have Day Jobs and Big Magic. In the fiction category, I was into escapism this year and enjoyed A Discovery of Witches and listening to Harry Potter on audiobook on longer car rides.

19. What was your greatest musical discovery? Let’s change this question to something that doesn’t assume I am trying to stay abreast of the latest in pop culture. How about what item of clothing did I wear the most?

I wore a lot of dresses this year. I started a new job this summer and needed to up my game in terms of professional attire and dresses were an easy way to do it. I think I now have more dresses than pants, which is a definite shift.

For non-work days, I’m still all about the leggings. Long live the stretchy pants.

20. What was your favorite film of this year?

I don’t know what the best movie I saw this year was, but I know for sure that my favorite movie experience was going to see Bad Moms. My friend rented the theatre out and invited about 100 of us to watch. Watching that movie in a theatre of friends was so fun. The fact that everyone watching was a mom AND that the theatre sold booze probably helped. I can’t remember ever laughing that hard in a movie, but I’m not sure if it would have seemed so funny to be in another setting. It was a fun night though.

21. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turn 38 and it was basically just a regular day plus some presents from the family. 38 is a boring age to turn.

22. What kept you sane?

Good friends, my little family, and finishing grad school. Taking one big thing off my mental plate was amazing.

23. Who did you miss?

My step-sons, always, and several friends. (Same answer as last year, same answer as next year, I suspect).

24. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned.

Never underestimate the power of large numbers of people to make terrible decisions.

25. What pictures best represent 2015?

A long long time

It is Sunday afternoon and I just made a very Sunday afternoon mistake– I checked my phone and stole a quick glance at my work schedule for the week. I should be focusing on the fact that I have a lovely turkey roasting in the oven and that I have no more chores I feel obligated to do this weekend. But now I’m thinking ahead to the many, many meetings on my calendar for this week and am feeling somewhat exhausted by it all.

The think about my work is that I’m pretty good at it. I’ve been working in my field basically since I graduated from college and I still like and am interested in the work that I do. On my best days, I feel like the work that I do matters and is actually, well, important and maybe even makes a small corner of the world a better place.

I recognize that this makes me fortunate.

But sometimes, like on a Sunday afternoon after a long holiday weekend, it feels like I’ve been working for roughly a million years already (I’ve had a job since I was 14 and the only times I’ve had longer than a week or two off is when I was on maternity leave– so that clearly doesn’t count). I’m 38 now, so even with responsible retirement savings and some good luck, I have close to three decades of working life ahead of me.

I don’t want to be dramatic, but, man that seems like a long long time.

Perhaps what I struggle with is that I don’t know what it is going to feel like to be 65. I think I fear that I will feel old and tired by then, that I won’t be able to enjoy the world of life after work. There are things I want to do NOW but that I feel like my work life makes difficult and I wonder if I’ll still want to do those things when I’m in my 60’s. When I start thinking that way, it feels like this whole work for 45-50 years thing is kind of stupid system.

At least I have the prospect of a plate full of stuffing to have for dinner tonight.