Six Years

It’s our six year anniversary! I went back to look for wedding and honeymoon photos for this post and had a lovely stroll down memory lane.


The day feels so crisp in my memory, but it also feels like a lifetime ago. I think primarily that’s because our day-to-day life has changed so much since having the twins. Like today, we spent the morning snuggled up in bed with them while they watched Curious George and we got an extra half hour of sleep, allowing us to get out of bed at the luxurious hour of 6:45. We wrangled them in the yard while I cleaned off the back porch and CW mowed the lawn, both of us legitimately excited to get these two neglected chores checked off. Right now, CW has taken them down to the neighborhood playground and I’m here enjoying the quiet house for a little while (a truly great gift!).

Tonight, though, we will head out on a date and enjoy some of our favorite special-occasion treats — fresh oysters, martinis, something wonderful for dinner, dessert with Really Good Coffee, and possibly an additional drink at a Second Location — and we’ll get a lyft back home so no one has to be the driver. We’ll get to have a whole night of enjoyable conversation without (we hope) anyone interrupting us to scream about anything.

I braved my TimeHop app today for oyster photos (please note that is November 9, 2019 and therefore I only looked back at the previous two years; I could not really bear to go back three years to see the morning-after-the-election tears) just to show you our tradition. I’ll make sure to snap another one tonight!

2019 and better than ever

Year in Review: 2018

Look, we’re two full weeks into the new year and I’m sure no one cares. However, I have not missed a year of this annual survey since I started it in 2007 so buckle up!

Previous years’ answers are available here: (200720082009201020112012201320142015, 2016, 2017). Over time I have modified and  deleted some of the original questions, but here’s what I’m working with this year:

1. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?

I wore a bikini in public, made a child’s Halloween costume, joined a running team, and started an SSRI.

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

Last year, I wrote that I’d like to: “Get a general practitioner so I can stop going to urgent care, spend less on frivolous purchases. Keep up my yoga practice. Race in another 5K and a 10K, as I’m now in a new age group!” And although I didn’t think of it as an official resolution, I decided that my leisure reading would only include books by women authors. I did really well on these!

For this year, I don’t have a real resolution. I am going to sprinkle a few monthly challenges into my year, including Dry January (currently going on right now, yay?), a month of daily blog posting, a no-spend month, a run streak month, a decluttering month, and more to be determined later. My leisure reading will focus on the voices of women, people of color, and LGBTQ writers.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes! Lots of internet ladies and a few work friends. So many little babies I need to hug.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Not this year.

5. What places did you visit?

Atlanta (shopping), New Orleans (for a ladies’ weekend WHICH WAS AMAZING), Iowa (family visit), St. Louis (quick friend visit on the way home from Iowa), and Florida (family Christmas visit). I think that was it?

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

I’ll repeat last year’s answer, which is still true: “A sane president, mainly. I would also appreciate more time alone and a more organized house.”

7. What days from 2018 will you always remember?

Nothing comes to mind as I sit here. I may think of a day later, but if I do, it wouldn’t really qualify as a day I’ll “always remember,” so.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Figuring out that my overwhelming anger might be a symptom of anxiety. This was news to me! I hadn’t been feeling “anxious,” but whaddayaknow? Anti-anxiety meds made me significantly less angry. I mean, I still have swarms of bees coming out of my mouth on a daily fucking basis, but life is better.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Healthy eating continues to be a struggle, as I mentioned last year, but I feel like I have improved my thinking on this front. I don’t feel like I had any “failures” this year.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I had some back problems off and on this year, which are awful when they surface, but I am doing better with strength exercises that really help. My biggest health issue was in October — STOP READING IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH — a spider bite (?) I acquired on a trip to the pumpkin patch that became infected and developed a huge, painful, horrifying abscess on the back of my leg. The doctor, ahem, took care of it for me and did a bacterial culture and it turned out to be MRSA and long story short, I still do not feel clean.  Thanks for nothing, festive fall family activities.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My trip to NOLA was pretty amazing. And daycare.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Mine, frankly.

