Why I'm done being nice

Why I'm done being nice

The only time I’ve ever cried at work was a when a former boss told me I needed to be more vulnerable. I’d gotten feedback that some of the people I managed didn’t feel they had a “good relationship” with me. This came as a shock, because likeability has never been my problem. I was born a pleaser. Raised in the Midwest where strong opinions about anything other than baseball and the weather are best kept to yourself, I steer clear of conflict whenever possible. Whether you cut in front of me at Starbucks or interrupt me in a meeting at work, I’m far more likely to silently plan your painful death than I am to confront you.

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The war on guilt: a report from the trenches

The war on guilt: a report from the trenches

I don’t mean to brag, but I’m really good at guilt. I’m not talking about the occasional, fleeting sensation of wrongdoing because you ate that second (or third) cookie or forgot to send your child’s lunch to school. That’s for amateurs. I’m talking about the crushing, constant feeling of not doing enough. This involves what I like to call the Guilt Archives. I turn to the Guilt Archives whenever I catch myself feeling generally good and on top of things. I’ll be waltzing through my day and BAM, I’ll remember that my grandmother got me the Barbie Dream House in 1986 and I never sent her a thank you note.

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An introvert’s holiday party survival guide

An introvert’s holiday party survival guide

The holidays are hard on us introverts. There are just so many things to do, and unfortunately most of them involve other people. Now, I know holiday stress impacts extroverts too; there’s plenty of it to go around. There’s the pressure to find the perfect gift, cook the perfect meal, or choreograph the perfect Christmas morning for your kids. Honestly, though, none of this stresses me out. I gave up perfection around the time Katie Holmes gave up Tom Cruise, and like her, my life is much better for it. No, for me the thing that stands out as the most stressful part of the holidays is the parties.

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Is there such a thing as too much gratitude?

Is there such a thing as too much gratitude?

What if there was one thing you could do to improve your health, mood, and relationships?  What if that thing was also incredibly easy to do?  Enter gratitude, the closest thing we have to a silver bullet for our well-being.  Tis the season to count our blessings, but I’m going to level with you: I’m struggling. Maybe it’s the overload of #blessed social media messages, or the onslaught of commercials designed to tug at your heartstrings as advertisers make the most of the season, but lately I feel like we’ve overdosed on gratitude.

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Why becoming ordinary made me happy

Why becoming ordinary made me happy

I’ve spent most of my life terrified of being ordinary. Not being like everyone else was the driving force behind many of my decisions, big and small, from dying my hair purple in high school to breaking off an engagement to a perfectly nice guy in my twenties. The source of this fear probably goes back to being what people kindly called a “precocious” kid. I read at an early age and was drawn to books that were too old for me in both style and substance. Adults noticed this and told me I was smart. What I heard was, “You’re different.” I took this to heart and “different” became my brand.

Not being ordinary is hard work. It means refusing to go on the office Starbucks run and instead brewing special ordered triple-filtered Himalayan green tea that tastes like straw. It means watching a critically acclaimed post-modern Danish film (with subtitles) instead of binging on Fixer Upper. Above all it means not joining in on the Electric Slide at weddings, the wave at baseball games, or generally anything else people are doing that looks like fun.

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The ultimate life hack to be more productive

The ultimate life hack to be more productive

The other day I had another mom say to me, “I don’t know how you do it all.” It’s true that I’ve been known to fit a lot into a day. I work, parent, volunteer, write this blog, and waste my fair share of time on social media. You’re in luck, though, because I’m about to reveal the secret to my productivity…

I’m half-assing it. And, now that my secret life hack is out in the open, I’m going to take it one step further and reveal how you, too, can learn to half-ass it in just three easy steps.

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The truth about being an older mom

The truth about being an older mom

I became a new mother later than I intended. It wasn’t my choice. I’d always assumed I would get married and have kids in my twenties. But then came New York City, grad school, marriage, divorce, marriage again­­—and suddenly I was thirty-eight.

Like many women my age, getting pregnant involved more time at the doctor’s office than it did in the bedroom. Finding out (at last!) I was going to have a baby ignited in me a fierce desire to give him the best possible life. This included the safest crib, the top rated pediatrician, the best preschool, the most organic baby food—you get the idea.  As it turns out, the best thing I did for his future was completely accidental: I did not have him in my twenties. 

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How to deal with a judgmental person when that person is you

How to deal with a judgmental person when that person is you

Confession time: I am extremely judgmental. It’s something I’m working on. Honestly though, I’ll probably never fully overcome it unless I move to Bali and spend the rest of my days meditating on the beach—which my husband informs me is not an option.

My judgement never shuts up. Like a toddler with separation anxiety, it follows me everywhere. It never misses an opportunity to make assumptions and label people. Wow, listen to that Starbucks order, she must be so high maintenance. Omg, a Nickelback shirt, what a tool.

