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How to be Human

If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that life is complicated and challenging in many ways. Most days, I'm exhausted. Are you exhausted?  During the early part of 2022, though, I had the chance to read three books that really helped me frame my frustration, angst, and anxiety about the world.  All of these books are recently published, based on solid research, and approach their subjects in a way that makes them understandable and relatable to everyone. If you read even one of these books, I guarantee that you will learn things, gain perspective about the world, and discover insights about yourself and your humanity. Each book also touches on the role the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our lives and on our society so they are certainly timely.  I will share my individual reviews for each book that I published on my Goodreads profile. If you have read any of these books recently, would love to hear your thoughts as well!  Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown This was suc
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My Personal #10YearChallenge

Welcome to a new year, although as many have noted, 2022 just seems to be starting like a variation on the past two years in so many ways (I almost used the word variant. That seems a little *too* on the nose) . Collectively, I think we are all tired. We are drained. We are exhausted. I admire anyone who feels renewed and reflective right now because (gosh darn it) the last two years have been something else.  Somewhere in the last week of 2021, the #10yearchallenge started popping up on social media. I'm not sure who started it or why it surfaced again. I remember this came up as 2019 turned over into 2020, which made sense. The turning of the decade and that nice round number always gives us something to cling to in a nostalgic way.  Did this one start as a bit of fun as people started confining themselves in quarantine instead of roaming off to New Year celebrations? Or is there something more nefarious  involved with the trending meme?  Who knows!? Either way, it did make me r

Bittersweet Sixteen

I think about Charlotte every single day. However, this time of year, I'm flooded with all kinds of memories as we commemorate the anniversary of her birth. This year feels like a bit of a milestone. Sixteen.  If cancer had not taken her life back in 2010, I have a feeling I would be planning a massive birthday celebration this year. 16 always feels like a landmark year in someone's life.  I have been thinking a great deal about the last birthday party we had for Charlotte in 2009. We didn't know it at the time, but we were halfway through her treatment journey. We had been through three major brain surgeries and a few rounds of inpatient chemotherapy. Treatments were not going well. In fact, right after her birthday, we would make the trip to Houston, Texas where we would settle in for about 10 weeks of proton beam radiation treatments and a new customized chemotherapy protocol. This was the unspoken "last chance option" to beat that aggressive brain tumor into

It's a (not quite) Jolly Holiday

I was sitting in a doctor's office waiting room a few weeks ago. While I waited, another patient came out into the reception area to make her next appointment. The receptionist offered a few dates, including one on a Saturday. The woman (I have no idea who she was; let's call her Maude) originally said yes to the Saturday date. Then the following conversation ensued:  Maude: Wait! Is that Mother's Day weekend?  Receptionist: Hmm. You know what? I'm not sure. When is Mother's Day?  Maude: You don't know?  Receptionist: (nervous laugh) Well, I guess I should know this.... Maude: Are you a mother?  Receptionist: No.  Maude: But...you have a mother, right? You should know these things!  At this point, I was incensed with "Maude". This woman knew nothing about the receptionist. She could have recently lost a child. She could have been struggling with infertility. She could have had a mother who recently died. Or she could have a strained or just very compli

Juggling Lessons

It has been almost one year since I announced to the greater world that I was diving into graduate school again to pursue my Ph.D . What has changed over the last year? When I announced that I was going back to school, we weren't sure if the "on-ground" components of the class would be in-person or virtual. For Fall and Spring, we had to stay virtual. This meant that even though I was in class one weekend per month, I was able to attend from the comfort of my spare room; no need to flex my work schedule or take the train to DC.  As classes started in September, I found a rhythm to my weekly load. Go to work (most days, 8:30-5ish), come home, get in a walk if I'm lucky, eat dinner with the family, chill for a bit. Then about 7 pm, I'd sit down at the computer to work on classwork. Some nights, it's reading (SO much reading). Other nights, it's posting to a discussion group or meeting up with colleagues for a group project, or outlining thoughts for an upcom

The Stages of Grief: COVID Edition

It's 2020. It's almost Christmas. We're still in the middle of a pandemic. In fact, we are experiencing what appears to be an incredible surge that is exerting tremendous pressure on our healthcare and social service system. The headlines are clear: we're not done with this madness and December 31, 2020 will not magically be the "end of it".  Earlier in the year, our family thought about whether we might be able to travel at this time. We thought that maybe the curve would be flat enough that we could take a few days away from home during the Christmas holidays. We realized that the pandemic would still be happening, but with the right protections and with prolific mask usage, we could get a much-needed change of scenery. During what is now (clearly) a delusional thought process, we booked a stay in Gatlinburg, Tennessee for the week of December 19th. Spoiler alert: we canceled the trip almost two weeks ago.  Canceling this trip was not a tragedy. In fact, I

Remembering the Normal

Science tells us that human memory is faulty . We want to think that we will remember certain moments forever like they are encased in carbonite. In reality, we look back on events and retell our stories to friends and colleagues. The story always shifts a little in the process and by the time we have told the story 1000 times, it has changed. It's not (usually) an outright lie. It's just that our brain betrays us. Even our collective memories of major national events that are witnessed by millions of people can be faulty. One study suggests that up to 40% of people changed certain elements of their remembrances of 9/11 as time passed. Something to seriously consider as our recent national discussions about history have claimed the center stage and we continue to live in "unprecedented" times.  Side note: anybody else yearning for some precedented times again?    Fifteen years ago this week, Charlotte Jennie was born. I recounted a lot of her birth story on this