13. Where did most of your money go?

Daycare. I’ll just keep repeating this answer every year until they start kindergarten.

14. What did you get really excited about?

Traveling with my BFFs, having our new friends move onto our cul-de-sac two doors down, and running a fast (for me) 10K in November.

15. What song will always remind you of 2018?

Not a new song, but Lil Mama’s “Lip Gloss” got a lot of play on my running mix.

16. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? Happier.
b) thinner or fatter? Same.
c) richer or poorer? Same.

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

Socializing with local friends.

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

Eating my feelings.

19. How did you spend Christmas?

We spent the week-ish before Christmas visiting with family in Florida. My in-laws have a place there and the rest of the family came down and stayed in a nearby hotel. It was stormy the entire time, so we spent a lot of the trip indoors (or driving through insane rain and winds to visit an aquarium). For the actual holiday, we were back home with just the four of us. The kids can talk and ask more questions about Santa this year, and they were absolutely ALL IN on the Christmas magic, which was pretty great.

20. What was your favorite TV program?

I continued to love The Great British Baking Show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and The Good Place. I also enjoyed Marcella, Jack Ryan, Atlanta, and Mindhunter, which were new ones for me this year. Very excited for Game of Thrones to make its return soon!

21. What was the best book you read?

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Just perfection.

Here are some other highlights from this year, which was entirely devoted to reading women’s words:

  • Hunger – Roxane Gay
  • The Turner House – Angela Flournoy
  • The Wangs vs the World – Jade Chang
  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – Michelle McNamara
  • The After Party – Anton DiSclafani
  • The Witch Elm – Tana French
  • Career of Evil – Robert Galbraith
  • Why I Wake Early – Mary Oliver

22. What music did you get excited about?

Far too little. I kind of shifted from music to podcasts for most of my listening time this year. So…my favorite podcasts from the year were My Favorite Murder, The Ali on the Run Show, and The Popcast with Knox and Jamie.

23. What did you want and get?

Democrats in the House!

24. What did you want and not get?


25. What was your favorite film of this year?

I saw and enjoyed: Black Panther, A Quiet Place, and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I also saw a lot of movies I didn’t enjoy all that much and, I’m sure, many I’ve completely forgotten! No standout favorites this year.

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

Went with the family to Krispy Kreme on the way to work/school, ran 12K (an almost-yearly tradition on my birthday) and got a manicure. My in-laws arrived that afternoon to spend a couple of days with us on their way down to Florida, so we had pizza and cupcakes that night. I turned 41.

27. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?

Lots of skinny jeans with blazers, for some reason.

28. What kept you sane?

Last year I wrote, “Coffee, running, and Twitter,” which is still true. This year I’ll add C3l3xa to that list.

29. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I very much enjoy Celeste Ng not only for her novels but also on Twitter. Anna Friel. Still Lin Manuel Miranda.

30. What political issue stirred you the most?

What didn’t?! Jesus, what an absolute trashfire. But probably children in cages at the border. That, probably. I mean, unless it was Brett Motherfucking Kavanaugh. #angrybees

31. Who was the best new person you met?

I feel like I’m forgetting someone, but nobody stands out? Eeep.

32. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.

Take that spider bite to the doctor POSTHASTE.

And, as I say every year, qui patitur vincit.

33. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Not sure I have a song lyric this year. How about a lyric poem? This may be more “aspirational” than summative, but here you go:


“I Worried”

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

— Mary Oliver

Year in Review: 2017

I have a couple of posts backlogged, but I just realized I hadn’t done my year in review questionnaire yet! Most of you reading know what this is and have done it yourself (or at least read others’ posts), as it’s gone around this corner of the internet for over a decade. You know the drill.