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Hurricanes and asking for help

Hurricanes and asking for help

My husband has a knack for being out of town during disasters. I’ve weathered blizzards, tornadoes, and freeway bridge collapses on my own. This has never bothered me. Far from it, I take a kind of sick pride in not asking for help. Sure, it may take me eighteen hours to build an Ikea desk or do my taxes, but you can’t put a price on the thrill of independence. Or so I thought, until I became a new mom.

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How to feel powerful

How to feel powerful

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of feeling powerless. Also, if I’m being honest, my small actions of resistance, like calling my senators and voting—while important—don’t exactly make me feel like a rebel. So, short of leading an outright revolution (who’s in?!), what’s a girl to do?

Here are five ways to feel powerful.

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How to protect the world from our sons

How to protect the world from our sons

My friends with daughters are terrified for their future. They’ve been watching as a man accused of sexual assault sails toward a seat on the Supreme Court. They have seen the bravery of his accuser rewarded with death threats and mockery from the highest office in the land, occupied (no coincidence) by a self-confessed perpetrator of sexual assault.   

I have no words of comfort to offer these friends. In their shoes, I would be equally fearful. However, when one of them suggested that I was lucky to have a boy—lucky not have to worry about any of this, I had to disagree. The thing is, while my friends with daughters are striving to protect their girls from the world, I am striving to protect the world from my son.

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The day my dad ruined my life

The day my dad ruined my life

I was in junior high the year the U.S. invaded Iraq (the first time).  My left-leaning parents, particularly my father, were incensed about this. I, however, was spending more time tight-rolling my jeans and doodling Derek Hallman’s* name in my notebook than I was thinking about social justice and geopolitics. As with most almost-teenagers, my sole focus in life was to be cool. This involved carefully crafted sky-high bangs, the Guess logo on all my clothing, and aspiring to sit at the right table in the lunchroom It most certainly did not involve my long-haired hippy dad showing up at my school waving an anti-government placard and inciting a war protest.

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The cure for activism guilt

The cure for activism guilt

I was ten years old when I first took to the streets to protest the patriarchy.  Growing up, I was the kid who allowed to go to protest rallies but who couldn’t watch Adventures in Babysitting because of its PG-13 rating. (I snuck and saw it anyway at a neighbor girl’s house, the same one who taught me about eyeliner and George Michael).  I had no idea how to to save the princess in Super Mario or what happened last week on Beverly Hills 90210, but I could (and did) teach my elementary school classmates anti-Reagan chants in the lunch line and help organize a walk-out at my junior high to protest the Gulf War. Needless to say, my childhood did not exactly resemble that of Mallory Keaton.

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Believe it or not, I became Catholic because of Gay Pride

Believe it or not, I became Catholic because of Gay Pride

I became Catholic because of gay pride. 

My husband and I were recently married, and we were building a life together in a new city after his company moved us from New York City to Georgia. I was not looking for church to be a part of that new life. He was raised Catholic, and while not particularly devout, was clear that if we had children they would be raised Catholic. I was less than excited about this. I associated the Catholic Church with droning, dull services and the general oppression of women and other marginalized groups. High on the list of things I can’t stand are boredom and patriarchy.

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Jail time

Jail time

My first real encounter with injustice was when my drug dealer went to jail. Up until that point I’d led a pretty sheltered life. I grew up in a well-educated, middle-class family in the Midwest in a small town with little diversity. I went to college in the not far from home where I was surrounded mainly by more of the same.  This was the 90s, before the Internet enabled the viral spread of social justice movements or even the simple ability to have a window into other people’s lives.

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The silent treatment

The silent treatment

My husband and I spend a lot of time not talking to each other.  Not because we’re fighting or because we’ve run out of things to discuss, but because it’s a comfortable respite for both of us.  This is what happens when an introvert marries another introvert.

We introverts are frequently misunderstood to be shy, but many (like me) socialize easily. This means that we can “pass” for being an extrovert. I did this for a long time, mainly because I thought I was one. I assumed that being introverted meant you hated people and lived by yourself in a basement that smelled like cat food. Yet as I went about my “extroverted” life, one question always nagged at me: If I truly liked people, why was being around them so damn exhausting?

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Why my husband was the best part of my baby's first year

Why my husband was the best part of my baby's first year

This week I’ll celebrate my son’s first birthday. Looking back on this first year makes me want to sob with that weird, nostalgia-tinged joy that is motherhood. The kind that makes you say “Slow down time!” and "How the heck is it not bedtime yet?” in the same breath. Already the hard moments from the year have faded from memory or become things to laugh about: the panic of coming home from the hospital and wondering “What the $%*& do we do with him now?”  Or how long it took us to to put in the “easy install” car seat. I’m left with the highlight reel of his first smile. First steps. The feel of his little arms around my neck while I rock him to sleep.

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