Previous years’ answers are available here: (200720082009201020112012201320142015, 2016). Over time I have modified and  deleted some of the original questions, but here’s what I’m working with this year:

1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?

Placed (second) in the overall women’s rankings of a 5K, won a named award at work, watched my children see the ocean for the first time.

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

Last year, I wrote:

“For the coming year, I would like to focus on making more gains in terms of health and fitness. I made some progress toward that in the last few months of 2016, and, after taking a bit of a break for the holidays, I’m getting moving again now. Healthier, smarter eating and lots of activity, mainly running, yoga, and barre3 for right now.”

Hey, I did pretty well on those!

This year, I’d like to: Get a general practitioner so I can stop going to urgent care, spend less on frivolous purchases. Keep up my yoga practice. Race in another 5K and a 10K, as I’m now in a new age group!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

A lot of ladies on the internet and a couple of work friends, too.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Not this year.

5. What places did you visit?

Atlanta and Birmingham (mainly for shopping), the Gulf Coast (friend visit), Iowa (family visit), and St. Louis (quick friend visit on the way home from Iowa). Was that really it? I’ll have to do better next year. Good thing I already have plans for a ladies’ weekend with my BFFs in May.

6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

A sane president, mainly. I would also appreciate more time alone and a more organized house.

7. What days from 2017 will you always remember?

January 20. December 12.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I credit the voters and hard-working Democrats in Alabama for this: electing a Democratic senator for the first time in 25 years.

I also got officially promoted and won a named, college-level teaching award, which is pretty sweet.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I have really struggled with healthy eating this year, although I don’t consider it a failure. Just a struggle.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

My entire family was sick for the first half of the year after the kids started daycare, thanks to them spending each day in a petrie dish of viruses (and “building their immune systems”). I personally had at least 3-4 stomach bugs, two sinus infections, two ear infections, and pneumonia. Plus my usual persistent hacking cough that lasts 3-6 weeks every time I get a respiratory virus. It was the sickest year of my life.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Does daycare count?

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

The kids’ did, often. My husband’s. The aforementioned Alabama voters.

13. Where did most of your money go?

Daycare. It’s more than our mortgage.

14. What did you get really excited about?

The Senate election and turning 40, both of which happened on the same day.

15. What song will always remind you of 2017?

Anything from Moana, and yes I blame the children.

16. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? Angrier.
b) thinner or fatter? Thinner.
c) richer or poorer? Richer, technically. More income but less of it leftover.

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

Reading fiction. Spending time outside.

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

Reading the comments. Retail therapy.

19. How did you spend Christmas?

My dad and brother visited a few days prior to Christmas, but for the actual holiday, it was just the four of us (which I like). We went to a Christmas Eve service at a new-to-us church and then CW and I made ourselves a fancy dinner after the kids went to bed. On Christmas morning, we had cinnamon rolls and mimosas and opened gifts. It was really great. Two year olds are fantastic at Christmas. Not so much in church, though.

20. What was your favorite TV program?

I rewatched Gilmore Girls so I could enjoy it alongside the Gilmore Guys podcast, which was great. As for newer stuff, I fell in love with The Good Place and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

21. What was the best book you read?

I barely read anything this year, y’all. I started a comfort re-read of Harry Potter, which went by very slowly and took up my reading time for months, but I petered out somewhere in book 5, and then I haven’t read anything too special other than that. Just at the end of December, though, I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which was nice, and Dark Matter, which was fine I suppose. Meh.

22. What music did you get excited about?

I really liked new things by Sylvan Esso and St. Vincent this year.

23. What did you want and get?

A new MacBook Pro for Christmas, an unlimited yoga studio membership, and a Democratic senator.

24. What did you want and not get?


25. What was your favorite film of this year?

I barely saw any movies that stick out in my memory, so I’m going to go with The Last Jedi and Wonder Woman as my top two I saw in the theater.

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

I voted, ate donuts for breakfast, and then went to yoga. In the afternoon, my husband took me out for a nice lunch date and then I took a nap. He made me fish tacos for dinner (one of my favorites) and we had a lemon merengue pie. That night, we celebrated the election results. That weekend, we had people over for a small party with lots of prosecco and baked goods. I turned 40.

27. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?

A mix of some pre-pregnancy clothing and some bigger pants from Old Navy / leggings on days I don’t go to campus. Still not quite ready for most of my old pants.

28. What kept you sane?

Coffee, running, and Twitter.

29. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I can’t think of anyone. I do miss Barack Obama, though.

30. What political issue stirred you the most?

What didn’t?! I have outrage exhaustion. I suppose the Alabama Senate race.

31. Who was the best new person you met?

I met a couple of new people through CW’s work connection who seem like they could become good new friends.

32. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017.

I need to get my own doctor and stop going to urgent care every time I catch something from the kids.

And, as I say every year, qui patitur vincit.

33. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

“I said, early to bed, bitches, early to rise
They make a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

— Lin Manuel Miranda / The Decemberists

Airing of Grievances: the Aging Edition

I am having some birthday-related feelings lately. I will turn forty in just over a month (a week before that, the twins will turn two) and I’m not completely sure I am ready to think of myself as a forty-year-old yet. I loved thirty as a milestone birthday — turning thirty was fun and exciting and I was ready to step forward into that decade. It was great. I had just finished my PhD and started my job and met a bunch of great new colleagues and friends and life seemed like the perfect blend of being settled in, yet also being full of possibility.

Ten years later, I am still at the same job where I’m doing well. I met my husband at this job and we got married bought a house and had kids and got promotions. A lot of the new friends I made early on have moved away and I don’t socialize as much and the sense of possibility has mainly been replaced by a tight schedule and a lot of responsibility. I don’t say that in order to imply that responsibilities are a bad thing — on the contrary: I welcome them — but rather to say that life has a very different feel to it now than it did then.

I also feel that the older I get the less likely it is that we will have any more kids. There’s a lot more to the kid question than that, of course (finances, fertility, the fact that it’s a two-person decision), but that thought is lurking in the background of any other thoughts about aging or my birthday or being 40. And, let’s be real, if we don’t ever have any more kids, the main problem is that it will mean I won’t get to have my spite baby. (A “spite baby” is the baby that you have to spite all the people who told you you were or should be “done” after a certain number or gender combination of children, e.g. after they find out you are pregnant with boy-girl twins and they say, “Oh, how great, now you’re done after this!”) I am the kind of person (and I say this without pride) who really likes to do things just to spite the people who thought they knew something about me, so, you know, it’s a particularly bitter pill to swallow.

Fine, let’s do this. Let’s have an airing of grievances. Other things I don’t like about the thought of turning 40:

  • I am getting a turkey neck
  • My skin looks not great
  • It is harder to manage my weight
  • It is easier to get injured
  • I have not adequately planned for retirement
  • Do people think I am my kids’ grandmother?
  • Most people don’t ask for my ID anymore when buying wine
  • Small amounts of alcohol make me more hungover than they should
  • Not sure I should be wearing some of the fashions I like
  • Don’t want to invest money in fancy skincare
  • Don’t want to invest money in anything (unless it’s a good pair of boots)
  • Am supposed to be going to yin yoga more than vinyasa yoga now but I like vinyasa yoga better
  • Are my feet getting wider?

Please feel free to participate so I’m not just yelling at a cloud over here, thanks.






Hi. Hello.

Weirdly, it looks like I am logged into the WordPress app and typing a blog post. I haven’t been here in a while. Not sure how that happened, but here we are.

It’s November first and I recently heard someone say that if you want to write then you need to write, which is a fact that I know to be true and yet when do I write? I write daily, of course: I write emails and comments on student assignments and I write tweets and Instagram captions and text messages, but I feel like writing something more than that, so here we are.

There are always so many hurdles, though. Tonight’s hurdle was that I was already comfortable in my bed when I realized I had intended to write something today and my laptop is far away in another room and its battery is likely to be dead. But I have a phone and it was in my hand at the time, and, well, here we are.

I have no idea what I’ll write about this month — since getting married and having kids and having a life that’s not entirely my own anymore, it’s difficult deciding what I can write in a public (though not widely read) space. I can’t write about my job or about anything too personal pertaining to my family — and those two things, work and family, take up most of my time, energy, and headspace. What’s left? So the challenge is to try to figure out what to write about and how to do it in a way that feels worth it (honest, satisfying, vulnerable?) yet is fair and appropriate as well. I plan to just keep showing up this month and see what happens here.

When is a Name a Name?

When did you officially consider your children named? Did you decide once and for all before they were born, or did you just narrow it down to a small number of choices and wait until you met them to decide? Everyone keeps asking if CW and I have picked out names and I feel like we have but he will never answer this question in the affirmative.

We have middle names that I think are definitely chosen — a family name from each side. Our baby girl’s middle name will come from my side and baby boy’s will come from his dad’s side.

For first names, we have two top choices for the boy and two top choices for the girl, but realistically we’ve really only been referring to one first name for each. For example’s sake, let’s say the girl choices are Katniss and Hermione and the boy choices are Kermit and Hannibal. But we only ever use Katniss and Kermit in conversation. We sometimes call them by Katniss and Kermit and talk about the nicknames and initials and imagine them as bigger kids called Katniss and Kermit. Always the same names. We never call either of them by the second option name, Hermione or Hannibal. To me, it feels like Katniss and Kermit are their names right now. But of course, we could at the last minute decide to pick Hermione and/or Hannibal instead after they’re born.

Note: these are obviously not the names we are actually considering. Also, the names we are actually considering are not alliterative, though the “most-likely-choice” names do share consonance. 

I would like to consider it DECIDED but my husband thinks it’s “weird” and “doesn’t understand how people can name their babies before they’re born.” (He doesn’t say this to/about me; rather about the people who keep asking us if we’ve chosen names yet.)

I love the names we have (mostly unofficially) landed on. Especially the boy name. For the girl, I could see us switching because I truly love both girl names and will be sad not to use whichever one we won’t use. (Honestly, if we were having girl-girl twins these would be WONDERFUL names for a pair of girls!) For the boy names, I really love the one we keep mentioning, and the other one on the list is honestly more my husband’s choice, though I do like it. 

Either way, he’s not committing to a name until we see the babies and I on the other hand want it to be set. In my mind it is pretty much set already, so I really hope CW doesn’t decide he wants to switch it up at the last minute. There are so many things about this process we just can’t know or control; I don’t like feeling unsettled about this one. 

Please, hop into my DeLorean. Or maybe don’t.

Do you use the Timehop app? I know a lot of my online friends do, but if you don’t, well, I may or may not recommend it. I’m not sure. It’s an app that, when connected to your social media accounts, will show you your posts and photographs from today’s date one year ago, two years ago, three years ago, and so on, as far back as the accounts go. Mine goes as far back as my earliest posts to Twitter in 2007. It’s entertaining and sometimes even thought provoking to see where I was and what I was doing in the past (or at least what I was sharing online). It can be reassuring, for example, to be reminded that this year is not an anomaly: that every year at this time I am busy complaining about the triple-digit temperatures where I live, or that every year when the middle of the semester hits, yes, I am in fact feeling just as tired and overwhelmed. It’s also fun to look back and see the time when my husband and I were first dating, or when Egon was a puppy, or when I was just starting my current job. So much has changed and so much has not.

My Timehop from five years ago, however, contains all the tweets that chronicle my breakup with a guy I had been casually dating that summer. The problem was that I was hoping that casually dating would turn into seriously dating. I thought we were just so perfect together and that surely this little fun summer romance would turn into A Thing. It had to. I really liked the guy, after all. But to my great dismay, he broke up with me. The nerve! I was so mad. And sad. I was smad.


Don’t you hate the feeling of having turned out to have been wrong about something you were so certain of? I think half of my breakup feelings were about that — I hated that I’d apparently been so wrong. I am hardly ever wrong.

Cutting the Cake

Well, it’s a good thing I have the patience to play the long game, because that guy from five years ago? Reader, I married him.

In spite of the happy ending in this case (because of course I turned out to be right after all!), rereading old posts gives me some mixed feelings. I don’t particularly enjoy reliving difficult events. It’s not that I don’t believe there are lessons to be learned from self-examination in general and from reflecting on the past in particular, but sometimes I just don’t wanna.

Some friends and I were talking about this phenomenon on Twitter the other day — we were wishing there were an option to block out periods of time from Timehop. Certain exes, for example. Breakups. Family crises. Losses. Fights. Disappointments. If we could just check a box for a specific range of dates and say, please, don’t show me these scenes from my past; don’t remind me of this; don’t take me back there. The app developers really need to get moving on that upgrade, I think.

Sweat, et cetera

Yesterday I went for a walk around the neighborhood, which is something I love to do now that we’ve moved and a great way to start the day. My new route is a hilly, 2.5-mile loop with lots of good shady spots, sidewalks, and pretty gardens to peer into. Yesterday the air even felt just a touch cooler than it has been lately — or perhaps it was just less humid, or perhaps I got an earlier start, I’m not sure. The change was nice, whatever it was.

So I tucked my phone into my tank-top strap like I always do, with the screen facing outward so it wouldn’t get sweaty, and listened to a podcast while I walked. Lovely. When I got home, I looked at my phone to see that despite my cautious measures, sweat had worked its way inside the screen and left dark watermarks all down the right side. Otherwise, it was normal and fully operational. The left side of the screen looked perfectly fine, but the right side looked like it had been stained with blueberry juice. This was decidedly not good.

After panicked googling and then drying the phone out in a bowl of rice for the rest of the day, it’s fine now and the stains are gone. But that’s not the point. The point is that I can walk slowly, for a short distance, at the crack of dawn, on a cooler-than-usual morning, and still sweat so much that I almost break an incredibly expensive piece of technology. With my sweat. I almost ruined my iPhone with my own bodily secretions. Things are getting dire over here and there are still at least six more weeks of this weather before relief is anywhere in sight. Pray. For. Mojo.

In an ongoing list of other bodily secretions, things to have made me cry lately include: TV commercials, books, blog posts, photography, software, DIY projects, and budget discussions. I am not a crier, y’all. I have been joking around with CW about the fact that my ocular ports are going to start rusting. My emotions are generally on an even keel, which, combined with my knowledge of factual trivia and my tendency to respond to all questions literally, has led to my husband jokingly referring to me as a “beautiful, beautiful robot.” It seems like my pregnancy was bundled with some sort of rudimentary human emotion replication software that got installed at the same time. This program can’t be running correctly, though, can it? Surely Lean Cuisine commercials shouldn’t initiate the weeping sequence?

Grade me! Evaluate and rank me!

March is going to be an interesting month. More immediately, this week is going to be an interesting week. Tomorrow I have my annual review at work, which is a big factor in my being reappointed for next year; Tuesday we have a doctor’s appointment/consultation at a new clinic; at some point later in the week, on a date to be determined, we will have a consultation with a mortgage broker to set the wheels of our house hunt in motion. Work, reproductive health, and a mortgage for our first house all in one week. No pressure.


I tend to have just a little bit of Lisa Simpson in me, and it’s not that we’re both vegetarian, book-reading, grammar-nerding, jazz-loving baritone saxophonists. While I wouldn’t describe myself as a typical overachiever (I think to bear that label a person has to try hard to achieve, which I haven’t often done), I am most certainly a typical nerd. Success in school always came easily to me; I am good at taking tests and have a great memory for facts and information. In school, this served me well. Today, I have carried it over to a love of even the silliest online quizzes (“How much do YOU know about art history?!” asks the incredulous-seeming quiz full of questions even my dog could answer correctly). I even enjoy filling out paperwork. Neatly writing my personal information into dozens of pages of forms, perfectly answering each question with concise and correct information? Why yes, I will, thank you.

So I assemble my annual review materials with a sort of weird enjoyment: that PDF, so many, many pages long, filled with all the evidence of my successful teaching in the past calendar year (syllabi, assignments, grade distributions, student evaluations, a CV, and a philosophy of teaching) is both a giant pain and a pleasure. I happily fill out all the overly detailed, intrusively personal medical forms, giving honest and specific assessments of how many ounces per week I consume of caffeinated regular soda, caffeinated diet soda, decaffeinated soda, wine, beer, liquor, caffeinated coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and so on. (I will refrain from discussing some of their other questions; you’re welcome). I look forward to printing off and organizing a sheaf of financial paperwork that will reveal to the carefully trained eye all too much about my income, debt, and spending.

Perhaps if all of my forms are filled out properly — if all the questions are answered to everyone’s satisfaction — I will be deemed worthy of the life I want. I’ll keep my job; buy a house; have a baby. Look, I have very neat handwriting and I’m sure I have some color-coded sticky tabs I can use, if you think that would help.

Let’s Do Lent

I am officially on a shopping ban until April 6. Or, as some would say, I am giving up shopping for Lent. As a non-practicing Catholic, I do reserve the right to participate in Lent under the general idea of — to borrow a friend’s words — figuring out what is in the way of doing what is right, making room for growth, and participating in the things that give life. This is an idea I wholeheartedly agree with, even as a non-believer.

Regarding my shopping ban and how something so mundane is connected to those lovely words: in my case, shopping has been taking place in the form of “retail therapy” recently, as opposed to seeking out the things I or others actually need. Unlike actual therapy, it is not life giving or supportive of growth; it is in fact often in the way of my doing what is right. In order to make room for growth (buying a house, starting a family, supporting our future security, or giving to others), I need to cut it out. Done.

This morning I also got a bit of a wild hair up my…sleeve and decided I was taking an extended break from Facebook. Perhaps I’ll align this to coincide with Lent as well. I didn’t think of it until today and was likely all over Facebook yesterday, Ash Wednesday, but I can certainly stick to it for the rest of the season, right? I’m not sure giving up Facebook fits in with the Lent paradigm I outlined above, but I do know that there are many, many occasions where, after checking on my newsfeed, the way I feel gets in the way of my doing good. It’s far more likely to spur me toward feelings of jealousy, negativity, irritation, and criticism of others. So I’ll be stepping away for a little while.

(Facebook friends, I’ve kept the messaging app on my phone so we can continue any ongoing conversations, but I won’t log into the site. This is great because the messaging app allows me to send and receive, à la email, without ever having to see the verdammten newsfeed.)

On the other hand, I find some social media, such as Twitter and Instagram, to generally be things that support my happiness and well being. I can air my thoughts and receive support from friends; I can be introduced to new and interesting ideas; be exposed to people and things that inspire. Most often, the connections I make and maintain on these networks spur me toward feelings of community, friendship, generosity, and support of others. Funny how that is the exact opposite of what I said about Facebook, isn’t it?

At any rate, I’ll be staying active on those sites. I don’t think Lent should be about giving up things that make you happy and keep you connected to others. I’m not going to wear a hair shirt. Even for the most devout Catholics, I don’t think that’s what the season is about.

I’d love to hear from others on this topic — do you celebrate Lent, either as a believer or as a non-practicing “cultural Catholic”? What does it mean to you? If you don’t mind sharing, what are you giving up or adding into your life this year?